My Dad would have been 95 today and I do so very much miss him. I share this which I wrote shortly after his passing:-
During the afternoon of Tuesday January 3rd 2006 a great man passed away. Clarence Venables died in Chapel Brook Nursing Home in Congleton. This man who lived all his days in a small village in a pleasant part of rural England was a great man. Not known outside of a relatively small circle and yet a great man. How do we measure greatness? One way is to consider the beneficial impact that a man has on the lives of others.
A great family man Married to Evelyn for nearly 54 years (they were due to celebrate their anniversary on January 9th), he kept to his wedding vows in loving and cherishing his wife over this long period of time. And was it all straight forward? Of course not! Whenever is marriage all straight forward! And yet through joys and sorrows, easy times and hard times; he continued as a devoted husband.
Four children were given to them in marriage; John, Christine, Andrew and Philip who were born over ten years between 1952 and 1962. Through diligent hard work he provided for his family so that they never lacked. All were supported in their chosen careers. He never wavered in his duty to be a supportive father. Even when they grew older he was always there as a wise elder statesman to give his caring wisdom. For example, when John was going through hard days as he settled at High Lees Dad was there to call upon for support and give advice.
His family being together was always special and important to him. He was perhaps never happier than on those occasions when his children and grandchildren were surrounding him. There was, no doubt, some poetic providential beauty in the family gathering which took place at Mere View when all children and grandchildren were together on the night before he died. Of course he was absent, but it would have been such a special joy to him.
A great farmer He took on the tenancy of Hills Green Farm upon his marriage in 1952. He thereby was involved in managing the farm over a period of unprecedented change in the agricultural industry. Under his capable management the farm changed and moved forward. He farmed with due care for his animals and the countryside where he was privileged to work. He saw the business through great transitions whilst gradually from 1968 transferring responsibility to his sons; first John and then to Andrew.
A great employer His employees always would know his reasonableness. He expected them to work and work hard, but never exploited them. Due wages were always paid on time. Workers were always supported. He stood by his staff during their difficulties when possibly others would not have been so understanding.
A great community man He served his local community with diligence. His main contribution was in his service to the Siddington Parish Council which he served as a member from 1972 until 2002 being Chairman from 1982 until 1985. True to his character he fulfilled his duties with undemonstrative reliability.
Further he was a National Farmers Union (NFU) member. He served as chairman of the Chelford branch in 1975 to 1976.
A great man of sport Herein lay one of his great interests outside of his farming. All sports were of some interest to him except for motor sports which never really captured him. Football and cricket were his main passions. In the football realm he actively supported, Macclesfield Town, Stoke City, Siddington and Congleton Young Farmers over different periods. He was not the detached analyst rather he was the committed supporter. So at the matches there was always a passionate desire for his team to win. And as a committed supporter he had the natural tendency towards bias.
At different times the children were taken along as Dad would go to support his team. One highlight was in 1971 when they ventured down to Wembley to see Macclesfield triumph in the FA Trophy final against Telford.
Then there was the great love of his summer life; the life on the bowling green. Whether it was for the Dixon Arms or the Chelford NFU teams, he plied his sport with great success. Clarence urging his “woods” on with due fervour was a familiar sight across the bowling greens of Cheshire. Moreover, he treasured the camaraderie that he shared with “friend and foe” alike.
A great visiting man Oh how many people were thankful for a visit from Clarence. Unannounced he would drop round to many who were lonely and desperate for someone to talk to. The widows of Siddington and communities were kept from feeling forgotten and alone because one man cared enough to visit. He surely could have given night classes to teach others the skills of caring visitation.
It is worth noting that in this age when values have been so corrupted it is mark of his integrity that his wife, Evelyn, never had any reason to question his motives in doing this.
He is missed by so many in this respect. He was a man who even in the midst of a busy life had enough time to be kind to so many. He was a generous man.
A great market man He was a man who loved his visits to Chelford Market. His time with other farmers and cattle dealers was special to him as he discussed prices and market movements along with other issues of greater or lesser weight. Monday was a special day for him as it was market day. And after lunch with his group of friends at the market he set off on his round of regular visits.
A great man of principle This perhaps gets to the heart of who Clarence was. This is because he was a man who had firm principles. Through thick and thin he did not depart from the deep seated principles which he had learned in his early days. These convictions undergirded by biblical moral principles were the basis of his operations in the family, business and community spheres. So, for example, there was no working on Sunday other than to do the essential farm work.
With this moral framework determining his conduct he was a man who was respected by so many. A reliable and trustworthy man; one who gave his word and stuck by it. Yet he was not afraid to give a rebuke if he thought someone’s conduct warranted it. Accordingly, he was truly a man to be respected. He knew that money and temporary success were not the key issues in life. Clarence was a selfless man who preferred others rather than himself.
However it must be mentioned that he was not a dour man. He had a splendid understated sense of fun. Many will remember that little twinkle in his eye as something humorous struck him. But in having fun he always sought to maintain purity and it would never be at the expense of others.
A great caring man He was no Pharisee because his commitment to principle never prevented him exercising great care to other people. In fact it was, no doubt, his commitment to principle which drove him on to care for others. The comforting arm around Bunty Reeves as she mourned the loss of her husband, Cyril, at his graveside in early 1981 was just an example of his thoughtfulness.
His daughter, Christine, returning home too late one night from a night out was greeted with an arm of comfort and “I am glad that you are home”. Christine did not need to know that she had done wrong. Such welcoming words were honey to her heart.
A great religious man Brought up in Methodism he switched allegiance to the Anglican Church in the village in the 1970’s upon the closure of the Methodist Chapel. As he outworked his commitment to the church he desired that his children be given opportunity to learn of the things which he believed to be important and be found in the church. He served as a Church Warden and Sidesman at Siddington Church.
A great persevering man Life was not always easy for him. He lost his Mum when he was thirteen. The day was like any other day until he returned home from school to find that his mother had suddenly died. As can be expected this event had a massive impact upon him. What is more, in his late teenage years and early twenties he was particularly afflicted by severe mental troubles. These tendencies in many ways never fully left him and few people know how he fought against depressive illness throughout his whole life. What Winston Churchill called “his black dog” was also an unwanted companion for Clarence.
Herein perhaps lies the key determining factor of Clarence’s greatness. He was great because he accomplished so much even though he had suffered so much. These sufferings would have beaten others who were of a lesser calibre. Perhaps, his wife Evelyn and sister Kathleen are the people who really know the depth of these afflictions which would have destroyed many.
Clarence was, then, a great man. The Telegraph will not carry his obituary, but the farming community in Cheshire know that they have lost one of their greatest. We mourn, but we remember; a great husband, a great father, a great farmer, a great friend; …… a great man.