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Keith Tilling 1932-2019

Thames & Chiltern Chapter No.1075


Eulogy for Ill. Bro. Keith John Tilling 31°


Ill. Bro. Keith Tilling was a passionate and highly respected Freemason and was a member of several Masonic orders in Oxfordshire and Berkshire and very senior in most. He was a member of Thames and Chilterns Chapter Rose Croix in Berkshire until his passing to the Grand Chapter Above on 30th August 2019. Representatives from all of Keith’s Masonic orders attended his funeral.


Immediately below is the eulogy given at Keith’s funeral, at St. Mary’s Church, Cholsey, on Monday 23rd September, by his son David. That is followed by a very moving tribute to her grandfather by Ms Ashley Tilling on behalf of all of Keith’s grandchildren.



“Firstly, on behalf of the family I would like to thank you all for coming today to share some memories and to say goodbye my father. We are also grateful for the many kind messages received.


Dr Keith John Tilling was born in Marylebone 1932 to John and Maud Tilling. He spent his early years growing up in Luton with his parents and his sister Pamela.  Dad was studious and hardworking, and he enjoyed and excelled at grammar school. He spent much of his spare time deep in a book, and persuaded the local librarian at age 12, to give him access to whole library, rather than be confined to the children’s section (that was Dad!). He was a young man of committed faith (which was something that stayed with him all his life) and was a choirboy and as a bell ringer at his local Church in Luton. His holidays were spent on his bike youth hostelling, occasionally near here!


Dad achieved his, and his father’s ambition and qualified for medical school, and it was as a medical student that he bumped into a young student nurse called Joy, in a London smog. They courted and their relationship blossomed at the inter-hospital dances around Whitechapel. They married in 1955, and were married for 64 years, giving life to a loving family of 5 children 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.


Dad graduated at the University of London Medical College. He took the post of House physician and House surgeon, and then undertook numerous post-grad training posts in Psychiatry, in Essex, Surrey, Norfolk, and Kent and produced a new baby at each posting, so by the time he finally settled in Cholsey, the family of Mark, Hugh, Beth and Ian & David was complete.


Dad completed his Diploma and took the post of Consultant Psychiatrist at the Fairmile Hospital, Eldon Day, and the Royal Berks and Battle Hospital (at age 30) and went onto become a founding member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Psychiatry was breaking new ground at the time, and Dad had found an outlet for his intellect and genuine interest in people.


So, we settled in Cholsey in Papist Way. We lived in a tied hospital house at no 71, soon to be 81, with Dad juggling a busy Consultant post, on calls, studying and managing a family life with five children. He worked long hours often working late into the night and if not working was often heard playing Scott Joplin on his old piano in his small study at the back of the house, with a G&T and some peace.


Dad could appear at times distant to us as kids as his work took him away. He could appear strict at times, but probably had to be.  When we were little, he used to click his fingers when we were about to cross the road, and we would line up to attention and hold hands to cross. All very Victorian!


But in contrast was the easy-going man who in the big freeze of 1962-63 would build an actual full-size Igloo in the snow and plonk his baby twins in there without a care. He would drive huge second-hand cars like the Plymouth, Ford Zephyr and Ford Zodiac primarily as they had bench seats, the latter in the front, where he would squeeze the youngest child unbelted, but close enough to hit us all with a hanky box. Health & safety would have a fieldday today.


He enjoyed his woodwork, made many items of furniture for us; our own children’s desks and a bespoke rabbit hutch for the rabbit we infrequently fed.


Dad was a reserved man, a very formal man, a man of singular good manners and style. He was, quite frankly the most intelligent man I have ever known, which was at times (as a kid) a tad intimidating; but as I grew up, I recognised his powerful observation, good humour and wit.  This is something that has come through from the many messages we have received.


Within that formality was an old-fashioned kind eccentric, and we remember;


• His distrust of technology particularly the Wifi

• The warming of the car for 30 minutes, before we set off anywhere.

• The Hawaiian guitar accompanying Top of Pops.

• The piz nez glasses, under his reading glasses.

• The sealing of my letters to school… with a drop of wax.

• His love of the strongest French cigarettes you could get (pre-EU), and then the use of a filter to reduce the tar content.

• His love of Cotes du Rhone.

• The amateur re-spray of his old green Talbot in an afternoon, with a few cans of black paint and masking tape.

• The obsession with blue tac.

• The dark room in the coat cupboard, and the en-suite.

• And the electric organ which he played daily, and very loud!


We remember it all fondly.


A big part of his life was his freemasonry and Dad was a freemason all his adult life achieving high rank in the all the degrees, chapters and rites. He was proud of his achievements and the friendships he made, and I am grateful for those friends who have made it here today, and for the kind words of many others.


He was always impeccably dressed. He always wore a tie, a waistcoat and a jacket and liked a hat! When Dad wrote cards, letters and emails, he wrote with a unique flair and elaborate style and we and the grandchildren always knew the card was from grandad.


His family was his pride. He watched us and our families grow from a polite reserve, but with care and kindness. His 80th birthday party was a milestone for him, and there is a cherished family photo with him standing on a chair at the back, with his whole family in front of him; …that was a happy day for him; reflected later at Mums birthday lunch last year where he leaned over to a Grandson while viewing the scene and said proudly “I’m responsible for all this”. That was Dad.


For myself, I was the youngest child, and to be honest, I was a typical teenager, dismissive of all but my own view. I felt Dad was remote and somewhat unsupportive through my formative years; however, when in 1984, (after yet another Motorbike crash) I found myself lying on a hospital bed contemplating my life in a wheelchair, Dad was there. Dad found a surgeon who changed my life, but what was actually significant and what really hit me, was that Dad was there, every day, quietly supporting me through and willing me better. I never forgot that and swore I would repay that kindness.


The last few months were hard for him, but he managed them the best he could and with the all dignity he could muster. He spent his 87th birthday at home with his beloved wife Joy, and when I saw him a few days after his Birthday and asked how he was, he replied “I felt better when I was 86!” That was Dad.


His formal demeanour came from his father and Sedgwick’s Forbes in the city. I am quite different, I am more casual in my character and my language, however I think it right that today, I say goodbye to our Dad as he would have to his father , and as he would have liked and approved. So -


“I have the honour and privilege to remain, Dear Sir and Father, your loyal and respectful son.  And may you rest in eternal peace, as a rich reward for your labours in life.”


23.9.19 David Tilling



“Our Granddad was one of a kind. Some days he would be a sensible and proud man asking to be addressed as Dr Tilling (even in the fish and chip shop) and then he’d be wearing a couples Christmas jumper with Grandma or letting me put bobbly ears on him for a photo.


I think we’d all describe him as funny, and all the Grandchildren have great memories of him making us laugh with silly and sometimes rude jokes and he knew swear words in more languages than anyone else I know.


I have a lot to thank him for, we all do. He taught me to be cheeky, as a baby I was taught to bang wooden spoons, as a toddler to swish jelly through my teeth and as I got older we’d drink red wine and be silly and tease each other.


I was always impressed by his grasp of technology and ability to adapt and keep up with the world. It allowed me to still communicate with him and through emails I’d get snippets of info for example, his father taught himself classical piano in the 1920s, and later his sister. In his words he ‘merely tickled a few ivories’. They were always followed by funny sign offs such as G & G or ‘the aged Grandparents’.  I am so sad to think I won’t get another witty email whether about my work profile being incorrect or observations of my latest home he’d looked up on Google street view.


I enjoyed his company immensely, I can’t imagine a Christmas without him but I count myself extremely lucky to have known him this long. He taught me so many things but mostly to work hard to reach my true potential. At every achievement there was always a sincere well done and then a question and discussion of what next. I know He was very proud of all of us and proud to be a Granddad and Great Granddad.


Thank you Granddad for teaching me to love family, be silly with children and listen to what is important to them, inspire them and have fun. Be proud of who you are, what you do and what you create. We miss you, we love you. C U soon”.


Ashley Tilling

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