Our CEO Nicolette Wolf reflects on her family history and one of the interesting characters from her past who has helped to define her present and future by choosing to live a generous life of undercurrent giving and philanthropy.
Like many, during lockdown, I have been thinking about my past. Memories and nostalgia have been rising to the surface. My maternal great grandfather and grandfather ran a family travel business called Yates Tours, in Runcorn, Cheshire in the UK. They owned a fleet of buses in the ‘Golden Age of Coaching’ where people went on day trips out. My family business ran tours to London, Angelsea, Blackpool and other places. My grandfather used to tell me lots of stories from the business. One day, for example, the mother of the famous Ukelelee player George Formby was on a Yates Tours trip and before they set off, George was persuaded by his mother to step onto the bus and sing a little number!
When I googled “Yates Tours” I was surprised to find that there is still a fan base for the business. And a recent post in Runcorn’s Heritage Museum about the business too. It was very bizarre to see. People had posted pictures of some of the buses, my grandfather, shared memories and distant family members had added comments. In contrast to my lockdown, it opened a whole new perspective on the memories I hold dear. It also brought back a flood of real emotions. A thick slice of my past rushed forward into my present.
And I started to think about my grandfather, ‘Bompa’. His real name was Frank Yates. We were very close. He died out in Barbados nearly 20 years ago yet his legacy to me still lives on.
Bompa was an unassuming man, quiet, humble, thoughtful, rarely emotional or physically affectionate, yet as I child I knew he loved me deeply through his quiet and sometimes extravagant acts of generosity… As children, my sisters and I would go and visit, he would have paid builders to drop a huge pile of builders’ sand onto their patio for us girls to play in. When I rode my pony to a local show, he’d stealthily follow behind in the car to make sure I got there safely! I always knew he was following me.
He bought my sisters and I our first car, a old style mini, and he would carefully maintain and service it to make sure it ran like clockwork! He was a solid character, a gatherer of people from all walks of life and culture. Everyone was equal, everyone had potential and he affirmed them with a wink of the eye, a brilliant joke and a listening ear.
I was told of his death just before I was about to go on stage in a theatre production in London. One of his sayings was, The Show Must Go On. So, I went on stage that night and performed for him.
A great man suddenly gone…
His funeral was held up in Cheshire. A great many people attended. After the service, a couple of distant relatives came up to me and chatted about the Bompa they knew. Everyone called him Bompa! They’d lived out in New Zealand and had children there. Then a few years ago they decided to move back to the UK. They told me that they had little money for the move. They said, when they landed at Heathrow, out of the blue, Bompa was there waiting to welcome them. He also handed them a big cheque. They said, the money that he gave them was totally unexpected. This quiet act of philanthropy helped them set up home as a family and was just what they needed to start their new life well.
When they told me this story it blew me away. This unassuming and humble man was being philanthropic quietly under the surface. And profoundly so…. It was my first introduction into philanthropy. And it was a good leveller. What an amazing impact and legacy Bompa had created! How would I want to be remembered at the end of my life? What would people be saying about me at my funeral? What is the ultimate legacy I want to leave behind? Leaving a good impact through being generous is a great start!!
So here I’ve been, in lockdown, remembering Bompa and his model of good giving carried out underneath the surface. Like an undercurrent, going against the flow in consistent streams of opposite good.
In one sense, lockdown has allowed us all the time and space to view the world in a different way. The surface of the water of life, it’s usual flow and habit, disguises rapid currents of water flowing underneath the surface that consistently provide good to those in need. These are a network of streams and rivers, the energy and activity of many people, charities, organisations and bodies who are quietly giving to create lasting impact and legacies of generosity and philanthropy.
Why don’t you dive down, do some research and allow yourself to be pulled along into the exciting adventure that undercurrent giving and philanthropy can bring…