The text of Sir John Major’s tribute to Sir Michael Marshall, given at the memorial service for Sir Michael on Friday 8th December 2006.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
Michael Marshall was a man of many and varied interests, none of which consumed him to the exclusion of the others.
To know Michael was to know someone who was – in the true sense of the word – a gentle man. His long and happy marriage to Caroline, and the strength of his Christian faith, made him a man contented with his life.
Michael loved Stanley Holloway monologues. One of them aptly sums him up. It tells the tale of a cockney who was much criticised for wearing brown boots at a funeral. But then the truth comes out:
“E’d given ‘is black boots to Jim Small
A bloke wot had no boots at all,
So, p’raps Aunt Hannah doesn’t mind,
She did like people who was good and kind”.
Michael was, in his very essence, “good and kind”.
He had a mature perspective on life that acknowledged duty but found time for pleasure. One of his guiding passions was the game of cricket, about which he wrote some stunningly good books. In his last months – when he knew he was very ill – we lunched together and discussed a book I was writing on the social history of early cricket. He was animated and enthusiastic, and phoned and wrote to me with fresh ideas, helpful suggestions and new source material.
Another lunch was planned and aborted – first by Michael’s illness, and then by my absence abroad – and then – alas – it was too late.
Michael believed in serendipity, and enjoyed the fact that he lived in Slindon, the tiny village that provided one of the greatest of the mid-eighteenth Century cricket teams. Slindon had such a pull in those far-off days, that its patron – the then Duke of Richmond – once delayed a meeting with the Prime Minister so that he could watch “pore little Slyndon” beat all-Surrey by an innings. It was a proper selection of priorities and only his natural courtesy might have stopped Michael making the same choice. Now he has joined those old cricketers and will rest forever in the village that helped shape the game that helped shape him.
Throughout his long illness, Michael’s Roman Catholic faith sustained him. His God was ever present and the future held no fear. To those he leaves behind – to Caroline above all, and Debbie and Katie – he bequeaths memories of a self-effacing, undemonstrative man of solid worth and character, of conviction without dogma, of reassuring warmth, a man who carried with him an air of gentle and infectious fun that was shared with all who knew him.
Such men are rare. While they are with us they make our world a better place. And when they are gone we can only be grateful that we were lucky enough to have known them.
Michael Marshall was such a man.