Former Sailor Remembers Chiswick RNLI in Will

Secretive 'Jack' leaves bequest to local volunteers

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An enigmatic ex-seaman from the east end of London, whose ashes were scattered along the Thames near Chiswick, has left a gift of more than £200,000 to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to help the charity fund its life saving missions.

Jack Farquhar, (real name John Bernard Taylor Farquahar) who lived in West Silvertown, died in May this year, but left his residuary estate to the RNLI in his will, having been a seaman for most of his life.

Fundraisers for the RNLI said they were humbled by the gift from Jack , which was presented to Chiswick RNLI volunteers by his close friends, Pat Dennison and Bill Houchin. It was from the Chiswick station that Jack's last request was fulfilled - his ashes were scattered in the River Thames. He spent 34 years in the merchant navy and was a regular supporter of the charity, being one of its Honorary Life Governors. Jack contacted the charity in 1995 to inform them that, after remembering close friends, he was leaving his estate to the charity.

The donation is a huge boost to the RNLI, which remains a charity that relies on voluntary contributions and donations.

Pat, who lives in Plaistow, London, explained more: 'Jack was born in Hexham, Northumbria in 1926, but apart from that, even though we were his friend, we didn’t know that much about his background.

‘He was a very private man, very quiet, and never really volunteered much information. Neither did we ever ask – I suppose you just don’t with the older generations.

'We think Jack might have grown up in an orphanage because he never spoke of parents or any siblings. It’s all rather sad really – when we sent him a card for a recent birthday, he revealed that it was the first he had ever received.’

Jack’s records show that he qualified as an able seaman in June 1952, when he was 25 years old. Part of his fondness for RNLI lifeboats and crew can be traced back to the pages of one of the many discharge papers and record books found in his flat after his death.

Pat explained: ‘It says he qualified as one of the ship’s lifeboat men, so he was trained to coordinate the lifeboats in the event of an emergency. Although these were not RNLI lifeboats, it was no doubt a trigger for his great admiration of RNLI lifeboat crews. Perhaps he knew what perils they might face on a daily basis.’

Pat said she first met Jack in 1991, as she walked her dogs in her local park.

"All the décor in his flat was boat-related, and at Christmas we’d all get presents with an RNLI theme, be it a teapot, a calendar etc. He really admired the RNLI and everything they stood for."

Wayne Bellamy, Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station manager, said: ‘The reason Jack decided to leave a bequest to the RNLI was, he told us, because he spent 34 years of his life at sea. He was in contact with the RNLI from the mid 1990s and told them he had “seen and attended a few rescues in my time.”

Legacies are hugely important to the RNLI – an estimated six out of every ten lifeboat launches are only made possible thanks to gifts in wills.

‘Although we might know little about the man, save for his mariner background, it goes without saying we are very grateful to him for this sizeable bequest, and to Pat and Bill for visiting Chiswick lifeboat station to formally present the cheque. That money will be appreciated for years to come, not only by our volunteers, but by the hundreds who will benefit from it via RNLI rescues.’ commented Mr. Bellamy.

October 20, 2011