Colin Campbell Woodward
10th December 1937 – 24th July 2023
Funeral Address 16th August 2023 given by James Woodward
Durham Crematorium 11.30am
As we gather today to make our farewells to Colin – a much-loved father, grandfather, colleague, neighbour, and friend – there are so many feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds. I want to touch on three aspects of our loss as we celebrate his life and legacy.
First, our world has changed forever. On that Monday afternoon of July 24th, as he was recovering from surgery, Colin’s heart arrested, and our Dad died. He was not alone when he died. It is a blessing that his two daughters Jayne and Colleen, son in law George, were there alongside him, holding his hand with love and a prayer. At 85 Colin was frail, but nevertheless his death has come as a profound shock for all of us. Our lives just won’t quite be the same without his physical presence. We feel his loss. We feel the grief and shock of this new geography. An anchor has gone – Colin’s personality, his character, and his presence in, Number 13, the family home in which we grew up.
There is never a right time to let go of the ones we love, but it feels like Colin’s death has come very suddenly, and we would have loved just a little bit more time with him. But that was not to be – we must hand him back and live with the sorrow that comes when our parents leave us. For each of us, perhaps, death seems closer, and the balance of the generations has changed. The world is different place without Colin, and (to be honest) a little bit poorer without him. Lives are like rivers- eventually they flow where they must and not where we want them to.
The days since he died have felt strange, empty, and incomplete. So – what do we so? We stand alongside each other to support. We acknowledge that our tears and feelings matter. Perhaps we even wonder how on earth we are going to cope without him. All death diminishes us. The abiding strength of the northeast is that its communities know about the power of condolence, of human sympathy, of honesty and love. We notice. We bother. We care.
So, we mourn and grieve his going.
And as we mourn, we also give thanks for Colin’s life. This is the second theme running through today: we come together to be thankful for all that ‘me Dad’ was. We take consolation and strength from a life that has been well lived. We express our gratitude and thankfulness for all that Colin has given us and the legacy he leaves behind. Colin was a treasure of a man.
Born on the 10th of December 1937 in 164 Woodland Crescent Kelloe, Colin was blessed with the care and affection of a loving family. Jenny, Lillian, Robert, and Dad were close. Those post-war years were austere and making ends meet was tough. The extended family encouraged and nurtured his life with goodness. It gave Dad a deep sense of appreciation, of security and kindness.
He started work at East Hetton Colliery on the 5th of January 1952, aged 15. He was a miner, a pitman, through and through. At the committal we will hear “Gresford”, the tune he loved – the miners’ hymn. Work in the pit was tough and dangerous. It instilled in Dad a capacity for hard work and discipline. He was liked and appreciated by his colleagues in an industry where trust and team-work were vital. He was a good judge of character. He had a deep dislike for laziness and entitlement. The pit closed in June 1983, and he transferred to Easington until he retired in 1992. We all have vivid memories of the strike of 1984 to 1985 where the Government was determined to dismantle the mining industry. We still live with the consequences of those politics in the region. Wherever we have travelled or worked each one of us has been proud to tell those who asked that our dad was a coal miner. I still miss the heat and reassurance of a coal fire!
Dad and Mam (who had Kelloe connections) met outside the Pallatine Cafe in Blackpool in 1958, at the tender age of 21! Marriage followed at Holy Innocents Church Spennymoor 1959. A family of four followed. Colin and Pat made for each of us a happy and secure childhood home. They wanted the best for us and worked hard to make sure we had what we needed. Looking through the old pictures of us all has brought back some laughter at the memories of club trips, Redcar, (the coldest beach this side of the Antarctic) Scarborough, Whitby and much more. They were happy days, and we will always be indebted to Colin and Pat for that. And I hope that each of us brought some happiness and pride to them. Colin loved his family: marriages, good sons-in-law, grandchildren, new places to visit and trips abroad. They took pride in each of our achievements. Mind you, none of us were ever too old for the occasional telling off!
Alongside work and family, Colin knew what he liked and how to enjoy himself. There were the pigeons that he raced for many years. The garden, the leeks, and the horses. He had an instinct for a winner and loved to watch the racing, marking the results in the newspaper.
Dad was blessed with a good and kind nature. People liked him and warmed to his innate generosity, common sense, and his disarming sense of humour. He was courteous and interested in people. He was without any ‘side’ – his own man, comfortable in his own skin. I remember taking Dad to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party (the picture on the front of the service cover was taken there) where he was completely at ease with senior members of the Royal Household, Bishops and my work colleagues in Windsor Castle. He loved meeting new people. Many of you on hearing of his death described him as “a true gentleman”. He was always himself and his own man. Dad knew enough about the flaws in human character not to fall prey to idealizing people. He had a twinkle in his eye, a sense of humour and quick wit that nurtured his sense of life as gift, as the world as good. There is much to be grateful to him for. One could not have wanted more from him. These are some of his gifts to us.
And of course, we will never forget how he remained alongside Pat in her final years of illness, which were harrowing. But Colin was steadfast, and the love and support of family and friends in those years meant a great deal to him. In all of this Colleen has been a daily rock of practical dependability alongside Jayne and Billy.
So, grief in our loss, yes. And gratitude for Colin’s life well-lived, certainly. But also, third and finally, we give thanks for all that Colin will be. For us, Colin’s death is a sunset; for him, a sunrise. For us a sad goodbye. For him a new beginning. Today he rests in peace.
There is no pain-free existence. If we follow in this way of sacrifice, of embracing our vulnerability, as I believe Dad did, then we come to share the mind and spirit which can see the wonder of life as it is. Living for the moment. Choosing our battles. Doing good. It is the way of Love.
May God in his love and mercy be praised for the gift he has bestowed on us in the life of Colin Woodward. We hand him back to God. To that, with gratitude, we can all respond: Amen.