Sunday 16 May 2010


This instalment is about inspiration and who you view as your guiding light. This is the person who uplifts you at the very mention of his or her name and who you may admire for a variety of reasons; or if you know this person, want to go that extra mile because you want to do your very best simply because they are who they are.

Well, I am going to have to park Jon Anderson for now and come back to him at a later time as he of course, is a major inspiration. (Never thought I would see myself writing that -about parking JA!)

After a brilliant 1805 Club AGM and Members' Forum yesterday, let me tell you about someone who sadly is no longer with us, but whose spirit was so strongly felt yesterday because we were holding the meeting on his "home turf".

Dr Colin White was Nelson's representative on earth -his own words, eloquently chosen as always. He was an academic, scholar, author, lecturer, teacher, museum director, thespian, performer, broadcaster, bon viveur - and so much more. Perhaps the nearest character to him would be Gareth in "Four Weddings and A Funeral" - they certainly had a similar taste in waistcoats!

Colin was Deputy Director at the Royal Naval Museum when I was Public Relations Officer at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and was the one person who completely conveyed the essence of Nelson in such a way that anyone who ever heard him talk about favourite subject, either formally or informally, was completely and totally hooked.

But his qualities went beyond his role as Nelson's emissary. He was generous to a fault, kind-hearted, larger than life, a great conversationalist and a man of devout Christian faith who also had a devilish sense of humour. During a very successful re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar at the dockyard, he said he would volunteer for the role of Nelson if the actor playing Capt Hardy was good-looking enough to kiss him!

The most poignant memory of all was at the end of the last-ever reception held on board HMY "Britannia" before she was decommissioned which was in aid of the Museum. Three of us hung on until the very end- Colin, yours truly and Peter Warwick, the 1805 Club's Chairman. We stood silently on an upper deck, staring out across Portsmouth Naval Base in the mists of the night. It was one of those defining moments in life.

Colin was also the kind of person who made your job easy. The media loved him and most of his interviews were done in "one take". And when a PR stunt to project an image of Nelson on Portsdown Hill outside Portsmouth involving a live television broadcast went horribly wrong, it was Colin who kept the show going by engaging the bewildered journalist in continuous discussion, while the disaster-in-the-making was being fixed.

As its former chairman and a Vice-President, he was also always the star at any 1805 Club event as everyone wanted to be close to Colin.

So when he was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2008, he stoically underwent a potentially life saving operation and carried on business as usual back at the Museum where he was now Director. But within four months, it was discovered the cancer had spread. Very poignantly, he died on Christmas Day at the tragically young age of 57.

However, in his own inimitable way, he astounded us all yet again literally from "beyond the grave". For the museum forwarded to all his closest friends, a letter he had written only a couple of days before his death, thanking us all for all our thoughts and prayers.

Well, I think you can fathom the magnitude of this wonderful, totally irreplaceable, unforgettable and ultimately very humble man. Not surprisingly, Portsmouth Cathedral was full for his memorial service and at the Museum reception afterwards, you almost felt he would burst through the door at any time and revel at seeing so many familiar faces gathering there in his honour.

He is still so desperately missed and he always joked he would be "the fly on the wall" at any meetings he could not attend. He was definitely there yesterday - and he would have been loving every moment of it........

1 comment:

  1. I was deeply saddened by his loss, I so looked forward to The Kedge and what he had been up to. RIP Colin

    Beautiful tribute, Alison <3