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Peter Geofroy Holt Tory
October 3rd 1939 - October 9th 2012
On Thursday 18th April, 2013, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Peter Geofroy Holt Tory, journalist, was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
Here in St Bride's we remember today Peter Tory, journalist, raconteur, diarist and columnist for the Daily and Sunday Express, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star, whose career began in acting, including a spell in the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hired by Sir John Junor, he began his Fleet Street career, and used his acting talent and his command of words to witty and memorable effect. He was a maverick journalist of the old school, who rejoiced in the perversity and hilarity of human life. We are all the richer for having known him, and as we salute him today, we commend him to Almighty God, trusting that at the end of our brief day is the eternity of God's love.Amen.
Listen to Address:
1. Daily Telegraph obits -
On the Saturday after Peter died, Jacquie and I went to a pub for lunch. A copy of The Daily Telegraph was by the bar. Opening it and seeing the obits of my Father and Brother filling the page had an extraordinary effect on me - seeing the page with Father and Brother so connected.
Ironic given their disconnect through life - Peter so brilliant a communicator unable to break through with his Father. Father so attuned to Peter's life. His ups and downs. But, unable to open up and say what he felt.
2. Earliest memories
Peter actor, always, and extraordinary story teller.
Ireland - sent off to prep school in England (10 years old) coming back with lurid tales, which kept sister Annie and I hugely entertained, of his Do-The-Boys school and Mr and Mrs Squeers. 50 years later, turns out a friend in US was at that school at about the time Peter was there. I commiserated. The friend was nonplussed. Great school , he said.
During holidays, a shed in the garden became a theatre with Peter actor, director, play write. Annie and I gofers and occasional bit part players.
Peter putting on conjuring tricks for assembled family in the front parlour of our grandparents house in Sheffield. Peter 13 years old. Always the entertainer. Quite a good conjurer too.
Malvern. Where he decided to become an actor and fought father, long distance and house master over that decision. Saved by the patronage of the head master who realized just how good Peter was.
Again, many years later, talking to an old rugby playing chum on a trip back from the US. Turned out he was an old malvernian. I mentioned both my brothers had been there. He paused. Then - this was some 40 years later - "I didn't make the connection" he said. Peter Tory, was legend at Malvern. Superb actor. So many tales in the legend, he said. He was even allowed to grow his hair and have it permed at the local ladies hair dressing salon for his role as Richard II. Wonderful to hear my friend in rhapsodies about Peter so long ago.
3. Professional actor
First time I saw Peter act was when he was at RADA - Laertes in Hamlet. I instantly became a hero worshiping fan.
After RADA, his first professional engagement was a season at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Perthshire. The family spent a month there on holiday in 1960 - Peter 20 years old. Six plays in six days. I, anyway, was there almost every night. Peter was lead in four of the plays. A joy to watch.
He learnt to fly fish up there. Wonderful trout streams. I went with him one early morning and lazed around for the day while he stalked the timid trout. Didn't catch a thing. Didn't bother him at all. In fact, years later I asked him why he had given up fishing. Didn't like killing the fish. He said. But you never caught anything, says I.
Father, Peter and I went fishing up to a small loch in mountains above Pitlochry - owned by the lady who owned the theatre. August it was (the 12th, which didn't mean much to me at the time).
As I didn't fish, I took a row boat out of the boat house on the loch while Dad and Peter fished one end of the loch. As I rowed down the loch (a hundred yards long or so and about 50 wide) the skyline which I was facing as I rowed was suddenly filled with a line of men with guns. There was some shouting which I ignored - a gun went off which I didn't ignore. So started to row from the centre of the loch towards the man doing all the shouting.
Peter, meantime, on hearing the gunshot, took off and swept round the loch through the heather with a look of cold fury on his face. As he tells the story, the water round the boat turned to foam by the shot gun pelts. Never let truth get in the way of a good story.
As he arrives at the outer fringes of the shooting party, they fall back - having seen him star the night before - "Its Peter Tory, they whispered to each other". The ultimate grand entrance. Peter, arrived touching noses with the shouter now silent and very nervous, the middle aged son of the owner. How dare you shoot at my brother...
By this time I was resting on my oars - transfixed. I glanced down the loch and, as Peter described it, the tip of my father's rod the only thing in sight quivering above a gorse bush. My father head in hands, his mind seared with tomorrows headline - Ambassador arrested for poaching.
Then on to Sheffield Playhouse. Two weekly Rep, which meant he was in production with or rehearsing three plays at a time. Home from school for holidays, living in Sheffield with grandparents, I lived at the theatre watching Peter perform. Every night it seemed. He really was a wonderful actor.
He moved to London in 1962 with a sterling reputation and a desire to break into TV and films. ITV strike was on. No work. Went for a week's holiday to Bermuda where our mother and family lived. Stayed a year. Came back and his passion for theatre seemed diminished and his transformation to journalist began.
Mike Molloy will talk about those subsequent years a little later.
4. Later Years
I never saw Peter at work on Fleet Street. We would all gather for weekends and hear the extraordinary stories wonderfully recounted by Peter. Many never published - Peter was very like his father. A superb raconteur - which somehow allowed them both to tell us mind boggling secrets or unpublishable antics with gay abandon.
Arnie Wilson sent me a DVD a short time ago of a video he took of Peter and his team "at work". I had never seen Peter as a "team leader" before. Fascinating and very moving.
When we moved to the US, Peter would visit. He loved New England and sailing with us, which he wrote about in his newspaper column.
Once, I was in a tight packed harbour at anchor on my beloved sail boat Bandersnatch, name emblazoned on the transom, messing about in the cockpit when a large sail boat motored past. I was hailed by the skipper asking if that was the Bandersnatch they had read about a short time previously in London. Probably, I hailed back. Such was the excitement in that boat it collided with an unfortunate sail boat coming in the opposite direction. Peter loved the idea of his article causing mayhem in Massachusetts.
Our daughter Jemma started a theatre camp for kids on our property - but it included a Shakespeare play every year for older aspiring actors. Peter became that company's acting coach - modestly subtitled "late of the RSC". He had a deep happiness working with young actors. They responded marvellously to his coaching. I saw productions there of, among others, Much Ado, Midsummer Nights Dream, Twelfth Night and Tempest, as good or better than anything I had seen on the professional stage.
Peter was asked whether he would like to take a role. He blanched and admitted he had always had terrible stage fright - first night nerves being almost unbearable - and I never knew.
The scene on our property was very arcadian. Our farm animals, sheep, Mr T, the llama, and so on grazing among the young actors learning their lines and in rehearsal, in this parkland setting.
Peter was having difficulty with Malvolio in Twelfth Night. The young actor, Chad, now a successful film maker, couldn't quite get the superciliousness that Peter wanted. Watching this struggle was Mr T. Ah! Says Peter and taking Chad by the arm, he pulls him into a nose to nose confrontation with Mr T. who as only Llamas can - with head up looked down his long nose at Chad. That's what I want said Peter. Chad had no further problems.
We also did panto. New to our part of the world and confusing to our neighbours with all the cross gender, cross dressing stuff!! Peter was instrumental in persuading this young acting company to do Panto. He told wonderful stories about the Pantos he was in at Sheffield Rep. He coached the players and loved the improv. way the lines evolved round the classic story lines. He was quick to offer the players lines which were very funny.
By first tech rehearsal with a day or two before we went Up, inevitably we realized we were over running by about 20 minutes, certain parts especially the Dames were found to be way too long and cut. All Peter's lines discarded. No thought given to Peter's frantic and increasingly over the top protests, as the actors desperately relearned their new cue lines in time for dress rehearsal. Peter acting a Lovey script writer and acting coach a delight for all.
Peter left the US and returned to the UK, but made other visits in what became a very tough time for him. About four years ago he met Jacquie back in England and settled into a level of peace and happiness he hadn't enjoyed for many years.
Listen to Address:
Too much of the world he presented the image of a perfect English gentleman.
Good-humoured, patriotic, well-mannered and trustworthy.
And it was all true... But at heart, Pete was a romantic bohemian.
And there lies the paradox that was Tory.
So what was he really like?
To answer that you must know what he loved... and what he hated.
He hated cruelty to all living creatures, even those that creep and crawl... but he had a huge collection of guns.
He hated bullies. A few years ago he encountered a middle-aged man who more than a half century earlier had bullied him at prep school. Pete gave him a fearful tongue lashing in Leicester Square.
He hated doing expenses. In fact for the last five years he worked on a newspaper he gave up presenting them all together. Strangely, the management of Express Newspapers never complained.
He hated buzz words, jargon, mispronunciation, whooping audiences, triumphal air-punching, beer bellies, face-piercing, tattoos, rap music, people who hunted foxes and people who hunted compliments.
He much preferred those, like himself, who courted modest stillness and humility.
I suppose what he loved really defined him.
He loved women - all women... and he had the ability to earn their trust and affection. In those splendid days on the Mirror when we would celebrate with lavish banquets I was constantly lobbied by the female staff to give them a seat next to him.
I once accused him of being a woman whisperer. And he agreed. He said if you listen to women long enough, they'll tell you the most astonishing stories about themselves.
Annoyingly, he was also the soul of discretion, so he'd never pass on the more startling secrets that he'd learned.
Women found him pretty attractive, even when he was at his public school. His housemaster was keen on the theatre, so Pete played the leads in most of the Malvern Shakespeare productions.
The pupils from neighbouring girl's boarding schools were invited to the performances and Pete became a heartthrob.
So much so, that when he was doing pretty well in a cross country rune that was attended by a couple of girls schools the moment he came into view the girls broke into a familiar chorus with new words:
The choir sings the Halleluiah chorus to the words:
PETER TORY, Peter Tory Peter Tory... etc.
Pete also loved an England that seems to fade before us with each passing year.
The England of fair play, country pubs, heroes who had earned that accolade by heroic deeds, plain cooking, definable seasons, and old-fashioned, English manners.
He spent enough years in the all embracing heat of Bermuda to even love English rain.
He loved golf and it drove him mad with frustration.
He loved guns. When he and Gwen lived at Upper Farm, and when our wives had gone to bed, Pete and I would sit up late into the night, drinking, smoking and talking bollocks. On one such occasion he passed me a new hunting rifle he'd just acquired for his collection. I touched the hair trigger and fired a high velocity round into the ceiling. We sat appalled at the hole above our heads.
'I think I'll just check on the wives', he said quietly. A few moments later he returned reassured. Both slept peacefully. We found some Polyfiller in the utility room and plugged the hole.
Perhaps most of all, he loved to fly. I don't mean cruising in the stratosphere with a drink in one hand and a packet of peanuts in the other.
Pete's idea of fun was to throw a light aircraft about the sky with the ferocious rapture of a Spitfire pilot. The kind of flying that would have most of us curled up in ball, rigid with terror.
He often told me that despite half a lifetime in Fleet Street he never really considered himself a journalist; just a resting actor who'd taken a temporary job between parts.
But the thing he did cherish about Fleet Street was the humour. The helpless, rolling laughter that came in the pubs, wine bars, and across restaurant tables, when hacks put aside their rivalries and related legendary tales of bizarre behaviour enacted by themselves, their bosses and their colleagues.
He created a few legends himself.
Like the time at a Conservative party conference when he lost his trousers to Keith Waterhouse in a reckless wager. Waterhouse made off with the trousers and introduced them to several members of the shadow cabinet who solemnly shook hands with an empty leg.
And the time he escorted Joyce McKinney, disguised as a nun, McKinney not Pete, in her escape to America from England's law courts.
For those who want to see Pete as a performer you can catch his brilliance as a light comedian in the documentary Tabloid about the McKinney saga
Sadly, none of us in Fleet Street saw his work as a serious actor.
But he told me that once, in the early 60s, on a dank Sunday, when he was touring Russia with the Royal Shakespeare Company he accompanied the great director, Peter Brook, on a visit to a home for old actors' outside Moscow. None of the residents could speak English, but the woman in charge asked if they could see a piece of Shakespeare performed.
Unprepared, Peter Brook asked Pete if he could come up with something.
Pete gave them the chorus speeches from Henry V.
Despite not understanding a word, the audience was enthralled.
Later, Peter Brook said he'd never seen the part done better. He asked Pete to stay with the company, saying he thought they could do great things together. But mysteriously, Peter declined the offer.
I have my own theory why he turned down one of England's greatest directors.
Churchill called it The Black Dog, Dr Johnson, his melancholia.
All his life Pete suffered from periodic bouts of depression. It is a condition that seems often to come with great talent. Dickens had it, so did Degas. If you look in the reference books the list seems endless.
I'm not talking about getting the blues... those days when we feel a bit low. The depression Pete fought was like the bite of a wolf. It drains life of any colour, leaving the sufferer in a world of grey ash.
For years, Pete struggled with the condition. All the time presenting himself to the world as the kind of man we all loved... Witty, kind and involved. The best sort of company.
He made a highly successful career in Fleet Street, editing William Hickey, and then writing a gossip column for the Daily Mirror. It was there that Robert Maxwell set him on a path that ultimately led to his best work.
Maxwell took a great shine to Pete and began calling him Boggles, thinking he was using the correct name of Captain W E Johns flying hero.
This culminated in him commanding Pete to form a squadron of light aircraft to bring famine relief to Ethiopia.
Pete rounded up some of his old stunt flying friends, but when he explained to Maxwell that light aircraft needed expensive maintenance, fuel costs were high, and the pilots would need a living wage, Maxwell went off the idea.
So Pete abandoned Maxwell. Lloyd Turner had offered him a column on The Star and Peter bailed out. He was happy with his colleagues on The Star, but his elegant prose did seem out of place. Peter McKay summed it up perfectly when he said: 'Captain Tory, your column is like a cello being played in a Rastafarian Jug Band.'
Nick Lloyd brought him to the Express and eventually Pete began his weekly page, which was adored by the readers from the gentler parts of Middle England.
When Nick left the Express, a succession of editors all cherished Pete's work and he also produced three best-selling books on the life and work of Carl Giles. To the rest of Fleet Street Pete was at the top of his game.
But after a long illness, his wife Gwen died, and Pete entered a dark place. He finally said he could no longer live with the turmoil of producing his weekly column and he resigned.
Luckily the Tory family is a close and formidable clan. Although they were scattered around the world, Wendy in Ireland, David and Helen in America, Michael and mother, Pat, in Bermuda, Annie and his father in Cork, they keep in constant touch with telephone calls of impressive duration.
Pete went to America and gradually, over time, he emerged from the valley of ashes.
After several years he returned home and for a time came to live in a flat at the top of our house in Ealing. Naturally, Sandy, Jane, Kate and Alex adored him.
He even let Jane and Kate take the controls of his aeroplane on various flights.
He was still looking for something in life, and eventually he found Jacqui, a gifted artist, with whom he found love and happiness.
Pete's other great love was the work of Shakespeare. So it is appropriate that Shakespeare should have the last word about Peter Tory.
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, This was a man.
Michael Winfield read John 14: 1-6, 27-29
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
Paul Callan read Sonnet 30 by Shakespeare
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
Arnie Wilson read High Flight by John Gillespie Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,-
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Jeanette Bishop read read Peter's agonised take on the social scene as described in his Daily Express column by John Gillespie Magee
I first met Peter in 1980 when I went to work for him on the William Hickey column.
A few years later we moved together to The Star where one wag famously likened Peter to a piccolo player in a Rastafarian band.
Peter was an absolute joy to work for - we became firm friends and remained so for more than thirty years, until the end.
He was a gentle, kind and generous man - above all he was very funny.
These excerpts from his Express column of the late Nineties will I hope remind us all of that wonderful, whimsical sense of humour.
There seems to be no end to the spread of this hideous epidemic of pointless social kissing.
The habit, so it occurs to me after several months in America, has now become a major aggravation and is a good reason not to go out at all.
The truth is we all loathe it, but we're trapped.
At least you once had a choice. Now it is deemed inexcusably rude if, after a brief introduction to often unsavoury members of the opposite sex, you don't purse your lips like a tropical fish and engage in the required double-kiss ritual.
One way or another surely, the kissing has to stop.
I blame Blair.
And here is Peter on the horror of cocktail parties full of strangers:
Professors in Canada have concluded that those who stand unnoticed at a party need not feel so wretched after all. That's good news - for we've all been there of course. We've all stood against the wall convinced that we are boring, charmless and ugly.
Indeed, there is most probably no more intense form of loneliness and rejection, however brief.
There is little you can do, though I developed a technique over the years which I am happy to pass on.
It at least gives the impression that you are occupied.
The thing to do is constantly to move from one position to another within the crowd, a small sandwich in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, as if you are purposefully making your way to a friend on the other side of the room.
There is no friend, needless to say.
All you do is criss-cross hither and thither saying 'Excuse me' and occasionally raising a hand and smiling as if to say 'Hi... hello-oo... I'm on my way. I'm coming as soon as I can.'
In any case the Toronto professors say that you can stand alone, blushing, accidentally banging the rim of your glass against your teeth, wondering if you've broken one of them, biting your tongue, knocking things off the hat stand and feeling that your nose is getting bigger - without anyone seeing a thing.
What a relief.
But then, you see, there is an important lesson here. Most of the time - at a party or not - no one except your partner, your mum and your cat gives much thought about you anyway.
I know of one or two people who, I am convinced, think that all of life is a kind of social gathering which is in suspended animation until they themselves make an entrance.
I truly believe that they delude themselves that all anyone ever does is think about their existence and await in eager anticipation their glorious, life-enhancing presence.
And it is they, dammit, who have no trouble at parties.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
Andante from Horn Concerto no.4 - Mozart
God Be In My Head - Walford-Davies
Che farò senza Euridice - Gluck
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Bach
Top of the World - Carpenter/Bettis arr. Simeone
The Parting Glass - trad. arr. Gant
Leaving On a Jet Plane - Denver
Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind
Lord Of All Hopefulness
like the sheets on this bed.
But here in this room
nothing is said.
You are not here
and my world is undressed
unable to wear
its Sunday best.
Jacqueline Govier, October 2012