Sadly, Stephen Beeson died on 25 July, 2023.
The 1951 FA Cup final was contested by Newcastle United and Blackpool at Wembley on 28 April. Newcastle won 2–0, with both goals scored by Jackie Milburn. At some point during the match and some 6 weeks early, Mrs Gladys Beeson began to feel labour pains. She was rushed into the George Eliot hospital where a tiny son of little more than 5 pounds was born by Caesarean section. He was very jaundiced and there was worry he might not survive so the priest was called to baptise him in hospital. His mother was still very drowsy from the anaesthetic and when asked for a name said “Stephen Dennis”, the second name being after his father.
Mother and baby soon recovered and once she was fully awake, his mother revealed that she had actually planned to call him Vincent. In later years, Stephen was very pleased for the drowsiness, because growing up in the 60’s, the initials V.D. would not have added to his street cred!
Stephen was the youngest of 3 sons, Glyn born in September 1943 and Barry in August 1937, so a 14 year spread of ages. That didn’t stop them being very argumentative with each other, and their father. Football, politics, any other sports or issues in general were fair game, with each of them at times playing devil’s advocate to keep the discussion going. When Stephen was only young, to get Barry’s attention, he tossed a toy car, which flew right through the paper he was reading and gave him quite a start. Glyn tells of how he was sometimes given the task of keeping his little brother amused. When he took him to the park, he would kick the football as far as possible so that Stephen would have to fetch it. Once the young Stephen was sufficiently exhausted, Glyn would put him to sleep in his pushchair and then get on with reading his latest
Being taken to the cinema was also a treat for the young Stephen, except that sometimes Glyn did not always make the wisest choices. Stephen told many times that after he had seen “The Fly”, he would wake up petrified in the night to see a giant spider crawling across the bed, or suffer horror at foggy days after being taken to see “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. There was a lot of love but also rivalry between the boys. All three were sportsmen at school, Barry going on to be a semi-professional footballer for many years. Stephen and Glyn jointly held the 100 yards record at Atherstone Grammar school and they both played for first-eleven football and cricket teams. If the subject ever came up, Stephen would be happy to tell you about the best goals he scored.
At the age of 3, Stephen went to nursery school and there he met Michael Bates. They soon became partners in crime and deciding that the fish tank looked quite dirty, thought that maybe carbolic soap might be the answer. It might have been an answer; after all, the fish that were soon found floating, certainly no longer cared about the dirty tank. Stephen and Michael lost touch in the primary years but then both found each other in the same class at Atherstone Grammar.
During the Grammar School years they sang together in a folk group with Anne, Jane, Judith and Alan: “Natural Harmony in Blue” entertaining in Darby and Joan clubs and other venues. Stephen often joked that their music career started out entertaining old folk and now they were still entertaining old folk! Only now the old folk were doing the entertaining as well as being entertained!
Academically, Stephen was very competent, getting good results in all except handwriting, which was always irredeemably awful. (This combined with his prolific productivity for writings of all kinds (songs, stories) leaves a legacy of often undecipherable content. His study room may be full of answers to all the world’s problems, but no one will ever know!). He got good grades for O-levels and then in the lower 6 th, he started to date Anne. After this, both his parents and the school seemed to think that he did not spend enough time on his studies. This concern was somewhat borne out when, although ok, his A-levels could perhaps have been a little better. The 55 years of devoted togetherness that Stephen and Anne subsequently shared may, however, have done something to ameliorate the marginal academic deficit that any romantic distraction may have caused!
Stephen and Anne became a couple and while Anne continued at school doing her A levels, he got a place on a Degree Sandwich course at the Lanchester Polytechnic, working at Massey Ferguson in Coventry. There he made lots of friends, but particularly, Jim Henry and Richard Hughes. Both came to Stephen and Anne’s wedding in September 1971.
Michael was Stephen’s best man, with Jane and Diane as senior bridesmaids and Stephen’s lovely nieces, Helena, Dawn and Allison as the younger ones. He was always very fond of Barry and Lola’s girls and their son Shaun, and Glyn and Mary’s sons Martin and Neil, always wanting to know about their lives and achievements. He always loved visiting Lola and Barry in Coleshill Rd especially for the wonderful teas Lola would put on for Boxing Day. Her trifle was delicious.
After Stephen graduated in 1973 and Anne in 1975, they both worked for a while at Massey Ferguson, buying the house in Long St and enlisting Anne’s father, Roland, to renovate it in 1975. Their first child, Matthew was born in 1977 and Emily in 1980. He adored his children and was always proud of everything they did, both when young and then in later life when they to married and became parents themselves.
In 1987, the family moved to live in Oakville, Ontario, with Stephen’s work at head office in Toronto. It was a happy time with lots to do, new skills to learn and places to see. Obviously they had to have a go at baseball, all the family got bikes so they could ride along the cycle trail through the ravine and wooded area behind their house, and then there was ice-skating. Ice-hockey is Canada’s game and Oakville had a number of rinks. Oh dear! Anne and Emily took to it quite well, Matthew gave it a good shot, but Stephen……………………. Do you remember the scene in Bambi when the young deer steps onto the ice and is immediately spread-eagled? Well, that was almost Stephen, perhaps with a degree more wobbling of knee and ankle, as he vainly attempted to regain balance and composure. He only tried it once. It was not for him.
During the family’s time in Canada they visited Jack Lake, north of Toronto. They stayed in the requisite log cabin, shared with Michael, Gail and Jonathan who came out on holiday. Matthew fondly remembers a rowboat trip on the lake with Michael and Dad that only resulted in frantic rowing away from certain grounding on the remote shore on one occasion! The family paddled in lakes Ontario, Huron and Erie, and took many visitors, such as Stephen’s Mum and Dad, their dear friend, Jane, and Anne’s brother, Andrew, to Niagara Falls amongst other attractions. When Anne’s Mother, Bernice, came out to visit, they all flew to Calgary and drove through the beautiful Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia ending up on Vancouver Island before flying back to Toronto.
They returned to England in December 1988 as Stephen’s father, Dennis, was very ill and he sadly died the following January. The family soon settled back into their English life and while Anne did her teacher training in 1989 and began teaching in 1990, Stephen carried on at Masseys. There followed years of hard work, with both parents working and the children getting older. Holidays during the years both before and after Canada were mainly spent at the Caravan in Wales. Anne’s Mother had a caravan and Stephen, Anne, Michael and Gail bought a second-hand van next to this one, so lots of friends and family could go down together. There were many happy weeks spent there also with Mike and Tina and their children Simon and Cate, visiting castles, mines and narrow-gauge railways, and later climbing mountains. Stephen and Anne continued to visit Wales right up until last year.
Foreign holidays did not begin until later. In 1994, the family visited Austria and then in 1995 Lake Garda in Italy. Stephen fell in love with Bardolino and, being a typical Taurean, once he had found something he liked, he stuck to it. When work-life balance became harder to achieve in his late forties and fifties, his 10 days in Bardolino never failed to rejuvenate him. Stephen retired in 2007 aged 56 as he had stopped getting any satisfaction from his work and he had become tired and tense. Anne continued to work for another 4 years and Stephen became a house husband. He cleaned, did the washing and became an adventurous cook. Anne never knew what joys awaited her for dinner!
During the last 10 years of Anne’s teaching career, Anne and Stephen regularly went on the school trip to Normandy, led by my late husband John Beasley as coordinator and ably planned by myself. Stephen’s role was cameraman. He took stills and video which he later edited beautifully with music as a gift for the children. He really enjoyed these visits to the D-day landing beaches and became quite an expert on goat farming and the Bayeux Tapestry (it’s not Harry Hitler as one of the kids thought!).
In November 2001 Stephen and Anne’s first grandchild was born to Emily, a beautiful daughter, Elissa. Emily married Steve in 2006 and Amelie, another beautiful daughter, was born in in 2009.
Brandon, their gorgeous grandson, was born to Matthew and Nola in 2018. Stephen adored them all and took pride in every achievement.
When Anne retired, cruising began. Retirement didn’t start out with the intent to spend it cruising, but perhaps the idea had begun to percolate through conversations with Nola’s parents Martin and Roberta. In any case, on looking through the Sunday Papers one day, Anne spotted a cruise to Dubai where Matthew was working at the time. It was the ideal opportunity to have a cruise and then spend a few days with him at the end. It was a fabulous cruise visiting Athens, The Suez Canal, Cairo and the Pyramids, Luxor, and Petra. It was also very good value being relatively last minute. It turned out to be the first leg of the world cruise by P&O’s Arcadia. Stephen loved it. On that cruise they met Jacques and Pauline who have been wonderful friends ever since. They visited each other’s home every year until Covid and kept in touch during that time through regular Skype calls.
Other cruises followed, but as already mentioned, Stephen was a creature of habit. He loved Arcadia so each time a cruise was chosen, it was always on Arcadia. They even had the same cabin 3 times! They had a lovely trip to the Western Mediterranean with John and myself and to the Norwegian fjords with Pam and Tony. Anne had met Pam on their teacher training course and immediately hit it off, and so did Stephen and Tony. Anne and Stephen have been very lucky with wonderful friends. Two half-world cruises included trips to the Falkland Islands and South America plus the Panama canal, California and Hawaii. Both ended in New Zealand where they spent a month each time exploring before flying home via Singapore.
As well as cruising, when at home, Stephen indulged his love of playing guitar and singing. In 2013, Phil Benson suggested they should revive the Atherstone Folk Club, with the three of them as house band. Stephen played guitar, as did Anne with all three of them singing and Anne adding occasional recorders and whistles. It did well, starting off at the Ridge Lane Brewery, then moving to The Rose at Baxterley, before ending up here in Atherstone at the Red Lion. Stephen actually played and sang 4 songs two weeks last Wednesday! He enjoyed every minute of it especially going and speaking to so many people in the audience.
Stephen’s elder brother, Barry, as mayor of Atherstone, had been instrumental in enabling the old South Street School to be used as an Art Centre. He said they needed a secretary/treasurer and it would only be about half an hour a week. Stephen agreed to take it on because of his finance background and to please his brother.
It wasn’t just half an hour a week ……. but it did give Stephen a lot of pleasure. He forged a link with Live and Local, a charity which sponsors small venues to have entertainment they would not otherwise be able to afford. It enabled Stephen to host fabulous concerts at the Centre and over the years has built up a network of regulars who have thoroughly enjoyed the concerts and have become friends. Covid halted these for a couple of years but this year and last have been going strong. Unfortunately, the last series had to be hosted by Anne, as Stephen had broken his hip. The Blair Dunlop Concert was on his birthday so the audience sang to him over the phone while he was in hospital!
He might not have put it in these terms, but Stephen valued the restorative power in the coming together of a concert. He brought to bear his talent for organisation, and passion for music and performance, not just for the folk club, but also to help others in their grief, leading the organisation of concerts for my John and Father Paul’s wife Andrea. If he were here now, he’d almost certainly be sparing half a thought to the players and setlist for his own gig.
Stephen was never a ‘yes-man’. He had an ably proportioned rebellious streak that ran through him from his mother to all his children and grandchildren, manifesting through a healthy circumspection of rules and authority, or a teetering bias towards the underdog. He kept this streak mostly under check; the hair and beard – that had for decades waved about the boundary line of what might be considered ‘professional’ appearance – only in retirement gave way to the long hair that really represented the way he saw himself. In latter years, as Father Paul recently remarked, he almost seemed to be modelling his appearance on popular representations of Jesus.
Stephen’s faith was very important in his life. His mother had been a stalwart of the church and Stephen grew up serving as an altar boy and often serving at the convent. He would regularly go up to the choir stalls and sing while his mother played the organ in church.
Stephen will be remembered fondly by lots of people for different reasons in many different ways. Many have remarked upon his smoking pipes and his music, we might think of his (occasionally dubious) fashion sense. He liked a variety of drink (whiskey, wine, less so the Labatts Ice that was his necessary staple in Canada) and he liked hot food, only once beaten by a particularly troublesome naga vindaloo (the night before Matthew and Nola’s wedding). His collection of musical instruments burgeoned during retirement. He liked to sit and watch sports, demonstrating his substantive ability for concentration and focus.
On a deeper level, Stephen was a kind man who was competent and capable in everything he pursued (not ice-skating or DIY); his personal record for consecutive successfully completed Times cryptic crosswords sits at 55. He was sometimes (ok, often) grumpy, but never malicious. He was careful with money but did not know how to be mean. He was always sensible except where silliness was required. He loved a pun, especially one that would pass unnoticed or leave his audience pondering. He did not suffer fools – and everyone in this church today should rightly feel proud that we’ve made it this far – but his kindness and realistic pragmatism tempered everything he believed in. He was a fixed point about which our lives could turn, a source of advice and comfort. He had a way of putting things into perspective, and many of us will still be hearing his voice for years to come.
Stephen and Anne have been devotedly together for 55 years and married for over 51. He had a wonderful family, steadfast friends and an interesting life.
On the 24 th June 2023, Stephen left the Times crossword unfinished for what was to be the last time. He went to sleep and passed peacefully in the morning hours of the following day, in his own bed, in his home of 48 years, in the comfort of his life with Anne. In our sorrow at his passing, we hold both to this gift of gentleness, and the kernel of joy from a life well lived.
Originating with a casual comment at a party, Atherstone Folk Club came back into being in 2013, with the first event planned for September that year.
The hosts are …
Finger In The Jar
Formed especially as the host group for Atherstone Folk Club in June 2013, Finger In The Jar are Anne & Steve Beeson (obit) and Phil Benson.
The collective name was arrived at as a gentle dig at traditional folk tunes, with a slightly deeper meaning explained in the words penned by Steve!
Anne played guitar and sang in folk clubs in the 60s and 70s. She ran a school recorder consort and taught guitar to primary school children.
Her claim to fame is that she once borrowed Al Stewart’s capo!
Steve played and sang in the same folk group with Anne and others in the 60s and 70s. He continued to play and sing regularly, and was a prolific song writer until his death on Sunday, 25 July 2023.
Phil has been involved in folk since the 60s, albeit with a 20-year break from active involvement. In the early 70s, he was part of an electric folk group, Alderley Edge, with Malc Gurnham and David Parr, performing all over the Midlands area.
He also got together with David Parr in a more traditional folk trio with John Meechan. Coolin, as they were known, perfomed even further afield; they even managed to get to Pontefract one memorable evening!
When Nuneaton Arts Centre was being set up, Phil got involved, so it was no surprise that Coolin were the hosts of the folk club that opened there.
Finger In The Jar perform as a group, as duos and as solo artists, depending on the songs being sung.