The greatest tribute to Nigel is the presence of all of you here in church to give thanks for Nigel’s life and to remember all he did for our community life.
The Haigs and Rose Cottage are part of the essence of Cobham. Ned and Kath Haig, Nigel’s parents, and Nigel with his uncle Tom were church choir members when we sang under our choirmaster Cecil Butcher. I learnt to ring with John Gander and then like Nigel I could sing and ring.
At Edinburgh University Nigel sang and rang at St. Mary’s Cathedral and in Irvine, Scotland married Margaret in 1968. With their children Andrew and Judith the generations of Haigs and Rose Cottage were very much part of village life.
At Edinburgh University Nigel gained an Honours Degree in Physics and his Doctorate in Intensity Correlation Interferometry. And therein lies my difficulty. I always knew Nigel had a scientific mind way beyond my understanding for I know nothing about Physics and Interferometry has me baffled.
Nigel’s scientific 30 year full-time career, and with a 5 year consultancy, was with the Ministry of Defence at Fort Halstead, Sevenoaks and was a most distinguished and largely secret career. In 1981 he was given the rare distinction of the award of Individual Merit by other eminent scientists and appointed Senior Principal Scientific Officer.
The Merit award enabled Nigel to continue his pioneering work in the understanding of human vision and artificial intelligence and translating that into equipment systems.
His conception, design and development of these systems, particularly in the optical world, was of huge significance and I gather they have become part of our today’s world in civilian life as well.
It is good to know Nigel was always ready to mentor other scientific colleagues and help them solve the problems they were grappling with.
In 1985 Nigel was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.
I am so impressed to learn that Nigel published 90 scientific papers. For instance paper No. 72 is entitled ‘The psychometrically appropriate assessment of afocal optics by a computer-controlled system’. Gosh!
He registered 7 patents and inventions with a further 40 listed under Crown Record.
As I understand it by giving our forces advanced optical capabilities Nigel greatly enhanced their effectiveness in trying to keep the peace in our ever troubled world.
Adam Holloway, our Gravesham Member of Parliament and former Serviceman, was delighted to meet Nigel and discover that Nigel was the person who had invented the gun sight on the weapon Adam used while on active service. Jacques Arnold, a former M.P. here had also appreciated Nigel’s scientific expertise in fighting common causes for Cobham.
For Nigel sought to conserve the rural character of Cobham, amidst the pressures of the North Kent Corridor, as a place that all could value and enjoy in a crowded and busy world.
He was Governor of Cobham Primary School, a Trustee of the Meadow Room, and a particularly a member of Cobham Parish Council for 39 years.
With his demanding scientific career Nigel felt unable to give the time as Chairman of the Parish Council and served as Vice-Chairman alongside Alan Rowe and John Jackson but he did enjoy being Chairman of the Planning Committee for almost all of his 39 years of service.
The concept of a Michael Heseltine Linear City either side of the Thames, with major urbanisation and development, prompted Nigel to achieve the Cobham Conservation Area Map to maintain the character of the village.
In the 1980s the proposal for an army exercise area in Luddesdowne saw Nigel summon all his scientific knowledge against this environmentally devastating scheme. Forever is the legend remembered of Nigel on the lavatory at Rose Cottage as military vehicles rumbled by shaking the whole building. Nigel had set up a computer programme to record the vibrations. With all his scientific facts and figures marshalled the MOD retreated and the peace of Bowling Alley, Tom Lofts Hill, the church and village was saved.
In the 1990s the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill was before Parliament. Nigel appeared before the Committees of the Lords and Commons and in great detail gave carefully reasoned evidence supported by clear facts. Not all battles were won but Nigel had fought for our woodlands with factual reasoning.
A new road layout at the north end of Halfpence Lane required a new junction. Nigel insisted a roundabout was the only and best solution.
Issues in Parish Council affairs can be protracted. Flooding at Sweeps Hole Pond engendered numerous letters from Nigel to Engineering Services at Gravesham Borough Council containing many measured rainfall and cubic capacity statistics. Eventually the problem was solved.
In Cobham flooding at Rookery Corner was resolved and drainage in the village was improved when a pavement and traffic calming measures were put in. Nigel was deeply involved in the detailed design calculations of all.
Parish Councillors do devote so much time to many matters on our behalf. Some issues are small but important and demands for housing and new transport schemes are large and ever present. The work continues.
And always Nigel enjoyed tinkering with cars and restoring vintage tractors which he showed at the Kent Show.
Choral singing remained a joy; singing with the Marlowe Singers and Gravesham Choral Society.
Nigel loved flying. With his expertise and as an eyewitness he could give detailed evidence in 1984 following the accident when two planes crashed killing both pilots who were taking part in the Rochester Air Race. One plane came down across The Street and the other south of the village. With other eyewitnesses and his technical expertise Nigel helped the Civil Aviation Authority investigate the tragedy, which might have been very tragic for Cobham too.
With his passion for flying Nigel enjoyed many flights with friends including Will Pye and then Nigel gained his National Private Pilot’s License. I loved to hear of his latest adventure flying over the South-East.
Nigel resumed bell ringing in 1998 when he retired from full-time employment. He enjoyed advanced ringing at Meopham and, with Margaret, joining their annual dinners and ringing outings.
Here at Cobham he was a much valued member of our band of ringers and is recorded in our Tower Book as ringing many Quarter Peals for various special occasions.
In more recent times health difficulties forced Nigel to give up most of his interests. But he would never give up his ringing at Cobham. With stoic courage he climbed the tower’s stone spiral staircase to the ringing room and then have 5 minutes to recover his breath. With Nigel taking hold of the rope of the second bell we were underway with the band ringing for Sunday Services, Weddings and the Wednesday practices.
As usual, Nigel rang with us on Palm Sunday and died just a fortnight later.
On Sunday evening we rang a Quarter Peal of Stedman Doubles for Nigel as we know he would have wished. Margaret and all the family were in the churchyard when we came down the tower and it was so good to know they had very much appreciated the ringing.
We shall all miss Nigel and none more so than Margaret, and Andrew and Angela and they son Charles, and Judith and Dan and their daughter Arya and not forgetting Charlie the dog, who is a friend to all in the village, especially if they happen to have a dog-biscuit. And Arthur and Jill Beety and John and Yvonne Gander have been especial good friends and supports. Nigel you are missed.
Our bells are nigh on 400 years old and today are having a special day. With the flag flying on the church tower for The Queen and for Nigel we rang a Quarter Peal this morning for Her Majesty on The Queen’s 90th Birthday.
Before this Service for Nigel all Nigel’s friends have been ringing the bells in thanksgiving for Nigel’s life.
After the Private Committal in the lower Churchyard the bells will be rung again in celebration of Nigel’s life as we make our way to the Meadow Rooms for a most welcome cup of tea.
Thoughts will be running through our minds. There is relief perhaps that now Nigel is free of all the pain and difficulties of an illness that was forcing him to withdraw from his many cherished activities.
At this season of Eastertide of great Christian hope I shall be imagining Nigel, possibly with a cheese sandwich in his pocket,
driving vintage tractors across verdant fields,
flying aeroplanes through azure skies,
singing with heavenly hosts and
ringing a myriad of golden bells.