Nick Merzell 1948-2018
Donnington Castle Chapter No.856
Nick Murzell 13th April 1948—1st November 2018
1st eulogy by his younger brother Stephen.
Our Mum and Dad’s first child was a little girl, born in 1947 they named her Marion. She died a few hours after her birth. They were devastated, but encouraged to try again and one year later Nick was born.
To them he was an answered prayer and they showered him with love.
He enjoyed being the centre of their world for two years and then I arrived and his life took an immediate right turn. He became the older sibling pathfinder, responsible for navigating himself and me through our childhood and negotiating with Mum and Dad at every stage.
The only plus was he got the new toys and clothes and I got the cast offs.
Our early childhood was in Shaftesbury. Opposite our house was a huge field leading to Castle Hill and the woodland at the top. We would spend never ending school holidays making camps in the woods away from the house all day until Mum shouted “Nicholas! Stephen!” at the top of her voice to summon us home to tea.
As a big brother he taught me all the useful things in life, like getting a hot drink in the middle of the night from our hot water bottles. Our group of friends was known as Nicky Murzell’s gang. I was very proud.
Nick was accident prone and he broke his arm no less than three times.
I’ve noticed a handful of freemasons at the back of the hall, so I’ll tell you how it all started for Nick. He was about eight years old. We had, for a long time, been intrigued by Dad’s occasional trips to a place called the Lodge, dressed in a suit and carrying a mysterious brown briefcase, which happened to live by his desk. One day, Nick carefully opened the case and we found aprons and ribbons and medals inside. He felt guilty, so he carefully put it all back together and wiped his fingerprint with an old flannel.
Dad strictly followed the Mason’s code not to encourage sons to join and it wasn’t until Nick was nearly 30 that he told dad he would like to join. As quick as lightning, Dad got him into Shaftesbury Lodge and that was the start of Nick’s journey to Masonic stardom. But that’s all I know I’m afraid.
Nick had been at Shaftesbury Grammar School for about two years when dad’s job moved us to Dorchester. We both then went to Hardye’s School where Nick lost his enthusiasm to study, but he did love Wednesday afternoons. That was Cadet Force day. Nick rapidly progressed to the Navy section and relished polishing boots and whitening up his belt on a Tuesday evening.
He often said if he hadn’t fallen in love with Mo he might have joined the Navy.
Well the Mo encounter happened when they were about 16. Nick was a keen boy scout and Mo a ranger. A social event in Weymouth brought them together and they never looked back. Nick went on to gain his Queens Scout award and we all went to Windsor Castle for the presentation.
So back to the pioneering first born situation, Nick had saved up all of his paper round money to buy a motorbike when he was 16. Unfortunately, Dad refused to allow it and after seriously heated arguments, Nick backed down and blew all his cash on having fun in 16 year old style.
Some months later Dad reconsidered and agreed to let Nick buy a bike, but he had no cash, so he scraped together about £10 and bought a beat up James 197, which was rubbish, and he pushed it more than he rode it. Many a time he would set off to see Mo and the bike would get about 200 yards to the main road, conk out, and he would hitchhike the eight miles to Weymouth.
Nick left school with enough O levels to get an apprenticeship with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Bovington Army Camp. He rapidly saved up and bought his first car – a Morris 8. He soon progressed to a Ford Prefect, which became his long distance steed.
Mo had started her Teacher Training course at Kidderminster and Nick travelled the 300 mile round trip to see her every other weekend. On one of those trips, the Ford’s suspension arm collapsed on the journey back, at South Cerney in the Cotswolds. Nick had only a few shillings in his pocket so the local pub put him up for the night, free of charge, and took him to the local scrap yard, where he found the relevant part, dismantled it, fitted it to his car and drive home.
When he finished his apprenticeship, he joined Mullards at Southampton as a quality controller in integrated circuits. These were the early days of computer production. During his time at Mullards, Mo had finished her teacher training, accepted his proposal of marriage and they got a new flat in West End, Southampton. Before they even moved in, Nick and I had a beer spillage problem after his stag party and spent a whole morning turning the carpet so Mo wouldn’t see the stain.
Their wedding was in December 1969 and that was the start of their long and happy marriage.
Around this time, Nick’s sharp but dormant brain, which he never fully used at school, was really coming to life. He joined IBM at Havant and was later given a position in the USA. They duly moved there and, whilst living in the States, Katharine was born, gaining dual nationality. We first met her as a babe in arms when they moved back.
They lived for a short while in Fareham, where their 100% English daughter, Rebecca, was born.
IT opportunities were booming in Berkshire, so they soon moved to Twyford, and later to Charvil.
Nick loved formula one and he used to borrow our big tent to camp at Silverstone with his mates for the weekend. Sometimes they invited me to join them and, by the time I arrived on the Saturday, they had drunk a full barrel of Brakespears.
His love of speed extended to his own cars, and his seniority in the companies he worked for meant he could choose rather special company cars. Kate and Bec remember waiting at the window for him to take them for a spin whenever he picked up a new one. He was known to their school friends as Nigel Mansell.
He loved car washing and he actually took each wheel off his Sierra Cosworth to wash them individually,
Fast cars and driving licences are sometimes at odds with each other. Nick saw his speeding points building up, so the only way was downgrading to a small diesel car to keep his licence clean for the rest of his life.
Anything mechanical interested Nick. Some years ago, he volunteered for the Swanage Railway and graduated to Signalman, operating out of any of the four signal boxes. It was a busy and responsible role, but one that he enjoyed immensely.
He always fancied being a lorry driver, and when he retired he passed his class two licence and got a job with a car transporting company, delivering anything from a VW polo to an Aston Martin, anywhere in the UK.
Nick loved boats. They started with a narrowboat, berthed on the Thames, and travelled all over on the canals. One time he took us out on it to Henley Regatta and he got a bit stressed when some young lads threw some cans of beer across the river to our daughters, putting a dent in the side of his beloved boat!
The narrowboat went and was replaced by a river cruiser and then a bigger river-come-sea going cruiser, which Nick and Mo managed to navigate down the Thames and along the south coast – first to Poole Harbour and then later to Weymouth Marina, near Mo’s childhood home. Great days out were then on offer for all of us, to places like Lulworth Cove or Portland.
Portland featured twice in incidents in Nick’s life. He had a big scare when potholing with the scouts, and later, when deep sea diving, he got the bends and recovered in the decompression unit in Portland navy base.
Nick often appeared to be quite serious. He could actually switch on ‘sad eyes’ if he wanted sympathy, but he had a great sense of humour. He loved comedies like Only Fools and Horses and could quote countless one liners.
He also had an amazing memory. He could always pinpoint an event using a formula based on where he was working, or the car he was driving at the time.
Nick was into detail, order and tidiness. If a wife or daughter or son-in-law entered his tool kit, he knew about it. He was good at DIY, loved painting and decorating and, whenever he was critical of Mo’s decorating skills, he reminded her that it was his Grandfather’s trade.
Way back he always said he won his mother-in-law Elsie’s heart when he fixed her cistern.
Nick and Mo were a great parenting team, bringing up both girls with strong values, honesty and integrity. He was deeply proud of their achievements and encouraged them in their endeavours and interests, remembering 5:30am starts to take them for swimming lessons.
He thoroughly approved of both sons in law and welcomed them with open arms. Needless to say he cherished all four of his grandchildren and loved spending so much of his time with them. He regularly took Sam to football training and his youngest granddaughter, Bella, is convinced that Gramps is now the brightest star in the sky.
My girls always called their Uncle Nick Mr Tickle and that title was used by their children too.
Nick had a habit of falling asleep while you chatted to him. He would be asleep by now listening to me.
Nick and Mo came on seven cruises with Wendy and I. His duty was to get up at the crack of dawn and check that the captain had berthed correctly. One time we were on a tour round ornate rooms in St Petersburg and we all had headphones to hear the commentary of the guide, who informed us that flash photography was banned. One chap at the back shouted “but there’s another group taking pictures”. Standing close to the guide, Nick said to her “there’s always one” but spoke straight into her microphone and we all heard it ! “I heard that!” Shouted the man at the back.
In May this year we had a big family party – all 19 of us – to celebrate Nick, Mo and Wendy’s 70th birthdays Right down to the assembly of the barbecue, Nick had a great time and so did all of us.
Just a few weeks ago in the oncology ward there was a young lad of about twenty in the bed opposite Nick. He had no hair, eyebrows or lashes and his skin was greenish in colour. He had suffered from cancer all of his life. Nick looked at him and said to me “look at that poor lad. Haven’t I had a great life?”
And he truly had.
2nd eulogy by Peter Sands.
I first met Nick over 30 years ago through the Mark degree.
Can I say on behalf of us all how privileged we were to know Nick and it was an honour to know him as a man and a Mason.
He was initiated into Masonry in 1978 in the lodge Friendship & Sincerity in Dorset
Province, a particularly apt named lodge for Nick to join.
He became a Berkshire Mason a couple of years later joining Hennerton Lodge in 1980.
He was Master of Hennerton twice and was currently secretary. He told me that his Mother Lodge being old, moved its meeting dates to fit in with the full moon as the light from that helped members to & from meetings in the days before they had street lamps.
He widened his Masonic activities by joining Mark degree in 1979 & Royal Arch Chapter in 1980. Over the next decade he focused on achieving the chair in all of them.
In the 1990’s he joined Royal & Select Masters, Order of Secret Monitor, Rose Croix followed in the 2000’s by Knight Templar & Allied Masonic Degrees.
Mo, you might want to block your ears here, he was a member over the years of 4 Craft Lodges, 3 Chapters, 10 Mark Lodges, 4 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges, 5 Royal & Select Councils, 3 Allied councils, 1 Knights Templar, 2 Rose Croix, 2 OSM conclaves, 1 Red Cross Constine, a total of 35 units. Not I hasten to add, all at the same time...... although it might have seemed like it to you Mo.
There were two important appointments in Nicks Masonic career, one was being appointed a Deputy DC in Berkshire Craft in 1998 & the other being appointed a Deputy GDC in Mark Grand Lodge in 1999. The first led after being Prov,SGW to his Craft Grand Rank & the second I guess to him becoming the current Right Ill. District Grand Master in the Royal & Select Masters covering Oxon, Berks & Bucks. After also being a Dep.GDC in Grand Council of R&SM.
One of Nicks great loves was the Mark Degree & he was my Deputy PGM in Berkshire for 5 Years. Prior to that he was Prov. Secretary of Mark Degree for 7 years.
Nick showed great leadership, wise counsel, good humour & excellent people skills when he was my Deputy PGM in the Mark degree and he exhibited the same skills when he took on the important position of District Grand Master in the Royal & Select Masters degree which encouraged it to prosper & develop over 3 counties.
This year he was honoured by being Master of the Berkshire Masters Lodge sadly he was too ill to install his successor last month and our Past PGM Martin Peters stood in for him.
Masonry in general and the Mark & Royal & Select Masters degrees in particular are forever in his debt.
Nick was one of those rare Masons, helped no doubt by his IT skills who was an excellent Secretary & Director of ceremonies, a rare combination.
In fact he was good at most things. He would research subjects of Masonic interest and then deliver a lecture on the same. He had an excellent memory not only for ritual, but people & facts, he could turn his hand to most things. Nick was far more than a list of dates & member ships, he was a good man & credit to the human race.
There are things one sometime regrets in life, and I regret not having been able to spend more time with him, he was excellent company.
When I visited him in the Royal Berks he showed great fortitude & strength of character and typical of him, organised me to deliver this eulogy. We will all have happy memories of Nick to help sustain us and the number here today is testament to the regard we had for him.
I know I speak for everyone here Mo, when I say thank you to you & your family for allowing us to share Nick. I was blessed to know him well as a friend, brother, confidante, allowing us to share Nick. I was blessed to know him well as a friend, brother, confidant, mentor, wise counsellor, steam engine enthusiast.
We will all miss him greatly.