Memorial Address, 9 May 2013

Posted by Richard Morris on 9 May 2013 in Diary |

Professor D. Mark Cato – 18 August 1934 to 12 November 2012


Thursday, 9 May 2013
Holy Trinity Church, Brompton
Dr T. Michael Long

It is a privilege to be here today – to add something to the memory of this incredible man – David Mark Cato.

I am the “good doctor” of his blog – his friend of 58 years – a friendship only extended in length by that of Geoffrey Hanscomb. Sadly, following a fall, Geoffrey and Jessie cannot be with us today. We wish them well – and a speedy recovery for Geoffrey.

First, allow me to touch on a few sentinel periods of Mark’s life.

Mark had a difficult childhood, well described through his endless stories and the autobiographical writings, which he maintained throughout his life.

His mother, Nan, was 17 when Mark was born and his father deserted the family a few months after Mark’s birth, and was not seen again by the family.

His childhood was further compromised during the war and as he describes “I was sickly, underweight and bullied at school”.

This did not deter him from passing the necessary entrance examinations to University when he was 15.

Nan could not afford the university fees and Mark entered the workforce and began training as a Chartered Surveyor.

Already at the age of 15, he had addressed an international conference in Norwich on “World Citizenship” and also presented two papers in Olympia when he was aged 16 years. One was on “Project Management in Construction Contracts” and the other on “Property Development in the USA”. Mark told me that Geoffrey Hanscomb, was present at some of those lectures.

Mark said –
“It was Geoffrey Hanscomb who ‘got me going’, supplying me with a space, a desk, a telephone, friendship” and thereafter, throughout Mark’s life, constant mentoring and support.

An indication of Mark’s thinking and drive at that time is to be found in his so-called “Memorial Address” to his family written in 2000 when prostatic cancer was diagnosed and he thought he might die. This address, of course, was superseded by his incredibly productive survival for a further 12 years.

His energy and “modus operandi” at that time is highlighted by the following:

“To any young man present and in particular to Freddy and Sebastian, (as he called them then my dearest grandsons and indeed, any other grandchildren, who have been born since I recorded this message (that is to say Lara), I say this:
Forget modesty when you are young;
believe in yourself;
project yourself;
exude confidence.
If this is interpreted as immodesty, then so be it. In this tough world, shrinking violets do not thrive.
As one grows older, however, this brash approach must be tempered with a degree of humility. You must realise that you are not God’s gift to the world and however much you know, you know very, very little…”.

Vintage Mark!!

He had qualified in 1956 as a Chartered Surveyor and was then dispatched at short notice to Australia, where he was employed for 4½ years, gaining further experience working in various professional surveyors’ offices about Australia. He then worked for nine months in Baghdad.

The next five years saw him as the sole resident partner of a British Company (Langdon & Every), Chartered Quantity Surveyors, working throughout the Persian Gulf, including Ethiopia and Somalia.

He married Alice during this period in 1963.

In 1965, he returned to the United Kingdom, working with the same firm. His experience in construction increased throughout his employment with a variety of British Construction Companies.

This was a fascinating and industrious part of his life. It proved to be the building blocks for his subsequent career in Arbitration. (In June 1989, he passed the finals of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators by examination).

It was about then, as I recall, Mark telling me that he made a vow:
“… That in gratitude for his good fortune in life, he would dedicate the remainder of his life to sharing what he had done and what he had learnt with others”. In addition, he emphasised that because of his difficult childhood he vowed that “… he would always seek to find something worthy in everyone he met, no matter how unpopular they might appear…”

To begin, he set up the “Themanus Golfing Society” – not derived from the Greek, but simply “them an’ us”, as a means of bringing the chiefs of the housing movement itself, together with their equivalents in the Government. I understand this Society continues to thrive.

He recognised the seeming poor understanding in the respective roles of the legal profession and lay arbitrators and so he became a major force in the creation of what is now “The Arbitration Club”. The Club continues with a number of branches and embryonic clubs in Australia, Cypress and Dubai. The “International Arbitration Club” subsequently evolved with his devised motto “Excellence through Sharing”.

So – another phase of his life had begun in earnest.

He commenced active practise as an Arbitrator and Consultant in Construction Disputes. He was appointed to over 400 arbitration disputes with around 55 of these going to full hearings.

As if this was not enough –

Throughout the next 10 years, he published four books dealing with arbitration. Some of which have passed multiple editions.

The other day I was idly looking through my copy of “The Expert in Litigation and Arbitration”. I recall him referring me to the appropriate chapter – “The Expert Witness in Medical Cases”, written by “Nigel Harris”. However, of more importance was Mark’s generous acknowledgement of the contribution of others to this massive tome. He quoted Montaigne:

“I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own”.

I noted also that he had dedicated the book to “my beloved grandson, Freddy” born on 5 October 1998 – “may he never require the services of an expert…”

Significant, however, for me, was his note on the front page, dated 28 April 2011
“To Mick – that is me – with grateful thanks for 56 years of friendship”, signed “Mark”.

He announced then, because of his increasing paralysis “this is the last time I will ever write – or sign my name”.

In this spirit of giving, he commenced visiting Beijing and other place overseas, to lecture on Arbitration. He gave these lectures free of charge but always acknowledged the generosity and support of the Members of The Arbitration Club who covered his travel expenses while the university dealt with those for his accommodation. More than 1000 Chinese Lawyers were to benefit from his lectures.

In 2001, he was installed as Adjunct Professor of Law, China University of Political Science and Law or CUPL, Beijing. CUPL, is the largest Law School in the world with some 26,000 law students. He was regularly re-appointed to this position, which he retained until the end.

He wrote a complete course for the university on “Dispute Resolution covering all Aspects of Commercial Disputes other than Litigation”.

He continued taking arbitration cases until 2009 when he became too disabled by the motor neurone disease.

Similarly he continued to give lectures in Beijing every year until 2010.

It was a difficult realisation for him. With the onset of Motor Neurone Disease in 2007, Mark had entered another and significant – probably the most significant – in terms of creativity and giving – phase of his life.

In spite of all odds – this period continued for a prolonged and incredible 5 years.
He became even more determined to give to others. As Miles stated in his moving Address at his father’s funeral, Mark had developed a softer and gentler outlook. Increasingly, he had to surrender his fierce and characteristic independence. I noted that I received hugs instead of handshakes – there was even more warmth in our friendship.

I heard of endless plans for his development of devices to help the disabled.
Increasingly I witnessed his great pride in Miles and his wife Kimberly, Chloe and Karl, the grandchildren Fred, Seb and Lara.

He was endless in his praise of Alice and from time to time I would have to say –
“have you told Alice this?” – to which he always replied “she knows I do not have to tell her”!

Certainly – the usual colourful eruptions continued from time to time. But overall he developed and became devoted to his blog and through it – to share his experiences with other MND sufferers and those with disabilities.

His writings were always positive and interesting, sprinkled with humour and an endless supply of jokes.

Returning now to the Australian experience:
The magic of our friendship began through the chance meeting of our mothers in a London hairdressers’ nearly 60 years ago.

Because of that meeting – when – shortly after – he did come to Australia – he became very much a part of my family.

He developed a close relationship with my mother, Mary, whom he called “mum” – along with the rest of us.

What was he like then, when he arrived in Australia?

As expected, he took Australians by storm. We found him “pushy” even “arrogant”.
He was always well-dressed – stood erect – smoked a pipe – and capped it off by driving an ostentatious red Austin Healy.

He had “flair” or natural talent. He was an incredible and continuous organiser – a ‘control freak’.

Clearly that continued and is the reason why I am now standing here today – all organised by Mark!

He had obvious intelligence and an incisive and analytical mind. All this, however, was engulfed by his tremendous sense of fun and exploration – his colourful stories, all interspersed with a great sense of warmth and friendship.

We found him infectious and we too, became caught up with his energy. We shared numerous adventures, including:

  • Many ‘sometime hazardous’ flights in a Gypsy Moth DH-60, built in 1929 before either of us was born;
  • 1958 he flew with me and a friend, Peter Johnson (destined to become an airline pilot) to Tennant Creek, North of Alice Springs (Australia) in a small Auster Aircraft;
  • His early efforts of horse riding, were typical. He galloped off before he had learnt to walk, trot or canter – really before he had learnt to ride – with disastrous results – yet – with a vow to master the technique. He did!
  • His embryonic golf experiences;
  • His encounter with road rage in Melbourne.

We observed that he was writing all these events in a diary.

These writings with others persist today – as an incredible and funny record of his Australian life and subsequent events.

Over the years, these stories, grew with the re-telling and were always accompanied with great laughter and mirth.

He and they, were never boring.

We became close friends – though one as defined by Oscar Wilde “true friends stab you in the front”.

You would hear about it if he thought you had stepped out of line. Such events, though, in reality, only served to increase our bond. We seemed to be on ‘the same page’.

We missed him when he left Australia in 1960, but, we maintained contact.

The other day I noted that my first entry in the Visitor’s Book in “Lantern Thatch” was 12 June 1967.

He began to return to Australia, particularly in the 90s and we saw him regularly each year. Ostensibly these visits were to teach Arbitration – but also – in deference to our friendship – and to make use of the Australian sunshine.

His dress code was jacket – tie – lapel rose – monocle. However the default dress code was – no clothes at all.

He enjoyed nude sunbathing (and all over body shaves).

Occasionally this created problems, for my home was my office, and the staff had some difficulty coping with the sun tanning Englishman – nude – on the balcony.
Symbolically, they walled him off, with both Australian and British Flags hoisted over a clothes horse.

Sunbathing continued, even after the motor neurone disease was diagnosed in 2007.

We all became aware of the characteristic muscle twitching on the body of this deeply tanned, perspiring, Englishman.

In the evenings there was champagne or whisky and for Mark, cigars.

There was always debate and the re-telling those endless and funny stories.

We noted he was having increasing difficulty and there were occasional falls and in one incident an encounter with a Melbourne tram. Shaken, bruised and battered, he managed to laugh.

We discussed the increasing difficulty he would have in carrying on with his lecturing in China and even visiting his beloved Hua Hin, Anantara Hotel, south of Bangkok.

We resolved that all this was possible, but it would be necessary for someone, or me, to accompany him.

  • Our first venture together was to Thailand. These hilarious trips always presented me with a series of crises and a sense of embarrassment – acute at times;
  • He insisted on travel – in full regalia – with white coat, tie, monocle, lapel rose (artificial rose for international travel – complete with an artificial drop of water) – yet always complaining of the heat;
  • Airport security was an early problem when he would characteristically refuse to remove his coat with “can’t you see I am disabled – I cannot use my hands”. Eventually the poor security people would yield, only to be confronted by further gross delay caused by an explosion of noise from the alarm because of the various objects hidden in his pockets.
  • Or arriving at the hotel in Hua Hin and being asked to sign the register “I’m not signing anything – I have been here 17 times before. You know who I am…”
  • On one occasion, at Hua Hin, I thought World War III was about to begin when I heard him yelling “some bloody Germans are in my sunbathing spot…”

Clearly it was not his spot and anyone could have used it. It was situated beside a lake. I recall him going to remonstrate with the offenders and to my horror, I heard him yelling for reinforcements across the lake. I rushed across to hear words such as “you are a peanut” and the near immortal words – “I am a Professor of Law I do not tell lies”!!

Eventually, I was able to settle the dispute and the “invading Germans” turned out to be a demure couple from Cornwall, John and Geraldine Barlow – and so – as with the debris of so many of these incidents – subsequent close friends.

I began also to take him on trips to my home in Sweden, where he entertained the Swedes and made many friends which expanded to include my German, Irish, Belgian and Austrian friends.

There was no alarm system and it was necessary for me to sleep on the floor beside his bed. It took some time to learn to sleep accompanied by the radio with news and music which blared throughout the night. Interspersed with “are you awake” signifying an impending toilet stop or some other request.

We shared an interest in music, including in particular, the Czech Christmas Mass by Ryba; the singing of the choir of Ramsberg, a small town close by to where I live in Sweden; music including and similar to Lacrimosa Requiem for my friend by Zbigniew Preisner, the Polish composer, we heard today – choral works and opera.

He read extensively and would quote important passages on his blog. Later he used “talking books” and this included the Classics and in particular the Classics Dostoevsky, Thomas Hardy and Dickens.

He knew Dickens as he says “backwards”, having bought the complete edition from his savings from a paper round when he was 14.

Our discussions with cigar and champagne at night were always a highlight. Whether we were discussing the life cycle of a pineapple or a banana; or John Keats and his poetry; or Keats’ friend Charles Armitage-Brown. Our discussions were always vigorous and interesting.

It did not take long to realise that when he said “I must do so and so…” it was in fact a command for immediate action on my part.

He insisted on wearing a nightshirt which seemed to have 20,000 buttons to be done up – in an instant – he would get impatient if you took too long.

I recall insisting he have a shower each day (an Australian custom),
but was advised strongly “Alice only showers me every three days”, to which I rejoined “I am not Alice – get in the shower”.

One morning at Lantern Thatch where I had been caring for him and having delivered his breakfast at 6:30 a.m. He explained – “I normally have toast with marmalade on Sundays”, to which I replied “well it’s not ruddy Sunday…”“well Saturday then”.

The trouble was it was Friday!!

In Hua Hin, breakfast was also a problem in that he would take bags – rather – I would have to collect for him – bags of fruit, to be eaten throughout the day. This was not “really stealing” he explained but simply an “extension of breakfast”. I noted too, in the same vein, he accumulated capsules of coffee, which later re-appeared in England.

Air travel became increasingly difficult. Airlines were wonderful with their wheelchair staff and getting us quickly through security and to his seat – via the lounge – of course – where he consumed champagne and ate.

However, it was always up to me to lift him in and out of the airline seats.

In this I, a surgeon, and meant to be experienced in such matters, relied on the training given to me by (friends Barry and Denise), the family taxi drivers in Clavering.

He would slump into his airline seat with requests for champagne, earphones and immediately launch into a film.

With headphones on he spoke loudly drawing unnecessary attention –
I was always concerned about impending and inevitable toilet requirements.

Subsequently on flights, he wore a kilt in order, he said, to make it easier for me “to deal with his plumbing”. The kilt and associated regalia led to one excited Emirates flight attendant exclaiming “you are the first real Scot I have ever seen on one of our flights”.

We survived!!

I accompanied him to Beijing and prepared him for his teaching days. All reminiscent of the preparation required by an actor before a performance.

I was witness to the incredible lectures he gave to the Chinese Law Graduates – up to 150 in a class. They would cluster around him for more. Each day, unasked, they would deliver, from the market, a fresh rose for his lapel. Later from Clavering he would reply to their emails.

I was aware of his dealings with children and his ability to come to their level with stories and activities designed to stimulate their involvement and more. I recall one German boy, aged 10, Nils Schneider, saying goodbye to us at Stockholm Airport, only to emerge from the terminal, by himself, cross the road for an extra goodbye to his hero.

My grandson, Jack, here today from France, will never forget Mark’s fun and friendship and their time together here, in London, and also being taught the basics of Croquet.

Also in Löa in Sweden, he insisted on teaching the children in the local school. Although limited in English, the children loved him and there was no apparent difficulty in communication.

His love for and admiration of his grandchildren, Fred, Seb and Lara, could not be surpassed. I recall him consigning small messages and packages for them to encounter at various times in the future.

I presume they will turn up as he arranged.

Back in 2010 following a final night dinner on the beach generously provided for us by the hotel I recorded:
“The walk home was long and difficult. It seemed as though both friends were supporting each other. In fact they were – much as they have for more than 50 years.
Soon, though, it became clear, that one, through weakness and shortness of breath had to rest every 20 paces or so…”

Increasingly he needed more help.

Further international travel was no longer possible.

As an outsider I was very impressed with what was supplied by the NHS and in particular, (Harriett Holder and) the wonderful nurses of Ross Nursing.

His life was also greatly facilitated by Richard Morris, who set up the blog “Dying to Live” with the motto “Caring through Sharing”. It was really more about “living” than “dying”.

Many others contributed forming an incredible team of which Mark was an integral member – and not just the recipient of all this attention.

Alice without a doubt was the chief carer. Her incredible – indefatigable – constant – loving – care of Mark continued to the end. How she did it, we will never know.

From time to time, for a few days, I would try to emulate these standards, but was thoroughly exhausted in the process.

I made some notes then about ‘Caring’.
“Good Caring requires close and constant attention to the needs of another.
Anticipation is a vital ingredient.
Caring is not new – and surely is an ingredient of normal living.
Caring is a privilege and involves real sharing and honesty.
The honesty though is more for the disabled – so stark in their situation.
Caring can be fun – and overall was fun with Mark.
It involves teamwork and the ‘cared for’ is very much part of that team..”

I witnessed all this – to the highest levels at Lantern Thatch.

These concepts of caring are not new. Montaigne whom I mentioned before understood about Caring – he applied it to his friend Esteinne de la Boetie who died (of the plague) in 1593. (How to Live a life – a Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakenall).

Yes – there were a few causalities on the way causing the Professor to be relentless in his legal pursuit. These matters devoured his time and energy – he did not succeed – though always maintained “he had made his point”!

Eventually he became virtually paraplegic, but somehow retained his dignity and humour in spite of his predicament and the need for near constant care. His mind fully intact, seemed to be in overdrive – impatient to see things done.

Last year in September, we managed a trip to the cricket at Lords to mix with his longstanding friends there. Some of those friends had attended Lords with him since 1969.

We visited his beloved, “The Royal Worthington Golf Club”, where he insisted on going to say goodbye to his wonderful and longstanding friends. He knew this would be his last visit.

Worthington was an incredibly sad affair, and he barely survived beyond lunch – although he did succeed, in triumph in finding someone’s “lost golf ball”.

On the way home he gasped “they were all coming up to say good bye – I shall not see them again.”

A visit with him to (Dr Davies at) Papworth at the beginning of October, seemed to offer a reprieve (by increasing the pressures on the ventilator). Mark set his sights on Christmas and then having achieved that the 50th wedding anniversary, for Alice and he on 16 March just passed. (1963, and in this church, Holy Trinity Brompton).

I thought he might do it.

Do you recall his last blog of 22 October 2012 (in fact posted by him the next day).

His words were those of someone very much alive and living his life:

“Autumn is well and truly with us. Cold, dank, misty mornings and no sign of the Indian summer promised to us by the meteorological office. No, this is not the time to plan those outside barbecues, … I can say, with all honesty, that I have not had occasion to question how I am, or do feel when I wake up each morning. It is not something I give time to thinking about. I wake up like most people, and would only consciously know how I felt if my wellbeing was prone to variations but that is not the case. I know that my arms are slowly getting weaker, for example I can no longer raise them to my nose, with a continually running nose, can be a real bore… arms have probably lost 90% of their movement, and only my left hand, splinted up and resting on a cleverly designed armrest, which lightens the weight of the arm is of any use…”

He goes on to describe others – Nan, his mother who is failing, and Nan’s husband Richard Marsh and the problems arising for England with people living to an older age. He finishes with his usual “click here” – “to see the difficulties facing a foreigner trying to master the English language”.

I think you will agree that Mark had it wrong – for once! – just once! – when he wrote in his so-called “Memorial Address” to his family in 2000

“I always threatened to leave a request that on my gravestone be carved the words ‘Here lies one of the world’s most successful failures’”

Perhaps it was because of the adversity of his childhood; his determination; his incisive and intelligent mind; his thoroughness; his organisational ability, all coupled with an underlying, bubbling sense of humour, love of life and his fellow man – he succeeded. There is little evidence of failure.

His tenacity of purpose was nowhere stronger than through his blog, which over the years reached millions and possibly was one of his greatest achievements. Let me share a fragment of the comments returned to Mark from his readers:

  • “It’s amazing how you continue to see the glass half-full. Keep it going”, Joan.
  • “I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog and see how you are keeping with the problem. My husband has MND and will not share his problem with anyone else… I wonder if you would be kind enough to communicate with him…”, Christine. Mark, of course, communicated with him.
  • “… you’re allowed an occasional whinge as anyway you whinge in such an entertaining way…”, Tricia.
  • “Love your blog, even though I am not terminally ill, I can identify with a lot of your problems”, Sally.
  • “Wow… you are such an inspiration. I am 23 years old from Bristol and just reading your blog. I cannot really describe it. Just keep up the good work…”, Damian.
  • “Your truthful comments and experience of MND are more helpful to me than numerous interviews with members of the medical profession”, Derek.
  • “Hallo, Prof Cato. I am a Chinese boy living in Shanghai. The blog is great, hopeful, it moves lots of people including my friends…”, Huihui;
  • “Hi, Professor. I am a young guy in China and reading your blog has really helped me a lot. I always complain when I am in some bad situation before but now you make me know how to face the trouble. How to have a positive attitude in our life, I really appreciate now I am definitely sure nothing can beat me…”, Eric.
  • Or the typist, Julie Roberts, in far away, Queensland, Australia, who typed these notes – “Not surprisingly, I feel as if I have known this man all my life….your words brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions and then laughter….such an extraordinary person….as my contribution I will not be charging for this work..”

The blog is extraordinary reading and re-reading. It remains on the web.

Those of us fortunate to have read his autobiography are similarly simulated.

So many lessons can be drawn from such a life:

  • Turning disadvantage into an advantage;
  • Mentoring. The importance to have a mentor or a Geoffrey Hanscomb, in your life – and in turn to become a mentor to others.
  • Thoroughness and a determination of purpose.
  • An ability to constantly take stock of your life.
  • Friendship and all that entails.
  • Endless humour.
  • Honesty – except for stealing fruit and coffee.
  • An infectious love of life and an ability to make the most of every second.
  • A keen observer of nature; music, literature.
  • A zest for learning – Horse riding from absolute nothing to become a good Polo player; or the piano to reach Grade VII (only to stop when he realised he would not be as good as Daniel Barenboim); golf; literature and so on.

With Mark I continually think of Lord Riddell writing in his diary, January 1915 about Winston Churchill:

“He is one of the most industrious men I have ever known. He is like a wonderful piece of machinery with a (big) flywheel which occasionally makes an unexpected movement.”

His critics (and Mark had some) were more conscious of his “unexpected movements” than for his “solid achievements”.

Clearly Mark’s “solid achievements” surpassed these “unexpected movements”.

Caring for others. Through Mark we have all become attuned to caring. Mark cared for others too – but increasingly – required care himself. Here “the light on the hill” so far as caring is concerned, was the unfailing work, devotion and inspiration of Alice. Mark constantly acknowledged to others his love for and indebtedness to Alice “my lovely”, often referred to in endless praise in the blog, or by his daily and precisely timed phone calls when overseas (and I might add, the cause for endless stress for the carer-finding the antiquated mobile – switching it on – dialling the number according to impatient instructions).

Perhaps his thoughts for Alice were left unsaid to Alice – though keenly felt by Mark.

Perhaps they were meant for the end – but, by then he had run out of breath and could not speak!

“She knows – I do not have to tell her” he always said,
– and –
– perhaps that is another significant lesson from his life.

Finally, in Ireland there is a famous Mission with the wonderful name – “Concern” – whose CEO and public face since its inception during the war in Biafra in 1966, Father Aengus Finucane, a friend – who died in 2009 – had as his motto – perhaps adapted from John Wesley (18th century).

It could well have been Mark’s motto too:

“do as much as you can,
as well as you can,
for as long as you can,
for as many as you can”.

In this, Mark Cato has excelled – so too has Alice.

She helped make it all possible.

Alice lives on – and so too in many ways does Mark.

Michael Long.
Service conducted by The Reverend Judith Griffin.
Organist: Mark Underwood.


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