Eulogies read at the memorial service in St John's Church on 20th April 2018
Eulogy by Irene Lodge
I met Charlie in 1976 in the Dundee Corporation social Work dept. He was a trainee social worker and I had just returned to the department in Dundee having completed the social work training. There was no desk for me and I was left in the conference room alone till they worked out what to do with me. Only Charlie popped his head round the door to introduce himself and seehow I was doing. Reading his teenage diaries recently he may have had ulterior motives.When we did eventually get together he used to tell everybody that I took him into care and we had to wait six years
before we got married so that he was old enough to sign the papers without his parents’ permission. He was a joker.
He had a strong social conscience and although trained as a lawyer he felt that helping the well off to buy houses was not for him. That did change in time as many of you will know! He threw himself into any project - helping troubled youngsters, giving his legal advice free at the Dundee Law Centre and decorating houses of the elderly and infirm. Most of you will know that he was not a natural painter and decorator and only recently ventured into painting again when preparing our house for the arrival of the new inlaws.
After two years in social work he decided that lawyers could potentially benefit the less fortunate more than social workers and moved to Inverness to complete his training. While there he joined the Children’s Panel and as well as throwing himself into local life including the Highland Hockey Club. As a lawyer he preferred to specialise in employment cases, social security tribunals, public housing and never forgot his original drive to help others. Returning to work in Dundee he formed a Children’s Trust in Dundee to provide education to children excluded from school. When he moved to Cupar he took pleasure in community life despite being a city boy at heart. He joined the local branch of the LabourParty – doubling its membership as he used to say. He stood for election to the local Council and the Scottish and the Westminster parliaments with the help of his good friend Bryan Poole and there were many funny campaigning tales like addressing the one person who turned up at the hustings in the East Neuk and accidently gatecrashing a funeral in Luthrie with another good friend Pete Cura, thinking that a large crowd was too good an opportunity to miss for leafletting.
When he served on Cupar Community Council he set up a monthly cinema in the Corn Exchange and developed the Cupar Youth Café which is still running today. While tidying up his belongings we have found some scary publicity photographs of him looking like Mr Angry campaigning for the building of a skate park for the youngsters. He also managed to win a case against the Council for failure to remedy the dampness in one
of Cupar’s estates, which had caused serious health problems for the occupants.
He retired from the Law in 2007 as he felt that it was dominating his life and leaving no time for family, friends and other projects. He then served for seven years as one of the Chairs of Tribunals of the Parole Board, introducing into our lives a whole new set of friends.
Charlie made friends easily and never forgot them even if he moved on. He was amazing at keeping in touch and arranging outings together. He was always the instigator and organiser of these events. He still has good friends from school, university, social work, fellow lawyers and housing professionals and of course the many of you in Cupar. When on a weekend away with the guys in Amsterdam they came across a Blues Club which bowled him over and he managed to persuade his three friends that he could do the same in Cupar. This project lasted for ten years. I am sure his co-directors would agree that without his drive and organisation the Cupar Blues and Beyond Club would not have lasted so long.
Latterly his energies have gone into providing good quality housing for rent through chairing Kingdom Housing Association and recently taking on the role of the chair of Kingdom Care Services which was formed in the last year. In 2015 he trained in Elmwood as a tutor of English for speakers of other languages in Cupar and thoroughly enjoyed his times with Vasil and Albert, his student in Tarragona.
Talking of Charlie we must not forget his devotion to Dundee football club despite the pain and suffering the weekly match failures caused
him and his cousins who accompanied him to games. Golf was his second love and his Saturday games with Bryan and John were an essential part of the week. The loser paid for lunch, more often than not Charlie.
Last summer he invented another challenge for himself – to play all the golf courses on Arran cycling from one to the other with the clubs in the panniers. My dear cousin Nanette was his companion. You can guess who was the overall winner of this quirky tournament. They made an unusual site on the island. Golf clubs sticking out of the panniers like a weird tracking device. He had hoped to repeat the challenge with other golfers this year.
His father died last year at the ripe old age of 94 and he suddenly felt that he had more freedom to undertake another challenge before it was too late. He had been cycling regularly with friends for 15 years and had undertaken week long journeys with them both at home and abroad.
In February this year he decided to join our son in Spain to improve his Spanish speaking, teach a bit of English and go on a long distance cycle tour across Spain with Canadian cycling friends. Sadly he died while cycling on 30th March. The autopsy confirmed that he died of a massive heart attack caused by a defect which had been undetected. It appears that his heart was unusually large and under stress. You all know that he had a very big heart!
I have included a family photo on the reverse of the order of service. It shows Charlie with his customary broad smile with the rest of our family. By some quirk the Xmas wreath behind him circles his head like a halo. It amused us all but I hope he is with the angels now.
Eulogy by Christopher Milne
Dad believed in people. People enriched a life and a life should be shared with as many as possible. Perhaps because he was an only child or perhaps because he had such a large extended family, he cherished the connections he made. In speaking to so many of you over the last few weeks, it was astounding to learn how well he kept in touch with people. The number of you who had had emails, messages, dinners or drinks with Dad within the last few months shows how much he valued his friends and family. After only two months in Spain, he had set up a formidable network of people to speak with.
Dad kept a diary from 1975 that documented his life in Dundee and his final year at law school. Some of you who knew dad at that time may be a bit worried but I haven’t sold any publishing rights…yet. The diary shows he wasn’t always so good with people though: he writes of a night out at the students’ union in January of 1975 where every girl he spoke to went to the toilet and didn’t come back!
Even at the age of 20, he realised the importance of the connections he had made. After seeing an old Primary school friend on the bus he noted how frustrating it was for life to take over and connections to be lost. Dad lived his life trying to avoid things getting in the way of seeing the people he loved.
But dad didn’t just believe in the people he loved: he believed in the potential of everyone so long as they had the opportunities and the circumstances they needed to thrive. This is what he spent a large part of his life fighting for.
In his diary, he was continually writing his worries about the hand life dealt people and the role he could play in tackling this. His diary is littered with people’s situations that had gotten ‘under his skin’. People whose struggles just to survive seemed insurmountable; people who’d been bamboozled by sales spin and fallen in to debt only to realise when it was too late. He worried about ‘preserving the status quo’ (as Norrie apparently often accused) and that the system provided nothing for people condemning them to nothing even before they had left school. You can see that in all Dad did, from his work both professionally and personally, that this was always at the forefront of his mind.
Dad’s spirit can be seen in the cards, messages, online postings and the obituaries that have been sent our way in the last three weeks. My personal privilege was to see Dad move from father to grandparent in the last four years. Dad had a knack of making people feel loved but I had the opportunity to step back and see the love that he had for Iona and Rory.
I would often be up at 6am playing with Iona and a head would pop around the door saying ‘just let me get dressed and I’ll take her and you can go back to bed’. Many of you will have bumped into him during his proud buggy pushing parade down to Tarvit Pond to feed the ducks where he would be pointing out landmarks, colours, animals or textures to an enthralled Iona.
Latterly, I would get up to find Dad and Iona in the kitchen: Iona carefully measuring spoons of porridge into the bowl and Dad carefully watching over getting her to count the spoons then stir. A lot of the time, I wouldn’t have even realised either of them were up!
Dad was also very good at encouraging the kids to take their afternoon naps. Dad led by example in many ways but as many of you will know napping was his vocation. Though a lot of the time, his snoring was the barrier preventing them from dropping off!
As a family, we are incredibly touched to hear the stories and memories people have of Dad. The 20-year-old diarist of 1975 would be gladdened to see that he has helped people and he has fought the status quo. In the Discworld series, Terry Pratchett writes that no one truly dies until the ripples they caused in the world fade away. In Dad’s time, he made a huge splash and the ripples he has caused will take a very long time to fade.
Eulogy by Gareth Milne
From the overwhelming response we’ve had following dad’s death, it’s clear that he had something special about him. There are some recurring themes evident in the comments and letters we’ve received. So with the help of a few of these quotes and some photos, I’d like to share some 'Charlieisms'; things he did, and things we can all do to make sure his positivity lives on.
Speak to People
In January this year, dad moved to Tarragona to spend 4 months improving his Spanish and spending time with me, he had never had the chance to live abroad and it was something he was really keen to do. While he was there, his talkative nature was extremely apparent. He was constantly chatting to people - supermarket cashiers, waiters, shop assistants, English learners, anyone - he was able to speak to people in a very down to earth manner, always with a smile on his face which broke down the usual social barriers, as I often looked on awkwardly.
He didn’t just speak to strangers though, he made sure to keep in contact with all those who mattered to him. And it’s amazing the number of people who have said they were chatting to him just recently, by phone, Whatsapp or email.
Listen to People
As well as being a talker, he was also a good listener. He listened to people who he felt needed their voices heard, in particular the young and disadvantaged. He helped set up and run the Cupar Youth Cafe, an idea based on providing youngsters with a place where they can be supported and encouraged to reach their true potential. His work for Kingdom Housing Association, which provides affordable housing in Fife, is also another good example of listening to those in need.
Dad took the time to actively listen to people and he had an incredible memory for the details. When greeting my friends, who he hadn’t seen for some time, he would often remember and ask about something they had told him during a previous meeting.
The combination of speaking and listening to people showed he cared. He cared for his family, cared for his friends, cared for people in need, cared for his community, and cared for what he considered right.
In Easter last year I went hiking with a friend in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. My dad joked I should be careful at customs because I was a relative of his. When I asked him why, he told me in the past he’d been pestering the Moroccan Royal Family with countless letters to demand the release of political prisoners there. He went out of his way to stand up against something he considered unjust.
A letter from one of his colleagues on the parole board said ‘he always showed great compassion for the prisoners, firmly believing that everybody deserves a second chance if they want to take it.’ Him caring for people that many give up on.
And all of you know just how much he cared for his community, his friends and his family.
A vague idea I struggled with wording, but the principle is that when he decided to do something or when something needed to be done, he did it. I never knew him to procrastinate. He once advised me ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. It seems as if this proverb stuck with him in his professional and personal life. I never heard dad say he was too busy or too tired to do something. As a consequence, he was extremely well organised, perhaps not in a tidy way, for any of you who saw his desk, but amongst the mess everything was in order, be it his order alone.
He loved new projects, and unlike many, when he dreamed them up, he saw them through. This picture shows him on a trip he and my cousin Nanette did last summer, cycling round the isle of Arran, playing all the golf courses on the way, carrying their golf clubs with them on their bikes. A project they'd dreamt up together and carried out.
Perhaps one if his most admirable qualities was that of never shying away from a challenge. swimming the Tay as a boy, being the first to go to University from his family (although from his student diary, we’re not sure if this challenge was studying or not being too hungover to attend lectures), standing in Scottish and National elections, travelling to Peru with mum to help in the building of a school for street children, the many cycling tours he undertook in the UK and Europe with his cycling gang, deciding to retire from law early at the age of 54, then taking a job on the parole board, and more recently lecturing at Abertay University, moving to Spain and of course changing his grandson’s nappy.
The fearlessness in which he faced challenges was also worthy of admiration; whether he was good at the task or not, he approached it with the same gusto and a desire to better himself. Was he ever going to refine his golf game? Was he going to master the piano? Would he perfect his Spanish? It didn’t really matter, he believed in the learning and most importantly enjoyed the process. And the self-doubts that can hold so many back never seemed to enter his mind.
And of course he actually did achieve so much in his life with this same mindset that we could spend another few hours here just talking about that.
Every summer, and often October and Easter, as children we were lucky to be taken away somewhere. We weren’t really spoilt with material possessions but certainly in terms of travel I was the envy of many of my friends. And what greater education is there for a child than experiencing other cultures and learning that there’s more to life than what goes on around you.
When Ryanair started their web sales in 2000, dad was one of the first I know who snapped up the offers, the Dundonian in him perhaps unable to resist a bargain, and he took us for the weekend to Frankfurt to stay with family friends. It taught us that travel could be quick and easy, not something to have to fret or worry about.
He also told many stories of hitch-hiking around Europe as a young man, one time getting stuck without money so his dad had to wire him some.
In his life he’d visited 6 of the continents, a pretty incredible achievement for a ‘wee boy from Kirkton’ as he once put it.
In tackling his challenges he made sure he was always having fun. It’s hard to remember dad without that smile, which so many people have commented on on the webpage. He was a joker at heart.
I told him before his last cycle adventure, I really don’t get cycling to which he replied - ‘it’s just great, looking at the scenery, thinking about things, sometimes thinking about nothing’. It really was bliss for him.
He was enthusiastic about so much and got a kick out of things. He found fun in doing even the simple things, I’ve never seen anyone enjoy food shopping so much as my dad during his first trip to the supermarket in Tarragona, it was all new to him and he loved it.
Buy People a Drink
And we all know that often involved in his fun there was a drink or two. And he was always generous in getting drinks for others. It’s a simple action but one which showed his kindness and generosity, as well as his fondness of a beer or whisky.
Recently when his landlady in Tarragona went to collect the rent, as my dad usually did with any visitor, he invited her in for a drink. After finding out about dad’s death his landlady left me a message in tears, after chatting over one gin and tonic she had been able to see, in her words, the ‘marvellous man’ my dad was.
I think if everyone took a leaf out of his book the world would be a better place, not only for ourselves but for the others around us too.
And before I finish, I’d like to share a few other important life lessons he taught us. All if which can be explained in more detail over a drink in Watts.
Eulogy by Norrie Ross
First of all, I can't believe I am standing here giving a eulogy for Charlie Milne. It's still incomprehensible to be talking about Charlie in the past tense. I can't think of another person I've ever met who was so full of life, so positive, so energetic. Those qualities were allied to things that were equally important in Charlie's life: his kindness, his optimism, his fierce belief in social justice, his uncanny ability to make new friends, to make you laugh, to make you feel better about yourself.
Charlie, so many of us us remember a kindness, a favour, a time when your strength and character helped us through a crisis. When your support was a rock we clung on to, when your good humour taught us that the world really isn't a bad place. When your commitment to social justice put a roof over our heads.
What else do we remember about Charlie? That he was an Olympic gold-medal snorer with the ability to fall asleep in less than five seconds, that he had possibly the worst hand-writing in the history of the world and was possibly the most uncoordinated golfer ever to win a tournament.
Charlie's golf swing was a mystery to many. He would invariably drive the ball straight, but none of his fellow golfers could work out how as his swing defied all scientific knowledge.
His friends also knew never to ask Charlie for directions. When my family were staying in the Milne household in January I made the mistake of asking Charlie's advice on how best to get a place. Charlie provided a set of directions that were as complicated as those given to Marco Polo when he took the Silk Road to China. "But Charlie we're only going to Anstruther," I protested.
I first met Charlie when I was 12, in first year at Kirkton High School. The school's Latin motto translated was "Let us be distinguished by the good name of our school". If you know anything about Kirkton High the motto was obviously dreamt up by someone with a sense of humour. It was a tough school and it didn't have a great reputation. In a tough school you need friends and allies and he was one of my first.
We all loved Charlie but I think we were also slightly envious. He was very popular, especially among the girls. He was the good looking, always smiling guy with an easy nature.He could make a friend in a few minutes, a trick he used time and time again, right up to the end of his life.
So we grew up as teenagers together. Bound by our love of Dundee Football club, music and later on socialising and drinking. We were both Labour men, even at a young age, and I'm proud to say neither of us lost our political beliefs.
When we were younger I used to go round to Charlie's house in West March and we'd listen to records on his Dansette mono record player. Charlie wasn't ashamed to say that the first record he ever bought was "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie. Luckily by the time I started to go round he had moved on. For a time we were obsessed with Tamla Motown and turned the record label into our nicknames. I was "Tamla" and he was "Motown". We even wrote that as our identifying names on the wallpaper covering our school jotters. How embarrassing!
We quickly moved on to the Stones and various other rock and blues groups. Charlie loved the blues although he rarely seemed to have them.
I can't remember the reason but in those early days I always had more money than Charlie and when we'd walk home from school we'd stop at the Balgowan Road shops I'd buy two chocolate bars, one each. Just a few years ago Charlie, Rab Adams and I went on a boys weekend to Perthshire and when I offered to pay my share of the hotel Charlie said "it's been taken care of". When I protested he said "you used to buy me a Curly Wurly when we were at school". That was typical Charlie.
We also worked on the milk together. I got him his job at the DPM and we'd meet up at around 6.30 am, seven days a week, a couple of shivering, half-asleep teenagers waiting for "Half Pint" Ally, the driver (yes he was rather small) to turn up with the milk float and fill up the barrows we pushed around the streets of Kirkton and West March.
In those days lots of kids joined the Boys Brigade or the Scouts. I joined and left one or two Boys Brigade companies and decided it wasn't for me. All that whitening and polishing the belt, trying to attain various badges that were totally useless to me. And I hated marching. I learned only this week that Charlie was a demon at Scripture Union questions, another amazing fact about him.
One day Charlie collared me and said I should join his BB company. I can't remember the number, it may have been the 13th. I told him I hated the BB and particularly the marching. Charlie breathlessly told me "Norrie, Norrie, no, that's the great thing. There's no marching. When the rest of the company are marching me and a couple of guys called Ian Spence and Iain Glenn sneak out and go to the pub". "And they serve you?" I asked incredulously. He guaranteed we'd get served. I was only 15 or 16 and finding a pub that would serve you seemed impossible. Charlie was baby faced and I thought if they'll serve Charlie, they'll serve me.
And he was correct. Every week at BB me,Charlie and Ian Spence and Iain Glenn would sneak off to the pub for pints while everyone else was marching. I don't know how we got away with it. The funny thing was that after a few months the pub announced it was closing. It must have broken every licensing law in the book. They organised a "farewell night" and Charlie and I and our BB drinking comrades turned up. Pulling a pint for Charlie, the barman said to Charlie "how old are you son?" Charlie puffed himself up, deepened his voice and replied "18 of course". The barman said "you're about 15 son. That'll be one and eleven pence". Charlie was crushed. He was a bit self conscious about being so young looking and thought he had been fooling the bar staff.
Other things I remember about those years. Going to, I think Jacksons the Tailors, in the old Wellgate and getting made to measure suits together. We thought it would help us have more success trying to pick up girls on Saturday nights at the JM Ballroom. When Charlie and I got the suits and tried them on we thought we "looked like Erchie". If Erchie looked like a skinny teenager with a bad haircut and and pimples we were correct. And I can't remember the suits improving our success at the JM.
I also remember working together at the Queens Hotel on Sunday nights as beer glass collectors, being given sneaky drinks by a female bar tender and often heading home in a worse state than the patrons.
I have to admit drinking was a large part of our growing up and Charlie absolutely loved a drink. It was something he didn't grow out of. But I don't think he could hold his drink as well as he thought he could and he often got, shall we say "boisterous", as the night wore on.
Gareth and Christopher found a diary that their dad kept in the mid 70s ( he never mentioned this fact to me) and it jogged a few memories. I had forgotten how many times Charlie crashed on the floor of my bedroom in my mum and dad's flat in Constitution Road after a drunken night out. Even in those day he was a titanic snorer and I must have erased the traumatic memory of trying to sleep with a finger in each ear.
There was one diary entry from January 1975 that summed things up. It read simply "Stayed in at night. Glad to get a rest without drinking".
I always thought Charlie was a restless soul. He was always looking for new challenges, new adventures. He swam the Tay when he was a teenager, helped build a school for street kids in Peru, travelled widely and had several careers. We used to FaceTime each other regularly and every time we spoke he would tell me of some new adventure or project he was planning.
We also remember Charlie's small acts of kindness. My mum lived out her later years alone and all of her children were scattered. Charlie knew this and he would quite randomly turn up on her doorstep in Broughty Ferry with a bunch of flowers and stop for a chat and a cup of tea.
Talking to his friends in the last few days it seems that this wasn't unusual. If he thought someone was lonely, depressed or in need of some kind of comfort he'd go and see them, cheer them up. He worried about other people.
I'm not sure that Charlie would approve of me quoting an old Tory at his memorial service but this one from Winston Churchill could have been his life motto.
Churchill said:"You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give."
What Charlie gave was love and friendship and companionship. He gave it easily, without thinking and without ever expecting anything in return.
I want to read a Robert Burns poem that I've heard read at a number of funerals before but I struggle to think of a person where it was more appropriate.
An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so informed:
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
There's a line near the end of one of my favourite films, It's a Wonderful Life. Written inside a book cover is a message to James Stewart's character - "no man a failure who has friends".
I've never met anyone who had so many friends. Charlie, how you managed to keep in contact with them all is beyond me. It must have been exhausting. As we can see from the turnout today and the outpouring of grief your passing has prompted Charlie you were a richer man than seems possible.
Charlie, YOU had a wonderful life. You were a wonderful husband to Irene, a wonderful father to Gareth and Christopher, a wonderful grandfather to Iona and Rory. You were a wonderful friend to many, a wonderful colleague, and a wonderful human being.
Your life was just too short by many decades because you had so much more to do, so much more to give.
Charlie, you left behind a lot of very sad people. We are shattered and grieving mightily at the moment.
But I can guarantee you one thing. You will never be forgotten by anyone sitting in this church today or among the many relatives, friends, and colleagues who couldn't make it.
We will never forget you, because you were unforgettable.