The sun is shining.
Today is a good day to celebrate the life of Beric Willcox.
21.13 The family met at Beric & Barbara’s cottage for 11.00 to be present for the arrival of Beric at 11.50 I…
Beric was done out in style and, as a former Royal Navy man, with the ensign & sailor’s cap present…
In tribute & acknowledgement of Beric’s service on the HMS Delphinium & the Malta convoys (1940-46) two bouquets of delphinia were added…
… and the family walked behind for the progress towards the village church. We joined Barbara at the gate & Beric was carried into the packed, small village church with son Kim & grandson Toby as pallbearers. A Ship’s Whistle blew as we crossed the threshold I…
Sailor Willcox c. 19 & 80…
The eulogy was given by Beric’s close pal of over 70 years, Bob Lewis…
Beric was born on the 2nd of October 1920 the youngest of nine children, of whom only Beric and his two elder sisters survived to adulthood. During his early years he had the misfortune to see siblings die at an early age; as a result of this he believed as a young man that he also would not live to see forty.
The fact that he has lived to nearly ninety is a gift to us all, because Beric had a sparkling personality and a friendliness which endeared him to everyone.
His father was a builder and Beric grew up in the house his father had built in Grove Road Kings Heath. The house in which he subsequently brought up his own family.
At the outbreak of the second world war Beric was 19 and immediately volunteered to serve in the Royal Navy: he was trained as a Radar operator in Portsmouth and from 1940 – 46 served in the Corvette ‘Delphinium’ almost exclusively in the Mediterranean protecting the Malta convoys where he saw some of the grimmest action which occurred in that arena. He also used to say that if you want to know what seasickness is like – Try sitting in front of a radar screen in a rough sea!
After the war he came back to take over his father’s business, which he extended to produce custom joinery.
Beric met Barbara in 1947 in Weston-super-Mare. He saw her on stage and went on to follow her on tour throughout England.
One year later they were engaged and were married in Weston on October 5th 1949 – Barbara’s 20th Birthday. Barbara was given away by Nan Kenway and Douglas Young, a couple well known for their humorous routines on the BBC in those days
Almost a year afterwards Nicola was born: two years and nine months later their son Kim arrived and five years after this Toyah, his baby, remaining so to the end.
Beric had many interests among them were many different cars, which ranged from a small Messerschmitt bubble car to a very grand Vandenplas Austin with a four litre Rolls Royce engine. He was interested in flying and learnt to fly in a Tiger Moth and an Auster and Kim remembers his father taking him, at the age of about three or four, into the hanger and sitting him in the Auster. Beric gained his Private Pilots Licence and with his friend Keith bought an ex RAF Magister, which they flew from Elmdon Airport.
They had a lucky escape one flight, when on take-off they lost power momentarily, after a throttle friction nut failed. They went through the top of a tree, fortunately unscathed, and after that Beric decided that, as the father of three small children, it would be safer to stick to boats. He did, however, spend many hundreds of hours with Kim building and flying model aircraft and he was fiercely proud when Kim went into the RAF to fly fighter jets. He was equally proud, in later years, when his grandson Toby came flying over Wyre Mill in a plane they had built together.
Beric had the ability to create a relaxed atmosphere in which all his children were able to follow their interests and excel in their own way and as a result he has left behind, what we would all like to leave behind when we go - a united family who will care for one another throughout their lives.
Beric was one of the earliest members of Wyre Mill which has been a very happy part of his life.
The early days of Wyre Mill were very different to today. We were all young families with small children and in the middle of this jolly scene was Beric with two small daughters who had inherited their mother’s good looks and a small son who had inherited his father’s sense of mischief. This band of children had a marvellous time. What is now the committee room was the ‘Teenage Room’ and there was a tree house on Weir Island where they were all forbidden to go. There were swamp gliders flying across puddles in the caravan field and water rockets descending on car bonnets. The high jinks were endless.
Beric has owned many boats in his time including ‘Titch’ a pram dinghy which turned into a submarine when he turned the throttle up on the outboard. Beric built a foredeck onto it and it didn’t go down again. Then there was ‘Skate’ in which he explored disused canals with Nicky and Dudley Matthews including a very sorry looking Gas Street Basin. He also sailed a National twelve for a time, but his great love was ‘Tortuga Bay’ - the other lady in his life – which he bought new in 1966 and has been the most used boat at Wyre Mill. He was proud to exert his ex Navy right to fly the blue ensign on the jackstaff and he was aboard ‘Tortuga Bay’ right up to the last few days.
Among Beric’s many interests was antiques and his knowledge of the subject was extensive. After he retired from business he realised that antique dealers had a market for small items of handmade furniture to supplement their stock and he set about filling this niche in the market from the resources of his workshop at home. Without doubt the finest sample of his work was a reproduction welsh spinning wheel, which was perfect in every detail. He got pleasure from working with his hands and exercising his considerable skill with wood; he also enjoyed going out and calling on the antique dealers to whom he had a relaxed and disarming approach, with his humour never far below the surface.
I remember him relating an occasion when he entered an antique shop and spied a spinning wheel at the back of the shop. Beric leans on the counter and says “How much do you want for that spinning wheel?” “I’m afraid that’s not for sale sir. It’s a genuine antique” “Oh” says Beric “I think I made it about two years ago” “I’m sure you are mistaken sir. You can tell it’s authentic by the leather spindle bearings and the construction of the treadle. Believe me I know an antique when I see one” “Oh good” says Beric “Cause I’ve got another three just like it in the back of the car”. It is to Beric’s credit that this gentle leg pulling caused no offense and the Antique dealer went on to be a customer and friend.
Ten years ago Beric and Barbara moved from Kings Heath to Wyre Piddle village and in Beric’s words “Life became one wonderful holiday”. He loved his life at Wyre Piddle and the villagers soon realised what an asset they had acquired. He also found a wonderful group of friends, who met for coffee at the Angel in Pershore. When Beric and Barbara joined them it was the highlight of his day.
To say that Beric was popular is to make a considerable understatement; it went much further than that: he was really, genuinely liked by everyone who knew him. You felt safe in his friendship and his twinkling sense of humour was always funny and never unkind.
He had a kindness which extended to all living creatures. Any spider that ventured onto Beric’s boat was escorted off without harm and when walking down to the mill he would move snails off the roadway so that they would not be run over.
Friends. We are not here to mourn – Beric wouldn’t have wanted that. No! We are here to celebrate; to celebrate the life of a lovely lovely man whose memory will stay with us to the end of our days.
(This was an especially heroic presentation for Bob received the news, just as he was leaving Birmingham for this service, that his brother had died).
At the end of the service, as Beric was moving to the committal, the organist broke into an especially lively All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor. The lady vicar, Rev. Lynn, broke into a little dance while following the coffin out of the church. This was well-received, and a wonderful touch, as if a final Beric joke.
Beric was laid to rest with a high-spot of Anglican piety from the Book of Common Prayer: Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life.
Then to Wyre Mill for the celebration party I…
Son-in-Law Frank, who attended Beric as a health professional in the last days, thoughtfully prepared a slideshow of different periods from Beric’s life. Buntings from the boats of Wyre Club were on prominent display, champagne poured & a toast offered, acknowledging gratitude for the life of Beric Willcox.
There is no tradegy in a life well lived that runs its course. But there is loss.
And there is joy, and memory, and gratitude, and life passing to succeeding generations to run in new courses, carrying the pattern forward.
A reflective, joyful day, not sad at all; albeit with some tears.
A walk down the garden with T, and an evening walk around the town.
Search Robert Fripp's diary archive.