Dick Elder – His tribute
It was with much sadness that the club heard of Dick Elder’s passing early in the Autumn. Dick was long standing boater and member of WBOC. He also acted as a WBOC and trailboat representative with the AWCC , in amongst his committee roles within that organisation. Together with his long time partner Bobbie King, latterly his wife, they attended many a trailboat event in Grey Owl 3.
At his funeral on the 8th October 2013, the following tribute was read by his long time friend Roger Bayldon. It is published to enable those who were unable to attend to read about his life.
He will be sorely missed by all for his wealth of knowledge, his professional approach and friendship.
Tribute to Richard P Elder – by Roger Bayldon, with reference to notes by Derek Churchman and Bobbie Elder
Well what can I say about that great giant of a man who we knew either as Richard or Dick!
Dick’s parents always called him Richard and that is usually how Bobbie referred to him, except in boating circles where most people knew him as Dick. I shall refer to him as Dick as that is how he is known to most of us here this afternoon.
I was most surprised when Bobbie told me that I was one of Dick’s older friends having known both Bobbie and Dick since 1989, fortunately there were others who knew him longer and their, Bobbie’s and my reminiscences come together to form this tribute to Richard Paul Elder.
Dick originated in Enfield and was born in 1946, it is interesting that in the history of Enfield it says it was the outpost that separated North London from the Danes in the 700s. We always wondered whether one of the Danes managed to get into Enfield as Dick felt he had Norse ancestors, certainly he was built in the form of those Norsemen of legend.
The Elder and Churchman families lived doors apart in North Enfield and despite the difference in age Derek Churchman and Dick became firm friends out of school from the day Dick first went to Suffolks Primary school, even if the older Derek could not be seen to acknowledge the younger Dick, either then or when they both ended up in Enfield Grammar School.
Dick and Derek both did most things together, belonging to the 20th Enfield Cubs, the same recreational club where Derek coerced dick to play football and to the same Sunday School at the church where Dick’s parents were one-time Churchwardens; this proved to be a lasting friendship.
During his teens Dick showed his promise in subjects electronic, it should be remembered that at that time such subjects like this were not considered to be academically demanding enough to be a part of University entrance packages, which is why some of his friends felt that Dick never went to university.
Despite not getting a place at university at this stage in his adolescence he demonstrated an amazing capacity to absorb knowledge and formation but more importantly, how to apply them. Derek suspects that this capacity was mainly focused in respect of subjects that interested him and not the more academic ones.
It was also at this time that he became a virtuoso of the soldering iron. His bedroom was fitted out as a workshop and people form far and wide came to him to mend their radios and televisions. There was not a circuit board whose complexity defeated him!!
When he was about 16 he joined Derek at St Giles church Youth Club. The feature of this period that Derek recalls most vividly was his role in charge of theatre lighting, lighting that was far more sophisticated than one might have expected in the average church hall. One year when he undertook to organise the Christmas concert for the elderly of the parish, Dick forgot the fundamental requirement of a 13 amp plug to connect his light show to the mains. His answer was to stick two bare wires into a wall socket and securing them with matchsticks. Amazingly there were no fatalities.
Further evidence of his incredible practical skills was demonstrated when it came to car maintenance. He is probably the only person in the history of automotive engineering or as Derek terms it ‘fiddling,’ to have tried to tune a 1948 Morris Eight – his father’s car!!! He also removed and worked on the engine of Derek’s first car, a Standard 10 and (twice) on his second, a VW, as well as Derek’s dad’s VW and Karin’s Triumph Herald. On each occasion he ended up with a growing pile of bits for which he could no longer find a home!!! But the cars worked! This flair was transferrable to boats as I know when on one occasion he and Bobbie arrived for a sail on our yacht Grakit. The engine was playing up and Dick immediately got down and dirty to fix it in no time!
In the late sixties his parents Marjorie and Sydney moved from Enfield to Caldecote in Cambridgeshire and Dick was forced to fend for himself. It is thought he settled, in Bounds Green in North London, whilst being employed by Thorns with whom he worked until 1973.
At Thorns Dick, building on his experience in the Parish, was involved in the installation of stage lighting at the Sheffield Crucible theatre and the Chichester Theatre.
In the late 60’s Dick became a Young Liberal. Derek was amazed that he did it for reasons of political belief!! Derek, on the other hand, did follow him but for more conventional reasons – girls. He rose to the giddy heights of Chairman of the Enfield North constituency Young Liberals, with Derek as press officer. This was perhaps the first sign of a trait that’s showed itself quite often in his later life. If Dick felt he could do a better job than the present incumbents, in whatever field, he didn’t just moan, he got on and made himself available to do it.
One of the more memorable contributions he made to the local Liberals was in the field of public address. In the 60‘s candidates would tour their areas in the run up to an election in some sort of vehicle, loudly exhorting constituents to vote for them, Dick supplied the necessary address system that today the use of which would have caused the local noise abatement society to have gone berserk.
By his own admission he was built for comfort not speed, so some reference to his involvement in what might be called physical recreation in Dick’s first 27 years needs to be included in this Dick’s story. As I mentioned at the start to me he was great giant of a man.
Nevertheless in his youth, and largely at Derek’s prompting, he got on his bike, quite literally in the first instance. In the early 60’s they would often take 100-130 mile day trips. 1964 was their annus mirabilis, when they undertook a cycle tour along the Rhine & Moselle valleys. Derek still marvels at the contraption he designed and built to carry their luggage panniers.
The two friends also took to walking, despite the difference in styles which Derek compares to the hare and tortoise, spending Easters in Snowdonia. Despite the differences they always arrived at their destination.
Finally between 1970-73 he regularly turned out for a park cricket team that Derek captained. As we might expect Dick’s efforts for the team were never less than whole hearted.
In 1973 Derek married Karin in September 1973. Asked to be best man. ‘Best’ is the only word to describe to way he did the job.
At about this time he moved south of the river to work for Marconi Space and Defence at Frimley.
Bobbie first met Dick on 31 December 1973 at a New Year’s Eve party at her brother’s house in Farnborough. They became an item within a couple of years, he worked at Marconi in Frimley and Bobbie was a secretary at the University of Surrey.
As a couple they loved travelling, at first mostly to the Continent especially France. Dick and Bobbie’s travels took them to China twice and the Antipodes several times.
But in 1976 they discovered narrow boating. This was a very hot summer, no rain for weeks but within a day or two of beginning their cruise on the Staffs and Worcs Canal on the way to Llangollen, the drought ended spectacularly. However, they were hooked and hired canal boats frequently both in the UK and France.
They were enthusiastic enough to buy a house with a garden falling into the Basingstoke Canal where they moored their first small boat. Dick was a long-term member of the Basingstoke Canal Society and the local boating club. He was very active in the work done to clear the canal and they belonged to a number of canal-related organisations and Dick, as you would expect, was a member of several committees. I believe a number of his colleagues on those committees are here today.
I came to know Dick when I worked at Marconi Command and Control in Frimley. To a simple soldier it was very helpful to find a person in the electronics business who also was well versed in military vehicles and the electronic systems involved. Dick was very helpful in keeping my enthusiasm in check!
One of the more interesting aspects of our working life was in forming relations with other businesses at home and abroad. Dick and I were able to put together a number of International consortia, which took us around Europe and America. Dick’s grasp of the requirements of the various NATO systems was profound. During these trips we found we had similar tastes in food and extra curricula activities
It was Dick’s love of sailing that was the extra attraction to my wife Wendy and me, though initially we enjoyed weekend trips to France to try out the different restaurants on weekend trips where we sealed our friendship.
Sailing on our yacht Grakit was always a pleasure and we relished leading the field on the races we entered on The Director of Military Communications biannual Rallies
In 1997 Dick and Bobbie became the proud owners of narrowboat Talifoo which is moored in a marina on the Kennet & Avon canal in Wiltshire. This was to be a major love and they boated in her very extensively.
Dick/ retired in June 2011 and joined Ash U3A, of which Bobbie had been a member since it was founded. He took to rambling in a big way, joined the Science & Technology Group and as you would imagine became a member of the committee. Soon afterwards, though, it became apparent that his health was not good and he was diagnosed with cancer in May 2012. However, he and Bobbie were still able to enjoy a river cruise in Germany in October (their last holiday together) and he had no trouble with a 3-mile walk in November.
Bobbie made an honest man of him in June.
Bobbie asked me to say how much she appreciated everyone’s letters and cards, she was overwhelmed with the expressions of love and compassion reflected in them. And so brothers and sisters, returning to the words of the reading, I hope you are not now uninformed about the life of our brother Dick and that you may now celebrate his life in full knowledge of this kindly and sincere friend, brother, cousin and husband, knowing that he is in the arms of Our Lord, but his memory will be with us always. Amen