Old Xaverians’ Association
Text of Eulogy given at Jack’s Funeral Service by his son, David - 21st December 2015.
As many of you know dad loved giving speeches. Any family gathering would often be graced by some of his kind wise words. So I asked him if he wanted to write his eulogy. He said no but he did write a piece before he died where he reflected on a plaque in St Paul's Cathedral commemorating its architect Sir Christopher Wren. It's in Latin and roughly translates as 'if you're looking for a memorial, look around you.' Dad wants us to do that today. Although we're not looking at a magnificent building, we're looking at the people whose lives dad has touched. That's so much more important.
Dad was born in Liverpool in 1934. He was the youngest of 8 children.
When he was 2 his dad died of pneumonia. He always impressed on us the challenge this left his mum to face. A single mother with 8 children. What emerges from the stories we've heard is how strong, resourceful and resilient they were as a family. My dad was always so proud of the Heery family, his immediate family, mom and all those brothers and sisters but also the wider extended family. His own aunties, uncles and cousins. This gave him a fascination with his family tree and led him and many more of us to discover the rich lives of ancestors such as Mary Jane Sanders, and of course the legendary Frosty Faced Fogo.
Dad excelled at school, Saint Francis Xavier's, a Jesuit grammar school in Liverpool, and gained a place to study classics at Christ's College Cambridge. He went there in 1953 and graduated in 1956. He then spent a few weeks on a management training scheme at a lino factory in Lancaster but soon realised it wasn't for him. He returned to Liverpool and his brother Peter suggested he give teaching a try. There was a vacancy at the school where Peter was teaching, St Teresa's, a rough secondary school in Norris Green and dad was given his first teaching job there. Becoming a teacher was a bit different in those days. He then moved on to Cardinal Allen, a new grammar school where he was taken on as a Latin teacher. Although he couldn't speak French he was also given the job of French teacher. A friend then suggested he apply for head of department at St Anselm’s in Birkenhead. The head teacher there had a mission to change his pupils’ aspirations from being dockers to being doctors. He hoped dad’s Cambridge background and classical education would help students from St Anselm’s be successful in applying for Oxbridge and so it proved. He loved teaching the children but he felt that the future of teaching Latin and Greek was not too bright so he decided on a change of career. Next he moved in 1965 into the local authority education service where he spent the next 25 years helping to oversee the running of education services in Bootle, Chester and finally Knowsley before he retired in 1990.
He loved playing football; he remembered this more than anything else as to how his time was spent when he was a child. He was captain of the school team and also played for Cambridge University. He started following Everton when he was very young - going with his brothers to the match on his bike, paying an old lady in a house on Goodison Road a penny for him to leave his bike in her back yard. He watched from the boys’ pen in the Gladys Street end. He told a story of one week when he was quite young his older brother Jimmy had a spare ticket so told dad to meet him at the entrance before the game. When dad got there he realised he didn't know which entrance. Dad waited at the shareholders’ entrance and as kick off time approached he was getting more upset and tearful as there was no sign of Jimmy. Lots of supporters going through this turnstile had a spare ticket and on hearing what was the matter offered to take him in instead and eventually he gave up waiting for Jimmy and went in with one of them and got in for free. He then realised that was a brilliant way of getting into the match for free so he did it every match for the rest of the season. Eventually other boys got word of what was happening and they all started doing it so his scam came to an end. He continued being a staunch Everton supporter through thick and thin for the rest of his life.
He met mum as a child at St Matthew’s primary school. Although mum doesn't remember much about him from that time apart from him always being top of the class, it's clear dad was smitten by mum from a very early age. They started going out when they were 17, mum’s parents had some misgivings about this as they thought she should be concentrating on passing her exams.
Dad wasn't to be put off though. Their first date was to see a play at the Liverpool Playhouse. It was a play by Christopher Fry 'The Lady's Not for Burning'. Their relationship grew even while mum was at teacher training college in Liverpool. And then when dad was at university. Mum even managed a few visits to him in Cambridge although she was appropriately chaperoned - this was the 1950s. They were engaged shortly after his return from uni in 1956. They spent the next 3 years saving up for married life before getting married in 1959. Mary and Helen were born and, as dad was now working in Birkenhead, they decided on a move to the Wirral and found a newly built house in Belmont Drive backing on to fields. Being so close to nature dad was able to start a new hobby of bird-watching. We also had cows trespassing in his garden. Things he'd never had to contend with living in West Derby or Anfield. Sarah and David then came along and then 5 years later Dan was born and this led to another house move. Dad told the story of how they couldn't find anywhere to move to and time was pressing. Mum saw a plot of land for sale in an estate agents window and they realised that was a way around the problem. They bought the land, contracted a builder and the house was built in the nick of time. Mum went into labour in our old house in Belmont Drive, went to hospital, gave birth to Dan, then brought him home to our new house in Marlfield Lane. Dad lived the rest of his life there and was very proud of it. Especially his garden which has legendary status. He loved gardening and being able to grow his own vegetables. He developed a skill at topiary on his privet hedges and was so proud of getting the word AVE sculpted out of one of his hedges in 1 metre high letters. One day the binmen asked him what it meant and it;s fair to say they were a bit bemused when he told them it meant hello in Latin. He loved that his children and grandchildren also have taken up gardening with the similar levels of enthusiasm.
In retirement he shared his gardening skills with Dale Farm in Heswall - a day centre for adults with learning disabilities. First working there weekly helping out in the garden. He became more involved; as chair of the trustees helped them move toward organic farming with accreditation by the soil association. He was able to keep some involvement with them till just a few months ago. He loved going there with the opportunity to pass on his wisdom to the people who went there.
His retirement allowed him to do much more in the garden but it also freed up his time to be involved in more political campaigning. He'd been an active Labour Party member all his adult life; he was an active trade union member and was regularly involved in the campaigning in local and general elections. He was so proud when Labour won in his constituency, always considered a safe Tory seat, in a bye election just before the Labour landslide victory of 1997. His despair at the general election result earlier this year was mitigated to some extent by the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership and the hope that progressive policies will once more be a possibility in the UK. Again he was thrilled by the engagement of his children and grandchildren in political debate and activism.
As well as the Labour Party there were many other causes he was involved in. CND, Wirral Trade Justice, Deewatch, Justice and Peace. He was frequently attending or chairing meetings, knocking on doors, manning stalls in Pensby or Heswall, going on local and national demonstrations in support of these causes, writing letters to the papers, and we were all very proud to see them published. He loved it all and he has given his family a real sense of what's fair and what we can all do try and achieve greater fairness in the world.
For more than 20 years in his retirement dad volunteered at the Arc in Birkenhead. There was many a dark winter morning where he got out of his warm bed before 6am and in driving rain or snow went down to the Arc to provide breakfast for homeless people in Birkenhead.
His enthusiasm for education continued in his retirement. He had a spell as chair of governors at Upton School when his wisdom and expertise helped the school through times of difficult change. he was also on the governing body of Pensby School for Boys.
His retirement also gave him the time to go and visit his sister Jean in Ethiopia. He made 2 trips out there and he updated his teaching skills before he went so he could spend some time out there teaching English. He had a wonderful time being with his oldest sister, seeing the amazing sights and wildlife and dancing with nuns. He was left with enduring memories of that beautiful country and its beautiful people.
He married Margaret in 1959 and he considered his family his greatest achievement; their love and support for 5 children, 10 grandchildren and indeed all the extended family was unwavering. Their youngest daughter Sarah died in 2008. He is survived by brother Pat, sister Hannah, Margaret, children Mary, Helen, me, Dan, and 10 grandchildren.
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