It is really wonderful to see so many people that knew and loved my Dad here today. It has been very challenging for Jason and I to try and capture all of the things we would like to tell you about our Dad, as there is so much, but we hope that what we will say will give you the essence of our Dad, your friend, and show his larger than life character. I’m going to start with some background on his life and then hand over to Jason who will delve into some more details.
Alan was born on 10th March 1946 to Irene and Edward Carter in Putney. Alan’s younger brother Chris noticed that Alan was very inquisitive at taking things apart like clocks and putting them back together again, after which they still worked! At age 10 he built a tree house (his first of many) in the woods in Wimbledon Park.
Alan and Chris spent some time in their childhood living on a farm in Kent which Alan loved. The boys built another tree house, had catapults, made crossbows and made dens by hollowing out tunnels in hay stacks. The boys built a raft with 4 oil drums to go onto the farm pond in the middle of winter. When it turned over Alan saved his brother Christopher’s life as he could not swim, Alan had to rescue him and get him to the bank. They were both frozen and had to stagger across several fields back to the farm house.
Alan was made Vice School Captain age 16, and at the same age had his first contact with the church. This was via a school friend who had the missionaries coming round to visit, and the plan was they were going to make fun of some Americans, having not met many at that point. His mother also warned him saying ‘Let me tell you something Alan, Americans are very good salespeople!’
However, as soon as Alan entered the room he had a strong impression that he should be quiet, listen to what they had to say and not play the fool. The missionaries then taught him and his mother and within 6 weeks he had been baptised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which proved to be a defining point in his life. Between 1964 and 1966 Alan with many other members were involved with building the Wandsworth Chapel.
Around the age of 17 Alan noticed a young lady that had started attending Church each week. Each week he would say ‘Hi Ros, how are you today?’ until finally her friend Judy said, ‘I think Alan likes you’. They began dating, and Alan eventually baptised Ros on her 18th birthday. These were fun times for Alan and Ros with a strong network of friends. They formed a folk group with another couple, the Cary’s and played at some church events. Alan and Ros later married in 1967 and had a honeymoon in Austria.
In Alan’s teenage years he was involved with the Scouting programme that ran from Wandsworth Chapel as a leader. While looking through family photo albums I found one entitled ‘Alan’s Adventures’ which contained pictures of a speedboat built by boys of the 19th Balham and Tooting LDS Scout Group in 1963. Other pictures were of caving, pulling cars out of rivers and rope swings over rivers. There’s no doubt that these early scouting experiences paved the way for Dads future leadership roles at church youth camps.
On the career front, Alan had left school and started work at the age of 17 as an Apprentice Heating, Ventilating and Fan Engineer. Once qualified Alan worked his way up through the ranks to becoming chief draughtsman. During this time Alan took up an exciting opportunity to work for the Department of the Environment in Gibraltar, moving out there with a small family which included Jason and myself. These 3 years were full of exciting fishing expeditions. One of Dad’s famous stories that we heard repeated often was of his first fishing experience in Gibraltar. He was excited to fish there, but after an unsuccessful first day approached a local chap fishing, who gave him some pointers, then as he caught a large fish and was struggling to land it, asked Dad to hold his road, while he grabbed his flippers and dived into the sea. Dad was left wrestling with this rod, watching a huge fracas of bubbles and flippers, until finally the chap emerges, gripping a huge fish by the eye sockets in one hand, and, over his other shoulder, an octopus. They became great friends after this first dramatic introduction.
Alan helped establish a small branch of the Church in Gibraltar with the other couple of families there and Alan also had responsibility for the missionaries for the church that were sent there. The missionaries were often getting into scrapes, as things were sensitive as the border was closed with Spain, and dad would have to go and get the missionaries out of the police station were they had been locked up after wandering into the middle of a military exercise at night. Whilst in Gibraltar Daniel was born. A few months after returning, Gareth was born. The day Gareth was blessed Alan was called as Bishop of Croydon Ward. This chapel wasn’t built at that point so lots of early meetings were held at their house.
By Jan 1977 Naomi was born, taking it up to 5 children and Alan was released as Bishop. Dad started doing a degree course in Environmental Engineering at night school whilst working for the Department of the Environment. Dad did his studying in his bedroom using a piece of chipboard as a desk. This was held up at one end by the windowsill and a chair at the other end. His hard-work paid off and he got top of the class with his degree. Through his studies and experience he became a chartered engineer, a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and a member of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers.
I do recall around this time we had many fun if modest holidays, going to Cornwall, South Wales and Brittany. Holidays were usually camping and we would set off with a 14 foot canoe strapped to the roof of our car.
In 1980 3rd daughter Lorraine was born, and in Nov 1982 Alan was called as Bishop of the newly formed Croydon 2nd ward. One of Alan’s counsellors at this time said he enjoyed the experience immensely and learnt much from Alan’s attention to detail, vision of, and drive for the Lords’ work. Finally in 1983 their 4th son and 7th and last child Stuart was born.
Dad took the decision to leave the civil service and joined North Thames Gas, Special Projects Group, where he had interesting projects at properties such as 10 Downing Street. He then went on to a Director role with Dewest Limited, and then as Managing Director of his own consultancy firm. Alan’s firm was contracted by the church to work on the London Temple renovation project in 1990.
He then merged his business with ABS, a larger consultancy, where he spent time in Lusaka, Zambia. Of course he made time to fish the Zambezi River while he was out there. He was then head-hunted to work for Trillium in various roles over 11 years, managing a team of 50 and running the technical services department for 40% of the DWP buildings across the UK. Whilst at Trillium Alan set up a fly-fishing club called the Trillium Drifters. On a couple of occasions they took wounded service men out on special boats. The HR department at Trillium said it was the most successful work social club they’d ever had.
Dad always found time to do other things than just work. He was involved with a political party for a time, and would have us help delivering leaflets. He certainly didn’t need any encouragement with the megaphone when it was time for canvassing. In later times he was involved as a parent Governor for our old secondary school, eventually becoming Vice-Chair and Chair. He served with the school for a total of 19 years and arranged community service projects and other things such as having a former astronaut come and speak to the school-children.
Once Dad had retired from ABS he and mum enjoyed some great holidays in US with Daniel’s family, The also spent 6 months serving at the church’s Temple near East Grinstead, and also did the rounds visiting of all us children, prior to each visit Dad would ask us what jobs needed doing, he would come and make himself useful!
In more recent times Mum and Dad were working at Hyde Park chapel as part of our church’s employment programme helping people into work. This was a natural good fit for Dad and even when he was ill at home he was still thinking of ways to help people that were looking for work.
I’d like to share some of my personal thoughts and memories. My Dad’s ability to lead has always impressed me, he was a natural, easy-going leader of people.
He was enthusiastic, energetic and effusive. He didn’t mind being a little bit controversial and rocking the boat if he felt it was needed. I remember the roadshows where he would get everyone involved, it was a real bonding experience. He would co-ordinate – and ensure there was a director, a script, someone working on the scenery. You would be there at every rehearsal, not interfering, just supporting. And on the night, he was there to make sure there was organisation, that every prop and piece of scenery would be set up on stage in the time given.
He was a master at putting up a huge 40 foot canvas back-drop, up a ladder. Nothing phased him, not even the request one year to have a huge ‘computer’ the size of a person crash in from the ceiling. ‘Let’s build it with boxes, stuff it with newspaper to make it really heavy, winch it up with a rope’ you said, and at the right moment you let the rope go and it crashed onto the stage, achieving the desired effect.
He always had the respect of my friends and peers and could strike the balance between being firm but fair. I remember Scott Hawkins saying to me at one youth camp that my Dad had threatened him with a ‘clip round the ear’. He said that he wouldn’t take a clip round the ear off anyone but he would take one off my Dad. (I’m sure he did something to deserve it). Also his ability to be innovative and brave – he would come up with ideas for activities and events that had never happened before, and he would pull them off with flair, and minimal stress. He displayed many great leadership traits, and even today his example inspires me, and will do so for the rest of my life. He was an example of hard work, serving others, and being a high achiever in things that matter. I also have to acknowledge my mother who supported him behind the scenes and enabled him to get out and do all the things he did.
Dad’s natural desire to connect with people and to help others connect together was demonstrated to me on my last visit to see him a few days before he died. He was very weak and couldn’t speak much, but he still made the effort to introduce the nurse when she came to see him to me. It was always really important to him to help people connect. Nearly 10 years ago for Dad’s 60th birthday we did a ‘This is Your Life’ evening. The next day he called me to thank me for the evening. I tried explaining to him that we thought he was really special and had done some amazing things, he brushed it off and said he thought he was just ordinary.
Dad you were anything but ordinary. You were extraordinary. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the Dad I had. All my life lessons I have learnt from my Dad. He is my role model, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to be more like him.
Having Alan Carter as your Dad was exciting and filled with adventures. We had tree-houses, go-carts, hammocks and dens in the woods. If there was a family walk it involved, some of us going ahead and ‘setting up an ambush’.
When Dad was a teenager he had a part time job as a plumbers mate. He was told one time by the plumber to go and get some ‘elbow grease’. So he went to the hardware store to the amusement of the shop keeper he asked for some ‘elbow grease’. But through his life Dad worked hard and played hard so perhaps he found a hardware store that sold elbow grease.
At school Alan was a bit of a practical joker and used to throw tennis balls soaked in ink at the girls playing netball in the adjacent girls’ school. Trying to hit the girls on their thighs. He would still smile when he told that story in his sixties.
Dad was skilled with his hands and good at art at school and later in life continued that hobby. As a child he used to make toys for me out of wood such as forts and gun emplacements that I would play with my toy soldiers on. One Christmas I got a wooden glider dad made by hand like the ones used to capture Pegasus Bridge at D-day. It was well made and hinged in the middle with a catch and made so that my dinky air-borne jeep and 6 pounder anti-tank gun fitted inside just like the real ones. My brother Daniel got a landing craft with hinged ramp. You could not get these in the shops. These were toys that were put together in a garage in winter with great love.
Dad worked hard to make Christmas special for the family. Dad would to hate to think that anyone would be alone at Christmas and would invite them to our home. He was naturally open and inclusive, inviting friends and neighbours to church events without thinking twice. When we were walking around Keston ponds there was an abandoned raft that was made out of what looked like plywood floor boards. I remember it was winter and we had to get the plywood out of the ice. The wood was strapped to the top of the car and it was taken home. Dad worked on it and it became our trainset board that folded down onto my bed, a practical solution to space management in that I shared my bedroom with 2 brothers at the time.
Dad also had a strong work ethic, not only of hard work but also of the importance of career development. Dad always believed in people, that they were capable, and treated us as adults. By giving us opportunities to work for him. My brother Daniel said: ‘The opportunities I had as a child programming a ZX Spectrum and then using your Apple Mac doing CAD drawings and Excel Spreadsheets meant I had considerably more skills in computers than most adults at the age of 16. I didn't really realize how advanced I was compared to others till I started working. Your active encouragement helped shape many of the capabilities I have today and gave me confidence. Dad was a member of a committee in the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). He put my brothers Daniel and Gareth to work who wrote software to calculate Energy Demand on Buildings. This was then published by CIBSE.
Dad got me a computer to use at University. As this was back in the early 1990s it was an Amstrad computer. We did not know that before you moved it you had to park the hard-drive. So when Dad moved it to Bristol University, where I was studying it broke. Dad took the time to work out why it was not working and got it fixed. Alan Sugar for making computers like that – Your fired!
This encouragement in careers extended to all Dad had contact with, to quote a few lines from some of my friends and peers in letters to my Dad:
Jamie : ‘At one point, early on in my working life, when I was unsure about which direction to take, he found me a job surveying the heating systems in the British Museum. I learnt that helping someone, with no expectation of reward, is in itself the most rewarding. I also found out that so long as you put your mind to the task at hand, it is remarkable what you can achieve. This gave me the confidence to successfully adjust my career on a few occasions, and be adaptable in my working life.’
Charlie : ‘Alan gave me my first song writing job. He paid me sixty pounds. I got quite a few song writing jobs from him and it gave me real experience. He got me in to listening to talk tapes and gave me my first book on how to start my own business.’
Michael Hunt: ‘Alan told me to leave my brother-in-law’s business and go and find a real job – I’m pleased to report that advice was followed and all is well on that front.’
My Dad helped a lot of people, and over the last few months of my Dad’s illness we have had many letters from people that he helped over the years. These are all very touching and moving.
He had a creative approach to helping people, wouldn’t just ask if people needed help, would figure out a way he could help them. He helped a lot of people. And as children we would see him visiting others and helping others. He did this because he genuinely wanted to help.
Dad was frequently involved in youth and young single adult activities in church. I remember that when he was called as Bishop of Croydon 2nd Ward he took me to visit all the youth on the church records in the ward to invite them to be involved in church activities. Dad as Bishop was actively involved in the youth programme. We did roadshows which were like 25 minute plays that gave us all experience in acting, singing, dancing, scenery painting, costume making etc. We even won the roadshow competition one year which was an achievement as we were a small ward in the Stake.
We also built a 2 man Kayak as a project that was made of beautiful varnished wood with clear fibre glass joints. We kayaked in rivers and in the sea with it.
Dad would often take his children and friends to church dances and activities. As a parent of teenagers now I am beginning to appreciate the time that this takes. By actively being involved he knew what was going on and encouraged us to do wholesome activities. Dad was encouraging the youth of the church to build a positive peer group that supported and strengthened each other. Dad felt that being involved and joining the church when he was 16 was a pivotal moment in his life and wished to give others the same opportunity.
One young man wrote of my Dad ‘I remember my mother was worried about me one night as I hadn't come home from seeing this girl in Orpington and it was around 1am and all the buses had stopped and so she called my Bishop (Alan Carter) and there he was at around 1:30 driving up to Orpington to go and find me and he met me somewhere in Penge. This was before the night bus routes started. He didn't tell me off he simply smiled and told me to call my mother in future and or him if I got in to trouble again..... I made sure I also got the bus when dating that girl
I got in to trouble a couple of times and he told me off for skiving school and gave me a lecture about honesty and I never did it again.
He took me to an old ladies home with a bunch other young men and we cleared her garden and this kind of activity we did time and time again. I learned a lot about service because of him.
He took us into the woods near Selsdon and played all kind of games, throwing flour bombs and eggs at each other and I totally loved him for it.’
Dad would organise trips to Box Hill to do raft racing in the river Mole or climbing along a rope over the river. He was involved in many church camps and was a great organiser.
Dad arranged the borrowing of tents from the Inner London Education Authority for camps. When the Inner London Education Authority was closed by the government Dad got the tents rather than them being thrown away. These were used by the local church Scout group and other church camps. Dad acted as the church Scout Group Quartermaster looking after the tents and other camping equipment.
He organised youth Easter weekend trips to the Isle of Wight.
He put forward to church leaders that we could have a Young single Adult camp with the church unit from Paris in Normandy. This was successful and there was a camp the following year in Kent. There was a couple of weddings as a result of these activities. Sometimes Dad would get too carried away. When giving a talk to young single adults in church he said that swimming was an appropriate activity because you could ‘check out’ members of the opposite sex in their swimming costume. Dad later got a phone call that night from President Martin his church leader who had received a call from at least one lady that did not want to be checked out in a swim suit.
Alan was an exciting Dad to have.
Dad really liked his fishing, he did lots of sea fishing in Gibraltar and had a boat that had an unreliable engine. He was in his boat in Gibraltar Harbour when he saw a sailor looking quite miserable by the side of the dock. He asked him what was wrong. The sailor said that he had missed the jolly boat back to his ship. Dad asked him what ship he was on, when told it was HMS so and so and thinking it was in the harbour he said he would take the sailor to the ship. Dad turned around and the ship was not where he expected it to be in the Harbour. It was in ‘the cut’, which is outside the harbour and in disputed waters between the Gibraltar and Spain. Dad was worried the engine would stop and he would be blown onto the Spanish shore as the wind was blowing that way. This would mean he would be in trouble with Spanish Authorities as the border with Spain was closed and there was a lot of tension over Gibraltar’s sovereignty then. So he said to the sailor I will not be able to stop the boat because if I do it might not start again and I will be blown onto Spain. So he took his boat alongside the frigate and the sailor had to jump up to get his hands over the stern and pull himself onto his ship. As Dad sailed back the officer on duty acknowledged my Dad.
In holidays we would go fishing and have the excitement of climbing along steep slopes loaded down with fishing rods and gear to get to remote fishing marks.
Back in the UK Dad took up fly fishing, it helped him relax and he enjoyed the outdoors. Over the years he became quite a good fly fisherman. He even did a bit of Salmon fly fishing and then took course to become a fly fishing instructor. I remember fishing with my Dad in the summer on reservoirs such as Bewl Water in Kent. In the twilight bats would sometimes go after the artificial fly as you were casting. We still today have some frozen trout that Dad had caught when fishing locally to us. He would take some of his grandchildren fishing which they enjoyed. Dad enjoyed visiting Daniel in Seattle because of the good Salmon fishing there.
When I was small we would wrestle with my Dad on the lawn. We always enjoyed his company. Dad was really excited when I got my mission call to New Zealand. He got me a referral in Christchurch 12,000 miles away, it wasn’t just a name and address to check but a dinner appointment from a couple that were expecting us. As a good Mormon missionary my companion and I left our kind hosts with a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Dad was incredibly outgoing getting to know neighbours several doors away.
Dad really sucked the marrow out of life as he did so much. Whilst he passed away at the age of 69 he had achieved so much in his life. We will miss all his expressions, ‘Freak out’, ‘B-E-D’ (when sending his children to bed), ‘it’s not a problem it’s only a challenge’, ‘Isn’t it exciting!’
If he had any regrets it will be that he went in buildings with asbestos.
I am grateful to my Mum and Dad for being such great parents and we love them both greatly.
We are comforted by the knowledge that, ‘As in Adam all die, so shall in Christ all be made alive again,’. We will get to be together as a family again after this life.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.