Memorial unveiled in a blaze of glory

Bang on time, to his evident surprise, Ben Gaskell yesterday blasted the skies above the Herefordshire countryside and more than 100 guests with a pyrotechnic display worthy of his late father, Tom.

The noise was hellish and not at all the thing most churchyards are used to in the way of memorial services. However, Fawley Chapel, in a bend of the River Wye, is well used to this sort of thing. Next to the chapel, in a fine ex-farmhouse, Tom pursued for 21 years his twin passions of fireworks and jazz, until his death a decade ago.

Even after his death, the place rocked to explosions: when Tom's wife Daphne was buried in the churchyard in 1988, it was to a valedictory salvo of rockets devised by her son.

Yesterday's event culminated in the unveiling of a bronze memorial to Daphne and Tom modelled and cast by Ben's brother- in-law, Nicholas Dimbleby, the sculptor and youngest son of Richard Dimbleby, the late television presenter.

It was, inevitably, on a firework theme. Ben's sister, Josceline Dimbleby, the food writer - who married David Dimbleby, also a television presenter - presided over the party.

The ceremonies began with loud toasts to each of the departed, these being followed by an even greater explosive din - a maroon shell for Tom and a maroon rocket for Daphne. There followed a series of banshee-wail fireworks and the churchyard fence became a wall of roman candles which made a deafening sound, akin to monsoon rain pounding a nissen hut.

Finally, through the rain of sparks, the debris, the gathering smoke and the shattering noise, there came a sudden, single, ground-shaking boom as a bomb planted beneath a rather straggly bouquet of flowers set before the monument went off.

The crowd were stunned into silence and near-insensibility. Eventually, the smoke began to clear and there - like the man in the explosions in the movies - the monument stood naked except for a few tatters, its comely black veil blown to smithereens.

Sir Roy Strong, former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Lady Strong, who live nearby, pronounced themselves impressed. The local landowner who lives in the late Tom Gaskell's house and is one of the trustees for Fawley Chapel, which is run as a resource centre for the parish as well, occasionally, as a church, said he saw nothing too odd about the event.

Certainly the trust does not allow alcohol to be drunk inside the chapel, but the graveyard was, it seemed, a different matter. The memorial was unexceptionable, he said. 'The only unorthodox thing is to unveil the thing with a rocket.'

Josceline, clearly pleased that the thing had gone well and that the roll call of the dead had not been lengthened, hoped that Tom and Daphne had heard the celebrations. It is hardly likely that the Elysian fields had not shifted a bit under the feet of the departed.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there