‘He was one of our own’: hundreds turn out to pay tribute to Tim Stockdale

It was standing room only at Northamptonshire Country Cricket Ground today (5 February) as people met to pay their respects to “one of our own”.

Friends, family and hundreds of others whose lives Tim Stockdale had touched gathered at the showjumper’s memorial service.

Tim died last November, weeks after his diagnosis with stomach cancer. A private funeral was held for family and close friends before Christmas but this public service was a celebration of and thanksgiving for his life.

In addresses from the Reverend Michael Burton, Tim’s twin brother Ivan, wife Laura, sons Joseph and Mark and friends Nick Brooks-Ward and Graham Fletcher, those present were treated to accounts, film and photos of the lighter side of Tim’s life, as well as his extensive sporting achievements.

“I’ve known Tim for some considerable time,” Ivan joked, going on to describe the twins’ childhood with their three other brothers and sister, in a “boisterous” household.

Ivan spoke of the family’s elderly neighbour whose greenhouse took exception to the Stockdales’ footballs – “the final score was five balls lost and nine windows broken” – and some of the “hideous crimes of fashion” in the matching clothes he and Tim had to wear. He said the boys “always had each other’s backs” and that the value of hard work was instilled in all the siblings.

“He was my twin brother and my best friend,” Ivan said.

Laura said Tim would have been “highly flattered by the wonderful turnout”.

“He was very special to everyone here but would never have realised how many lives he touched,” she said. “I’ve had letters from people I’ve never met, telling me about the time he spoke to them, the advice he gave them, the rosettes he gave their children.”

Laura spoke of Tim’s devotion to his family and his sport, adding: “It’s a very cruel world that takes your nearest and dearest away so early. He had so many plans. Nothing prepares you for losing your soul mate, your best friend.”

Laura said that she and Tim had had time to discuss the future and that she and their son Joseph are now running the yard together and Joe will be riding, “thanks to the support of our owners and sponsors, who are staying with us”.

“Our boys are amazing,” she added. “I’m so proud of them.”

Joe cited his father’s “great sense of humour” and work ethic, and told guests of some of the events already organised to raise funds for the Tim Stockdale Foundation set up in his father’s memory.

Mark added: “My dad was a doer and told me that if you want something, you have to go out and get it, you can’t stand still and wait for things to happen – there should be a book of his ‘Timisms’.

“If I can be half as tough and strong and hardworking as he was, I know I’ll be as successful as he wanted me to be.”

Graham, for whom Tim started riding in 1981, remembered his arrival as “a boy with a tremendous work ethic – brave, and willing to do whatever was asked of him”.

“I’d never had anyone better – before or since,” he said.

Graham cited golfer Gary Player, who when asked about his luck in major tournaments, said: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

“That could have been written for Tim; it was what he was all about,” Graham said.

Graham spoke of Tim’s sporting success, including his 2010 King George V Gold Cup triumph on Kalico Bay, and the way he would watch Rocky films to psych himself up before big classes.

Graham said his last conversation with Tim was about football – and he mentioned that in big football stadiums, if homegrown talent comes on to the pitch, the fans sing “He’s one of our own”.

“I’d like to say that to all the people whose lives Tim touched, to those he helped, to the owners and sponsors, to the fellow pros who know how hard it is to get to the top, and how bloody difficult it is to stay there – with no shadow of a doubt, Tim was one of our own.”

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Laura’s father Tony Cocklin finished by quoting the words of Bessie Anderson Stanley.

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it… who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction,” Mr Cocklin said.

“That surely is the late, great Tim Stockdale.”

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