Tribute to Tony Dakin by long-standing friend Robin Foster
We are gathered here today partly to mourn a passing but I feel more importantly to celebrate a life. The life of Tony Dakin. And what a life he crammed into those 81 years.
Tony was born pre-war historically, into another world than that which we now know. He grew up not far from here in fairly modest circumstances but a happy environment, memory of which stayed with him all his life.
From the outset he was an intelligent young fellow evidenced by 11 plus success gaining entry to Loughborough Grammar. This was another lifelong attachment he enjoyed, attending Class of ’48 reunions until failing health did not allow.
I first met Tony when he was in his early 30s and his London career had really started to get going. In the 1960s Britain was ready to shake off the cobwebs and dust of post war austerity. Opportunities for bright young thrusters abounded and Tony too full advantage. Never lacking self confidence he launched himself into journalism and public relations.
He had a regular column on financial matters in the Evening News, one of the best selling London newspapers. I was working in Lombard Street at the time and heard the newsboy shout of “Star, News, Standard.” News please, I would say and happy in the knowledge that Tony’s article within would be accompanied by a picture of him, my old cricketing buddy.
His pay was soaring to great heights at this time and our cricket teams scorer worked out that Tony’s payslip totaled more than all those of the rest of the team put together.
It was on the cricket field that our relationship developed. He had played better cricket in his 20s but now working long and unsocial hours he was content to help out Bidborough 2nd XJ in the village to which he, Cynthis, Joanna and Katie had moved.
Despite his city successes Tony was a good mixer socially and on the sports field. However, getting accustomed to the best wines money can buy Tony found the cricketers beer culture hard to take. I remember clearly a fantastically good catch he took on the boundary edge having stretched as high as possible and succeeded one handed whilst overstepping the boundary line. Mobbed by all us fielders his feat became legendary. Arriving late in the bar, as usual he offered to buy the opposition skipper a half pint. Immediately the cry went up jug, jug, jug! The Dakin wallet eventually emerged to riotous applause and a couple of jugs circulated.
About this time Tony began to get the property bug. Prices were just beginning to take off. Character houses were coming on the market and he liked the prospect of an old house with lots of space and land to go with it. He already had a pleasant family home but opportunity knocked. Being a busy younger banker myself I was able to persuade my boss to provide the necessary mortgage funds for Tony, Cynthia, Joanna and Katie to make the big upward move. Guess what clinched the deal – my boss remembered Tony from his earlier cricketing prowess when playing for Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club.
Within a short while of the move Tony organized a Sunday house warming party to show off the posh new residence. As the guests arrived they were given a paintbrush or a scraper to get the redecoration underway. Only Tony could have had the refurb done for free. Only his charm could have carried that one off. In fact we all had a mot enjoyable day.
The three ladies who supported Tony over his time were Cynthia, Mary and Wendy who were wonderful in his care and attention of him.
He was immensely proud of all of his family, delighting in the company of Joanna and Katie when they were young. As the teenage scenarios gathered pace Katie and he hit some cataclysmic rows which took both Cynthia and Joanna to pour oil on the troubled waters.
Much later the arrival of Tom and Matthew caused Tony to take on a new lease of life challenged as he was by Tom intellectually and Mathew athletically.
Tony’s joy at the arrival of Joanna’s children was tempered by the grandfather status that was now his. Tony a granddad! That took some getting used to.
Of all the properties he acquired I liked ‘Old Swaylands’ at Penshurst the best although ‘The Old Parsonage’ at Frant was imposing. Its Bed and Breakfast income enabled Tony to play a lot more golf while Mary and her Polish helper got on with all the work. I am sure that this is a bit unfair but he and I regularly traded such insults in order to keep one another on our toes.
Tony had a wide circle of friends and connections. Seemingly ever cheerful, his company was always enjoyable. He travelled widely and was a wonderfully talented photographer. He was extremely well read and had a massive library of good books. He liked pictures of all kinds and generally had a good eye for all things artistic as coached by Cynthia.
Having enjoyed a great 80th birthday with family and friends all around sadly he had a terrible 2017 as his system gradually packed up bit by bit. So lucky he was to have great support and loyalty from Wendy through all the medical set backs. Maybe all of us here should in gratitude thank Wendy for all the care and attention that she has provided for him.
Tony you will be missed by all of us here and many others as well. Irreplaceable is the word that springs to mind. God bless old mate – you wont be forgotten.
Tribute to Tony Dakin by daughter Joanna
My dad was born in 1936 in East Leake. The world braced itself for war but on a lighter note Quality Street was first made. The family moved to a two-up two-down terraced house in Ashby Road Kegworth. His father Dennis worked in the local factory and his mother Phyllis was a cleaner. Peter came along in 1945 and during the bitter winter of 1947 his parents trudged Tony’s old pram through thick snow to steal coal from the yard six miles away. Times were hard and they struggled to make ends meet.
Dad passed his eleven plus and went on to Loughborough Grammar. From a young age he had ambitions and sat in his attic room late into the night writing stories. He could have gone to university and this was one of his biggest life regrets but in those days working class lads went out to work. He joined Brush Electrical as a draughtsman but hated it and was frustrated and he really didn’t know where his career was heading. National Service provided respite and he was posted to Cyprus with the Royal Signals. Back from National Service he wrote an article for the local paper about his time in Cyprus and Jerusalem and this catapulted him into an illustrious career in journalism and eventually public relations.
Around this time our mum, Cynthia came on the scene. They married in 1963 and moved to Tonbridge where Katie and I born.
My first memory of dad goes back to when I was tiny. He would get me out of bed when he got home from work and delight in holding me to the window to show me the street lights. He loved taking Katie and I for walks in the woods and he enjoyed buying us matching clothes in British Home Stores.
Our parents always had a project on the go. They were creative and artistic people. Sunday lunch was too much trouble because there was a garden to redesign or a room to decorate and also dad was always on a diet and so we ate onion soup and Ryvita with goats cheese made from our goats Fanny and Emily, that Katie milked each morning. One day Fanny and Emily were carted off to the slaughter house in the Mini Clubman, returning in boxes to fill the freezer.
Dad loved to go to cafes and even in the care home he asked to go to the cafe in Matlock. He loved chatting up the waitresses and charming the customers and in our teens he’d take us to Baldwins in Tunbridge Wells, buy us a Danish pastry but sit there with a knife saying ‘come on just give me a corner.’
Several holidays stick out in my memory. We hired a boat on the Shannon in Ireland and it rained relentlessly and mum and dad didn’t stop arguing. Dad fell out of the boat and Katie was bitten by a dog. We got marooned on a rock and a fisherman rescued us in his small boat. We motored down to the south of France in Dad’s XJS but it kept breaking down on route. In Los Angeles on one trip a burly black guy tried to pass Dad a gun to shoot somebody with.
Dad loved cars and buying at auction. One memorable car was a Mini Moke. He drove one while on business in Trinidad and Tobago, came back and bought one. For years we drove this car, despite the broken canvas sides, which flapped in the wind. In the summer he collected us and a horde of other kids from primary school with everyone piled in and around the open sides.
When we had the house at Robertsbridge, E Sussex, we went to nearby Hastings at the weekends where mum painted the boats and dad photographed.
Late one evening in the early 80s Dad filled the car with petrol. A couple in the queue were asking for directions to the nearest hotel. Dad said they could stay with us, that was type of person he was and so began the beginnings of a successful bed and breakfast business and meeting many people from around the world. Dad also later ran a bed and breakfast with second wife Mary. He was John Cleese in the kitchen. Sweeping back into the kitchen balancing plates he said on one occasion, ‘those greedy Germans are asking for more sausages.’
Dad was over the moon when I got a place at university. I was the first in the family to go. He was also amazed at Katie for the way she helped with physical work around the house and her fantastic practical skills. And he was so pleased to go on to have two sons, Tom and Mathew and was amazed at how well both of them have done. Dad was also a grandad to Anna, Peter and Tinika. They called him Grumps. He always asked about them when I phoned. He had also recently become a great grandfather to Elsie although by then he was too ill to appreciate this grand accolade.
Dad remained until his dying day deeply proud and amazed at how far in life he’d come. He never forgot his roots and loved to reminisce about the past and so his decision to return to this area was about reconnecting with his roots.
Dad was very happy with Wendy during these later years. She was an absolute rock. They built a circle of friends and went on some great holidays around the world and weekends away in this country.
Sadly his cancer progressed and he needed care. I would like to thank the Willows Care Home for their fantastic care of dad. At first it was hard but he settled there and became quite mellow.