Yesterday Cornwell Internet attended the funeral of our oldest client, Ted Rogers, who was also my uncle.
When you have known someone all your life, it’s easier to take for granted how exceptional they are. Ted was severely burned during the war, and underwent extensive – and pioneering – plastic surgery, despite which he was extensively scarred for the rest of his life, particularly on his face and hands. Yet when he was able to, he returned to physical outdoor work: he was a bricklayer – by choice, when his brothers all worked in the professions, the Excise and the Inland Revenue, a teacher and a pharmacist. When his sons were old enough, and there was a little money to spare, he and his wife Enid bought a boat, a fifty year old ketch which they restored and sailed round the Mediterranean. In Malta, they saw a boat being built of ferro-concrete, and decided that they too would built a boat – which they named Phoenix, and sailed across the Atlantic. Off Florida, they struck a coral reef, and Phoenix was wrecked
This should be the end of the story – it is the point at which Ted ended his autobiography, Journeyman – but Ted and Enid returned to Crawley and resumed their lives. They had been founder members of Crawley Communist Party, and helped organise the rent strike of 1955; they continued to be active in the peace movement. Ted was a founder of Ex-servicemen’s CND, a contributor to the Peace Garden in a local park, a member of the Campaign against Racism and still attending union meetings shortly before his 90th birthday.
The family had gathered in February to celebrate that birthday; yesterday we met again, together with friends and comrades, in the Friends’ Meeting House in Ifield, to remember a many faceted man, an activist who charmed others into activity, a lover of people and of poetry. His grand-daughter read O’Shaughnessy’s Ode, one of the many poems Ted had loved and could quote at length from memory:
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamer of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
In Journeyman Ted describes the wreck of the Phoenix:
Now, the larger dinghy had its side stove in, and one of the buoyancy compartments had been opened up on the second dinghy. I felt that our position would soon become untenable. Enid thought it already had. Very generously, she gave me a little smile, and said, "Well, it’s been nice knowing you."
It has, indeed.