We have had many people contact us about Andrew Starnes, wishing to pass on their condolences and get to know more about the exciting life he led.
For those that were unable to attend his funeral and life celebration, his family would like to share the readings from his service.
24th January 2017
Celebrant – Philip Coleman
FUNERAL SERVICE FOR ANDREW STARNES
Good afternoon everyone and welcome. We have come here today to celebrate the life and to mark the funeral of Andrew Frederick Starnes, who died on 6th January. He was 65 years old.
My name is Philip Coleman and I’ve been asked to lead this celebration of Andrew’s life. As you can see, I’m not a vicar, I lead non-religious, humanist type services and neither Andrew nor his close family were particularly religious it seems fitting that we mark the end of his life with a different sort of service, hopefully one that will be more appropriate both for Andrew himself and meaningful for all of us here today. So we are going to hear various people talk about Andrew, we’re going to sing a hymn, one that Andrew loved singing and then afterwards there are going to be refreshments in the other barn. The burial will take place in the grounds of the house in Blackboys and only close family are going to attend that.
Now getting together to commemorate someone’s life, to mark someone’s death is a good thing to do. It doesn’t matter what religion we are or whether we are religious at all. We seem to need to mark important events in our lives- births, marriages, and in this case a death. So obviously this is a difficult thing to do, but a very natural and human thing to do.
Anyone’s death affects all the people who knew them. And we need a way of acknowledging that, of acknowledging our sense of loss, our grief and we also need a time when we can look at their life as a whole, celebrate it and see how much of a difference they have made to our lives.
So we have come here to mark the end of Andrew’s life. Everything in this world changes. Things are changing all the time. Some changes we welcome and some we find much more difficult to accept. It’s as if our heads know very well that things will change, that they can’t stay the same as they were, that change in inevitable but our hearts don’t find it so easy to accept this. And in a way in order to move forward we have to let go. That doesn’t mean of course that we forget someone or that we stop appreciating what they have done for us but we do have to let go of something. But coming together to think about someone, remembering their life in our own way can help us with this process of letting go, help us take on board the changes that have happened.
Andrew was important to each of us here in different and very special ways As a husband, a son, a father, brother, son-in-law, uncle, cousin, work colleague and of course as a friend and today we have come here with our love and our care and our respect to say goodbye to him.
When something ends it gives us a good chance to see things in a new perspective, to see the whole and not get lost in details. To get a bigger picture. It’s the same with someone’s life. When someone’s life ends, we have a chance to see them more clearly. Reassess things. Appreciate them more. Appreciate them even more. Take stock and look at how much they have given us over the years. What they have meant to us. What they still mean to us and will go on meaning to us.
So we have come together to think about Andrew, to remind ourselves of his life and what he was like and how he affected us. To strengthen the memories we have of Andrew, so that those memories can live on.
Along with our sadness at Andrew’s death there can also be things that can help if we bear them in mind at this time. We can remember the joys that Andrew had during his life, the fullness of his life. We can be glad that we knew him. For the things he gave us and the things he taught us.
But before we come to the tributes Andrew’s family have asked that we sing something together. And we are going to sing a favourite hymn of Andrew’s, something he loved to sing and that Sue and Andrew had at their wedding. It’s the hymn ‘Bread of Heaven’.
So first of all I am going to ask Clive Whitmore to come up and read something that has been written by Jenny Whitmore.
In 1938, the year that I was born, Amy Pratt, Andrew’s mother was not quite 14 years old. She lived with her father and mother, James and Jane Pratt and her much loved sister Eva at Hammonds Green Farm at Framfield. Few days passed when I did not see her. My mother, her older sister Eunice, would take my brother and me in the pram and, as we got older on our bicycles to visit her parents after lunch every day. We would arrive at 3.00pm and after a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit in the kitchen Amy would take us outside to feed the chicken, help her collect the eggs and if we were very lucky, to see the latest new born calf. We did this all year round whatever the weather. Amy was for us her nephews and nieces more of a big sister than an auntie. She had a warm and loving nature and a great sense of humour. She was much loved by the entire family.
Later on when I was a pupil at Framfield Primary school I would walk down to the farm most days after school, in summer to play outside with whichever cousin happened to be there but in winter Auntie Amy taught me to sew and embroider, things that little girls had to learn in those days I was not very good at this but Amy was endlessly patient with me. In 1947 I was thrilled when Amy told me she was to marry Fred Starnes and she wanted me to be one of the bridesmaids. Oh the glamour of it all! The pretty dress, the white shoes, the flowers….. it was like one of the Hollywood films I saw on Saturdays at the Uckfield Picture House!
But I was even more excited a few years later when Grannie Pratt told me that Amy and Fred were going to have a baby. By this time I was 14 and I thought that to have a baby cousin was the most wonderful thing possible. I visualised the baby lying in its cradle cooing, blowing bubbles and smiling a seraphic smile at its big cousin. The wait was long but eventually the day came when I was taken to Staverton to see my little cousin Andrew. I could scarcely contain my excitement as I mounted the stairs to his bedroom. But as soon as I peeped into his crib he began to howl and there was nothing I could do to comfort him. I beat a hasty retreat downstairs and decided that after all babies were not for me.
A few months later my mother and Amy wanted to go shopping and I was asked to look after Andrew. By now he was crawling around, pulling himself up and beginning to say a few words. He fairly bombed around my parents’ house, exploring every nook and cranny, pulling out books from the shelves, upturning the wastepaper basket and getting into all the mischief that crawling babies do. Amy and Rob you will soon be experiencing that! I had my work cut out to keep up with him. And every now and then he would turn round and give me that devastating smile of his, chuckle as if to say, I am having a great time here and continue his voyage of discovery. It was that day that I lost my heart forever to my little cousin.
Not so very long after that I arrived at Uckfield Station one day after school in Lewes and to my great joy there was Amy with Andrew in the pushchair waiting for me. They were coming home to tea with us. As we walked down Framfield road in the sunshine Amy suddenly surprised me by saying “Your mother tells me you are thinking of going to college when you finish at Lewes and training to become a teacher. Well, I think that is such a good idea.” I was quite taken aback but at the same time enormously encouraged. Further education for females was not exactly a priority in my family as in so many other families in 1952. And she went on to say, as she looked down fondly on the little blond head in the pushchair “I want Andrew to have a good education. It is so important.”
I cannot tell you how many, many times over the years I have had reason to recollect that sunny afternoon in Framfield Road. I will give you one example among the many, many I could recount. One day our decorator rang to say that his elderly mother’s cat was sick and he had to drive his mother to Uckfield to see the vet. I politely asked him why Uckfield, surely there were vets closer at hand. Oh no, he replied, you don’t understand she will only see Mr Starnes and quite right too. He is the best.
Each time this happened I would burst with pride at what my little cousin had achieved in personal as well as in professional terms. Sadly his mother did not live to see what he achieved but, of course Fred, Pat, Diane and Kenneth were there to witness and rejoice in his achievements as well as the wider family of Starnes and Pratts.
The ultimate happiness for me in watching Andrew grow up and become the lovely person that he was, was to see him with his wonderful wife Sue and his wonderful children, David and Amy. And now Rob is part of the family too. David qualifying as a doctor, Rob and Amy’s beautiful wedding and the timely arrival of little Eben brought Andrew great happiness and much for us all to rejoice about.
Andrew achieved so much in his life and gave so much to those who were privileged to know him. And it is very right and proper that we should celebrate that life and pay tribute to a very special and I believe a great human being.
And now Andrew’s cousin Clem has written something that he has asked me to read out on his behalf…
ANDREW STARNES – THE CROCKSTEAD YEARS
MEMORIES OF COUSINS CLEM STARNES AND JAMES NIGHTINGALE
Crockstead Farm at Halland was an important part of Andrew’s early life. Andrew’s grandfather, Albert Starnes, farmed at Crockstead with the help of his 8 children, including Andrew’s father, Fred. It was to become Andrew’s second home and Ruth, Fred’s sister, was to help Fred care for Andrew in the years following the untimely death of his mother.
Andrew spent many happy days at Crockstead surrounded by grandparents, uncles, aunts and 20 Starnes cousins. Life at Crockstead followed the farming calendar. The children would play while the adults worked. In the days before computers and Health and Safety, the childrens’ games included:
- Riding on the bale sledge during haymaking. (If Fred was driving the tractor, he would go around the corners at speed in an attempt to throw the children off while the children sang “Crazy, crazy Frederick”.)
- Riding in silage trailers while they were being filled with grass and holding on to the netting at the front when the trailers were tipped.
Winter activities included skating on the horse pond and tobogganing across the fields, hoping that you didn’t end up in the river at the bottom.
For his 14th birthday Andrew received a brand new bow and arrow and, in common with most 14 year old boys in this situation, wanted to find out how far his arrow would fire. However, Andrew did it in his own inimitable style – climbing onto the farmhouse roof and then onto the chimney stack. No mean feat as the chimney was taller than him. From there he could fire his bow and arrow at maximum range.
However, Andrew was to scale even greater heights. He watched with interest as electricity pylons were erected in the field behind the farmhouse. It was to prove too much of a temptation for Andrew and one afternoon he climbed to the top of one of the pylons. When he told his Auntie Ruth what he had done she had to sit down for fear of fainting.
But this was not the only fright he was to give his poor Auntie Ruth. Ruth’s son, James, remembers the day when Andrew was charged with taking him out on his first bike ride on the road. Ruth gave Andrew strict instructions to be very careful with his young cousin. The bike ride went without incident but on their return Andrew wrapped James in a blanket, carried him into the house and presented him to his, by now, distraught aunt. Unfortunately, Ruth didn’t find this prank as highly amusing as Andrew clearly did.
On another occasion on a family walk along a cliff edge, Andrew ran ahead and gave the impression that he had jumped over the edge. In fact, he had merely jumped onto a ledge below. One thing was guaranteed, when Andrew was around, things were bound to be more exciting.
Then there was the sport of “pig-fishing”. For those who have not participated in this pastime, it involved climbing into the roof above the pig pen and dangling a potato attached to a piece of baler twine into the pen. When a pig grabbed the potato, the string would be pulled in an attempt to lift the pig off the ground. In which case you had “caught a pig”.
Andrew excelled at pig-fishing, as he did at most things. He was clever and daring. He was the fastest runner and the best at climbing. But nobody minded because he was “Cousin Andrew” and his cousins were proud of everything that he achieved.
And now Clem is going to come up and read a poem:
Cousin Andrew, that’s how he was known to me
From our childhood days running around on the farm
As far as eyes could see
To the respected vet he became
Cousin Andrew always remained the same
Just Cousin Andrew to me
His family came along and gave him great joy
Even when he was so ill he was thrilled
To hold his first grandchild, a gorgeous baby boy
He found peace at his home and the animals they had
Walking around his land things didn’t seem so bad
We played golf once a week – he would always win
But I wasn’t bothered. He was just Cousin Andrew.
So I let him win!
So I now bid you farewell
And will miss you more than words can tell.
And when people talk of you
I will say he was a decent kind of man
But more than that, he was much loved Cousin Andrew to me.
And now Steve Blowey….
Andrew Frederick Starnes was born on the 14th of March 1951 in Sussex and was brought up on the family farm. His fascination with the attendance of the local farm vets led him to the RVC via night school and working at Burroughs Welcome laboratories, Frant, and he graduated in 1976.
After graduating he cut his teeth at George Wyse & Partners in Oswestry where he had a reputation for a phenomenal work load and is still remembered by the local farmers to this day. That work ethic stayed with him throughout his career. He then returned to join the local vets Clarke, Grainger and Howe in Uckfield in 1980.
Local folklore says the origin of Andy wanting to be a vet stems from an episode in Brookhouse Lane, Framfield when he was fourteen. Andrew and his dad Fred were going to Framfield and broke down in the ford over the stream. Getting out to see what was wrong they heard a car racing down the hill towards them, splashing them as it crossed the ford, and roaring off in the direction of Halland. Impressed by this Andrew asked his dad, “Who was that?” “That wasd Peter Clarke, the vet” came the reply. The die was cast, Andrew decided he was going to be a vert so that he too could do that one day!
Andrew was soon offered a partnership and was willing to tackle any species. Among his duties he attended the local Drusillas Zoo where he met Sue his future wife. They subsequently married and they had David and Amy.
Andrew was a true mixed practitioner, “one of a dying breed” he used to remark. Alongside normal mixed practice he developed expertise in poultry and other avian species, all manner of exotic species at Drusillas, and Camelid medicine, attending a Camelid conference in the USA and visited Peru and Europe on behalf of a client selecting breeding stock. He didn’t like a fuss and was modest about his achievements but was delighted to receive the Benevides Trophy in 2016, a prestigious award to the person who, in the opinion of the judges, has contributed most to the Camelid industry.
Christine remarked to me the other day that had it not been for Andrew’s modesty and loathing of public speaking, he would have been recognised as a national authority on Camelids across the UK, but we didn’t tell him because we were lucky to have him.
Unfortunately, after a period of prolonged weight loss, he was given a life expectancy of three months on July 9th 2099. Typically, on returning to the surgery that Friday afternoon he went to see a horse with colic to take his mind off things; ironic, given that this was his least favourite species!
This dire circumstance brought out Andrew’s wicked sense of humour and he and a friend hatched a plan to drive his Subaru Forester Turbo through as many speed cameras as possible one Saturday afternoon trying to get the maximum number of points ever, but he would be gone before the long arm of the law caught up with him!
Fortunately, further medical investigation revised the diagnosis to carcinoid Syndrome (which none of us had heard of either!) with a thirty-eight month average life expectancy and, with treatment, he continued as Senior Partner for seven years until his retirement in September 2016, defying all predictions but never complaining, always working to his full capacity to improve his ‘baby’ as he referred to the Practice.
This enabled him to further enhance his reputation as a man of many talents, a font of all knowledge in many areas of veterinary medicine and surgery, embracing new technology as it came along, and a wise and astute leader. His mentoring of new graduate employees and students will be remembered fondly by many who worked at the Practice. During this time he was proud to attend the graduations of David as a doctor and Amy as a lawyer and meet his grandson Eben at the end of November 2016.
Outside work, with the notable exception of Sue’s pony Solitaire with whom he shared a mutual loathing, he enjoyed his smallholding. He was an expert wood turner and many of us have an example of his work. We cherish the ‘numpty’ award, kept on the mantelpiece at work and awarded to the person who has performed ‘exceptionally’ in the workplace each week. He also enjoyed theatre and music, and most sports playing football, rugby, golf and especially squash, winning the Mayhew’s work’s tournament to their dismay!
On a personal level we were fortunate to attend many matches at Arsenal together and were always amazed at his capacity to eat any fast food heavily laced with fried onions, the aroma of which he claimed he was unable to resist. One night Andrew passed all the burger bars and eventually stopped on the corner of Gillespie Road at the last hot dog stand, Fat Harry’s, choosing a foot long saveloy in an eight inch baguette covered in fried onions. A rather incongruous sight, he proceeded to east this on the remaining walk to the Emirates Stadium and on arrival I asked him how it was? “OK2, he said, “but not as good as the burgers”. On another occasion, an extra ticket became available at short notice for Arsenal v Liverpool one Saturday afternoon and, knowing he had always wanted to see them, I asked and he took up the opportunity to come with me. The game was unremarkable and we wined and dined as normal, and returned home. The next day he was inundated with emails, texts and phone calls from veterinary colleagues alarmed at his non-appearance at the previous night’s annual reunion who were concerned about his welfare.
Sadly the last such old boys’ outing was September 28th 2016 when Andrew, Lloyd and I went together, the onions were enjoyed and the match ended on a winning note.
Andrew’s all too brief retirement ended on January 6th 2017 at home with his family. Our deepest sympathies are extended to Sue, David, Amy and family.
His passing is truly a great loss to all who had the privilege to know and work with him and the veterinary profession.
And now Sue has asked me to read out something on her behalf….
Once Andrew got to the Royal Vet College the fun and games had to be fitted in with his studies but he still found time to enjoy himself, stories abound of him leapfrogging parking meters and generally displaying his sense of fun.
Andrew met his wife-to-be when he was called out to a sick goat at Drusillas on a Sunday. Sue was in charge that day and was rather put out when the vet arrived and, instead of coming to find her, let himself into the goat pen to examine the animal. She was a little impressed when he put the goat on a drip, and pleased that he cared enough to return later that day to check on his patient. By the time he had visited twice more the following day, and the day after, Sue began to pay rather more attention to Andrew and less to the goat. It still took Andrew some time to pluck up the courage to ask Sue out which he eventually did in July 1980. Sue quickly realised that she had found an exceptional man, and they were married in May 1981.
Never happier than when he was spending time with his family, Andrew encouraged Sue when she took up carriage driving, despite his antipathy towards horses. The whole family got involved with the sport, and Andrew took over as Sue’s groom and backstepper when Amy left home. One of the duties of the backstepper involves walking the course with the driver, and over the years Amy and Sue had trudged many miles across country. Andrew did it only once before acquiring a small motorbike!
Andrew enjoyed listening to music and he and Sue went to many concerts over the years, often with friends and the children. The music you were listening to as you arrived today is a selection of his favourites, spanning the genres from the Rolling Stones to Emmylou Harris, Dire Straits to Joan Baez. Folk was a special favourite and their last holiday was to a folk festival in Portugal at the beginning of October.
Nearly twenty years ago, having paid off the mortgage on their house, Andrew was looking forward to an easier life when Sue decided that this was the time for them to buy a property with land – it was now or never. After a long, arduous search they found their beloved Oast Acre and life was complete. Holidays away had to be in the winter because, as Andrew said, why would anyone want to be anywhere but Oast Acre in the summer? It is fitting that his life ended there, and that he will be buried there, in the cow field overlooking the valley.
And now Andrew’s children David and Amy are going to come up and read a poem that was a favourite of Andrew’s…
Dad’s sense of humour stemmed from a love of The Goon Show and Monty Python. Our childhood was dotted with the voices of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellars, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine along with entire scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian and The Holy Grail.
When considering what we should read today the following poem seemed the obvious choice, an author he would approve of and a little silly yet intelligent and relishing the English language.
The ABC by Spike Milligan
‘Twas midnight in the schoolroom And every desk was shut When suddenly from the alphabet Was heard a loud “Tut-Tut!” Said A to B, “I don’t like C; His manners are a lack. For all I ever see of C Is a semi-circular back!” “I disagree,” said D to B, “I’ve never found C so. From where I stand he seems to be An uncompleted O.” C was vexed, “I’m much perplexed, You criticise my shape. I’m made like that, to help spell Cat And Cow and Cool and Cape.” “He’s right” said E; said F, “Whoopee!” Said G, “‘Ip, ‘Ip, ‘ooray!” “You’re dropping me,” roared H to G. “Don’t do it please I pray.” “Out of my way,” LL said to K. “I’ll make poor I look ILL.” To stop this stunt J stood in front, And presto! ILL was JILL. “U know,” said V, “that W Is twice the age of me. For as a Roman V is five I’m half as young as he.” X and Y yawned sleepily, “Look at the time!” they said. “Let’s all get off to beddy byes.” They did, then “Z-z-z.”
We will now have a few moments in which everyone can be with their own thoughts and memories of Andrew. Some of you may wish to remember Andrew in prayer, others may simply wish to bring his to mind in their own way. Silence
So thank you Andrew
Thank you for all the good times, all the memories
Thank you for 35 years of marriage
Thank you for being such a wonderful father
Thank you for all your hard work
Thank you for your kindness and quiet brilliance, your integrity
Thank you for your wicked sense of humour
Thank you for brightening up our lives with your infectious smile.
Thank you Andrew, for all your love and care.
So today we mourn Andrew’s death. But there is much of Andrew that also remains with us. His influence has not ended. His warmth, his humour, and his love and his values were shared and passed on, and they have become a living part of the people who were close to him. Each of you carries something important of Andrew with you into the future.
Maybe this is a good time to think a little about how much we all influence each other. It’s very easy to forget how much we do affect other people. Andrew’s life has touched many people. How he was, how he acted, what he said, have all left their mark on all of us here and on the world. How we act can make life better for ourselves and others. Just as Andrew has made a difference to each of us here today, so too we can make a difference. If we act with kindness, with consideration for others we can help make things better.
So we all know about Andrew’s sense of humour so we’re going to end with a piece of music that Andrew wanted. Some of you have flowers and during the music and on your way out you are invited to come up and place your flowers on the coffin as a way of saying goodbye, as a final gift to Andrew. If you would like to do this then please do so. If you would prefer to take your flower home as a memento, then of course you’re very welcome to do that as well. And then if you make your way to the other barn there will be refreshments waiting for you there. Now I should warn you that there is a clean version of this song and a dirty version. Well, it’s not that dirty really, only a few more colourful words. We looked for the clean version, but we couldn’t find it, so we’ve ended up with the dirty one. Andrew would probably approve. So we hope nobody will be offended, in fact if you do want to be offended you’ll probably have to listen out quite carefully otherwise you’ll miss it!
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python’s Life of Brian
So all that remains now is to thank you all on behalf of Andrew and his family for coming here today and I wish you all well.