A few days before the event, it was becoming clear to the family, that this was going to be a large affair. I decided prior to the day to bring an element of colour to the proceedings, and whilst determining vehicles, decided that a pink theme would take the edge off the sadness of the day.
Therefore I ordered a pink hearse and instructed the funeral attendees to wear pink ties. I think that the message got out to most of the people attending, as I vividly remember many shades of pink inside the church whilst I looked around. From that instruction the Pink Party was born.
I believe there were between 650 and 700 people at Sarah’s funeral; a truly remarkable testament to her and how she was viewed within her wide friendship and work circle.
Below is the eulogy to Sarah read by her great friends Nancy and Sam:
The poem below was read out by Jodie O’ Regan, one of Sarah’s very close friends from nursing:
Sarah was a good communicator and hard working at school. One of her greatest influences came in the form of Bill Bowen who taught Sarah in year 6 at Wheatfields Primary School, St Albans. She would keep in regular contact with Bill and update him on her progress in life. After she passed, I received this lovely letter and tribute from him. He’d written about Sarah in his local church magazine:
I’ve no doubt that Sarah’s love of English and History was, to a great degree, down to Bill Bowen’s teaching skills from an early age. She would go on to take ‘A’ levels in those subjects and pass with A grades.
Bill clearly made impressions on a number of others. Included in this was the now well known children’s author, Jonathan Stroud:
My best teacher
“All Bill Bowen had to do was lower his beautiful, melodious voice, bring about a slight shift in timbre, and the children’s hair would stand on end.
Bill Bowen, a miner’s son from South Wales, taught me at Wheatfields junior school in St Albans between the ages of nine and 10. He was deputy head and had been in the school for many years by the time I was in his class, and was very secure in his environment. All he had to do was lower his beautiful, melodious voice, bring about a slight shift in timbre, and the children’s hair would stand on end. I hadn’t been taught by a man before, and he made a great impression on me.
He was the model of a cultured adult with an interest in all things artistic. He embodied a mixture of gravitas and grace, and combined very serious purpose with great lightness of touch. He was bursting with a passion for theatre, opera and music, which he loved to share with any child who wanted to experience it. I remember the whole school going to see Tom Baker as Long John Silver in Treasure Island at the Mermaid Theatre in London.
In assembly, he would persuade 120 children to sit still and listen to classical music, usually something child-friendly such as Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” or bits of Mozart. Once the record was on, he adopted a very particular pose to listen, leaning forward with his eyes tight shut, which one of the boys used to mimic. He was always extremely theatrical and did things that no other teacher would do. When he took us for hymn practice every week, he used to thrust and stab with his baton at the “foul fiends and hobgoblins” in “To Be a Pilgrim”.
Mr Bowen was largely responsible for me becoming confident about my writing. At seven, I had written an Enid Blytonesque story, and when I was writing stories in class I always asked for extra paper. In Mr Bowen’s class I got used to the idea that this was an area where I felt comfortable and could do well. He was just the right teacher for me at that time. As another way of encouraging us, he had a very complex scheme of marking with many gradations, and it made you want to get E for Excellent, which he would write with a beautiful flourish, or even E2 or E3. Crucially, he would always push me that bit further in an unexpected direction. When he was pleased with a story I’d written, he encouraged me to read it to the entire school.
We did a project on The Jungle Book and wrote our own Mowgli stories, and I remember him telling us that the Disney film was all very good in its way, but not a patch on Kipling. He liked us to read anything that interested us but we had to analyse every book we read. I wrote a critique of The Lord of the Rings when I was nine. I also loved Douglas Hill’s superb science-fiction adventure stories, and Diana Wynne Jones.”
Jonathan Stroud interviewed in 2004
During the service, Rev Nick Whitehead invited the congregation to write their thoughts and memories of Sarah down on church cards. The results below are a snapshot of how well she was thought of.