Bernard Wigginton : A Remarkable Gentleman
Bernard Wigginton (May 1945 – August 2018) was well-known throughout the arts scene in Richmond upon Thames, as a bedrock supporter to the full gamut of performing and visual arts, a cause to which his whole life was dedicated. He is particularly remembered in Mark Aspen Reviews as the occasional classical music and opera reviewer, William Vine.
Sadly, Bernard died on 21st August, aged 73, following a battle with spinal cancer, which was borne bravely and with great fortitude. His funeral on 3rd September filled the chapel at the South West Middlesex Crematorium, a “capacity audience” as Bernard as a theatre buff would have said.
Separate eulogies all independently touched on three aspects of Bernard’s character, his erudition, his modesty and his stoicism. These tributes extolled his wide knowledge of the arts. Theatre, music and opera, art and photography, architecture and local history were all mentioned.
Bernard had been a Judge for the Swan Awards (the local Oscars) for many years. He was Secretary of OHADS, a dramatic society in which he had been active for more than six decades, as an Old Hamptonian and from the his time at Hampton Grammar School. An Old Hamptonians’ journal of 1965 mentions two previous stalwarts of the school’s own dramatic society, Bernard, who was then completing with modern languages degree at Oriel College, Oxford, and Brian May, then reading physics at Imperial College*. He was also an active member of Teddington Theatre Club. In 2015, Bernard was awarded the prestigious Swan Accolade, the lifetime achievement award for services to drama in Richmond.
Bernard was involved with many local arts organisations including Arts Richmond, the Richmond Concert Society, Richmond Heritage Guides (where he was a local “Blue Badge” guide) and the Richmond Talking Newspaper (for which he was the Honorary Secretary for many years).
Bernard was a great linguist and intrepid traveller. He would often take off on ad-hoc journeys in an old car, which led not only to numerous adventures, but to beautiful portfolios of photographic insights into the places he visited.
However, the greatest love of Bernard’s live was horticulture, which is lastingly manifest in his garden at Cranmer Road, which has been the centrepiece of the National Garden Scheme’s noted Hampton gardens. Here he transformed a Second World War air-raid shelter into rockery and water cascade, which is surrounded with a superabundance of herbaceous and exotic borders. At his funeral, a letter from Lynda Benson, his co-designer and assistant in the continuous creation of the garden, was read out. It is a touching memorial to Bernard love of beauty.
Bernard Wigginton will stay in the memory of Richmond’s lovers of the arts as a truly remarkable gentleman.
*The journal’s editor remarks rather snottily on the latter: In spite of all the emphasis on [his university physics course], May still finds time to play with a semi-professional “Group”.
Read Keith Wait’s funeral eulogy at www.markaspen.wordpress.com/our-reviewers/bernard-wigginton
Photography by Jo Grinbergs