Kit Inglis: Memorial Address

Brecon Cathedral

Sunday 16th January 1994.

 

We are here today to say thank you for the life of Kit Inglis, and to say it with warmth, with love and with a laugh on our lips. Death, of course, always leaves a dreadfully painful gap and that is specially true now for Ashy, Julia, Bonky and Andrew and they know that they have the love and support of every one of us here. But today is a celebration, a thanksgiving celebration. This is what Kit would have wanted. He, as a committed Christian, had no fears and no doubts about death. His approach to death, as to life, was relaxed and comfortable. And in Kit, we have so much to be thankful for. Indeed, we must be thankful at two levels. We must be thankful to Kit for the riches that he gave to all of us, and we must be thankful to God for giving us Kit who meant, and still means, so much to so many, as today’s turnout in this cathedral bears witness.

Kit has left us all a wealth of treasure: immensely precious, happy memories; the example of a life of absolute integrity; the encouragement which has helped so many through difficult or challenging times, and an inestimable and ever present legacy of love and laughter. His has been a life of service with a capital “S”: service to the Church, to his country, to the county, to his Regiment, and to many, many others, but above all to his beloved family. Each has something special and individual to treasure.

Service was in his blood. There were six consecutive ordained ministers including two bishops, in his family line as well as a great many soldiers including a general.

After all that, one would hardly think of Kit as having been a naughty small boy. But when he was little he was always very naughty. Once, his sister Anne was given a Harris tweed coat. As she complained that the rough tweed prickled, Kit persuaded her to lay it out on the lawn and together they mowed it with the lawn mower which, of course, merely shredded the coat. They were made to sew the bits together again, and one can just imagine what it looked like!

For all this, he clearly developed a strong sense of responsibility very early on. He was head boy of his Prep School in Dorset, before going on to Winchester in 1943. He loved Winchester,. He loved the choir and singing, and he loved the school’s traditions. All those who know Kit would agree that the Wykhamist emblem of “the trusty servant’ and the motto “manners makyth man” were exemplified in Kits life of service, in his kindly unselfish nature and in his perfect manners. And the love of his old school stayed with him. Years later having been out with a close regimental friend and fellow Wykhamist, the pair returned at two o’clock in the morning and woke the friend’s wife to play the piano while they sang Wykhamist songs with tremendous gusto.

After Winchester came Sandhurst and the Army. Kit followed his brother John into the lSth/l9th The King’s Royal Hussars. He served in Germany, Malaya, and Northern Ireland. He was a very promising young officer, for he held all the most coveted appointments, Signals Officer, Adjutant, ADC to a very senior general, and was an instructor at Mons Officer Cadet School. He had a reputation for being strong and unflappable. He told a newly arrived young officer who came to him for advice: “The art is to look busy. Carry a mill board and move quickly round barracks. Then no one will bother you.” On another occasion when there was a flap on and people were running hither and thither, someone commented that Kit was walking particularly slowly, to which he made that well known retort: “officers don’t run, it worries the troops!”

Early on Kit’s mother became crippled and she spent over thirty years in a wheel chair. The whole family put care for her before everything else, and this concern and consideration became a hallmark of Kit’s personality. Twenty years in an armored regiment developed and fostered this quality even further. If you are a member of a four man tank crew you learn to live together as nowhere else. You depend on each other and develop mutual respect regardless of the differences of age or rank. In this environment Kit was a natural. Every regimental story I have heard about him shows him to have been at once a man of action, quick thinking and full of robust high spirits, and a devoted, thoughtful friend and team member at every level.

Kit was, in short, brilliant with people. He would accept a mug of tea from a fellow member of his tank crew stirred with a dipstick with a grateful smile. At the other end of the scale he once set out to go fishing on Grand National day with a brother officer who had set himself up as the regimental bookmaker. This fellow had taken a fortune in bets on Mr Watt, and, as he thought the horse had no chance, he had decided to stand the bets himself. Kit, concerned for the young man, calculated that if Mr Watt won he stood to loose a fortune but would win very little if it didn’t. Kit stopped the car, and made the man lay off the bets with a bookie by telephone. Mr Watt won! Kit, typically, had saved his bacon through pure concern, thoughtfulness and quick thinking.

It is hardly surprising that he was so loved in the Regiment, that so many former comrades kept in touch with him. It is hardly surprising that he was asked to become chairman of the Regimental Association and that his speeches at regimental reunions are remembered with such affection. Twice he served with the Regiment’s Territorial Army associated Regiment, The Northumberland Hussars, and it is a fitting tribute to him that so many have travelled all the way from “Geordie land” to be here today. The Regimental motto is the Latin word “merebimur”. Strictly speaking this has a range of meanings: we will serve; we will deserve; or we will win. I think you will agree that any of those translations fit Kit to a tee. He was indeed a winner.

In 1964 Kit married Ashy. Later, a favourite saying of Kit’s was to become “get your priorities right.” My goodness he got his priorities right that year. And from that moment Ashy and later their three wonderful children were Kit’s one and only real priority. Everybody who knows them cannot help being impressed by what a close and loving family they are.

In 1967 Kit left the Army and settled permanently at Llansantffraed. But nothing changed. It was just that other people benefited from his sense of service, his concern for people in all walks of life, his encouragement and his unwavering integrity. Everyone in the parish loved him for his involvement and his commitment. He was church warden. He read the lesson. Only the week before he died he conducted a fund raising auction at which, in an atmosphere of great hilarity, he managed to sell a bag of melting ice. He did a number of things. There was fish farming, there were the Welsh Black Cattle and the Black Welsh sheep. Finally, there was the Country Landowners Association which he loved. As a member, I know just how deeply he was appreciated. He would take as much trouble over helping the small holder with just a few acres as he did for someone with huge estates. He loved meeting people and travelled all over Wales. Often as he drove round with Ashy he would say as they passed the end of a remote lane: “I had a wonderful tea with welsh cakes up there.

He and Ashy, jointly, conducted CLA tours to the Far East, India, South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. People who went on those tours tell of how Kit’s thoughtfulness over details, particularly for the elderly or disabled, made all the difference for them.

And, of course, Kit’s service in the county has been just as unstinting and devoted in many spheres. In 1988 he was High Sheriff. He was a Deputy Lieutenant. He was involved in the Royal British Legion and countless other interests. He was always to be seen supporting this cause or that. Very many people have said that their hearts lightened when they saw that Kit was at a party. And Polly and I have shared that reaction.

To Kit, Ashy and his children were every thing. He, rightly, was immensely proud of them. Their memories of Kit are the most precious of all. They will be of calmness and stability; of Kit’s unfailing flair for getting things exactly right; of his ability to organise without ever being bossy; that he valued each one of them for being themselves, regardless of success or failure; of the thoughtful way that he entered with enthusiasm into their projects; of the annual cricket match he organised for Andrew at which everybody was made to feel important whether they made a century or scored a duck. They will remember his fun and his laughter. They will remember him as the perfect teacher, but teaching only by encouragement and example. They will remember him, as will many, many friends as the countryman, never more contented than out with his gun with a dog at his heels, or with a fishing rod in his hands. They will be thankful that he died doing what he loved, out shooting with his friends, and with a smile. He was in every sense a perfect gentle man.

We all have so much to be thankful for in his life. Especially we must be thankful for the firmness of his faith, and that he was able to share that with Ashy. For him, without belief in God, life was meaningless. In fact he lived the family motto “Without the Lord in vain.” One thing we can be certain about: Kit did not live in vain. We must be thankful that he is now utterly free and at rest in the arms of his maker. Though, like most British people, he would not have worn his heart on his sleeve, no one would have been surer than Kit of Christ as both his personal saviour and as the light of the world, the light which overcomes darkness. We, today, can rejoice that Kit has already achieved his salvation, and that, although his earthly light has gone out, it shines brightly and strongly in paradise.

AMEN.