Music: Spring – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Good afternoon and welcome to you all. We are here to bid farewell to a dearly loved and respected man, to share sadness and bring comfort to one another, and most of all to celebrate the life of Douglas Grant. Whilst for those who have been close to him, there is the terrible pain of losing Doug, there is also the pride and the joy of having shared in the life of this generous, kind and gentle man.
This is to be a Humanist ceremony in which the focus of our thoughts is on Doug; the person he has been, the life he has lived. No offence is meant to those of you who hold religious belief and there will be opportunity for private prayer or reflection during our simple ceremony. Humanists believe that we should take responsibility for our lives by striving to be happy and helping those around us to be happy. That we should respect and recognise the uniqueness of all human beings, seeking to reach our potential, making the most of the one life we can be sure of. From what I have heard about Doug, it is clear that he has been a good man who has lead a good life, we can consider…
Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?
Walter Douglas Haig Grant; Walter after his father; Haig after Earl Haig, was born three days after armistice day at the end of the Great War. Known to you all as Douglas/Doug, his wonderful innings is now over. He chose to die on a beautiful spring morning at home with his beloved wife Hilary. That morning, the first of the blossom came out on their cherry tree, which he loved and so we entered here to the strains of Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
A number of things define my father
· A West Indian
· A cricket lover
· An immigrant
· A socialist, and
· A social worker
I knew him as all these things and much more.
One of my very first memories of him is being carried on his shoulders – being so far above the ground I shivered with fear – truly standing on the shoulders of a giant
When we lived deep in the North Yorkshire countryside at Ingleby I remember him striding out to work every morning – a two mile walk every morning to catch the train to Middlesbrough – in all weathers – and in the winter seeing his footsteps in the snow breaking a trail where no one else had trodden.
I remember him telling me about his
I remember him telling me the facts of life and both of us squirming with embarrassment
I remember when we used to go and watch cricket matches together and in particular being with him when the West Indies played at Headingley in 1963 and his unbounded joy at seeing his cricketing heroes in action – who can forget those names – Sobers and Worrall, Hall and Griffiths, Kanhai and Butcher and Murray, Solomon and Gibbs. And I remember that he was so anxious for them to win he wrote to the captain Frank Worrall and offered advice on how to win – based no doubt on his experience as a non-bowling No. 11 in the Leeds Probation Office team.
I remember how happy he seemed when he was
appointed Director of Social Work in
I remember that it was at the same time that he discovered malt whisky and I remember how his lips used to pucker up as he raised the glass to his lips and when he drank it his eyes twinkled and you could really believe it was nectar.
I remember his love of the English language, of poetry, of Shakespeare and of literature in general. It seems old fashioned now but he could recite Shakespeare and he did so, frequently. But I also remember the pleasure he got simply reading out gems from ‘Quote of the Week’ from the Sunday papers.
I remember his hatred of injustice, of poverty, of bigotry and prejudice, of inequality and of lack of opportunity and how he strove to protect his family from all of this.
Above all I remember him as an honest man, a man of integrity, and throughout his life, an honourable man.
There is a story he told us that has entered Grant family folklore. It
concerned the time when he was a Scottish Home Office Inspector in the
That was one of my father’s favourite stories and it certainly lives on in our family. I like to think of him as a person who nourished and cherished and loved those around him and that is how I shall remember him.
[And finally, when I was thinking about what to say today I remember also that he was an essentially modest man and I think that he may have been a little embarrassed by all the fuss we are making of him today. I think he might have wanted to puncture it with a little humour and so I looked for a quotation that might help. And I found one from one of his favourite authors – Mark Twain - who said this:
“Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
I think my father would be pleased to see that none of the undertakers are smiling today.]
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is the object of beauty and I stand watching till at last she fades into the horizon. And someone at my side says “She is gone!”
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her.
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not her;
And just at the moment when someone at my side says “She is gone”
There are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout; “There she comes” – and that is dying.
On leaving school, the best jobs in the
island were not open to him these only being available for people whose skin
was white – Doug was coloured. His hatred of apartheid on the basis of skin
colour was therefore understandable. But he started training as a pharmacist in
the local hospital and was eventually given responsibility for a rural pharmacy
in Belair. But then war broke out, and along with two other “Vincies” Doug left
his home island on Friday 13 June 1941
in a troop ship (the Maas Kerk). He crossed the
Local government reorganisation in 1974 forced another move. Two years as Director of Social Work in Fife Regional Council was followed by six years as Director of Social Services in the London Borough of Hounslow, from which he retired in 1982. Many former colleagues have paid tribute to Doug – here are just a few of them:
Doug for his kindness, gentleness and sense of fun and many other qualities:
the world is a better place for
Doug was a man of great sensitivity and warmth and I shall always think of him as a man who felt the pain of others and whose work was truly a vocation.
others, kind and encouraging in his dealing with his colleagues, so that
they always say him as a true friend. I owe him a great deal.
It was in Hounslow in 1980 that Doug met
Hilary when he appointed her to a job. He joined her in 1983 in her home in
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurses arms.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’s eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well save’d a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
is second childishness and mere oblivion,
sans teeth, sans, sans taste, sans everything.
Douglas and Hil moved to
Still planning holidays, Doug often told Hil that there was a taxi waiting to take them to the airport and would insist on being able to see his beloved walking stick. Never complaining of his predicament, Doug remained a true gentleman.
We have mentioned Doug’s love of poetry. This next piece, which will be read by Arthur Jackson, Doug’s friend and former GP, is one which he recited as he approached the end of his life.
Requiem – R L Stevenson read by Arthur Jackson
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me die.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
“Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill.”
We have now come to the time when we must say goodbye to the physical presence of Douglas Grant. Would you please stand.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose on earth. A time to be born and a time to die. Death has come to your friend and loved one, Douglas Grant. Doug’s hopes and ideals will be committed into your minds; his love into your hearts, his spirit has long been abroad in the world. We commit Doug’s body to its natural end.
Hold on to Doug in your thoughts: there is no need to part from him too hastily. Talk about him often, repeat the words and sayings he used and the jokes he made. Enjoy your memories of him just as we have today.
Doug had his last wish, he was carried out
of his home by the Funeral Directors, and as requested in his will, his ashes
will be scattered in
From our square-shaped balcony.
Overlooking a shivering, sequinned sea,
Sun in the sky,
Cumulus clouds floating by,
Swimmers, wind surfers and yachts we see,
Shell-seekers, sun-worshippers, feeling free,
For in the
Villa the situation;
Long Rock jutting jagged and thin,
An exciting place to which to swim.
To climb, to explore the crevice within.
Where beauty abounds for many a mile.
Pale tourists arrive looking wan,
And later depart with a golden tan.
Yes, I’m sure that you’d agree…
St. Vincent, in the
Is the natural place to be.
It will soon be time for us to leave here and pick up the everyday thread of our lives. As we do let us resolve to live well. To take inspiration from Doug’s integrity, generosity and sense of fairness, as well as his ability to enjoy what this flawed but wonderful world has to offer us.
Hilary has so many people who she wants to thank. Too numerous to list they include family locally who have been there for her, neighbours, the professional services, friends, colleagues and Doug’s family. She is thankful and appreciative of all of your support and love. Any donations received will be split between Amnesty International and The Salvation Army. The former in helping towards its continuous work in fighting injustice and inequality, the latter for the sound, practical help it offers to people in need.
Everybody is welcome back at the house in Homes Chapel where I am sure you will share lots more stories of Doug. Thank you for being here; take care of yourselves and of one another.
Music: Victory Test Match – Lord Beginner
Celebrate the Life of
Walter Douglas Haig Grant
9th May 2006
14th November 1918 – 17th April 2006
Funeral Director: Graham Tressider
Humanist Officiant: Jan Ferguson