A grove of trees in memory of Peter Convery, poet, humanitarian, teacher and writer.
A great Scot and a great human being.
In memory of Uncle Peter
Donated by Ronnie Convery
23rd January 2018
Google tells us that exactly 401 miles separate Stock Street in Paisley where Peter was born in the summer of 1926 from Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, where he died in the last days of 2017. But a human life is not measured in miles or kilmometres, nor is it to be judged by length of days. St John of the Cross says very simply, “At the evening of life we will be judged on love.” Those of us here this morning know how much Peter loved. His kind twinkly eyes, and ever ready smile were an expression of a childlike heart, which for nine decades endeared him to countless people, from the “wee wummin” on the bus to whom he would explain an old Scottish rhyme, to the nurses attending him in hospital to whom he would explain (as only an old actor can) how to fall without hurting yourself. Peter was a teacher at heart, and most of his London years – and they were 70 – were spent teaching. His students were never just anonymous foreign youngsters trying to pick up English. They were unique individuals, each important to him, so that in retirement the invitations would come from Japan and Italy, from Singapore and Iran to visit his former students who had become friends. Peter was a man who was at the head of the queue when God gave out the gift of curiosity and knowledge, but was probably at the end of the queue when it came to order. As anyone who visited him will know, his flat was a war zone of language learning kits, books from the charity shop, clothes from a Victorian play and bits of paper on which wold be noted lines which could be built into a poem. On my last visit I had to move the “Beginners Bulgarian” book onto the pile on the floor to get a seat, only to find that it was covering his new copy “Serbo-Croat Poetry of the 20th century”. But maybe that love of knowledge and thirst to communicate it were not easy to file in neat drawers. It is in his poetry that we find Peter at his most intimate … the wordsmith who crafted beautiful verse out of day to day life, out of love and out of loss… His faith was deep but not demonstrative. Many are the candles he lit at Westminster Cathedral for my children and for me as we sat school and university exams. The last time I saw him I brought him a rosary. He was unable to speak but he gestured me to lay it round his neck. His was a deep and old piety, but one which sustained him and consoled him greatly. Peter was a joyous storm of love and life, a child into his 90s who never grew weary, a friend who never grew bored. His delightful humour and quiet, caring love will never be forgotten by those of us who were blessed to know him. As we take our leave of him today, I can think of no better words to accompany him through the gates of eternity than those he penned many years ago … Words of freedom. For Peter death was a kind of freedom from the confines of illness and infirmity which were his purgatory in latter years. His faith taught him that death was not the end … but a new beginning as we hear in these words from his poem “The day is fine” “Well, old friend, You’re free at last To smell again the scent of pine Rich berries ready To your Country Boy hand A clear stream running Wild things sunning In sweet summer grasses Your favoured birdies winging Tall trees whispering overhead “The day is fine.” And just ahead, around the bend Your pathway leads straight To Journey’s end And welcome singing.” If St John of the Cross is right that in the evening of life we will be judged on love, we can be sure that our dear, lovely, gentle, caring Peter will be already hearing that ‘welcome singing’ and enjoying the fruits of a life well lived. Take Bonnie care Uncle Peter. Take Bonnie care …
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