Thursday 26 August 2010

A verray parfit gentil knight

My father Freddy Brabyn died on 6th August 2010.  10 years of dementia had robbed him of much, and I believe his death was a liberation.  I miss him, but in the weeks since his death I've seen a great deal to celebrate.


For much of my adult life, my father was, to varying degrees, dependent.  Dependent no more, he thrives in the memories of the many people who have been in touch to remind me and my sisters of his charm, gentleness, inventiveness and iconoclasm.  In dozens of conversations I've encountered him in his prime: encouraging, challenging and fun.  I've been surprised how many women of all ages miss him especially!  I even find mourning giving way to envy of a man who was reportedly part Angry Young Man, part Austin Powers and part Richard Burton.  But of all the adjectives "gentle" is the most recurrent.


Among the many acts of kindness I've witnessed, two stand out especially.  Canon John Wilson came out of retirement to deliver a very personal and thoughtful funeral tribute to a man whose courtesy he compared to Chaucer's Knight from the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales - "He was a verray parfit gentil knight."

I'm very grateful too to Paul Willis and the Ladies A crew of the Padstow Pilot Gig Rowing Club.  I called Paul, chairman of the club and asked him a curious favour.  He instantly agreed, and as a result we were able to scatter my father's ashes at sea from the club's newest gig - the "Brabyn".  This sleek craft is named after Steven Brabyn, my great great uncle who owned a boatyard in Padstow in Cornwall.  My father worked in the boatyard as a young man, played in the sea nearby as a boy and fell in love with the ocean while serving in the Royal Navy.  I cannot think of a more fitting resting place.  Many thanks to the crew, who (with me causing chaos in the bow seat) rowed my father on his final journey and then delivered a very moving silent raised oar salute.


I'm not the only Brabyn to have discovered the launch of "Brabyn" - since posting on the Gigrower forum I've been contacted there and via Facebook by several second and third cousins around the world.  I've even been invited to join a gig rowing club!  Although my father is no longer with us in person he has helped bring together the Brabyn diaspora around the world.


  1. I am sorry for your loss Ben, but amased by your unique way of celebrating his life. Truly inspirational

  2. our thoughts are with you Ben.

    We lost my grandma last year and this post give me an idea of how to be even more positive..