The John Fisher Old Boys Association

For former pupils and staff of The John Fisher School, Peaks Hill, Purley

Tony Avery

The following is an extract of the Eulogy for Tony, by Michael Breen, at his funeral mass.

It is my privilege to say a few words about Tony.

I have much I could say, but the constraints of the allocated sound byte mean that I must leave out many of his achievements and the milestones of his life, and try to distil into a few words our affectionate regard for him.

I first met Tony in the 5th form of  The John Fisher School, the seat of learning we both attended in Peaks Hill, Purley. It was not a mutual love of academia that formed the basis of our friendship - it was more his confidential advice to me that, if I cycled down to Carshalton, and put my school cap in my pocket, I would find that the landlord of the Windsor Castle had a very liberal interpretation of the licensing laws where schoolboys were concerned. He was right!

This was a very good start and later, with others, we joined St Elphege's Youth Club - a controlled environment where young boys, painfully shy and suffuse with acne, under the watchful eye of the clergy, and to the staccato beat of cracked gramophone records, learnt to handle girls, so to speak.

With this well rounded streetwise education behind him, he was a natural for a career in the City of London. As you know he joined the insurance profession and achieved great success, eventually becoming a Lloyds aviation underwriter. Some of you here will no doubt be able to relate later something of his progress.

He was well liked among his colleagues and one of his special talents was his ability to mix with everybody. In a room full of strangers, where most of us would be shuffling around, exchanging defensive and banal remarks, Tony would immediately engage someone in conversation, take an interest in them, put them at ease, and often leave some poor soul feeling they were quite special. It was an enviable skill, not a calculated PR exercise, and his easy charm came from a genuine goodwill towards people and an interest in them.

I feel sure it played a great part in his successful career as it certainly did socially.

I had the pleasure of introducing him to golf; and he took to the game with huge enthusiasm. After some lessons and the purchase of much expensive equipment-and with a swing all his own-he was ready to accept the challenge of some of the world's greatest courses, bringing to the game a handicap which completely understated his ability. He played widely from St. Andrews to Augusta National, from Sotogrande to Sunningdale. When he returned from these exploits with tales of triumph and disaster, as golfers do, he was fortunate in having Liz to lend an understanding ear to his delight or anguish, as Liz is a very competent golfer herself with a fine record with Sussex County Ladies. Tony was always quick to mention to his friends how much Liz meant to him.

In later years he hosted a splendid party for his 60th birthday at Royal Ashdown Forest G. C., a memorable event still uppermost in the minds of his friends and one Royal Ashdown are still trying to forget. His friends deliberated on a suitable present and I was dispatched to a DIY brewery in Canterbury to brew him 100 bottles of real ale with his own personal label on them. I have a copy of the label here today for your amusement, and I know that Tony would have been very amused if you took one home with you, although the contents of the bottles are long gone.

 

Retirement gave him the chance to indulge a wide range of interests.

He surprised me one day when he said he had bought a racehorse---or he had joined a syndicate that had. I had not previously associated him with the sport of kings beyond having two pound each way on the Derby. However here he was in the owners enclosure while the noble beast stretched its legs hopefully over the turf of England's finest racecourses.

On another day he would show you with some pride a delightful new picture that Liz and he had just managed to acquire at an auction for their collection. Or perhaps he would recount the previous day's play in the Test Match at Lords as seen from the Members Stand.

Or he would give you the inside track on some new scandal or dubious goings -on in the City.

He always had something new and interesting to tell you, and topics to discuss. And a twinkle of anticipation for the new story!

Perhaps his most loveable characteristic for his friends was his low threshold of pleasure. On telephoning him to suggest some outing, or golf or some other diversion, he was instantly up for it with eager anticipation, only modifying your plans by saying, as he invariably did:- I think we ought to have some lunch.

One of the marks of an old friend, I think, is that however long it is since you have seen them, you greet each other with some light banter with perhaps a couple of gratuitous insults thrown in. This avoids having to enquire after their health, as you will assess this from the vigour of their reply. Such was our style with Tony, and it always provided a stimulating start to the day.

We have yet to realize how much we shall miss him: the good times and the laughter; his sympathetic ear and his help; the colour, the interest, the humorous camaraderie and his zest for life which infected us all;-- all this is sadly over-but the memory the happy memory- lingers on. That is why we are here.

It is impossible for me to find the words to sum up our affectionate regard for Tony, so I will borrow the concluding words of a poem that John Betjeman wrote in fond memory of a friend:

 

A gentle guest, a willing host,

Affection deeply planted,

It's strange that those we miss the most

Are those we take for granted.

30 September 2014 14:25:00 Categories: Football Old Boy

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