17 January, 2020 - 13:38 By Tony Quested

Cathedral splendour a fitting tribute to Sir Michael Marshall

Cambridge entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Michael Marshall loved Ely Cathedral and worked tirelessly for its various restoration appeals.

His soul and spirit pervaded every inch of the ancient edifice as his family staged an inspirational service of thanksgiving to his memory.

Sir Michael passed away peacefully while on holiday in Spain last July. The funeral service was a private affair but the family decided to stage a celebration of Sir Michael’s life.

The cathedral was packed with friends and associates from many diverse realms of society – representatives of royalty, the RAF and other Services, business, academia, charitable organisations and employees of the Marshall Group of Companies that Sir Michael so admirably cherished. Young and old. Able bodied and not so able bodied. Die-hard successes and apprentices starting out.

Michael cherished them all. With unfailing charm he took an interest in everyone he met and helped scores of people along the way, regardless of their background or circumstances. He had an unbridled passion for life and everyone who walked the hallowed planet wherever he came upon them.

In terms of the music, the tributes and the tone of the ceremony this was such a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. Lord Robert Mair, an old friend of Sir Michael, spoke from the heart about the impact the great man had on people, projects and society – and his incredible energy.

A wartime evacuee to Canada, something of a Biggles figure as an intrepid pilot, a talented oarsman for Cambridge and Britain and a passionate advocate of all things Cambridge; Sir Michael’s life story was one long ripping yarn.

A fabulous piano recital by Carson Becke provided a magical interlude; Dr Becke is an alumnus of Ashbury College in Ottawa in Canada which Sir Michael attended along with brother David and sister Judy when they were evacuated in the Second World War.

Sir Michael supported Carson while he was studying and working in the UK between 2005 and 2019 and Carson flew from Canada to Cambridge to pay his own tribute at the ceremony.

His stunning arrangement and interpretation of Jupiter from Holst’s The Planets had guests spellbound. It seemed to echo the reality that Sir Michael’s entire attitude to life was universal and the impact of his approach often stellar. 

Like a few moment’s in Michael’s company, this keyboard wizardry was uplifting. The memories of the man and his own kind of magic will stay with this friend and admirer for all my remaining days on this particular planet.

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