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Funeral of Mark Van de Weyer
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 Crisis attendance of the funeral was limited. However, local mourners lined the road to pay their respects. The procession started at Long Acre and travelled the short distance from the house to St. Mary's Church.
The service was conducted in the churchyard by Revd Canon David Baldwin, Team Rector of the Beaminster Area Team Ministry. Standing in at short notice for Revd Chris Martin due to a family emergency. He praised Mark for a life which was true to himself and his beliefs.
I was with Mark for 30 years and obviously I'm not going to keep you here all afternoon telling you about those 30 years. That would take far too long. I'll just tell you one tiny thing as an example. Yesterday I got a telephone call from a lady who was absolutely devastated and upset to have heard that Mark had died. I have never really heard of this lady, who was somewhere in the North of England. It turns out that for years, the story came out over the course of 40 minutes, Mark had been helping out the family who had been suffering terrible difficulties including a wife-beating in the family, terrible financial problems and goodness knows what.
So that just gives you an example of a thing that even I didn't know about him. That he had his tentacles out, searching for anyone who needed help or advice or a first job... somewhere to live temporarily. He just helped so many people. When he came into my family we quickly began to refer to him rather disrespectfully as the family 'consigliere'. Like the mafia and godfather films but totally benevolently I hasten to say. He had such a deep knowledge of the world and such a canny but not cynical knowledge of human nature. That he was brilliant at giving advice in all sorts of situations.
You may notice Mark is being buried in a coffin of banana leaves which recalls some of the wonderful holidays we have had in the Caribbean, particularly Tobago. I thought that would be appropriate. He is also being buried in what he died in: a t-shirt commemorating the Bottle Inn just up the road. The financial troubles of which he struggled with for many years, trying to sort them out. I felt in a way that is not inappropriate because I seem to remember some scriptual reference to "O death, where is thy sting?" because it's also advertising the annual nettle eating competition on the back of the t-shirt.
Text provided below is that prepared by speakers and may have differed slightly in aural delivery.
Mark was my older brother and it has occurred to me that he was probably the third person I met when I arrived in this world (excluding medical staff). I certainly knew him for longer than anyone else now living.
Mark wasn’t just my older brother, he was also my best friend. I was the Best Man at his wedding and he was the Best Man at my wedding to Margaret. For a great many years, he spent a considerable amount of time with us and our children in South Wales and this included most Christmases.
I have reflected a lot in the last 10 days about what was Mark’s principal interest in life, what made him tick and what made him the person he was. I have concluded that it was his interest in people that was his central characteristic. He loved meeting people of all types, finding out about them and he stayed in touch with a massive range of people. He was always interested in what other people were doing or thinking. He loved to get involved in their lives if he felt that he could help. This included lots of people he had met over the years in journalism, politics and cricket and, more recently, life in Dorset. It also included our wider family. He had a massive group of friends. This is the essence of his personality.
To try to sum all this up, he was both a very good person and very good fun to be with.
Mark met his great friend David Candler at the Luton News and a few years ago at David's funeral he credited his colleague (who later served as press secretary at number 10) with instilling the passion for grassroots political action and involvement in local government that he carried through his life. Mark shared a memory at Catherine’s impassioned holding to account of future Home Secretary Jack Straw at their home in Islington. I’m glad Mark was able to bring the same passion here to Dorset and that we are joined by his family here including Evelyn and Jezebel. Along with his other grandchildren who were unable to make the trip Amy and my Oliver and Eloise.
Mark is mourned greatly by the Candlers, as indeed by all his extended family. Even after mum’s death he kept in touch with them and had a significant impact on all. This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who knew him. We will remember Mark for his genuine interest in others and generous spirit.
This past week, many have shared with me stories of his generosity and conviviality. My aunt Carol recalled being a guest for Christmas at Frognal and the warm welcome and support they received moving to London as newlyweds. Cousins have shared childhood memories of family events. Recollections of Mark’s 50th at the V&A, various weddings and other events have featured.
After hearing Mark speak so well at these events I know he would have had the perfect anecdote to share today. The right words to put us at ease and properly honour him.
It’s painfully ironic to consider how ill suited to the man this limited gathering is today. But I know we will gather together again soon so that all the lives he touched can come together. All family, friends and colleagues. We all feel his loss despite being unable to express it how we would choose to at this time.
I used to think Mark had a very strong sense of duty. That this meant he never missed an event and had to keep in touch with so many. I think now perhaps he just cared so very much about people.
I’ll never forget his kind words and embrace as we sang “I’m forever blowing bubbles”. I am lucky and privileged to have had him in my life. As are we all. Thank you.
We still remember the Easter egg hunts, the birthday parties, the trips to the beach, the sporting events, and the Christmas board games. I remember my excitement and eagerness to don the West Ham kit you gave me each Christmas, and the year you yielded to my request for a Spurs kit.
We still remember the endless hours of games you had to endure…your patience and playful skill as you mediated our underhand antics. I doubt there has been a Van de Weyer boar game where you weren’t ‘banker’.
We still remember, with great humour, the day you took Heulwen, Tammy, and I on an impromptu tour of Westminster School. We gleefully skipped past the barrier as you dismissed our intrusion on what looked like a theatrical rehearsal with “I’m an old boy” and we sauntered by… I can only dream of such presence.
We still remember the village shop in Little Mill that you raised as part of Heulwen’s business studies project, and when you confessed to me your poetry shortcomings when trying to support my English homework. I’ll never forget the trials of the Eeper Weeper, Chimney Sweeper.
We still remember all the times you were there…for every adventure, whim, or just helping to guide us. You never refrained, enthusiastically dedicating hours to us and those around you. You were there to send Heulwen off to France, you hosted Tammy and Jess in Dorset before they departed for Australia, and you took me to the Lots Road diner for my 21st birthday.
We still remember that at one time or another you welcomed us to live in Chelsea Harbour. We’ve all benefited from your energy and generosity, whether it be Barnes Cricket Club, Chelsea Harbour Residents Association, or helping Ross balance the books of an NHS Trust.
Many will realise how much they depended on your sage advice. You played the perfect role. We were truly blessed by a loving, affectionate, and supportive uncle to our upbringing.
We will always remember.
To know someone for as long as Andrew and I have known Mark, which is seven decades, is to witness both consistency and change – not only in physical appearance, but also in character.
For as long as I can remember Mark had an intense sense of fairness, of right and wrong – or, as he often put it to me, what is ‘done’ and ‘not done’. He found my waywardness especially galling. My son [[Sylvain Van de Weyer]|Sylvain] saw this quality in action when he did work experience with the Investors Chronicle, with Mark as manager. He was impressed with the high regard in which people held Mark: they would say that your uncle is often firm, and always fair.’
Also from childhood Mark was generous.
But there was another quality that he did not always possess, but which over the past two decades he acquired in large measure. Some have described this quality as gentleness, but I don’t think that quite captures it. Perhaps the best word is ‘benign’: he became an exceptionally benign person. He exuded good will, towards his family, and also to anyone he met. His presence at any gathering was a benign presence. That is the quality for which he will be especially remembered
One consequence is that he became an active member of the Church of England – which, for all its faults, is an institution fuelled by good will. And he and I exchanged long and frequent emails on church matters. Indeed, the most recent was on 11 April, when he sent me the link to the vicar’s excellent streamed Easter service.
How did this exceptional quality arise in Mark? I could enumerate several factors. One was the delayed influence of our father, who was also exceptionally benign. But one factor stands out: Caroline. Caroline brought out the very best in Mark, and as a consequence she gave him the best years of his life.
Since Mark had become a signed-up Anglican, I can say quite appropriately: ‘Thank God for Mark’.
Mark was commended to God and bid farewell. His body was committed to the earth in accordance with the rites of the Church of England.