Memorial service address
St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, London
April 18th 2001
courtesy of Richard Hayes
We are here to give thanks for the life of a remarkable man. His wisdom, creativity, generosity and guidance changed all our lives. There is a part of him that will forever be a part of us.
Father’s outward manner was calm and thoughtful, but beneath the surface lurked a free spirit. He wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and he wasn’t afraid to be unconventional.
He was a company man too individual to be corporate. A competitor who thought others should win too. An industrialist who believed that culture and commerce were not mutually exclusive. A businessman who didn’t always count the cost.
He judged people and circumstances as he found them. He was loyal even when it wasn’t comfortable or convenient. He did everything to the best of his ability, with style and courage. And he was, above all, a family man. A husband, father and grandfather so sensitive and subtle he could love and indulge us all according to our own separate ways and interests, but love and indulge us equally. He wrote us long, warm, wise and witty letters. He never raised his voice. He had an extraordinary gift for subliminal guidance, but if we did disappoint him he never lost faith in us.
We are all a combination of so many influences and characteristics, genetic and self-taught, but father would not have been the same person without the love and support and ideas of mother, whom he had wooed in part, in his time as associate editor of the Daily Sketch, through the careful re-writing of the horoscope in the newspaper.
Father was a prolific writer. In addition to countless business speeches, briefings and strategy documents, he wrote children’s stories and nursery rhymes, poetry, maritime, motorsport and ecclesiastical history, and biography.
He was also a prolific reader, whose eclectic and extensive library, with shelves triple stacked, was filled with literature, history, exploration, curiosities and surprises. An inscription in one book reads “For Walter Hayes. A premature Christmas present from Evelyn Waugh, October 1961.”
Father used language to great effect. He was very skilful at finding the right words to comfort and encourage, to explain and persuade, to unleash potential. With just a few words he could transform perception and prospects, as he did for example through the simple expedient of renaming the Redundant Churches Fund the Churches Conservation Trust.
He was more than a man or words, though. When he became Chairman of Aston Martin he was told it would require, at most two or three days a week of his time, but he didn’t want to preside over the company, he wanted to preserve it. And he did. The DB7, that he devised, developed and delivered, has now outsold the DBs 4, 5 and 6, combined.
Father’s working life spanned six decades, and at least three careers, and in all of them he played a seminal role. He is perhaps the most widely known, though, for the racing and rallying programmes that he pioneered or supported, at both the grassroots and international levels. These programs had a lasting significant effect far beyond their benefits to Ford, and to the teams and competitors using the cars and engines he helped create, as they played a significant role in developing England’s pre-eminence in motorsport. His decision in 1967, for example, to make the Ford Cosworth DFV available to all, gave the teams that bought the engine the power to win in Formula One. And as these teams thrived so too did the engineering sector that supported them. It’s not a coincidence that of the eleven teams competing in Formula One today, seven are based in England.
Father’s gift for cars seemed to abandon him when he got behind the wheel himself. To the best of our knowledge, he had seven accidents. Notable among these are the occasion when the entire front end of his Lincoln Town Car was removed by a Detroit tram, and another when he mistimed his entry into the executive garage at Ford world headquarters, shearing the door from its hinges. He was hugely embarrassed by this, but to his amazement the manager of the garage apologized for the door opening so slowly. Father found it a very Detroit example of rank having its privilege.
During the course of hiring someone to work with him at Ford, he said “We have six months when we can do whatever we think needs doing and, whatever the rules, be able to plead ignorance. That’s probably the limit. Then they’ll close in. But in the meantime it’ll be fun.”
In truth, this was his strategy not just for those six months, but for his entire working life, and his family life too. And it really was a lot of fun.