IN LOVING MEMORY OF CHRISTOPHER SMITH
Organist of St Columb Minor Church for 35 years
Artist, photographer, teacher, world traveller
Husband, father, grandfather, brother, father-in-law & friend
28 December 1927 – 31 July 2011
Written and read by Rosie, on behalf of the family
Thank you from the whole family for joining us in this bright and beautiful
musical extravaganza to celebrate the life of our Dad, of Chris. These
glorious colours, we believe, reflect his life and his many gifts and
passions. You may also be pleased to know that we are burying him in
his much-loved – but now rather 'hole-y' – red-blue-yellow and black
Thank you to the Combined Clerics, Choirs and Organists for helping to
give Dad this glorious send-off on his final journey through the Pearly
Gates. And where else could this farewell take place but in this Church of
St Columb Minor, where for 35 years Dad served as organist and
choirmaster alongside his 2 dear friends and colleagues, our vicars Jim
and Chris? This Church is part of our family life – we have all sung,
prayed and partied here and sat listening to Dad at THAT organ.
And thank you to all of you – this extraordinary community of friends and
family who have lifted us up in the past week. We have been
overwhelmed by your kindness and support. You are all welcome to a
celebratory tea party after the service.
Dad died on Sunday evening 31st July in the same quiet and remarkable
way he had lived. He was ill for only 2 weeks and in hospital only 4 days.
He did not know he had terminal cancer - nor did any of us until 2 days
before he died. He was diagnosed with 'chronic leukaemia' and
'disseminated malignancy', which he'd been carrying around in that
remarkably fit, well-kept and energetic body possibly for a long time. He
was active and lucid almost to the end.
He died quietly and quickly.
Now I want to tell you the story of this Quietly Remarkable Man.
Dad narrowly escaped being born in Australia where his English parents
had moved the year before – obviously not an appropriate beginning for
Christopher Wilfried Lucius Smith. So he was born in Methley Rectory in
Yorkshire on Wednesday 28th December 1927 - to Hilda Graham Fleming
and Bernhard Richard Lucius, Clergyman and Bachelor of Music.
In “The Times” newspaper that day you could read of:
an English victory in the test match with South Africa;
the worst snowstorms across England since 1891,
and the fashion predictions for the new year – which were 'evolutionary'
rather than 'revolutionary'.
After Dad followed his sisters Sylvia and Valerie and brother Richard. They were all brought up in a succession of windy, cold vicarages from
Yorkshire to Devon. No wonder Dad always felt he had to dress warmly in several layers – whatever the weather.
In 1936, when he was 9, Dad became a boarder at St George's School, the choir school of Windsor chapel where he was a chorister and learned
piano. He sang for the Coronation of King George 1V. The lifelong passion for music had begun.
Aged 13 he then attended Uppingham Public School until he was called up for National Service near the end of the war. He trained in Colchester
and was stationed in Trieste and Villach. Thus began his lifelong passion for travel. He was also always photographing and sketching.
He was a truly gifted artist.
Thankfully Dad never had to fight in the war. In 1945 he was 18 and left the Army to train as a teacher – not a top career choice for this
musician and artist but teaching then meant essential post-war job security. He trained at King Alfred's College Winchester.
And here comes the best bit of the whole story: Jean Perry was Sweet Sixteen; Chris Smith was 23; they met at his annual college dance with a
second memorable meeting at WH Smith's in Winchester. Jean, the pretty school girl with plaits; Chris, the cradle snatcher.
Jean also started her teacher training. The 2 ½ year courtship consisted of regular motorbike outings, visits to Dad's photography darkroom in
college and trysts in the organ loft of Winchester Cathedral, where Dad was an organ pupil under Alwyn Surplice. Wooing techniques have
definitely moved on since then!
Jean and Chris married on August 4th 1954 in St Matthew's Church Winchester. They were a truly beautiful couple – the wedding photos are
stunning. Only the day before Mum had had her 2 schoolgirl plaits cut off. This week was Mum and Dad's 57 th wedding anniversary.
By now, they were both qualified schoolteachers. Dad got his first job teaching a class of 52 children in Fareham, then in Dawlish and in 1955
he got a job at Crantock Street Primary School – and Mum at Newquay Grammar School.
The lifelong love affair with Cornwall had begun. Lewarne Estate at Porth was just being developed – they bought a plot and this has been their
main home ever since. And here's an interesting little extra: in 1957 the Cornish Gliding Club was formed and Mum and Dad became founding
members and pioneering pilots.
Now comes the NEXT best bit of the story: in 1958 a child was born and her name was....Rosemary Anne!
Only 6 weeks later this precious infant was chucked into the back of their yellow Ford Consul and taken on a long, treacherous journey from
Cornwall to Rhodesia via road and Union Castle Ferry. Dad had applied for a teaching job in Bulawayo. Later he got follow-up jobs in Plumtree
and S.A.C.S school in Cape Town, South Africa. I developed a South African accent, and was toppled from prime position by the birth of
Raymond in 1962 and then Hilary in 1963 – who were both christened at Cape Town Cathedral. Talk about one-upmanship.
The “Wandering Smith Minstrels” now needed a permanent home so they returned to their house in Porth, with several gallon flagons of South
African wine in the back of the car, and 3 little children. Dad's lifelong pursuit of the perfect red wine had begun...in latter years boosted
enormously by the cellar of his son-in-law Max and an excellent selection at Morrison's and Co-op!
On returning to Cornwall, Dad taught first at Trewirgie in Redruth and then at Trevisker School, RAF St Eval, where he remained teaching music
and general subjects until he retired aged 60.
He then took on the tasks of hoovering, shoe-cleaning, making tea and washing up – which he of course accomplished with his usual skill and
Dad was the dashing, clever and eccentric teacher with the motorbike who loved making things. So began a lifelong pursuit of experimentation,
innovation, invention and craft-making. We grew up in a house stuffed with home-made musical instruments, miniature cacti, origami models
and yogurt cups full of things growing. He converted our bedrooms into photography dark rooms, had sketch books and piles of music
everywhere; paintings, photos, cassettes, CDs and cameras and the latest technology everywhere. He loved fish and frogs – so created a pond
in the back garden. He was a keen sailor and constructed a beautiful, seaworthy catamaran in our front garden. He took us all on sailing trips
round Padstow Harbour.
By now there were 4 children, with Catherine born in 1965 – how did they find the time? Or the space for children?! I'm sure, if there'd been
room, he would have built a full size steam train in the garden, too! Many of you know how much he loved steam railways.
In 1976 Dad became organist here at St Columb Minor.
His music, art and love of this beautiful county immersed
him in Cornish life. He worked with the Newquay Choral
Society, Newquay Operatic, Newquay Society of Artists,
the Women's Institute, Newquay Old Cornwall Society,
Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall County Adult Education
and Cornwall Organists' Association – in 1989 he became
COA President. He competed in piano festivals, held art
exhibitions, went on organ and choir tours round the
world. In June, just a few weeks ago, he and Mum
travelled with an organists' tour to Finland and Estonia.
He was teaching art classes into July and sketched and
played music nearly every day of his life. All of you who
knew him will remember how he was always tapping out a
tune with fingers and toes. He was humming something
classical on the last day of his life too. I rather brought the
tone down by singing 'Raindrops on Roses' to him in
hospital - but he WAS 'one of my favourite things'.
Hancock's Half Hour, The Navy Lark, The Vicar Of Dibley, All Gas And Gaitors, Porridge – Dad loved all those TV and radio comedy shows. Our
quietly remarkable Dad may never have become a comedian – although by gosh did he try!! - but he has left each of us with something special:
a love of art, music, travel, family, Cornwall - life. This multi-talented, gentle, kind, shy, good, sensitive, modest man had a great sense of
adventure, a restless energy to pursue new things, to discover, to go places – TO LIVE. And to LOVE.
He has passed onto us a bright and beautiful treasure chest of memories and mementos. Every time we hear the organ we will think of
him, every time we are in this church, with you, eating chocolate Tiffins or grapefruit segments, or walking in a meadow of wild flowers, we will
think of Dad.
Cathy and I moved out of Cornwall; Ray and Hilary have built lives here and they and their families have played a vital part in Dad's daily life.
There's never been a week when we weren't – all of us - in touch – although he never did quite master mobile phones or email - and what he
made of Chris the Vicar's iPad will remain a mystery.
Birthdays, rituals, traditions and religious festivals were important to Dad. Each occasion was marked with family and with food, drink, a toast,
music and photographs. Each day was also marked with a short diary entry. He created and recorded life – dare I say, 'religiously'? He lived and
travelled all over the world and loved hearing all our adventures. And each time we saw him again we were greeted by that special smile. And
that was the case just a week ago. Ray had just got back from Morocco; Cathy drove down from Suffolk and I flew back from Italy. Hilary and
Mum were with him every day. Max has just got here this morning after three days arduous travel – and in spite of a faulty First Great Western
Dad would have been so flattered and impressed.
I walked into his hospital room in Treliske – it was like walking into an Italian renaissance painting ....or into a room of his life: Hilary and her
darling boys were there – Big Steven and Little Steven, playing, reading; all Dad's children, his beloved wife Jean, his lovely Sophia, vicars Chris
and Jim. And he was there in his bed in the centre of it all – the creator of this family, the magnet for these lives. At one point he was doing the
Telegraph crossword; some of his favourite music was in the background – Wagner and Bach; we played Scrabble. It was good. We were all able
to say good bye.
SOPHIA AND STEVEN
... and now two very special young people, whom Dad adored and who owe so much to their grandad, also want to say THEIR
special goodbye's...Sophia and Steven:
I will miss him dearly with all my heart. He had a love for art and a passion for music. I shall miss the train rides and looking at
the friendly fish with him.
God bless you granddad. I love you.
Grandad was unique. It’s quite weird because I’ve only recently started to become close to him. So – great timing! But it’s great
because in the hospital he didn’t think he was going to die: I felt the need to say ‘I Love You’ to him, and he said ‘I’m not going
yet, you know.’
And walking into this church, I got a rush of memories all flooding back to me, like when he used to lift me up, so I could put the
hymn numbers up..
ROSIE, final words…
This week Dad is being mourned from Bulgaria to New Zealand, Australia to Aldeburgh, and from Germany to Canada. A whole Italian village is
praying for him and joining us all here today in Newquay to say thank you, we love you, we will never forget you.
Dad loved company – thank YOU all for sharing a bit of YOUR life with him and keeping him company today. Let us always remember this quiet,