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Sir Cosmo Haskard: Son’s Eulogy


We believe that members of the Association will be interested to read this eulogy of Sir Cosmo Haskard, a notable Governor of the Falkland Islands and one of our Vice-Presidents. It was delivered at Sir Cosmo’s funeral at the Church of St Brendan the Navigator in Bantry, Co. Cork on 28 February 2017 by his son Julian Haskard. 

Dad, I stand here before you and many people whose lives you touched in an attempt to share some of my thoughts and memories that marked your life and those closest to you. 

Born during the middle of the First World War, in Dublin, on 25 November 1916, 100 years and 3 months before passing peacefully away at home at Tragariff a week ago. Dad’s mother, Alicia Hutchins of Ardnagashel, West Cork was in a Dublin nursing home in Lower Baggot Street during the latter part of her pregnancy, not uncommon at the time especially as Dad’s father, Dugal Haskard, was away in the Flanders trenches. Shortly after his birth Dad was brought back home to West Cork. 

Dad led an adventurous, selfless, generous and long life. As a young boy he found himself following his father to China during the war-lord period. He went to school there until the age of 12 when he was sent to boarding school in Cheltenham in England. He did not see his family for some time, but was looked after during holidays by extended relations in various parts of England. Latterly when his father moved back to Ireland and built Tragariff, our family home, he spent his final school holidays here travelling back and forth by train from Bantry to Cork and then by steamer.

When he left school his single ambition was to join the army. He attended two years at Sandhurst, but at the final hurdle, having secured second place, he failed to pass an acceptance medical. Bitterly disappointed he moved on to his second choice which was to study modern languages. He was accepted into Cambridge University, Pembroke College. There he became proficient in German. During his Cambridge years he spent time with an Austrian family polishing his accent. It was an historic period to be visiting, that part of the world, back in 1938 with the rise of Nazi Germany. 

In 1939, when war broke out in Europe yet again, the army conveniently overlooked Dad’s medical record and he joined up, along with many of his contemporaries. He found himself during the war years in Africa and Burma. Two of the medals you see on his coffin are from those two theatres. Needless to say, perhaps fortunately, he never had much use for his German! Japanese perhaps would have been more use? 

After the war Dad had a 10 month long respite back here in Bantry. He planted many of the trees, along with his father, at Tragariff at that time and was an active member of the local sailing community and enjoyed walking in our beautiful local hills even attempting to catch elusive wild trout and bag some bog land woodcock. 

Then came Africa again. this time as a civilian, employed by the Colonial Service and posted to Nyasaland, now known as Malawi. Dad started as a District Commissioner and then became Provincial Commissioner of the Northern Province, based in the modest regional centre of Mzuzu. He was known in the local Chinyanja language at which he was proficient as Laza Wawa (lightning strikes) through his ability to get things done. Dad eventually found himself in a Secretariat role and at the age of 40 he met his wife to be and my mother, here with us today. Theirs was a whirlwind romance. Engaged within no time at all, on the slopes of Malanji Mountain (they never reached the top), the third time of meeting in fact, Dad’s life changed thereafter! That was in 1957, 60 years ago. 

In 1964 in a total change of environment form the warm heart of Africa, Dad was posted to the remote South Atlantic as Governor and Commander in Chief of the Falkland Islands and British Antarctic Territories. He, my mother and I spent the next 6 years there. Dad loved the Islands, the Islanders and the unique wildlife and being allowed in the main part to just get on with his job with relatively little interference from London (the apple does not fall far from the tree on that one!). Back then not so many people were aware of Falkland Islands as the well documented war with Argentina had not yet occurred. Dad was, however, a staunch supporter of the Islanders wish to remain British and not have their sovereignty ceded to Argentina, a topic which was at the fore of British government policy even in the mid-60s. During his time there he was also involved in supporting the rescue and subsequent restoration of the SS Great Britain, a magnificent iron sailing and steam powered ship designed and built by Isambard Brunel which now lies in her original dock where she was built in Bristol in 1843. 

He is remembered fondly in the Falkland Islands until this day, for being such a supporter of the Islanders themselves. Indeed today the flags in the Falkland Islands are flying at half-mast in honour of his life and contribution to that far away community. 

In 1970, as was customary back then, Dad retired from the Colonial Service and via a brief period in England he returned back to his roots in 1972 in his beloved West Cork and Tragariff. Since returning home he has been involved with the Alfred Beit Trust, distributing focused funding and support to well researched and deserving causes like schools, hospitals and game reserves in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Dad decided he’d best hand over the ropes to younger trustees when he turned 90! 

On return home, as Canon Paul Willoughby mentioned in last night’s service, Dad was also an active member of the Diocesan Council. Often defending the continuance of small churches like Glengariff and Snave. 

 I will always remember my father as a highly principled and exemplary man. He was always interested in everyone he met, it mattered not to him about who that person was, how old he or she was, how well educated or otherwise that person was, what culture of background that person had, what career or job that person was engaged in. He was always just genuinely interested in them, asking questions and parting with a smile. He had a great smile. 

Dad was a wonderful correspondent, with beautifully hand written letters in ink, he used to prefer an old fashioned dip pen with a distinctive style. Alternatively he typed letters (on an Imperial portable typewriter) both spelling and punctuation perfect, with no Tippex! He could say in one page of writing with pinpoint accuracy what would take others twice or more as long to describe, often with less precision. I would have loved it if he had written a book about his life, but I think he was too modest for that. 

Dad loved nature, delighting in all flora and fauna wherever in the world he found himself. From the Antarctic to West Cork and many places in between. He also had a deep love and knowledge of nature in this local area. He planted many trees in his life and now Tragariff has become somewhat of a nature reserve with red squirrels, otters, deer, pheasant, woodcock, herons to mention but a few. 

He was a knowledgeable local historian, also enjoying geography, geology and archaeology. Something he would relish whilst out walking the local hills both as a younger man and later in life. He would share this knowledge as a father and later still as a grandfather into his early 90s, always with an alpenstock in hand (one of those sticks with a metal pointed tip) which he’d use to point of features of interest or a small plant. Going for a drive or a sail with Dad was always a knowledge enriching experience. 

Dad was a loving husband for my mother and welcoming father in law for my Australian wife. 

He loved his record keeping of local weather, measuring rainfall and maximum and minimum temperatures every day, without fail. 

He was one of life’s most optimistic and engaging of men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. 

I have the benefit of him having been my father and an enduring role model to follow for myself and his three grandsons, all of us gathered here together today. 

In the end he passed away with deep courage, accepting his fate and being at peace with the world.

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