My Grandfather, Reg Poulter, passed a couple of weeks ago after a 90 year life, 35 year career at the BBC and a marriage of 66 years.
I had the honour and privilege to deliver his Eulogy at the funeral last week, and I wanted to publish it here in tribute to him and for those who knew him, and for those who didn’t to note the power of a life lived in dedication to family, career and comedy.
Reginald John Poulter
7th July 1929–18th August 2019
My grandfather was a man of few words, even fewer at the end. But after many years watching, studying and capturing the greats of comedy and drama, I think he picked up a thing or two.
Despite much of his life being spent behind the camera, worrying about angles and apertures, lighting and sight lines he shared many qualities with those he brought to the screens of our goggleboxes.
The wit of Corbett, the timing of Cleese or Jason and maybe just a touch of the absurd picked up from those early Goon shows, Reg knew how to bring a smile to everyone.
It’s fair to say that his children and grandchildren all carry this with them, the ability to appreciate a great gadget or piece of engineering, as much as they love the use of language or just a bad pun.
Precision, in word or in the workshop.
Reginald John Poulter was born in Kingston to Sam and Alice on the 7th July 1929, attending Junior school in Tolworth before being evacuated to Birmingham during World War 2 — something which in this type of an address is just a line on a page but does no justice to what that experience must have been like.
Reg attended Handsworth Technical College in Birmingham and after starting work in a brief stint as a motor tester, went on to join the Post Office in 1945 at Great Barr Telephone Exchange.
He would be later transferred back to London where he was then called up to serve in the Royal Signals in 1947 as a Radio Mechanic.
When peace returned to Europe in 1949 Reg returned to the Post Office diligently taking more classes and courses to work his way up the ranks. However it wasn’t just phones that were being connected in those years.
Amongst the cables and wireless Reg met a young Telephone Operator who took a shine to him. Maybe for his duck impressions, or his love of the Radio — but almost certainly for his kind heart and so it was that Joan and Reg (engaged in 51, proposed to on a holiday in Cornwall, Plymouth Hove) went on to be married in 1953 at Christchurch in New Malden.
It was Nov 1st 1954 that he would begin his career in earnest, joining the BBC, a career that would span the next 35 years working in Television for Aunty Beeb.
Starting as a Dolly Operator — helping hoist and maneuver the camera to capture the magic of Tom Baker’s Tardis, the pointed questioning of Parkinson or the Two Ronnies working their material.
Over the course of his career, Reg rose through the ranks as a cameraman and then senior cameraman in charge of a camera crew, retiring in the summer of 1989 as a senior technical manager responsible for coordinating studio resources. Reg worked on many popular TV shows, including Eastenders, Doctor Who, Last Of The Summer Wine, ‘Allo, ‘Allo, Hi-Di-Hi and Only Fools And Horses.
Maybe it’s a testament to his persistent humility and delight in the simple pleasures of life (a tea and a biscuit a fitting celebration for most occasions) that when sorting through his affairs following his passing Martin found many pages of old scripts from these shows, with Reg’s handwritten notes on the back, including pages of Del Boy’s exchanges with Rodney and Yes Minister’s debating over Trident. He seemed to not have any sense of the value of these artifacts of the golden television era.
Whilst maintaining a successful career at Broadcasting House and Television Centre — Reg and Joan were blessed with three children. In January 1959 they welcomed their first child, Martin, with a daughter, Carol, arriving in October 1960, and a second son a little while after, Simon, in November 1967.
Reg raised his Children in the pre-digital age, and whilst never owning a mobile phone or getting to grips with computers he was far from a luddite. He had a passion and an eye for photography, teaching Martin to shoot 35MM on an AGFA Super Select, and turning the small bathroom in which Simon was born at Groveland Way into a makeshift dark room complete with black out boards and a red light outside to stop intruders ruining the developing photographs.
He played games with them, and later with us his grandchildren. I remember rainy evenings at Oxford Crescent huddled over a scrabble board, being taught Rummikub and Boggle or Christmas games Monopoly that would run well past bedtime.
Reg would become a grandfather three times over to Myself, Daniel and Andrew — sharing with each of us his woodworking skills, songs and sketches from the Goons, Python and Tom and Jerry.
I credit my own pursuit of a career in Radio and Audio to Grandad. His introducing me to tapes of old episodes of Sorry I Haven’t A Clue on cassette to listen to when going to bed.
Reg was a creature of habit throughout his life — the Radio Times and Daily Express on his side table, his chair in the living room, modest and comfortable but a throne to this day. Tomatoes planted in the spring and Apples picked in the garden in the Summer. Tools organised in the garage and papers filed in the office — and always being the last one wearing a paper hat at Christmas dinner, long after the washing up was done and Her Majesty having spoken on the television he dedicated his life’s work to making.
Of course, life however isn’t always like the TV shows it is.
It’s far less scripted. And the best bit’s aren’t often what makes the cut or the nightly news — but that small things that really matter. The quiet dedication performed dutifully and lovingly for a few.
For his wife of 66 years, for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren — picking up from scout camps and walks in the park, drives up and down the A303 for games evening’s in Plymouth, gurning and funny noises to entertain his great grand daughters, long after his ability to hold a conversation had left him.
As for so many who suffer the horrible disease of Altzeimers, Reg faced many hospital visits, assessments and back and forth from the care home at Galsworthy House in his last year of life. We pay tribute today to the team there, and at Kingston Hospital for all they did to keep him comfortable, including arranging the delivery of an enormous chocolate cake for his 90th birthday just a few weeks ago.
We also recognise the kind and dedicated care of Lesley for all she did in his final years to allow him to spend far longer at home with Joan than otherwise may have been possible. Maybe this is why one of the few sentences he hung onto in his final months was “are we going home now?”
Well now he is home, at rest with his Father, tea and biscuit in hand at the banqueting table — and so today we celebrate a humble father, a dedicated husband and cherished friend who lived a full, creative and fun filled life.
It’s hard to summarise all someone is to you in just a few minutes, but I think if Reg were still here in spirit this afternoon I think I know what he would say;
“This truly is a unique occasion”
Rest in peace Grandad, we love you and will miss you always.