MUSIC punctuated Mervyn Penny’s every decision, triumph and defeat and carried him through life.
The eccentric father-of-two may be gone, but his memory lives on as his family, friends and the Folk community remembered and honoured him through song at a fittingly melodious farewell service.
Hundreds packed out St Andrew’s Church in Shrivenham yesterday to celebrate the precursor of the folk genre in Swindon and Highworth.
Mervyn, of Shrivenham, died at his home on January 14, just two months after celebrating his 90th birthday.
The born performer, who up until a few years ago was still busking on Swindon’s streets to spread his love of folk to the masses, was still rousing the crowds on stage four days before his passing.
The former Royal Military College of Science engineer formed The White Horse Folk Club in Highworth in 1974, which he led for 14 years.
Not content to play several instruments – including guitar, accordion, ukulele and piano – he was known to craft his own.
His passion for the stage, and knack for turning any social occasion into a gig of sorts was notorious and aptly illustrated as the service commenced and his voice boomed through the speakers, singing Today, a tune recorded with his friend Joe Packer.
Later on two of his comrades from the White Horse Folk Club paid a musical tribute to Mervyn, with a rendition of Scarborough Fair followed by the Highworth Songsters, who closed the service with Amazing Grace. His three granddaughters also sang for their late grandfather.
Despite heart problems and his deteriorating health over the last two years, Mervyn, who also was also known for his skill as a photographer and built or adapted nearly every piece of furniture in his own home, carried on almost as normal.
Speaking on behalf of Mervyn’s wife Margaret, daughters Marion and Therese, granddaughters and fellow folk enthusiasts, his friend Derrick Beer remembered the multi-faceted man who dedicated his life to entertaining others, whether it be through history talks, eccentric guided tours of Shrivenham or his music.
“All of us owe Mervyn a huge debt of gratitude for his vision and encouragement down the years,” he said.
“We will miss his humour, always gentle, sometimes a little risqué and usually very dry.
“On one cold thinly-attended meeting at the White Horse Club he was trying to tune his guitar with no great success when he looked up, peered around the room and remarked quietly ‘Well it’s not quite right - but it’s good enough for this lot.’”
But his greatest achievement of all was his family.
“Mervyn and Margaret were opposites,” he added.
“Mervyn was far more outgoing. But Margaret was always game enough to give proposed new adventures a try.
"So, despite her manicured nails and coiffured hair, they both went caving – once – camping in a fly-infested wood – once –and potholing – once. But they stuck together for 62 years. He was a wonderful father and extremely proud of his daughters. “