Guy’s Funeral Service took place at 12:30pm on 19th February 2021 at Shrewsbury Crematorium, Shropshire, England.
Available to view, read or download below are the Order of Service , a Eulogy by Guy’s daughter Tara and a song by his eldest son Gavin.
The order of service can viewed here
View/Download Order of Service
During the service a video obituary was read by Guy’s daughter Tara. A transcript of this video is displayed below this video.
If there is one thing about Dad we can all agree on, it was that he was a one-off. A true, unvarnished original. In a world where many people aspire to connect with their ‘authentic’ selves, Dad refused to be anything but his authentic self. Anyone who had met him would, I believe, be left with an unforgettable impression of this hardworking, tough, driven, straight talking, opinionated, imaginative, funny, stubborn and eccentric bearded character, donning a deerstalker hat and puffing on a briar pipe like a latter-day Sherlock Holmes. Dad knew what he liked and what he wanted out of life. He was totally dedicated to his books and writing, of course, but he also held lifelong passions for collecting, organic gardening, shooting game, pipe smoking and tobacco, Subbuteo, football (he was a lifelong Wolves fan), country and western music, detective stories, black and white films from the fifties, the countryside, conservation, and all animals, especially his dogs, goats, and donkeys from The Donkey Sanctuary.
I remember that, back in the horror fiction heyday of the seventies and eighties, he was shut away all day in his office, writing almost incessantly, only ever emerging to bellow at us for making too much noise, or turning the air blue if he had made an error. At the age of three, I could be heard exclaiming ‘Oh bugger!’ if I fell over – and we all developed a habit of swearing liberally and with gusto thanks to Dad’s exclamations. There is one particular fruity phrase of his I heard regularly which cannot be repeated in full here, so I will bleep out the offending words: ‘Bleep Bleep and Holy Bleep!’ If you know, then you know…
Dad WAS different. In some ways, he was deeply nostalgic and loved diving into the golden bygone era of his youth, and in others, he was ahead of his time. He certainly wasn’t what you would call a hands-on dad, as Mum will testify. He struggled to boil an egg or change a nappy. While Mum was in hospital giving birth to my younger brother, Gavin, he relied on my older sister Rowan (who was 5 at the time) to change my nappies, and on another occasion without Mum, he served us still-crunchy boiled potatoes for lunch. Nevertheless, he was in his own inimitable way a loving, responsible and proud father who remained calm in a crisis, instilled in us a strong sense of right and wrong, and kept an abundance of food on the table. We were raised on fruit and vegetables, goats’ milk and eggs from our own organic smallholding, and we ate wild rabbit, pigeon, partridge, woodcock, snipe, hare, duck, pheasant, and even venison, which he had shot on Black Hill. He usually went shooting for food or to protect his livestock, but he once shot a fox dead in front of the local hunt. Dad claimed not to understand why they were so upset about putting the poor fox out of its misery, and remarked to the Head Huntsman, ‘I thought I would save you the trouble.’
How lucky we were that he married our capable Mum, who turned her culinary hand to anything he presented, not to mention coping with goat-milking and woodfire-lighting – and four rowdy children! It was Dad’s aim to be as self-sufficient as possible, and he was ahead of even Prince Charles when it came to organic farming. Local farmers laughed as he created vegetable patches in our garden and field, saying, ‘You’ll never grow anything in that soil!’ Well, just look at it now. He certainly left his mark on the landscape. As he began selling organic vegetables and milk, he was told by one or two sceptics, ‘No one will want that, you know.’ Well, they did, and we had people driving from miles away for our goats’ milk.
Dad loved taking Gavin and Angus to play football with local teams at the weekend, and sat with them and Rowan in front of Match of the Day every Saturday night. He taught the boys to shoot game, buying them .410 shotguns and walking with them around Black Hill forestry, for which he owned shooting rights. They were accompanied in the early days by our springer spaniel Muffin, the smartest gundog we ever had, who would often retrieve our next Sunday roast. Mum’s sumptuous Sunday lunches, made entirely from our own produce, were special. We’d have perhaps a stuffed roasted pheasant served with gravy, spuds cooked all ways, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, leeks, kohlrabi, jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, peas, beans and swede, you name it – and followed by one of Mum’s delicious fruit crumbles or pies, filled with apple, pear, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, rhubarb or gooseberries and drizzled with custard. Dad would announce, ‘If the Queen knew what we were eating now, she’d be coming here for her dinner,’ and then tuck in with enjoyment and pride.
Dad may not have been demonstrative in his affections, but he often said he wished he could keep his children at home on Black Hill forever, where no doubt he would have lost no time putting us all to work! If you complained that you were bored, his response was, ‘I’ll give you a job to do.’ (I find myself saying this to my own children now!) When we were little, he gave us each a notebook through which we could earn holiday spending money by writing down jobs we had done, such as shelling peas and beans, top-and-tailing fruit, washing the car, baking bread, mucking out the animal sheds, weeding vegetable patches or flower beds, mowing the lawn, stacking wood, plucking (and sometimes gutting) ducks, pigeons and pheasants, and even ‘stone picking’ which was the soul-destroying job of picking stones out of the soil to make it better for sowing. Just before we went on our summer holidays, he would tot up the amounts for each chore, and hand over what we had earned.
We all have fond memories of holidays together in Barmouth, Butlins Pwllheli and Aberystwyth (fortunately giant-crab-free!). Before we set off, Dad would spend hours packing the Land Rover with healthy food, either homegrown or bought from the health food centre in Machynlleth, since we always self-catered. (No Butlins canteen fry ups for us!) Our family of six would travel in two vehicles. I remember going in the Land Rover with a jovial ‘Holiday Dad’ who listened (and tunelessly sang along to) the plangent tones of Billie Jo Spears or Charlie Pride. After our arrival, Dad would sleep for the first three days in a darkened room. Once he was refreshed, he was great fun to be with, playing cricket and football, and treating us to fish and chip meals out. Anyone who knows Dad is familiar with his workaholism, so seeing him relax was a rare treat. For the family, it was easy to be exasperated with his rabid work ethic, as he almost never switched off, but you only have to look at his body of written work – researched and published in Shane Agnew’s Complete(ish) Guide to the Works of Guy N. Smith – and any frustration melts away to awe and respect. We didn’t always agree with him – whose family doesn’t argue sometimes? – but we loved him, always proud of Dad, Horror Writer Extraordinaire. On shopping trips to Shrewsbury, Mum, Rowan, Gavin, Angus and I would gleefully cover up rival novels by Stephen King and James Herbert with Dad’s books.
In the early days, he wrote all his books longhand and then spent hours typing up the manuscript, with one finger of each hand, Tippex at the ready, on his old Imperial typewriter. Dad’s cracked fingertips were a sight, but he wasn’t deterred. ‘Tap tap tap’ was the soundtrack to our lives. Things became quieter with the arrival of his first computer – an Amstrad. Rowan helped to set it up and fixed any issues, as she had taken computer studies at school and was always a wiz with technical things. I do remember seeing him distraught when he lost chapters he hadn’t remembered to save, but years later he told me that, although he learnt to press ‘save’ obsessively (and Dad did obsession better than anyone), he discovered that the rewrite was usually better than the original. I have comforted myself with this when I have lost essays or blog posts without saving. It is so telling that Dad immediately re-wrote those lost chapters, completely undeterred by the misfortune of losing them. He never gave up. If life gave him lemons, he wrote about lemonade and made a profit. For Dad, ideas simply flowed, like a tap that could not be turned off. I asked him how he coped with writer’s block, expecting a few tips from the Master of Pulp. He looked puzzled and said he couldn’t give me any because he had never had it! As Mum said recently, ‘Dad could write about anything.’ People often asked how he came up with ideas for his fiction. Sometimes he was inspired by a real-life character or scenario, but sometimes he found inspiration another way. Mum says, he often shouted, tossed and turned at night, in the throes of a bad dream. One night, she woke him up, but as it had been a recurring dream he was interested in, he asked her to let him continue next time. He wanted to find out what happened at the end. So, the next time, she let him continue battling his night demons. And so it was that ‘The Cadaver’ was born. Only Dad could manage to sleep and still work hard!
To many, it is for his writing that he will be best known, although successes in pipe-smoking competitions and Subbuteo tournaments are also significant highlights. He was the British Pipe Smoking Champion of 2003 and took part in many Subbuteo tournaments. He even ran a local youth Subbuteo club for a while. An author of both fiction and non-fiction, his work ranged from horror, glamour and shooting publications to children’s stories and wildlife books. He even wrote about commercial fishkeeping, although I am not sure he ever kept fish, other than the family goldfish. It was quite normal for him to average four books a year. Encouraged by his mother, who was herself a published author, he was bitten by the bug when he had his first story published at the age of 12. However, it was decided by his bank manager father that he would go straight from school into banking, so that is what he did for 19 miserable years! He kept his writing going on the side until he was earning enough to leave his hated job and work on his first novel, Werewolf by Moonlight. With the huge success that followed Night of the Crabs in 1976, and with the rights sold to Amicus Films, we were able to move from our Tamworth house on Browns Lane and relocate to The Wain House on Black Hill in Shropshire. A dream come true for Dad. (We moved on his birthday!) As he puts it in Shane Agnew’s biography, ‘life became idyllic.’ We take some comfort from the fact that he was able to live in the place he adored right up until his final admission to hospital on December 6th.
During 2020, Dad became increasingly incapacitated by a bad hip. He was to have had an operation back in June, which could have made his remaining years more comfortable. The op was cancelled because of the pandemic: a terrible blow. He had to scale back his activities, but he continued writing and publishing through Black Hill Books. He re-released his early novel Bats Out of Hell, about a deadly virus spread to humans by bats, with a percentage of the sales going towards the NHS. As he was recovering from the infection that led to his hospital admission, and before the Covid 19 he contracted whilst there kicked in, he was reportedly regaling nurses with stories, and asking for a pen and paper to do the one thing he loved most: write. It is difficult to accept that Covid 19 stole Dad away. Though 81 years old, he was healthy, of sound mind and had many projects on the go. He was looking forward to doing so much more in 2021. This should not have been his time to go. And yet it was. Dad was a man who did not suffer from irrational fear – after all, he wrote about werewolves, giant crabs and sucking pits, and still managed to sleep at night! But he was afraid of going into hospital last December – a rather rational fear, as it turns out. We have to hope he knew how much he was loved, and that he was able to take comfort from the video calls we had together to pass on messages of love and support. We wish we could have held his hand and sat by his side. We assured him that his jobs were being taken care of, and promised to post the annual Christmas newsletters, which was of huge importance to him. Every single one was posted, Dad.
You will all know that Dad was loyal to friends, fans and colleagues. Some of his closest friends are listening to this tribute now, including Mike Bradbury, Fred and Pat, and Bob Sanders, to name but a few, and some have themselves passed away, including Bob Adey, a loss that caused Dad profound grief. Amongst many notable colleagues and friends appreciated by Dad were Justin, Phil, Annie, Ceri and Kate. Thank you for enhancing Dad’s life. Dad valued mutual trust and fair collaboration, and was faithful to a fault. There have been a handful of occasions when his trust has been grossly abused, for example, with the aptly-named Phantom Press in the early nineties, and on one other (more recent and unresolved) instance, but I believe Dad would still maintain that the joy of his lasting connections vastly outweighs the injustice of those betrayals.
In trying to convey Dad’s impact on all of us, I have been struck by how multifaceted he was. What a life, what a breadth of interests, how many memories, how many people, how many stories – and how many more there might have been! It is impossible to sum up who he was without leaving out so much. Today, you will hear Gavin’s song ‘Chasing Shadows,’ inspired by his memory of going duck shooting in the snow with Dad and somehow getting lost. When we lose a loved one, we feel surrounded by swirling thoughts, feelings and memories, things we wish we had said or done, things we wish we hadn’t. So, we do feel disorientated, unsure of which path we are following. In our grief, we chase shadows, look for answers that are just out of reach or which vanish as we grasp them, and we lose our direction. But we will find a path (probably a winding path through spooky dark woods under a full moon, if Dad has anything to do with it!), a path through the labyrinthine legacy he leaves in our hearts and minds. That path is our ongoing love for him.
Thank you, Dad, for inspiring us, leading us, entertaining us, loving us and looking after us. You worked so hard and always did your best. Your achievements are far greater than you will ever have known. Now it is time to lay down your pen, put up your feet, and let those fantastical dreams of yours fly on into infinity.
Before the committal the song below by Guy’s eldest son Gavin inspired by his memory of going duck shooting in the snow with Dad and somehow getting lost was played.