Thank you – From Charles Bunker
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Please forgive me for using such an impersonal means of communication to thank all those who have sent their very kind condolences on Robin’s death. I would have preferred to have handwritten a letter to everyone, but notes of sympathy, condolences and best wishes have come from around the world and sadly there are far too many for me to deal with individually.
It has been lovely to learn how much Robin was appreciated by so many people from such wide and diverse backgrounds. The Callan Method and The Orchard Tea Gardens comprised Robin’s life’s work and I really think he would have been very touched to have learned how much these things mean to so many other people too.
I would also like to thank all those who came to Robin’s funeral. Friends from all over the world came to say their goodbyes at a quintessentially English funeral service, in a beautiful English church in Grantchester, which (as all those who have learnt or taught The Callan Method know) “isn’t a town; it’s a village”!
The funeral service was almost written by Robin’s fair hand as found on his desk, shortly after he died, were a number of Orders of Service which he had saved. It was these which created the framework for the hymns, the reading and the poetry.
‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by W.B. Yeats was charmingly read by Andrew Mcleay, a long standing friend of Robin’s who opened a Callan school in Italy when Robin was there. This poem was chosen as, although suffering quite badly from dementia, Robin could recite the first verse of this poem up to a few weeks before he died.
As Robin was a co-founder of The Rupert Brooke Society, it was also appropriate to include one of Brooke’s poems. The obvious choice was ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ and this was exquisitely read by Mike Reed who co-founded, with Robin, The Rupert Brooke Society and The Rupert Brooke Museum. Mike’s phrasing was something very special and I, for one, will only be able to read this poem again using Mike’s interpretation.
The Rev. Dr Stuart Mews very kindly conducted the funeral service and spoke at some length about Robin’s life using, as his script, a history which Robin had written before he died. Dr Mews told how Robin’s ambition, as a young man, had been to be a member of the landed gentry with an income sufficient for him to study any matter which interested him. There was much amusement in the congregation as Dr Mews likened Robin to a Twentieth Century Lord Byron (but without the sexual scandals) passionate for literature, The Callan Method, Grantchester, Rupert Brooke and the Orchard Tea Gardens.
The service ended with the unaccompanied singing of ‘Danny Boy’ by soloist Emilia Hughes in recognition of Robin’s Irish roots and how much these meant to him. As we all stood, and Robin left the church, Emilia’s voice filled and resonated around the 14th and 15th century walls. Just perfect; – in fact, better than perfect.
After Robin’s burial in the church grounds, we all walked the 250 yards to The Orchard Tea Gardens where, on a glorious spring afternoon, we chatted, intermingled and drank a toast to Robin and the very fond memories we all have of him.
It is a testament to Robin and his Callan Method that his funeral service was attended by people who had never met him and others who had met him just the once. Some had flown in especially from places like Dubai, Poland, Slovakia and Ireland to be there. They simply wanted to pay their respects to a man whose method of teaching English has played such a prominent part in their lives.
I would also like to say thank you to all those who have donated to Parkinson’s UK in memory of Robin. He was quite convinced that his Parkinson’s developed as a result of the many hours it took sitting still to write and rewrite his method. Those who saw Robin in the last few weeks of his life will know what a devastating illness it can be. In fighting a disease such as this every little bit helps which is why I am so grateful.
There are those who are wondering what will now happen with Robin’s businesses. The Orchard Tea Gardens has been gifted by Robin to a Charitable Trust. Robin bought the Tea Gardens to make sure that they would never be built upon, and this gift makes sure that they can never be changed. They will be preserved as part of Cambridgeshire’s cultural heritage, making them, in the words of Rupert Brooke, ‘forever England’.
The Callan Group of Companies has been left to Robin’s wider family. As many of you will be aware, I have been intimately involved in running the Callan Group for the last eighteen months and for a couple of years before that I was working alongside Robin as he moved into retirement. Interestingly, as far back as twenty years ago, Robin was telling people that his nephew would run his business one day; even though I had no idea of these plans until a couple of years ago! My family and I are determined to do our best to protect Robin’s legacy. We want the Callan Method to be a brand which everyone associated with it is proud.. I am really fortunate to have around me, not just a first class management team, but a group of people who know more about the Callan Method than I will ever know. We are all inveterably passionate about the Callan Method. With their advice, guidance, hard work and support, I am confident that together we will be able to build on his life’s work.
Once again, thank you for all your letters, emails, notes and postings of sympathy, condolences and best wishes. They are very much appreciated.
Kind regards and all best wishes