Pressure of work in 1991 meant that Dave was unable to join the bunch of regulars from our local, The Boot & Shoe, who were the founding members of the choir. A couple of years later, when we were running our own business, he realised that it was possible to arrange his life to fit around choir rehearsals. He threw himself into his new interest and before long I noticed that, while he had always had a good baritone voice and sang along with any music playing at home, he was now singing in tune. He made many friends in the choir and our social life was revolutionised. As Secretary, in addition to singing, he made the best use of his organisational and sales skills. Three moments stand out for me. First, Dave’s role in taking the brunt of the crossfire during a major choir dispute in the early noughties. Second was Valley Voices, the joint concert with Honley Ladies in Holmfirth Church which was largely organised by us both but which he was too ill to attend. Third, the choir’s wonderful singing at his funeral and all Ian Lister’s help in the preparation.
I only knew Dave because of the choir. Like most of us, your mate brings you along and you think this is alright, especially having a drink and a sing after practice. The third week your mate doesn’t turn up and I was hanging around the bar of the Duke of Leeds wondering what to do, when a chap with a beard and all his own hair smiled, raised his arm and said “ Ah Mr Ibbo, they do an excellent pint of hand-pulled Tetley’s in here”. From then on Dave’s familiar greeting was to set me at ease in thousands of pubs as we set out after each practice and concert to find a decent pint.
Dave will be remembered for many things but perhaps most of all for the Valpolicella Incident in Italy. We had had a wonderful day in Verona, sang in the Amphitheatre, gawped at the tombs of the Scaligeris, peered over Juliet’s balcony and finally staggered into a restaurant and ordered its finest Valpolicella. Dave and Sheelagh were so impressed that we had to order 4 more bottles for immediate consumption followed by some Grappa. How we all laughed when they missed the coach back to Limone. Now some people in the choir would have been mightily upset at being stranded, but a day later, after a night in Verona and a quick introduction to Italian public transport, Dave and Sheelagh arrived back. Dave smiled, raised his arm and said “Ah chaps; they do an excellent Valpolicella in Verona”.
But what we should all remember Dave for, apart from him being an intelligent, upstanding and all round decent bloke, was his role as Choir Secretary during some of the most trying upheavals in the development of the choir. When it came to a head and it was obvious that the emotional, social and managerial changes in the choir could no longer be delayed, it was Dave who provided the calm, thoughtful and sensitive guidance, leadership and procedures that resulted in us being the better, happier and well-run choir we are today. All of us are indebted to Dave Illingworth for that.
As we all get older and are due to shuffle of this mortal coil, we know that, unless the bus goes over the cliff on the way to Llandudno, we won’t be standing before the Pearly Gates with our mates and you may feel a bit apprehensive on your own. Don’t worry – as the gates open and you scan the Heavenly Host and start to wonder where your section is, look into the top left hand corner. There will be a chap in a green jacket, a beard, and all his own hair who will smile, raise his arm and say “Ah Mr Ibbo, Mr Mackie, Mr Lister, Mr……..(insert own name here) they do an excellent pint of hand-pulled Tetley’s in here”.
John Ibbotson (from time of funeral)
What comes to mind when you say the word stalwart? – a broad knotty oak beam that stops your house from falling down?; an unfussy shepherd keeping his flock more or less in line?; a football manager from the lower divisions, one eye on survival, the other twinkling with a vision of what might be – United at home in the Cup?
My thesaurus’s synonym for stalwart is David Illingworth. I first met David and Sheelagh as fellow choral students of Len Williams at Holmfirth High School. We did stuff like “Skye Boat Song”. I had him down as a bass. He certainly spoke like one, and occasionally sang like one, as some of us baritones sometimes do. Ed Jan 2004