We said goodbye to my lovely cousin and friend Cal (Campbell) Williams yesterday. It seems unfair that only famous people get obituaries. Cal deserved that treatment. He was witty, kind, charismatic, clever, talented and totally unique. Our coming-of-age friends shape the way we turn out in life and Cal had a huge influence on the adult I became. We were very close through our childhood, teens and twenties. We shared a desire to break away from the rather limiting life path that might have been our fate. Neither of us became artists, as we had planned, but we have both lead lives more creative than we thought possible. As is often the way, we hadn't seen much of each other these last few years - kept apart by geography and the distractions of work and family. Complacency too, because you just assume you can pick up where you left off. But Cal was taken by a cancer so virulent he had no chance to fight it and died less than three months after the diagnosis. If you care about someone take this advice - keep them close. I did get to see Cal while he was ill, and I did tell him I loved him. But how I regret not spending more time with one of the most important people in my life. After the funeral service at his home in Essex, I was chatting to a woman who used to commute with him every day when they both worked on the same Channel Four show. "He often talked of you," she said. "He was so proud of you." I was proud of him too and wish I could have told him in different circumstances. One last joke she recounted about him. Cal was an audio engineer known for his quick wit on the studio floor. Once the star presenter of a show was looking for a mike and shouted "Sound! Sound!" Cal shouted back "Presenter! Presenter!" To the credit of that star presenter she and her husband wrote Cal's partner the most lovely message of sympathy. I will never hear an unkind word about Richard Madley and Judy Finnegan again...Here is the tribune to Cal I read at his funeral
My last memory of Cal was sitting with him in this garden. It was a scorching day in
late June and he had just returned from another horrible spell in hospital.
But that afternoon he felt bit better and he asked us to take him down that lovely
avenue of trees to see the roses and a shrub he had planted.
Then we sat in the sun and reminisced. He worried about me getting burned.
It was wonderful to see him relaxed and relatively pain free for a short time.
Cal adored all three acres of this place and spent a great deal of time here.
He produced a beautifully bound book using his Apple Mac featuring photographs of
the garden through the seasons. One of John’s happiest memories of him
is sitting on the tractor-mower, full of smiles, cutting a swathe through the
He was gradually remodelling the spaces you see here, to enhance the experience
visitors had walking through the different rooms of the garden. That was typical
of Cal. He loved to create beautiful experiences for the enjoyment of people
around him. All his life, Cal loved to give pleasure to his family and friends.
It might be a carefully chosen gift, a CD or tape of music he mixed, a piece of art
or just the memory of a perfect day. Cal had a talent for making perfect days.
Not everyone here will know all about his early life. He was born
in 1960, the son of Bridie and Bill Williams, a Scottish mother and
English father who met at a skating rink in wartime Aberdeen. He grew up
in Gourock, a seaside town on the River Clyde, along with his brothers Walter and
Barry. Gourock is a close and caring community, full of great people.
But like any small town, it can be a wee bit stifling for an imaginative teenager,
and Cal was always keen to stretch his wings, explore new places and possibilities.
His dad remembers him having a sense of adventure and wanderlust early on.
The mountains of the Scottish highlands lie across the Clyde estuary from
Gourock. Cal would often go there with a friend to build fires and explore the
woods. He’d get so wrapped up in his Boys Own adventure he would miss the
last boat home, much to his father's frustration. Later in life he loved to travel to
new places with John and their friends. He took his parents Bridie and Bill to
America on several occasions, arranging everything so that it was just right for
them. He reunited Bridie with her best friend friend, who had moved to
New Jersey. Bridie is no longer here, but Bill remembers those times with great
fondness and gratitude to Cal for his generosity. Everybody has a story to tell
about how Cal touched them in ways they often did not realise. His niece Frances
and nephew Derek spent their early years in a cot he had decorated. Now Frances's
babies sleep in the same cot when visting their grandparents and, like her, spend
hours staring at the Sgt Pepper style interpretation of the nursey rhyme, Three
Men in a Boat...
Cal’s artistic talent was inherited from his dad. When he was 14,
he was invited to Saturday drawing and painting classes at the
Glasgow School of Art. Some of the friends he made then went on
to gain international reputations as painters. Cal was equal to them.
He could see beauty in all sorts of places. There was a disused quarry behind his
house in Gourock that fascinated him. He spent hours there as a child,
photographing it, painting it, making observations. He was the first person I
knew who raked through skips and found treasure. NOBODY did objets trouve in
the 1970s. We used to spend hours in the Briggait, a Glasgow flea market where
you could find 1940s clothes. He adored Film Noir then. He could spot an art
deco piece from a mile away. He loved chrome, Bakelite, old gramophones and
quirky miniatures. The homes in which he lived with John, and his previous
partner John Wood,were defined by Cal’s amazing eye and the way he put all
these objects together. He was an artist in the true sense of the word because his
imagination shone through every aspect of his life.
It came out in his music. There are many people who fell in love to the sound
of Cal’s music back in the 1980s. Cal would compile tapes for our many parties
when we were students. His arrival was the high point of the evening. He
had incredibly broad taste and incorporated everything from Prince
to Kraftwerk to Ella Fitzgerald. He was ahead of the curve here too. Hip hop
had only just emerged in America, but in Cal we already had our
own mix master. If he had be born a couple of decades later he
would have been a superstar DJ like Calvin Harris or Fatboy Slim. But it seems
his fame has spread around the world anyway. John says Cal continued mixing and
regularly got requests for his recordings. They are sitting in CD racks from
Cambridge to Boise Idaho. And I am sure people are still falling in love to them.
Cal was a professional sound engineer. This was a childhood
passion too. I do not know how he got hold of them, but
he would play vinyl samples of BBC sound effects in his
Gourock bedroom. – horses hoofs, thunderstorms, speeding
trains. He found it highly amusing and was intrigued to know
how it was done. He used to make his own sound effects
– without, in those pre-digital days, any help from sampling machines.
Cal worked on programmes such as Big Brother, Richard & Judy, Channel Four
Racing, Saturday Kitchen and The Book Club. Many of his friends from work are
here today. I know that he and John appreciated all their cards,
texts and visits when he was ill. He was a very popular colleague. He was
consciencious and skilled. He was kind and always helpful. And he was also great
fun to work with and be with. He had a wicked, dry sense of humour.
Once you met Cal you never forgot him. He made a deep impression.
I wanted to say something about Cal’s bond with dogs, which
he shared his parents and with John. I’ve talked about his
stylishness and creativity. But the full picture of the man is so
complex. His caring side really came to the fore with his animals. John mentions
that when they got their chocolate Labradors, Brinkley and Tucker, they did more
due diligence and preparation than many people do when they start families.
They have since given homes to Max, Zoe Zoe and Flossie. It was very noticeable
the great comfort Cal got from having the dogs around, right up until the end of
Cal was loved by many people, lots of them here today.
He also found a special love with John, who was his partner
for almost 20 years. Belinda has more to say about their
relationship. I wanted to personally pay tribute to John for the
way he cared for Cal during his illness. He remained devoted,
cheerful and loving right through the trauma of the past few
Cal has been taken too soon. But he lived every second of his 50
years. He was able to be himself, he found love, and he fulfilled all the dreams of
that imaginative teenager growing up in a small seaside town.
I said at the start he was good at creating perfect days. For me
there are too many to count:
Our first helter skelter ride at the carnival when I was 5 and he was 7
Stargazing on the roof of his Glasgow house after a night clubbing
All the music he ever played me
My wedding Day when he took all the photographs
The time he taught me how to do decoupage so I could make
lovely nursey furniture for my baby.
You, of course, will have your own perfect days, and moments, with Cal. Let’s take
time to remember them. Cherish them. And as we do that, let’s say thank you to
a wonderful, wonderful man.