Published on Wednesday 10th March, 2010 by Celtic Trust
I would like to say I am honoured that Irene has asked me to say a few words about Peter. I hope I do him justice in doing so, because as Rabbie Burns would have it “ I loved him like a very brither”. A friendship that formed from “sitting bousing at the nappy and getting fou and uncou happy” but grew to much more than that. Peter, was a good man, as Father Rooney and Eddie have already given testimony too but he was no Saint. Indeed he would be embarrassed if we tried to portray him as such. I trust that all of us here know that he was at times mischievous, loving a good argument and would even go in search of one. He was however a remarkably special man to those who knew and loved him. To many people he would have seemed an ordinary man and in many ways he was, he loved being a family man, going to the football and so on but that does not mean his life was uninteresting, in fact Mark Twain opined that an uninteresting life is an impossibility. Inside the dullest of exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy. What Mark missed from this was a love story. All of these are captured in the life of Peter Carr and Peter’s life was far from dull, to his friends and family his star shone the brightest of all. Father Rooney & Eddie have already given you a picture of Peter’s working and personal life so I will not try to go over that timeline again, but instead give you a personal memory of Peter. If I were to sum up Peter in three words, I would probably say Passion, Passion, Passion. He was passionate about his family and friends, passionate about his socialist beliefs and values, passionate about overcoming injustice, passionate about his fitness and in particular his running and cycling and passionate about Glasgow Celtic Football Club. I think this passion came from the fact that he may have been born a Glaswegian, which he was proud of, but his heart was forever Irish, indeed a heart centred in the village of Glencolumbkille in Donegal where his father was born.
If I was to analyse Mark Twain’s description of life I would say that the dominant one for Peter was comedy, in that life with Peter was full of fun. His personal maxim was that he wanted to spread a bit of joy and happiness. He did that in spades. When I first met Peter some twenty five years ago or so I was fully absorbed by his love of life and his generosity of spirit. He had fire in his belly, mischief in his eyes, but a grin and a smile and a laugh that lit up any company. At times this would nearly get us into trouble. There was always the point of an even when you would get the Peter moment. Peter, when we maybe had partaken in one too many black sherberts had a fondness for literally picking up people and burling them around in a whirl before putting them back down. Sometimes this knocked over glasses or the recipient of Peter’s Glesga hug wasn’t too appreciative of the gesture. At times I thought this would result in blows being exchanged and to be frank neither of us could afford to being made any less handsome than we already were. More often than not Peter would disarm the situation with his smile and laugh and his rebuke to me afterwards would be, “Davie, where’s your sense of adventure.” He also loved an argument and would sometimes argue long into the night with whoever he was with. We even had an argument with Vince because Vince had decided upon the rules of argument. Peter as was ever the case would not be bound by such trivialities as rules. However you could not stay angry with Peter for long, that generosity of spirit refused to let a minor disagreement become anything worse. Peter had the biggest heart of a man that I have ever known. He was always trying to surprise you with thoughtful unexpected gifts. I’m sure many of us in here were recipients of his kindness. When not dispensing gifts he would be buying champagne for the company, celebrating something or another. On one occasion when in our city centre social club by the Clyde, “The Clutha Vaults”, Peter was celebrating, probably because it was a Tuesday night and was buying champagne for his friends and offered some to the bar manager Tim (who by the way supported the team from the south west of Glasgow). Tim turned down the offer as he was off drink at that time. Peter chided him with his usual response, “Where’s your sense of adventure?”. Tim replied, “I’m called Tim and I support Rangers how more adventurous do you want me to be”. Tim was an excellent bar manager and became affectionately known to us as “ATimATheHun”. There was no doubt that in those days Peter was quite an excitable and intense guy. He was passionate about his political beliefs, active in student politics where I first met him, active in the Labour Party, and the trade union movement campaigning hard for things he believed in. Peter reminded me when I first met him and I would be making a pretentious pseudo-Marxist scientific argument for socialism, that “Socialism is more an affair of the heart than of the intellect.” And Peter’s political heroes confirmed this, whilst I would maybe cite Lenin, Peter’s great hero was Martin Luther King. Passion and love over conflict However it was not all sentimentality with Peter he was also extremely intelligent and could make his arguments very cogently. I remember he argued the case for the Alternative Vote within the Labour party more than twenty years ago, a system which Gordon Brown has suddenly been converted to. When Peter came to share a flat with myself and Vince, when returning to the best city in Scotland, it cemented a bond of friendship that remains unbroken. Many of us shared wonderful times during that period with Peter. What sticks most in my memory was the pilgrimage to Donegal. When others were jetting off to Ibiza for a rave, we were “throwing our shapes” at the Ballyshannon Folk Festival, then partying in the mecca of Glencolumbkille. Where upon arriving in this metropolis I witnessed Peter, Vince and a future Scottish advocate, John McLaughlin, being chauffeured down to the village centre on the back of a tractor. Glencolumbkille was special to Peter and it became special to us all.
But he had his dramas no doubt. His friends Alex Cooney and Michael McTernan visited us from the second best city in Scotland and they wanted to surprise Peter as they had been surprised by him on many previous occasions. They brought with them two hamsters and a home for said hamsters. Peter loved them. One of the hamsters died but the other one lived on until one day it disappeared. We looked for it but it was to no avail, we thought it had got out and into the wilds of Glasgow. Peter was devastated. Now six weeks later we were vacating our flat and the landlord had brought in cleaners. Vince had gone up to get our deposits back. He was confronted by a very angry landlord who had found a drowned hamster in our toilet brush holder. I would have said it was like a sketch from the Young Ones but in Vince’s case that is stretching it a bit. Peter went on to have more hamsters in the Carr household which lived longer, happier lives. But Peter faced real drama in his life. He was extremely devoted to his parents and the death of his father affected him badly. This dimmed his brightness for a while.
Peter though could not be down for too long and his happiness grew again to new heights due to meeting the love of his life Irene. I am pleased to say that I played no small part in bringing them together. Irene and I worked together at Hairmyres Hospital. There was a nightout planned in Crystals in EK one evening and I invited Peter to come with me. Peter was his usual joyful self and kept trying to get Irene to join him on the dance floor. Irene was having none of it. Even a couple of Glesga hugs and burls didn’t do the trick. Peter had one last go to impress and began to do his “Castlemilk breakdancing” on the floor. Castlemilk breakdancing you ask? He was “tumbling his wilkies” or “rolly pollies” for the uninitiated. And so began a wonderful love story. I do believe that Robbie Keane picked up part of his goal celebrations from Peter’s breakdancing. Peter and Irene became inseperable. He was as he would say “Loved Up”. Conor was born in 1996 and then Peter and Irene produced another big surprise. They ran off to Martha Street to get married in September 1998 an event only witnessed by our friends Alex and Lore. Paris for the honeymoon and then back to let everyone know. That was Peter for you though, still impestuous and looking to surprise. But it was now that the boy was becoming a man. His family was complete when Orla was born in December 2001. He was a devoted family man. He had a wife he adored and two beautiful wonderful children. He also radiated a peaceful calmness which to this day I wish I could bottle. If you had the good fortune to visit the Carr family in Thornilee in EK the feeling of tranquility was palpable. Peter’s rough edges had been replaced with a zen like peaceful existence. Still a joy to be with but there was just that added calmness. Even the stress of having to work away from his beloved family for most of the week in Aberdeen did not puncture that calmness. For some of you who know Peter from his Triathlon activities you may be surprised to hear that Peter’s fitness was not always at that high standard. On one occasion our friend Freddie Doherty had arranged a five a side game in Castlemilk Sport Centre (just along the road form here) for us to play against some other boys. Peter and his great friend from childhood Iain Quin, were in our team. Within five minutes it was more like 5 against three. Iain was on the outside of the hall calling for his uncle hughie and Peter was gasping for air like a WWI soldier caught in a gas attack. Peter though made a decision that he would get fit and I have pointed out he did that with such passion and commitment that he eventually was on the Board of Triathlon Scotland. No small feat. I am sure many of you received his texts on his new achievements as he grew from strength to strength. He cajoled me to start getting fit again but unfortunately he never got the opportunity to show me a clean pair of heels. I quoted Burns at the beginning and Peter loved Burns, but he also loved Johnstone, Tully, McGrory, McStay, Stein, Murdoch, Auld, Hay, Larsson, Moravcik. I said he was no Saint…he was a Celt. A life long love affair he had been imbued in him by his father. His passion was not just the football team but the whole Celtic family. He had a vision of Celtic belonging to that family and was very involved in the early stages of the Celtic Trust to get greater fans representation in the decision-making of the Board. At one AGM of the Board he likened their decision-making to that of the masons but he did it with a style and grace that did not make him enemies. The former Chairman Brian Quinn sent a bouquet of flowers to Irene on hearing the news of Peter’s passing and the Board sent a card of condolences and they are deeply saddened at his passing. Peter may not have been as active politically in terms of party politics in the last few years but his campaigning zeal was still to the fore. South Lanarkshire had a plan to shut both St. Andrews and St. Brides in East Kilbride and merge them together on a new site. Peter was instrumental in setting a campaign against this and a grouping of the affected families was formed. They were partially successful in that the new school was built on the site of the old St. Brides, a school that Conor now attends. More over Peter made new friends like Brendan Faulds and others warmed by his passion and commitment.
The Tragedy in Peter’s life is that we are gathered here today to pay our respects and celebrate his life that has been taken all too soon. It is beyond my comprehension that a man who had such a zest for life, who gave so much to his family and friends, who lived such a healthy lifestyle over the last decade or so can be taken from us in this way. He had so much left to give, so much more to enjoy, to see his beautiful children grow up, to see them make their lives and to share that with his friends and family.
We all enter this life hoping that we can leave our footprints in history…to make our mark Peter never wrote the great English novel, although if we could put all of the stories we could share about Peter I am sure we would have a best seller on our hands. He never wrote the song that moved thousands to tears or painted the picture that held the world in awe. However he left his mark….it is in every one of us. We are part of his story and he will always part of ours. I am a better person for having the good fortune to have been able to call him my friend and I am sure many of you feel the same way. We shared the laughs, the tears, the triumphs, the good times and the bad. Peter lives on in every single one of us. I would like to finish with a short poem that sums up Peter to me and I believe he would have approved and would want us to think today. It is called Life Goes On by Joyce Grenfell; If I should go before the rest of you Break not a flower Nor inscribe a stone Nor when I am gone speak in a Sunday voice But be the usual selves I have known Weep if you must Parting is hell But life goes on So….Sing as well Peter would say as we leave here today to go out a spread a little bit of joy and happiness…or have you no sense of adventure? Peter….You’ll Never Walk Alone