Eulogy Anthony (Tony) Metford Frost

This appreciation was given by Tony's son, Hugh, at the funeral.

Good afternoon everyone.

My father, our father, Tony Frost, was “a bit of a character”.

I don’t think that statement needs backing up with any justification, because it will be obvious to most of us, as we already know it. Indeed, all I have done is just lift those words from more than one letter or email received since father sadly passed away at the end of last month.

One such bit of his ‘character’ was public speaking; how he would have relished this opportunity that I have now, standing here, in front of so many of his friends and relatives, from near and far, who he very much loved and respected and from whom he drew both strength and inspiration.

Had he been here now, he’d probably have produced his notes from inside his jacket, that he had scribbled on both sides of an old, used A4 envelope and then he’d have everyone listening to his stories and anecdotes for a good hour or more, rabbiting on well beyond having finished his notes, ... Tch! Some people just love the sound of their own voice! Well, as they say; ‘like father, like son’, ...

I believe that Father predominantly wanted ‘to do right by others’, perhaps it was in-built within him, or possibly he took up the mantle of responsibility after two major events in his early life;
Firstly, when he was not yet a teenager in the early 1940’s, being told that post-war, the country desperately needed to produce more food to feed its population, a situation that lasted for at least another 2 to 3 decades. This clearly made a big impression on father from a young age and even though the situation gradually changed, he never forgot it.

Secondly, the premature death of his mother, Jane, in 1953 when father was 21 years old, though more importantly his brothers Patrick and Tim were of course that bit younger. Their father, Arthur Frost, was left responsible for the three boys who were all on the verge of trying to find their own way in life and, according to my Uncle Tim, at that time father provided some muchneeded older-brother support for himself and Patrick, helping them all to get through a very tough time together. Resourcefulness and resilience was obviously in evidence at this time, to be utilised again in the future.

Perhaps the idea of assisting others and feeling successful at it, might have been planted in him at this time and when future opportunities arose, father was able to rise to the challenges.

It’s usual in a personal Appreciation such as this to provide some history, background and context to events. Although not easy to give full justice to this task in the time available, what follows is my attempt, as succinct as I can be; (though please excuse me omitting any events that anyone feels I should have mentioned) ...

Father was born in Burnham on Sea in 1932, first son to Arthur and Jane Frost. Subsequently joined by brothers Patrick and Tim then brought up on Hurn Farm at Berrow in Somerset. The family moved to Childhay Farm, Drimpton, in Dorset in 1941, when father was 9 years old, taking their livestock by rail and herding them on through the lanes.
These were the war years, with much frugality and resourcefulness, though also new and exciting times ahead for these young men.
Many of us here today will have been treated to various fascinating stories from this period in father’s life. He was good at that!

After the family became established at Childhay, father attended first St Dunstan’s and then Blundell’s School, both of which he enjoyed greatly, with friendships made and lasting right to the end of his life. Although enjoying cricket and tennis at the time, rugby was one of his first sporting loves, playing for both school and for Chard.

Three years after his mother had passed away, in 1956 at the age of 24, father moved to take up his own tenancy at Benville Farm, thereby beginning a big new chapter in his life ...
There was much to do at Benville, with some tough land to farm, much of it wet, north facing, acidic, grade 3 soils and quite often enveloped in fog, though his acquired agricultural knowledge, hard work and determination saw him through. Predominantly farming grassland for dairy, beef and sheep production, though there was also associated forage and cereal crops and, many years later, other ventures such as Christmas turkeys, that we all remember quite well!
In the late 50’s, early 60’s, with the help of the two Dennett families, Mr Crabb and a bit later the Dowdings the farm production rose and was able to support the families to come.
Down Benville Lane, his brother Patrick also arrived later to farm and in-between the Norman family also proved to be great neighbours in this rural part of Dorset. Life was probably settling into a pattern, soon to get more colour added...

On a very cold and snowy February in 1963, Tony Frost married our mother Jane and thereafter Cara, James and I were born (not actually in that order!), and we grew up at Benville, with both our parents providing good times for us in our early formative years in a wonderful farming environment.
I know there are a few people here today who will remember those times shared with our family. Fond memories.

My earliest recollections of father were at the start of this time, perhaps aged 4 or 5, me being awake and bouncy at 6 am “helping” him light the coal-fired Rayburn before he went out to feed the livestock.

Father’s sporting activities evolved now more strongly towards tennis, with a homemade grass court built in the field in front of the farmhouse, giving us some truly wonderful times with friends and family. Then there were the other grass courts for us to play on in Corscombe at the Peakes and in Halstock at the Holloways and Parry’s.
There were also the memorable shooting days for father at Compton Vallance, as well as joining his brothers in their involvements in the Point-to-point races and other local Hunt activities.

Many agricultural references could be made at this point; though I’ll make just one – inclusion in the Corbenstock Machinery Syndicate, a group of farmers with the Childs’, Holloways and also the Peakes, working together in a type of agreement that was pretty rare in the UK at that time. This was impressive co-operation, not without significant negotiation I daresay, though it worked out well for this resourceful and resilient group of farmers.

At about this time, father was also starting to add to his interests, with new ventures, firstly into the local NFU and the various related agricultural bodies, then on to contribute to the local Parish Council, District Council and County Council, taking his responsibilities on various Committees very seriously indeed. Where some of us would probably have found far too many politics and frustrations, father took up many local challenges, enjoying the social involvement and success in assisting those who required it. Seeking to be politically independent, as far as is possible in the modern world, he struck out for causes close to his heart and to those of the local community. He has many friends from his time in Councils here today.

In these ventures and in the background management of the farm, father was greatly supported by his second wife Margaret after they married in 1981. She took him on, and together they worked.
The family expanded, joined by Margaret’s three sons Andrew, Ian and Alistair, bringing even wider family and friends to Benville who experienced father’s very warm, welcoming and gregarious nature. Busy times ensued and continued for many years, with the farming going on in the background, whilst both father and Margaret hosted many visitors and became more heavily involved in the local community in so many different ways.

Father’s sporting activities progressed further, as he aged, with golf becoming a major interest for him
(just as an aside; I found that his tennis interest dwindled around the time that I was able beat him!) Once again, with this seemingly very compulsive sport of golf, he gained new friends and sociable activities, such as playing for the Old Blundellians and with other teams of friends.
Another favourite pastime was watching the cricket at Taunton, together with other local cricket enthusiasts and good friends, such a Mike Pengelly and also Rosemary Childs and Sid.

In fact, it’s true to say that father had so many on-going social activities, from a strong commitment to the Church that we are in today, to local fundraising activities (in particular for the Royal British Legion), the village fete, local youth clubs, bridge evenings, and several other local societies and causes.
Not forgetting the involvement with his beloved Melplash Agricultural Society, continuing the Frost family participation started by Arthur, then Patrick, father and Tim and now Will. I think we will all remember his notorious commentary over the years, not all of it quite planned, but always entertaining.

Meanwhile, father’s widening family grew even more, with marriages and grandchildren arriving.

And so, the scene was set for the remaining years of active life at Benville, eternally busy and fruitful until retiring in about the year 2000 and moving to Homeleigh in neighbouring Corscombe.
Here, he and Margaret continued in much the same manner, still gardening and continuing with most of the community activities.

Margaret’s death in 2008 was a big blow to father, though he coped well, especially thanks to many people in front of me now. However, he managed to continue with his contributions to Council work over a few more years and never gave up doing all he could to be involved in Corscombe and West Dorset life.

Only father’s failing heart let him down in the last year or two, otherwise he’d still be out and about trying to achieve warm-hearted goals for as many people as he could.
It might seem that he just over-used heart of his and wore it out, poor chap!

As my part of this Appreciation now draws to a close, I want to be sure I have recognised all father’s contributions to his family, friends and wider society, though often I’d say, they were much the same thing to him.

However, it is also very important that I speak on behalf of father as well and say just how much he appreciated the warmth from all his friends and relations as well, particularly in the latter years of course.

Tony Frost was a sociable countryman.
This ‘character’, who had a symbiotic relationship with the community and the environment in which he lived, very much got a sense of fulfilment and nourishment from all those he sought to support.

Therefore, I know he would want to thank, not only his family, but each and everyone here today (as well as all those who, sadly, were not able to make it), for all the love and respect they gave him, in the way that he tried to give to others. Thank you, to everyone.

Finally (yes, finally, honest!) the last few words to finish; I want to go back to tennis, a game that he and I played together and shared a love of ...
Because, he played in a similar way to how he lived his life; i.e.
not necessarily for the winning, but for the game itself
serving well, just as he did his community
keeping the ball in play and returning to others consistently
rarely volleying aggressively, preferring the forehand shot, straight down the line
mainly avoiding playing singles, instead the doubles game and preferably within a team of friends
playing a gentleman’s game, on his preferred surface of a soft, grass court, where, like in agriculture, the bounces are often irregular and unpredictable.
And lastly, putting in the effort to make a difference, rather like the white calcium carbonate used to mark out the lines on the grass growing in that acidic soil, he clearly stood out.

So, you don’t need to be a hawk eyed, Wimbledon umpire to see that Tony, our father, ... took on the game of life on his terms, entertained us all, and won it; Game, Set and Match.