29th May 2015
It is with great sadness that we gather here today. We have just witnessed the burial of Duncan which to all of us has come as a great shock. It was not expected and was certainly not something that any of us wanted. The purpose of this gathering after the interment is to celebrate Duncan's life and to praise the Lord Jesus Christ for all that He has done for and through Duncan. Therefore we will be singing some of Duncan's favourite songs of praise, we will read a Psalm that meant a lot to him and will speak of his life and the Saviour that he loved.
We begin by praying:
What a friend we have in Jesus.
who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow
of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my
fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from
the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the
terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the
pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your
right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only look with
your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have
made the Lord your dwelling place the Most High, who is my refuge; no
evil shall be allowed to befall you and no plague come near your
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you
in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up, lest you
strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and
the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver
him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls
to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will
rescue him and honour him. With long life I will satisfy him and show
him my salvation.”
English Standard Version Anglicised
(Remain seated. We will sing this song which is all about Jesus twice through but with a musical interlude. Janet and Alfie will play the tune without us singing but we can take a few moments to reflect upon the Lord Jesus whom Duncan loved and served for many years.)
Words of comfort in difficult days:
Undoubtedly this has been the most difficult funeral I have had to lead. My reason being the same as I am sure for all who are gathered here.
Duncan was only born in 1947 which means that he did not live long enough in our estimation. He has been described to me as a wonderful father, a fun loving husband, faithful and true in his dealings with all people. He was blunt and honest but yet remarkably patient and caring beyond compare. He was hospitable, generous in every way and he made incredible meals. He was clever but not showy, he was multi talented and we believed that there was nothing that was not fixable to him. He was hubby, dad, father-in-law, brother, grand-dad, Dunc, odd job man friend, pal and buddy all rolled into one great big character. He was a BIG man in every way!
He was a big man with wonderful attributes. Despite all of that he was not perfect and so he made blunders at times and got some things wrong. Duncan was fully human and we loved him for it, but being human means that he was in God's estimation a sinner because that is what all of humanity is. It is this that brought about what I would say was Duncan's most important attribute:
He was in relationship with God
Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross was for people just like Duncan, you and I. Through this there is the offer of forgiveness from God and relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Duncan a number of years ago believed that to be true and so He became a follower of Jesus and became a son of the living God. That as you will see later on was his hope, his passion, his security and is now his experience.
So what of the life lived?
Duncan was born 16th May 1947 in Kingston-upon-Thames. He was educated in Basingstoke. After leaving school he was apprenticed to Lancing Bagnell for 5 years and qualified as a research and development engineer. He continued to work for the same company until he moved to Cornwall in 1984. In that period of life he got married and became a father.
You will not be too surprised to know that it was his practical ability that introduced him to Margaret who would become his wife. Duncan's father who was a nuclear scientist at Aldermaston offered a neighbours daughter help with fixing her car by one of his sons. Duncan duly went to fulfil his father's offer and discovered that his soul mate was living in the same road.
Duncan married Margaret in August 1967 and some time time later Shelley was born. Shelley was their only child due to an extremely difficult birth.
In 1984 the family moved to Cornwall where they eventually set up home in Upton Cross. Duncan worked in a couple of firms in Liskeard and eventually became one of the owners and managing directors of Bibby.
It was whilst in Cornwall that both Duncan and Margaret became involved in the local parish church and both of them became Christians. They found a oneness together now in life and faith also. The church benefitted greatly from their input as you can imagine.
Shelley tells me that family life for a girl growing up with Duncan as dad was rather eventful and she loved it. She learned to work on cars which has become a lasting passion for her. To be seen with a spanner in her hand rather than a skipping rope seems to have been common practise. But life was not all work and even though finances were at times stretched Margaret was a stay at home mum which made for Shelley a “Brilliant” life. Family time was important therefore many family outings and holidays were a priority. When asked what it was like to be a young Kent, Shelley's response was 110%, lots of laughter, fun, great music, good food and most importantly family together!
Duncan was heart broken when Margaret died of lung cancer in 2008 and struggled in his grief. The big man was broken.
When asked to sum up her dad Shelley was quick to quote his favourite Latin???? motto:
“Nil illigitimae carborundum”
Which apparently meant: “Do not let life get you down.”
But he was just dad, he always cared for and was interested in people.
And now people are distraught at their great loss.
Shelley and her husband Mark are heartbroken at their sad loss of Dad. If you are a praying person please pray much for them as they come to terms with their grief and their sorrow.
It was some time later that Janet and Duncan met here in Grace community church, the story best continues from Janet's own words which she has asked me to read:
Tribute from Janet
On first meeting, I thought you were a lovely man and that Margaret was very lucky. Now I know that you are so much more than I ever dreamed and it has been a wonderful privilege to be your wife for five and a half years, to fall in love again and be like teenagers, to bring you joy, to share your life and ways, to experience your ‘big’ love and care – and BIG it always was.
You won my admiration as a man who loved God and knew how to commune with Him and trust Him. The words written by you on a scrap of paper above your desk read:
“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared, BUT only men of character are trusted.” And what a large character you were Honey; always content, thankful, peace loving and “bigly” generous with all that you had, but especially to those whom God gave you as family.
Your big heart and capable, skilled engineering hands enfolded all my family and extended family. In my sister Maggie’s own words:
“Duncan, I only knew you a short while and you were full of fun, and were so easy to get on with and I see why Janet had a twinkle in her eye. You were kindness itself and so giving. I saw how you helped everyone fix everything that needed fixing no matter the distance and you moved the cupboard in my room making such a difference to my daily life, thank you again Duncan. We chatted on Skype often as you and Janet were down South and I am so glad I got to wish you Happy Birthday on the 16th May.
I will always remember how you said you would look after me as I got older and it is with great sadness I never got this opportunity, as I know you meant every word. Your sudden passing has left a huge void in all our lives, you were such a wonderful Christian and opened your home and hearts to us all.“
Rexie the dog was the first to take up residence at Crista Court and you taught him new tricks, which you called obedience, and grieved with me when our faithful pooch departed last July. You taught me how to turn off taps not too tightly to preserve the washer and a million other useful logical skills that did not come naturally! Probably the most useful one was how to put a toilet roll on the right way round and reverse using mirrors.
You were a man of prayer, not least when sending the angels out in legions when I was on the road. Your love of ‘thinking’ was noticed even by Jonah our grandson, who asked you to teach him how to think. Before we were married I shared with you that I was not sure what God was saying to me and you asked me if I was listening. One thing you certainly knew how to do, was to listen.
You have romanced my heart, spoiled me rotten with your cooking, brought our garden, jasmine, orchid and geraniums to life and forgiven me when I did not always understand your Kent'ish humour passed down from your dad. You enjoyed cars, hot rods, photography, nature and were master chef of your own bread, yoghurt, salad dressing and various lasagne’s and meats. Your love of music enriched our everyday life and I could now not be without Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Brian Adams, Show of Hands, Alcaponi, Vivaldi and all the rest to which we have danced and listened nearly every evening by the fireplace. In Rod’s words, honey, this is now your ‘Beautiful Morning’ safe in the everlasting arms and not just a sunny day in Cornwall.
God gave us such a rich time at Boslowen in Plushabridge, ‘The house of joy’, filled with companionship and healing from the grief of our past losses, new love and adventures together in the Cornwall you loved and with friends and family far and wide. Your strong hands have felled trees, chopped wood incessantly to warm me up and your handiwork is evident all over the house as well as in our lives and hearts.
Just last week I was thinking how much I just love being with you, as that is enough with my gentle, quiet, kind, clever and funny Duncan. We miss you horribly, Honey, but we know where you are and we rest in the shadow of the Almighty as we make our way without you.
A Few words from “The Kids” (Andrew, Ruth, Jonah & Ben, Stephen & Naomi and Pete, Vicki & Susanna, Kerry and Gray)
When Duncan married our Mum I don’t think he realised that three children, their spouses, grandchildren, cousins and the family dog were part of the deal too! However, he coped with this new role incredibly well and his love, care, patience and wisdom has enriched all of our lives. His unwavering faith in God, his prayerfulness and his calm ways have been a rock for our family guiding us through some difficult times and past hurts. He was a man of contentment, generosity, quiet strength and solid character, always ready to put others first. These rare and precious qualities seemed so natural to Duncan because they were built upon his close walk with Jesus and his love for those in his life.
Duncan was a wonderful grandfather to Jonah, Ben and Susanna, always willing to read stories, take a stroll to the park, or sit quietly for "thinking time". They loved, trusted and respected him and their growing up years will be much poorer without him.
Duncan would never panic or rush. We always knew that if we rang the home phone Mum would answer as Duncan refused to rush to make it to the phone in time. Even when Mum chopped off her finger in the juicer he was cool as a cucumber!
We have enjoyed many times together at various weddings, baby dedications and holidays in Cornwall, France and the Lake District. His practical knowledge about so many things has helped us in endless ways, from cooking scrambled eggs, making soup and growing plants to taking photographs, fitting kitchens and generally fixing anything that was broken! He was always so willing to serve and any thanks we expressed was usually responded to with “no problem my dear”.
We will remember his wonderful and unique sense of humour, many funny sayings and interesting spelling of words! At our last family gathering in Cornwall at Easter when asked what “R/S” meant written on the calendar, his answer was ‘recycling’ and his reason being that it would confuse any burglars!
We are heartbroken that his time with us was so short. He set us a wonderful example of how to live that we will not forget.
As a friend I only knew Duncan for a very short time but we quickly became buddies with many common interests and I confess a sense of humour that was almost identical. It was at times infuriating for our wives but we could not help ourselves. It has been good to experience his food and all out of that little oven. It has been a delight to hear Clapton, Cream, Floyd and so many other old timer bands. We experienced practical help when we moved house, benefitted from hospitality and solitude when circumstances got on top of us. Duncan was my mate, he was Pam's Poppa bear, you can add you own personal title to the list. The one thing that I am sure of is that he was an important part of our lives.
But this is not the end of the story:
Everybody was shocked to hear of Duncan being taken into hospital having suffered from a stroke but we all expected that the Big Man would recover. Things at first seemed hopeful but that was not God's plan.
We come to life from a different perspective to God, to Him the death of His people is precious because they are being gathered eternally into his presence in heaven. But to us quite understandably it is a great loss. But God is not uncaring in all of this. The Lord Jesus' last prayer on earth was for Christians that we might one day be perfected in His presence. Jesus also recognised the sadness of death when he visited two sisters who were grieving over the death of their brother and His friend. It was when Jesus saw their grief it caused the shortest verse in our bible but one of the most powerful verses: “Jesus wept.” He was in deep sorrow along with them even though He knew that in a few moments He would raise Lazarus from the dead. The comfort that we draw from this is that we have a God who truly cares for us NOW!
The truth about Jesus is that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, which means that as Jesus wept then with those grieving, then He also grieves with us today. We can all of us come to Him for help and comfort but as with all things we must accept His help. Why not in the quiet of your own heart reach out to Him for the comfort and peace that only He can give.
It was a privilege to have known Duncan and it was special to be with him in his death. We were helpless and distraught but he was comfortable and at peace. At peace with the world and with His God who promised that when Duncan walked that dark valley of death then He would walk it with him. We saw that on the 19th May 2015 at approximately 6:00 am when Duncan stepped out of life and into eternal glory.
Earth has been impoverished by Duncan's death but heaven is very much enriched!
Be Thou my vision.
Should you wish to make a donation in recognition of Duncan we are supporting 2 charities that Duncan himself was a supporter of. They are the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Christian Institute.
I have posted a summary of my thoughts concerning Duncan and his sad passing on my blog; One of these days in Looe. If interested please follow the link: