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A Servcie of Thanksgiving for Gervas's life was held in the Parish Church of St. John the Baptist, North Cheriton, Somerset, at 3 p.m. on Friday 15th May 2009, taken by Revd. Ewen Pinsent, who had also served in the Northern Rhodesia Civil Service, but after Gervas had retired. The Service was attended by over fifty family and friends, a list is included below.
Here is the Service Sheet (text only), compiled by Gervas :-
The Church of St. John the Baptist
Service of thanksgiving for the life of
16th April 1907 – 18th April 2009
3:00 pm Friday, 15th May, 2009
followed by interment of his ashes in the Churchyard,
Gervas left this message for you -
For my sake - turn again to life and smile
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
More on the back cover
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. St. John 11. 25, 26.
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Job 19. 25.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Rev. 21, 1-7
WELCOME AND OPENING PRAYERS
The Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, help us to see death for what it really is: the end of anxiety and the beginning of peace, the end of frustration and the beginning of fulfilment, the end of weakness and the beginning of new strength, that mindful of these, your promises to us, we may go from here with a calm heart and a courageous faith, worthy of those who have enriched our lives beyond all measure. Amen.
0 tell of his might, 0 sing of his grace,
0 measureless might, ineffable Love,
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light;
(For text, see below)
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
In death's dark vale I fear no ill
Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
And so through all the length of days
Read by Annarella Prime, granddaughter
Thy hand, 0 God, has guided
Thy heralds brought glad tidings
Through many a day of darkness,
Thy mercy will not fail us,
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; We give thee hearty thanks, for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother Gervas out of the miseries of this sinful world; beseeching thee, that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom; that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant, O Lord, that keeping in happy remembrance those who have gone before, who have stood by us and helped us, who have cheered us by their sympathy and strengthened us by their example, we may seize every opportunity of life and rejoice in the promise of a glorious resurrection with them. We give them back to Thee, dear Lord, who gavest them to us. Yet as Thou dost not lose them in giving, so we have not lost them by their return. Not as the world giveth, givest Thou, O Lover of Souls. What Thou gavest, Thou takest not away: for what is Thine is ours always, if we are Thine. And life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further. Cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly. Draw us closer to Thyself that we may know ourselves nearer to our beloved who are with Thee. And while Thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us for that happy place, that where they are and Thou art, we too may be: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
A Prayer of Cardinal Newman
The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
O enter then his gates with praise;
For why! The Lord our God is good;
Unto God's gracious mercy and protection we commit you, the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you his peace. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.
Music after the Service
Jeremiah Clarke - Trumpet Voluntary
DEAD FLOWERS BY REQUEST
But take some old dead flowers
Some years ago I read in a paper an article which has remained in my mind ever since. It told the story of a journalist who was living and working in France. As he moved about his daily duties, he kept on hearing a name mentioned in connection with a time in the past when everything was wonderful and all the people had lived a perfect life. At first he had wondered if this was during the life of some early king such as Charlemagne, but the facts did not seem to fit in with any particular person. He wondered if the references were to some amalgamations of personalities from the past, but this also did not fit in. After a year or two he decided that he really must make an effort and find out who this person was who was remembered with such gratitude. Eventually he discovered that it was another name for the last English administrator in Aquitaine before that area of France was re-conquered and merged into the France of today.
[Footnote: Just before the Service we received from the current Director of the Livingstone Museum, an African, a message that reads in part – "For his contribution to the preservation of Zambia's cultural heritage he will always be remembered." Gervas would have been so pleased.]
As you leave the Church there will be a voluntary collection for
The family would be very pleased if you would join them after the service for tea at No.3 Elliscombe Park, Higher Holton.
Gervas’s family express their grateful thanks to
Gervas’s family are grateful for the kind tributes they have received, which make their loss easier to bear. Almost everything in this Service was chosen by Gervas, in accordance with the motto, “Be prepared”.
Mr. and Mrs. George Renwick;
The Bell ringers were:
The service was conducted the Reverend Ewen Pinsent, who also served in HMOCS in Northern Rhodesia, although his and Gervas's paths did not cross there.
The organist was Anne Warren.
CV - Read by Toby Clay, Grand-son
Gervas worked in Africa for 34 years, and was retired for 45 years. As you know, he lived to 102, so this account will, I'm afraid, be longer than usual.
Gervas was born near Burton-on-Trent. His birthday was the 16th April 1907, a birthday he was to share with his wife and eldest son. He was educated at Furzie Close and Lancing College, which he represented in Inter-Schools swimming and athletic competitions.
Gervas went up to New College, Oxford, in 1926, and graduated with B.A. (Hons) (4th Class) in Jurisprudence in 1929. Perhaps he spent too much time on athletics.
Gervas was awarded a Half-Blue for Athletics in 1929; he was Surrey County Hurdles Champion 1929-30 and in 1929 Southern Counties 440 yards Hurdles Champion .
He "hurdled behind Lord Burghley", but on 16th July 1930, the Hon. Sec. to the Council for Great Britain of the British Empire Games (Canada 1930), wrote to Gervas's father:-
"… we are only sorry that he has sailed for Africa as otherwise he was pretty certain to have been in the Team."
Gervas applied to join His Majesty's Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS); he recalled:-
"At interview I was asked, “Are you in the Officer Training Corps at Oxford?” and I said, “No” , and they said, “Would you tell us why not?” I said, “Well, to tell you the honest truth, I had more than I wanted at school.” And they roared with laughter, and said, “Well, Mr. Clay, I think you’re the first honest man we’ve had here this morning!”
In 1930 Gervas Clay went to Northern Rhodesia. His duties included those of Postmaster, Tax Collector, Census taker, Police Chief and Magistrate, and also included the building of airfields.
In 1933 Gervas came home on leave, during which he arranged for a car to be sent out to him in pieces. He flew back by Empire Airways flying boat, which did not fly at night. He was posted to Barotseland, where he had the "hard labour" prisoners build some 120 miles of road through to Mongu, the provincial capital, and his car, by then assembled, (even though D I Y was not his forte) was the first car ever to reach Mongu. About this time, Head Office instructed him to issue driving licenses "to people whom you think capable of driving", whereupon he issued himself with Licence No.1.
He started a school, and added "Headmaster" to his portfolio of titles.
In 1935 Gervas's uncle Bertram Sargeaunt was Government Secretary to the Isle of Man. Gervas wrote home,
"Tell him that my district is 66 times the size of the Isle of Man, & has two-thirds the population, and as I run it alone I can't imagine what on earth he does with himself all day."
In 1936 he went on leave, and met his bride-to-be on the ship. Her parents had met on board ship, and shared a birthday. When it was discovered that Gervas and Betty shared a birthday, his fate was sealed. [See http://www.spanglefish.com/bettyclay ]
Gervas was due to go on leave the very week that war was declared. He was mortified when denied permission to enlist, furious to be told he was more useful doing the job he was in. He was then 32, and only those under 32 were allowed to enlist. He would have joined his father's unit, the Staffordshire Yeomanry, many of whom were killed in North Africa.
He was posted back to the Northern Province, to Isoka, 70 miles South West of the Tanganyika border, and 70 miles North of the nearest Europeans. Frequent convoys of lorries carrying troops and materiel passed through on their way from South Africa to the North African Campaign. Gervas had to ensure that they passed through without incident.
In 1944 Gervas was appointed to the Secretariat in Lusaka, before going on leave to England in 1945, on the SS Mauratania, built to carry 2,000 passengers, but on this voyage carrying 4,268.
His next posting was as District Commissioner at Kitwe, and then at Ndola, then at Broken Hill, before being appointed Provincial Commissioner for the Southern Province in Livingstone in 1953, a post he held for six years. Here Gervas took up bowls and Amateur Dramatics.
Gervas had developed a great interest in the history of the early European explorers to Northern Rhodesia and acquired a considerable library on that subject. He had a column "Gervas Clay's Scrapbook" in the "Northern Rhodesia Journal", and was on the Editorial Committee from 1956-64. He became friends with the Director of the Rhodes-Livingstone Museum, and was able to provide much help and information to him.
In 1958 Gervas was appointed Her Majesty's Resident Commissioner to Barotseland, and the Museum Trustees wrote to thank him for his help.
In 1960 Gervas was host to the Queen Mother in his Residency for three days. Her hand-written thank-you letter ran to four pages.
His duties were to advise the Paramount Chief, and he accompanied him and his Government to Britain for pre-Independence talks. Gervas was in a very difficult situation, for the Barotse wanted to retain their original Protectorate status, while the Zambian Government-in-waiting and the Colonial Office wanted Barotseland to be incorporated as part of Zambia. No prizes for guessing who won. Gervas gained no plaudits from the Colonial Office, for he failed to convince the Barotse, nor from the Barotse, for he failed to persuade the Colonial Office.
After three years in Barotseland, and approaching retirement, the post of Director of the Museum became vacant, and Gervas quoted the Trustees' letter as a reference in his application for the post – which he was awarded. Gervas related that during his time at the Museum, sometimes, poring over historical records, he would catch himself guiltily with a start, and say firmly to himself, "Now I must get on with some WORK!" – and then realise with relief that this actually was the work he was being paid to do. He was delighted to be able to stay on in Zambia, as he felt that leaving at Independence would set a bad example to his junior colleagues. In 1964, Gervas retired to England and on the voyage home he finished writing his book, "Your Friend, Lewanika".
Back in England Gervas maintained a spectator's interest in events in what was now Zambia, a country for the benefit of which he had devoted his working life. On one occasion he was at a function where he had heard that there was a young person home on holiday from working in Zambia. He met her, and explained who he was. She drew herself up, and said, "Oh, you're one of those DREADFUL Colonialists", turned on her heel and walked away. Gervas met that uninformed and bigoted attitude quite often, and it hurt him dreadfully to see his life's work unappreciated and despised.
In 1994 he circulated the story about "Aquitaine" that is printed on the back of your Service Sheet. Three days ago we received from the current Director of the Museum, an African, a message that reads in part – "For his contribution to the preservation of Zambia's cultural heritage he will always be remembered."
Gervas lived in nearly twenty different houses during his time in Africa. At each, he made a garden, with fruit trees, knowing that he himself would not benefit, but successors would.
Gervas was Chairman of the House of Laity in the Synod of Northern Rhodesia from 1948 to 1964, and a Lay Reader in Wiveliscombe from 1972 to 1997; and he claimed to be the oldest Lay Reader in the Church of England.
Arriving back in England, Gervas joined the Scout Movement, and was Somerset County Commissioner 1964-70 and County Chairman, 1970-80. He was awarded the Silver Acorn in 1974, the Silver Wolf (Scouting's highest award) in 1984, and, on his 100th birthday, a 70-year's Service award from George Purdy, ex-Chief Scout, who shared his birthday.
Gervas wrote poetry from his schooldays, and he had a small booklet of poems privately printed – as had his father. He also published numerous articles in various journals.
Gervas was a keen shot, an ardent stamp collector, and a dedicated family historian, as well as a competent bridge-player, actor/singer, ornithologist, gardener and historian.
In 1956 Gervas was diagnosed with bilharzia, and he spent several months in the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London. The bilharzia was eliminated, but there is a view that some of Gervas's "spark" seemed to have left him. At that time it was commonly regarded that the cure was worse than the disease. Here, his stubborn-ness stood him in good stead – although infuriating the staff. He was told he would get unbearably stiff - unless he exercised. He pushed trolleys and wheelchairs everywhere all day long just to keep the joints working - and never got the crippling stiffness all the other victims did.
Gervas always kept fit and active, though he hated to walk merely for the sake of walking - he had to have a purpose, but when he did (shooting, for instance) he could stride for hours.
Gervas was married on 24th Sept. 1936 to Betty nee Baden-Powell; she died on 24th April 2004. Gervas is survived by his daughter Gill and his three sons, Robin, Nigel and Crispin; by his eight grandchildren, and by his 14⅞ great-grandchildren.
Always fond of chocolate, we understand that on Wednesday 15th April 2009, he devoured an entire box of Belgian chocolates given him as an Easter present. The following day, his 102nd birthday, seven of his family joined him for a party that lasted an hour and a half, with cake and candles, and the appropriate serenade – and he slept through it all. He slept right through Friday, and much of Saturday, until he was pronounced dead at half past five in the afternoon of 18th April 2009 in Elliscombe House Nursing Home.
Tribute – Written by Gill Clay, eldest child; read by Daphne Schofield, Grand-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.
Poem – Composed by Crispin, youngest son, read by Rawley Clay, Grand-son
With your gruffness a mask, your eyes spoke your mind -
Did WE know you at all whom you've just left behind?
From running, swimming, shooting, even bowling
Competing drove you hard in every way -
A race, a bag, a crossword, conversation
Were all to prove that you could top the day.
Your winning made a triumph of your genius
And lesser mortals cringed in blushing shame;
Your losing found excuses that amused us -
Since finding others lacking was your game!
Our memories are mixed, apart, together,
Like scobbaging your bumptious teenage sons;
Those flashes in our lives that live forever:
With special gems that sparkle: Trigger's runs,
The daily Rush with dogs along our river,
The tiger-fish, the duck, the snipe, the guns;
Your dancing with your heroine Queen Mother;
Victoria Falls; and marvellous setting suns.
Our base and anchor wheresoe'er we wandered
You made your home in England, ''home'' to stay.
With postmarks, books and Scouts, no time was squandered
You lived your rigid schedule day by day:
At noon the daily tankard - beer or cider,
The sundown scotch, a glass of wine, good port -
Digestion your excuse - but let's look wider -
It helped preserve you just as much as sport!
In certain ways so humbly self-effacing,
So dignified and honest and refined,
In others quite abrupt, at times abrasive,
Yet underneath it all, a razor mind.
Your verbal thrusts the basis of your humour
Delighting in a put-down or retort;
Your wicked quips by others would spread a rumour
But repartee was all you really sought.
Your voice in church the envy of your children
Your reading of the lesson still excels
So resonant, commanding, with conviction,
Yet for you the only music lay in bells.
Your love of history, words your inspiration,
Embraced the Greats, and crosswords, and your own -
Too few of yours - those few a revelation-
For muse you had, unique but little known.
Integrity and principles and ethics -
Your centre is a model for us all;
Your morals tolerated no cosmetics
Your honesty made others look so small.
With documents and records, dues and money,
Meticulous, and fair and all correct -
You never thought to try out 'something funny'
Since Caesar gets what Caesar should collect.
So loyal to your country and religion,
Devotion to them both seemed absolute -
Behind your mask, and rituals and tradition,
You battled doubts and furies, mostly mute.
Yet you got your pound-of-flesh: revenge in pension
From H.M.G. for two score years and five -
And kept them guessing, with some condescension,
Your secret for longevity: "Survive"!
But maybe you're as stubborn as the four of us
And just to spite 'them' forced yourself to stay!
The irony is how you did survive thus -
Your 'diet' a nutrient nightmare for today!
You sacrificed small luxuries, like smoking -
Though you never inhaled your pipe or C-to-Cs,
Till four decades of half-coronas later
Your doctor said "They're bad for you, so please..."!
You briefly gave up chocolate in the sixties
But salt and sugar came in generous heaps;
Now it isn't dread disease, nor crash, nor whiskies -
But a tooth that's just too sweet that comes and reaps;
Like special treats for your last fading taste-buds
You gorge chocolates for your final hurdle leap -
While 'Happy Birthdays' echo in your eardrums
You quietly sigh ''At last, at last'', and sleep.
With love and appreciation for so much more than any words of mine.