Tribute to Roger Lewis
My father was brought up in the small village of Llanmartin – son to Wilfred and Christiana, he had an amazing and wonderful life. Despite being sent to boarding school, Dad did not let that get in the way of pursuing his hobbies and interests. Right from the start these were to be: horses, animals, music and family.
Just before Dad passed away, we revisited family haunts. Weston Super Mare where despite the lack of motorways or a Severn Bridge the whole Lewis family, including the Weeks girls and Brian (Grand Pee R) went off for their two week family holiday. The same hotel each year – the Victoria Hills Hotel. At the age of 10 and ponies and competing was high on the agenda, Grandma and Grandad would let Dad take the train home alone to be picked up in Newport by Trevor Lee and taken to the local gymkhana.
Soon pony club became a thing of the past and race riding was the sport of the moment. At the age of 14 Dad had his first point to point winner! Unheard of now a days – guy was 16. Dad rode for 20 seasons, notching up X winners under rules and X point to point winners.
It is a shame to say, I don’t remember much about this period – I only remember being taken to the races each weekend and collecting loosing betting tickets and rolling down the grassy banks of the courses. But they were happy times and many friends were made. Dad was fortunate to being able to race against the likes of Brough Scott, but it reality it was Joe Price, Tim Rooney, John Llewellyn, Mary Evans, Ross Farr, Sue Anstey who were the regulars, becoming part of weekly life.
Racing was a way of life – it was how mum and dad met. Back in 1964 at Leicester Horse Sales, both mum and dad were selling horses accompanied by their fathers. Mum’s father brought Dad’s horse – despite her liking it. Invited back to Creaton for tea, mum and dad struck up a friendship. He promised to write to her and invite her down for the weekend to watch him race. It did help at the time that he was exceptionally handsome and mum looked like Grace Kelly. Mum travelled down to watch Dad race on her horse the first time, staying for a week and the rest is history. Together they built a lifetime based around horses.
When Dad hung up his saddle, he and mum turned to training. Some might have said it was mad for the amount of prize money they collected, but how they enjoyed it. Over the years they bred and trained a string of horses from Connolly, Blinking Nora, Lord Charles, Channel Pastime and X to name but a few. Similarly, they had their fair share of jockeys – John Llewelyn, Evan Williams, Mickey Harris and my brother!
Dad and Mum have been fortunate to have two of their children follow in their horsey footsteps – through pony club and into racing. Guy race rode professionally for 10 years with the likes of Jenny Pitman and Paul Nicholls. Hannah, similarly has spent her career working for Channel Four Racing. Both of them have brought both Mum and Dad enormous pride and entertainment.
Dad’s knowledge of the racing world was recognised – he race wrote for the Racing Post, he became a Steward, but one of his biggest passions was founding the South Wales Area Point to Point Fund in Wales with Tim Rooney, Jim Thomas and Gywn Brace. Together the four held numerous dances and award ceremonies building up a pot of money which could be distribute to amateur jockeys when injured. It is a brilliant fund which is not replicated elsewhere for amateur jockeys, but is still going strong today here in Wales, led by Guy, Jane Brace and Carol David.
More recently, mum and dad have been the hosts of the Winning Connections Box at Hereford, Cheptsow and Bath Racecourse. They have been enormously supportive of both mum and dad through this tough time and Bath put on a wonderful evening in July to celebrate his 72nd birthday.
To qualify for point to pointing you have to hunt. Both Dad and mum were raising in the hunting field –Grandad was Master of FoxHounds with the Llangibby. Like racing, the two of them got a buzz of being hurled around the field by their thoroughbreds and like the point to point field they built strong friendships with the Perrys, Cronks and Morgans to name but a few. They also hunted elsewhere such as Ireland, Pytchley but their favourite was the Glamorgan, becoming life long firm friends with Helen and Bob Porter. AnimalsBeing brought up on a farm, one would think you have to like animals – but Dad loved them in all shapes and sizes. He reminded me recently that in 1950 his parents took him to Bristol Zoo for a day trip where they were allowed to ride their resident elephant Rosie. This passion for wildlife grew – taking national geographic monthly, filling up the sky planner with all sorts of animal programmes to developing a hankering to travel to see these exotic animals.Dad was fortunate in life that he was able to travel. His partners in crime were often Ian & Annette and Mum who did not mind where it was as long as it was sunny.
Over the years they have been everywhere from Sri Lanka around Europe and to South Africa. South Africa is home to Jean Minnear (Nuttall to many of you), part of the Llangibby hunting franternity who upped sticks and moved overseas. 10 years ago, Mum and Dad travelled to see her, my husband and I were fortunate to dovetail our two week holiday in amongst their’s. Didn’t we have fun – from wine tasting without spitting (but that’s the norm!) through to safaring in Botswanna and Zambia. I remember Dad who was a whisky consesiour stating that the safari lodge which only slept 12 people had a bad range of whisky – the next day they had some Highland Park flown in. Unbeknownst to us, at the next stop in Zambia - Sam and I rocked up to swim in the Devil’s pool right on the lip of Victoria Falls, who did we find there mum and dad. But when seeing how fast the water was flowing and how big the drop was, that we all pushed Sam out to swim first! MusicDad’s passion for music goes back to boarding school. At Wytcliffe, he used to hide a radio under his covers and tune into radio Luxemburg. Growing up, I was given my first turn table at the age of four and was taken to my first concert at the age of 9. Oh how I kicked off. But dad always had a knack of buying two tickets. If mum did not want to go, then it was down to guy and i. Now back to that first concert – Johnny Cash. I know, looking back on it and my moaning I am glad dad put his foot down. Guy suffered similarly with Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton – although, I don’t think he complained when Guy saw the size of Dolly’s assets!More recently at Dad’s request at Guy’s 4oth was to see Fleetwood Mac. Late at night and after a few too many to drink I secured these tickets – front row and meet the band. For the pair of us, it was a night to remember – our very own concert with the group playing away in front of us. Magical.A friend recently said to me, that when I told them that Dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer that they thought we were setting our selves up for a fall with dad’s – cover ears – FUCK IT list. But bloody hell, we as a family have done a lot in the past 2 years! Trips to Egypt, Greece twice, Scilly Isles countless times to Cornwall, theatre, Strictly Come Dancing Tour and rock concerts – we did bloody well! FamilyFamily has always been important to Dad. Having been sent away to school at a young age, to have his family around him was key and he was happy to get involved….which was no bad thing, as at the age of two, I had 6 month old siblings and a mother who loved her horses with a leg in plaster. I don’t think a year went by without mum breaking something via a horse – but that is another story.
From then on, I became a daddy’s girl – I had to be, so off we would go delivering potatoes around Newport. However, dad was never any good at doing my hair!As parents, looking back at them, I am amazed at how tolerant they were. With the pub under their control we had numerous parties and teams of people sleeping over - which they turned a blind eye to. Mum – you will have to each us that trick. Together you have had a long and wonderful life together as mentioned through this eulogy. You have had your up times and your low points, but you stuck together and stuck together for 50 years. Both Hannah and I are married and have given Mum and Dad four grandchildren – Kitty, Hugo, Jack and George. Kitty has developed the Lewis love of horses and Hugo a passion for sport. It is yet to be seen what the younger ones develop a passion for. But it has been brilliant Dad being part of their lives – writing to Kitty each month, going to birthday parties or watching them learn to surf in Cornwall. Dad has recently developed a strong love for Cornwall – spending many weeks there with mum, aunt susan and uncle roger, sitting on their bench on the headland in Port Gaverne. It will be a place where we will think about him. If a grave had not come free in Llanmartin Dad had said to be cremated – with his ashes spread by that bench and on the muck heap at Court Farm. But his heart is in Llanmartin – he was born here and will live here forever.