Farewell to the Boss of the River

In an abridged version of the eulogy delivered by Simon Tuckey, friend and local resident, we hear about the life and legacy of Malcolm Miatt, one of the area’s most colourful characters who was instrumental in setting up Teddington’s RNLI station.

None of us have ever met someone like Malcolm and I suppose we never will.

‘What does Malcolm do?’ friends would ask when I had introduced them in the café, at the office or sitting in his car. I always replied, ‘He’s the boss of the river’ and indeed he was, bestriding this key end of the tidal Thames.

Family life

Malcolm was born in 1947 on Shakespeare’s birthday. His upbringing shaped a life where he was always his own boss – a role that fell naturally. 

The starting point was family life in Wembley where his dad was a shop steward in the electrical industry. A thoughtful and determined man, he was a member of the Communist Party.  Malcolm wanted to be a policeman but his father’s politics made that impossible. As a result, Malcolm decided to never take part in the political process or vote.

Malcolm’s early life encompassed roles such Mechanic, Citizen’s Band Radio and Video Rental Retailer, and VP of The Arab Overseas Banking Trust of Anguilla (sadly closed by American law enforcement apparently for something called ‘money laundering’!). 

Then came the move to Teddington and The Boat Shop in Ferry Road, specialising in small boat retailing and repair. His wife Pat joined him and his son Howard remembers this as a happy time for the family.

Malcolm wrapped around his family and friends an invisible and tailor-made network of relationships that will endure and which leads us to a description of his world and his philosophy. 

Malcolm’s world and philosophy

Philosophy may be a bit pompous for us ordinary souls but I make no apology for using it. My own favourite statement of a life philosophy is from historian Will Durrant: ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness then, is not an act, but a habit.’ 

The habit of always inviting people in. The habit of always offering a cup of tea.

The habit of always having a point of view, and always a superior one.

Valuing above all else loyalty and friendship, this was the price of entry to Malcolm’s world, willingly paid by us all. It was the friendship that carried him up and down to the Royal Marsden; the loyalty in supporting him; the court paid by all our dogs as they never allowed us to walk past Malcolm’s door without stopping.

Malcolm could make no sense of what death means. His own solution was comically practical: devoted to Pat, on her death, he kept her ashes on the sideboard with Dec, the much loved cat, and his dog Sheba.

Did he have a sense of his own mortality? My last conversation with him two days before he died was typical: it was about someone else, about supporting them through difficulties, not at all about himself.

His legacy…in four parts 

First – I am going to call it the ‘Malcolm Club’. A gang of us sitting outside the boat house, with Howard, drinking tea and putting the world to rights.

Second – the RNLI, born out of Malcolm’s inspiration and effort, will still be the busiest lifeboat station in the country. 

Third – the river at Teddington drawing people to appreciate this most special part of the great River Thames, as tidal water meets downstream river water. The result of one man’s effort and enterprise to cajole Richmond Council, Kingston Council, The Environment Agency and the River Authorities, to come together and allow Malcolm to create this physical lasting legacy.

Fourth – his family. 

And so, at the last, a good man, a loyal friend, a hard worker, and a thoughtful member of our community. We shall carry his memory with us for many years.

Malcolm…King of the River.

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