As friends and associates will know, drummer and all-round good chap Bobby Irwin sadly died from cancer on 8 May.
At Bobby’s funeral at St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham, on 19 May, Nick Lowe took the lectern to deliver a eulogy for his fallen drummer and veteran musical partner. A few minutes beforehand, Bobby’s brother Chris recalled childhood moments, and Geraint Watkins performed a comforting ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ seated at the piano, with Martin Winning on sax, but Nick’s own public address to the 300-strong congregation was nothing short of high drama.
Tears fell faster than the hailstone rain in the churchyard, which was punctuated by bursts of spring sunshine, just as Nick’s emotionally charged speech was dotted with humorous asides that brought hearty laughter and light relief.
‘I looked up the word “eulogy” before writing these notes,’ said Nick [I am paraphrasing]. ‘It is supposed to be brief… well, I first met Bob in 1976, when I was recording at Pathway Studios in Stoke Newington…’ Within moments of recalling this encounter, Nick broke down in tears, unable to continue for a full minute. Time became suspended as mourners allowed him ‘a moment’ to summon composure. Eventually, he mopped his eyes with a checked handkerchief and continued. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,’ he said, thumbing his notes and looking as if he was about to return to his seat in the congregation. The Reverend Jez Barnes stepped forward in support, his holy intervention persuading Nick to continue, and recall his unique musical partnership with Bob.
Then he slammed us with the nitty-gritty: ‘Bob was larger than life. When he told a joke, he was always a member of his own audience’. More laughter. And then, by emotional contrast: ‘I don’t know how I’m going to carry on without him…’ Nick’s son Roy popped up from the pews to deliver a fresh handkerchief. ‘We spent many years touring the world as young musicians,’ continued Nick. ‘There are of course stories that I couldn’t possibly repeat in church… but I‘m quite happy to give anyone a personal consultation later, if you wish.’ More laughter amidst the tears… Nick had done Bob proud, and returned to his seat to huge and sustained applause.
Recording engineer Neil Brockbank then read from The Corinthians, and we sang ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’. Following the service, many of the congregation repaired to a nearby hostelry to toast Bobby’s memory and exchange stories about the great man.
Main photo: Natacha Horn