- On Wednesday we had a family service at the crematorium. This was taken by our aunt
Christine, who just happened to be visiting Jo and Henry last weekend. She has been an
incredible support to us during this week.
- Today, we are determined, with your help, to celebrate the life of our Dad, Henry.
- Henry asked that we do not have a eulogy of any sort at his memorial service. However, there
are people here from all parts of Henry’s life, many of whom have travelled long journeys to
be with us. And few people have knowledge of the 85 years of this unique man we call Dad,
Grandpa and Henry.
- So for this reason we have decided, in true Henry Hyde fashion, to ignore this advice.
- What we have put together is from our own reflections and from the many many messages of
condolence we have had from people right across the world. His standout characteristics
were many but there are a few that everyone seems to agree on – his huge sense of
adventure, his generosity, his loyalty are just a start.
- Henry was born on 14th Feb 1934 the eldest son of Rose and Ted. Ted had left Ireland aged 20
for the new world of South Africa with its abundant open space and, of course, the diamond
fields. Henry’s positivity and sense of adventure were clearly in his genes.
- Henry’s early years were spent on a farm in Schweizer Reineke, the remotest of remote places
in the north western part of South Africa. His father Ted was a pig and arable farmer with a
little diamond prospecting done on the side. Henry’s first friends were the African boys on the
farm. His mother insisted that they moved to Natal when she realised his first language was
- Henry’s main school years were at Michaelhouse a place where he was happy and where he
lived school life to the full, playing all sports including rugby, cricket, hockey and swimming.
He tried tennis but was a little too impatient for that.
- He went to Natal University to study Engineering. He told me, after I had passed my first
year Engineering, that he learnt how to party in his first year, perfected that in his second
year and then his father said enough of that.
- Where upon he left and set off on his first life adventure to Canada in 1957 where he drove
earth movers. He then went to England where in 1958 he famously met Jo whilst lying
across the stairs of a boarding house they were both in, waiting for their communal
bathroom to become free. She asked him to move and in his characteristic lack of style
insisted that if she wanted to pass she would need to step over him. Clearly she did, and
they married in 1960 in Melbourne, Australia.
- After marrying they spent a wet and cold winter in Melbourne and then set off for their first
life adventure to live in Estcourt, a small town in the Drakensberg mountains of South
Africa. This was not an easy decision for Mum. However, her bravery and resilience is
legendary and that continues to this day.
- Edward was born in 1961, I in 1962, Peter in 1965 and the twins in 1967. Sadly Peter
lived for just a few days.
- To Henry, I was known as Bear, Edward as Teddy-kins, Charles as Charlie-boy and
Elizabeth, only ever as Diddy, which endures to this day.
- As well as being a father, Henry spent these years building the business he bought from his
father. It included a book shop, a local newspaper and later on various business ventures
with his younger brothers Pat and Michael – to whom he was very close throughout his life
- Henry liked to do things his own creative way. For example, he was told by the local council to
get on and use a prime vacant plot of land that he owned in the middle of town so he created
an enormous vegetable garden which fed us and the families of his many staff for years.
Clearly, that was not quite what the council had in mind!
- He even found time for a different sort of adventure in the form of motor rally racing with
his friend Geoff Mortimer. It always amused us that he was the navigator, which was never
his strongest skill.
- However, his real passion was introducing adventure to others. In 1968 he became very
involved in Veld and Vlei, a voluntary organisation that offered outward bound adventure
camps to 16-18 year olds. Over 20 years these courses touched thousands of lives. And
introduced many people to racial integration, at a time when apartheid was in full force
and a good 20 years before the end of that regime. Alan and Cedric, both here today, were
very involved throughout the Veld and Vlei years and have remained life-long friends to Jo
- Veld and Vlei was an organisation that relied on the generosity of the volunteers. There was
no limit to Henry’s generosity for Veld and Vlei – both in terms of time and money. Henry did
everything. If a new toilet block was needed, he became a plumber, if a power generator
broke he was an electrician and he was living proof of the fact that swallowing petrol whilst
syphoning is not harmful.
- Henry’s own self-belief extended to his belief in those around him and to us. I was thrown the
job of chief caterer for a camp of 120 hungry boys, Edward was given the task of camp Warden
and Elizabeth and Charles were told to run the sailing and rock climbing activities – all of these
before we were 21.
- The hikes in the Drakensberg mountains were a key feature of this time, each one more
adventurous than the last. Although they happened at various moments in the year the Easter
hike was always the main one. Mum you might want to shut your ears – we all have fond
memories of being fed snakebite mutti, a mix of coffee and Brandy, high in a cave overlooking
a beautiful scene after a long day’s walk
- When away from Veld and Vlei Henry was happiest stirring his potjie on the open fire beneath
the tree at home at 13 Brokensha Road.
- Henry and Jo created a home that brought a huge variety of people into our lives. This ranged
from people he might have picked up on the motorway, chosen on the basis of the quality of
the rucksack they carried, or drop-ins at the shop who only came in for a good read and were
offered a bed for the night. Sometimes they stayed months, usually gainfully employed on a
DIY project. Painting the house yellow was particularly memorable. They usually also worked
at Veld and Vlei. At their heart they were all adventurers with broad life experience, this gave
us a unique view of the world from an isolated South Africa.
- Along with these were others who lived with us as part of the family including many Rotary
Exchange students. In addition, Louise, Charmaine and Fred stayed for years and all to this
day, along with many others, regard Henry and Jo as second parents.
- They bought a beach house in 1980 on the Natal south coast, not far from their lifelong friends
the Saxby’s. We are pleased to have Alan Saxby here today. Henry famously named the house
“Hyde Tyde” a unilateral decision after we had all agreed on a different name.
- Happy holidays and many building projects were completed at that house with brothers Pat
and Michael and their wives Glenys and Anne and the cousins, including Robert, who is here.
- In 1989 Henry and Jo moved to Australia when Henry was 55 and a whole new adventure
began. These were difficult times – Henry had to reinvented himself several times yet stayed
true to himself. For 5 years he drove a courier van from dawn to dusk where every customer
was his friend. His resilience and good humour were extraordinary and an example to us all.
- Life began to settle down. He got to know Jo’s side of the family including Chris and Ian and
their family. We are grateful to Robert Andrew and James for driving through the night to be
with us today.
- We had 9 grandchildren between the four of us and he was happiest when lying on the floor
with his grandchildren clambering over him or chatting over a meal and enjoying his family
- An enduring memory of all of the younger grandchildren is sitting on their Grandpa’s lap
amidst the chaos of young family life, snuggled around his big tummy
- Henry always found magic in everyone. At times this was sometimes challenging to us. On
reflection, this ability was one of his defining characteristics.
- Like all good fathers he advised freely, starting with “Charlie what you want to do is…” He was
a great sounding board and if you had a big new idea you would be guaranteed a viewpoint
and often an even bigger one to build on it
- Following his time as a courier he and Jo set off on their biggest adventure to date. Our hillbilly
parents criss-crossed Australia towing a caravan for 6 years stopping where and when they
wanted to, sometimes for just a day or two, sometimes for weeks. Jo possibly did more
knitting and embroidery than most hillbillies but hillbillies they were. Henry was particularly
proud of the moment crossing the Nullabor when a trucky said “nah, he’ll be right mate, he’s a
- Their volunteering didn’t stop. They got very excited at the opportunity to volunteer at the
2000 Olympics. It didn’t fuss Henry that the role he was assigned was gate attendant at the
kayaking where he was stuck in a hot and dusty field far from the action. He couldn’t have
been prouder of the uniform they were given including a rather fine hat that he wore for many years
- They settled in Toronto in 2006, carefully chosen as the spot they loved the most of all of their
travels and the communities they had visited. It was a great joy for us that you welcomed
them and have cared for them as you have.
- He found his tribe here – this was a place where he could share his passions such as his
insatiable curiosity for the world and what makes it work. He was a prolific reader of The
Economist, newspapers, novels and history. Sadly his eye sight curtailed his reading in the last
few years but The Economist still got a thorough going over on his iPad each week
- As far as Henry was concerned watching sport was a participatory activity. We were never sure
who he was supporting especially when Australia and South Africa played against one another.
One thing was certain, the referee was always terrible, or he was cheating or, more often than
not, both at the same time.
- He loved and hated new technology in equal measure but was always keen to embrace some
new gadget. We dreaded the phone calls asking for remote support and are grateful that in
the last few years his grandson Ben has patiently provided on-call IT support whenever
Grandpa needed it
- He was involved in many groups and activities including this Church and was well known for
his onion slicing for sausage sizzles
- He has been the main carer for Jo during her period of ill-health in the last 2 years, ably
supported by a large and loving group of local friends, something for which we are also very
- His love for Jo was obvious to all who knew them. He never stopped telling her and us how
much he loved her and how proud he was of her.
- The legacy Henry has left us is extraordinary in so many respects, some more surprising than
others. One has been a rubbish bin full of fermenting chicken droppings – which we have had
to deal with this week. If you have enjoyed his prize tomatoes you have been the beneficiary
of it’s magic. And if we smell a bit odd today, that will explain it.
- So how to summarise the man we call our father, husband, grandfather, uncle and friend? We
could think of no better way than to read something sent to us by a dear friend, Iain Kelman,
which he wrote upon hearing of Henry’s passing.