So here we are; here to mark together the ending of a remarkable life.

We’re all shaped by our early years.  One of the extraordinary things about Jeremy was that he emerged from his far from straightforward childhood to become in due course that wonderfully sound, wise and grounded person we all knew him to be.  It is a remarkable story – to the very end: his final instruction to Liney for today was that he wanted ‘to go out with a bang’.

Born in Blackheath, by the age of 10 he had already, as a son of the Royal Navy, spent two years in Malta; 18 months in the care of his Gilhespy grandparents at Maryfield when his parents were based in Bermuda; begun the life of boarding school near Wimborne; and by 1940 understood the horrors of wartime bombing.

HMS Furious, in which his father – and Matt’s, Jenny’s and my father – was serving had been escorting Atlantic convoys to and from Halifax where he had met the Lauries of Oakfield – postal address ‘Oakfield, Nova Scotia’.  They had generously offered Jeremy a home for the duration of the war; and so it was that, in August 1940 – as he wrote of that time – ‘I said goodbye to Maryfield and all the security it stood for’ as he left for Liverpool where Godfrey and Dawn embarked him for the voyage across the ocean – about which he wrote simply ‘I was seasick and homesick, not a happy combination’.  He was one of two civilians on board.

The Lauries were immensely kind people, kindness he must have needed more than ever when he learned that his parents were to separate.  In the holidays, when he wasn’t helping on the estate or sailing the lake with his guardians, he developed a considerable stamp collection, so good that they encouraged him to leave it behind when he returned to school in the spring of 1943.  A week into the term he learned that a terrible fire had destroyed Oakfield and, with it, the stamps.

When the decision that he should return home came that year, he made his second wartime transatlantic crossing, this time in the battleship Queen Elizabeth, after travelling alone by train from Oakfield – it had its own station – via Boston to Baltimore, thence by paddle steamer to Norfolk, Virginia – still only 13.

Godfrey had by then married Peg; so Jeremy went to join her at her mother’s home, Crockway, his first introduction to the Bests.  Henry, among others, used to cycle over from Hincknowle – and, being a good deal taller than Jeremy, was a welcome source of second hand clothes.

That arrangement can’t have been easy for anyone, but he would reflect later with great appreciation for both the love and the structure which Peg had given him.  And he was devoted to his mother – as he wrote, ‘she was so pretty and such fun, and always so good to be with’; and he would come to spend wonderful times with her and Geoffrey for whom he also developed a great affection.  Both his step parents became lifelong friends who he held in great admiration.

To school at Sherborne where in due course he began to work out his career options.  When he told his father that he was thinking of joining the Royal Marines the response was ‘you can join the Navy, or the Army if you must, but you shouldn’t try to do both at the same time’.  Characteristically stern advice, but actually from the warmest of hearts.  Having had so little opportunity to become truly father and son in his formative years Jeremy, in his own words, ‘got to know and understand him [much later] for the fine man he was’.

For a short while he contemplated going into the church.  One weekend (and, Vicar David, I must beg your indulgence for this little cameo) he cycled over to the Franciscan friary at Hilfield with his friend Michael Bradbury.  The conditions were more than a little spartan so that, when they were woken by one of the brothers at 5.00 am for morning prayers with the appointed greeting ‘Christ be thy light’, instead of replying as instructed ‘And thy salvation’, Bradbury’s spontaneous response was ‘Christ, what a night!’.  Jeremy concluded that he’d better think again about the church.

It was during his national service that he resolved to join the Army.  He passed the Regular Commissions Board, and Sandhurst and in due course the DCLI followed – ‘happy, carefree days and we had a lot of fun’, he wrote of that time.  He and Ann were married in 1954 and army postings took them to the West Indies, thence to Germany and that great moment of Liney’s arrival in 1958 and the birth of one of the two most precious among the many relationships of his life – alongside the third, his devoted mother, until she died in 1975.

It was when he was in Bahrain that events began to conspire against his making the army his lifelong career and, after a brief term in Gibraltar, he resigned his commission and, now aged 33, began the search for a civilian career.  He later wrote that he was sad to leave the army ‘largely because of the friendships I had made …  But I shall always be grateful for all I learned about leadership, teamwork, orderliness, setting high standards and working hard to achieve them’.

Oh, and he did like order.  Was it really a coincidence that he died on the day of the month on which he was born?  Happily, that’s among the characteristics he bequeathed to Liney – as you know.  And what a guiding light he was to become in her and Jerry’s lives.

I think we all know that Jeremy’s attachment to the army and his regiment remained to the end of his life; but, arriving in the unfamiliar world of Shell, he found himself again among colleagues many of whom he would come to respect greatly, in a system large enough to give him ample scope to apply his considerable natural talents.

In due course he began to make his mark and to thrive, with appointments in London, Belfast through the early years of the Troubles, back to London as Head of Shell’s lubricants division.  I’m under the cosh not to labour lubricants, so let’s just say that he wrote with pride of how his team was coming to be ‘recognised for its dedication and professionalism’ – and market share was climbing impressively.  While he went on to even bigger jobs, including leading Shell UK’s southern region and the, for him, less natural habitat of its public affairs division, his major contribution was in getting alongside, leading and motivating people and their teams through times of serious change – all of which he did with great accomplishment.

But I am ahead of myself in the home department.  Its not an exaggeration to say that Jeremy’s life really began when he and June met, and they married in 1963.  They had arrived circuitously in each other’s lives but, as he would write soon after she died, ‘we enjoyed 53 quite wonderful years together.  It seemed to me the perfect love match for she was truly the greatest friend anyone could possibly have had.  She was gentle but strong and always ‘just there’.

In marrying June, Jeremy also took on not only John and Click but her redoubtable mother, Joan, and the aunts Peep and Keek.  Embracing them all, they became a close extended family, Grumpy and Junie unfailingly proud of their children and grandchildren and, in due course, of the girl friends, husbands and wives they began to acquire; just as Sunnyside became the centre of gravity for family weekends: the train-set in the attic, buying goldfish for the pond, croquet on the lawn, dodging June’s precious roses.

Of course he was hugely looking forward to becoming a great grandfather in July, and to dressing up for James and Lu next week – too bad!  I venture that you all, from John senior to James Hudson, and lots of cousins too, had a special place for him in your respect and affections, as he had for you.  He was always ‘supportive, thoughtful and interested’ – as Charlie put it; always especially tuned in to the lives, fortunes and misfortunes of your generation, somehow forever still young himself.

Matt, Jenny and I had the unusual privilege of a brother half a generation older who not only gave us a continuing link with our own heritage but became, for us and our families, a still point in our turning worlds, a confidant to whom one could entrust almost anything in the knowledge of a hearing always full of gentle realism, forward looking, free of judgment.  June once told us with great pride how, at his final send-off from Shell, his boss had said of of him ‘I never once heard Jeremy speak ill of anyone’.

Both naturally gregarious, Jeremy and June had extraordinary gifts of both making and keeping friendships – far too numerous to name.  And so, many of the letters Liney has received have spoken of the kindnesses and generosities which have long been the hallmarks of their spirit – while others recalled the characteristic ‘God bless’ rounding off a call or conversation.  ‘A very upright gentleman’ I also heard last week.

Truly, Jeremy lived his life for other people, always modest and unassuming of his own achievements, the fine man he became no doubt also shaped by the adversity of those early years.  You may have seen that Sir Roger Bannister’s family said of him that ‘he banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends’.  Jeremy, Jinx, Grumpy, Gruncle, Daddy banked his treasure firmly in all our hearts; and its for all of us to take good care of it.

So, finally, if there’s one more thing to say, it is that his faith – as well as this church and community – mattered to him in his same characteristically grounded way, perhaps most of all through the tough times.  His care of June through those latter years was itself a near saintly act of devotion.  The brothers at Hilfield are praying for him as we are here.

So I have no doubt at all that we may end by borrowing from the great Cardinal Newman, to whom we’ll return in a few minutes:

Go forth upon your journey, Christian soul.  Go, in the sure and certain knowledge of all the good your steadying lantern has shone into the world, and may your place be found in peace, this day and for all eternity.  Amen.

David French (h&m 65)