Tribute to Michael Farrell 29th October 1933 – 7th November 2016
My Mother asked
me to say a few words, a few was stressed by the rest of the family, about my
Dad, Michael Farrell. After 49 consecutive brilliant years with Dad, that is a
very tough request. But as you can see it is a small gathering, slightly bigger
than the crowds at Villa and Birmingham even on a derby game, I have made a big
effort to be brief and because I have a cut-off time of Monday
morning when I fly back to D.C. Accordingly, I am not going to recount
Dad’s life, but want to talk about what was most important to Dad:
the Midlands and
Very High Values.
In essence, I
want to talk about all of you here today in this very historical Wootton
Church, and some others who could not be here, who have made such an impact, in
terms of happiness and friendship, on Dad’s and my Mum’s life.
Dad told me the
most valuable antiques are dear old friends and I see many here today. I,
together with Mum, would like to take this opportunity of saying a big thank to
you all; firstly for sending literally hundreds of letters about my Dad in such
glowing terms and in such personal circumstances and for making today so
special by your attendance today. It really means a lot. Thank you.
I would also like to thank Laura, my wife, sometimes I do not say thank
you enough, for her total support even when she lost her father 4 days after
the passing of my father. Thank you.
As you know my parents, Mr. and Mrs, Jolly Supreme, loved a party and I know my Dad would not wish this day to be any different, so I very much hope to see and hear (i) plenty of joy, friendship, laughter, happiness, and good stories; and (ii) your glasses and plates full when we meet up afterward at the Red Lion in Claverdon, and strongly insist on no sad faces; today is not the time nor place.
It is an absolutely beautiful and fitting day to celebrate my Dad’s life and his tremendous achievements with friends and family.
I would like to
first to talk about the prospective and values Dad taught and brought to not
just me, but to all of us here today because I believe it shows his strong
character or being a true English Gentleman.
Firstly, Dad loved,
really-loved and genuinely cared, about the growing family and friends for what
we are, our strengths and not
for what we are not.
And I would like to stress the word “growing
family”, not just Mum, his siblings Pat and Susie, myself, Vickie and Tessa, but Gilly, the new in-laws,
Steve, Gavin and Laura and now
the grandchildren, Lilly,
Ben, Sam, Fergus
and Joshua. People
are judged by what they leave
behind and I believe Dad will be smiling down on us for many years to come with
I have to challenge Vickie and Tessa; did our
spouses marry us because of our qualities or the qualities of our parents,
Laura, my wife, has already made her view clear especially after spending
so many holidays together with my parents.
Our parents did enable all of us to marry up well.
Even when Dad was very ill, Dad would always ask
us, how is Mum doing and why are you not their helping Mum rather me and asking
for photo proof to show his instructions have
been carried out in full. Remember Vickie.
How many times, where we told in no uncertain terms to go away and look after
Mum. How many times; these instructions must continue to be carried out in full
by the family.
Secondly, I would like to talk about
his values which, along with his great sense of humour, now you know where I got mined from. These consistently held, high values
defined Dad, not just with us but within the business
and local community where Dad lived, explains why Dad had so many friends. Just
think of some of the values Dad held and more importantly entrenched in us
which defined Dad as true English Gentleman:
Integrity, Integrity and Integrity. Not once has Dad’s integrity been question; he even tried to return money back to the EU, which as we know he is not that fond on, when they paid out in error.
Equality for the sexes, remember Vickie when a banker was thrown out when he thought me as a male not you as a female should have an education.
However, like Dad, Steve, Gavin and myself, do wish sometimes the ladies of the family would believe in equality as well!
The importance of Education. It was not easy to put Vickie, Tessa and myself successfully through some of the best private education. We have and continue to immensely benefit from this education.
The balance between work and personal life:
How many times had Dad and Mum taken off time from their busy schedule to come and see us at school, not just his kids but the grand children as well.
How many times have one of us, family, colleagues and friends, asked for advice from Mum and Dad and not once have they said they are too busy or the problem was too big or too small, not once.
How many times have we laughed over good quality food, drink, sporting events and shooting, together as a family or as friends in either England, Ireland, Australia, Austria, Italy or America.
Dad understood people, big or small, young or old. This may be a bit of shock to some of you, but I am going to tell you that Dad had excellent hearing; may be not physically but he knew how we were feeling, what we were going to ask before we spoke and more importantly he knew how to provide quality and independent advice without making you look a fool. There was never a bad question for Dad except perhaps when Laura asked for Dad did he eat vegetables and if there was Belgium instead of Cadbury’s cholate on her first meeting with my parents! It just shows how forgiving Dad was by allowing Laura to stay the weekend.
Third, the love of his community, the Midlands and his home.
His love for his home, his garden, The
Green and Pleasant Lands. Shortly after arriving at Preston Hill Farm in
October 1971 Dad learned to drive a bulldozer and Mum and Dad moved into
horticulture in a big way – potatoes, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries,
many vegetables and planting thousands of trees. A big change from flying Tiger
Moths, golf and repairing racing
cars. Multiple improvements followed including a barn
conversion and move into Preston Hill House in February 1998, another inspired move.
He put back into the community, Macmillan
Nurses, Non-executive director at Tallis and Warwickshire Ambulance Services
NHS Trust; Governor of Stratford College, on various committees of Aston and
Coventry University; First Friday and the Remnants Society committees and more
importantly, to his shooting friends, was responsible for the administration and wine at the Ragley
shoot. Dad would never have approved
of his memorial holding up a day’s shoot so was delighted
to hear from Richard Beach this morning that a shoot is
currently being held at Ragley.
And not forgetting his work finding
his old boys from Arden House and
repairing the memorial for the
old boys who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Special mention must go to John
Bingeman who Dad found and who last shared the same desk at Ardencote some nearly 70 years ago, and turned up at Dad’s 70th birthday
and again today. I am delighted to meet you again. And not forgetting the younger Anthony
Carver who was also at Arden House and who spent many
days shooting and pretending to fish together.
While it took Dad 7 or 8 years before
he caught his first salmon on the River
Dee; Dad kept bringing salmon back from Scotland from the first year. Never
understood how especially as the salmon was nicely wrapped!
Dad has spent most of his personal and business life in the Midlands,
always liked the Midlands, its heritage, its industry, its cars and his
first riding his bicycle to the train station in his black bowler hat and black
umbrella to Sharp Parsons in 1959 where he became
a Chartered Accountant and led many
successful and growing departments in the now renamed firm now called KPMG.
To his time at Cadburys from 1968. “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it changed Dad’s life.” Not once did I hear Dad say he wished he worked for another employer, not once. I know Dad would like me to thank all his Ex Cadbury colleagues and friends from Cadburys for such a fantastic professional career. I am so pleased to see so many today, Norman Hawkins, Roger Hurley, John Lawton, to name but a few, and Dominic Cadbury who will kindly speak after me about his very successful time at Cadbury’s and shooting at Ragley where Dad, and me to a much lesser extent, have had so many memorable days shooting, which was a big part of Dad’s life
As I learnt growing up, there is only one thing better than a friend, and that is a friend with chocolate.
And as Roger Hurley eloquently added, a friend with chocolate and cartridges trumps everything!
I hear on the grape line that Dominic will also talk about Dad’s perhaps lapses in shooting etiquette, some may argue fairly. But if I may I would like to offer some mitigating circumstances as Dad was first taught to shoot at 7 years at Bridge court by the gardener, an ex-World War I fusilier using his father’s gun to defend against the Germans not for sporting reasons!
On his retirement, Dad became a stock broker and compliance officer at William’s de Broe and helped moved the head office from Wolverhampton to Birmingham; another great achievement.
Everyone has a home team. Its people
you can call when you have a flat tire or when something terrible happens or
more importantly when one has something to celebrate. Dad had several
specialized teams that he could call upon and friends
that could call upon Dad for
His brother and our Uncle Pat from Scotland who regularly repaired the electronic infrastructure of the house and quietly reminded us to read the manual, we were never sure what a manual was. Uncle Pat has always and will always continue to be part of the DNA and success of this family, be it taking over the telephone or in person. And I am truly thankful you are here today and for reading Auntie Susie’s message, it means a lot to us.
His oldest friend, Uncle David – From pushing Uncle David in his pram and dumping him out, just like I did to Vickie, friendship quickly developed to fine dining, golfing, holidays in South of France, acting as each other’s wing man, l am not sure who was Goose and who was Maverick but I will let you guess, and then becoming his best Man at his wedding and then my godfather. Uncle David, I am truly thankful for your friendship with my Dad.
Uncle Ian – total friendship, his early morning calls, fixing generators, potatoe planting, and tarmacking, shooting and generally looting spare parts from each other’s workshop. While both Uncle Ian and Dad are no longer here, I am proud to say this family friendship continues to flourish at many younger layers primarily through Ian’s son, Anthony. The Harpers love and deep friendship means a lot to the Farrell family.
Nigel Murray – Sadly no longer with us, it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. I believe the boundaries were pushed to the limit for both Mum and her great friend Rosemary, as Nigel taught Dad tack and quietness and how to take over foreign ships on holiday. I never understood why the Murrays and Farrells were never allowed on the same ship twice!
Uncle Roderick. Uncle Roderick taught Dad everything he needed to know in 30 seconds when they suddenly lost the main sail and rudder in the dangerous Swellies of the Menai Strait near Anglesey. I have to add, Uncle Roderick also insisted on payment for this lesson even though he was Captain on this capsizing sailing boat; Dad had to repair the anchor in the estuary with the high tide coming in very fast while Uncle Roderick sitting in his pretty colourful clothes giving instructions and laughing out loud with a glass of sherry in hand. A very strong friendship that did not need daily conversation or being together all the time. Uncle Roderick, I thank you for your friendship with my Dad.
There are many other people I could mention but I wanted to provide a
slight snapshot of his some of his very good friends
impossible to mention Dad’s many and significant achievements and strengths, in
business, personal or family life, without mentioning Mum and vice versa. Dad
did not marry Mum because he can live with her, Dad married Mum because he could not live without
her and because he knew Mum would make him a better man which Mum surely did with flying colours.
While both Dad
and Mum grew up on the social scene of Lapworth, Rowington, Knowle/Solihull , their marriage was not always on the cards
even from a very very early age. Their respective nannies would walk Mum and Dad on different sides of Lady Byron Lane and were never allowed to talk to
each other. I am not sure who thought one was not good enough for the other
but things were made even worse in latter life when Dad learned to love
his fast cars and flying and even forgot one day which he was doing when he
took off the Lapworth canal bridge, flew past a couple of bedroom cottage
windows in his Austin Healey, not the Tiger Moth. After that incidence, Auntie
Gilly told me that her mother, my grandmother, confided in her that Dad might
be slightly unsuitable, slightly fast for Mum especially as Dad still lived at
the family home on the wrong side of Lady Bryon Lane. Things were further not
helped, when Dad was dating Mum, when Mum was sent, all did she go voluntary,
to Canada and then to Australia with Ann Pattison, Dianna Collins and Jennifer
Davey. Remember no phones or internet and a letter took 2 weeks! However, Mum
came back in 1964 after not being able to meet Dad’s challenge of finding a better person
on world- wide search and
selection exercise to marry than himself, or
more importantly Mum did not look as she knew she had the perfect catch in
Dad, and married Dad on 6 March 1965 at St. Giles Church in Packwood!
However, on a
serious note, Mum and Dad have been rock to our family and a rock to many
friends in good and bad times as I am sure you will all agree. Divorce was
never on the cards, as neither wanted sole custody of me! Mum and Dad were
truly grateful, you could see their smiles, when Laura
came around and not only moved me out of their home to another
country without any warranty and sale and return policy. Perhaps I was
still a bit too young to move out of the family home and get married!
Two of Dad’s other proudest moments were when he gave away his daughters – Vickie to Steve and Tessa to Gavin. I would like to say a big thank you to both Steve and Gavin, on behalf of myself and my parents, for bringing friendship, love and happiness, not just to my sisters but also to the rest of family. To see my mother’s face light up when she hears her grandchildren, Sam and Fergus, Joshua, Lilly and Ben coming to stay is a real pleasure. I am also so glad to see the Milligan’s, Ester, Janice and Paul, here today from Ireland; it is never a true family event unless you are in attendance. Thank you for making the trip from Ireland.
Mum and Dad’s marriage was a
tremendous partnership, both in love and the specific roles they played;
Dad making all the major decisions
Mum making all the minor decisions
And mum deciding what a major and minor decision was.
what, there were no major decisions!
They both played to their strengths; again, I would like to emphasise they
played to their strengths and laughed together
about their peculiarities which, like me, they both have many.
the tractor in the canal within 6 months of buying it. This set a very good
precedent in later life when Vickie, Tessa and myself wanted to borrow the
parents’ cars and Dad said “Drive carefully”.
to teach Mum how to stop the tractor before she drove it when tarmacking the
drive. You should have seen Dad run after Mum who was driving over the nearly
laid drive, perhaps not the man in black from the Cadbury’s Milk Tray TV
advert, but the man in the boiler
suite shooting put the brakes
on and Mum screaming where are
the breaks! Very funny indeed!
With Mum, it
was her Mrs Bucket mannerism, her intensive pressure
to have another party, even in American for a pre-weeding party and of
course her charity work.
It was a very
proud moment for the family when we went to Buckingham Palace in 1998 to see
Mum get her OBE from the Queen. Mum and Dad have always been an unquestionable
rock to each other.
Just remember Mum and remember this well, Dad always loved you, still does and would never have changed a second of his marriage with you. You were perfect for him, Dad was perfect for you, in so many ways.
A quote which sums Dad up well is “Walk
behind me; I will lead. Walk in front of me; I will support you. But my preference
is for you to just walk beside me and be my friend.”
That is why I
know, especially after watching multiple live matches together, the Liverpool
song, “You will Never Walk Alone” is Dad’s anthem
as well; that is why we are all going to sing this
song today with true passion. Dad never walked
alone, he always
walked tall with a clear conscience with family, his children, his grandchildren, his siblings and his friends,
This will not stop as he will now be walking with Ian Harper whom is probably still mending the Pearly Gates, Ian Wade who is still trying to find a good golf course, Nigel Murray who is still trying to find a good quiet restaurant and his faithful Dash who is still looking for the perfect shoot. I just hope there is no good behavioural clause in heaven. You can already here the laughter coming from above and Dash still doing what he wants, when he wants and taking any bird who ever shot it to Dad.
But as Dad says, “When it’s time to go,
Go”. It was Dad’s time to go so that Dad went out in style, with dignity, at his home, with his family, in his Midlands,
on his own terms, beating some very high expectations and in charge. I,
like all of you here today, am truly grateful for the 49 brilliant consecutive
years I had with a true gentleman, my great friend, my Best Man and my Dad and
for that I truly thank God for that honour.