RT Tanner & Co Ltd
Arthur Derek Tanner
The address given by Stuart Morris, Derek Tanner’s son-in-law, at his Memorial Service held at St. Brides Fleet Street on the 3rd April 1996
The year 1913, like so many others at the start of the 20th Century proved to be quite momentous. The world was still reeling from the loss of the Titanic; The Olympic games in Stockholm had seen some startling performances - The Pole Vault event for example being won with a leap of less than 4 metres (athletes at good prep.schools are clearing that nowadays!). Was the total eclipse of the sun a significant sing of things to come?
Then in 1913 Mrs Pankhurst and Emily Davidson were making their suffragette feelings known - the latter by throwing herself under the King’s horse in The Derby. There was fighting in Ulster - no change there, and amidst all this two of my most favourite people were born. Danny Kaye and Derek Tanner.
Finchley in North London - not one of the world’s most exotic spots, was the location of Derek’s birth. Believe it or not he was a somewhat sickly child, but from his earliest days Derek proved to be a fighter and a survivor.
In due course prep.school led on to the happy years he was to spend at Marlborough. Here on the wind-swept Wiltshire Downs - training ground for race horses and embryonic yuppies, Derek flourished. He picked up his life-long love of rugby football, and with the beagle pack, a fondness for dogs which was to remain with him - through red setters, great and not-so-small all his life. Most important though he’d quite rightly claim, were the friendships forged through the ups and downs of public school life in the late 1920’s. The terrible triumvirate of Bob Gladstone, Dick Spens and Derek came together at this time. He valued his links with Marlborough enormously, and the firm friendships that he was to make there were more precious to him than can readily be described. Little was ever said of Derek’s academic prowess. Should a discreet veil be drawn? Did his performance match that achieved by sons Tony and Peter who later were to follow in their father’s footsteps?
Anyway, the world was waiting and in 1931 Derek joined the family firm. Some 60 years later he was to write his own reminiscences of those distant days. Some interesting comparisons emerge! Derek managed quite well on a salary of 75p. per week. From this princely sum came his workday lunches (never less than 3 courses) and his share of “training expenses” with the Weybridge Rugby Club. A pint of beer cost 7 old pennies - and as he said, hangovers were cheap in the ‘30’s!
A 48 hour working week and a mere 14 days of holiday failed to keep Derek out of mischief. Members of the Weybridge Rugby Club played and trained hard. In fact along with Sandie Samuelson and John Pearshall, Derek kept up his association with the Club for many a day. They were good times. Darts in the clubhouse was a popular sideline - training in the rain was frowned upon then. One wonders whether today’s game would be better if players were less intensively programmed. When did an English player last do something spontaneous? No one has really run with the ball since Andy Hancock did so against Scotland in 1960 something. (But that’s another one of my “I know ‘cos I was there stories”.)By 1937 after 6 years of learning the trade Derek had risen to a position of some importance. He was now earning £350 p.a. more than enough to get married and rent a magnificent house near Guildford. It had countless bedrooms and ½ an acre, all for a rent of £70. What would such a property in such a prime location cost now?
In 1938 along with the rest of the gang Derek joined the Territorial Army and in due course he found himself serving with the Royal Artillery. His war stories may have been less gripping than some - they focused mainly upon the hardships and deprivations suffered as he ran training camps in Nottinghamshire and in North West England. However it can’t have been all bad and there must have been at least 3 periods of compassionate or passionate (!) leave for Derek because during this time, and at suitable intervals, Tony - Elizabeth (Lee) and Sue were born. War babies all. Second son Peter made up the quartet arriving in 1952.
By now Derek and Muriel were living in Byfleet. In 1957 another significant event occurred. I know, because once again as Frank Keating would say - “I was there.....”. Marlborough’s 7-a-side team, captained by Tony won what was then known as the Public School Seven-a-side Tournament, at Old Deer Park. The Family’s abiding link with Rosslyn Park had begun. Tony playing for and eventually captaining the club and Derek following, buying the beer and telling everybody just how the game should be played! Full marks to the Park. They recognised in Derek a man with great organisational skills and a rare devotion to the game, and before long he was invited to take over the running of their 7’s Tournament. How it grew and flourished under his stewardship. It became The National Sevens. Sponsorship was obtained - not before, it must be said Derek was hauled before the “Old Farts” at Twickenham - yes, they had them in the 1970’s too. His initiative and drive could not be quenched though and he was allowed to gather in what “Financial Assistance” he could. Look at the world of rugby now. Sponsorship and professionalism at every turn. Various highlights come to mind. In 1979 Derek organised an International Tournament and persuaded The Duke of Edinburgh to give the prizes. If memory serves, as the Duke stepped gingerly over the muddy swamp created by a week of monsoonal rains Shaun Edwards now of Rugby league fame was winning the trophy with his team mates from St.Edward’s Liverpool. When Shaun Parry-Jones suffered neck and back damage, Derek set up a charity to support injured players and to date 23 young players have been hugely helped. For all this - and more, Derek richly deserved the award of the British Empire Medal (an “old gong” as he called it). The citation mentions his services to schoolboy rugby. Such a bland statement doesn’t tell half the tale. And so it goes on - now Peter and Rose, Derek’s daughter-in-law, are in charge of the show. My question is who buys the beer? Who takes the faithful workers to supper in Richmond’s bistros each evening?
Amongst many things, Derek was a great delegater. His medal really should have gone to his great band of helpers who worked so hard on his and the Park’s behalf! Witness the ever growing part he played in the organisation of his Company’s business and indeed that of the whole trade. The list of offices he held is long and impressive - a testimony both to the high regard in which he was held by all who knew him, and his undoubted skill in arranging others to do the work! How is this for evidence? I’ve discovered that Derek was :-
It is quite a list!
All this brought benefits to many people. Clearly the Firm bearing his name flourished while he was at the helm and so did his family. For one thing, I have learned to spell stationery, and also we have followed in Derek’s wake holidaying at posh places where he had arranged Business Conferences to be held. Are such events still occurring in places like the Grand Verdale Hotel in Malta, the Andulucia Plaza in Marbella (famous for its striking waiters!) or The Chewton Glen Hotel in the New Forest? As a schoolmaster, I’ve long held the view that I’m in the wrong racket! Our conferences are held in places like Nottingham and Reading - and this year the H.M.C., amidst much excitement are going to .....(wait for it......) Glasgow! However I must not carp because having checked out all these lovely places under the guise of “Business”, and organised the locals to treat him like a visiting potentate, Derek would then arrange for family holidays to take place at the same venues. My own family have particular reason to be grateful for Derek’s generosity. Mark you, we had to earn our keep. The skirmishes in Europe (World War I & II) may have been over long ago but the “Battle for the sun beds” with our friends from the land of sauer-kraut and Steffi, of BMW’s and Boris, remains for from won. Delivering the drinks at 7.00pm exactly - and sharing them of course, was an essential chore and a happy ritual. Keeping up with Derek was far from easy especially for a fit, sober-minded young athlete like me! Sampling Champagne Cocktails in Palma and catching Derek as he cannoned off the walls, finishing off everything in the drinks cabinet with him on the last evening one year in Spain - whilst at the same time trying to teach Muriel the finer points of Scat (a card game marginally more complicated than snap) and making sure that all was in order for a cruise around Malta in a force 8 gale - was pretty demanding stuff! I used to go for long runs everyday, pretending it was to develop my own fitness. Now the truth must be told. All that toiling and running in the hot sun was only in order to get rid of one hangover and to prepare for the next!
We all have our own cherished memories of Derek. As a loving and loyal husband, a devoted father, and grandfather, as a convivial and staunch friend, a partner or competitor in business or just as a broad and balanced person who gave himself generously to others - and we should treasure these. For myself, my own introduction to Derek was a wholly terrifying affair. Early one Sunday morning - in February 1965 I found myself telephoning Ightham 4245 (you see the number is stamped forever in my mind!) and asking the stranger at the other end of the line whether I might marry his daughter! For the fact that he didn’t immediately say No, but rather invited me to the family home at Thorpe Lodge to be vetted - especially by Nanny (!), I shall be eternally grateful. The rest as they say is history!
Derek had a great fascination for politics. He would have made an interesting M.P. - stirring things up from the back, and quite possibly the front benches too. When the Tanners lived at Byfleet he gave full reign to this side of his life. Links were established with the Woking Constituency and he was instrumental in selecting Harold Watkinson, later to appear in the Ministries of Defence and Transport, as their member. Then at Ightham, Derek became vice-chairman of the Sevenoaks Constituency, and over-saw various boundary changes and the creation of the Tonbridge and Malling Constituency. Having turned down the likes of Leon Britton and Nigel Lawson, he selected John Stanley who as you know rose rapidly up the Parliamentary ranks. The Conservative party of those days suited Derek. Anybody with a very long memory will recall how things used to be. Effective leadership from the top, clear, sensible, and conservative policies that all members supported and standards in public life that were worthy of the name. Derek identified with all this. I wonder if he’d be so comfortable with the political scene as things stand now?
So as we think back over Derek’s eventful and distinguished life, we can all be grateful for having known and loved him in one capacity or other. He seized his opportunity to live his life to the full. Ranging wide over many spheres he made countless friends and I’d suggest, precious few lasting enemies. His humour, his love of life, his openness and his generosity enlivened the existence of others. Let our memories of him continue to burn brightly and perhaps our own lives may be enriched by his. For a life well-lived - for a “big” man, for a person who touched us all, we rejoice and remain eternally grateful.Derek Tanner - we salute you!
Fax: 0181-878 7527 3 January 1996 Attention: Alan Young From: Tony Tanner
Derek Tanner who died on the 22nd November 1995 had a long and distinguished life. Born in 1913 and educated at Marlborough, which is where he became a life long friend of Bob Gladstone, who has served the Club as Secretary and President. Derek played his rugby for Weybridge, where training in inclement weather consisted of playing darts and a few beers. One wonders sometimes if today’s game would be better played in the same tradition.
In 1938, along with his other team mates, he enlisted in the Territorial Army and then served in the Royal Artillery throughout the war. In its early part he found himself running a camp near Nottingham and in order to swell the numbers the authorities released the inmates of various local gaols. Derek took a dim view of this situation and within three weeks the majority were begging to be returned to their previous abode!
His eldest son Tony was captain of his school team in l957 which won the last 7-a-side competition played at the Clubs previous ground at Old Deer Park, and later that year became a member of the Park. Subsequently Derek having followed his son playing for various Park Sides himself became a member in 1958. During the following decade he became a familiar and jovial supporter.
In 1965 he was asked to assist in the running of the schools 7-a-side competition as Eric Ansell was wishing to retire from the job. The rest is history as he changed the format, increased the numbers of of schools participating, and gathering a loyal, competent and very enthusiastic gang of assistants to organise a very successful event. In the early 1970’s he was in serious trouble with the RFU as he had obtained sponsorship for the competition without which the event could not be staged (the Park was short of funds again!). The RFU were adamant that sponsorship was not allowable, however on visiting Twickenham Derek noticed that there were advertising boards on the East stand but not the West, realising TV shot from the West Stand during matches he informed the RFU that he would continue to seek and use sponsorship, but would change the term to financial assistance!
During the Club’s centenary year in 1979, an international 7-a-side tournament was held, and as the planning and logistical miracle unfolded so did a week of monsoon weather, pictures of the Duke of Edinburgh plowing across a pitch not unlike the Somme were amongst the first televised broadcasts, however despite the weather it was a tremendous success.
Having organised another international tournament to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 1989 Derek decided to retire.Fifteen years ago a player from Llandovery broke his neck playing in the competition. As a result Derek and his wonderful committee set up a charity for injured players and other young people who suffer similar sporting misfortunes. To date there are many young people who have been assisted by this trust and details can be found in the programme. The Trust and the continuing success of the Tournament is a lasting monument to a man who was successful in many walks of life, and in 1992 he was so proud when he was honoured for his work on the 7’s with the British Empire Medal, however, he always maintained this award should have been for the Club, the committee, the wonderful team of helpers, the fifty thousand schoolboys and the hundreds of dedicated school coaches who participated in the event during his stewardship.