A good funeral, to quote Tony Walter, Emeritus Professor of Death Studies at the University of Bath, should be “intensely and creatively personal; it should involve as many of the mourners as possible, cherish the individual who died and weave together the survivors in bonds of love.”
Mike’s definitely fitted that description. A husband and father as well as a musician and actor, he had a CV longer than my arm. An obituary will appear at some point in The Herald, but this article from 1995 will give you some sense of what he did, and who he did it with.
At school, he was in a band with Robin Williamson, a founder of the Incredible String Band, but realising the world was already over-supplied with guitarists, he cannily moved onto drums, and over his almost 60-year career, he played with some legendary names, including Mike Westbrook, Hatfield and the North, Keith Tippett and Stomu Yamash’ta’s East Wind as well as theatre companies like Communicado, Wildcat and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyeum. It was the Bard of Dundee, the late, great Michael Marra who awarded him the richly deserved title of “Mister Groove”.
There were lots of things I loved about the way that Mike’s wife Wendy and his children, Rebecca and Dan, approached the ceremony. In the first place, it wasn’t a funeral, it was ‘a gig’; it had a Set List rather than an ‘Order of Service’, and it had an ‘After Party’ in place of the reception.
Two of his friends spoke. Fellow drummer/actor Malcolm Shields gave us this poem, Rhythm at Rest
And legendary Scottish actor, John Bett, read to us from one of Mike’s favourite novels, Sunset Song, by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
As Rebecca assured me afterwards, we did Mike proud, and she and the rest of the family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and good wishes.
The content of the show was great, but for once, the packaging was every bit as important, because it set the tone for the whole event. Designed by Dan, with help from friends, the programme harks back to the golden age of Blue Note and it is quite simply, a thing of beauty. I loved it so much, I kept three copies to share with friends, and I hope it inspires many other people to use their imagination when the time comes.
So thank you, Wendy, Dan and Rebecca for trusting me to MC the gig. As I said, it’s an overused phrase, but it really was both a privilege and an honour to say goodbye to Mister Groove.