Funerals can be gloomy occasions, but the word ‘gloomy’ is not an adjective I would use to describe the man whose life we are celebrating and whose passing we mourn today. Dad was full of positive energy and optimism for life. He possessed an immense enthusiasm for everything and, while he probably wouldn’t admit to it himself, he was a true perfectionist.
|Dad with a Moggridge piano, March 2010.|
Even his initials spell out the nature of the man: Gerald Eldred Moggridge can be shortened to GEM and for all of us, dad was a real gem of a husband, a father, a grandfather and, of course, a great grandfather.
Mum will tell you what a great husband dad has been; they were married for 56 years, had three great kids, including me, and there was never a cross word – well, one or two, perhaps. Dad loved being at home with mum and was fortunate to enjoy 22 happy years of retirement, tending to their amazing and inspiring garden and researching and writing a history of the Moggridge family – available in all good bookshops soon.
As a father, dad was second to none. He probably wasn’t that good with dollies and teddies – that’s why Criss was forced to squeeze one of her dolls into Action Man fatigues – but our early years were characterised by cap guns, forts, train sets and toy soldiers and the biggest kid of all was dad. He taught us how to make log cabins out of sticks and blow them up with bangers and he was definitely behind the legendary Battle of Kiln Castle, which I’ll explain later to anyone who wants to listen.
Our childhoods were defined by two key events: summer holidays on the South Coast at Middleton-on-Sea and Felpham where dad played King Canute in a sandcastle; and, of course, Christmas time. Dad made both occasions truly magical – so much so that we’d be walking around the block, counting the days to our summer holiday, months before boarding the train to Bognor; and we probably believed in Father Christmas for longer than most kids – thanks to a bell and a ball of string.
Dad rigged up a bell outside of our bedroom window. It was attached to a ball of string, which he threw into the garden and then back through the bathroom window. On Christmas Eve, we would be tucked up in bed and dad would stand by the door clasping and pulling the string, ringing the bell outside the window. For years, we were believers – until I found the bell.
Dad also shone outside of the home. He enjoyed a highly successful career in the Government Information Service where he worked in Number 10 Downing Street alongside two great British Prime Ministers – Harold Wilson and Ted Heath – as well as one legendary Prime Minister-in-waiting, Margaret Thatcher (when she was Minister for Education). He set up the press office at the Lord Chancellor’s Department and was a regional director of the COI, in charge of co-ordinating media activity surrounding Royal Visits. He worked with the late and equally legendary Princess Diana and other members of the Royal Family.
Dad has met some of the world’s greats, including former American president Richard Nixon, in Bermuda with Ted Heath, and the diplomat’s diplomat, Henry Kissinger.
Which brings me to dad’s other enduring qualities – his strong moral code and his ethical approach to life. Dad was a fair man with a strong sense of right from wrong. Over the years, he provided us all with what I can only describe as expert guidance on how to live our lives – standing here today, I can confirm that he did a brilliant job and we will all miss him.