What follows is the text of my eulogy to my father, Peter Huntley, who tragically died on Sunday 19th February 2012. It was read out at his funeral on Friday 2nd March 2012, which I wrote about (and there’s a video too).
My dad never taught me how to shave. He never taught me to fish, or to cheer on a winning football team. He never taught me how to build a fire or to give a firm handshake or to stand up to a bully in a fistfight.
I suppose that my dad was not like other dads.
My dad never taught me to drive. That one is probably for the best. But he did teach me that if your car won’t start, that the correct course of action is to shout “Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” at it. He always had a special relationship with machines, and… I already miss him phoning me up because he can’t get his printer to work or because his Internet connection has gone down. But that didn’t stop him from trying, and one of my fondest memories of him is of an Easter, 20 years ago, when he and I worked together to build what became my first “kit” computer.
And though he didn’t teach me to drive, he did teach me to read a bus timetable. And he taught me how to change a bike tyre using a bent tablespoon. Years later, I learned that there’s actually a tool for the purpose for which my dad used to use a tablespoon, but he always insisted that his way was better. He was stubborn, and that wasn’t always a bad thing: his refusal to give up, to keep pushing no matter what, shows an admirable and enviable determination and focus. It’s that same stubbornness that fuelled his sponsored runs, climbs, swims and cycle rides, each one harder than the last.
My dad taught me that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Sometimes it was hard to be his friend, and sometimes it was hard to be his family. But I’m honoured to have both called him my father, and called him my friend. You know what else he taught me? That you look after your family. He was always there for me and my sisters. And it didn’t matter whether I’d disappointed him, or whether I’d made him proud – he wanted to share in it. He once said to me, during a tough time for me: “If there’s anything that I can do – anything at all – then let me know. You know that I’m no good at the emotional stuff, but I’ll help you any way I can.”
My dad did teach how to put on a tie. But he also taught me that when you wear a tie, you wear it for somebody else, and you should always ask yourself who it is that you’re wearing it for. He was a man who loved his work, but who refused to be defined by something as trivial as his job title. He was a man who needed freedom – the freedom to drop everything and escape to the mountains for a few days, or to jump on a flight to the other side of the world, or – as you’ve seen – the freedom to sing and dance and not for a second care that he had a talent for neither.
My dad didn’t teach me how to ace a job interview or how to get ahead in the rat race. Instead, he taught me that there are far more important things in life than money. He taught me that success comes from making an impact on the world. From standing up – alone, if you have to – for the things that you believe in. My dad was a man who knew that the “right thing” to do was not always a “legal thing” to do. A man whose feats and courage seemed to transcend the boundaries of what most of us would consider possible.
We all get exactly one lifetime to make our mark on the world. But a man like my father, Peter George Huntley, shows us how that lifetime can be filled to the brim and overflow with great work and great experiences. This was a man whose dreams were too large for his head, and they spilled out, through his actions, and touched the lives of more people than we’ll ever know.
He cycled around the border of Italy. He climbed up Kilimanjaro. He left an indelible mark on the face of British transport and on the hearts of his family, friends, and colleagues. He was ready – quite literally – to walk to the end of the Earth for what he believed in.
To all of us, he was a man who climbed a mountain so that he might be able to reach the stars. But to me, he was also a friend, a teacher, and a father.
I’m going to hand you back to Ken now, to give us a few closing words. And after that, as my dad would say, if he were here, you can… “Stop fannying around; and bugger off.”