Pru Mclaughlin has asked me to post my eulogy for those of you who were unable to make the funeral. It is a bit on the long side and probably better heard than read. But here you are.
How can I, in a few short minutes, sum Peter Gorman’s life up?
I can’t, so I won’t.
I’ll take more than a few short minutes, because let’s face it; this is a time for reflection and celebration, and I’m not going to miss anything out if I can possibly help it.
When I first phoned my Uncle Rab to tell him and Helen of my dad’s diagnosis Rab told me, “Mark, you need to do everything you can to help that great man”.
Those three words That great man struck a chord with me then, and still stand out now, as the words that best describe my father.
Bismarck said that
A really great man is known by three signs- generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, and moderation in success.
I think that quote perfectly encapsulates the essence of my father.
And I’ll read you it again
A really great man is known by three signs- generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, and moderation in success.
Generosity in the design is the first of those signs
My father was most certainly generous to a fault in the giving of his ideas, his creativity, his energy and his skills.
Humanity in the execution is the second
He had a humanity about his actions that were probably only apparent to those that were closest to him. Not all of you will know of his work with the St Vincent De Paul (alongside my mother) or the endless painting of old ladies kitchens and living rooms that he never charged full rate for, even if half of them were loaded.
Or, surely the supreme irony, the ridiculously successful wine and cheese nights for the down and outs (or DOMs as my dad called them) that he and my mum hosted every spring in Holy Cross Church Hall.
But it is the third sign that most strikes me as being right on the button when it comes to describing the great man that was Peter Gorman.
“Moderation in success”.
Despite outward signs to the contrary my father was a very modest man and his success was rarely very public. By contrast I’ve spent a great deal of my own life in the limelight and yet I have achieved very little in comparison to the treasure trove of humanistic jewels that my father collected.
In his later years that more public recognition started to emerge. In 2004 he was nominated for, and won, a Radio Forth Award, and earlier this year my great friend, Mike Donoghue, nominated dad for the inaugural Edinburgh Award. The fact that Mike’s nomination was accepted and he only lost out on a countback to Ian Rankin is testimony to his contribution to this, one of the great cities of the world.
(Actually, the countback bit might not be strictly true).
But whether that success was publicly lavished upon him or not does not matter a jot. The presence of so many of you here today does.
Over the last few months people have said to me about his illness that it’s not fair, he’s been snatched away from us so young and words to that effect.
I see it differently actually.
· He had three score years and ten (plus a year for good behaviour).
- He’d done pretty much everything he’d ever wanted to do.
- With my mother he had raised a family he was immensely proud of
- He got pretty close to the finishing line in reasonable shape
- He left us relatively quickly and peacefully
- And he bore no grudges, had no unfinished business.
Of course we’d all like more time, most especially my mum, but let’s not get too downhearted here. He left this mortal coil satisfied that he’d said all he had to say, and believe me that was plenty enough for anybodies lifetime.
I think that’s a pretty decent result.
Because we had time to talk to him before he left us we were able to recount many of the occasions and chapters in his life that meant the most to him and us. We had a right good laugh at some of them and I want to share them on behalf of all of the family with you now.
One thing you most certainly could not accuse Peter Gorman of, was being one-dimensional. So, this account might wander about a bit, but you will forgive me that I hope.
So, as Davina says; let’s look at some of his best bits.
Dad was not from a wealthy family. Occasionally he would regail us with the tales of growing up with his 43 brothers and sisters in a soaking wet shoebox on the M8 (long before it was built admittedly) getting woken up at 4 in the morning, having a load of rotting fish dumped all over them and then being forced to lick the tarmac clean, before working a 23 hour shift building the Winchburgh shale bings by hand. And of course, you try telling young folk that today and they won’t believe a word of it.
Consequently though, this made dad a world expert in skip raking and log gathering. (In fact James and Emily tell me that when James returns triumphantly from Tesco with a half price tray of oysters he is prone to exclaim “look what I found in the skip rake”).
One of the happiest days of my dad’s life must have been when, having moved into Bonnington Terrace, he discovered that the open demolition site of the burnt down Chancelot Mill was in fact the world’s largest repository for beams of wood. Actually, he may have bought the house for PRECISELY that reason. It was just perfect for him and I to spend a cheerful morning climbing through piles of rubble extracting the timber to go home and saw into 18” lengths to burn on our, admittedly lovely, living room fire.
If I’d been given a pound for every time he said to one of our visitors, “Mark gets two heats from this fire, once when he’s sawing the wood and once when it’s on. Arf arf.” I could have bought him a gas living flame fire and paid for the gas bill for the near 20 years we stayed there.
This thrift store glee has clearly rubbed off on Jane who is something of a bargain seeker herself – her favourite shop is TK Maxx and she has been known to freecycle the skips of Edinburgh – but never so spectacularly as the day my Father sneaked us up to Arboretum Road in the middle of the night to rehouse a velvet three piece suite to what was known as “The Green Room”. OK it smelt a little bit of stale urine for the next 10 years – but it was a bargain.
The Green Room. Now that was a name that always made me laugh as it sounded like we were descended from some dynasty of lost Russian Tsars. Perhaps that was why my father was so keen on his alter ego; Pietro Gormanovitch. I always loved that loose association of geographic derivation, Pietro being of Sicilian origination and Gormanovitch, presumably, a little-known family name from somewhere in the foothills of the Urals.
In honour of this I have registered my latest Scotsman Fantasy Golf team as Marcello Santos Gormanovitchslikova and my son Tom, not to be outdone, has registered as Tomas Gonadas.
Back to the woodcutting days. It would be fair to say that dad and I did not exactly see eye to eye on this one. Indeed many altercations arose as a result of this torture I felt I had to endure. But in the long run it was all worth it for one truly momentous 30 seconds of sheer and utter joy. The greatest moment of my then teenage life.
Big Davy Morrison, known to all and sundry as Gagy for his ability to clutch a pipe and carry on a conversation simultaneously, is a lifetime friend and agent provocateur of my father. Davy came round one evening, resplendent in top hat and kipper tie, on his way to The Lord Nelson with my dad. Why on earth he was dressed up like Pete Doherty on a bad day is anybodies guess because to say the Lord Nelson was salubrious was as if to say Heart of Midlothian have a rosy future.
And, while we are on the subject of fashion, I would like to thank David Reid for posing the question “Who else would dress up on a day to day basis like a weird and wonderful combination of Peter Blake, Dr john and a French Onion seller?”
Anyway, back to Gagy…as my father was upstairs preparing for the evening’s entertainment, Gagy, as was his want, wandered out to the back garden to offer words of encouragement to me as I toiled under the strain of sawing up the latest batch of 16 hundredweight of oak found in a lay-by at Abingdon that morning. Rich in sap and therefore doubly difficult to cut I was not best pleased to see ‘Gagy’ sookin’ and blawin’ on his ubiquitous pipe. His cheery demeanour only adding to my frustration and, it must be said, rage.
However Gagy, being the good old soul that he is, let forth on one of his child labour tirades aganst Pego to which I was a willing subscriber and then, in an act of great unselfishness, dispensed with the titfer and took an end of the bowsaw to assist, at least for a few moments.
The moment was short though because no sooner had we started than he shrieked with horror. “Ma tie!” Somehow it had become ensnared in the sawing process and been cut sheer in half. “Sylvia’ls gonnae kill me. It’s ma best tie and I only got it yesterday”.
Well, to say that was a tension releaser would be something of an understatement. Indeed, in years to come it would be known as David’s folly, so much so that on the occasion of Gagy’s 50th Birthday, my dad gave him a miniature model of the trestle, saw and half a tie as a memorial to said article.
I talked earlier of my dad’s generosity but that virtue applies equally to my mum because we all know that behind every great man is a great woman; and never was that adage truer than here.
In the past few months the depth of my parents relationship; love actually, has shone out as a beacon to me. He didn’t want my mum to be swamped by the physical burdon of nursing him and she did remarkably well to resist the temptation to do too much. However the emotional nursing that she gave him was both inspiring and very moving.
One, quite simply, cannot eulogise about my father without eulogising about my mother too. And that is the way he would have wanted it.
Three episodes of selfless generosity stand out for me in my mum and dad’s life. The first, was the love and devotion that they showed to Jane, when at an early age she became pregnant with Emma. Not only did they selflessly look after mother and child but they welcomed Nik, another great man by anyone’s standards, into their lives.
You look at Jane’s family now and realise what a great gift their generosity was to them.
The love, and support that they showed Sara when she returned from the sunny shores of Goa with a little extra baggage cannot be underestimated either. Indeed Denny was unquestionably the apple of my Father’s eye. Who, that knows of it, can forget the Starsky and Hutch-esque race through the streets of Edinburgh with Sara writhing about in agony in the advanced stages of labour on the back seat of his Nissan Micra as it became the first portable Gormanovitch Labour ward sitting in a parking bay at the door of the Simpson Maternity Pavilion. Close, but no cigar!
The momentous motor was later traded-in and when the dealer enquired what the large stain on the back seat was, with a shrug of the shoulders Dad said “Ach, we just spilt some water”.
When I started my own company in 1993 with a wife, child, two bairns on the way, a 30% wage cut on the horizon, and not a brass farthing to my name they unhesitatingly stumped up the not insubstantial capital to fund (by way of a loan – and no guarantee of repayment) my part of the birth of 1576.
Of course, my dad never wanted me to breathe a word of this to my sisters. But now I think is an opportune moment to thank him publicly for his role in the setting up of such a great company.
Talking of the world of commerce; Dad had a go at entrepreneurship upon being made redundant from Flexello Castors and wheels.
Although dad worked extremely hard all his life it would be fair to say that he was a modernist; believing that you work to live and not vice versa. Whilst it would be a stretch of the imagination to describe his venture in setting up the next Macdonalds food chain as a success, it spawned a sub-culture like no other.
I, like everyone else in the family, in fact almost everyone else I know, took my place behind the counter at Yumble Dumbles; but it is Sara that is most central to this tale.
For those of you who were not fortunate enough to experience this epicurian nirvana let me first describe to you the signature dish; everything else will make sense thereafter.
A long brown finger role stuffed with stovies, and a double sized link sausage looked remarkably like a finger in a poultice and hence spawned the name “The Sair Finger”.
But it was the unique language of Yumble Dumbles that linger longest in my memory and are so symbolic of my dad’s wit, humour and individualism. What more could an individualist have than his own language.
Nowhere else in the world do the following phrases, sayings and words exist.
Look up Shabs in the Oxford English dictionary and it draws a blank. Type Shabs into Google and it says “did you mean shacks?”
In Yumble Dumble land though, Shabs was the king of words. The most popular put down.
Shabs referred to someone talking about a subject of no interest. For instance if I came home to my wife and recalled, hole-by-hole, my afternoon’s golf she would be required to throw her head to one side and say “shabs”.
Or, if particularly unimpressed, Shaaaaabs.
A Shabster was a truly shabbish person. Or animal. We named one of our cats Shabs.
A thudme was a customer who was so dull (beyond shabbishness) that they would literally bore you senseless and thudme was the sound of your arse hitting the floor…with a thud.
Yumblitious was, of course, something really tasty. I vividly recall reheated, three day old, pizzas being presented at tea time at home with my dad trying to convince us they were edible by proclaiming them; Yumblitious.
He fooled no-one.
Delicados was the Sunday word for Yumbleitious. As in “Hmm Hmm delicados!” (The high pitched voice was an important part of the language).
Anyone who was in the least bit sibilant (or, as Sara corrected me, someone suffering from whistled articulation) was mocked mercilessly in the back shop by the request for “sixty six portions of spicy sausages please.”
And requests to tidy up the shop were never straightforward. Instead this required a rendition of the clangers….
His name Pego stemmed from those days too, as did Sago, Mago, Jago and Lorenzo the magnificent;
But more inventive names were saved for others. Let’s start with the poor guy who was a bit slow in doing what my dad had asked him to do – he was known as…… Tony A’hm gonnae,
The deep sighing lady was known as Sighanara
…and Shona who never filled the cups of tea to the top? Naturally she was Shona half cup.
It was at Yumble Dumbles that it was first noted that my dad cut paper, not with scissors, but with his mouth. Like so Mime mouth-like scissor movements) …
And latterly, when clicking a mouse, it too had its own mouth movement…
But we all agreed the other day that our collective all time favourite Yumble Dumbles moment came not from Pego but from my cousin Julie who, on being unable to find the serrated edged knife, asked him. “Where’s the jaggy knife Uncle Peter?”.
He was fond of his anecdotes and wee sayings and one of my favourites was his toast.
“May the best ye’ve ever seen be the worst you’ll ever see
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal wi a teardrop in it’s ee.
May yer lum keep blithely reekin’ till yir auld enough tae dee
May ye aye be just as happy as I wish ye now tae be.”
And of course the well practiced duet, usually with Sara or Lorenzo the magnificent
“You got a light Mac?”
“No, but I’ve got a dark brown overcoat.”
He told me a story against himself on the odd occasion that I really liked. As a child he one day spotted, through the fence of the local carbonated drinks factory, a pile of soda siphons and thought the glass straw in the centre of the bottle would make an ideal pea shooter and so climbed the fence and smashed a bottle to extract said peashooter. Unfortunately the peashooter elect went the same way as the casing. It took 50 attempts at this to finally realise that if he just choried one of the dispensers and redeemed it at the local grocers’ shop for the deposit he’d have enough dosh to buy 100 pea shooters.
Over the last decade or so mum and dad were often spotted at Edinburgh airport, jetting off to another foreign adventure; backpacking in Australia, driving a mobile home across New Zealand or just lying about on a beach in Barbados, like you do.
Probably the trip most rich in memories, for Emily certainly, was the one to Australia. The purpose of the trip was ostensibly to visit Emily who had been working there for a year rustling cattle or branding kangaroos or something. You never know with Emily. Whatever it was it wasn’t mundane.
Anyway, they went on a bit of a road trip and one day arrived at Cape Tribulation which is where the rainforest meets the beach. Emily and my dad decided to go on a walk through the rainforest in a six inch deep sea of mud guided by a big fat orange rope. Barely had they begun when my dad, wearing beige ankle socks and fake Teva sandals, costing £1.99 from Lidl, had the sole of his left sandal sooked off his foot by the mud. He soldiered on, squelching through the Amazonian mud for a further hour in one and a half sandals and, on completing the walk, returned to the site of the sooking incident at the start of the walk.
Amazingly, he not only managed to retrieve the sole but repaired the sandal and carried on wearing it for the remainder of the trip.
A few days later, after a grand day out, Emily made a bit of a faux pas.
As many of you will know my dad was very keen on Morecombe and Wise’s seminal Jimmy Durante sketches, in which Eric Morecombe sat at a piano with a white paper cup over his mouth and playing “sittin’ at my piano the other day…” my dad appropriated the idea for himself and regularly regaled us with it.
As we grew older it seemed to become his own.
This day in Australia my dad performed the paper cup routine and Emily made the desperately slaggable mistake of asking my dad why Jimmy Durante always performed with a white paper cup in his mouth.
The memory of these foreign trips, along with the great love dad had for us, the family, is the most powerful memory my mum has of my dad. And what great memories they are. Not just for her, but for us too, because my dad was very fond of capturing these holidays, at considerable length, on video camera. Not only was he director and cinematographer of these lavish epics but he was, of course, voice over man extraordinaire.
“And this is the hotel and this is the view from the window and this is the local bar and this is the car we’ve hired and this is the Eiffel tower and this is the swimming pool and this is a kangaroo, and this is another kangaroo and this is another kangaroo….” And so on.
There is no shortage of reminders of the holiday scenarios that mum and dad embarked upon.
Now that he is no longer with us my primary objective is to get mum to the North and South Pole so that she can complete her continental set; as she’s bagged all the rest.
We all know that Dad had a wicked sense of humour and I can assure you that remained to the end. Two days before he died we were with him in the chapel at St Columbas hospice and he was holding a rain stick in his hands. He was barely able to turn it, but turn it he did and just as he did so it started to rain outside. I told him this and said to him.
“You never told us you were a witch doctor” to which he replied
“It’s on a need to know basis”
And on his last day Emily told him that she had been to visit her new flat just around the corner and that she could see Mum and dad’s garden from her window.
“Good” he replied “You can cut the grass then.”
But my favourite comment of all was when I was discussing the touchy subject of funeral arrangements with him in the Royal.
I asked him if he wanted anything in the coffin and he replied
Perhaps the single most defining aspect of Pegos life (almost half of it was devoted to this after all, was Forth Childrens Theatre. Prior to FCT he was an amateur actor of modest standings. Like me, I fear he was given to a lack of subtlety on the stage. Not for him Romeo or King Lear. He was fonder of pantomime and Scots comedy and it was through his association with Holyrood High School’s FP Dramatic Society that FCT was born.
In the summer of 1977 a posh kids drama group from Woking in Surrey had elected to put on a show in the festival called 1212 AD. Written and directed by Therese Kitchen A greater luvvie than Dickie Attenburgh the cast of principles was supplemented with a bunch of kids from Holyrood High (myself included). In need of a stage manager and someone who knew the theatre in the school my dad volunteered his time and that was the start of it. The following year we put on a show about the history of chess at St Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place and year three was mid-rehersal for a play about Robert Louis Stephenson (minus the reference to his syphilitic death) called Monsieur De La Plume, when a letter arrived from Therese bitterly decrying the Edinburgh kids’ lack of talent and announcing that she was pulling out of the show.
Well, my dad, Chris Lewis and a few others decided that the show must go on and they hastily formed FCT. On this occasion it is not an understatement to say that the rest is history. 27 Fringes later plus at least 25 Easter shows and many triumphant one act play festivals FCT is stronger than ever. The talent is awesome and has spawned many an acting and theatrical career. Several marriages (not least Jane and Nik) and quite a few babies.
The outpouring of love, affection and respect from the kids at FCT over the past few weeks has been testimony to the utter respect that these children have for Pietro. In particular I met with Jenny Bell, Hannah Scott and Emma Reid at St Columbas last week and there they presented me with a beautiful poem about dad, but also the most heartfelt letter on behalf of all the kids.
I read it to my Dad, as someone in the family has read every single card and letter that family and friends have written him, and it was unquestionably the most moving moment of my life.
Sara would like to share that letter with you and she will read it to you all at the reception after the funeral. I would advise you to look out handkerchiefs at that point.
There are too many memories of FCT to dwell on just one; but for me the fact that maybe 5,000 kids have received a free dramatic education and performed on the world’s greatest stage, thanks to the generosity of spirit that my dad and the many adult helpers have given to this astounding institution is legacy enough for anyone.
It is at this point that I think I must draw things to a conclusion. There’s a tradition at FCT, established by my Dad that is, I think, a fitting way to end.
Each night of each show, cast and crew gather in the back hall at Inverleith, and my dad conducts a short ceremony whereby he rewards the child or children who have, in his mind most improved their performance. It’s not about being the best and the award goes to principle or chorus member alike. On calling their name they are told they are “on the button” and he snatches a button from his shirt.
It is a simple but really quite moving event and the recipient of the button can be spotted from a mile off because their grin lights up the room. The assembled cast and crew then shout out “Oggy, oggy, oggy, oi, oi, oi. Yaaaaah Beauty.” And cheer and clap and thump their feet on the floor.
It’s a riot.
My dad has improved his performance from the day he was born to the day he died so I think it is only fitting that we all agree that the person in this building with the most improved performance is my dad and that he and the way he led his life was quite simply; on the button.
So for that great man I would ask you all to join in that cry…
Oggy oggy oggy, oi, oi, oi, ya beauty.