Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons Reads Afterwards by Thomas Hardy at a Tribute for John Mortimer


Southwark Cathedral's sub dean Canon Andrew Nunn, welcoming the congregation, described Sir John as someone "who brought humanity, realism, honesty and humour to the law".

The address was given by Lord Kinnock who said: "This cathedral has ancient grandeur which John liked. It's a place of performance which John loved."

He added that John Mortimer's many inconsistencies included his declaration that he was 'an atheist certainly but an atheist of Jesus'.

Joss Ackland read the lesson from Ecclesiastes and Jeremy Irons read Afterwards by Thomas Hardy.

Other readings were taken from John Mortimer's own work and included extracts of The Summer of a Dormouse read by Edward Fox and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Freddie Fox and Patricia Hodge also read pieces. Belinda Evans sang an aria from The Marriage of Figaro.

Composer Jon Lord of Deep Purple, a close friend and neighbour, performed his own works including Turville Heath named after the Mortimers' village.

Among others present were Tom Stoppard, Jon Snow, Anna Ford, Cathy Lette, Lord Bragg, Jean Marsh and Peter O'Toole.

Politicians included government ministers Lord Mandelson and Baroness Kinnock, Michael Howard, Lord St John and Lord Gowrie.

In the congregation was Sir John's former diocesan bishop Richard Harries. A reading at the service included Mortimer's line: "I am fascinated by clerics and never miss the opportunity of a good argument with a bishop".

The prayers were led by the former Redemptorist superior-general Joseph Tobin who had flown in from Rome for the occasion. Fr Tobin, a friend of fifteen years, shared holidays in Tuscany with Sir John and attended the weddings of his daughters Rosie and Emily.

An early arrival at the cathedral was Jeremy Paxman, an old friend and neighbour in Oxfordshire, who sat quietly at the side next to the Shakespeare memorial.

The cover of the service booklet had a portrait by Feliks Topolski which was displayed in the window of Topolski Century on the South Bank earlier this year.

Afterwards Sir John's widow Penny and her family hosted a champagne reception in the cathedral courtyard.

The poem Jeremy read at the service for Sir John Mortimer:


by Thomas Hardy

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"?

If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight."

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should
come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at
the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?

And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things?"


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