Me­mo­rial Ser­vice James Hughes-onslow

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - James Hughes-onslow

The par­ish church of St John the Bap­tist in Cirences­ter is the largest in Glouces­ter­shire, as the vicar, Canon Leonard Doolan, an­nounced while in­tro­duc­ing a thanks­giv­ing ser­vice for Mark Vestey, horse­man and landowner.

The church has 850 seats, but more than a thou­sand friends, in­clud­ing the Duchess of Corn­wall, the Count­ess of Wes­sex and Princess Michael of Kent, turned up to pay their re­spects to the cham­pion polo player who was paral­ysed by a hunt­ing ac­ci­dent in 1984.

Nor­mal life might have ended for Vestey in many re­spects af­ter he fell off his horse but, as his school friend Robin Courage, High Sher­iff of the Isle of Wight, and his son, Ben Vestey, pointed out in their tributes, he con­tin­ued to go at life at full tilt.

‘Mark was de­ter­mined to help oth­ers who had suf­fered the same mis­for­tune as him,’ said Courage. ‘In 1991 he be­came pres­i­dent of Wheelpower, [the char­ity sup­port­ing] the na­tional dis­abil­ity sports cen­tre at Stoke Man­dev­ille. With­out Mark’s gen­eros­ity this or­gan­i­sa­tion would not have sur­vived. Dur­ing Mark’s pres­i­dency the char­ity has raised over £17 mil­lion and built a state-of-the-art sports cen­tre for the dis­abled.’

Courage told how, be­fore his ac­ci­dent, Vestey was an en­er­getic par­ty­goer, often be­ing seen in the night­club Tramp at 4.30am be­fore prac­tis­ing at Ham Polo Club and then go­ing to the office.

‘He was al­ways proud to call him­self a butcher,’ Courage said re­fer­ring to the Vestey fam­ily busi­ness. ‘He was never a vic­tim. He didn’t dwell on his mis­for­tune. He al­ways tri­umphed over ad­ver­sity. He emerged vic­to­ri­ous.’

Vestey car­ried on farm­ing with a spe­cial buggy to get around the es­tate and go fish­ing, and a swivel chair for shoot­ing. ‘He was the nicest, kind­est and most de­cent hu­man be­ing in the en­tire world. His gen­eros­ity was leg­endary. He was a won­der­ful hus­band, fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and god­fa­ther.’

Son Ben told how he had joked about whether the Vesteys were old money or new money. ‘Not enough new money,’ Mark had sug­gested. He also told how Mark’s older brother, Sam, Lord Vestey, was nick­named ‘Spam’ by the press. ‘None of my friends have ever called me Spam,’ Lord Vestey had protested. Ben pro­duced a book­let about his fa­ther with copies for all. It showed a pic­ture of Mark giv­ing a best man’s speech in a spe­cial wheel­chair that en­abled him to stand up.

‘The mo­ment for the best man’s speech ar­rived and Mark pressed the but­ton to raise him­self to his full 6ft 1in,’ said the book­let. ‘Rosie [Mark’s wife] wept, lit­tle Ben and Nina stared in amaze­ment at the sight of their tall, hand­some Dad in his morn­ing suit. Ev­ery­one cheered… and his trousers fell down.’

The Rt Rev Roger Mor­ris gave an ad­dress and Rose Far­quhar, daugh­ter of Ian Far­quhar, mas­ter of the Beau­fort Hunt, sang ‘Amaz­ing Grace’. Mark Vestey’s daugh­ter Nina Clarkin read ‘On Death’ by Kahlil Gi­bran, and his other daugh­ter, Ta­mara Fox, read ‘As We Look Back’. The hymns were ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’, ‘Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven’ and ‘Jerusalem’.

And as a spe­cial trib­ute to Dame Nel­lie Melba, great-grand­mother of Sam and Mark Vestey, the ser­vice ended with a ren­di­tion of ‘Waltz­ing Matilda’.

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