Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Harold, who died on 24th May, was laid to rest in St Wilfrid’s churchyard below the Bell Tower. He was buried on 3rd June next to his beloved Edith.
As he always wanted to leave his house ‘in his box’ Harold was carried from Gillison Close to the church by his family and neighbours. The Funeral Director walked in front to stop the traffic and ‘to make sure they didn’t extend the walk up to the moor and back!’
Harold arrived early, and Mark announced to the congregation that Harold would have just said ‘everyone is here so just get on with it Vicar’. It was a rich service of hymns, prayers, memories (from Harold’s two sons, Richard and John), readings, poems and an ethereal lament sung by Anne, Harold’s daughter-in-law.
The Church Bells were rung at the beginning and end of the service - a tribute to his time as Captain of the Bell Tower and to the many people he taught to ring the bells.
Much of the following is taken from Richard and John’s eulogies:
Born in Walsall, Harold would have been 92 three days after his funeral. He left school at 14 was later called up for national service and was stationed in East Africa.
He worked in various local government financial posts and eventually applied for the post of Finance Officer at Lancaster University. When he was being interviewed for the job, presumably by a board of professors, one of them said. ‘Mr White, I see that you don’t have a degree’ to which he claims his response was ‘I thought you wanted to hire a professional’. Needless to say he got the job and the family moved to Melling in the early 1970s.
In the University’s obituary for him they wrote about the millions of pounds he oversaw - £60 million when he retired in 1992 - and his part in steering the University through 23 years of exciting growing times, but also through financially difficult periods. They called him quietly efficient, effective and prudent.
His sons remembered the tale he told of having to remind the senate that the university existed for research and its students; that they were the priority. Normally accountants only worry about the bottom line, but he totally understood big picture and how everything fitted together. He was held in high high regard in a high powered professional job.
His sons never remember him being stressed, raising his voice or getting angry. Maybe he hid it well or perhaps it was due to his absolute positive outlook on life and his total obsession with living life to the full.
When he came home, he left his work at the door, and was so keen on doing other stuff, there was no time to be wasted, no time for stress or negativity.
He climbed mountains, sailed dinghies (after of course making the dinghy in the garage, wiring plywood sheets together and fibreglassing the seams, painting and varnishing it). Ahead of its’ maiden voyage with Richard all he did was read a book on how to sail the night before.
Harold orienteered, he bell-rung, played chess to a high level and got involved with Rotary, YMCA, parish council, the church and the wider community.
But there was always time for Edith, Richard and John. They were dragged up every mountain, taken sailing and orienteering, even rang the bells. Every weekend they went somewhere, did something. He wasn’t escaping wife and kids, he was taking them with him, loving being with them, sharing his passions. Although to be fair, Edith and Harold also liked going to the pub for the last pint, escaping the boys for a while.
Harold doted on his grandchildren, supported Talitha hugely in her rather eclectic education, and Ronan again hugely with his mountain bike racing.
Harold and Edith were a team, and what a team. They may have bickered their way up every mountain in Britain but the love they had each other was so evident. When Edith developed Alzheimers Harold became her carer; it was probably his biggest challenge. He took it on as you would expect, with dignity and strength and that love. It wore him out to be honest, but he would not have had it any other way, and when she died, he missed her terribly, as everybody locally knows, he visited Edith’s grave every day.
Thank you to Richard and John White for allowing the use of their words.