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Sir Melville Crofton 25 March 2017
 
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 Address given by Bishop Donald Arden
at the funeral service of
Sir Melville Crofton
3 July 2003

 

Mel will be rejoicing in that psalm 121 where we have just said:

 

I will lift my eyes unto the hills:
    from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh even from the Lord:
    who hath made heaven and earth.

He was born on 15 August 1931 in Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas. His father was a Brigadier in the Indian army and Director of Armaments during the second world war - Mel was very proud of that.

When he was 8 he came to a prep school in England and then travelled, alone, to Cape Town to continue his schooling there near a cousin. He went on to school at Hilton College in Natal, within sight of the great Drakensberg range.

After that he spent a year in Lausanne studying engineering and cycling up and down mountains and around lakes. He loved the Tour de France and watched every moment of last year's race on the box.

Then came an apprenticeship with Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness shipyards and a degree in marine engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was in Cambridge that he met Brigid and they were married at the end of 1955 at East Ogwell, in Devon, Brigid's family home and within sight of the Dartmoor tors.

Brigid and he together did the Colonial Service administration course at Cambridge, learning the main language of Nyasaland and its local laws and customs.

They arrived in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in 1956 where he was posted as Assistant District Commissioner to Fort Johnston (now Mangochi) where he stayed in villages for two weeks every month, often building roads and bridges and frequently together with Brigid.

In 1960 he was posted to Mulanje where he and Brigid helped organise our courting and wedding in 1962. The festivities took place in their beautiful garden, from which a 3,000 foot rockface of Mulanje mountain rose perpendicularly.

Their three children, Julian, Nicola and Nigel were all born in Malawi where they shared a wonderful, adventurous family life.

His next posting was as District Commissioner, Zomba, then the capital of Nyasaland. Following this, amongst other responsibilities, he helped organised the independence celebrations when Nyasaland became Malawi. Later he worked in the President's Office and was Clerk to the Cabinet and was much involved in the planning of the future development of Malawi.

Mel's sixteen years in Malawi were historically of interest as the first eight were working with the British Government and the second eight with an independent Malawi Government. In 1970 he was awarded the MBE for his services to both.

Mel was a natural engineer. In Malawi he kept the best-serviced Landrover and Citroen - repairing the Landrover fuel line on one occasion with chewing-gum and string; built a Mirror dinghy which he left to the extended family and was the delight of a generation of the young. He was a talented, creative artist who made many wonderful, imaginative toys for his children, toys still enjoyed by his grandchildren.

In 1972 the family returned to England, initially at the family home of Buttercombe in East Ogwell. In 1973 the family moved to Haldon in Winchester as Mel was now working for Southampton City Council on planning and development. Haldon became a second home for our sons Bazil and Christopher when they began their schooling in England.

But his principal work, were his two great enthusiasms for - the young and for mechanics - came together, was as Industrial Training Adviser with the Overseas Development Administration. This later became known as TETOC - Technical Training for Overseas Countries.

His travels with TETOC took him to every corner of the developing world - from Tuvalu in the South Pacific, to Costa Rica and Paraguay, to India, to many, countries in Africa and in his last period increasingly to the countries emerging from the Eastern bloc - Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, the Ukraine and others.

And when his travelling days came to an end, the spirit of adventure that took him to Africa found its outlet in service on the executive of The Friends of Malawi Association, as a trustee of Health Aid Moyo and as secretary of the Nchima Trust.

What were the things that made Mel what he was?

He embodied the tradition of service in the Colonial Service which he joined in 1955. He was proud that Nyasaland - unlike neighbouring countries - was a Protectorate where colonial servants were just that - men and women who had come to serve. In place of the ruthlessness of Portuguese East Africa, the exploitation of the Copper Belt and the land-grabbing of Southern Rhodesia was the ideal of service and this struck chords with Mel's natural instincts, his sense of history and duty and his delight in the young.

He was a gentle, generous and thoughtful friend with a warm heart but he could be firm when necessary. He delighted in coming home from his trips with presents for everyone. He poured out cards and cuttings that he knew would interest individuals.

For many years he and Brigid cared for Brigid's brother Richard, who suffered from Parkinson's disease. Mel's endless patience in looking after Richard and taking him out, was wonderful to see. Richard's dentist called them "a great double act".

He loved being with his grandchildren and his extended family. The photograph on the service sheet - taken last Christmas - says it all - the fun, the humour and the absurd.

He loved walking - especially in mountains. He went up and down 10,000 foot Mulanje mountain in Malawi with Julian in one day, and another day from Zomba Mountain to Malosa Mountain and back. He always walked to and from work, usually munching his morning toast as he went down Blue Boar Hill.

In April this year he walked 6 miles over Dartmoor on each of two days, an achievement of which he was particularly proud.

When staying with us in Pinner, he was delighted to find a park we had never been in ourselves and we had to go out with a car to retrieve him at lunch time.

All this sprang from a deep faith in God and in the young expressed in

    his faithfulness to God's family here at St John's, where he was a sidesman and secretary of the Church Fund;
    his work as a volunteer in the Cathedral library;
    in the quiet and imaginative ways in which he reflected the love of God to all he met;
    in his ministry of encouragement to the young, whether his own family or on Tuvalu or in Eastern Europe;
all this sustained by a constant reading of Matthew, Mark and Luke - he was a bit allergic to John!

Gerard Hughes in his recent book, God in All Things, invites us to reflect on what each of us would like to see in our obituaries. With Mel, that would I think include "A lover of God's young people and of the world he made."

Let me close with a poem by RS Thomas, the priest-poet of the Welsh Hills:

 

      Alive
It is alive. It is you,
God. Looking out I can see
no death. The earth moves, the
sea moves, the wind goes
on its exuberant
journeys. Many creatures
reflect you, the flowers
your colour, the tides the precision
of your calculations. There
is nothing too ample
for you to overflow, nothing
so small that your workmanship
is not revealed. I listen
and it is you speaking.
I find the place where you lay
warm. At night, if I waken,
there are the sleepless conurbations
of the stars. The darkness
is the deepening shadow
of your presence; the silence a
process in the metabolism
of the being of love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 
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