COLONEL "PADDY BRYSON" RIP
May he rest in
EULOGY BY SIR ALAN WATERWORTH
It is no surprise to see so many people in this great Cathedral this afternoon as we come to remember and celebrate the life of Colonel James Graeme Bryson universally admired, respected and loved as Paddy, his nickname since earliest childhood. It is not an easy matter to summarise nearly a hundred years in a matter of minutes, for everyone here will have their own memories of him and he touched the lives of so many other people in a long and active life. My own memories go back 50 years and there will be others here who knew him longer. In those days I was in awe of him for even then he was a major figure in the life of the city, a former commanding officer of two artillery regiments and prominent in the legal world. Later we were to become colleagues and very good friends.
Synonymous with Liverpool it seems hard to believe that Paddy was born in Caerleon then in Monmouthshire. He came to live first in Woolton at the age of six when his greatly revered father joined T.J.Smith and Sons a well-known firm of Solicitors in Cook Street. Many years later both he and Paddy became Presidents of the Liverpool Law Society. Paddy always considered his father to have been the greatest influence on his life and described him as a man of kind and noble character with a profound sense of public service and pride in his country. Are these not the very qualities that we recognise so clearly in Paddy's own life.
He went to school at St.Edward's College which remained dear to him for the rest of his life. He was to serve as Governor for thirty years and became its first lay chairman. He was always particularly proud of its choral tradition - there is a Bryson chorister - and the choir sang at his funeral and are here today. His interest in music, kindled during his time as a choirboy, lasted a lifetime. His home 'Sunwards' had an organ which he played regularly, buying a smaller one much later when he moved to Formby. There he began to worry that his fellow residents might overhear him, find it distracting but be too polite to mention it to him, so, with typical concern for others he disposed of it.
Academically inclined he had done well at school and at the age of only 16 joined the Law Faculty of Liverpool University later graduating as a Bachelor and then as a Master of Laws. Working first as an articled clerk in his father's office he qualified as a solicitor in 1935 and became a partner in the firm.
Having been in the University OTC he was commissioned in the Royal Artillery TA and was always proud that his commission was one of the very few signed by King Edward VIII before his abdication - unfortunately it was destroyed when the firm's offices were badly damaged in the May Blitz of 1941.
In 1938 Paddy married Jean Glendinning, the love of his life whom he had known continuously since she was two years old. They had six children of whom he was very proud and his daughters in later life helped him to remain active and independent to the end. All his children are here today - family always meant more to him than the many honours and achievements of a long life.
In the early months of the war Paddy was sent to guard the British Fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys following the sinking of the battleship Royal Oak by an audacious U-boat commander. Posted then to Wales he later found himself a Major and the staff officer at an airbase in the Shetlands from where Sunderland flying boats patrolled the North Sea. The war over he returned to Liverpool and the Law. His reputation as an officer was such that he was asked to re-form and command his old TA regiment subsequently taking command of the Liverpool Irish where it was thought that his nickname might be an advantage. After six successful years as a Commanding Officer he retired and was appointed a military OBE later becoming Honorary Colonel of 33 Sigs. Regt.
As a further recognition of his successful military career Paddy was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire in 1965 - those were the days when you were required to have held the Queen's Commission in order to be a DL. He transferred to Merseyside when the county was formed and for ten years from 1979 served as Vice Lord Lieutenant.
He became chairman of the Lord Mayor's Poppy Day Appeal and County Chairman of the Royal British Legion. Until three years ago he regularly pronounced the Act of Remembrance on the steps of St George's Hall and laid the Legion wreath at the Cenotaph. As his successor as County President I know just how much he is missed by all of us. He was always "the Colonel", admired and respected by all and venerated by the older veterans - no-one will ever be able to take his place in the Legion.
The Colonel's Garden Party was always a highlight of the Legion's year when members and service friends were invited to Paddy's home. The ritual was the same every year - arrival 4pm (Hightown Station was very convenient). The Maghull Legion Band played throughout the afternoon, tea and cakes were served by the Women's Section and bowls and croquet tournaments took place with obscure rules devised by Paddy. It was a lovely happy occasion usually blessed by good weather. Promptly at 5.55 there was a Drum Roll and the Standards accompanied by the band marched into the garden and took up their position facing the flagstaff. All service and ex-service men and women of whatever rank, wearing medals then lined up for the inspection. The evening hymn 'Sunset' incorporating the Last Post was played and the piper played a lament. Then the prayers of Dismissal and the band struck up again. The veterans marched smartly past the saluting base where the Lord Lieutenant accompanied by the H/S, Mayor of Sefton, Lord Mayor of Liverpool and others, took the salute. Paddy thanked everyone for coming and then this unique and slightly eccentric event which was always such fun was over for another year - probably to the relief of some of his neighbours.
At much the same time as he had become chairman of the Legion Paddy became a trustee of the Friends of the Liverpool Radium Institute by then raising money for cancer research. This was to become NW Cancer Research Fund and Paddy and the treasurer worked long and hard to establish branches in the North-West and in Mid- and North Wales. He knew the importance of persuading groups of friends to form ladies' committees for the purpose of fund-raising and there is no doubt that Paddy's rapport with the ladies and his gratitude for their efforts was a major reason for the charity's success. His 50 year's involvement with NW Cancer and the Legion came together when Paddy arranged a great concert at the Philharmonic Hall. He knocked on Ken Dodd's door not really knowing him and asked if he would feature in the concert. He readily agreed (few could refuse Paddy) and subsequently they became great friends. Needless to say the concert was a great success and the proceeds were shared between the two charities.
At the age of 34 Paddy had been appointed Senior District Registrar, sitting in both London and Liverpool. On some mornings he could be seen sitting with his two fellow Registrars enjoying coffee together in a café in Fenwick St. just around the corner from their courthouse in India Buildings. It was in that courthouse that after being declared bankrupt a club owner, in those pre-security days, pulled a pistol from his mackintosh and fired a bullet at Paddy which narrowly missed him and struck the portrait of Judge Fraser Harrison on the wall behind him. A second shot badly wounded a court official in the stomach before the gunman fired at Paddy again. The gun jammed, Paddy wrestled him to the ground and held him there until the police arrived thus making Paddy the only English judge too have been shot at in court. He was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct - there was always a touch of steel behind the benign appearance of his later years.
His subsequent career as a judge was less dramatic - he continued as Senior Registrar until he persuaded a reluctant Lord Chancellor to allow him to retire in 1978 after 30 years service so that he could devote time to his many other interests. Despite retiring he continued to sit part-time as a Deputy Circuit Judge, Chairman of the Medical Appeals Tribunal and as a city magistrate in which capacity he served as a member of the Merseyside Police Authority. His legal career could be said to have culminated last December in this very Cathedral when he was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by his old University, giving a memorable address to a vast audience of staff and undergraduates - his mind as sharp as ever, his delivery strong and clear - he seemed to defy the years.
Though passionately interested in the past and writing several short books on the subject, he was always full of enthusiasm for anything new. On retirement he took a course in the relatively new field of computers at Southport College and finding the subject so fascinating he decided to take a degree in Computer Studies at the Open University. He received a BSc at the age of 80 - apparently the computer course could lead to either a BA or a BSc but he was advised that a science degree would enhance his employment prospects.
When the time came for him to leave Sunwards, the family home in Hightown which he loved and where he had lived for 60 years, I think his family wondered whether he really could re-adjust to a modern apartment in Formby - no matter that it was spacious and with interesting views. They need not have worried. Paddy soon settled down, made new acquaintances and found that he could take his mobility scooter from there to Southport on the train. Indeed his scooter became a familiar sight in Formby as he drove happily around the village, waving to friends and totally oblivious of the traffic. His arrival at Waitrose was always something of an event as staff and customers rushed to assist him so popular and well-known had he become in his new surroundings.
In 2006 Paddy gave a lunch in the Town Hall for his friends to celebrate his 70 years in public life for he was rightly proud of his achievements and longevity and in recent years he celebrated each birthday with a lunch at the Athenaeum. It is no secret that the city planned to celebrate his 100th birthday next February with an official lunch at the Town Hall to mark his lifetime of service to the city. He was proud to be a Citizen of Honour in 2009 by Resolution of the City Council and there are many of us who feel he should have received further national recognition. Certainly he was one of Liverpool's most outstanding citizens and the numbers here today attest to the admiration and affection in which he was held by so many.
Paddy as a cradle catholic, prominent layman, faithful son of the church (though perhaps not always seeing eye to eye with the hierarchy) and a high ranking Papal Knight played an important part over the years in healing the bitter differences that had divided Protestant and Catholic in Liverpool during the earlier part of his life but even he recognised that though ecumenism "is a very proper ambition we must not expect success in any particular timetable or lifetime".
As we know he was taken ill sadly a few months short of his 100th birthday to which he and so many others were looking forward. Active to the end he was about to leave for a function at the Town Hall when he was taken ill. Though he survived an operation he died shortly afterwards, slipping away gently with members of his family around him.
Within a few days of his death there was a fulsome and accurate obituary in the Telegraph. Paddy told me that he had been visited some time ago by a correspondent from that newspaper asking if he could write an article about his life. Paddy readily agreed and at the end of the interview he asked when the article would appear. The man apologised saying "perhaps I did not make it clear. I am the Obituary Editor"
He had discussed arrangements for his funeral and when the time came his was a wonderful funeral Mass at which the Archbishop presided. It was an occasion that Paddy would have enjoyed - the Legion Standards lined the pathway, the lovely St Mary's Catholic Church at Little Crosby, looking its best, was filled to capacity and the Liturgy, the hymns, and Eucharistic prayers were inspirational.
The autumn sun was shining across the grass and stubble fields of the village as Paddy was laid to rest in the little churchyard beside his beloved wife Jean - the day was the 8th October - the 74th anniversary of their wedding day.
May I just read the last verse of a 'Poem on the Passing of a Dear Friend' which was written by Paddy's father and seems so appropriate today.
'Yet neither time nor space can break the bond
Which years of friendship have so firmly sealed
And in my heart till we shall meet beyond
Thy memory shall in sweetness be revealed.'