Sunday, November 05, 2006

Andrew Sheils' Eulogy

The 1st of November day had clear blue skys as if Duncan was still bringing sunshine into our lives. Around 50 family and friends attended Duncan's funeral and most commented it was a very Duncan event. We celebrated his life at a reception afterwards and socialized, Duncan was certainly there chinking glass with his friends.

Mum and myself would like to give a heart felt thanks to all those that could make it, and especially all those that couldn't be here and took the trouble to send such lovely messages.

If anyone would like to make a donation to Cancer Research UK in memory of Duncan, you are ivited to send it to:

C/o Derby and District Funeral Service,
Unit 4a Park Farm Centre,
Allestree, Derby, DE22 2OJ
Tel: 01332550033

The following is my tribute to Duncan.

Andrew Shiels


Duncan Shiels

The gift of friendship, generosity, openness, professionalism, competitive and intellectually curious were some of the many tributes paid to Duncan by many friends, colleagues and students from many parts of the world.

You knew Duncan in his adult life firstly as a teacher of English, Singer (nearly), Lyricist, Actor, Journalist and Author, and it was fitting that in the last years of his working life he went back to teaching with the Reuters Foundation where he used these qualities to the full.

To me of course, he was a brother, and to understand Duncan's journey in life we must acknowledge he was first a son to Clarice and the late John Shiels.
We were both adopted sons, and proud to be so, the knowledge of this was one of Duncan's earliest memories which I believe introduced a degree of openness and honesty to his early years. Mum came from a Derbyshire family, down to earth and pragmatic, Duncan learnt from her, whatever happened, to pick himself up, brush himself down and start again. I feel sure this was the start to his eternal positive nature. Mum recalls a story of how at the school sports day he said "Mum I don't want to run the race because I know I'll come last" She replied "it doesn't matter where you come as long as you take part". Duncan always took part, often with a passion; one only has to recall his political debates. He later wrote in his note book "I did come last and I didn't like it". The true nature of his competitiveness was to show later in his life on the football field.

Dad was a man of integrity and I can here him speaking to Duncan now "If a job's worth doing, its worth doing properly" Duncan always immersed himself completely into everything he did. The energy and focus he produced to complete his book was evidence of his determined nature to do everything to the best of his ability. So from these early messages he developed into the man we all knew and remember.

The family knew at a very early age Duncan would always do things Duncan's way, a complete individual. In 1958, at the age of 5years old he started school. Only Duncan would develop a technique of walking backwards to school and back.

As children Duncan and myself had the usual sibling quarrels, I still have a scar to show for it, but as adults even though we often had differing political views, we never fell out and I often felt it was largely due to Duncan's generosity of spirit. I was, however, guilty of a considerable sin, I wasn't really interested in football. Fortunately Evan, his nephew and football buddy, continues Duncan's passion for the game and his beloved Nottingham Forest.

Many of Duncan's friends remember that he had the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the time. I remember Duncan backpacking around India and bumping into David Lean filming ‘A Passage to India'. Within an hour he was recruited to be the stand-in for Sir Alec Guiness. While in full make-up and costume, he thought nothing of spending the days and weeks playing cards with the premier league of British acting. It was perfectly natural thing to do for Duncan. Later in life though I began to understand wherever Duncan was, his optimism made it the right place, and his spirit made it the right time.

That spirit was still with him in the last weeks of his life. He faced his imminent death with courage and dignity. There was always a smile, friendship and optimism. He never complained or asked why me? Typically Duncan managed to help everyone else to come to terms with his illness.

If Duncan were here today I am certain he would be slightly irritated at many of the tributes paid, he was a modest man, and he didn't need much. One of Duncan's closest friends said "Duncan didn't collect possessions, he collected friends".
We all have our own special memories of Duncan and we will miss him. He did manage to achieve much in a relatively short life and his sense of humour had an important support role throughout. I do remember the time he told me he had managed to get his book published, I can't remember him happier, when he eventually held a copy in his hand at the Barbican event, I could sense the joy that he had just made it in the end.

I will miss him popping up out of the blue sharing his new adventures, projects and friendships.

I will miss the phone call, hearing the warm, friendly and slightly elongated "Hi, its Duncan here".

Andrew Shiels


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