A Tribute to Mike Kendrick

Posted 14th May 2019

            On the eve of Mike Kendrick’s funeral daughter Maria wrote the following on her Facebook page:


            “ Tomorrow we pay tribute to my Dad and finally say goodbye to a genuine legend x I like to think that I got some of his spirit, his partying nature, sense of loyalty and passion (and often shear bloody mindedness!) Totally proud of all you instilled in Neil and I and hope we do you proud tomorrow x Miss you dad “


Earlier in the day son Neil wrote the following


            “Tomorrow we say goodbye to my Dad. I am so proud to of had him as my father. Praise and affection did not come easy to him but his generosity, loyalty, resilience and work ethic are traits that, I hope, guide my life and have been picked up by both my children.
My sister has put in so much work to make sure we give him a tremendous send off, I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow”

            As we gathered at Kemnal Park Crematorium to celebrate Mike’s life the first and obvious thing that became  apparent was the number of people who had turned out to pay their respects to the great man
            What followed could not have been bettered and Yes, Maria and Neil, you did your Dad proud  and gave him a tremendous send off and he would have been the first to say so; the tone of the event was little short of perfection
            Celebrant Debbie DeVito made us all feel at ease and said it was in order to laugh or cry, asked us to gather our own personal thoughts of Mike before delivering the family eulogy on their behalf
            She spoke of Mike’s early life, his days at the school and the life-time friendships this inspired, his time doing his National Service,  how he met Anne, their subsequent marriage over 56 years ago, the birth of Neil and Maria and, subsequently, his grand-children and ended by recalling the day that Mike, having had a sumptuous lunch which, no doubt, included a few glasses of wine, mistook Neil for a cab driver after Anne had called the former to come and collect her and  his Dad from East Croydon station after he had shown a disinclination to leave
            It was then the turn of Mick Pilgrim to pay his tribute to Mike on behalf of the Club and it could not have been pitched  better
            They both played many games of cricket together but not so many on the football field  - there was,  remember, something like a 20 year age difference  between them,  “But I often heard him on an adjoining pitch when I was playing”
            Mick confined himself to one football story, supplied by Mike Harris, when, after a game,  Mike had some choice words to say about the ability of the  referee only for the said official to suddenly appear and book him, and a cricket story in which he had been so incensed at the poor bowling performance of a team mate that he insisted:
“If you continue to bowl like that then I am leaving”
The bowler concerned  was Tom Sissons, who was also the skipper at the time, and he responded
“Go on then” and Mike got on his motor-bike and promptly left
            But, and quite rightly, Mick concentrated on the many qualities Mike had, his devotion and love of his family and, as far as the Old Wilsonians are concerned,  his  total dedication to the Club
            When the Association moved to Hayes in 1959 he, virtually single-handedly and without payment, ran the Bar
“Playing is the easy bit”, he always maintained, “what you do for the Club over and above that is what is important” and Mike epitomised that  sentiment
            We were then treated to a moving poem. “We love you”, before Luther Vandross’s ‘Dance with my Father’ provided the background to some slides of Mike covering his  entire life
            The Lord’s Prayer then preceded the committal and blessing and a final reading and then piece of music, Lonnie Donnegan’s ‘Have a drink on me’, and there cannot have been anyone in attendance who had not had a drink on Mike  
            And so we returned to the Club, a place where Mike had spent so many happy hours, performed with distinction on both the football field and cricket square, and, selflessly, put so many hours into the OWA
            Of course we all know that Mike was not perfect and he had his moments. There was the  occasion when he declared against Old Suttonians when batting second because a member of the opposition had said something he took exception to and thereby lost us  the game, and the football match when the referee abandoned the game due to “the continual dissent of Old Wilsonian players” or, to be more precise, Mike!
            He was never out lbw -  “shocking decision” – he would mutter as he walked off the pitch,  sometimes with a broad grin on his face, indicating that such incompetence was laughable, and sometimes with a scowl which would induce those watching  to proclaim:
“Mike’s been given out lbw again; don’t go into the dressing room for at least  20 minutes”
            He would resign on a regular basis – I have the letter,   dated July 27th  1970, which   he wrote to Gerry Adams, who was secretary of the Cricket Club at the time, which reads:
“Dear Gerry,
This is my letter of resignation from the Cricket Club. Those cricket balls that I have will be found in the sports store room”
            It is the last sentence that it is the most significant – even at the moment of resigning he remembered his obligations to the Club and, of course, he returned to it soon after
            Mike was a very modest man – he never boasted about the fact that he has scored more runs for the OWCC than any other player or about his status as an international footballer for Kenya, but he once told me:
“I was a far better footballer than Neil”  There was a slight pause before he added
“But he was a better cricketer” and he was undoubtedly right in his analysis of their respective sporting talents
            Carly Simon’s “Nobody does it better” had welcomed us as we walked in to share our thoughts of a man who touched us so profoundly, a song that contains the verse
“And nobody does it better, Though sometimes I wish someone could
Nobody does it quite the way you do, Why'd you have to be so good?”
            As we all know, sport was very important to Mike and he certainly was good – those 22, 462 runs with a cricket bat and  international football caps prove this, but, and as far as contributions to  the Old Wilsonians per se  are concerned, there are very few who did so better than Mike
            On the back of the Order of Service there is an adorable photograph of the entire immediate family with Mike at the centre of it all and taken at the Care Home in  which he spent the last days of his life,  and there is nothing that sums up the meaning of life,  for Mike, as  that picture
            We were all privileged to have known Mike Kendrick,  are better people for having done so,  will miss him enormously,  but will remember him for many years to come

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