Motorcycles and Music – Len David

Len David – 24 December 1948 – 26 May 2020

Leonard John David was born on 24 December 1948 in Caversham (Surley Row), the only child of Harold and Ilona David. Ilona was Hungarian, and she and Harold had met in Austria during the war. At home they spoke German to one another, and Ilona spoke Hungarian to Len, so English was his third language.

Len faced some big challenges at an early age. He was born with two webbed fingers on each hand, and at the age of around eighteen months underwent cutting edge surgery to have them separated. He spent months in hospital, having operations and skin grafts, and was separated from his parents throughout that time. No-one would have imagined then that this little boy would grow up to be an accomplished pianist!

Len attended Katesgrove School and then Cintra. He was always up to mischief, and had friends of similar character! Among their numerous escapades was an episode that involved using weedkiller to blow up lampposts, and a chemistry experiment that culminated in one of the gang being taken to hospital on the back of a motorbike. Bikes remained a passion throughout Len’s life, though he once had to sell one to pay a speeding fine. Another passion was his MG Magnette ZA which he acquired from a work colleague (and drove home despite having no licence!)

One of Len’s first jobs was in Hickies music store in Reading, in the classical music department. His future wife Rachel also worked in Hickies, though in the Popular Music section, which Len rather despised! A mutual friend introduced them, and they became part of a group of friends who regularly met at the Queen’s Head. On one occasion only Len and Rachel turned up, and Len suggested taking Rachel on his motorbike to a folk concert in Wokingham. Their plan was scuppered when a van emerging from The Pheasant pub pulled out in front of them, and they both ended up in hospital with fractured legs. Len later commented that when he met Rachel’s dad for the first time at the hospital he was a bit worried her father might break his other leg!

Len and Rachel were married on 11 August 1973. Initially they lived on Kendrick Road, then Waverley Road. Then Len got a job at a printers which enabled them to move to a house in Beecham Road. When Len gained an apprenticeship with British Telecom (BT) they moved to Thatcham, where sons Joni and William were born. There he began to develop skills with computers. He was later headhunted by a new Computer Networking department at BT, responsible for security at Heathrow, and the family moved back to Earley, Reading where Max was born. Len’s passion for bikes and cars played a huge part in their family life. On one occasion, when Len and Rachel were on the bike, and all three boys in the sidecar, it caught fire on the IDR and was doused by the fire brigade! There are other stories of trips to Cornwall with the five of them plus grandma crammed into a Talbot, with a surfboard down the middle and, on the way home, a standard lamp as well!

Alongside his jobs and family, Len’s passion for music was a big part of his life. His cousin Jill had taught him piano from the age of 11, and he attended London College of Music in the 1980’s where he was taught music theory by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s father. It was there he learnt the Organ, Clarinet and Saxophone. He became the rehearsal pianist for the Sainsbury Singers, occasionally appearing on stage with them in shows requiring a pianist, notably Showboat. He also played piano for The Millstones Dance Band. In 1982 he responded to an advert for an organist/choirmaster at St John the Baptist Caversham, a job which he loved and excelled at.

In addition to playing the organ on Sundays and at weddings and funerals, he wrote and performed with other musicians a number of Requiems and performed the Easter musical Once Upon a Tree. He organised dances and band performances in the church and was always willing to play at special events. In spite of his illness, Len was still playing at St John’s in the weeks before Lockdown. Afterwards he continued to record worship music at home for the parish YouTube Channel and lessons for his Tuesday Choir on his YouTube Channel. Music aside, Len was a hugely popular and dearly loved member of St John’s. He had a quiet but profound faith in God and a desire to lead others in praise and worship of Him.

Above all, Len was a family man. A loving husband to Rachel; and a wonderful, patient, funny – if sometimes annoying! – dad to Joni, William and Max, and their partners El, Jade and Hannah; and a proud grand-dad of Ariyah, Effie and Illy.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

Rev Penny Cuthbert