For the past several days, the first sounds of the outside world, well before first light, have been delivered loud and clear, and with gusto, by our garden Blackbird, but this morning, under a heavy grey sky, all was quiet until the plaintive notes of a distant Mistle Thrush heralded a new day. It was appropriate that the solo should have been delivered from somewhere in the Pennington Flash Country Park, for it was this very special site that had drawn Tom Edmondson into nearly a lifelong involvement in nature conservation, and today was the day of his funeral in Chester.
I suspect that I was the only person from Leigh, his home town, among the thirty or forty who had gathered to bid farewell in a service which included screens showing pictures of Tom with friends and family during a long and fruitful lifetime. The occasion, from beginning to end, was highly dignified, with spoken contributions by his son and two grandchildren and a fine selection of music and poems. The informal procession into the chapel was to the accompaniment of a fine rendition by Amanda Roocroft of Puccini's aria "O mia bambino caro"; the centrepiece was Edward Elgar's masterpiece 'Nimrod' played by the Halle Orchestra; and Tom's last farewell was to the strains of "Abide with Me."
"Tom" and "The Kingfisher" were fitting titles for two of the poems, the third one, remarkably, being one of the favourites of his near-contemporary, Frank Horrocks - "Happy the Man" by John Dryden:-
"Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or fowl or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour"
Upon my return to Leigh, I went to the Flash and pinned copies of the funeral service leaflet to the notice boards outside the hide named in his honour and in the information centre.
Tom often expressed his delight that a small, once-upon-a-time industrial town in Lancashire should have managed to produce and foster a Society which, through its commitment, industry and love of our natural heritage, has had a huge influence in shaping our green habitats for wildlife and human appreciation and enjoyment alike.
I'm certain that Tom's greatest wish would be for all of us to recognize the importance of continuing to promote nature conservation into an increasingly uncertain future. We owe it as much to our natural environment and all its dependent creatures, and the spiritual wellbeing of those who follow us, just as much as we owe it to the memory of a great man.
Rest in peace, dear friend.