After Sam’s funeral several people expressed a wish to have copies of the words written by Louise, Joe and myself for the occasion. Others who had been unable to attend also told us that they would like to read what was said. We thought it would be appropriate to put the three pieces together with some photographs and other writings as a small memento. My own words were limited to introducing the contents of the funeral, but, since they were chosen to reflect aspects of Sam’s character and beliefs, we include them here almost unaltered.
There is a connectedness in the various elements that will make up this funeral and I would like to explain it at the start. When we first heard that Sam had died we were not at all sure what kind of funeral he would have wanted, or indeed whether he would have wanted one at all. He was often fiercely critical of organised religion and enjoyed baiting those members of the family with religious beliefs. In one of his emails from India he said, ‘We had some fun at a big Hindu festival the other evening. We watched this huge twenty foot tall chariot-trolley thing covered in decorations and wood carvings, with about five or six old bearded holy men inside it ringing a bell and being holy, being pulled through the streets by all the men, while the crowd hurled bananas from all directions at it.’ In a postcard he added ‘This is the kind of religion I could get into.’
We did, however, have an immediate impulse to bring his body home. When Louise, Joe and I reached Delhi we met George and Josh, with whom he had had a wonderful time for the last three months travelling. They told us that in a conversation in the Himalayas he had said that, extraordinary though the trip had been, it had helped him to realise his love of Steep and even that he would like to end his days in Steep churchyard. The decision was made in that instant that this was where his funeral must be.
Tallis’s Spem in Alium is a piece of music which Sam particularly liked as do the rest of the family. It was something he listened to in India on his iPod. Lead Me, Lord is something that Sam sang in Burgundy with Alastair Langlands and his choral groups. Into My Arms by NickCave is a song that Sam listened to again and again and its opening line (‘I don’t believe in an interventionist god’) expresses something of his views on religion. The poem by W. H. Auden (‘The More Loving One’) is one which Sam chose to read at the Bedales Poetry Society.
Sam had a love of England that was deep but not uncritical. His film In Search of Old Albion, in which he charts his friend, Jack Finch’s, pursuit of an England not dominated by corporate homogeneity, is consistent with his interest in the seventeenth century leader of the poor, Gerrard Winstanley, who believed in breaking the property monopoly of the elite and allowing each family a little land from which to make a living and in which to be free. Sam, George and Josh sang Blake’s Jerusalem while in India, a song which Sam wanted to reclaim for those who fight injustice and cruelty and imagine a new England.
Sam was radical in his beliefs, like Winstanley, and also like Shelley, whose atheist pamphlets got him into trouble at Oxford. One of Sam’s first major roles in a senior Bedales production was as Leigh Hunt – another radical – in James Murphy’s play about Shelley and Byron: The Poets. It is apt that James, and Jo Murphy who directed it, will read from Shelley’s Adonais, his elegy for the early death of Keats.
The film, In Search of Old Albion has a soundtrack taken almost entirely from the nineteen sixties Kinks album Village Green Preservation Society, so it seems fitting to end with another Kinks song (Days).
At one point during In Search of Old Albion Jack quotes these lines from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
This seems to sum up Sam’s discovery of the world in India and his final resting in Steep churchyard.