Written by Gill Clay, eldest child;
Read by Daphne Schofield, her daughter
It says much for Gervas that the people whom he recruited when he first arrived in Northern Rhodesia remained in his employment until retirement, despite many transfers to different parts of the country, proving a mutual loyalty and affection going far beyond mere employment. He was well respected by the local people.
Once, when about 45, Gervas was engaged in discussions with a truculent Trade Union official, whom he addressed by his surname. The man objected, "I am MISTER So-and-so!" Gervas replied, "Fine. My friends I address by their surnames [as one did in those days], but trades people I call Mr."
Scrupulously honest and fair in all his dealings, even Christmas calendars from local businesses were returned with thanks so that bribery could never even be hinted at. As a capable and competitive athlete himself, Gervas was very keen to encourage young African athletes and it was his dream to have one in the Olympic Games, with all Northern Rhodesians, black and white, shouting for him together.
Gervas provided a good, strong bass voice to the Choral Society.
His own book, "Your friend, Lewanika", meticulously researched, showed his great knowledge of and affection for the Barotse people. His poems followed his theory that poetry should sing as it is read aloud. As a Lay Reader he gave some memorable sermons – never more than two minutes; one of which he opened with an imitation of a lion's roar, which made the congregation sit up!
As Scout County Commissioner for Somerset he visited every District and his Silver Wolf was well-earned. He and his wife became engaged at Gilwell Park International Training Centre and they delighted in the Reunions held there every year. He loyally supported his wife in all her Guiding and Scouting and other commitments.
When shooting in his eighties, being so fit, he was still put to walk through the plough!
Gervas was clever and quick-thinking and enjoyed doing cross-words into his late nineties, often winning the prize for the notoriously fiendish crossword in The Field.
He loved dogs and he loved children (over the age of four) and playing and rough-housing with them, (yes, ROUGH). He was a great tease and had a sharp wit, (sometimes too sharp for comfort), a ready laugh, and a great sense of humour and of fun. Even towards the end of his life, his attitude could almost be described as boisterous. With older young people, his advice, especially on relationships, was wise and full of common sense. He was proud of having 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 14 and 7/8 great-grandchildren.
He was punctual, efficient, quick, methodical, and determined - sometimes to the point of being infuriatingly stubborn. Never one to suffer fools gladly, Gervas could sometimes be brutally critical – but malice was never intended, for that word was not in his vocabulary.
Loyal, hard-working, courageous, the world has lost a popular and remarkable man of many skills and talents and wide knowledge. With the wife he adored, they had hundreds of friends around the world and now, with tributes pouring in, we are still receiving more confirmation of how much he meant to so many. He will be greatly missed, especially by us, but he will be glad to have been allowed at last to "Go Home".
Memories – Written by Nigel Clay, middle son; read by Robin Clay, eldest son
Well, Dad, you’ve gone – one might say “at last” for you have been a very long time “going”! It has been many years that your stock reply to the question “How are you?” has been “Surviving!”
Nigel's earliest memory is of being taken shooting in Kitwe, when he was about 3. Gervas shot a teal and then couldn’t find it. By luck, Nigel had marked it and found it! Gervas was so chuffed he gave Nigel a tickey when they got home. That was when the shooting bug infected him and Nigel has shared his father's love of shooting all his life!
One of Gervas's characteristics was his punctuality. In Livingstone he used to come home for lunch every day promptly at 12:35pm – a card game after lunch, followed by a 30 minute “zizz” before he head back to the office at 1:55pm prompt. Then he would be home at exactly 4:35pm and after a cup of tea, a game of cricket, followed, or a trip to the river taking the dogs for a “rush”.
A highlight of Nigel's teenage years was the 3 years in Mongu, when Gervas was Resident Commissioner. Every school holiday was different according to the seasons – Christmas was the snipe-shooting season, Easter was duck, geese and driven kwali on the islands of the flood plain, and September was fishing on the Zambezi for tiger fish and bream. It was a schoolboy’s dream existence – for Nigel, at any rate!
Gervas was always there, but delegated to Nigel the task of looking after all the guns and ammo and the fishing tackle – Nigel was in his element!
Gervas was always highly competitive - whether at cricket or card or board games, or shooting or fishing – he loved to win. In his later years he was amused to be playing bridge with a group of people for whom the winnings were based on “a penny a hundred” – the same stakes for which he had played as an undergraduate at Oxford 75 years earlier! He still delighted in winning lots of pennies!
Gervas's integrity was exemplary. Nigel remembers getting into trouble for re-using a postage stamp that had not been franked; and Gill likewise for using the telephone to send a pre-arranged “one-ringer” when she was ready to be collected!
It was hard for Gervas to accept the reality of Zambian Independence, for which he perceived Zambians were not yet ready. Even though Nigel lived in Zambia for several years after Gervas left, Gervas had no desire ever to return to Africa and only did return when Nigel and his family were settled in Rhodesia – it was probably to see his grandchildren rather than to see Nigel!
Gervas was 81 when he last went to Australia to visit Nigel, even though he had only recently recuperated from major prostate surgery. The only proviso was that Nigel had to go to England to escort them! Gervas spent several weeks with Nigel after the World Jamboree near Sydney and it was at this time that Nigel shattered Gervas's dream of never touching a computer before he died. Nigel got him to type laboriously into the computer the records of all his clients! It was amazing - every morning Gervas, in a suit, would accompany Nigel to the office. He would spend the whole morning in front of the computer until twelve sharp, when he would go downstairs to the local pub and have a beer before lunch! At two pm sharp he would be back at the computer, after his customary half hour zizz on the sofa!
Gervas's life has been an example to all his children and we shall never forget his devotion to us all, or his readiness to come to the help of any of us if we ever found ourselves in difficulty. We will always remember his sense of fun and his willingness to play with us - how he used to love rough-housing with us and scobbaging us, and later our children! It was only in his later years that Nigel and Crispin together could get the better of him!
Nigel will be forever grateful for all the fun his father gave him when growing up and for the best childhood a boy could wish for. And for accepting Elaine into the family from the start and for loving her as his own.
All of us, his children, are all in his debt for all that he taught us – about honesty, integrity, ethics, chivalry, respect for other people, love of animals (except cats!), service to “God and the Queen”, duty, and love of family.
We are so pleased that, at last, he is able to join our beloved Mum!
May they both Rest In Peace.
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