THIS EULOGY WAS DELIVERED AT ROGER MARSDEN NORTH`S FUNERAL BY HIS DAUGHTER CAROLE
Roger Marsden North was born on the 2nd of April 1932.
He grew up during the 2nd World War. Granny & Grampy kept him in Kingswood during that time and he helped build Anderson shelters. He used to tell us tales of how he and his friends would throw stones at unexploded bombs. His dare devil attitude carried through his school years. While he was at Whitgift School in Croydon, he took in some thunder flashes he had found, put them under a bucket and blew it 50’ in the air, landing on the school chapel. He nearly got expelled for that little prank.
After school he did his 2 years of national service in the Royal Navy. We know he particularly liked the rum toddies! He did exceptionally well in the Navy and became a leading stoke mechanic, which is the equivalent of a low sergeant. This, I understand, was very unusual and Rodney told us that when he went drinking with his sailor friends he would ask other sailors to bet a drink on what grade he was. When he told them he was a leading hand and National Service, they would be amazed and he would be on the receiving end of yet another drink. This desire to be the best continued through his career and his life.
Dad loved sailing. Granny & Grampy had a yacht that he and Rodney spent many a happy weekend on. When dad was 20, Grampy invited him and Rodney to a very smart cocktail party at Costains and dad turned up in orange swimming shorts because he’d spent the day sailing!
Dad married mum in 1956. We found a newspaper cutting about the wedding last week and it said: ‘The three tiered wedding cake was decorated with horses for the bride and sailing yachts for the bridegroom, which are their hobbies’. They honeymooned in Majorca.
In 1959 I was born and we moved from Kensington, London, to Dorridge in the Midlands because of dad’s job with TV Times. In 1961 Michael was born and in 1962 we moved to Kenley, Surrey, as dad had landed a job with the Mirror Group. Andrew arrived in 1963, followed by Matthew in 1965.
Kenley was the start of our lifelong love of animals, which dad very good naturedly suffered. We filled the house with guinea pigs and even looked after the school guinea pigs as well. Unfortunately, that resulted in a whole raft of baby guinea pigs and so dad took them to our school fete and ran a competition to win a guinea pig by guessing which one would get to the lettuce leaf first.
Dad’s career with the Mirror Group went from strength to strength and I remember going to his office in Fleet Street and being treated like royalty. He was promoted regularly and Brian Downing, his ex boss, told me recently that dad was one of the bright young people he picked for his team when the Sunday Mirror was launched in 1971. According to Brian he was well organised, structured, calm under pressure and affable.
In 1968 we moved to Woldingham. At that time Dad was with the Mirror in Australia - trust him to get out of the packing! He was exceptionally good at delegating.
Woldingham was where our love for animals got out of control. Mum managed to fill it with a dog, 2 cats, guinea pigs, a rabbit, 2 horses and 3 donkeys. It wasn’t uncommon for dad to come home and discover a donkey in the kitchen. He loved brewing his own ginger beer and one memorable morning we woke to what sounded like gunshot and discovered all the bottles had exploded and the kitchen was awash.
Even though he wasn’t as obsessed with animals as mum was he did love them. He fell off the roof trying to rescue our kitten, Jason, breaking both wrists. I remember mum bringing him into the living room to wait for the ambulance and all of us being very upset that we had to turn off star trek! As children, he used to take us to 5-a-side rugby at Twickenham, make us watch the wrestling, take us out sailing and lead the team as we all curled up on the sofa for another scary episode of Dr Who.
He had a real gift for making friends, because he was so interested in everyone he met. Mum and dad regularly held dinner parties at which we were put to good use as waiters! He also edited the Woldingham Parish Magazine and led the committee to run the Silver Jubilee celebrations. He cheered us on as we all competed in the ‘It’s a Knock Out’ competition.
We have so many good memories of our childhood. We saw a lot of our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We holidayed either in Majorca, where we spent all our time diving off his broad shoulders, or caravanning in France and England. I remember one caravanning trip in Scotland where he took my brothers fishing every day and only caught crabs. He finally caught some mackerel in Wales and mum soused them and put them under the caravan while we went for a walk. When we got back a dog had found the fish and eaten them!
Dad took a Golden Handshake from the Mirror and decided on a complete change of career. For a couple of years he sold timeshares and we helped him set up exhibition stands in Brighton Marina. Then in 1980 he became marketing director of Guildway Homes. They bought a plot of land in Crawley Down and lived in the ‘Grot Hole’ (a wooden shack resting on bricks) for 18 months with Andrew & Matthew while Guildway built Dormers Wood.
In 1983, mum and dad bought a Copy Girl printing franchise from Gestetner and set the business up in Croydon. However after 3 years Gestetner broke the franchise agreement and dad led the other franchisees to a high court victory in suing them.
Three years later, they moved to Lickety Split, where they spent several years completely re-modelling stable blocks and the existing farmhouse to create the family home we have all enjoyed so much for the last 23 years. Between 1986 and 1990 we all got married and from 1989 – 2000 managed to produce six grandchildren for them.
In 2004, mum and dad retired at the age of 72 and, tragically, mum died that same year.
At that time we were worried about him, but dad signed up for several computer courses and started using email. He found himself the recipient of every type of spam going – none of which he deleted! He joined the Probus group making many new friends and had such a wonderful time visiting Paris, Berlin, Chatham and the Houses of Parliament with them.
He loved spending time with his family and when I told him that it was about to be added to with the arrival of Kyle this year he teased me mercilessly about becoming a grandmother. He did, however, go very quiet when I pointed out that meant he was going to become a great grandfather. I know he didn’t feel old enough for that title!
He travelled. Boy did he travel. I went to Prague with him one New Year and when Andrew & Sharon bought a yacht he would join them at every opportunity, One New Years Eve he was out in the Caribbean with them at a beach party. Midnight came and went and deciding to cool down dad waded into the sea. Needing a rest he sat on the jetty, missed and ended up neck deep in the water maybe one rum punch too many? He went to the Arctic on a cruise last year and made many new friends. He was planning a trip to China and he also wanted to take me to Venice next year as a late 50th birthday present.
He was a brilliant father – I measure that by the fact that we all have successful careers and none of us have a police record! He also taught us some useful life skills such as how to build fences and winch out tree stumps! He was generous with his time and good with his advice. He loved our mother so much and by example showed us how good marriage can be. He loved his family and his friends and that legacy stays with us. All of us here are suffering from the loss of my father – he was a great man who added something special to so many people’s lives. If I could see my dad one more time, I would tell him that I love him, that I am so proud of the life he led, that he was not only my father but also my mentor, my confidante and my best friend. I will keep him in my heart always.