I have here a letter which Lord Fitzwilliam gave to Brian some years ago, and with the letter is a copy of a grant of land made to William Sharpe and Alice, his wife in Castor in 1351. This fact, I think reminds us of so much about Brian. – that he was a man with deep roots in this village; that his family have farmed here for centuries; that his father was Churchwarden here; that his own son, Paul, is living in the house where Brian was himself born 68 years ago; that he was a traditional country-man, who loved shooting, the life of this village, its people, and the social life of the village pub –it is not a surprise to know that he was at various stages when younger a bell-ringer and a cricketer. Nor is it a surprise to know, that like many farmers of his generation, he was a brilliant craftsman, clever with his hands, able to turn his hand to anything, strip down a tractor and rebuild it, or restore the churchyard wall, as he did with Bernard Freeman. He was an outside man, practical, he enjoyed his farming, his gardening his pots and hard work.

     When he left school, he became an apprentice mechanic, but by the time he was 20 he was farming with his father Len Sharpe. And he was a good farmer, as the trophies and awards on the Kyneswitha Altar can show- prizes for his malting barley. By this time he had met and married Chris, he was farming with his father, and here were born in 1961, son Paul, and in 1973 daughter Liz.

     Life was not always easy for Brian. His mother died while he was young, and he was lucky, as a mischievous boy, with a lively sense of humour, to have two loving sisters, Vera and Barbara to look after him as a child. And there is a sense in which he was always doing things for other people rather than for himself. Because he would drop anything to help out. Brian did not wear his heart or his faith on his sleeve; he showed his affection in a gruff cheerful country way by doing things for people. But he had many good friends and many connections in the village; people like Jim Wood and Gladdy with whom he shared farming interest; and by coincidence Gladdy’s son Richard now works with Paul.

     In one of our readings we heard about wiping away tears from all faces. About 13 years ago, Brian embarked a new phase in his life, and cheering up those who were ill was to an important part of it. He started work at Thorpe Hall during its refurbishment as a Sue Ryder Hospice, and after its completion, he was invited to stay on – originally as the maintenance man, but from my visits there, and listening to others, there seemed to be nothing he did not do. The work at Thorpe hall was important to him, and deeply satisfying for him. Quite simply he loved it there. He was the only person interviewed by Lady Ryder, and he met there Princess Diana, and the D of Gloucester.

Call me by my old familiar name we heard in Mandy’s reading; he had so many, but one was Linnet because of his whistling. As one person wrote he gave the place life, with his whistling and his cheerful greeting with time to talk with anybody. And the way he went about his work was attractive because it was unselfconscious, that’s just the way he was. The Deputy Matron wrote “irreplaceable, wonderful, special friend Brain”. Someone else wrote, that he made people smile with his cheeriness, his chatter, his whistling and his warm heart- and also of course the cap. Someone else wrote that he will be remembered with fondness, good with the banter, a lovely man, he’ll make some angel. Because in his own way he was a sort of angel, with a very earthy humanity too. Hospices like Thorpe Hall are demanding places in which to work. Brian having been in the first part of his life a shepherd of sheep, was now helping others care for people, a different sort of pastoring.

But now of course we are commending him in his turn to the loving care of another shepherd. We are rightly sad; sad at the end of the life of that good, decent straightforward man, and shocked at its suddenness. For this our hearts go out to Chris, Paul, Liz, Vera and Barbara, and Samantha, for Brian was also a loving and doting Grandfather. But while sad, we are not without hope. As someone wrote: “he’s made it over the finishing line”, but this is not the end of him. We commend Brian today to the care of the Good Shepherd, who loves us all, who knows us, even if we do not know him, and who, in accepting us, redeems us with all our faults and our humanity – for we after all are the works of his hand as much as the rest of the world. The same Lord Jesus who actively searches for sheep that are lost and will gather us all into his flock in our turn. Today, as we say goodbye we entrust Brian to the care of the Good Shepherd, and his family in our prayers to his love and comfort.



Brian; may you rest in peace – Amen