The Funeral - Quizzical Looks
Dec. 23rd, 2006
10:41 pm - The Funeral
Wednesday was Dad's funeral. I'll edit in the "script" the celebrant used when I get a copy of it, I just have my own script for now.
I'll rewind a bit. As usual, I got into town somewhat earlier than needs be - I'm hopeless at just waiting around at home. Anyway, I had shopping and still-not-getting-text-messaging-right to do. I bought a new black shirt with long sleeves (all of mine have short sleeves), and needed new trousers and belt anyway. To finish this off, I bought a tie in the Ross tartan (for Dad's mother - and I asked but they were sold out of Fraser - his grandmother's family).
I toddled along to my Aunts' place - only to be picked up just as I got off the bus by my Aunt on the way to pick up Mum! Anyway, trip there and back made, a leisurely lunch (including introducing everyone there to a drink called Irn Bru) and a quick run-down and edit of the eulogy, and it was time to change and go.
Met up with the other mourners at the gates of Karrakatta - we arrived in the nearest carpark just as my two bosses arrived. We waited for another funeral's procession to leave, then our party followed the hearse up to our chapel. Well, except for the pallbearers - Alan Deverel, Jochen Rudiger, Bill Whitney and myself - who kept pace with the car (I was told later that everyone behind had trouble keeping up at normal walking pace).
I took the right foot of the casket, and we walked in after the rest of the party had entered the chapel, to the closing bars of Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon. After we set the casket down, the service was begun by our celebrant, a friend of Mum's Irene Oram, who had volunteered her services.
Even if I could recall everything verbatim, I'd wait until I had a copy of the script before writing it. Anyway, the service was started, then we launched into a singing of the Wings song Mull of Kintyre. After that it was time for my eulogy, below.
(originally titled Bonny Johnny Banks, in the handwritten version)
This was written as a collaboration between my mother and myself. My father, John, was born in Edinburgh on the 21st of December 1944, the second child and first son of Isabella (Ross) Banks and John Fraser Banks. His father, a survivor of Dunkirk was then in the Pioneer Corps. The family eventually consisted of four sisters, Helen, June, Margaret and Maxine, and two brothers, John and Andrew.
All the family are still resident in Scotland, all were devastated by the news of the passing of their brother and both Margaret and Andrew tried to book flights to be here today but were unsuccessful, they just couldn't get any flight at all.
After a, shall we say, colourful few teenage years he followed his father into the service, on the advice of his older sister and her husband. His time with the Dragon Battery will be mentioned later. In speaking this eulogy of John, I feel that to sum up I can do no better than to quote the testimonial of his Commanding Officer in his
Regular Army Certificate of Service discharge papers. It says: "Banks is honest, sober and trustworthy with a cheerful and open personality. He can be relied on to work willingly, using common sense and initiative when necessary.
He is a good soccer player whose keen and unselfish attitude to team sport has been an example to all."
This quote was indeed John; he was cheerful and resourceful and never let circumstances get him down. His motto was "something will turn up" and something always did. He was practical and always knew what to do in a crisis.
He was generous with his time and such money as he had (not always a lot), and didn't want much in return or for himself. Indeed, give him much more than a cup of coffee and he'd insist on paying you back. He was a great host and we had some wonderful parties.
He didn't complain when arterial disease forced him to give up the sports he'd enjoyed, just concentrated on and enjoyed his darts the more, and in his final illness was stoical and considerate of others to the end.
Son of Scotland, go thou to thy rest.
Yeah, I got through it just fine (was repeatedly told afterwards I did great). No voice catching or crying or anything. It was while I was up at the lecturn that I got to get a proper look at the gathering. We estimate about forty people turned up, Dench Chapel has seating for twentyfive. I think it was more fitting that we had people standing, but still standing relatively close, as opposed to booking a larger chapel and have it be partially empty.
The service resumed with an address by Alan Deverel of the Returned and Services League of Australia giving a brief run-down of Dad's time in the British and Australian Armies (although it's a pity I didn't get a chance to give some of the details Dad told me a year ago, like being in Libya the week before Colonel Gaddafi took over), and the laying of poppies on the casket, after which The Last Post was played with the minute's silence after, then the Reveille.
The last few prayers were said, then the piobreachd lament The Dark Island was played as the coffin was lowered into the pedestal and out of sight. At which point the service was brought to an end, and the lounge opened for refreshments and meeting and greeting the family for the next half-hour. Simple biscuits with tea/coffee/cordial, but effective. At the end of it when Mum was able to get free for a few minutes the funeral directors gave her the mourners cards, and an audiotape of the service so we can send a copy overseas. One of the cards had been attached to the flowers on the coffin - we didn't pay for any flowers at the service, it was only once we'd gotten home that we managed to find that card, and luckily it was from Dad's sisters and brother, they'd managed to get the orders delivered in time (we weren't sure, since it was placed less than a day before the funeral).
I found out a couple of things at the post-service do, like one of his friends from Beverley had been on the same Hill in Borneo as him at the same time. Dad was with the British Army at the time, his mate was with the Australian Army, there were only about 120 of them out there at the time, and years later they meet in the pub in a small country town. Also heard how he met "Auntie Kim and Uncle Jochen" - just after they'd come out from Germany some people in the pub (probably the Windsor at the time) were giving them grief for being German, so Dad went up and put them in their place, then turned and introduced himself to Kim and Jochen, welcomed them to the area, and the rest is history.
Anyway, we saw the rest of the people on their way back to work, or home, or in the case of some of Mum's cousins to visit family graves then onwards for a drink and a meal, we went back to my Aunts' place for dinner and to pick up our stuff, and was dropped home just after nine o'clock, feeling somewhat exhausted. I stayed up for a little while, until a massive headache sent me to bed until lunchtime the next day, out like the proverbial light. Another bunch of flowers was delivered the next day from work, and I had my own bottle of Irn Bru to drink for Dad's birthday.