Tony Bell (1952-1957)

Died on 16th November 2019, aged 80

Tony, or At or Atty to some, but more correctly Anthony John Graham Bell, was born in 1939 in Croydon, his family moving from there to Roxeth, Middlesex, where he and his brother Martin, also an OMT, grew up.

He was educated firstly at Heathfield School for Girls Kindergarten, St Keverne, (where he was the only boy - a source of much embarrassment), then at Quainton Hall Preparatory School in Harrow, progressing to Merchant Taylors’ in 1952. He went up the Classical side, finishing in the Sixth Form, and on the way collecting accolades as a first-rate prop on the Rugby Field, a stalwart in the First Fifteen, and gracing the Prompter’s Table.

I cannot say that we were great friends at school. I was on the Modern Side, we never shared the same form, and were in different houses and I never progressed further than the Third Fifteen.

However, as luck would have it, on leaving Taylors’ which we both did in 1957, our career paths took very similar paths. We both went into the law as articled clerks. Tony was offered a place at St John’s College, Oxford, but preferred to start his business life in the law and was articled to Jimmy Hughes of Beddington Hughes & Hobart in the West End and of Swatton Hughes & Co in North Harrow, (where he spent most of his business life), while I was articled to a partner in a small West End practice.

We both Qualified as Solicitors in 1962 and 1963 respectively. Tony went on to become a partner with his old firm, while I said a thankful farewell to the daily commute, and became an assistant with a rival firm, Lynch Hall & Hornby in Central Harrow, also eventually becoming a partner, and so our paths, inevitably, started to cross. Indeed, in the early 1990s during a particularly bad recession, our firms decided to amalgamate and so we then also became partners.

But this was a long time in the future, and going back to our formative years, as we were also regular devotees of Durrants, its sports facilities and comforts - particularly the bar - we began to see much more of each other and became firm friends.

Such firm friends that Tony was best man at my first marriage in 1963, and, remarkably, went on, I am ashamed to say, to preside in the same role on two subsequent occasions, which displays optimism and fortitude of the highest order.

Tony married Margaret in 1968, and for 30 years they and their children Jim and Phil lived in Chesham Bois, moving after 30 years to Amersham, and then to Bothel in Cumbria in 2004.

Another great friend of ours, who also sadly died this year, was Colin Harris OMT, married to Wendy, and all three of us had two sons.

Our wives also became good friends. As was then the rule, they spent Saturday afternoons on the touch line watching various levels of Rugby Football, and afterwards were consigned to the ballroom at Durrants until 7.00 p.m. drinking tea, when they were at last allowed to join their husbands in the bar, where we were on our umpteenth pint.

I am not terribly clear how it came about, but the six of us started to dine out on regular occasions at restaurants or other hostelries of our choice. On one early occasion, lobster must have been on the menu, because we called ourselves the Homardians. Tony even managed to acquire, I know not how, the skeleton of a lobster, which always adorned the table on these occasions, much to the bemusement of catering staff. The skeleton even bore a name, Ephraim - again I have absolutely no idea why - although it surely emanated from Tony.

So successful were these meetings that in later years, our six sons formed the junior Homardians, and are at this moment planning a reunion.

Tony’s great prowess was as a prop on the Rugby pitch, destroying front row opposition on a regular basis for OMTs. He made 380 first team appearances between 1958 & 1978. He also got the chance to play on the same pitch as his sons, Jim and Phil, before retiring.

My fondest memory of those halcyon Rugby filled days was an occasion when for some strange reason Tony and his long-time partner-in-front-row-crime, Geoff Shilling, appeared for the Lambs propping me as hooker playing away against the London Irish Wild Geese at Sunbury in the first match of the season. The very first scrum collapsed. In the ensuing melee, I received a punch to a private place, causing considerable discomfort. Tony laconically remarked that it would not happen again. The scrum was reset, and duly collapsed, revealing one of the opposing props lying on the ground in a condition requiring him to be escorted from the field, Tony bearing an unholy grin!

I had already been initiated into the Sir Thomas White Lodge, and Tony duly followed, eventually rising to be Master. His masonic interest did not end there. He went on to join the Tommy White Chapter, eventually bossing that as well, the Public Schools Installed Master’s Lodge, Ruislip Chapter and later Wigton St. John’s Lodge. He achieved high rank in all the masonic disciplines.

His retirement was, sadly, marked by a very serious decline in his health, both physical and mental, and indeed his last years were an enormous burden, not only to himself, but also to his devoted wife and family.

He died peacefully in his sleep on 16th November with Margaret, Phil and Jim by his bedside. His funeral was held on 29th November on a glorious sunny day at Carlisle Crematorium, attended amongst many others, by OMTs Tony Wright, Richard Burt, Tommy Willcox, Dick Clack, Jeremy Gaskell – resplendent in OMT blazer - and myself, and many members of the North Harrow mafia.

The final words are taken more or less verbatim, and with my grateful thanks, from a quite brilliant and moving Eulogy delivered during the service by son Phil on behalf of Tony’s family.

“Dad had a larger than life personality and frame and was a source of comfort, presence, authority, and as far as Wenzels the Bakers in North Harrow were concerned, a regular source of income. I always felt Dad guided us by example more than with words. However, as a young man I do recall occasions when he felt words were a more appropriate form of guidance, usually when I had the misguided notion that I knew best. With his legal background, we were guided through our youth by the mantra of “I do not want to be defending you in court”. Something which both Jim and I fortunately avoided. Dad steadfastly protected our family through tough times, never willingly bowing to outside pressure to influence his direction and our families’ growth, and he was always there for us when we needed him, whether with a fatherly look, a few well-chosen words, a funny action or a generous act that guided us on our way.”

I will miss his hearty laugh, his bushy eyebrows – which he steadfastly refused to have trimmed - and will never forget him. He was one-in-a-million, a wonderful playmate, bon viveur, expert on cream buns, companion and partner, a constant source of laughter and merriment. Farewell old friend!

Peter Lever (1951-1957)


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