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By Lord McColl of Dulwich
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‘He was a force to be reckoned with’: The Bishop of Worcester pays tribute to Lord Inge

3 min read

When my much-loved cousin Peter Inge proudly showed his newly painted portrait to my late wife and me quite a few years ago, we weren’t quite sure how to respond because it made him look rather fierce.

After a slight pause, Denise said: “It makes you look like a force to be reckoned with, Peter.” Indeed, it did – and rightly so, because he was, without doubt, a force to be reckoned with.

His many achievements during an extraordinarily successful military career, concluding with him becoming the last chief of the defence staff to hold the rank of field marshal, followed by his creation as a life peer and becoming a Knight of the Garter in 2001, have been catalogued in obituaries in The Times, The Telegraph and elsewhere.

As might be expected, those obituaries note only in passing his wife, Tisha, and his daughters, Antonia and Verity. It was they, though, who were the centre of his life. Tisha was his constant support and companion: her death two years ago he mourned greatly but he was wonderfully cared for by Verity as his health failed. He was hugely proud of his daughters and three grandsons. I vividly remember how his face lit up as they spoke of him with great pride and enormous affection at his eightieth birthday party.

He was a forceful presence but wise and witty, great company and enormous fun

Like the rest of the family, I never witnessed the “underlying steeliness” to which his obituaries referred but only his warm, caring demeanour and the constant twinkle in his eye. He was a forceful presence but wise and witty, great company and enormous fun. He and I were only children and, as a result, close. He has been a source of constant inspiration and an unwavering support all my adult life. He rejoiced when I took my seat in the Lords and it was good to see him in that context. He was a distinguished parliamentarian.

Peter was known as a practical, no nonsense, man of action but he was also thoughtful and intellectually curious. He was hugely concerned about ethics. That concern flowed from his deep Christian faith, to which he was very committed. We had many fascinating discussions about leadership, in which he was fond of quoting his military hero William Slim and the latter’s promotion of the importance of “moral courage”. He was convinced that this was at the heart of good leadership. I think he was right. We would do well to remember that today.  

Our fathers’ family farmed in East Kent for generations but there was no space for our grandfather, so he became a butcher – as did our two fathers. None of our family had ever received higher education before us and no-one would have been more surprised than our grandfather that we both ended up in the House of Lords – except Peter and me.

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