High life

Remembering Tim Hoare – a man like no other

14 September 2019

9:00 AM

14 September 2019

9:00 AM

He was a Falstaff in his drinking and in his celebration of life, but his greatness lay in his friendships. Like his closest friend Nick Scott, who left us two and a half years ago, he roamed the world making friends and being as generous to them as a fairy godfather. The years, with all their disappointments, teach us caution, but Tim Hoare remained reckless to the end. Here he is in a high life column from 15 years ago:

We hit a hurricane while sailing off the Riviera last week, a hurricane called Tim Hoare. I have never in my long life met anyone quite like him. The words, in posh English vintage 1940s tones, tumble out so fast, enwrapped in alliteration and so clogged with onomatopoeia, that a poor little Greek boy like me misses three out of every four.

On that particular trip, Tim’s private plane blew an engine mid-flight and was circling uncontrollably. He was alone with the two pilots. So he rang us but failed to tell us he was in trouble. He just said that he might be a while. He spent only one night on Bushido and presented me with the grandest and most beautiful old Cartier lighter that has stood proudly on a mantelpiece ever since. It is half-a-foot high and was made in the 1920s.

A friend described him as Falstaffian in girth, too, with a booming voice that radiated assurance and confidence. He was generous to a fault, extremely intelligent and well read, and atop it all was an abundant shock of jet-black hair. He and Bob Geldof were like brothers and made a very strange couple: the rich old Etonian clubman and the proud and exceedingly talented Irishman playing the poor Irish lad scrounging a living. Nick Scott was the third musketeer.


Now it looks as if things are coming to an end, like an Agatha Christie novel only without the mystery of who’s next. Three of us in the merry band of Pugs are in our eighties, but it is not fear of the man in the white suit that is the problem. It’s missing those who have recently left us. Tim never lost touch with the overflowing joy and curiosity of the young. And, like the young, he remained confident of the future despite the degradation of our culture. Towards the end he expressed love to all his friends and thanked them for a life of happiness. Whatever sorrow he may have felt about his untimely upcoming death he kept to himself. That is what courage is all about.

His wife Ginny and his five children from three marriages handed us a copy of Whale Tales, a collection written by friends about him that reflects the uniquely varied life he led: sailing against Roger Taylor, Bob Miller and me, and going straight through a nature reserve where no boats were allowed in order to snatch victory; chartering the most expensive sailing boat ever in order to beat Bob Miller in Capri and, having confidently given himself the worst handicap ever, being unable to move an inch, as if the boat were attached to the Italian seabed by a giant spike through its deck (he did almost lose his temper that time); gallivanting all over Turkey in a fantastic old Edwardian steamer, and somehow losing Sarah Ferguson overboard, then finding her again, Fergie emerging from the seas squealing ‘Soopah!’

Then there was the time he flew to New York with his partner Richard Northcott to close a $100 million film deal. He lost patience with the squabbling, and appointed Roger and Alan to represent Richard and him, before going for a very liquid lunch. The trouble was that neither Roger nor Alan was in the room. Still, Richard Northcott thought Tim the best corporate thinker ever.

Richard gave a wonderful lunch beforehand in the pub he owns near his house and Tim’s beautiful 18th-century Hollycombe House.  But what impressed me most about Tim’s funeral was the attendance. Ginny and the children were in the front row, of course, and all of his friends were there at a day’s notice. Prince Pavlos of Greece, with wife and daughter, flew over from New York, roughing it in the air as Hurricane Dorian raged over the Atlantic. Ditto Roger Taylor and Bob Geldof. Arki Busson made it to the church on time from the Bahamas. Prince Nikolaos of Greece came over from Athens, and so it went with people flying in from all over Europe. After a wonderful speech by the Revd Nicoll about Christ, the continuity of friendship and the life eternal, my spirits lifted. I sat with Geldof and Roger Taylor, the Bismarcks and the Cowdrays, David Linley, Mark Getty and Nick Scott’s older brother Anthony.

Harry Hoare spoke to us about his father: as a little boy he had spotted some scars on Tim’s stomach and asked about them. Tim said they were from a fight with a lion. It then became a fight with a leopard. When Harry grew up, he realised that they were stretch marks. Oh well. What I love about Britain is that a funeral is a celebration of the dead, not an occasion to look sad and depressed and spill tears. In Germany, Italy and Greece, telling a funny story is seen as an insult to the departed. The best send-off ever for the most generous and wonderful of men.

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