THERE is a particular tragedy about the death of a man in the middle of his career. Hugh Eddison worked in the City until he was struck down by a uniquely cruel illness, a viciously rare brain tumour which had caused advanced hydrocephalus. Although he had taken a traditional path in life, bad luck left him and his wife in dire financial straits. Misfortunes rained down on them, but they were sustained morally, and at times financially, by a group of kind friends.
It was a large congregation that gathered in church to bid Hugh Eddison farewell, in an inspired service. Hugh, or 'Eddie', emerged as a more complex person, with wider interests than are generally attributed to the City man. Two young nephews busked ably at the door, a niece played the oboe during the service, and the magnificent voice of his late uncle the actor Robert Eddison intoned 'Ozymandias'. The choice of music reflected Eddison's love of opera, the piano (a complicated Beethoven piano sonata - he was still studying the piano in the advanced stages of his illness) and finally the haunting voice of Elvis Presley singing 'I Can't Help Falling in Love with You', placing Eddison firmly in his generation, and sending a poignant shiver down many spines.
Hugh was the son of Roger Eddison, Visiting Professor of Operational Research at Sussex University. His early life was spent on his father's farm near Uckfield, where he would rise at 4am, never late, and help his brother milk the 60-strong Jersey herd. His brother recalled his humour, fairness and principles, and how he had a kind word for everyone except the Chancellor of the Exchequer - 'whoever he was'. Hugh won a scholarship to Charterhouse and took his BA in economics at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Seeking a career in the City, he was advised by Charles Orme to join the merchant bank Singer & Friedlander, where between 1971 and 1982 he managed private-client portfolios, worked in the Spanish market and instituted coverage of the French market. In due course he was promoted to manage the US department, then their largest area of overseas investment. Business was often discussed in an appalling brand of pigeon French - 'le bull marche'. Eddison's ability as a salesman extended to selling a Jersey cow to one of his colleagues, the welfare of which became an important topic of office life.
In 1983 Eddison spent a year at Miller & Co, a newly created financial public relations company where he produced corporate brochures, annual reports and press releases, and quintupled the client base. He then joined Charles Orme at the stockbrokers Orme & Co for four years (1984-88), producing analytical reports on smaller UK companies and investment newsletters, considerably increasing business from private clients. Orme spoke of his independence of view, integrity, friendliness and loyalty, and described him as 'engagingly rebellious'. Even then the firm kept a copious supply of Mars bars in a First Aid box in deference to Eddison's diabetes, developed in 1975.
Hugh Eddison worked for an investment management company between 1989 and 1992. Unfortunately his then undiagnosed illness caused him short-term memory loss, and, although faultless in his work, he found himself unable to remember what he had done. Before the tumour was diagnosed, the firm made him redundant and no special compensation was forthcoming then or later. Simultaneously he was working as a freelance researcher, producing sectoral reports, profiling UK and European companies. His editor at Euromonitor, Georgina Westbrook, admired his good judgement as a trusted researcher into a number of retail operations. Over the years he produced hundreds of company profiles. Latterly he reported on bids and takeovers for their monthly journal, and whereas in health this took him about a morning a week, in the extremes of his illness it took him the whole month, an effort at which he persevered with valiance until minutes before he last entered hospital. Euromonitor were amazed by the high quality of his writing in the terrible circumstances of his illness.
I met Eddison during his Singer & Friedlander days. Like many shy men, he presented at first a slightly forbidding exterior. Not for long, however, for you soon learned that that quizzical look was not disapproving, but merely setting the pace for the dry comments that would emerge in a series of semi-grunts through teeth clenching a pipe and would presently dissolve into a laugh so wild that you would be likewise infected. He was delightfully amusing, invariably at his own expense.
In 1974 Eddison went to Paris for a few months in a bank, a sojourn which by his own description was the stuff of high comedy. He used to watch helplessly from a high window as Parisian motorists bumped his Mini mercilessly to squeeze their cars into an impossible space, and once, having enjoyed the delights of Paris a little too fully, he succumbed to an afternoon siesta, arms folded on desk, in the windowless cell the bank had assigned him. In his 'mellow baritone voice' he described his rude awakening: this was the one day his French boss came down to see how l'anglais was getting on.
In 1987, after a brisk courtship, he married the photographer Sally Fear. He was intensely proud of her work and determined she should not change her name to his. He enjoyed the occasional references to himself as Hugh Fear. He also relished the new friends he acquired in the art world.
The hideous illness that struck him down first showed itself in April 1991 by screaming migraines in the night. Regrettably the medics failed to arrange an immediate brain scan, his diminished eyesight and loss of balance being attributed to diabetes and stress. At the beginning of this year he lost his job. When the scan took place in March, he was declared a critical emergency. Thereafter the decline was swift, the opinions contradictory, the delays dangerous. It proved too late to consider excision of the tumour, an astrocytoma, a fast-growing malignant tumour in the pineal region, bang on the optic nerve. This, he was told, was one of five such cases in the history of world medicine.
His wife fought valiantly beside him, and when all seemed lost, bathed his mouth with Bollinger. Though unconscious, he revived (a tribute to the champagne and his taste-buds) and returned to consciousness for a few days more. As the end approached, she fulfilled their mutual wish and took him home. His courage never failed him.
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