September 2014 & the months that followed has been a heartbreaking time for us at FreshFields, as our head gardener Ian, suffered a massive heart attack and died suddenly at home, aged just 50. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family.
Ian was a huge part of life at FreshFields, he always had some madcap idea to keep life fun. When Ian’s family asked me to say a few words at his funeral, I was extremely honoured and at he same time, a tiny bit scared, but I had to do my friend proud. I decided to do it in the style of Ian, wearing a pair of oversized joke sunglasses, which gave everyone a giggle. And although Ian’s funeral was held on the 24th September, this post comes to you much later, now I feel able to talk more.
This is my tribute to Ian, friend, colleague, confidant. Goodbye my friend, see you on the other side.
“Ian would often tell me he was a legend, and he had newspaper cuttings to prove it. I would reply are you sure they don’t say leg end?
He often thanked some divine intervention for his accident, as it gave him a new direction in his life and brought him to Fresh Fields. But it nearly didn’t happen, he sat outside for an hour and a half, he didn’t think it was for him. But once inside – he was hooked.
He was fiercely protective of our guys and immensely proud of all their achievements, no matter how small. And many of those achievements were down to Ian’s imaginative and creative approach. He was always dreaming up new ways to interact with, and support people with different abilities. And he would keep trying until he had a break through, he never gave up.
When Ian went on holiday the anticipation and excitement on his return could only be described as Bedlam. Everyone had something they wanted to tell him and usually all at the same time.
After one return I remember saying to him, you must know by this how much you mean to everyone and are missed. He said he felt the same way, always looking forward to getting back, he missed seeing everyone and hearing about what we’d been up to. Like a big extended family.
Ian was a huge part of all our lives at Fresh fields and we all have our own memories whether he was singing and dancing, usually through the megaphone, the daft games he’d dream up, Ian the hairdresser, Ian the Doctor, when he built a go-cart and raced it down the hill. When he lost his front teeth, when he fell through the hedge, when he played his mouth organ in the style of Morecambe and Wise, all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order! The time he was mistaken for American film star Walter White and he became a celebrity. And who can forget Mr. Blobby’s alter ego at the Christmas parties.
Ian was a talented gardener and loved creating and tending gardens for people, the pride in his work showed through. The Bike club was his pride and joy and he loved seeing everyone beat his weekly assault course, no matter how difficult he made it. The Kirkbride cup awarded to the most improved cyclist is a tribute to him.
As well as gardening he also taught us other valuable skills; on a fishing trip many of us caught our first fish with his help, myself included. He tied up a washing line and taught everyone to skip, to the tune of T-Rex’s “I love to boogie” and Skip-diving comes to mind. He could seek out skips at 20 paces. He was always looking to make something from things people threw away. He’d be immensely proud of my allotment fencing.
We’d argue, he’d say I was too fussy, I would say he was too slapdash, but we always managed to meet in the middle. He was never serious, always the joker, larger than life, daft as a brush and nutty as a fruitcake. And generous, he always had treats about his person, except chocolate, he never shared chocolate!
He was and is everything that is Fresh fields; Life is fun when you live it with friends.
I can honestly say that these years working alongside Ian, someone who shared my passion, building up Fresh fields to what it is today have been the best.
No, Ian was never a leg end but will always be a Legend.”