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News > Deaths & Obituaries > HEATHCOTE, Edgar Colin, FRAes (Colin)

HEATHCOTE, Edgar Colin, FRAes (Colin)

You are warmly invited to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Colin Heathcote who we sadly lost in 2023.

Colin's eulogy was written by Colin's close friend Richard Armstrong

Colin loved pageantry, tradition and processions and we have certainly given him that today. My first version of this eulogy was seven pages which I had to cut back as it would have been dark by the time I finished.

But there was so much packed into the 77 years Colin lived that I wanted to tell you, so it was hard to prune it.

Colin asked that we play Nimrod, part of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Now that word ‘enigma’ is one to conjure with...for Colin was himself an enigma.

A lot of people knew him. A lot of you are here because you liked him or even loved him. But there were those who didn’t care for him, thought he was aloof, acerbic, and politically incorrect. But we all knew the other side of him. On the inside of the Teflon coated exterior was a generous, funny, kind, private and thoughtful man, a sportsman, an astute businessman, a skilled pilot, a hungry for adventure classic car rally driver, devoted to his family and his Regiment and he had many more endearing qualities too. Basically, you were either in or out of Colin’s circle of trust and many times I straddled it depending on whether or not I was in his good or bad favour!

There are plenty of you amongst us who could give their versions of their experiences in Colin’s life, may it be rallying, flying, HAC stories, rugby tours, Pamplona Bull running or the annual Spanish Tomato throwing festival near Valencia - there all there and each of you will have their own experiences to remember of him.

Colin was born in Esher in Surrey in January 1945 to Edgar Ronald and Olga Heathcote. He had a sister, Jean. He was educated at his prep school in St. Edmunds in Hindhead, Surrey and Public School at Tonbridge, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. It was here at Tonbridge, while in the RAF Section of the Combined Cadet Force that he had his first yearning to fly. Those happy days of anything connected with flight would eventually lead him to a profession and lifetime of flying.

Colin left school at 18 not knowing what he was to do, so his first job, much to the annoyance of his mother, was to become a refuse collector! Yes, all that private education funding was well spent on Cobham’s most expensive dustman.

To frustrate her even further he used to call out to her when she was shopping in Cobham High St. while he has hanging on the back of the Council dust cart. She hid her face and turned away in disgust because, as they used to say in those days, ‘the shame of it’.

Being an environmental waste disposal consultant was after a while a bit boring for someone with his talent and zest for life.

It was at this time at age 20, in March 1965, he joined the HAC as a reservist. He served in 1 Squadron, 2 Company, A Battery and in the Pikeman & Musketeers. His final role before retirement of the Regiment was to be Armourer.

Back to his professional career and with the help of an uncle, he got into the printing industry somewhere in the City close to the HAC. There’s a suggestion that he only joined the HAC so he could get the free parking at Armoury House and walk to the print works nearby! His progress through the printing company that was to employ him had his tasks all set out, whereby he was to have experience in every department from type setting, blocking, editing, printing, proofing and so on. He was to spend a month in each department learning the necessary skills in each one.

Well, being the impatient young Heathcote that he was, he cut short the time in each department and alternated between them in short time periods such to the point no one ever knew where he really was!

Colin cottoned onto that fact and instead of working in any of the departments that employed him he simply clocked in at the front door, wandered around for a bit, then disappeared out the back door! He spent the day in the City chatting up young females, getting into pubs and wine bars and generally enjoying himself whilst getting paid all the while. He’d sneak in the back door before the end of his shift and clock out the front door again at home time!

Well as you would expect one day there was a general search for him and each department came up with the same answer – ‘no we haven’t seen him for at least a month’. One morning the Managing Director waited by the front entrance and when Colin arrived for his morning ‘clock on’ he invited him up to his office for a chat, without coffee, and because Colin could not account for himself for the previous couple of months, was duly sacked!

At 21 with no job Colin bought his first aeroplane with the help of his aunt and thus began his career in aviation starting by qualifying as a flying instructor. In 1969 he established Cabair and from then he worked tirelessly building up the company offering services of flying training, air taxi services and aircraft maintenance.

He even had the role of the flying eye for Capital Radio and Chiltern Radio in the late 70’s and 80’s providing a weather and traffic service over Greater London. He was affectionately known as ‘Captain Col’.

He was flying the great and the good from film stars to jockeys and politicians. Tony Blair was one of them and I never knew why but he had a photograph of Tony Blair and himself standing next to a plane he had just landed, and it hung on the back of the door of his cloakroom at both Green End Barn and Tudor House!

Colin’s entrepreneurial skills helped expand the business and at one point there were over 100 aeroplanes and helicopters on the Cabair fleet.

By the time Colin retired from Cabair in November 2000 there were several flying schools, Flight Training, helicopter and aircraft maintenance centres. He had, with the help of his colleagues built a business that employed nearly 200 people and turned over £12 million.

In 1972 he bought his six months old Jaguar E-Type, something which young men of his age could only dream of. That car went all over the world and Colin loved it even to his dying day. He poured huge amounts of affection into that car along with a lot of cash, but it served him well.

Colin’s rallying career with and without the E-Type crossed all continents, London to Cape Town, Panama to Alaska, The Inca Trail, London to Singapore and 5,000 miles around India, the rally on which I was co-driver with him.

Colin’s other sporing pastimes were sailing and skiing. Through his life he had two sailing yachts and the family had many happy times aboard them. Four of us were invited as a final soiree on the second one, ‘Hopalong two’, a 38ft Janneau. The other crew members are here and will remember the many incidents of that trip and the skiing calamities on the slopes of the Lauberhorn Olympic Slalom course in Wengen, Switzerland.

He was devoted to the Pikeman & Musketeers and made many friends there, a lot of whom are here today. He invited us to join friends and families of the Regiment to the Vatican City to celebrate the 500th anniversary year of the Swiss Guard. We enjoyed a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel and took in all the pomp of the ceremonies. The only trouble was, because Mandy and I arrived a day later than planned, Colin had let our room go and we had to share with him. There was a single and a double bed in the room. He insisted in staying in the double in which he had already slept and so Mandy had the single and I shared the double with Colin. Well, I certainly wasn’t going in the single was I!  

As many of you know Colin left the Elstree area to move to Green End Barn in Datchworth where his young family grew up. I invited him shooting to the area around Redcoats, where the wake is to be held and he loved it. He joined the shoot on the beaters team and one day spotted that Tudor House was for sale and he bought it.

He adored being up on the hill and he loved the views across the open fields and tending his garden. He enjoyed the accessibility to important local facilities such as The Red Lion, Redcoats and The Rusty Gun and of course being close to his family and friends.

He was to have seen his new grandchild into the world but that was not to be. Baby Beatrix is here with us today which is quite poignant and a great shame she won’t meet her grandfather, who would have enriched her life in the same way as he enriched everyone’s lives who got to know him.

Thank you Colin for enriching mine, goodbye my friend, god bless you and rest in peace.

(MH 58-63)


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