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Bunny Austin

Bunny Austin loved the Lord, and the world was his court.

Bunny gave the address at Brian and Juliet's wedding, and he remained a close friend.

The following piece was Brian's address at his funeral on September 1, 2000.

If you look at the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack of 1926 you will find what a very good schoolboy cricketer Bunny was. It says: 'Bunny was a sound and imperturbable opening batsman, a capital foil to his opening partner, Brian Valentine.' (Valentine later played for England). 'But,' it says, 'he may transfer his allegiance to another game at Cambridge.'

What a remarkable all-round sportsman he was, especially bearing in mind that his health was always poor, with a permanent jaundice that often sapped his energy in his tennis years.

When he started wearing shorts he was playing in a tournament in Monte Carlo. He set forth from his hotel one day, wearing a long overcoat over his shorts, and a hotel porter came up anxiously and said, 'Excuse me, Mr Austin, but I think you have forgotten your trousers!'

How do you cope with being a celebrity? How do you cope with being charming? Bunny had an abundance of charm. The world falls in love with you. A friend of ours said only recently:  'We were all in love with Bunny.'

Charm needs a Cross. And Bunny found that Cross. Christ said, 'If you follow me, the world will hate you.' Bunny, the idol, soon became vilified, smeared, persecuted, because of what he stood for.

I asked an old sporting friend what stood out about Bunny. The reply was : 'Years and years of persecution, and his colossal range of friendship with people across the world including the leaders of nations.'

What struck me was his amazing courage under persecution. He did not turn back, nor did he hit back.

There is a sentence in a book by Tolstoy about one of his characters:  'Now he knows that all the time he thought he was succeeding in his career, he was actually failing in his life.'

Bunny was that rare person, a star successful in his field and in his life - and so free of self-importance that he had time for everyone:  people easily talked to him and confided in him.

He loved the Psalms. His favourite verse towards the end was Psalm 62, verse 1:

Leave it all quietly to God, my soul,

My rescue comes from Him alone.

Rock, refuge, rescue, He is all to me

Never shall I be overthrown. (Moffat translation)

I must end with a crazy story. Bunny was a great skipper of rope. I used to compete with him to see how many double-throughs we could do. When the American tennis stars Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe paid one of their visits to his home, Bunny arranged a skipping competition in Victoria Square! And Bunny won it by doing a triple through!

He was 70! Life with Bunny was never too serious. Laughter was never far away.

On his wife Phyllis' gravestone are these words:  'Phyll loved Jesus and the world was her stage.'

Bunny loved the Lord, and the world was his court.

'Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest to dwell in Thy courts close to Thee.' (Psalm 65)

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