The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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September 2010

In Memoriam - David Lund 1940-2010

Stephen Tucker

(preached at his funeral service on June 10th 2010)

There is a Garry Larsen Farside cartoon from the 1980ies, which shows a distraught woman in black trying to stop a piano sailing out of her front door and up into a cloud accompanied by a television, a bag of golf clubs and a dog. The women is saying, ‘Aaaa…it’s George, he’s taking it with him.‘  I’m not sure which came first but Peter and David once wrote a sketch for Dave Allen which featured a solicitor at the reading of a will, saying to the assembled family, ‘Oh, he took it all with him.’

As I’ve begun to learn much more about David since his death I’ve become aware of what an extraordinary range of gifts he takes with him. He seems to me to have been both a model teacher and a model parishioner, though knowing his concern for the proprieties of the English language I feel a little nervous in speaking about him and promise not to say ‘hopefully’ or to refer to him as ‘very unique,’ or to put my apostrophes in the wrong place.

David studied English at Hull in the days when Philip Larkin was minding the library. Larkin’s poem ‘Church going’ refers to the church ‘as a serious house on serious earth in whose blent air all our compulsions meet’.  David’s compulsions in this serious house led him to turn a failing youth group into a thriving Sunday club where large groups of young people met in the larger houses of the parish to listen to people like Peter Cooke and our in-house novelist. Diana Raymond.  He arranged concerts of Bach to Boogie to raise money for the Friends of the Music. He organised Old Time Music Hall programmes to entertain pensioners and he did these things over many years.  At UCS where he first taught English and eventually headed the department, his compulsion was to create a culture of learning of which enjoyment was the foundation.  As one former pupil has written ‘It really was true he never raised his voice in class; through his fund raising jazz concerts he also demonstrated a community mindedness which few others matched; these two things point to David’s understanding of UCS as a resolutely anti- authoritarian place with much more emphasis on things to enjoy than things to enforce.’  His jazz and comedy concerts at UCS raised thousands of pounds for different charities; and  his enthusiasm for the theatre led him to direct his pupils in award winning plays – so it’s not surprising that the school theatre in which all these things took place is now named after him.

But how his pupils might have wondered did Mr Lund know all these famous jazz musicians and comedians?  When he was at school in Barnard Castle David more or less taught himself to play the piano, but because he played jazz he was forbidden to use the practice rooms for fear his playing would corrupt the school’s serious musicians. But listening under the bed clothes to serious musicians like Errol Garner, George Shearing, and Oscar Peterson on the American Forces Network inspired David to persevere.  When he went to Cambridge to train as a teacher he used his talents to provide music for the Footlights review of 1967 directed by Clive James, and to provide some of the scripts, for David could also be very funny – hence his contacts with a string of well known comedians for whom he and Peter began to write radio and TV scripts for shows like ‘I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again,’  ‘Dave Allen at Large’ and many others. So all the time he was teaching at UCS David was leading a double life both in the class room and on the London jazz scene performing on radio and at the Pizza express as well as working with Barry Cryer, Willie Rushton, Tim Brooke Taylor, Nicholas Parsons and many others.  His work in Jazz earned him the special award of the BBC Jazz Society, and his community work earned him the Camden New Journal Unsung Heroes award for good citizens, because of all those friends who appeared at UCS to raise money for charity.

These years full of service and creativity, and music and laughter are the gifts he takes with him, but what he also takes is the memory of years of suffering the terrible disease that was first diagnosed as long ago as 1985. The painful questions which such an affliction must cause us to ask of God are obvious. And I cannot possibly answer them for you. All I can point to is the fact that faith can have the capacity to encompass pain, anger, uncertainty, and even  tragedy, and raise up a durable heroism both in those who suffer and those who surround that suffering with a faithful love demonstrated in years of caring. And David also takes that love with him, together with the love of all who knew and were inspired by him. Amen.

A Celebration of David’s life in words and music will take place in the Lund Theatre at UCS on Nov. 4th at 7.30pm. If you wish to attend please contact Peter Lund on 020 7435 5958, sooner rather than later.

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