Memorial service in Zimbabwe for compiler of 'Irish Times' crosswords


THE FAMILY and friends of Derek Crozier, the long-serving Irish TimesCrosaire crossword compiler, held a memorial service in Harare yesterday when his life as a farmer, teacher and wordsmith were fondly recalled.

About 100 people attended the service at the church in St George’s College, where Mr Crozier, who died last weekend aged 92, taught English to generations of Zimbabweans before retiring in 1989 to concentrate on his interests of crossword-compiling, property development and fishing.

Under a blue sky, near President Robert Mugabe’s state house, Mr Crozier’s children – Brian, Nick and Michael – welcomed mourners to the secondary school’s church. They were joined by their cousin Susan, who was regarded as a “step-sister” in the family.

Old teaching colleagues and pupils, members of Zimbabwe’s Irish community and family friends made up the majority of those who came to pay their respects to Mr Crozier, whose remains were to be cremated afterwards.

Brian Crozier told those who offered condolences: “Don’t be sad, he lived a long and happy life.” Mr Crozier was remembered for his 67-year Crosaire career but those who knew him in Zimbabwe acknowledged his life was about much more than that.

Addressing the congregation from the pulpit, Brian and Nick went through their father’s life from the family’s point of view.

Derek Crozier started his career as a clerk of the Guinness brewery in Dublin and moved to Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, with his wife Marjorie in 1948 – five years after he convinced then Irish Timeseditor Bertie Smyllie to take him on as the weekly crossword compiler.

“He started tobacco farming near Chinhoyi and the early years were rocky and the worst drought in living memory fell in his very first year. But he was successful and it was a very good time to grow up in this country,” Brian said.

Mr Crozier decided there was no future in farming, said Nick, who added that once he began teaching English at St George’s College, it became clear he had found his real vocation.

“He loved the school and was immensely proud of it. Our mother Marjorie joined the teaching staff some years after him and between them, they taught for more than 50 years.”

Brian continued: “Throughout these years the crosswords continued, with our mother preparing the blocks [crossword grids] and Dad the clues . . . By 1989 he was getting tired and a little deaf, so he felt it was time to retire [from teaching].”

After his wife died in 1999, Mr Crozier devoted most of his time to fishing and crossword compiling. “As old age came upon him and he became less physically active, the crosswords played an increasingly important part of his life. He became aware they had become something of a national institution in Ireland, and was deeply touched by the letters he received from fans.

“Though he became frail in his last years, his mind remained sharp and active, and his sense of humour never died,” said Nick.

A few days before their father passed away, Brian concluded, “his old typewriter packed in completely. It broke, never to go again, when the old man died”.

Mark Oxley, head of Zimbabwe’s Trinity College Dublin Association, and member Hartley Carter, attended to bid the association’s oldest member goodbye.

Also present were Fr Joy Arimoso of the Jesuit religious order; Anglican clergyman Fr Noel Alfon; Rector Patrick Makaka, who presided over the memorial; Emmanuel Magade, dean of the law faculty at the University of Zimbabwe; Mark Harper of Irish aid agency Concern, and his wife Chipo; and long-time friends of Mr Crozier Tony and Wendy Woods.