Eulogy forChristopher Murray Price

The following eulogy was given by Christopher's son, Nick (who also attended Blundell's).

How does one give a eulogy without blubbing? To use my father ’s word, and actually something he was quite good at when the circumstances arose.
My father was very concerned that we got the details of his life accurate in his eulogy, he was a stickler for detail as some of you will know well! So firstly I need to read out a kind of CV of things he wanted us to know and get right about his life, and Woe Betide me if I get it wrong!!!. After that I’ll say a few more good things about his more hidden and poetic side, which I’ll get on to d’rekly, as he’d say.

In fact he entitled this CV, ‘My Insignificant Life’. Which, as you’ll hear, is far from true... He never liked pomp and vanity. But how he loved his sport and his old schools!!

He was born in Wellington Somerset on 10th July 1926.
He was educated at St. Petroc’s School, Bude 1934 -1940.
Throughout his youth, he excelled at sport... He captained the cricket and football teams, and he achieved the Victor Ludorum, which for the uninitiated means he also won everything in athletics. In fact it literally means: ‘the winner of the games’, which was something so important to him all his life.

After that he went to Blundell’s in Tiverton 1940 - 1944. There he became a Triple colour: 1st XV, 1st XI, & Athletics. Though not so important to him, he was also academically very sound and he became a School Monitor at both his schools.

At Blundell’s he set a new mile record, and it was a record which stood for 20 years, until my time there in fact... and it wasn’t me who broke it by the way!!!

He also won the long gruelling annual cross-country race known as The Russell.

So, it was 1944 when he left school, the war was still raging, and many of his friends were headed into the army of course. Aged 17/18 he tried 2 or 3 times in various ways to volunteer for the Somerset Light Infantry, but each time was turned down due to the asthma he’d inherited from his father.

I asked my uncle Robin why my father hadn’t chosen to go to Oxford University as so many of his friends did. Robin told me that my grandfather offered him the possibility at the dinner table one evening and my father simply answered: ‘Thanks but I’d only waste your money on playing games if I did go’. He knew himself that well!!

So he chose to get straight down to business and train to be an auctioneer and land agent. He served articles in Yeovil from 1945 - 1947, where he met and married my mother Mary Pike in 1947. During this time he represented Somerset at rugby and the combined Somerset & Gloucestershire XV against the 1947/48 Australians.

He then did find himself in Oxford for different reasons, and spent 7 years (1947 - 1954) there as the manager of the farm department of a firm of land agents specialising in acting for the Oxford colleges... whilst also playing a lot of sport, of course!!!

Penny and myself were born there in Oxford, and we’ve spawned 5 grandchildren, and once my daughter in the USA has given birth next month they’ll be 11 great grandchildren... and what would he say?? Yes... ‘a whole cricket team’ of course!!!

He was Captain of Oxfordshire Rugby Football Club for 3 years, and Oxford RFC for 4 years. His Sevens team won the prestigious Oxfordshire Sevens three times whilst he was captain, and twice they played in the sevens at Twickenham. He always said it was the sevens that he enjoyed the most.

Twice in that time officials from the English Rugby Union made special trips to watch him, and twice he was injured and couldn’t play. He made light of it in future years, but it was quite a crossroads for him and... had he had the call-up for England, well, who knows what might have been?! Such is Fate... He’d actually been playing with a broken wrist for 3 months! Typical of his Stoicism.

He also played cricket for Oxfordshire, got several hundreds, and once a hat-trick v Windsor in Windsor Great Park, and I believe he was playing against the late Duke.

To go off piste a little bit, I found a couple of press cuttings which told of a dinner that was held in his honour just before he left Oxford, and I quote the president of the Oxford Sports club: ‘Never have so many people gathered together to pay honour to one man. And never has any one man so earned the honour’. He was described as an inspirational team leader with charismatic leadership skills popular with both players and officials.

And all this also applied to his professional life towards which he was now headed.

So he returned to the West Country in 1954 and opened an office in Barnstaple, eventually becoming the senior partner of Price, Ogden, and Stubbs and having offices too in Bideford and South Molton.

He was much respected by his employees. He could put the terror of God into them! But he was a strong, honest, dutiful, and a fundamentally kind man who attracted great loyalty. He was the consummate professional, and as Geoffrey Clapp puts it ‘the best auctioneer I have had the privilege of knowing’.

He became known as ‘the man who sold Lundy’. He sold the island to the National Trust for his dear friends the Harman family, and afterwards became Lundy agent for a few years for the Landmark Trust who administered it. He’d cross over to Lundy once a week on the old fishing vessel, the Lundy Gannet, which would sail from Bideford Quay on the tide at 3 am of a February morning... so on this open boat in all weathers you can only imagine how it tested his love of Lundy, particularly during the fierce winter Easterlies when he’d have to land dangerously on the West side and clamber up those steep slippery cliffs!! For some time the only contact between Lundy and “that offshore island” as Lundyites called the mainland, was a radio telephone in my father’s office in Barnstaple. I can still hear Gi Gade’s booming voice: ‘Lundy calling, Lundy calling!!’

For many years he was agent of the Archdeaconry of Barnstaple responsible for the glebes in this wide area, extending from the Somerset to the Cornish borders.

He served on the local and National Committee of his professional body. He became a Fellow of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and eventually a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

A measure of his talents of fairness, technical knowledge, and good judgement was that he was appointed by the Lord Chancellor as an Agricultural Arbitrator.

Back to sport, never far from his passions. He didn’t play rugby again, but he played cricket for North Devon... and he loved hunting, chiefly with the Dulverton West and the Torrington Farmers.

He was Founder Chairman of the North Devon Riding Club and Founder Secretary of the first 50 mile Golden Horseshoe Ride, in which my sister Penny took part.

He farmed 60 acres at Maidenford for 25 years, and over those years he bred some beautiful horses there, before moving to Dean Head, Goodleigh, and then to Silver Hill, High Bickington.

Like his father before him he retired early at 55. Working it out he had almost 40 years in retirement in fact! During this time he became a magistrate, ending as the deputy chairman as he approached the age of 70, when to his chagrin he was forced to retire.

He was a governor of St. Petroc’s school for 18 years and of West Buckland school for 10 years. For a while he was Chairman of the Old Petrocian Club... and also Chairman of the Old Blundellian Club, of which he was later elected President. Incidentally, our family’s association with Blundell’s started as far back as 1659.

All of his life he was a keen bird watcher, and his interest in them never wained as was also true of his love of hunting, islands, gardening, farming and all other facets of country life.


So now please indulge me a bit as I get to his more esoteric side...

As I said he was a consummate professional, and people described him as an amazing and real gentleman. He never got super rich as many did in his business... he always said that ‘if you sell things for people, you don’t buy them for yourself’’. Though retired for nigh-on 40 years he always kept his ivory gavel by is comfy chair in the living room, he’d had it since his Oxford days. At heart he was pretty sentimental, and we all knew he loved poetry, and somewhere buried, or maybe burned, are the poems he wrote himself that he was too self-critical to share.

A modest man, he disliked pomp, and he understood the vanity of things. And as his friends will know, he had a great dry sense of humour.

His employees were well aware of his temper and authority... as were we all!! But that made his praise even more valuable. So he was held in great esteem, loyalty and, dare I say it, ‘love’ by them all.

This was so too in the family...

My uncle tells a story when he was on a country jaunt with my father and mother in their younger married years: Robin was in the back of the car as my father was driving and my mother navigating beside him. She no doubt got a turning wrong and his temper was short with such things, and he blew a gasket... he stopped, and stormed out of the car. Robin asked her if he was often like this, and she replied ‘Yes, but he’s wonderful at great things’. What a beautiful euology that is!!

Back to the country pursuits of Hunting, Shooting and Fishing. Well, he loved them all though latterly he couldn’t bear to kill a bird... and actually his fishing was restricted to trawling for mackerel around Lundy, solo, from his little blue boat, in the sunshine, spotted handkerchief around his neck, floppy white sunhat on his head... day-dreaming and most likely listening on his little steam radio (as he called the transistor) to Arlott, Trueman and Johnners, commentating on the latest test match... that was happiness for him.

He loved animals, and had a natural affinity with them... horses, chickens, goats, sheep and cattle of course, peacocks and alpacas... you name it... there were a lot of dawn sounds to wake us in the mornings.

And a last word or two about his dying moments. Penny and Anthony had been wonderful over the final months keeping an eye on him and attending to his needs, along with his wonderful carers Anita and Maryana. Near the end we had a special NHS bed put into the living room for him... and as things happened I was privileged to be there alone with him in the last few days, and entirely alone with him in the last hours.

I have never seen a greater display of rainbows than I did the evening before he died, it was really quite extraordinary and they were arched in doubles right over his house which as you probably know is perched dramatically on top of a hill, Silver Hill that is.

In the morning his breath was so slight that I had to see if it registered on the glasses he had long since discarded. It was early and outside it was silent after Nature’s Great Radiant Display of the previous evening. A breath would come only every 3 or 4 minutes it seemed... and so weak was it that I thought I’d never be able to discern the moment of his dying.

But suddenly there was a great boom as if a low-flying jet was passing over the house. I looked up and realised it was actually a sudden torrential downpour hitting the glass roof of the conservatory next to the living room. It lasted no more than a minute, and that was the moment he died. It felt like Nature was right with him throughout his final hours. Proof to me that his soul is Divine, in fact that All Souls are Divine.

And it was my 70th birthday as it happens.

In respect of his candid love of poetry then... a short piece of TS Eliot from Burnt Norton:

Time past, and time future,
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.


So thank you all for being here, and I’ll end with this, our prep school motto which was always how we signed off our letters to each other. It’s Cornish:


Nick Price (W 1964-69)