TRIBUTE TO WARWICK LEADLAY
29th November 1929-16th February 2013
What blizzardous weather conditions the morning brought, with the snow being blown sideways by strong winds and feeling bitterly cold. It was 11th March 2013 and Warwick’s funeral was set for 11.00 am. However, despite the weather, the little chapel at Eltham Crematorium was packed solid. I am guessing there was about 300 people who had turned up to give Warwick the wonderful send-off he so deserved.
His coffin was draped with The White Ensign, with his famous fedora hat sitting proudly on top. There was a huge photo of Warwick. The music playing was that of “Tom Bowling”, music written by Charles Dibdin and sung by Robert Tear. Quite a fitting sailors’ epitaph also played at the last night of The Proms and I’m sure chosen by Warwick, as he was such a devotee of commemorating the life and achievements of Admiral Lord Nelson.
The humanist funeral service was conducted by humanist celebrant, Denis Cobell. Denis had conducted George Webb’s funeral service three years ago, almost to the day, so it was a nice connection. Warwick had become such a big jazz promoter since holding jazz weekend festivals at his lovely Starborough Castle home in Kent. The service card was so beautifully put together with photos showing Warwick through his ages, plus his wife, Julia and children, Isabel, Jerome and Susannah.
Jerome delivered the first tribute. He was so warm about his father, relating how Warwick was quite strict, but soft, saying he must have been a real hand-full for his parents. He also said they’d had a very happy up-bringing. Warwick’s long term friend Maurice Johnson gave his tribute next. Maurice had been a close friend since their youth and related to the many fun times they had. At this point, the jazz music of Count Basie and The Kansas City 7 gave us time to reflect with the song ‘Lester Leaps In’. Annie Dolan stepped up with her tribute. Annie had become very close to Warwick over the last 10 years. She gave a marvellously well spoken, well put together speech and she should feel proud of herself. It was Anthony Cross, who completed the tributes. Anthony told us he had started off working for Warwick in 1978, became manager and then became his partner at the Warwick Leadlay Gallery in Nelson Arcade, Greenwich. They worked well together and were obviously great friends. He then told us of The Sultan of Turkey’s award to Admiral Lord Nelson, called a Chelengk (’Plume of Triumph’). Warwick and he would wear a copy to all annual Dinner Do’s’ held in honour of Lord Nelson. Anthony then placed Warwick’s one on his coffin. It is always so hard to speak about someone you care for, when you are feeling so emotional, but everyone coped so fantastically and Warwick would have been so proud of such tributes.
The service ended with the music of Neil Diamond, singing ‘Beautiful Noise’. A lovely song to complete a lovely service.
The musical celebrations took place at The Trafalgar Pub, situated next to the River Thames (opposite the Royal Naval College). Some of the people who had been present at the funeral were unable to go to the pub, but many more people joined us at the pub, so I’m guessing that some 400 people in total had managed to say goodbye to Warwick in one way or another. The music at The Trafalgar was presented by, of course, TJ Johnson (piano, drums & vocals), Sky Murphy (trombone), Adrian Cox (clarinet), Jonny Boston (sax & vocals) and Tony Pitt (guitar/banjo). They are such stars (all of them) it goes without saying they were brilliant. Nick Singer (banjo & vocals) and two others singers had a sit-in too and a pianist friend played during the interval. There was dancing and plenty of applause and again, I have to say Warwick would have been chuffed to bits. His family had supplied plenty of good food and drink to toast Warwick and all in all, such a true jazz send-off.
Before I close, I would just like to relate some of my own memories with Warwick. I recall Warwick saying to me, out of the blue, he had a chance to buy a castle and what did I think? Not the sort of question one is asked every day. I said to him that with a name like his, he had to buy it!
Another recollection was at the first jazz festival at his Starborough Castle (yes he did buy it). Phil Mason, his wife Hanna, Martin Bennett and his wife Sue, were all staying at the castle (Sue & Martin actually sleeping in the narrow boat on the moat). When the festival had finished, Keith and I took them all to the local pub (crammed into my little car). When we returned, the gate was locked, so they all had to climb over the rather large fence to get in (both girls being small!), such a funny sight with everyone so much the worse for drink. The next morning, I told Warwick all about it, to which he told me, the gate had not been locked at all, we just needed to press the button!
My last recollection I would like to share with you, is when Keith and I visited him one cold winter’s morning. Keith had painted a picture of the castle. Warwick said he was about to feed the swans and to come and see. The moat was covered over with ice. Warwick threw some bread over to them and one swan tried to walk on the ice, but with much difficulty. His body’s undercarriage was low over the ice, with his neck stretched out in front of him, his feet sliding all over the place. At this point, another swan walked over with no trouble at all (upright), picked up the piece of bread and waltzed off with it. The first swan was so obviously livid, grabbed hold of the tail of the other and would not let go. You have never seen anything so funny as the swan frantically trying to get away (Keith presented another painting of this scene).
Warwick was a larger than life character. There are a few people who have an aura of sparkle about them, which you can actually feel when they enter a room. Warwick was one of those people, although he never realised it himself. He was a very approachable man, who so loved his jazz and art. Keith and I have so many wonderful memories of him over the 25-30 years we have known him, especially the jazz weekends he held at his Starborough Castle home. When he moved back to Greenwich (due to his failing eyesight), he held many lovely soirees in his home there. He became more involved with the jazz held on Thursday afternoons in The Lord Hood Pub. The jazz world in particular will definitely miss this lovely Yorkshire man, as we will too. Our love goes out to his family.
Diane and Keith
Farnborough Jazz Club