A Tribute to Lawrence Whalley RIP




This page is dedicated to Lawrence Whalley (Joe's 1954-1964). These are the tributes paid by those who knew him.

Contribute by Denis Wormall (son-in-law) as read our at the funeral.
It is lovely to see everyone here today. Lawrence loved a gathering and he would have been delighted to see so many people here. He will of course be disappointed not to be able to ‘hold court’ himself and to reflect on his life and achievements to his friends and family. Sadly, he can’t. nor would we perhaps have the time for his verbal ornamentation! So, as a fellow Lancastrian and relative through marriage, I will try to do him justice in telling his story. Please Forgive my nervousness, I’M not used to speaking like this. But, being married to one of Lawrence's three very chatty daughters, it gives me a great opportunity to see if my mouth still actually works.

On 12 March 1946 Lawrence was born, in Blackpool, to proud parents James and Florence. He was a new baby brother for Tony, Kate and Louise – and three years later would become an elder brother to Carol. As a child he apparently spoke so quickly that his father would say to his sister Louise ‘what does Horace say?’ and she would translate. They were so concerned that they took him to a speech therapist and were told that his brain was operating faster than his mouth! It was like having a 50cc mouth powered by a 6-litre brain! Over the next 75 years though, we all know that his brain was eventually furnished with a mouth that caught up.

Those who know Lawrence recognise that he liked to challenge and test people. Even as a child he would thrive in mischief. So much so that he was given the nickname ‘Dick Turpin’ by his Nana and Auntie Renee. His mischievous nature also resulted in him going missing from home at the age of four and being found by the police in Stanley Park feeding the ducks. Even at such a young age he was able to remember and navigate the complicated route from home to the park. This love of travel, adventure and task never left him over the following 74 years.

Another journey started exactly seventy years ago this year, when in 1954, he began his academic journey at St Joseph’s College in Blackpool, where he was taught by the Catholic brothers and where he made some lifelong friendships. He attended the ‘old boys’ reunion dinner just a few weeks ago after which he came to visit Amanda and me. He was in great form and left our house giggling with delight as he’d asked me if I had ever won an argument with his daughter – and I of course had to answer that I hadn’t. He recently wrote a memoir for the school website. Its insightful to hear Lawrence recount his first day at school as it describes the person we know and love and shows that he sometimes just couldn’t help himself! He wrote - ‘Brother Dolan had brought me into the class on my first day and introduced me. “What are you doing now?” Dolan had asked the teacher of the class. “Roman invasion of Britain” said the teacher. “Do you know when the Romans invaded Britain?” Brother Dolan asked me. “For the first or the second time?” I had replied. From day one I became a known as smart aleck.

Lawrence's mother died when he was just 14 years old and it impacted him throughout his life. In those days there was no counselling and, like with the heavy-handed discipline dished out by the Catholic brothers, things in 1960 just weren’t talked about. In his school memoir he described his mother as having an astute, inquiring mind and that she was gregarious and emotional. Florence was always immensely proud of Lawrence’s academic achievements and would reward him with meals out in smart restaurants when he won school prizes (which he did often). Maybe that’s why he always enjoyed going out for dinner so much – and especially so if it was someone else’s treat.

His father was an engineer and as well as gifting Lawrence Roget's Thesaurus for his 11th birthday and Ingenious Mechanisms and Devices for his 12th. He introduced him to science, to writers, to poets and to the importance of public speaking. In Lawrence's own words from his memoir he says “His tutelage is a likely foundation of my academic success - perhaps it was his engineer’s approach to puzzle solving - but he was certain that I should never be intimidated by a problem. His example suggested that I should likewise not be intimidated by people.” Taking heed of this I don’t think Lawrence was ever intimidated by anything or anyone. Except perhaps his three daughters.

His mother and father played a huge role in shaping the person he was. He was inquiring and gregarious like his mother and he was knowledgeable and driven like his father. He even intended to follow his father and elder brother into an engineering profession, until one day sitting outside a career office at school he saw a teacher beam with pride at the fact a fellow student had said he wanted to be a doctor. This made Lawrence decide in that moment that he too would do the same if it brought such adulation. So after his ‘A’ level results were celebrated at the Thatched House in Poulton-le-Fylde with four pints of Boddington's bitter (twice his previous record) he felt well prepared for the Toon and sixty years ago this year he embarked on his journey to study Medicine at Newcastle University.

Newcastle was great for Lawrence – it’s a city that is a good match for town and gown – and during his 5 years at medical school - he fell in love... and love is a very deep hole… with Newcastle united football club! His love for the Magpies however was surpassed by that for a young teaching undergraduate called Patricia. They were married in Newcastle in 1968 and Lawrence missed the birth of his first daughter Charlotte the following year as he was at his graduation ceremony. Not to worry though – daughters are apparently like buses – and sure enough within 3 years there were three of them. Three daughters born eighteen months apart in three different cities - Newcastle, Oxford & Edinburgh. Lawrence and Patricia had introduced girl power to the world 20 years before the Spice Girls. Elizabeth was Baby Spice, Amanda was Sporty Spice and Charlotte – Posh, Ginger or Scary – for those who know her – you choose! Mischievous Lawrence was still there though. When my wife, his middle daughter, Amanda was born, she was to be christened Amanda Sophie Whalley. But Lawrence on going to the Registry Office to register the birth decided to add a third forename ‘Clementine’ without Patricia even knowing. Well Lawrence I have news. Amanda has waited 53 years for payback, and you may find that the death certificate she registered last week says, ‘Lawrence Jeffrey Horace Dick Turpin Whalley’!

Having three girls so close in age and with the remarkable ability to be able to all talk and listen at the same time meant that on the long car journeys to France – there was often more fallout than Chernobyl in the back of the car.  There would always be one of them storming off when they stopped for a break and refusing to get back in the car. These holiday trips were legendary with Lawrence driving as fast as he could over small hills on country roads so that the untethered siblings would fly off their seats - a thrill ride without the unnecessary expense of a going to a theme park! Lawrence always came up with unique and inventive ways to keep the girls amused. Whilst shopping he would get each daughter to grab her own shopping basket and fill in it with anything, they wanted off the shelves. then leave the three overflowing baskets on the floor by the tills whilst he paid for the real shopping. This stunt did however get him barred from Boots in Morningside, much to the annoyance of Patricia, as they lost the 20% discount offered to medical professionals.

On seeing an impressive climbing frame in Mothercare, Lawrence decided that he could make something better. Now, Lawrence might have had a brain the size of a planet, but DIY was not really his forte. He could have hosted his own TV show called DIY Disasters. With Lawrence B&Q stood for banging and quitting and MFI was made for idiots! Regardless of this he Built a contraption for the girls - part climbing frame part pyramids of Giza – that filled a whole room. It was made from plywood and discarded shelving and was sanded and varnished so much that the girls could easily get to warp speed before reaching the bottom of the slide. It was like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for the neighbourhood children and Lawrence was as pleased as punch. Less so Patricia, who ended up have to mind all the kids on the street.

His 1970s approach to parenting involved staples such as – soft drinks on the back seat of the car & splitting a Mars bar into three for the girls whilst he and Patricia were in the pub.Trips to casualty for Elizabeth as Lawrence would leave Charlotte and Mandy in charge of her welfare whilst he messed about in his allotment. Taking the three girls dressed in their nurses’ uniforms to hospital with him so that they could feed lunch to psychiatric patients. And embarrassing the girls by interviewing and teasing any interested young men who came by the house whilst at the same time blasting out opera over the loudspeakers.

Lawrence’s idiosyncrasies made him who he was. He would sometimes appear unaware or uncaring as to how he may come across to mere mortals. His brain was the size of a planet and it could sometimes appear that the planet wasn’t the one we inhabit. Whilst walking in the Braids with his dogs, he would happily cross the golf course in front of bemused golfers who he would disarm by stopping and chatting to them. He knew full well that he had annoyed them and yet seemed to enjoy the moment.

Lawrence’s love for nature and the outdoors lives on through Charlotte, his love of sport, music and cooking survives in Amanda, and his love of travel and art through Elizabeth. He helped to make each of them strong individuals, with big personalities, and they have all become proud parents themselves. Their partners are an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman – there is a joke there somewhere! And they each have two children - one boy and one girl – so a perfect sample research group! For the always curious Professor Whalley. He was so proud of his six grandchildren – James, Anna, Alex, Mackenzie, Oisin and Erin. It is sad that he won’t get to see them make their own way in the world, but I’m sure he will be watching from above and still hoping that there is a doctor in there somewhere – no pressure Erin!

He was always on the end of the phone when anyone had any questions or medical queries. Latterly my wife took to ringing him up to ask about complicated physics and the universe. Ever the pragmatist – when she asked him what happened before the Big Bang – he said that science could only go so far – so he could not discount the existence of a creator. Those who use Wikipedia might not know that wiki is an acronym for ‘what I know is’ and it can be populated by anyone and everyone. Well the family didn’t need Google or Wiki because they had Lawrence – he was an always available ‘Whalley-pedia’ who loved the challenge of a good question.

Lawrence latterly spent a lot of time in Spain where he would take a villa for long winter stays near to where Joe & Carol and Amanda and I have houses. He collected new friends in Spain the way that he had done before in Blackpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and his life-long lust for learning continued here where he was active in the University of the Third Age, creative writing groups, learning Spanish and painting.

I believe in Steven Coveys great mantra for life - ‘Live, love, learn and leave a legacy’. Live. Well Lawrence certainly did this to the full – he poured himself into life - sometimes forgetting to say ‘when’! Love. He loved and was loved. loved by family, friends, colleagues and pets. And he loved life. Learning. He never ever stopped. his thirst for knowledge was absolutely unquenchable. And what a legacy. His books and academic papers, his art and writings, his children and grandchildren, there is a Lawrence shaped hole in all of our lives today.

He had six grandchildren
He was one of five siblings
He had four dogs
And three daughters
He had two families with Patricia and Helen
But like a chant from St James Park the football ground his flat overlooked as a student …
There is only one Lawrence Jeffery Whalley

He will take his final journey today from here to Rosslyn Chapel where he will be laid to rest next to the proud Scot and scholar of history – John Ritchie. I’m sure they will get on well together – Lawrence was always someone you’d like to sit beside. His full title was Professor Lawrence Whalley MD DPM FRCP(E) FRCPsych – three more letters will be added today – R.I.P.

Lawrence. You will forever be in our thoughts, our heart and our prayers. May you truly rest in peace.



Daughters’ Loss  By Charlotte Sleigh 9th May 2024

Dad, our hearts are broken into two the day we realised we had lost you.
Will our aching hearts ever mend as our emotions start to form and blend?

A sudden death is hard to bear, the aching loss is so unfair.
With a character so colourful, bold and strong, simply to us you could do no wrong.

We know Dad you will always be here, as your DNA flows and twists through our hair.
Your sight will be our eyes: you will still see the mountain peaks, the crisp clear waters of the Tweed; you will still feel the sand beneath our feet;

We will still taste your favourite, fine, red wine as our memories of your legendary dinner and garden parties disperse within time.

You will still smell the roses that are so strong and simply just linger on; and you will still hear through us your favourite birds in song.

Your brainpower, your artist’s hand was simply the best in the land, our treasured, well-written and thought-out letters, paintings, the attention to detail with everything you touched was second to none; we truly belief you were the chosen one.

You have left a legacy of excellence behind with ground-breaking research fully utilised by mankind.

Now we know your time on earth has come to an end as your next onward journey will soon start to ascend.

Towards the midnight sky you will fly, waving back down, speaking softly not to cry, “Look, I am still with you all, go forward my darling loved ones and make me proud – it is your turn to stand tall in the crowd, treasure each hour of the day, make it count, be kind, work hard, achieve all your dreams, love and play.”

But we know we have to let you go and we have comfort that your spirit has lifted from your body at night as your twelve beautiful white swans gently lift you for your flight and guide you through the starry night.

Across land and sea, you will fly with your soul reaching up to the sky begging God to let you in, release your fears and forgive your sins. Waiting at heaven’s gates with open arms and wagging tails, all your four-legged friends, Louise your sister with your father and mother – and there, Dad you will stay until the day that we all fly with our final resting place by your side.


Contribute by Paul Ryan (Joe's 1957-1964)
Lawrence and I were in the same year at Saint Joseph’s, though when I joined in 1957 he had already been there for three years. He was a day boy, I was a boarder. I started off in the B stream, and he was (I would guess) already in the A stream. He did the science options at A Levels, I did the arts ones. We both went on to academic careers.
Anyway, we can’t have crossed paths all that often at school. Neither of us could recall doing so early on – though Lawrence did insist on the patchiness and unreliability of memory, especially in old age, and he had the research experience and self-awareness to insist on it.
We met again at an Old Boys dinner some time ago, after he had done the longitudinal analysis of the Aberdeen 1921 birth cohort and published his book on the ageing brain.
We reminisced about having converged at the St Patrick’s Day dance in the Tower Ballroom in 1962, when we were coming up to O-Levels. The school exceptionally let us boarders (or perhaps just members of the Irish dance group) out for the evening. We roamed the balconies fruitlessly, to find and chat up the two Irish maids who worked in the boarders’ kitchen – girls hardly any older than we were – and that got us into serious trouble. The headmaster (Brother O’Carroll) punished Lawrence initially with expulsion, reduced subsequently to exclusion from all but classes and studies – still a severe penalty, given Lawrence’s liking for sports and his sociability. The punishment was later reduced, but only slowly and reluctantly.
I must have got away with it myself at the time – whatever ‘it’ was – but, after lights out three months later, the head gave me six of the best on the rear end and threatened me with expulsion, for having sneaked out of school to meet one of the maids and see an Elvis film, only to be spotted sitting with her afterwards in the bus shelter in Devonshire Square.
The effect on our personal development of being buried at that age by an official ton of bricks is, as Lawrence would have insisted, for others to determine.
Nevertheless we both did well at school – in terms of exam results at least – despite poor teaching in several subjects. I attribute Lawrence’s success to his restless, enquiring qualities: always posing questions and challenging the listener. He remembered the teaching by the brothers as poor, but praised some lay teachers, notably Mr Freeborough and Mr Johns, for good teaching and for having treated us kids decently.
I am lucky to have experienced in recent years Lawrence’s kindness, liveliness and humour, notably during a visit to his winter retreat near Alicante. He relished the trip to and from Edinburgh, which involved driving his Jaguar and taking the Santander ferry.

If you would like to add your tribute, please email me at jvward2003@yahoo.com


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