Dear members and friends,
On the 8th of January we attended the funeral at Forest Park crematorium of our dear friend and former president Brian Mackenzie who sadly passed away on 11th December aged 75. The service was, like Brian’s life, a little unconventional with no hyms, just songs by his favourite artists and four eulogy’s read out, 3 of them are copied below so that those who couldn’t be there can read them. The fourth eulogy was an off-the-cuff speech by Brian’s friend Chas for which we can’t get a written copy. A wake was held at the Ceders Club in Chadwell Heath where a fantastic spread of food was laid on. As anticipated, this was a very well supported funeral and it was very nice to so many club members and friends turn out. Collection boxes on behalf of St Francis Hospice were available for people to put donations into and peoples generocity meant £874 was collected which is a fantastic amount.
Joseph’s eulogy (Brian’s cousin)
Tommy’s eulogy (Brian’s friend from Inverness)
Brian has been a member of St Chads for more than 20 years. I knew Brian for only the last 6 of those from a bowling perspective. We had met him before though in his capacity as ‘Lazarus’ the furniture restorer, he never remembered resurrecting our dining room table, but we remembered him (and we still have the table).
I first met him when I saw a group of people outside the park gates and spotted someone I knew, Gill Bottom. I asked where they were off to and she said to Clacton for a day out with the bowls club. When I expressed an interest in bowling, she called Brian over and he invited me for a rollup the next Sunday morning. We got on like a house on fire, I enjoyed my rollup and was hooked.
Brian had several loves in his life. His family, his fishing and his bowling. His family were always first, but it was hard to know in which order fishing and bowls came, he loved them both. His real strength laid in the fact he always took an interest, whether it was people or an activity, and was always willing to get stuck in and help to 100% of his ability. He had his health issues, mainly with his feet which plagued him no end but then had a fall a few years ago whilst trimming a tree at home. Even that didn’t slow him down much, as soon as it was sufficiently recovered, he was back in the gym because he wanted to his strength back for his bowling.
His bowling style could be described as a little unconventional. A very deliberate aim with straight arms, low crouch, head down, left foot forward, right arm back and bowl, but all in slow motion. He never seemed to look at where he was bowling after the first aim, he just knew his target point and strength needed, it just worked. Mostly. He had off days, like everyone, and always admonished himself when he didn’t play well, loudly exclaiming “COME ON!” though it was generally unclear if he was admonishing himself or trying to influence the bowl to do what he wanted, probably both. For all his ‘niceness’ however he was always fiercely competitive and didn’t give an inch, he always wanted to win regardless of who the opposition was.
When he had his treatment for the first occurrence of leukaemia, two of his main driver fighting the cancer were to get over it and get back to his beloved bowls and fishing And get over it he did, he got fit enough to resume bowling for the 2019 season and really enjoyed his bowling all summer. One of his finest moments was last year at the 2nd leg of the Stan Cribbs Trophy game at Old Dagenham. It was all square with one bowl, Brian’s last bowl, to play. He played a fantastic shot and with that bowl he won us the match. It was classic Brian, just brilliant.
On outings, after the refreshments with the opposition, if Brian was doing the captain’s speech, he would usually finish off with one of his infamous jokes. You knew one was coming and might have heard it several times before, but he still managed to make you laugh. As Frank Carson always said, “it’s the way you tell ‘em”
Despite his health issues, illness didn’t prevent Brian from taking an active part in everything to do with St Chads. Not just playing but also enjoying the social side and helping with our rigorous green maintenance regime. He was a strong advocate for us maintaining the green ourselves when we had to \ few years ago and it’s for certain that had we not done so then St Chads would not exist today. I will always remember the pleasure sitting down after mowing was finished on a nice summer’s morning, having a cup of tea and admiring our handywork saying how good the green looked. I will really miss him not being there for those moments.
A few years ago, Bowls England permitted the wearing of shorts as part of our dress. Brian was quite passionate about St Chads adopting shorts and he wore them whenever he could. Once seen in shorts however you would never forget those white, skinny legs and knobbly knees.
Brian was a fantastic figurehead for the club who always found time to chat to and help new members integrate and to learn and enjoy the game of bowls as he did. He was in a way the club coach we didn’t have, he really enjoyed sharing his knowledge, experience and time with new bowlers.
Brian had time for everyone (except some people in the council). Even if members left the club to move away he would try to stay in touch, Ernie and June Merrit and Roy Blane to mention but a few. He did more for St Chads, even when not well, than many members will ever realise or appreciate, and we will miss him more than he ever thought we might.
It will not have escaped your notice that Brian was ‘a Scottish person’ (originally from Inverness) who claimed to have been sent South to infiltrate the gentile sport of bowls in an effort to establish what makes the English tick. That he did. He also found his way into our hearts.
So, Brian, rest in peace. You were a good friend, bowler and president and although you may be gone from us in person, you will never be forgotten because you live on in our hearts as the spirit of St Chads.