My much-loved husband for 57 years.
Sea Fever. I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking. I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over. Read by Meg, one of Tony's granddaughters.
From the Welcome at the start of the Service - Tony's Life Story. Anthony John Collingridge known to everyone as Tony was born on 14 June 1936 in Gants Hill, Essex, to Bill and Betty. He had a happy childhood, fascinated by insects, particularly butterflies, which became a lifelong interest. When he was 11, they moved to Bristol and at 13 he won a scholarship to Clifton College. He was very good academically but terrible at cricket, so he took up rowing which he loved. Tony left Clifton College with another scholarship to read Classics at Cambridge, but he chose to put this on hold to do his National Service in the Navy. Tony was awarded ‘Outstanding Cadet’ of his training class and was one of the first National Servicemen to be authorised to keep watch on their own. He served on an aircraft carrier which was the first ship to visit Russia after the war. He then transferred to a minesweeper, which was active keeping the peace in Cyprus and then formed part of the contingent trying to run the blockade in the Suez Crisis. Importantly, the Navy also taught Tony how to sail. After one days training in a whaler, he obviously seemed to know what he was doing as they told him to get on with it by himself and teach the others! He was hooked on sailing for the rest of his life. After the Navy, Tony decided not to go up to Cambridge and started his career in junior management with WD & HO Wills. Life for him changed forever when he spent a two-week holiday teaching sailing at a PGL Holiday Camp in Suffolk. There he met Jenny who, as well as teaching sailing, was in charge of breakfasts, and gave Tony extra helpings every day! They married in 1961 and set up home in Long Ashton. Life was made complete with the arrival of their three children, Sarah, Alison & Simon. Tony was a high flyer at Wills, and by 1968 he was moving his young family up to Helensburgh near Glasgow with his appointment as General Manager of the Scotland & Northern Ireland factories. They lived there happily for 8 years and Tony made international headlines when he accompanied Margaret Thatcher on their factory tour, and they became stuck in a lift together! The family returned to Bristol when Tony was promoted to the Wills board as Personnel Director, later becoming Commercial Director of Wills parent company, Imperial Tobacco. From there, he skilfully negotiated his early retirement at the ripe old age of 48! Tony & Jenny moved to Newton Ferrers near Plymouth to set up their own sailing school, Devon Offshore. They spent 5 years teaching people to sail in ocean-going yachts around the South coast, the Channel Islands and the Scillies. In 1990, with the children grown up, they decided to start the sailing adventure they had always dreamed of. They bought a Moody 36 yacht, called her "Stage Sea", and in the autumn they set off across the Atlantic for an epic voyage which had them living aboard for 21 years - sailing around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, as well as the inland waterways of Northern Europe and North America, involving 4 transatlantic crossings! Over the years, Sarah, Alison and Simon all got married and between them had nine children. Family holidays were often spent wherever Stage Sea happened to be, and during the winters Tony & Jenny flew home for family visits. They loved seeing their family, and as each of the grandchildren reached the age of about 9, they flew out for a holiday with Granny & Grandad by themselves. As a result, the whole family can recount stories of Tony’s larger than life sense of humour, his infectious laugh, the adventures they had with him, and his love of life on the sea. In 2011, having reluctantly conceded that it was time to live on dry land again, Tony & Jenny sailed back to Bristol. They sold their beloved Stage Sea to the right people and have spent the last 8 years living happily in Westbury Park, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Tony always loved to tell stories about his life and could keep everyone entertained. Even when his ill health made life harder, his love for Jenny and his family kept him going, and his laughter would lighten every occasion. Tony will be very sadly missed by all those who knew and loved him.
Very kind donations from Kristin, Celia & Jenny. Thank you all so much.
How do you sum up your Dad? As you've already heard, Dad was a classics scholar, a naval officer, a successful businessman, an entrepreneur, an adventurer and an explorer, a journalist and an author and to each of us, individually, he was a friend, a grandad, a dad and a loving husband. That's a lot of different roles to hold, being all that to all of us, and yet Dad did it with such accomplished style. In preparation for today, I’ve been talking to friends and family, most notably Sarah, Ali and Mum, to go through our memories of Dad, and I’d like to share some of them with you now. For me, one of the earliest memories I have was the regular occurrence of being “Marmalised”, which basically meant being tickled and tickled until you had to escape because you could no longer breathe, and the excitement of inching back closer and closer to him, until he would spring at you, and Marmalise you some more. I was talking to Sarah who was saying what a good-looking bloke Dad was, which made me remember how he was always asked to carry out the Scottish New Year tradition of First Footing. This is when a tall, dark and handsome man is asked to be the first person of the New Year to cross a home's threshold. And Sarah was saying how she was once being asked at school by her friends, who was the "hottie" who picked her up, and yes, you guessed it, it was Dad! She also remembered how Dad use to be quite insistent on making sure we behaved well, had good table manners, did the right thing, worked hard, but yet at the same time would happily take time out to explain anything, including what swear words meant, which, Sarah said, definitely helped her with her "cool" status. Sarah had a "cool" status, who knew? We also discussed the numerous camping holidays we had with family friends at Loch Lomond when, invariably, it would be raining. The adults would all share a caravan and we would be in tents outside just listening to the rain, and hearing Dad’s raucous laughter ringing out! But I think the best bits of those holidays, or at least the bits with the most enduring memories, would be the singing of certain songs in the car on the way there. Songs that became synonymous with all our family holidays, and I suspect have passed down throughout all our families. So, by way of nodding - and don't worry I'm not going to ask you to sing! - who here knew, or still knows the words to; The Court of King Caractacus? On Ilkely Moor Bar Tat? Jake the Peg? There was an old woman who swallowed a fly? and Widecombe Fayre, with Uncle Tom Cobley and the infamous HARRY HAWK? Yeah, well that's all Grandad's fault! An old friend of Sarah's reminded her how Dad would sometimes lean into a room, peering round a half-closed door, and would then be pulled back by a mysterious hand reaching from behind the door, which, of course, was his own hand grabbing his hair and jerking his head back with a shocked look on his face. I'm pretty sure everyone here has seen this at one time or another. I think we all know that Dad had an adventurous spirit, but things didn't always go to plan, and over the years he has been through some pretty hair-raising experiences. I can recall being on board our Yacht “Voluta” on one occasion when we were sailing out of St Peter's Port in Guernsey, in pretty heavy seas. I was told we had to return to harbour and Dad said "Here you go, Simon, you take the helm, we have a couple of things to sort out" and disappeared down below. After some time, I looked over my shoulder to see a large RNLI lifeboat, cresting the top of the wave behind us. Just then Dad arrived back on deck. So, thinking I was telling him something new, I said "Dad, there's a lifeboat behind us" but Dad just grinned and said "Yeah, I'd meant to tell you about that ... um.... we're sinking ... anyway they're here now, so carry on", and with that he disappeared down below again to help put a plank back into the hull. In truth that was just a minor incident compared with some of the scares he put us all through; Ali mentioned a significant incident which happened some time ago when she, Joe and their family were living in Oman. Mum was visiting them at the time, while Dad and a friend called Brian, were sailing “Stage Sea” from America back across the Atlantic to the UK. In the middle of the night Mum received a call from Falmouth Coast Guard, reporting Dad had triggered their EPIRB, a device used to alert everyone you're in serious trouble. Many hours of nail-biting worry ensued as we had no idea what difficulty Dad was in; for all we knew he had abandoned ship and was now drifting mid-Atlantic in a liferaft. Eventually we heard that it was indeed a genuine call for help, not for Dad, but for his crew mate Brian, who had fallen very ill and needed urgent help. So Dad decided to trigger the EPIRB. I remember him saying that at the time, he was well-aware of all the worry and concern he would unleash by activating it but knew he had no other option. That particular incident ended with quite a dramatic rescue by an American Warship who came to their assistance, and while doing so crashed their Rib into the side of “Stage Sea” leaving her hull damaged. It then dragged the very ill Brian through the sea as he dangled below their helicopter while they took him to their ship for medical attention. Having finally got Brian on board, Dad then had to sail on, single-handed for the next 6 days or so, to get to port. Away from sailing, and passing over the numerous sailing holidays we all endured as kids - throwing up over the side of a boat, while Dad would be grinning with a Whiskey and Ginger-ale in hand, saying "Don't worry, it'll be over soon" - Dad also enthusiastically pursued other hobbies, most notably his love of insects and especially butterflies and moths. We can all remember the frames upon frames of moth and butterfly displays hanging on the walls at home. He even once made Mum a necklace out of dead green beetles! Dad also taught us all how to tie knots properly, and as Ali quite correctly said, the result of which is none of us will ever let anyone else tie anything onto the roof of a car or a trailer! And his enthusiasm for Astronomy gave me, for one, an enduring love of the stars and planets. To put some external perspective on how Dad was perceived, I would like to share with you a tribute we received from Dad's editor at Yachting World, who said: "He was one of our most interesting contributors, who always had practical advice and points of interest as well as describing the great places he and Jenny visited so well. He was very technically savvy, and I recall a very popular column from those days of CompuServe and dial-up handshakes, in which he explained how to send email from a phone box ashore! I also recall a column in which he described how he arranged water skiing from Stage Sea using a halyard. He was one those ingenious yachtsmen who had it all sorted." Despite all his adventures, Dad was just a normal Dad, and was always quick to have a laugh. One year while he was at Wills' Bristol office, he wanted to help one of the Glasgow factories that routinely ran a very large Christmas party for employees’ children. He decided he would send up a genuine Dalek costume which they had bought from the BBC some years before for something else. So, he went down to the warehouse to check what condition it was in. Thinking he was alone, he got into it and set off down the darkened warehouse, doing twirls, and flashing its ray gun. Suddenly he saw the Security foreman creeping towards him on tiptoes, poised for instant flight. Dad swivelled its head, pointed the ray gun at him, and said “Hello Jimmy”. Apparently, the poor man almost had a heart attack! One of the overriding thoughts we all felt, when thinking back over the things Dad's done, was just how many adventures and experiences he has had. But, of course, he wasn't alone for many of these, and I think in closing my final thoughts are how Dad would not have been Dad, without the close and loving relationship with his co-adventurer, joint-skipper, best friend and wife for 57 years, our Mum, Jenny. Throughout most of my life, Mum and Dad have been just that, Mum and Dad, as if a single entity. It's truly remarkable to see just how much they packed into their lives together, and easy to forget they have done some extraordinary things, so much so that for all of us, their extraordinary became the ordinary. I know we all take a lot of pride in having such adventurous parents and grandparents, but for me nothing has shown the deep love and affection they had for each other, more so than over the past year or two, while first Mum and then Dad were unwell. It was during this time, whilst they took it in turn to care for each other, that I saw, as I’m sure Sarah and Ali did, moments of such love and tenderness between them, sometimes during just the simplest of things like making a cup of tea for one another. And through all of Dad's life, career and travels, perhaps his biggest adventure, of which he would be most proud, was being able to look back on 57 years of excitement, exploration, friendship, family and love with Mum, and be content that the oceans of love he had for her, came back to him in equal measure. So for me, I think perhaps the most touching and poignant memories I’ll have of Dad, is that he was first, foremost and always, a loving father and a devoted husband. From Simon, Tony's son.