Today would have been my Dad’s 66th Birthday. With almost 7 years passed since Chris Tugwell took an early exit, I thought it would perhaps be fitting that the Eulogy I wrote and delivered then should be here on the net so that there is perhaps just a little reminder left somewhere of the way that his life touched so many others.
The Eulogy to Chris was given at his Funeral which was held on Saturday 14th January 2006 at St. Peter’s, Winchcombe. Nothing has been changed and it remains in the form in which it was used.
Good afternoon to you all and on behalf of Janet, Kelly, Julian and myself, I would like to thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the life of Chris.
The one thing that Chris was happy to volunteer about the time when he would pass, was that he wanted it to be an enjoyable occasion for everyone. He himself specified that there should be no black worn and as you can see, not knowing that he would be moving on in the middle of winter, I blithely responded to him by committing myself to a colourful, yet rather chilly day!
Colour of course is something which speaks volumes about the Chris that we all knew.
Everybody got one hundred percent Chris, but to each of us something which was in itself very different. The word chameleon would fit Dad extremely well and he blended in to many more environments than most people here today will know or appreciate.
Chris was born and started out life in Coates, a small but growing Cotswold Village some four miles from Cirencester.
The youngest of 4 children, Chris loved his idyllic rural upbringing and recounted many stories of the fun which he had with his siblings and friends at a time when growing up was of course very different to what it is today. Stories of endless summers with Combine Harvesters and tractors parked at the pub to facilitate an end of day drink were common from Dad and I am sure that the seeds which were sown during this time played their part in the lifestyle which Chris chose to lead in more recent years.
Now as you will imagine, over the course of the past week, I have been grateful for the good wishes and kind thoughts which I have received when talking to many of you, either by phone or in person.
Amongst these conversations, it has been a common theme of surprise amongst many that Chris had been a churchgoer; some knew he had found faith, but thought that this had been merely a response to the challenging circumstances to which he had been introduced some two years ago.
In fact, Chris had enjoyed Church from an early age and had found great friendship in the then Parish Priest at Coates, the Rev. John Tillett.
From what I know, John helped Chris greatly and in a way which was always respected by Dad. This friendship I am sure was always reflected in the way he talked and felt about the Church; on more than one occasion, he mentioned that he had himself seriously considered a vocation or a career within the Church and I find myself stood here wondering if the Vicar of Dibley would have seemed quite so original if he had chosen to do so.
Dad’s early career saw him join Gloucestershire Constabulary and I know that the 10 or so years which he saw out as a Police Constable played a particularly large part in the rest of his life.
Some of you here with us today either served with Chris or knew him well when he was in the Police. Chris loved both the Police and all of you that he served with.
Mike Smith, a former colleague and close friend of Chris who could not be here today e-mailed me when he had heard the news and said ‘As you know, Chris was one of my best chums when I joined the Police and although we lost touch in the last few years I will always have lasting memories of his companionship and wicked sense of humour. Neither of us would have lasted very long in the Police today!!
In the later years of his Police career, Chris became a Dad to both Julian and myself and he met Janet. Janet and Chris married in December 1974 and had my sister Kelly a year later.
I suppose it would be fair to say that some of the most well-known facets of the Chris known to all became prevalent in the immediate years following and it is during this time that Dad developed a taste for self employment and for organising parties – please join us later for a brief recital.
The Eighties proved to be a good time for Dad with the development of his business ‘Chris Tugwell Courier’ and other offshoots such as the Gloucestershire County Show.
He carried on running businesses well into the 90’s but I fear, began to find the responsibilities of being an employer a stretch, as his own style of management was pretty much him all over, displaying a level of generosity to others which on occasion would exceed his own means.
Nonetheless, Chris would give in any way he could and he was always supporting something, whether that be disadvantaged children at the Schools he used to work with or the two or more youth clubs that he helped to run in more recent times. Many homeless animals also found a new future thanks to Chris and there is little doubt that there was always a cause for him to champion.
Many of you will remember Chris best as Warden of Cleeve Common; a post and role which he lived and breathed for more than 15 years.
If Chris did have a real vocation, many will agree that this was probably it and the many cards and letters which have been received by the family draw testament to this by the near mythical status he has gained for being that lonely bearded and barbour – clad figure, crossing the skyline with a host of dogs.
Chris had grown up with his craftsman father having set him very high standards to follow. He always intended to deliver in the same way and probably expected the very same of Julian, Kelly and myself; even Janet didn’t escape and a family friend has placed one of their fondest memories of Dad as being the occasion when he was supposedly watching Janet take a dressage test on her horse and actually spent the entire time speaking commands to himself, oblivious to the fact that he was himself being observed.
Chris was able to stretch himself out on many different horizons and made many people feel like he was their best friend in the whole wide world.
There was one very basic and overwhelming reason for this and that was that Chris had a very big heart. He cared about everyone and always wanted people to be happy.
This of course frequently became his own downfall because of the way he would freely commit himself to doing things for people to help them out, not really giving any consideration to the consequences; there was pretty much always something waiting to raise its ugly head when it was least wanted. But of course, Chris thought everything was actually quite beautiful.
Dad’s sometimes irreverent and laid back attitude could of course be quite infuriating but there was always a laugh to be had. Chris worked with Penny Dennis for a long time and in a note I received from her this week she said ‘although we spent much of our time being exasperated by him, it will be the fun that will be foremost in our memories’.
I am not an apologist for my father whom I love dearly. In fact the way Chris was, is what made him such a lovable person to know and so very, very popular. Dad was an exceptionally big character and Gloucestershire is a quieter place today with his seeming absence.
Just how big and popular Dad was became only too evident last Friday when I think that we were all amazed at how quickly the word got out that he had gone. Cards and good wishes were actually arriving at the cottage while he was still at home.
The sentiment within these messages carried with it a great deal of surprise and it would be fair to say, shock at the apparent way that Chris had suddenly passed away.
The truth is that Dad was brilliance itself at putting a front on; at selling the story that he wanted you to hear and at making you all feel like a penny was a pound coin.
Dad had been quietly suffering for months, looking his condition in the eye and saying loudly to us all that he would not be beaten; even a matter of days before Christmas he told me and not for the first time that he would make it to 80.
He span his magic for his public one last time at a party the week before Christmas and he left the majority of you believing that he would just go on and always be there.
Three days later, I hugged my Dad as he cried and told me that he had accepted that he didn’t have very long and that he felt a failure for not beating it.
Perhaps on a physical level, Chris was right, but even then, he carried on fighting until his final hours.
Facts are facts and you should all know that the cancer never did beat Chris because it never beat him in spirit. He failed none of us and least of all himself.
Whatever you thought of Chris and however you knew him, his real achievement in life has to be the impact he had upon us all.
To many he was just Chris. He had been to others Tuggers, Tuggy and all sorts of other colourful things.
For me personally he was of course my Dad and I will miss the very particular kind of vision, boundless enthusiasm an non-conventional approach which he spilled into every part of his life; in one of my very last conversations with him he said, ‘ it’s ok to call me Chris you know’.
Above all, Dad was my friend. To many of us here today, that is how he will be most fondly remembered and I am sure that this is the way that he would want you all to remember him.
Now, as all of you will know, Chris didn’t always take life too seriously and had the distinct ability to shock people and to leave them wondering if he was actually being serious or not.
Dad was indeed very specific about what he wanted to happen here today and as much as it has been possible to do so, we have followed his requests to the letter. I am just glad that he retracted his earlier request to be launched on to the Severn on a wooden boat, so that we could all stand on the banks and help him to re-enact that infamous scene from the Vikings.
Perhaps the funniest moment throughout organising today was when I phoned to book the disco for later.
Dad knew Phill the DJ for many years and when I phoned him, I think, like many of you, he simply thought that I was calling to inform him of events. Of course, he should have known better as soon as the name Chris Tugwell was mentioned and I happily began to discuss Dad’s plan.
I said, “Chris told me that he had already spoken to you about doing a disco after the funeral.” Phil replied ‘Yea, but I thought he was joking!’
One or two of you may react exactly the same way about today as Phil did, but I can assure you whole heartedly that everything you see and experience today is the way that Chris had wanted it to be.
To Dad, life was one big adventure where he was always in a hurry to move on to the next thing. Perhaps on a deeper level, the time had come for him to move on in a bigger way and I think that we should all congratulate him on his promotion.
It was Dad’s wish that you all enjoy today. So please join with us as we celebrate the life of Chris in a way which may be slightly unconventional but nevertheless basically and simply Chris.
I feel both proud and privileged that Chris was my Dad.
Thank you Chris.
Christopher John Tugwell. Born in Cirencester – 15th November 1946, Died surrounded by his dogs near Charlton Abbots – 6th January 2006
Written & Published by Adam Tugwell