Script for the Extended Eulogy 5.2.2022
This is probably the last time that I will ever be speaking in public and to me it is fitting that it be to honour my lifelong friend Hamish.
My name is Hunter Mabon and I regard myself as being Hamish´s best friend, despite living in Sweden for the last 60 years. My family and I have in fact had a life closely intertwined with Hamish´s since we first met as 10 year olds at Heriot´s. Now some people may feel that to remain close friends with Hamish for that period of time you would have to live 1000 miles away. At least.
I disagree. My interactions with Hamish over the years have brought me and my family great pleasure and I would like to think that he felt the same. We laughed on the phone for a while a few days before he died and even in the hospital only hours before he passed away he was still hopeful and optimistic. That´s the way I want to remember Hamish and I would like to talk about the fun we had with him throughout his life, rather than give a chronological account of his various achievements. I won´t spend too much time on his successes at cricket and rugby; those who knew him at least fairly well could probably recite his batting average and top scores off by heart, having heard him talking about them often and at length. Nor will I say much about his various trials and tribulations, many of which he brought upon himself.
I was, however, mindful of the dictum:
De mortuis nil nisi bonum – Never speak ill of the dead
This rather worried me as I feared that if I followed this advice to the letter it would be a rather short funeral oration.
I choose, however, to follow the immortal words of the poet Christina Rossetti:
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
I first met Hamish at the age of 10 when we were playing in the Heriot´s junior school rugby team. He was not very big, had rosy cheeks and golden curly hair. He was always immaculately turned out with a clean white shirt every day while the rest of us had grey shirts calibrated to last at least a week. His appearance didn´t change much for the next 30 years which was useful when buying youth flight tickets to London. He last bought a ticket of that type at the age of 38. Rosy complexion, a cheery expression and modest height can get you a long way in that respect.
Some defining features of Hamish were manifested by his early teens. In these impoverished days of the early 1950s we were entitled to 1/3 of a pint of milk each day to save us from scurvy and other ailments. The milk had to be distributed to each classroom every morning and this required a number of pupils to help. This task appealed to skivers like Hamish who were keen at all costs to avoid the rigours of the classroom.
One morning we were sitting in a physics laboratory awaiting the teacher, a Mr Sowrie, who was setting up some apparatus which involved him crouching on the floor behind his desk. The door opened and the milk monitor Hamish appeared. There being no sign of the teacher Hamish bellowed: “Where´s that bastard Sowrie?” Excuse the profanity. This was the fully formed Hamish in a nutshell: cheerful, nonchalant, risk-taking, brash, belligerent, self-confident. He retained all of these qualities, positive and negative, for the rest of his life.
As we approached the end of our schooling Hamish was perhaps the leading sports star at the school. He was the stand-off for the school XV and had opened the batting for the school team for several years. In these days even senior school sport was covered by the local papers and Hamish´s name was often in these match reports. It should be added, however, that many of these school reports were written by players themselves or friends, the standard payment being half a crown per report. Hamish, as always with an eye to the main chance, undertook to write the reports for Heriot´s School rugby and cricket matches. This was a nice little earner but opened up other possibilities as well, perhaps the real reason for Hamish´s enthusiasm. When the season began we rushed to buy the Evening News hoping to see our names in print, perhaps for the first time. But we quickly noticed that one name dominated the reports, an astonishing youth called Hamish More.
This young man´s talent was to the fore when we won and he always fought bravely to the end.when we lost. Our friendship was pushed to the limit when I ran the length of the field from inside our 22 to touch down under the posts. Probably the only time in my life I have ever done so. The match report read: “More cleverly created a gap near the Heriot´s line then beat man after man on his way to the opposing 22, before sending Mabon in for an easy try.”
As we grew a bit older, our interest turned towards the young ladies of Gillespies, Mary Erskines and many others.. My wife, who was one of these young ladies told me recently that all the girls she knew wanted to go out with Hamish or with me at that time. Fortunately for me and for her, she chose me. We are still married after 60 years while Hamish remained a highly eligible bachelor for another decade.
Hamish had no interest in university studies and he took a job in insurance, where he remained until he retired. But cricket remained his first love throughout his life; at 27 he was an established international player and received an offer of a trial for Somerset. This was a success and he was offered a summer contract of £300. County cricket has never been well paid and that sum was not enough to attract him away from an impending marriage and a reasonably well paid insurance job. I´m sure he made the right decision, but throughout his life there has always been a tinge of sadness that he did not follow his dream.
Hamish married Marie, an Edinburgh girl, and they had two children, Lesley and Hamish Jr. Tragedy struck after a few years when Marie contracted and died of cancer, leaving Hamish in his mid thirties with two children under school age to bring up alone. This he did heroically and I think it would be fair to say that he continued to do so throughout his whole life and theirs; always available, willing to help, giving advice, opening doors and providing financial help when required. And that of course applied as well to his beloved grandchildren Cian and Lily. Perhaps a bit too much of a “mother hen”, but Maries early death had left a permanent mark on the whole family, for which Hamish did everything to compensate.
Our families got together regularly in Edinburgh, Stockholm and in Italy. Not to mention all over Europe and the rest of the world on various sporting outings. One of the first of these outings was for his honeymoon, when he and his bride came to Stockholm. By sheer chance he had brought his rugby boots along and so we were able to enlist him in our rugby team Stockholm Exiles where he fitted in a couple of games. And he returned 50 years later to celebrate the club´s 50th anniversary, along with a few other survivors from the 1960s.
Hamish Jr told me just a couple of weeks ago that he had mentioned to his wife that a friend of his father, i e me, had named a son Hamish and that he had asked Hamish Sr to be the godfather. Her response: “Did he lose a bet, or something?” O tempora, o mores! Which in this context may be loosely translated as “What harsh times we live in, Mrs More”.
Hamish proved, however, to be the most diligent of godfathers, faithfully attending all family occasions and travelling to watch his godson playing his first and final games of rugby for Sweden in far-flung parts of Europe. And his godson is here today to pay homage.
Hamish lived in the same house in Silverknowes for close on 50 years. The house was pleasant and perfectly adequate for family requirements. Yet Hamish talked about moving “uptown” for about 40 years without it ever coming to pass.
The house had a very small front garden, about 6 feet by 4 feet. Hamish tended it lovingly and it was always a sea of brightly coloured flowers. I often suggested that he should throw it open to the general public each Spring, but he declined modestly.
Hamish had quite often small parties in his home. These always followed the same pattern; the guests were a dozen or so old pals, there was a table laden with rather expensive cheeses and rather less expensive bottles of red wine. Reminiscent of a cabinet meeting or a working midnight gathering at No 10. Hamish´s bargain hunting was exhibited when it came to wines. He would bombard me with cuttings from magazines and advertisements stating that various bottles of plonk were far superior to the most majestic of clarets or burgundies. I was not convinced. Fortunately, Hamish could usually find the odd bottle of up-market stuff when I came calling.
His parties were always very enjoyable and there were even impromptu gatherings after rugby internationals. At one of these Ian Milne, the Bear, uprooted the only tree in the garden with his “bare” hands. It seemed a good idea at the time.
Hamish was involved in insurance all his working life and became rather good at it. His job latterly consisted of following up leads of people who wanted insurance or generating and advising professionals he knew about relevant policies. Obviously it didn´t do any harm to have a wide circle of relatively well-off sporting acquaintances who would always at some stage or another need insurance.
Hamish never pursued the hard sell, as good a way as any to lose most of your friends. But if someone in the bar after a match mentioned en passant that it was time for him to resolve some insurance issue, Hamish would say nothing but ring the person on the Monday morning with a fully thought-out proposal. On a couple of occasions Hamish got an award as the British salesman of the year but the perceptive top brass in the insurance business then raised your target to the exceptional results of the year before. As a result I know that one of the times he got the top award, the following year he received a formal letter saying that unless his sales performance improved his employment would be terminated! Brilliant man management!
All that nonsense was swept aside about 25 years ago when the internet and computers could do most of their work and a whole elder generation became redundant. They were, however, given generous retirement packages and at 55 Hamish found himself fancy free and with a comfortable income to pursue his personal interests.
Approaching this retirement and with a decent salary, it has to be said that Hamish´s work ethic was not always at the highest level. More than once on holiday with us in Italy he could be heard with a croaky voice explaining to his office that he was not quite right and that it would be best if he were to stay in bed for the rest of the week. By this he meant a sun bed. But he is also widely credited with being the instigator of the 4 ½ day week when work would transfer to a hostelry at Friday lunchtime and continue on a more informal basis, often offering policies or himself to a younger female clientele.
Hamish loved to travel and was always on the lookout for bargains. He would use any subterfuge to get upgrades, improved accommodation etc. He used to write regularly to the chairman of British Airways, Lord King, after trips with real or imagined complaints. I´m sure King´s office had the standard reply to pests, probably filed under Hamish More, where a vague apology was given along with a 50 pound voucher towards his next BA flight. When it came to hotels Hamish´s normal procedure when booking was to mention that he was on his honeymoon. He routinely received an upgrade and over the years I think he spent more time in honeymoon suites than Elisabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Once, when travelling on his own, I think heading for Australia, he managed to wangle a first class ticket over the Atlantic where my brother and I met him in Los Angeles; he was for some reason in full highland regalia and beaming benignly after 11 hours of first class hospitality.
Another passport when travelling and wangling his way into various cricket grounds and other facilities was his membership of the MCC, cricket’s former governing body. The famous red and yellow tie was like an Open Sesame to all cricketing matches, events and celebrations. I once accompanied him to Barbados to watch a test match in a series between England and the West Indies. With panama hat, white shirt and the famous tie he effortlessly made his way into the members´ stand murmuring a few famous cricketing names to the doorman. With no credentials whatsoever, I was firmly stopped at the door. Hamish stepped forward immediately and said: “That´s all right, I´ll vouch for that man”. It was on the tip of the doorman´s tongue to say: “Yes sir, but who are you?” But faced with such an obviously senior figure in the world of cricket, he meekly stepped aside. We thus gained entry into a small group including the great Sir Gary Sobers and the perhaps not quite so great Geoff Boycott, now Sir Geoff. Hamish was on first name terms with many of the great and good in world cricket but Boycott was one of the few with whom he did not get on. Perhaps because both opened the batting for their respective countries, both had a steely, dedicated approach to the game and both regarded themselves as being the best batsman in the world. Boycott no doubt viewed Hamish as a lesser mortal but there is a wonderful picture of Hamish waving the cricketer´s bible, the Wisden Almanack, in Boycott´s face, at the end of the year when Hamish´s batting average was superior to that of Boycott´s.
It has been hinted that Hamish could be rather argumentative, sometimes concerning completely unimportant subjects, but often concerning the relative merits of individual players and teams. Although often holding completely untenable views he would resort to every subterfuge to win the day.
I recently came across an article about the German philosopher Schopenhauer where it stated that he had produced a list of 38 ways to win an argument. They were all rather dishonest such as changing the focus of the argument slightly to make it easier to defend, or personally insulting your opponent. I doubt if Hamish was steeped in the works of Schopenhauer, but going through the list he seems to have ticked almost all the boxes intuitively.
Hamish was manic about collecting things and getting bargains. These passions were combined a number of years ago when companies encouraged consumer loyalty for various foodstuffs by rewarding those who returned a number of paper labels from cans of processed food. Hamish embraced this challenge emphatically and probably bought more cans and products than his household or consumption required. The modest rewards rolled in, however, and Hamish proudly showed me a cupboard stuffed with unlabelled metal cans His enthusiasm was dampened a little when I asked him how he was going to distinguish among the products which the tin cans contained.
Hamish was not a great linguist and obviously happy that most of the cricketing world spoke English. The 6 Nations trail and holidays took him to France and Italy, however, and here he was forced to be creative. He had studied Latin at school and made courageous attempts to address waiters and concierges in Rome in that language. This caused confusion and sometimes hysterical laughter, but Hamish persevered despite being 2000 years behind the times.
His Latin skills were also to the fore in other contexts; once, when playing for the MCC, the team included a young classics don from Oxford. As always keen to impress, Hamish asked him “Quantum est ille canis in fenestra?” (How much is that doggy in the window?) The academic replied: “Very good Hamish, but I think you might find the next line a bit trickier” That´s the one about having a waggily tail.
In France it was not much better, but he could usually order a two-syllable steak frites. France presented other problems, however. Not so many years ago less salubrious public toilets consisted of a hole in the floor. This baffled Hamish on first sighting and his strategy, as he told it, consisted of taking off all his clothes and balancing one foot on the floor, an arm and a leg against opposite side walls and the palm of his remaining hand flat against the roof. Spider man before his time. Actually utilising the toilet created further logistical problems, but we can perhaps spare these for another day. Marcel Marceau, eat your heart out.
I must of course say something about Hamish´s sporting prowess, although I’m happy to see that this has already been given extensive coverage in the Scotsman and other media. The excellent obituary in the Scotsman by Jack Davidson gives a detailed account of his many sporting triumphs.
I think a case can be made for Hamish being the leading Scottish batsman of his generation. Hamish himself made that case many times both publicly and privately, and I believe it to be true. He represented his country for 15 years, played club cricket into his fifties, for the MCC and top invitational teams into his sixties and even sneaked into the odd charity game in his seventies. Fortunately his mobility created problems of late, otherwise he would have been desperately trying to get a game in his eighties. He leaves a litany of scoring records which may never be surpassed. Many of you will know that the MCC encourages the sport at grass-roots level by fielding teams every weekend throughout the UK. Hamish played over 350 games for the MCC, an incredible number for which he was given an award at Lord’s, the MCC headquarters in London. Hamish played with many of the exalted names of world cricket and followed test matches all over the world. He was a great ambassador for the game and to many people in many countries he was quite simply Mr Scottish Cricket. There are worse epithets and epitaphs. And remember there are far more cricket clubs than rugby clubs in Scotland.
Though not quite as exalted on the rugby field, Hamish was still a top-class stand-off turning out 150 times for Heriot´s. He could sell a dummy, got off the mark quickly and was a reliable goal-kicker. I never saw him make a tackle when it could be avoided but at 70-odd kilos at that time this was probably the right decision. He played for Edinburgh a couple of times in the intercity match and won a medal in the border sevens which he wore for the rest of his life. He also took a great pride in having bridged the generation gap between two of the Heriot´s greats, having played with both Ken Scotland and Andy Irvine.
Hamish, as we all know, was a great character with an inexhaustible fund of stories, sporting and otherwise, which could keep people entertained for hours. He even became a popular after-dinner speaker in later years where stories and jokes were trundled out to universal acclaim.
But there was also a brash and abrasive side to Hamish as well which caused unnecessary problems he wasn´t always able to resolve. He waited until he was 25 before getting his first full cricket cap, although manifestly good enough 5 years before; stating publicly that the selectors couldn’t pick their noses did not advance his cause. And his last campaign, unresolved at his death, was to achieve membership of the Scottish cricket Hall of Fame. He had outscored all of his international contemporaries, many of whom had become members. But memories are perhaps long in the cricketing hierarchy and recently getting friends to write accusatory newspaper articles would not have helped either. He may even have missed out on a rugby cap when he told yet another selector that there was no way he would go to the apartheid South Africa when a rugby tour was planned in the 1960s and he was one of 3 or 4 possible stand-offs. Although in this case he emerged with much greater credit than the SRU.
A propos South Africa, one of the few areas where he and I never argued concerned politics. Hamish and his brother George, the distinguished lawyer, and myself were the only left wingers I ever met in the Heriot´s community. I made a new life in the socialist, neutral Sweden, George took up left wing causes in the law courts and Hamish remained a lone voice crying in the wilderness, regularly resorting to the Schopenhauer principles.
Please don’t let me give the impression that Hamish was always at odds with his surroundings, however. Those who knew him better were touched by the manner in which he maintained contact with a wide circle of friends who in later years suffered illness, infirmity or bereavement. He was regularly in contact by phone, letters, emails or visits to friends whom he judged to need support or companionship. In this he showed a great deal of empathy not evident in his public persona.
Many of Hamish´s conflicts and arguments were of course tongue in cheek, send-ups, intended for entertainment and often dissolving in laughter. That was the nature of the man. As good a way as any to become the centre of attention.
Hamish had for many years a rather morbid interest in funerals, not least his own. Today´s event has been planned meticulously and all arrangements made well in advance. Hamish also kept a list of those he wanted invited to his funeral and another list of those to be excluded. These lists were periodically reviewed and adjustments made. The long-term trend was that the invited list got shorter and the excluded list longer. The criteria for making one or other of the lists were complicated and not always readily apparent. One factor was, however, cricket. Many years ago the main challengers to Heriot´s hegemony in the East of Scotland cricket league were Watsonians. The matches between them were hard-fought battles with sledging, ball-tampering, disputed calls, outright cheating and occasional fisticuffs. Hamish was very much involved in all of this, sometimes the instigator, and for a considerable period of time many of those on the funeral exclusion list were in fact Watsonians. As Hamish mellowed with old age and members of both lists played an important if passive role in their own funerals, talk of the lists seemed to fade away and to my knowledge they have not been reactivated for today´s gathering. I would, however, suggest that if any Watsonians are here today I cannot guarantee that there will be no repercussions.
It is no coincidence that this funeral has been scheduled for 12 noon on a Friday. For close on 30 years Hamish and a group of prominent male Edinburgh worthies got together in some hostelry at this time for their boys´ lunch. “Boys” was a misnomer from the start as the participants were probably on the wrong side of 50 but as the years went by, the number changed to 60, 70 and more recently 80. This became the highlight of the week for many including Hamish who acted as an unofficial convenor. The lunches covered the gossip of the week in the local business and sporting sectors as well as a test of sporting recollections. A welcome outsider and lasting member was the great English footballer Johny Haynes who had moved to Edinburgh for family reasons. Johny was a very pleasant, modest man not at all the stereotypical professional footballer; Hamish was never one to avoid rubbing shoulders with sporting greats and he and Johny became good friends. When Johny died, Hamish was as always to the fore in providing colour materials for the several books produced to commemorate the great man and of course to supervise the funeral celebrations.
The passage of time has reduced the number of “boys” taking part in these lunches. I feared, short of a not entirely unexpected resurrection, that today would be the last of the ”boys lunches”, but I am, however, told that the six survivors, most of whom are now in their 80s, will be flying the flag for the foreseeable future.
Hamish never remarried, but his partner for the last 25 years has been Kathy Hutton. I suspect Hamish was first attracted to Kathy when he saw her surname…… but the relationship quickly developed into something deeper. I´d like to pay tribute to Kathy who apart from having to look after an elderly mother took upon herself the even more demanding task of looking after Hamish. In addition, during that period, Kathy as a mature student obtained an excellent degree and held down a qualified job. Congratulations to her on all fronts.
I spoke regularly at Hamish´s even birthdays for many years and on one such occasion I claimed that Britain suffered two calamities in 1940; the lesser one was Dunkirk, the major one the birth of an almost perfectly formed son to Mr and Mrs More.
On another birthday I used Shakespeare’s “All the world´s a stage” to analyse the seven ages of Hamish. I didn´t know him when he was “mewling and puking” in his nurse´s arms, although there was a certain among of puking in later ages and I certainly knew him when he was creeping like snail unwillingly to school. Skipping four ages we arrive at “Last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history is second childishness and mere oblivion – sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”.
Albeit the grief and sadness we all feel at the passing of Hamish, I am consoled that he never reached that final age. He died suddenly of a massive heart attack followed by a stroke which paralysed one side of his body. Had he survived it would have been unbearable for him and for his many friends to find him in a wheelchair needing assistance with most of life´s necessities. We wanted him to survive, but not perhaps on these terms.
One of Hamish´s many nicknames was Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. In some ways Hamish never did grow up, he remained the young boy shouting abuse at someone in authority, but with a twinkle in his eye. You may remember that Peter Pan said “To die will be a wonderful adventure”. Well Hamish is now embarked on that adventure. None of us know for sure what the after-life has to offer but if any cricket is played there we can be certain that Hamish will be opening the batting and still mouthing insults at the bowlers and umpires.
One final relevant thought on death was suggested by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. We all have to die physically but the ultimate ending of our lives really occurs when we are no longer talked about, remembered, quoted, admired or have humorous stories told about us. From that viewpoint I have penned the following, which I hope will contribute to establishing Hamish´s continued ethereal presence:
We know that in our heart of hearts
His mortal life is finished
This leaves a wide gap in our lives
And we all feel diminished
But let´s remember Sartre´s words
And bring stories to mind
There are so many anecdotes
That are not hard to find
Many concern his favourite sport
His much beloved cricket
And how he often found himself
Upon a sticky wicket
This means we can perpetuate
The jokes and tales of yore
And thus ensure Hamish himself
wIll live for ever More