A warm tribute about Michael from the Vicar of Wadhurst, Canon Jeremy James


When I first met Michael, I, like many others, found him someone who was easy to like and easy to get on with.  In fact, as the years passed, we discovered that we had many things in common: we both loved singing, we’d both studied the same subject at the same university, and we were both here in church on a Sunday morning.  But, at the same time, there were some very significant differences.  

Although we were both keen singers, I, as a bass, am one of that group who like to be rude about Michael’s kind – the tenors.

Although we were both scientists, I, and my fellow physicists like to be rude about biologists and about chemists.  And what was Michael?  A biochemist!  Also, as Dr Michael Harte, much cleverer than me. 

And although we were both here on a Sunday morning, on Michael’s very first appearance in the choir stalls as a new recruit to the choir, he took me on one side just to make sure that I didn’t get the wrong idea; and he made it very clear that I shouldn’t be viewing him as a new convert.  He was someone who loved singing and who was sympathetic to the church, but no more than that, although his enthusiasm for the Christian faith had been significant as a young man.

That stance of his remained as he made plans for what would happen when he died.  We were, I think, all hugely impressed by the courage which he displayed when, a few months ago, he received his diagnosis; he faced the prospect of his imminent death with realism and with determination that whatever time he had left he would live without being mournful, and that, to whatever extent it was possible, he would, for the remaining months of his life, live life to the full.

One part of his facing his death was his making of plans for what we’re doing today.  This “event” he made clear should be absolutely a non-religious affair.  His original plan was that this should be made clear by holding it in the Commemoration Hall.  In fact we’re here in church, but this isn’t a memorial service, Michael would want us to know; it’s simply a celebration of his life.

Having said that, you won’t have failed to notice that, when it came to the music that he chose – and everything that’s being sung is being sung because Michael chose it – there’s hardly a non-religious word in sight.  And the many of us here today who do have a faith are grateful to God for our memories of Michael.

Although Michael firmly affirmed that he didn’t adhere to the Christian faith, he lived life in a way that many people would describe with the broad description “Christian”.  Part of living as a Christian is expressed in loving one’s neighbour – being ready to be of service to others – and that was something Michael showed in abundance.  In retirement, he threw himself into the life of our community here in Wadhurst, and he contributed to it in a huge number of ways.

First, there were his musical activities.  Four choirs of which he was a member are represented here this afternoon: the church choir, the Wadhurst Chorale, Polyphony, and the Stonegate Singers.  And then he was a member of SADS (Stonegate Amateur Dramatic Society), the amateur dramatic society in Frant, and there may have been one or two other groups that I don’t know about.

Then there was his expertise in the field of IT.  I remember him telling me that at one time at the MoD he held the post of DIGIT – which stood for Director General of IT.  Those skills were made readily available here in Wadhurst as he set up and ran the village websites for Wadhurst, Stonegate and Ticehurst; as he hosted the church website (what was the password, Michael?); as he organised the websites for organisations such as International Health Partners and the Wadhurst-Burundi Link; and as he gave time to any number of people to help them with their computer problems.

And then there were the clubs and societies with which he was involved: Probus, Wadhurst and District Astronomical Society, and playing a crucial role in the founding of Wadhurst History Society. 

Then there the other ways in which he offered service to the community: as a volunteer in Carillon Cottage; working on the production of the Wadhurst welcome pack; taking on the responsibility for the Wadhurst column in the Courier newspaper; serving as treasurer of the Wadhurst partnership; and taking on a major role in the running of the Wadhurst Summer Music Festival.

We’ve already heard from Emma something of Michael’s huge ability.  For those of us here who live in Wadhurst, one particular thing we’re celebrating today is the way in which those great talents were placed at the disposal of our community.  In this Olympic year, the word “legacy” is very much an in-word.  Michael’s legacy – the things that remain because he either set them up or contributed a huge amount to the way they run – will, I feel sure, live on long after him.

Not bad for a tenor biochemist.

Canon Jeremy James. Vicar of Wadhurst. 6 October 2012



Died 3 May 1953

From "The Supplies Officer" - the official organ of the Supplies Division Section (Professional & Technical Officers) of the Ministry of Works Branch of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants - Vol 7 No 5 & 6 May/June 1953 price ninepence

"It was a very representative party that met at Golders Green Crematorium on the 8th May to say farewell to a very distinctive colleague who, alas, was only spared for three years' retirement. "Father" or "Guv'nor", as he was known to his old Section TOL/5 and TO/5/GPO, was a truly remarkable character, in looks he was to my mind like G.B.Shaw (less beard) and his wit as caustic at times. Many are the tales that can be told of his "reign" in the Post Office section, where he was accepted as an authority which indeed he was. Room 12, G.P.O Headquarters Building, from where he worked for many years, has seen many changes of staff but has been given over to the G.P.O this past three years. His name will live for many years, both in G.P.O Headquarters and in the Ministry or H.M. Office of Works, as it was then when he joined it in 1919. Readers will be glad to hear that he died as we think he would have wished, in his garden among the flowers he loved so well.

Goodbye, old chap! Happy Gardening wherever you may be!" Smallbore.

From the "County Times and Gazette" (Middlesex) Saturday, May 9, 1953

"The many friends of Mr F.V. Russ will be grieved to learn of his death, which occurrred on Sunday last. Seized by a heart attack on Wednesday, April 29, he was removed to West Middlesex Hospital, where he remained unconscious until he passed peacefully away.

He was well-known among gardeners and allotment holders of the old brigade as chairman of the Ealing Horticultural Society and Vice-President of the Pitshanger Allotment Society. Only a week before his death he had completed the transfer of the silver trophies of the Ealing Horticultural Society, now wound up, to the Pitshanger Society as perpetual challenge cups for its annual competitions.

For the cremation at Golders Green this Friday, it was the special request of his widow that no wreaths should be sent, but garden flowers only."


British Medical Journal
Aug 10 1963

Professor Sidney Russ, emeritus professor of physics in the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, died on July 27 at the age of 83.

Sidney Russ was born on December 2, 1879, and received his education at Shebbear College in Devon and at London University. He began his career as a student at University College in the early days of the exciting discoveries in radioactivity. Graduating B.Sc. with first-class honours in 1905. He obtained his doctorate in 1909 and worked in the field of the medical application of ionizing radiations until his retirement in 1946. During this period of 40 years he was directly involved in, and in many instances responsible for, starting the majority of the advances which have made the medical applications of radiation physics the important subject it is to-day.

Russ's early postgraduate years were spent as demonstrator in Manchester, where he was inspired by the succession of discoveries of Rutherford and his co-workers. In 1910 he came as a Beit Memorial Fellow to the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Research Laboratories and in 1913 was appointed as physicist to the hospital, probably the first of all hospital physicists. In 1919 he was selected as the first Joel professor of physics, again the first such appointment in a medical school.

His main interests were derived from the development of the use of radium for medical purposes. Russ was the first to design and, with Helen Chambers, to oversee the use of a teleradium unit. In 1919 the Medical Research Council was entrusted with the use of some 21 gr. of radium, collected together from gun sights and other instruments used during the war. Russ had these collected together in a single lead container for the first attempts at radium-beam therapy. For many years he supervised a radium service in the basement of his laboratories, and when the second world war came he organized the transfer of this service to an underground department at Barton-in-the-Clay. He also organized the King Edward's Hospital Fund Radium Pool, which provided a radium service for a number of London hospitals.

In 1922 the radium sources from his teleradium unit were distributed to a number of institutions for various research projects and their use was controlled by the Medical Research Council Radiology Committee, of which Russ was secretary,

and he edited the Council's invaluable series of publications, Medical Uses of Radium. He was the first scientific secretary of the National Radium Commission from 1928 to 1934, was an original member of the King Edward's Hospital Fund Radium Committee, and served on various committees of the British Empire Cancer Campaign in its early years. For his services to radium work he was appointed C.B.E. in 1931.

Radiological protection owes much to Sidney Russ. He and Stanley Melville were the secretaries of the British X-ray and Radium Protection Committee, formed in 1921, as the first radiological protection organization in the world, whose report formed the basis of the first International Recommendations. Russ was also involved in the formation of the first British X-ray Units Committee in 1923 and in the development from this of the International Commission on Radiological Units.

As a teacher and examiner he had a great influence on a whole generation of British and overseas radiologists. He was one of those who pressed for the establishment of the Cambridge diploma of medical radiology and electrology and taught and examined for this diploma for many years, and later for the diploma of medical radiology of the University of London. It was a great disappointment to him when both universities abandoned these diplomas.

Apart from radiological protection and the study of radiological injuries, a subject on which, with H.A.Colwell, he produced an authoritative book, Russ's main research work was in radiobiology. He did not have the advantages of the accuracy of dosimetry and the technical advances which are now available, but he started work on many of the problems which are recognized to-day as being of first importance.

Sidney Russ worked throughout the formative period of the present discipline of radiotherapy. It owes much to him, as does also medical physics, for which he did great service, and in fact the Hospital Physicists Association was founded as the result of his suggestion. He has left a great mark in radiological affairs, has influenced many careers, and has given great service, particularly to the Middlesex Hospital and its Medical School.             B. W.

The Lancet Aug 10 1963

Dr. Sidney Russ, emeritus professor of physics at Middlesex Hospital Medical School, who died on July 27 at the age of 83, was one of the few remaining links with the exciting early days of the century when

the newborn subject of atomic physics joined with medicine to found the new specialty of radiology. He started his career as a physicist in London, graduating from University College in 1905, after which he went to Manchester as demonstrator in physics. Here, at the focal point of Rutherford's pioneer work, Russ acquired his life-long interest in radioactivity and ionising radiations. In 1910 he made a dramatic move; having been awarded a Beit memorial fellowship, he decided to take it up in the new cancer research laboratories of The Middlesex Hospital, an unheard of thing for a physicist to do. On completion of the fellowship in 1913, he was appointed physicist to the hospital, almost certainly the first appointment of its kind in the world. The records of The Middlesex Hospital Medical School show that in 1919 "Dr. Russ was invited to teach physics to the medical students,' a prophetic move pointing to the present day when physics plays an increasing part in the educational and vocational aspects of the medical curriculum. By 1920 he was appointed to the newly instituted Joel chair of physics in the school, which he held till his retirement in 1946. Russ was a pioneer in the application of scientific method to the use of radium and X rays in medicine. His greatest contribution was probably, however, in radiation protection. With many of his contemporaries around 1920 he was very conscious of the increasing hazard of the use of ionising radiations and radioactive substances. He was secretary of the British X-ray and Radium Protection Committee which produced its first Recommendation in 1920. The importance of this simple document was soon recognised throughout the world and it became the pattern for all future codes of practice. Russ was also secretary of the Medical Research Council radiology committee, scientific secretary of the National Radium Commission, prominent in the activities of the King Edward's Hospital Fund, the Roentgen Society, and the British Empire Cancer Campaign, and a founder of the Hospital Physicists' Association.

J. E. R. writes: "Perhaps the largest group of people who will remember Russ well will be those he taught and examined, medical students and particularly radiologists. In many parts or the world I have often been asked in recent years, 'how is Professor Russ?' usually a tribute from an ex-student to a well-remembered master. In the laboratory Russ was a hard task-master, in the lecture room a conscientious, perhaps even pedantic, teacher, in the committee room a clear-sighted administrator, and at all times a good friend to many a humble research worker, both medical and non-medical. His name is indelibly written in the annals of both physics and radiology."


Tribute given by David Humphrey an old friend

I am honoured that Mr Russ's family have asked that I say a few words about 'Fred the Man'.

Our friendship has covered some 45 years of which 15 were as colleagues within the same Company. My lasting memory of Fred will be that he was perhaps the most interesting of characters I have been privileged to meet, extremely independent, articulate, intelligent, self assured, with an inquisitive mind and adventurous spirit.

His philosophy to life was to exercise his body and mind.

In 1953 he joined the Parker family to manage the clerical side of the business and was later to become the Company Secretary.  It was the Company founder and Chairman, the legendry Tom Parker, “The Guv'nor” who had admired Fred's ability to control the rationing of animal food coupons during the war when Fred was working for the Ministry of Agriculture.  The Guv'nor thought that if Fred could look after his money as well as he did the food coupons, he was on to a winner.  The Company offices were at Charity Farm, Fareham, the home of Tom and Betty Parker.  An entry in Fred's 1979 diary "They have contributed so much to my life since 1953".  Indeed they had.  Betty would provide Fred with luncheon and tea five days a week and keep a watchful eye over him.

The Guv'nor would often refer to Fred as his guide, philosopher and friend.  To Fred the Guv'nor was his mentor.  His relationship with the Parker family was one of mutual trust and respect.  As Company Secretary, he was pivotal to the enormously successful Company being prudent, extremely numerate and with a comprehensive knowledge of all the facets of the agricultural industry.

It is worthy of mention that all his colleagues referred to him as Mr Russ, such was their respect.

It was somewhat surprising that Fred being a phlegmatic character, not excitable, unemotional, was such a party man.  Naturally a good conversationalist as one would expect of someone well read and travelled, but it was his ability to sing a wide range of Ballads and ditties which always attracted an attentive audience.

In 1971, accountant friends Ken Cantle, Alf Saunders, Fred and myself decided that a walking weekend would be constitutionally beneficial to our health.  Taking Fred's advice, DORSET was to be our destination.  ALWAYS WALK on the HIGH GROUND was Fred's advice.  We did.  So successful was the concept that we walked spring and autumn for 20 years.

Fred was the Navigator - Agriculturist
Ken the Ornithologist
Alf the Raconteur
I drove.

Fred would produce his 1930's Ordinance Survey map of Dorset, repaired on numerous occasions with selotape, and would navigate me through the delightful lanes and villages, with reference points mainly the Inns and watering holes he had visited by bicycle prior to the 2nd World War.  We became known in Dorset as the 4 Musketeers.

I mentioned Fred's adventurous spirit.  In 1979 aged 69, alone he travelled some 32,000 miles across Europe - Russia - Japan - Alaska - Canada - down to California.  His diary makes intriguing reading.  What an audacious adventure.  Further journeys were to take place in 1981 and 1985, in 1981 to India, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria and Germany, and in 1985 at the age of 75, Scandinavia, Russia down to the Black Sea, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy, Switzerland and France.

Fred the Sportsman.
He loved sport and was a natural ball player, Golf being his favourite outdoor activity, Billiards and Snooker during the close season.  His mathematical brain enabled Fred to see the necessary angles to be successful at both.

Lee-on-Solent Golf Club will be indebted to Fred Russ as past Chairmen (Captain?) and for many years Chairman of the Greens Committee.  Together with John Northgate and others, Fred was responsible for the revival of the Club's fortunes in the early 60's.  Many close friendships resulted from his membership of the Lee-on-Solent Golf Club.  It would not be correct for me to attempt names; far too many to mention.

His annual golfing holidays with Doctor Brian Kelly, Peter Rainbow and friends were the highlight of Fred's summer.

T-Bone Steak Club "FarmersClub"
Formed in 1957, Fred was a founder member, meeting in October, January and March.  Records show that he maintained a 100% attendance record until his retirement in 1996.  He would walk the five or so miles from Wickham to Botley prior to the Dinner in order to work up a good appetite "Sir".

Growmore Club
Fred would annually enjoy the study tours which embrace the British Isles and was so appreciative of his good friend Peter Norris-Hill who took care of his travel arrangements etc.

10 The Croft
Sadly Fred was forced to leave The Croft, his home for more than 20 years, in September 1997.  The three flights of stairs became too much.  However with the help of Councillor Tom Houghton, he moved to a special Warden Controlled ground floor flat where he was able to spend three comfortable years.
Despite failing health, he was able to visit his friend Ralph Houghton who was almost totally blind, twice weekly.  Fred would read to Ralph The Farmers Weekly, Hampshire Chronicle, Parish Magazine etc.  Ralph died 6 months or so before Fred also in his 91st year.  I should mention he was indebted to Tom Houghton, Rosie his sister and Ian Riches her husband.

I wish to finish by reading some proverbs and an ode to all men which Fred transferred from one diary to another each year.

"Men were made to listen as well as talk, for nature has given us two ears but only one mouth"
"Better be silent and be thought a fool than to open mouth and remove all possible doubt
"There can be no economy where there is no efficiency"
"How much easier it is to be critical than correct"
"Committees are where people keep Minutes and waste hours"
"Gossip is like water.  It is better on the move, changing, widening and deepening as it goes.  Whatever you do keep it flowing onwards and away from yourself"

And finally an "Ode to all Men"


Tribute by Rita Leaman his niece

Last September, our dear Uncle Basil had a nasty fall.  My sister, Carolyn liaised with a number of people, as she made arrangements so that Basil could carry on independent living at Normandy Court, but with support. She very quickly discovered that no-one in Wickham knew of Basil Russ, only of Fred Russ. Slightly exasperated she said " Oh, Basil, everybody calls you Fred, we're going to have to do something about this".

His reply was to the point. "I've always hated the name Basil!"

So having heard David speak about Fred, I am now going to speak of the dear man that the family all knew - until last September - as Uncle Basil.

Frederick Basil Russ was born in London on November 23rd, 1910 and named after his Father, Frederick, but was called Basil by the family. When he was 7 years old, his sister Rita (now living in California) was born, followed 3 years later by my mother, Brenda. The sisters affectionately called their brother Bunny or Bun, which many years later was turned by my young children into Buncley Basil.

After school he went to work for an oil company and by this time he had started his worldwide travels.  Before 1939 he had already enjoyed touring holidays, cycling and walking around the British Isles, Europe and Norway and was on a ship returning from America when war was declared.  Basil volunteered for the navy, passed A1 fit and after waiting and waiting for his papers they eventually arrived - at exactly the same time, if not the same day, as another letter telling him to go into hospital immediately as he had contracted TB from a work colleague.

After hospitalisation in Sussex, it was recommended that Basil found some work in the open air - so the Ministry of Labour sent him to an engineering factory in Acton, North London.  After 2 weeks he requested a move and became a temporary civil servant for the War Agricultural Executive in Winchester.  After the war he asked to become permanent, but was turned down for health reasons.  Fortunately at that time, Tom Parker was looking for a new farm secretary and the rest, as they say, is history.

The most important date on the family calendar has always been the 4th weekend in November.  Basil's birthday was 3 days after his Mother's and so every year there was a family luncheon at a hotel at Box Hill, Surrey, somewhere first visited by Basil's parents before the 1st world war.  After his Mother's death, the venues became varied, until he took us one year to where the T bone steak club met and from that time every November meant a luncheon party at Botleigh Grange, and it was here fast November that we all enjoyed a very happy celebration of Basil's 90th birthday.

Basil was much loved by all the family and will be greatly missed.  He was a very generous, phlegmatic man who accepted us all as "you good folks" whatever ups and downs had befallen us.  He listened with interest and concern to the latest happenings in the family and was totally non-judgemental.  He would arrive like Father Christmas each Christmas Eve - there would be fresh farm eggs for the household, wine for the table, whisky for the men, chocolates for the women and children and always a bottle of his special home made sloe-gin.  At other times there might be a brace of pheasants or a sack of potatoes, which in one memorable year of drought, were like gold dust.  There is also a family meteorological feature called 'Uncle Basil's weather', because more often than not, the sun shone when we all met.

And what did we know of Basil's life?  It is becoming apparent, not as much as we thought we knew!!

He lived in lodgings in The Square, Wickham until he bought his first home at the age of 65 at Wickham Croft.  We knew golf was a passion, of short holidays with friends, coach riding with Tom Parker, a good social life (I don't think we realised how good!) and of course, there were the travels.  No-one in the family played golf until fairly recently, but the influence of his travelling passed on to his great nephew, Joe, who as Basil's journeys declined was able to send him accounts of his own travels.  Basil would keenly follow Joe's progress, more often than not recounting his own memories of being in the same area.  This continued even until last week.  Basil was thwarted once.  He had his name down for the first trip on Concorde to Australia, which sadly never materialised.

Basil experienced quite a few health problems through his life, which he bore stoically and with acceptance.  He got a good deal of satisfaction turning up for annual check up appointments after he developed cancer of the tongue in 1950.  The doctors couldn't believe it as he appeared each year and there were always groups of medical students lining up to examine this remarkable man.

His independence was crucial to him and the last few months became frustrating for him.  There was so very little we had ever heard him complain about - not even us calling him Basil! - we knew only about the French and background music, but apparently most of you won't be surprised to know that some women, especially latterly, 'fussing women' were among his irritations!!

The family would like to thank the staff at Shedfield Lodge for helping to make Basil as comfortable as possible, though we know they used to have their hearts in their mouths when he would go off for his vital daily walk and woe betide anyone who offered him an arm, as Carolyn and I discovered.

Basil's last few days were spent peacefully in a room at Sarum Road Hospital looking onto fields with grazing sheep, which were alongside his first golf club, The Royal Winchester and there was perfect spring weather every day.

There you have a snapshot of the man, Fred to most of you and Basil to the family. When Carolyn and I were helping Fred sort out his flat before the move to Shedfield Lodge, we came across a poem by Robbie Burns, that somebody had written out on a piece of card. It is so totally appropriate that his great niece, Katie is going to read it:

An honest man here lies at rest
As e'er God with his image blest
The friend of man, the friend of truth
The friend of age and guide of youth
Few hearts like his with virtue warm
Few heads with knowledge so informed
If there's another world, he lives in bliss
If there is none, he made the best of this.

Robert Burns

Edith Lynch [nee Muller]

Wednesday, Jan 31, 1996, Mrs. Edith Lynch, age 93 years, late of Regina, Sask. Predeceased by her husband Charles in 1979:Mrs. Lynch is survived by one son, John (and his wife Margaret), Regina;two grandchildren:Greg and Collen (married to Marcel): Funeral service will be held on Friday February 2, 1996 at 1:30 p.m. in Speers Funeral Chapel. Interment in Riverside Memorial Park. Arrangements in care of Speers Funeral Chapel and Crematorium Service.

She traveled the journey before you,
She has known all the cost of the way;
She paid out the price, to its fullness,
That Motherhood only can pay.

She loved when the world was against you,
She hoped - when your hope sank and dies;
She clung to your hand when the clinging
Left scars in her heart,deep and wide.

She labored - and loved - and was happy,
For down deep in her kind heart she knew
Your kindness and love would repay her
For all that she did - just for you.