St Bride's: News - Martin Langford Memorial

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St Bride's: News

Martin Langford Memorial

Martin Langford Memorial

Martin Langford
19th February 1951 – 17th August 2016

Download Order of Service (pdf)

On Friday 27th January, 2017, at 3:30pm a service of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Martin Langford was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.


The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the opening:-

We are here to celebrate the life and to honour the memory of an outstandingly able and gifted man; a man who was not merely pre-eminent in his field, but whose reputation and influence was truly global.

We give thanks for a man who was a consummate practitioner, well known for his leadership skills; a valued and gifted writer and teacher; a man of wisdom and insight, who was an inspiration to others. A man of warmth and good humour. A man who really was unusually good in a crisis.

Martin was a man who will be greatly missed by all of you who knew him - and above all, of course, by his family and those who were closest to his heart. But our task at this service is to give thanks: to give thanks for all that he gave, and for all that he was.

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening
Into the house and gate of heaven,
To enter into that gate and dwell in that house
Where shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
No noise nor silence, but one equal music;
No fears nor hopes, but one equal possession:
No ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity
In the habitations of your glory and dominion,
World without end.



Ralph Sutton

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When Edna asked me to speak today, I felt it was a huge honour.

The perspective I want to bring to today is one that is shared by many people here. I am here to represent all those who Martin helped in their careers.

And there are many of us.

In the weeks and months since Martin passed away I have talked to many people about the role he played in their lives.

Sometimes the stories were about ways in which Martin transformed people’s careers, in other cases it was simply a small act of kindness, or a piece of advice at the right time.

All the stories are told with a smile and a bit of a sparkle in their eye.

As recently as this week I met up with an old colleague in New York – Kate Triggs – and we were once again swapping Martin stories.

Like a lot of people here, I met Martin as part of a job interview with Burson-Marsteller.

I was still in university, and really did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up – but the need to grow up was looming large on the horizon.

Someone had told me to look at public relations and my initial foray in Dublin was not encouraging. But then I got an invitation to a graduate recruitment day at Burson-Marsteller.

Martin was the host for the day. He welcomed us, and painted this picture of the company that was totally inspirational.

But he was not a big showman, this wasn’t bragging. His style was clear, professional, confident and smart. I realised that day, quite simply, I wanted to be like that.

I still haven’t got there, but it was an inspiration. I knew what being grown up might look like one day.

The graduate recruitment day he and others had designed was terrifying. It included being interviewed by Eileen. It doesn’t get much more terrifying.

But I came away from the day incredibly excited. Martin, the master of ceremonies, had convinced me that no matter the outcome of the day, I wanted to go into PR.

A few days later he called me at home and offered me a job. Before saying anything, I asked him to hold a second, walked into a different room, screamed and jumped in the air. I’m not sure if he heard the scream, but I then went back to the phone and calmly accepted the job. I’m kind of hoping he didn’t hear the scream.

As it happened both Sue and I joined B-M on the same day, and although we then ignored each other for at least a year, Martin had indirectly introduced us to each other.

Four years later he once again intervened in our lives as an unwitting cupid, by swearing an affidavit that was crammed full of lies, but it helped us get our visas to move to Australia together.

There is a generation of us here who were with Burson-Marsteller in the late 80s and early 90s.

Under Martin and Edna’s leadership we formed strong friendship bonds, some of which have lasted decades.

Many were the nights when Martin would ask several of us to hang around. Something bad was going doing – salmonella in the eggs, razor blades in the bread and cancer in the coffee!

For us juniors, it was fantastic. We could sit at the feet of the master and learn. His way of teaching seemed effortless but it was invaluable.

I was lucky enough to move to the Asia-Pacific region at the same time as Martin, we moved back to London around the same time. We also left B-M and set up businesses at around the same time.

As the years went by I went from being a graduate trainee, to running different businesses. But to him, I was always “my boy”.

Throughout all that time Martin was there to provide help, advice, or at times, just someone to shout at (though he never shouted back).

My questions gradually moved from how do I do this job, to why do I do this job. He was always there with sound advice.

As one person put it recently, he always was willing to give his time, share his experience, which was vast, and patiently listen.

He must have heard similar stories from so many people and yet he had that calm ability to make you feel that your problems were unique and special.

All of us have lost our great source of advice. Maybe we need to be like Martin and share our collective wisdom with others as much as we can.

There is not much that is good about Martin’s untimely passing. I would much rather he was here with us.

But one thing that is nice is the way, even now, he has helped either rebuild old connections and reinforce friendships. We should try to maintain them.

And to Kathleen and his family, on behalf of all of us who’s lives he touched and careers he helped, thank you for sharing Martin.

Edna Kissmann

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Bob Leaf just said that we need to remember the way you lived, Martin, and not your death.

Sitting in this church is your life – the people you loved most, your family; the colleagues who loved working with you, who developed as professionals and as people because you took a real interest; the clients who trusted you and who became friends, and even friends of friends to whom you gave freely of your time and know-how, because someone needed advice.

Martin, you cast a giant shadow on the profession of communications and consulting, on Burson-Marsteller for 31 years, as the chairman of the PRCA, and as a popular speaker in many forums. You were crowned the Master of Disaster, authored several chapters in learned books, and probably wrote and edited umpteen crisis management manuals. This is your professional record of tremendous achievement. It is an important chapter in the Martin narrative.

I, however, want to talk about Martin Peter Neill, the man. My beloved friend.

We knew each other for 28 years. During this time, we managed to squeeze in a lot of living, many adventures, days of agonizing decisions and many moments of laughter. You were my partner in business, but so much more. A fellow traveler on life’s highways, and a guide to all matters British, you were my best mate, a close family member… and I am very proud to be known as Auntie by both Kirstyn and Kate.

The Powers that Be could never foresee or conceive of such a partnership. Our superiors handed us the company turn- around task reluctantly, informing us of their foreknowledge that it won’t work. In their eyes this was the best among several bad options.

We beat the odds big time. I know you will agree that despite growing up in two different cultures, we shared similar values. We believed in people’s capacity to change; we demanded hard work and excellence; we insisted on transparency and honesty between us, especially when colleagues tried to play us against each other. They ceased when it proved useless. We endorsed initiative, celebrated failure when we learned from it, thrilled at risks that worked out. We laughed a lot, and we had plenty of opportunities to laugh at ourselves, given the ridiculous circumstances in which we found ourselves.

28 years flash by in a series of fleeting pictures that still tell a coherent story.

There is a goat sporting a Viking helmet marching down Bloomsbury Way, it is headed to Burson-Marsteller and accompanied by a uniformed regimental marching band. Neither the goat nor Percy and Mick of the mailroom could understand why they found themselves staring at each other in the big conference room. How do you deal with a colleague who played freely with the client money, as in this case? You act decisively. Fire the guy with cause, apologize to the client, return the money and write a set of rules to prevent future similar events. This was swift and definitive leadership that re-introduced accountability to what was then a laissez-faire culture.

Frankly, this was unexpected action on your part, as the consensus of most people who met you was that you were the most patient, forgiving and calm of men. And, indeed, when circumstances demanded it you were the epitome of a person in command, whether it was a client crisis or the very focused and determined way in which you fought cancer and ran a marathon to prove you could still do it.

Not too many saw you when you threw the newest IPhone at the wall, having just been dispatched from Hong Kong, and having succeeded to shut down the entire phone and network system at your home. Nor would others guess what your face said when the sourdough bread didn’t prove sufficiently and came out of the oven looking unhappy. In these instances you were the Martin who could be frustrated easily, especially when events or things did not meet your exacting standards.

And exacting you were.

You had to have Earl Grey tea, preferably loose leaves, and none other. To this day, they hold a tin of Martin tea in the office of RT Financials. The ramekin dishes for the starter at the Christmas Eve dinner had to be 3/4” precisely… never mind that Kathleen and I walked the length and the breadth of Orchard Street in Singapore, looking for the darn things. ½” wouldn’t do. You and Kathleen drove six hours in each direction – from Kent to Somerset and back – to test three ovens for the bakery that now will never be.

You loved beauty – your wife and daughters, of course, but plants, trees, a gorgeous trout, all were a feast for the eye and a balm for the soul. So perhaps it is not surprising that our second big reunion started not around the conference table but in a garden.

We are in Sissinghurst. The gardens sparkled in the most astonishing varieties of white flowers. The smells are magic. You, Kath, Kirsty and Kate – and even Gypsy – are now happily back in the UK.

You ask me how it feels to be my own boss. After two years, I can safely say that earning a living isn’t a problem, but having to go to the post office myself, and do everything by myself, including thinking, is really no fun.

You continue pacing in that lolling, half-run walk of yours. You stop and tell me that we need to join forces again, this time on OUR terms. I don’t hesitate a minute. We launch our new enterprise in a quirky, arty space in Islington. And the world sees the veterans, newly edgy and ready to rock and roll.

Our 150 guests agree with us getting together again. This is a natural move, a no-brainer. You put on your best orator voice and you intone the words of our new mission statement. It is short-- superior client service—is all it says.

You then invite our guests to adopt our three operating principles: 1. To work only for the best, and only for and with those we respect; 2. To employ no permanent staff but collaborate with those who are best suited for the client, and the assignment; 3. To have a lot of fun.

For six years the formula worked. We did it our way and it felt good. When we moved into our very own building, it felt even better. Even when circumstances forced us to change, we kept our cool. We decided quickly and equitably how to split the company. We were confident of our mutual respect and trust. Even tough adversity was not going to change that.

When you told me that you decided to retire, to travel with Kathleen for a longish period, to set up an artisanal bakery, to fish off the half-broken pier in Deal, and await the arrival of grandchildren, I was delighted.

Once again you led the way into a new future. Nobody, Martin, asked you to lead the way and be the first to die. That was not in the script

It has been 5 and a half months since that awful day, and every time I use the KissmannLangford email address I feel sad. The other day I was looking for documents. Jules and I found a contract bearing your very distinctive signature. We both flinched.

The only way I know how to keep you alive is to talk about you, to tell stories, to remember and laugh. It is right and proper that this afternoon we will be doing just that. I am sure Bob will lead the way, but there will be many more.

We salute you dear Martin. May your memory be blessed.

You were and will always remain a true mensch and a much-loved friend.


Matthew 14: 13-21 read Kathleen Langford

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13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

Death is nothing at all read Katharine Langford by Henry Scott-Holland

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Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

Not, how did he die, but how did he live? read Bob Leaf by anon

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The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-

In paradisum from Requiem - Fauré

Die Forelle (The trout) - Schubert

Swing low, sweet chariot - trad. arr. JonesR

Turn, turn, turn - Seeger arr. Jones

In my life - Lennon/McCartney arr. Jordan/Buckley

Nun danket alle Gott - Karg-Elert


Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory


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