18/11/1947 – 18/11/2020
Alan Whear was a part of GreenSpirit for nearly 20 years. He regularly came to GreenSpirit events: the Annual Gatherings, Walking Retreats and the Wild Week in Wales. And he was a Trustee of GreenSpirit from 2011 to 2020.
When I spoke to Alan about his views on life, he said he thought of life as a relay race, you do your best and then you pass on the baton to those who remain. So maybe we can pick up his baton, for his love of the Earth and the values that he cherished.
There was a zoom session for GreenSpirit to remember Alan in January 2021 with many heartfelt tributes and reflections. Here is the tribute that was read out during Alan’s funeral, written by his partner Jen:
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Alan Edward Whear was the first child of Marge and Bert, born in the baby boom after the war. He was the oldest of six children: his siblings were Peter, Barbara, Diane, Jane and Colin. The family lived in Kent for his first 5 years before moving to Langley, just outside Slough, and he lived in this area until 2001.
He was creative all his life. As a child he was always making things – especially model aeroplanes. He has always loved music –he played accordion at about 10 years old, had a harmonium in his bedroom, and started a madrigal group in his teens. It was later on at a madrigal group session at Robin Hood’s Bay that he first met Jen.
In the early 70s, he rented a workshop in the front room of a terraced house in Alexandra Road, Windsor, and began life as a self-employed craftsman. He described the enormity of sitting in this empty shop, realising that all he had to make a living with, was his own skill. Jen and he rented the downstairs flat behind the workshop for 10 years until they bought the house in 1981. (This part of Windsor, behind the barracks, was described in the 70s as “A residential area of doubtful distinction” …. It has gone up in the world since!)
Alan was part of the community there. He and Jen started a local folk club, and from that came the Windsor Morris, still going strong after 40 plus years. Alan was the team’s musician on melodeon, and is still remembered for his skill, energy and enthusiasm in playing music for the dance.
Around the mid-70s Alan and Jen were among a group of local people working to establish a Community Arts Centre. After much lobbying and five years of running events wherever they could find a suitable hall, Windsor Arts Centre opened in the Old Court in 1981. Out of that shared activism and vision came strong and enduring friendships.
Alan’s work was restoring harpsichords and other early keyboard instruments and building new ones – spinets and virginals. He started his own company in 1981 called “Nimblejack” and broadened into piano repairs and tuning. He was a familiar figure in the workshop, and people often looked in through the window to see what he was doing, some calling in for a chat. He told the story of hearing a couple of youths saying, “Oh look, it’s the old piano man”. (He was probably in his mid-30s at the time – but had grey hair from his teens!)
Some of the highlights of his career were projects he did for films – including making the replica piano for the film The Piano (…and being up till 3am mending it after the removers dropped it when they came to collect), and the Harpsichord for King Ralph which had to be strong enough for John Goodman to dance on.
Robin was born in 1982, a great joy for Alan and Jen. Alan was a very hands-on Dad and loved making things with Robin. (Rob’s love of Lego seems to have been passed on to Naomi – she’s a brilliant Lego builder, just like her Dad and Grandad.)
Throughout the Morris years, there were numerous visiting teams, many from the USA and Canada. Alan was an enthusiastic and welcoming host, and Robin grew up in a house full of musicians, dancers and singers. Alan sang throughout his life, in classical choirs and folk groups, writing songs and chants for the meditation group, all celebrating the beauty of the earth and the wonder of the universe.
Alan and Jen moved to a cottage in Wiltshire in 2001, and there he realised his dream of building an extension filled with light and beauty; an office and consulting room for Jen, and an extended dining room where friends could meet.
He found his spiritual home as a member of GreenSpirit, an organisation celebrating our place in our living planet Earth. During walking breaks and gatherings, he brought a delight in the beauty of the countryside and such an enthusiasm for music, song and dance.
In 2009 he had a stroke and had to give up driving and work. He focussed on garden projects, with the help of his friend Dave, creating what he loved about GreenSpirit Wild Weeks in Cae Mabon, with a stream, waterfall, trees and hot tub; all in a few square metres at the back of the garden.
Jen remembers his utter delight on hearing that Robin and Angela were expecting a baby – actually dancing round the garden with joy. He had so much pleasure from being grandad to Naomi and later, to Rowan. He loved family visits with Robin, Angela and Naomi, and was always making new things that might entertain her. Even during lockdown, Jen and he kept in contact on zoom, playing with puppets, Alan being the little brother who got into mischief (and the policeman who arrested a cat just for being a cat..)
Alan loved the music of JS Bach, and would quote his hero as saying, “Anyone could do what I do, if he would but apply himself”. For his 70th birthday, the family made a trip to the Bach Festival at Leipzig. To hear “the Matthew Passion”, and the “Mass in B minor” at Thomaskirche was something he had dreamed of.
The themes of music, making things and bringing pleasure to others through creativity run throughout his whole life.
He showed great courage through his illness, and a determination to be well and make the most of life. He never lost his love for the Earth, or his awe at the beauty of our planet, the wonders of the Universe.
This reading by Bruce Frederick Cummings was chosen by Alan for his funeral
“To me the honour is sufficient of belonging to the universe – such a great universe, and so great a scheme of things. Not even Death can rob me of that honour. For nothing can alter the fact that I have lived; I have been I, if for ever so short a time. And when I am dead, the matter which composes my body is indestructible – and eternal, so that come what may to my ‘Soul’, my dust will always be going on, each separate atom of me playing its separate part, I shall still have some sort of finger in the pie. When I am dead, you can boil me, burn me, drown me, scatter me – but you cannot destroy me: my little atoms would merely deride such heavy vengeance. Death can do no more than kill you.”