Tuesday, February 24, 2009

He did it his way.

I hope that it did not seem inappropriate, but as Sir Bernard Ashley began his last journey on this earth, from the front of the Church in the Montgomeryshire village of Carno to his grave, alongside that of his first wife Laura, I discovered that I was smiling. And I was not the only one. As the bearers carried his coffin down the aisle, a recording of Frank Sinatra's voice, singing 'My Way' filled the Church. The song could have been composed especially for Sir Bernard Ashley.

It was a lovely service, mixing inevitable sadness, with humour and celebration of a truly inspirational life. It began with his favorite Bible reading, delivered by his daughter, Jane. Next was Dave Duggan singing 'This Land', a song composed by his daughter-in-law Ari Ashley. The line that implanted itself in my memory was 'This land is the place I belong'. We were in the heart of Montgomeryshire, surrounded by her largely unspoilt uplands. Then it was moving tributes from grandchildren and nieces. There were quivering lips and misty eyes all around the Church - and I daresay, amongst the hundreds outside. And then Vicomte Phillippe de Spoelberch, who introduced himself to us as a BB (the second B standing for Belgian. One of Sir Bernard's genuinely affectionate descriptions). His tribute was both funny and touching. Absolutely bang on appropriate for today.

The sermon and committal part of service was conducted by the Vicar of Rhayadr, a man who used to be a Tesco manager before he was ordained. Seemed to me so very apt that a former businessman should conduct the funeral service of one of the greatest entrepreneurs ever to live in Mid Wales. First time I've attended a service where there was a choice of singing hymns in English or Welsh. Decided to sing in Welsh, because there were so many people belting out 'Guide me, O thou great redeemer' that no-one could possibly hear me.

Today's funeral told us a lot about Sir Bernard Ashley. He was clearly a great family man. His grandchildren showed their great love for him. He was a religious man. His brother, Geoffrey let us know that Sir Bernard read the Bible every day, before he ended the service by reciting a lovely poem, 'Memories of the Heart'. He was an unusual man (I used the word idiosyncratic when interviewed last week). The tribute, and the recording of 'My Way' informed those of us who did not know it already that this was the case. He was a loyal man. The Church was filled with people who had worked for him many years ago. They came from far afield just to say goodbye. And we know that he, in that amazing partnership with Laura was a great businessman. He was a man who made a huge mark on Montgomeryshire, the land to which I belong. I was privileged to be in Carno Church today.


Anonymous said...

i remembered his wife today,she made the business.She died too young.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% Glyn with your views on BA. Only met him once at a shop opening - when i was Mayor - he stuck to what he thought and never forgot Montgomeryshire. A lesson the current MP might wish to emulate.

Now retired back in my native Meirionnydd, I see our well dressed AM and part time Peer has had his ermine robes well and truly singed by jumping in without thought over the running of S4C.

Not even Huw Jones a former CEO of S4C who like Dafydd and I were active in Cymdeithas in our College days at Aber and Bangor could say much to back him on the BBC news. DET might well be advised to keep his comments at business suppers to an earler time of the the evenings proceedings!

Dewi Harries said...

Very well posted Glyn - Rest in Peace

Anonymous said...

Da iawn Glyn. Jane Ashley mentioned Sir BA was so very proud of his Montgomeryshire connection. Jane Ashley mentioned Emlyn Hooson in her heartfelt tribute after her father's funeral. These are the sort of men who made Montgomeryshire great and earned respect, for themselves and for the area. The current egomanical MP could learn so much from them. Alas, he never will, because he just does not get what counts in life. Sir Bernard was one hell of a man and he did so much for us

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I know you are going to write on this, but what terrible tragic news that has reached us. The tragic loss of a son to David Cameron's family.

Glyn Davies said...

VM - Yes, she died far too young. They were a team, and it was never the same after her accident.

Anon - One of the things I liked about BA was that he accorded the same attention to the most junior employee as to the most prestigeous bigwig.
I don't think even S4C want to be devolved. This subject is bound to be on the agenda when I join S4C for dinner later this month.

Anon 2 - Lord and Lady Hooson are both very good friends of mine. Emlyn was a terrific MP, and remains much loved in Montgomeryshire.

Dr Christopher - I decided not to write on Ivan's death. Had no idea what to write. David and Samantha put out a statement, and I thought that I should leave it at that.