On the backs of crocodiles

William Connelly, known variously as ‘The Aged Prior’, ‘The Ancient One’, ‘Grandpire’, ‘Pater’, ‘The Reverend’ and combinations of all of those. Most recently, at the care home that was his final destination on this mortal planet, he was called ‘The Gladiator’ due to his perseverance, his tenacity for life. An appropriate title for a man that we feared we were saying our final farewells to over a decade ago. 

On that occasion, he looked fearlessly into the darkness of the eye holes of Death and said, ‘Not now. Only when it is quite convenient.’ Now, at the appropriate juncture, he has assented to go renew the rivalry with his brother, Charles, in the afterlife.

I could talk about how he touched the lives of all of our family and beyond, including the local community where he served as reverend and all-round fine local chap. It goes without saying that he will be greatly missed, and that is not exactly what I wanted to write about here. Instead, courtesy of my dear aunt, are some pictures that will say all that is needed on that side of things. 

Sadness is obviously present in everyone who knew him at this time, but what has been wonderful to see is the huge amount of positivity celebrating his extraordinary life that I’ve seen so far. Photographs and reminiscences that delight us all are being shared all around the world at the moment. So what I wanted to write about is the impact that he’s had, certainly on my life, in two different and subtle ways.

First, he taught me to always make life interesting. Fanciful tales, usually involving crocodiles, told with a straight face and absolute certainty made me believe in the most fantastic things when I was younger and gullible. I had to ask my father to verify a story of a twelve-hundred foot long crocodile that my grandfather had apparently seen in the jungle once, not being able to conceptualise how large that would be. My father put it into terms that I could understand by pointing out that it would be larger than the Titanic. 

I never believed another word William said after that, but I always wanted to hear all the stories. Knowing they were utter nonsense did not diminish their worth, it was a delight to hear an imagination run wild. The real world had a grandpire filter that he translated for us, as best as words could suffice, much like a novel is an idea translated by the author into something that can be read by others. 

Inducting a young Spargo and his cousin into the Sunday afternoon battalion.

Inducting a young Spargo and his cousin into the Sunday afternoon battalion.

Secondly, he was always deeply interested in everything that was happening to others. Regardless of whether he knew anything about the topic, he would inquire into my doings every time I saw him. When I mentioned that I had been making music on my computer, he asked what sort. Not expecting the reply of ‘industrial’ he simply asked if there were any hymns involved, before praising my musical efforts and encouraging me to keep going with it. 

His wish always seemed to be for everyone to pursue their endeavours with their best efforts, whatever they were, and as long as it made them happy. To see that in action and in evidence brought him genuine happiness. Passing on the instruction to revel in the happiness of others is an excellent legacy for a reverend to leave. 

So farewell, Ancient Pater, may flights of crocodilic angels and angelic crocodiles the size of skyscrapers carry you to your rest.

Pire in the jungles of Puerto Vallarta, no doubt fleeing one of the infamously vicious Mexican jungle crocodiles.

Pire in the jungles of Puerto Vallarta, no doubt fleeing one of the infamously vicious Mexican jungle crocodiles.