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Friday, 17 April 2009

David Parsons, 25th February 1937 - 14th April 2009


The beloved author of this blog, David Parsons, died on Tuesday.

Realistic as he was from the moment he received his diagnosis, Dad warned us ten days earlier not to expect much more. He was already very weak then, and there was concern he would not make it far beyond that weekend. And yet, as you will have read, Dad rallied during Holy Week, buoyed by the company of family and friends, and with a clear determination to experience the joy of Easter one more time.

Mercifully, Dad's pain relief continued to be very effective, but the wasting effects of the disease meant that any kind of movement was becoming more difficult by the day. Nevertheless Dad was set on celebrating Easter in church on Sunday. With great courage he endured the preparation and the journey, and we arrived on time (a first for the Parsons family?!) at the Parish Church, which was bursting at the seams with an unexpectedly large congregation. Dad followed the varied and entertaining service attentively, spoke prayers and responses with a strong voice, and took communion.

After the service many people came up to greet Dad, and we stayed socialising for a good while. Then it was back home, to relax all afternoon in the back garden and talk with visitors and with friends on the phone.

On Monday, the effort of the previous day had clearly taken its toll, and Dad was completely exhausted, having the energy to contribute only infrequently, for instance to greet visitors with a smile, before closing his eyes again to continue listening and resting.

On Tuesday, Dad woke in an agitated state. He asked for some pain relief, which we gave him, and he soon confirmed that he was no longer in pain. His breathing continued fast and shallow, though, so we called the nurses and doctor to help. They came quickly, made him as physically comfortable as could be and gave him something to calm him. It worked to some extent, but I was struck that, in the midst of talk of milligrams of this and stat doses of that, the nurses' most urgent request was for music. While their work to comfort the body was important, they recognised that the soul's requirement was far more pressing.

With Dad calmed somewhat, the nurses left, saying they'd return later. Shortly, visitors arrived, whom I talked with briefly in the kitchen until I realised that Dad was on his own. I excused myself and went back in Dad's room. He was looking ahead into the distance, breathing quickly, as if in anticipation. I played him Alfred Deller's rendition of Purcell's 'Music for a While'. Beautiful and soothing, undoubtedly, but as the song finished I knew that canned music, however sweet, was just not real enough.

I remembered that dear Dolly had told us that she asked Dad a couple of weeks ago what he would like to have read to him in the event that he couldn't speak any more. She expected him to reply with chapter and verse from the bible, but he surprised her with "Narnia!". I was expecting that information to be useful over the course of weeks, not minutes, but never mind. I searched the blog for Narnia, and found the passage Dad had copied out and entitled 'A valiant mouse'. Taking The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the boxed set bought for Dad by Charlie, I turned to the end of the book, and read him not only the bit about Reepicheep, quivering with happiness as he disappeared over the horizon in his coracle, and the author's opinion that he had come safe to Aslan's country, but also on to the breakfast with the Lamb, who awesomely turns into Aslan.

Dad's response, and the calming of his breath, convinced me that he was listening, and drawing inspiration from these words which he had in any case chosen. Next I searched for 'pilgrim' on the blog, and up came 'Encouragement from John Bunyan'. No paper version of Pilgrim's Progress being to hand, I just read from the screen.
"Now you must note that the city stood upon a mighty hill, but the Pilgrims went up that hill with ease, because they had these two men to lead them up by the arms..."

In the last few days, Dad had been rather losing patience when we his carers showed any lack of clarity. He didn't want to be bothered with our trivial questions. He wanted to hear conviction from us. The day before, he had told Barbara that he wanted to know how to die. We couldn't provide an answer, but I think that the words of the Shining Ones did.

"You are going now, said they, to the paradise of God, wherein you shall see the tree of life, and eat of the never-fading fruits thereof; and when you come there, you shall have white robes given you, and your walk and talk shall be every day with the King, even all the days of eternity."

When I had finished the Bunyan, I had nothing more to read. Sensing that Dad's time was close, I reached for the nearest thing in my head, and fumblingly said the Lord's Prayer. As I said “Amen”, he released his last breath.

You might say that it was a coincidence, that Dad couldn't possibly have been registering, that the timing was a fluke. But I am sure that it was the power of the Word that gave him the confidence to let go of this life in certain faith of the next. I was just fortunate to be there at the right time to speak it.

In the time since, the family has gathered. We have cried, hugged, laughed, told stories and remembered, and we will continue to do so.

Dad's funeral will take place at 1.30pm on Wednesday 22nd April at Street Parish Church. The service will continue briefly at Yeovil crematorium. All are then invited for light refreshments, kindly provided by members of the church, from 4.30pm at the Mission Church, Vestry Road. Please come and help us celebrate a life well lived.

If you would like to write something about David for others to read, you are encouraged to add a comment to this post. You can read other people's comments by clicking on the 'n' comments link at the end of this post.

Messages for the family, including any favourite photos of David you'd like to share, can be sent to

Trevor, for the family.

For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, yes.


  1. Dear Trevor and all David's family, you made the ending of David's time on this earth so beautiful, with his favourite readings and Music. From diagnosis in late January until he left this world for the next, David bore his situation and condition with bravery, strength, determination, wry humour sometimes, and amazing creativity. He composed music for some of his lucky friends, right until the end. He chose to leave us on the same day as Handel (250 yrs later ). David and I performed many Handel songs together during the last few years. David's faith bore him through the last months, he told me recently he was ready "for when the Lord chooses to take me". He will always be in my heart, as will his family members. Love from Helen

  2. David was such a lovely man whom I was pleased to know and call a friend. We had such a good time last week when we met and reminisced, laughed, and hugged. David loved his children so much and I know they will be supporting each other at this sad time. David at Peace now.
    Love from Jenny xxx Downend, Bristol

  3. David was a very special friend to me and my family. What a great privilege it has been, to spent the last few weeks staying with David, and with his wonderful family in Street to help with his needs. I shall always treasure my memories.
    love to you all, Chacquie x

  4. In memoriam David Parsons (25-2-1937 – 14-4-2009)

    Inter latinistas linguae vivae maxime faventes in Britannia diu fuit David Parson, nuper vita defunctus.

    Sodalis studiosissimus fuit societas britannicae ‘Association foR Latin Teaching’ [Societatis pro lingua latina docenda], ubi illa littera “R” significat verbum hodie amissum ex illius societatis titulo vetere ‘the Reform of’; nam scopus primus continebatur doctoris W.H.D. Rouse (1863-1950) methodo illo tempore nova linguam docendi per linguam ipsam.

    Revera in fasciculo recentissimo commentarii ‘The journal of classics teaching’ [Commentarii de rebus classicis docendis], fasc. 17, Aestatis 2009, p.5, sicut vox cygnea eius, apparuit symbola c.t. ‘Inspiration from Rouse: three simple suggestions that could revolutionise your teaching’ [Rouse nos docet; tres consilia facilia ad doctrinam vestram renovandam]. Tres capita insunt, quorum fines facile a magistris finguntur: lingua latina quotidiana; lingua latina actitanda; lingua latina volubilis.

    Moderatus est ‘blog’ in tela totius terrae summae utilitatis et jucunditatis de nuntiis novis latinis

    Semper mihi afabilissimus, patientissimus, atentissimus fuit. Saepe animadversiones epistulis electronicis disceptavimus sicut, ut ille dixit, colloquentes in caupona.

    Olim sacerdos et magister, musicam summopere diligebat. De ultimorum dierum et de funere nuntiis verba familiaris ejus hic leguntur :

    David igitur amicum coram et epistulis tristis desiderabo. Tamen illius memoriam, opiniones, amicitiam mecum laeto semper manebunt.

    Brennus Legranus.

  5. Although I never met David, during the times we were in contact he was always very encouraging and supportive. He was obviously a brilliant, erudite man, but more than that he was kind, modest and generous. He enhanced many peoples' lives and he will be very much missed.

    Caroline Lawrence

  6. A life well lived indeed and an inspiration to many. I knew David only through the ARLT where he was a companion and friend at summer schools over more than twenty years. It is an axiom to say that no-one is indispensable, but it will be a hard task to replace him. Everyone involved in classics owes him an enormous debt, especially for the ARLT blog, one of the most informative and useful things out there. I hope his personal blog too may remain online for us to revisit and be inspired by it. My most sincere condolences to you and all of David’s family. The ARLT has lost a loyal servant, Classics a tireless proponent, and all of us a good friend. RIP

  7. He was such a lovely man and so talented and very patient. At Christ Church he taught the choir such a lot and we had many good times together. We all have many happy memories of his time spent in Downend. He will be greatly missed. Maggie & Mike

  8. I have only met David once, and his mind, clarity and eloquence made a strong impression on me. I know he will be dearly missed by his children and his many friends, but they should all take courage in the fact that he lived the life of his choosing and died a peaceful, lucky death despite it all, with Trevor's recounting of his last few hours as the very best proof of that. My thoughts and love go out to his children and grandchildren. May he rest in peace.


  9. David was a lovely and true gentleman whom I got to know very well at Christchurch. He was a brilliant musician and inspired the choir to sing at a higher stander than on previous occasions. We have many fond memories of him, and will be missed by many people

    Vera & Vernon

  10. I came to Street almost 8 years ago and lived next door to David and Charlie, i also had the pleasure in meeting all the children, remembering a lovely day we spent at Cricket St Thomas wild life park. When i told my children Lucy 14 Katie 12 and Max 8 that David had passed away they were very sad and remembered him for his help with their Roman projects at school and how he, without fear of them breaking anything, allowed them at a very young age to take artifacts and books to school for show and tell.

    My thoughts are with you all.

    Sally X

  11. David was a good man, a wise man, and a meek man. (See CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters – I think - on what meekness is and is not). He was also a fine politician, in the very best sense of the word, using the universal respect he enjoyed within the ARLT gently but firmly to remind the Association of the need to look forward as well as back. He was therefore the obvious choice to organise the centenary summer school in 2011 – one of many large gaps that he now leaves. He was a great peacemaker, whose love for things classical convinced him of the need for the classics teaching fraternity to pull together.

    It was a pleasure to know and work with David. It was a privilege to attend his (dignified, but human) funeral, and heart-warming – but not at all surprising – to see the church so crowded. (And next time I go to my mother’s I must look out her copy of Come and Sing and see which of the songs I used to sing or accompany are by D. Parsons!)

    Peter Geall

  12. David did so much for music in the area. An example of this, a few years ago, was when the Tsunami hit, on Boxing Day. David's response was to gather musicians together, organise a solo item concert, and pack the Street Parish Church, and raise hundreds of pounds. He did this within the space of a week.A quick, creative, and meaningful response to a world disaster. He also played a helpful role in my students' concerts,accompanying the harder piano parts, and arranging on one occasion the Bach Prelude in G for solo cello and a bank of cello parts for the accompaniment so all the cellists got involved whatever level of competence. It came off really well. This summer, we shall again be doing a Student Concert, in the lovely Street Parish Church, and we shall be dedicating it to David's memory.

  13. David taught me latin and led my confirmation classes at Sunny Hill. I was saddened to hear of his death from another old girl. My thoughts are with his family. Amy

  14. David taught me Latin and coached me for Cambridge entrance at Sunny Hill. He was one of those inspirational teachers with a genuine love of their subject whose influence stays with you into adulthood. All our set text translations were his own and displayed not only his great technical ability but also his sharp sense of humour. I only found out about his death from this site when looking for the CLC drama pictures to show my son, now learning Latin himself, "That was my Latin teacher". I'm proud to say it. My thoughts are with you all.

  15. Sadly I did not hear of David's illness and death until a few weeks ago when talking to some other Wynne relatives. I had seen him a number of times in Glendalough and once we met up for lunch when I was passing through Bristol. He was one of those wonderfully intelligent and talented people who also have a gift for not making less talented folk feel inadequate in their company! I very much enjoyed my limited time with him and appreciated that he visited my Mother several times in Glendalough over the years, a place I know he loved to be. I have frequently wondered how he managed to find the energy to do so many things in his life and do them so well. He has done a great job of bringing together an interesting collection of family information on this website. He enriched so many people's lives in so many ways - May he rest peacefully. He lived a very full life, so sad it has been cut short. My sympathies to you all. Graham Wynne