Thursday, 19 July 2007

Fly Away, Peter.....

My much loved vicar is being buried to-day on Anglesey
Peter Gledhill.
He was a lovely man, son of a judge; a former colonial administrator he took Holy Orders after his mother died. It had been his ambition for some years, but he didn't want to upset her because she was an atheist. Once told me he rather looked down on his sister because she hadn't been to public school. He was at Rugby with my wife Celia's cousin who said Peter had been so bright at school he had drained the masters of all their knowledge by the time he was sixteen. Went on to become a formidable classicist. Died on the lavatory last week, and as he went I am sure he recalled with satisfaction that so did the Emperor Augustus. And for that matter Catherine the Great.
If he sounds formidable, he wasn't. Completely lovable. Became in his old age fervently Welsh. The trouble was he spoke Welsh with a pronounced public school accent and none of his parishioners understood a word he said. We went on a Mothers Union outing with him. Whenever he made an announcement Celia had to translate his Welsh into the Welsh the mothers spoke. We were privileged to see on that occasion a little behavioural lapse which made him famous.
In the middle of his sermon a thought obviously struck him which required his attention. He suddenly went silent whilst he pursued it and the congregation who knew him, waited placidly for his return. He often did that, they told us with quiet pride.
At our convivial dinner parties another friend the painter Sir Kyffin Williams and me would deliberately say outrageous things to provoke a response. The first to do so, won.
Peter would look at us with surprise, close his eyes and as often as not pat this head, which resembled one of those statues on Easter Island. After an interval he would open his eyes and say with considerable gravity “ I cannot quite agree with that”
Peter played the triangle in the Menai Bridge Silver Band with an absorption which was palpable. It was agony to watch him, so fierce was his concentration as he awaited his moment to "ping"
Like me he was an unwilling exile from Anglesey. He had come back from his new home in Southampton for a holiday on the island when he died.
When she rang to tell us about it his wife Bridget said " I think he did it on purpose."
The silver band will be in attendance to-day; the funeral director was a member of the Welsh poetry group to which Peter belonged. So he will be amongst friends.
I always thought it was typical of him that his daughter Ruth should combine the jobs on The Times of Religious and Ballroom dancing correspondent.
We were very close friends and in all the time I knew him he never once mentioned religion.

1 comment:

Ruth Gledhill said...

Thank you for this Peter - the funeral at Llanfair was wonderful but I still feel v sad and will for a long time. Ruth