Eulogy for Jerry 12.6.1927 – 01.02.2014
What a heartwarming sight! – all these familiar faces here to help us celebrate the life of my father - Jerry Hicks. It is my pleasure today, in the absence of my brother Simon, to be supported in this somewhat daunting task by Simon’s son Danny and by my two sons, Jack and Robin. There are people here, linked to every aspect of Jerry’s rich and varied life and we will now try to do justice to each and every part – it may take some time! Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Jerry was born in Islington in 1927 to a theatrical family. Whilst his mother, Nancy was the 5th generation of the Newell travelling theatre family - his father, Algy, was the first in his family to tread the boards. Materially it was a hard life – always on the move from job to job – no roots – periods out of work spent at Grandma’s house in Harrogate. Jerry had three older sisters. Aline, 20 years older and an actress herself, Mary, 13 years older (who left home when Jerry was 3 and subsequently emigrated to Australia with her family) and Joan who was 10 years older and was his constant, caring childhood companion. She of course was the Auntie Joan, that many of you will remember. So Jerry’s early years were full of uncertainty – never in one school for more than a few months, living in theatrical digs - at its worst 5 of them sharing one room, pawning their blankets to pay for food. But what his life lacked in material security was more than made up for by the love that surrounded him. His father had always wanted a son, his mother and sisters adored him, especially Auntie Joan – (even at his most fiendish little boy stage, in her eyes he could do no wrong). Right from the start Jerry showed a remarkable ability to get the best out of people. At about 4 years old, when the family were staying with a particularly strict and unforgiving landlady (who clearly had a deep suspicion of actors and was constantly complaining) little Jerry happened to see her preparing for bed one night, firmly brushing her long white hair. He walked straight up to her and said admiringly ‘You look just like Goldilocks!’ After that the Hicks family could do no wrong. That optimistic vision of things stayed with him always. At 9 years old Jerry lost his father. Standing beside the paupers grave he was approached by the vicar who had performed the briefest of ceremonies. ‘You know what you have to do now don’t you?’ he said to Jerry, and remembering what all the adults around him had been saying Jerry replied ‘I’ve got to be very brave.’ ‘No’ said the vicar ‘You’ve got to look after your mother.’ And these words had a profound effect because that is exactly what he did from then on (eventually even buying his mother the first home she had ever owned - a tiny cottage in Birstwith – Yorkshire). Jerry developed an incredible sense of responsibility – he looked after the wellbeing of everyone around him. Without Algy, his mum had to keep working and needed somewhere safe for her son, so she wrote to Noel Coward who was president of The Actors Orphanage. Within days he had organised a place for Jerry as a boarder at Silverlands - the home of the Orphanage – a large house near London, set in spacious grounds. Thereafter Jerry’s mischievous, whacky, humerous side had free reign at school, while when at home he was the decision making man of the house. As children, Simon and I listened in awe to his tales of Siverlands setting up ‘The Freedom Radio’ to subversively broadcast to the school from beneath the
floor – undetected by infuriated staff, adopting orphaned baby squirrels and finally releasing them into the wild, running battles between the orphanage children and kids from the local school. One day when a ball had been kicked through a window and Jerry was chosen by his friends as the best one to go and get it back, he heard one teacher say to another as he approached ‘ Oh no! Here comes that child with a tongue like a solicitor’. And he didn’t lose that ability either! Now let me pass you to Robin for a while. ROBI Whenever people call me weird - I always like to set them straight and inform them that I’m not as weird as my grandad. Jerry was, as you all know, completely extraordinary in such enormously varied ways. For me, he was the most magnificent story teller, I have so many memories of sitting around laughing listening to all of his bizzare, eccentric and possibly dangerous adventures - and wishing that one day I could have stories like his. But while Jerry could hold all of his children and grandchildren rapped in his fantastic storytelling, what struck me recently is how much of a good story-maker he was. By that I mean - He had so many unique stories to tell, because he did so much. And, you could tell by the way he told the stories, he still found it all so exciting. Where some would see restriction he would see opportunity. Where some would see embarrassment he would see hilarity. A simple task such as creating a Christmassy wreath for our gate became one of the most exciting adventures of my childhood - it was called 'night ops’. I think Jack will be speaking about it later. I know when I am in a situation, whether it is mundane or exciting, I think to myself 'what would Jerry do'. He lead by such brilliant example of how to embrace life - how to turn the worst into the best and how to make the best better - I feel very lucky to have had such a wonderful person as my Grandfather. As well as being a wonderful story-maker and teller he was also a wonderful story writer as shown in his lovely book - Judo through the looking glass - we are all very fortunate to have some of his adventures permanently there to explore and re-explore. He also inspired writing in others - this is a poem written about him by a friend of his that his dear sister Auntie Joan kept for many years, it is called: Portrait of G.A.W. Hicks Massive fellow, yet gentle as a child; Crazy loon, yet wise to a degree; Terrific strength, yet oh so meek and mild; Wonderful chap, I know they all agree. Superlatives, yet none run to excess. His humour bubbles with the joy of living. I'm quite attached to the buffoon, I guess, And reap a good deal of what he is giving. Friendship, freedom, hate of all control Upon him; justice, humour, oh so free! Ruled by the dictates of his own sweet soul And all these things endear the bloke to me.
H. Blackman (Blackie)
That poem written by an army buddy when Jerry was just 18 – but we’re not quite there yet! During the war the orphanage children were evacuated to America, to be cared for by English actors in Hollywood (a tale for another day) but Jerry refused to desert his mother so the orphanage sent him to board at Rishworth School in Yorkshire. Nancy followed him there, and famously, with no money for the train fare managed to achieve the whole journey for the price of a theepenny platform ticket. As the only Southern voice in a Northern stronghold Jerry had to literally fight for survival at first but, through the use of moves learned from a little judo book given to him by his sister Joan, he held his own. His longest standing friendship with Frank Schofield began there as did his life-long fascination with judo. With the encouragement of a teacher at Rishworth Jerry gained a place at the Slade Art School in London at the remarkably young age of 16 – his early thoughts of being an actor had been quoshed by his father’s response - ‘Don’t you do that my boy. It’s a mugs game!’ And so his creative eye turned to painting. As a student he never went anywhere without a sketch book and he won the School prize for perspective in his year but the Slade was responsible for much more thanJerry’s development as an painter. Friendships made there with other talented artists continued for the rest of his life and there too he came across his first real Judo Black Belt – the wonderful Jim Frost who died only last year. But MOST importantly, it was there that he met my mother Anne! They were clearly destined to ‘be’. Jerry had made the most of the Slade’s evacuation to Oxford but his Art education was interrupted by his call up for National Service. While he was away creating his own personal form of mayhem in the army and Passing-Out as an Officer at Sandhurst, Anne began her time at the Slade. As luck would have it, Anne failed an exam in her final year so that when Jerry retuned to complete his education, Anne was back for a repeat year! Her first view of Jerry was much as you see him on the back of your order of service. Jerry’s wild and unconventional side, while a magnet for Anne, completely terrified her parents – a young artist running barefoot round London, attending fancy dress parties with his athletic torso painted green and carrying a scimitar in the guise of a Gini, with no family in sight and no obvious prospects was (as my grandfather put it when Jerry gamely went to ask for Anne’s hand in marriage) ‘not what we would have wished.’ They clearly pictured Jerry treating Anne like Marlon Brando treated Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. Typical of Jerry, he never held a grudge – he could understand their worries and simply sought to allay their fears by his actions in the long term. So marry they did, in 1952 and then they came to Bristol. Jerry had obtained the post of head of Art at Cotham Grammar School (as it was then). During his 30 year career, literally thousands of boys (and later girls – including me) passed through his Art Room. His ex-pupils are certainly well represented here. Jerry’s caring and nurturing side, combined with his quirky individuality and unbounded enthusiasm for his subject, made him an inspirational teacher. He took his pupils out of the classroom and showed them the beauties of Bristol. On one occasion he was disappointed when the mother of one pupil told him her son was going to give up art – ‘What a shame’ said Jerry ‘He’s beginning to show promise – I thought he enjoyed Art.’ – ‘Oh yes’ said the mother ‘ he likes the Art well enough, he just can’t cope with all the walking!’ But largely, students developed a rich appreciation of Art and Architecture with Jerry that stayed with many all their lives. Let me pass you to Danny for another perspective on Jerry.
DAN Growing up I was terrified of Jerry. I was more scared of him than anyone else I’d ever met. The raw emotion of terror was so strong that many of my earliest memories involved Jerry. I grew up in London. We would visit Bristol during Christmas and Easter holidays. In the days building up to a Bristol visit, mum and dad knew that they had a special card in their hands. If Katie and I were behaving badly, which seemed to be a lot of the time, they knew exactly what to say to get us pleading for forgiveness. It was one simple sentence: “Anne and Jerry will find out about this.” We would apologise like never before. “We will do anything… anything at all. Just please don’t tell Anne and Jerry.” Jerry’s voice terrified me more than anything else. I would be made to stand in the corner in Goldrush for what felt like three or four hours, but was probably was no more than 20 minutes. Jerry threatened that I would go to bed with just “bread and water” if I continued behaving unreasonably. It only ever happened once, but the memory of it was so strong that I got used to behaving incredibly well whenever I was in Bristol.
Katie and I broke one of Anne’s big ornamental bowls in the garden. The memory remains the single most frightening moment of my life. I was in a panic straight away, desperate for Anne and Jerry not to find out. Should we just throw the bowl over the top of the garden hope that Anne wouldn’t notice the disappearance? Could we convince mum to take the blame? Anne did find out, and even she said: “It’s best if Jerry doesn’t know about this!” As a result Katie and I were made to use plastic plates at all family meals for the next ten years! There was an amazing contrast with Jerry, which I found difficult to comprehend at such a young age. Despite this huge, hard, exterior, he had an incredibly soft and gentle inner nature. I remember his fascinating stories from a very young age. They were always about him as a child or young man. When I would beg for one more story, it always came. When it came to creativity Jerry always had time for me, whether it was stories, reading, writing or drawing. As I grew up and started behaving more reasonably the hard exterior disappeared and Jerry softened into a different person. A memory I will cherish forever was when I was studying Art during college. Jerry invited me down to do some work with him on a summer project. I spent a week painting in his studio and he dedicated that entire week to looking over me, giving me advice and teaching me. He was an incredibly generous man, and with the creative arts he had tremendous patience. Jerry had a huge impact on dad’s life. He made dad the man he was. And dad made me the man I am.
My view on life, my passions, the way I treat people, the eccentricities, come from dad, all that comes from Jerry. The way to experience life, to live life, to know what’s important in life, like Sunday lunch with the family, the tribe, a big holiday every year with no other distractions, the flip-flops, and, of course JUDO. Jerry was the one who took on judo, discovered it and became one of the pioneers of judo in this country. Judo was THE sport for Jerry. A fitting sport for a man like him. A sport that teaches respect, manners, discipline and values. Judo went from Jerry - to dad and Kim, and through them to me, Katie, Jack, Robin, and now Harry. It was in Jerry’s blood, and now it's in our blood. I am so lucky to be involved in Fighting Films. A company that breathes judo. A company that has real passion, a company that really cares. A company that is THE best in the world at what it does and a company that has family, friends and the tribe at the heart of it. Fighting Films is the essence of everything about Jerry’s spirit. Judo, creativity and the tribe. I owe what I do in life, what I enjoy about life to dad, and to Jerry. Jerry’s greatest tragedy was losing his son; my dad. Dad died young. But from the first day of receiving his death sentence dad was joking and laughing, and making all those around him laugh. He stayed positive and made sure everyone around him stayed positive. This optimism, this positive energy, all came from Jerry. Jerry would always be upbeat and optimistic, no matter what the circumstances. And when dad and everyone else needed it the most, it came through stronger than ever. Very soon after dad died we all continued in a positive manner, having big family gatherings, eating, laughing and reminiscing. And on the day Jerry died the family gathered at Goldrush and had a big lunch; talking, laughing and joking. Jerry wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We are here to celebrate Jerry’s life. And we will continue in his spirit. If you can joke, smile and laugh, even in times of death, then you can overcome anything, and enjoy life for what it really is. That’s what I learnt from dad, and that’s what I learnt from Jerry. For terrifying me, for teaching me, for the judo, for the way of life and for my outlook on life – thank you Jerry. And here are some things other people have said to us about Jerry:
Jerry forged in me a fervour I had not hitherto felt - a pressing need to embroil myself in environmental warfare! Jerry had the most influence on my way of thinking of anyone in my life The world was a better place with Jerry in it A born teacher seeking the best for young people facing the future A real 'once in a lifetime' person He influenced my entire life Jerry always gave to life more than he took out There are many, like me, whose life would be poorer without Hicksy He was a guide and mentor . . . it was his influence that made me want to be an art teacher Clear strength of character, originality of spirit, infectious and disciplined enthusiasm as a teacher . . . a great exemplar to aspire to Thank you Jerry KIM
The stable and constant life of a teacher that Jerry created for himself and Anne not only completely healed the rift with her parents but became the base from which he could fully explore his potential. He and Anne lived in a top flat on Park St for 10 years (Simon and I both born in that period) and they worked together on a number of murals around the city. In the early 60’s they built their home’ Goldrush’ together and the doors to it’s unique style of Bohemia have remained open and welcoming ever since. Dad always found time to paint, at weekends and most particularly on holiday. Our Summer idyll was an Island in the South of France, Ile Ste Marguerite – discovered by Anne and Jerry in 1951 on a Youth Hostelling trip round Europe. The Fort of the Man in the Iron Mask drew them there, but it’s unhewn beauty and Mediterranean light kept them returning summer after summer for over 50 years. Many family friends joined us there for wonderful times over the years, our final visit en masse the September before Simon died, and I can’t imagine that there is anywhere in the world that has been more richly recorded by 2 artists over such a long period. Our Tribal families, as we have come to know them, are all here in force today. It was another of Jerry’s traits to create opportunities for celebration with those he loved and admired. The Annual Boxing Day Hicksathome, another marvellous example. In the midst of all this lovliness I tried to think of things Jerry wasn’t good at – he sang out of tune and his sense of rhythm wasn’t entirely conventional (mum said that it was when she realised she didn’t mind dancing out of time that she knew it must be love). Also he was less than patient if we made him late – but that’s the best I can come up with. So what else was Jerry involved in over the years? – Jack
JACK For Judo
Vice President & Area Coach – Western Area of the British Judo Accociation
Chairman – British Judo Association Coaching Committee Chairman, Head Coach and founder member – Bristol Judokwai Vice President & Technical Advisor – British Schools Judo Association For Sport in General Member – Bristol Sports Consultative Committee Founder Member – South West Sports Council Founder Member – Bristol Sports Council Chairman & President – Bristol Sports Association Vice Chairman and Founder Member – Avon Sports Council Chairman – Standing Conference for South West Governing Sports Bodies Vice Chairman – Regional Council for Sport and Recreation Vice Chairman – Bristol Sports Liaison Council In the Art World Vice President – Royal West of England Academy Artist’s Chairman - Royal West of England Academy Member – Arts Consultative Steering Group For Castle Park Founder Member – Bristol Arts Consultative Committee For the City of Bristol Chairman – Bristol Civic Society Member – Bristol Initiative Chairman – Bristol LA21 Group Member – Scrutiny Committee for Planning, Bristol City Council Founder Member – Bristol City Docks Group Member – S.S. Great Britain Committee As a Teacher Head of Art for 30 years – Cotham Grammar School Visiting Lecturer – Bristol School of Architecture Amazingly apart from the two teaching posts, all these positions were voluntary!
And just as amazingly, despite all these things going on, no matter what he might have been in the middle of, he always made time for us. I am lucky enough to have lived nextdoor to Goldrush my entire life and I’ve always known I could go across the lane and chat to Jerry about anything at anytime. I could count on him for advice no matter what. He had such a keen interest in what we were all up to and he loved to pass on all his knowledge. While I was still at primary school Jerry would take me out on historical walks around Bristol on weekends. The cathedral, the route of the old city wall, around the docks. There’s no way I would know what a flying buttress was if it wasn’t for him! I remember being desperate to finish getting everything ready for school the next day on Sunday evenings so I could go up to Anne’s studio and snuggle up on what felt like the most comfortable sofa in the world in between Anne and Jerry just to watch terrible television. As children we were so lucky to have him around! Jerry loved tradition.
He used to set us on our way at the annual Easter egg hunt (admittedly in later years it became more of a Easter Egg brawl, until Harry came along, and then we all had to try and act like adults again) He gave out cryptic clues to us on birthday treasure hunts, But the best of the lot as Robin eluded to earlier, was the covert world of night ops… I’m not entirely sure Jerry would be happy with me telling you about this, so I hope you can all keep a secret! Every year, come mid December, he would pick a night to go and collect the holly and ivy he used to make the Christmas Wreath for the gate, but in typical Jerry fashion, it was an adventure. We would dress in black, and covered in camoflauge paint, we would set up off the lane… Silence had to be maintained at all times… The only form of communication was hand signals… we were to be nothing more than shadows. As soon as as we spotted movement of any kind we would stop on the spot. It is amazing how close we were to people sometimes but we went undetected by remaining motionless. Once we had found a suitable location, one of us, usually Jerry would keep watch whilst Robin and I collected, we had to be very selective, only the bits with lots of berries. These made for a much nicer final product! One year Jerry used his umbrella to alert us to incoming passers by, He was on the pavement… whilst we were set back from the road clambering around hedges looking for good sprigs of holly. As he put the umbrella up we knew to freeze on the spot and not make a sound until he put it down…a flawless operation… the fact that it might have looked a little odd to these passers by considering that it wasn’t raining never actually occurred to me! But we were never caught! What with all this as well as all his real responsibilities… he always had a lot on his plate! . . .Which leads me nicely to another of Jerry’s passions… Food! As a young man Jerry’s appetite was the stuff of legend. On holiday… Jerry was youth hostelling around Yorkshire, one evening he arrived at an isolated old hostel building out in the middle of nowhere, as he signed the register, the lady on reception looked at him in horror… “Hicks!… not the boy with the terrible appetite!” As it turned out another hosteller who had been through the previous day had alerted the woman to Jerry’s possible arrival and warned her that he was capable of eating her out of house and home! I was talking to Jim Holmyard the other day - he was very sad not to be able to join us today, but he was remembering the Hicks / Holmyard holidays of old and how he was always amazed that no sooner had they stopped to set up camp somewhere than before you knew it Jerry had the fire going, the water on the boil, and some exotic dish often consisting of Corned Beef underway! Jerry was a master in the kitchen, and his Piece de Resistance had to be as any of you who have been lucky enough to enjoy it will surely agree… The tribal Paella on Boxing day! The tradition lives on with both Danny and Sharon (along with the dedicated army of helpers) having already picked up the baton over the last few years.
As somewhat of a food lover myself, some of the most important life lessons I ever learned from Jerry were to do with food… Here are in my opinion the three biggies, which will stay with me for the rest of my life… Number 1 Not a grain of rice, meaning we should never leave anything on our plates Number 2 Treat every meal as if it was your last, because you never know when you’ll get another one… And most importantly of all Never eat on an empty stomach!
In 1974 (along with several other Bristol personalities) Jerry was asked to provide an anonymous sample of his handwriting to an expert in the field for an article in the Bristol Evening Post. With only his handwriting to go on, this is what the expert said about Jerry. “He is vitally energetic… physically emotionally and mentally, has tremendous drive, he knows what he wants and nobody else is going to have the slightest effect in trying to turn him aside. His ideas are crystal clear, perfectly organised, right down to the brass tacks, yet backed by sound foresight, and he has a persistent sense of continuity and application that relentlessly juggernauts the opposition. He will never be overlooked in a crowd and in social contacts he is looked on as a Somebody by virtue of his Pschological stature and strength of personality. Maybe his intensity of approach would be found wearing by those of lesser stature and stamina but at least he always has a valuable contribution to make in any circle in which he may find himself. As an ally he is unsurpassed, but if he’s on the other side, his stamina for being frustratingly obstructive must be experienced to be believed. A BORN LEADER. KIM
A born leader. . how true. In the Judo world, as the first Black belt in the West of England, Jerry helped launch judo clubs from Gloucester to the tip of Cornwall. He ran Bristol Judokwai, coaching twice a week for over 30 years. His pupils gained Regional and National honours and some even fought internationally. And at the end of his 20 year stint as Western Area Coach, the Area Team had its best ever result taking Silver at the National Team Championship. I see a host of long known Judo faces here too. What else was mentioned? The RWA. Jerry and my mum both academicians along with other talented Slade students from their era. He has several paintings in the permanent collection including a lovely portrait of the Queen - for many years jerry became the leading formal portrait painter in the region. His most recent work was exhibited at the RWA this year. The day before he was rushed to hospital, even as dementia was gradually eroding his faculties he was working for several hours on a painting of Brandon Hill which may perhaps appear in next year’s exhibition. The SS Great Britain – another link to Bristol’s marvellous heritage and the location of the last mural that he painted with Anne.
The Civic society – a hotbed of creative thinkers fighting to protect Bristol’s uniqueness as a city. Jerry so valued the time spent in their company. Battles for Bristol and wider national campaigns, were won and lost. But Jerry never lost his optimism or the energy to keep making his voice heard – a booming voice (as children, Simon and I knew never to ignore what we called Daddy’s BIG voice). George Ferguson will speak more about ‘Jerry and Bristol’, later. Following early retirement from teaching, Jerry was finally a full time professional Artist. He had already won artistic prizes, including the 1977 Queen’s Silver Jubilee award for painting in Sport. He then added first prize at the British Olympic Exhibition in 1983. In 2004 he was presented with an Honorary MA by Bristol University. Jerry has work displayed worldwide from America to Australia – and speaking of Australia, one of Jerry’s greatest happinesses was re-establishing the connection with his estranged sister Mary in 1992. For the first time he became an Uncle. It was very special that, in 1994, Anne and Jerry were actually visiting our Auzzies for the first time when Dad received news of his MBE for services to Sport and the community in the South West. Though they can’t be here with us, our cousins are on a beach in Melbourne today releasing beautiful balloons in memory of their Uncle Jerry. Although it is true that, as Cancer in it’s various forms became part of his life, his world in some ways grew smaller, he still took enormous pleasure in seeing his family dashing in and out of ‘Goldrush’, and was hugely proud of any and all of our achievements.
As I indicated at the start Jerry was trul multi faceted, a renaissance man who squeezed every last drop out of life. A talented Artist, an inspirational teacher, a humourist, a raconteur, a passionate environmentalist, a leader, a role model, a dedicated Judo coach, a thinker, a campaigner, a loving family man, a loyal friend – but in the end, as was said of Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser, “His life was gentle; and the elements so mix’d in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world ‘ This was a man!’” Even in this last year, or so as Dementia began to really take hold, so lovingly supported by my mum, he dealt with the frustration and fear with courage and dignity – tinged as always with his irrepressible sense of humour. Just 3 weeks ago while he was still in hospital, the nurses told us he had been singing to them. When I asked if they had been able to recognise the tune, amazingly they had. I realised they must have been taking blood at the time. He was singing ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’! Somewhat reluctantly then, I must bring this all to a close. Here we all are today, remembering Jerry. His beloved wife and partner Anne, his daughter, his daughters in law, his grandchildren, those dear families that make up the hub of the tribe and so many other special friends and associates from all his walks of life. And I know I speak for my dad when I say how proud and grateful he is to see this chapel so full of extraordinary individuals whose lives he had the privilege of sharing. So, as Jerry’s extended tribe, I ask you all to turn to the back of your orders of service, where you will see written in red the Toast that Jerry always led at Tribal gatherings, and in the spirit of my creative, imaginative and wonderful father please stand and raise your imaginary glasses, filled with your favourite beverage and say with me …. The Queen the Duke of Lancaster, The Tribe, The Revolution!! And most of all JERRY!
Published on Apr 4, 2014