|DAVID W. GALLIFANT. 21 June 1943 - 2 Feb 2023
1 January 2010
David Gallifant was a well known figure in Mersea. A solicitor, academic, member of the church and of the many cultural groups here and around Colchester.
He passed away unexpectedly on 2 February a few months short of his 80th birthday. On the 14 March he was given a splendid funeral service at West Mersea Parish Church, conducted by the Revd. Keith Lovell and the Revd. Jude Bevan.
It was, in many respects, a real community send-off. So little was known of David's pre Mersea life that the Revd. Lovell had to appeal for information from David's friends and acquaintances! They didn't fail him either, furnishing him with enough information and stories to give the congregation a well rounded account of David's life and achievements. It seems appropriate to share some aspects of David's life with the rest of Mersea and the wider locality.
David was born to Leonard and Elsie Gallifant in June 1943 and spent his early years in Belle Vue Road, Colchester. Leonard was a steam engine driver based at the North Station shed and many of his Gallifant relations worked on the railway as well. David attended Colchester Grammar School in 1954. His cousin, Paul Gallifant, also a pupil at the Grammar School, was two years younger than David. He remembers that David soon joined the school's Debating Society and he was their main speaker. Even then Paul could tell that David was destined for a more academic profession. He had no interest in sport and avoided the muddier sports by writing his own excuse notes. Where cricket was concerned he preferred to field as this allowed him to read books rather than participate.
He was amongst the first intake from a state school to Hertford College, Oxford. He graduated with a Double First in early modern history and Jurisprudence (this being the science or philosophy of law). At the age of 22 he captained the Hertford College team against Queen Elizabeth College, London in the first round of University Challenge. David kept a short report from a local newspaper featuring himself as team captain complete with photograph. At the time he was in his second year studying law "with interests in walking and literature."
[See cutting below] According to the college magazine the College team had "acquitted themselves tolerably well".
Following graduation David then took a further course which saw him being registered as a Solicitor in 1971. He also spent a period teaching American students on Litigation at the Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia.
David set up his Legal Practice on Mersea whilst still living in Straight Road, Colchester, specialising in business property, domestic conveyancing, wills and probate. During this time he became absorbed in Mersea's community and activities, including helping to set up Mersea Museum. He remained as the Museum's Vice President until his death.
Moving to Mersea in the early 1990s, David was a founder member of the Mersea Island Wildlife Forum in 1996. He attended regularly, invariably falling asleep during the guest speaker's talk before waking to ask a question of the speaker. This, also invariably, would contain complex literary allusions leaving many guest speakers at a loss as how to answer him. He was an active member of many of Mersea's, and Colchester's, cultural groups: a German group. Colchester Civic Society, Friends of the Minories, The Old Colcestrians and The Essex Poetry and Prose Society, to name but a few.
David's breadth of knowledge and his ability to recall information was formidable. It didn't matter what you said to him in conversation, he would know something about it and would be able to give you chapter and verse on the subject, no matter how obscure it might be. Once the flood-gates were open, he was simply unable to stop himself. Have you ever been "Gallifanted"? Meeting David in the street often meant enjoying a lengthy lecture you hadn't planned for or scheduled into your timetable! How many appointments were missed as a result we shall never know. His interests ranged from the arts and architecture through literature, history, religion and all stops in between, no doubt.
David loved food and good wine and each year held a birthday party in his garden, of which he was very proud. This small garden was full of statuary and plants and he enjoyed showing it off to his friends.
Last, but not least, he was very involved with West Mersea Church and a regular
attendee at services and a server and chalice administrator at Communion services.
Whilst living in Straight Road, Colchester, he regularly attended the local parish church of All Saints in Shrub End and took the Course for Christian Studies organised by the Diocese of Chelmsford.
A very private man who did not force his religious beliefs on others but who, nevertheless, held strong opinions and would happily challenge a preacher if he disagreed with them.
Retirement was difficult for David and he missed his profession and his clients.
Perhaps the over-arching theme of David's funeral was the fact that, like Lewis Carroll's white rabbit, he was always late arriving at meetings and talks. I'm reliably informed that following his retirement he removed his wrist watch, possibly deciding to let Time 'off the leash' at last. He was certainly reliably late for his own funeral. A theatrical entrance arranged by the Revd. Lovell to great effect and to the affectionate amusement of his many friends.
"We won't see his like again" is a phrase often used at such times. We certainly won't! Mr. D.W.Gallifant was a 'one off' and Mersea will be the poorer for his passing.
The following poem by David Morris, was written after David died and read at the funeral. It affectionately reflects David's late entrances at the Mersea Wildlife Forum talks (and at other venues).
IN MEMORY OF
DAVID W. GALLIFANT
We will remember how often you came in late
Puffed and rattled as you hooked up your coat
Always untroubled by the etiquette of time
Blissfully unaware of the disturbed court
Whose backward glances were merely arrows
Blunt tipped and forever falling short.
Sometimes you bowed your head and snoozed
Comforted perhaps by the warmth and company
Or the gentle drone of the speaker's voice
Like the lyrical humming of a July bee.
From Goethe to some architectural trait
Through Schubert to the poetry of Gray
Or fighting the chess boards wooden wars
Or with translation you always knew your way.
Your knowledge was a tsunami wave
That overpowered those who could not swim
Once an acquaintance more lately a friend
Through days when friends are dwindling few
Now pitiless time has closed its heavy door
And slipped the bolt on all the things you knew.
My thanks to the Revd. Keith Lovell for lending me his eulogy for reference. To David Morris for his kind permission to reproduce his poem and to Pat Kirby for the photograph of David Gallifant.
David Gallifant - a University Challenger