There follows a transcript of the eulogy delivered by fellow Pal and close associate, Theo Coliandris -
I feel greatly honoured to have been asked by Mandy and Linda, his daughters, to offer this eulogy to Mr Iles, especially as we can see the measure of his great esteem by the number that are present here today to acknowledge his passing and to celebrate his life. Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time.
I apologise that I may lapse into calling him ‘Mr Iles’ but that is how many here today will know him. Old school as we are, we knew him as an elder statesman of our shipping fraternity and to be respected. Despite him telling me for years to call him John, it was an old habit that I could not overcome.
There are many here today who can say that John has had an influence on their lives. He certainly influenced mine and in some respects by his actions he has made my working life a mirror image of his own. I have followed him as a director of Lambert Brothers, as the Consul for Thailand and, in time, no doubt, the secretary of our club, the Docks Company of Pals. All of these have, to a great extent, been influenced and orchestrated by John. Needless to say, he was always going to be a tough act to follow. A perfectionist and a popular man, but one who would not tolerate fools.· He exercised great patience but had a unique way in which to get his point over. I recall his asking me recently to reply to a letter on his behalf in conjunction with Thai business. I did the letter and afterwards handed him a copy. He·read it, raised his head and simply said ‘we all have our own style of writing, your style is good but not as good as mine’. What can you reply to that and how can you feel offended?
I first met John 46 years ago when·he literally tugged me away from Cory Brothers with a salary package and benefits that I could not refuse. He had spotted my visiting Lambert offices with documents and then through another shipping boy he got a message to me that I might like to come and see him for a discussion that could be to my benefit. The rest is history. When I joined the Lambert Group in 1973, John was the local managing director, but he chose to immediately move me sideways into the subsidiary company K.H. Thomas Shipping where I changed duties entirely as I was to undertake chartering - something I had never done before and not the job for which I had been interviewed. Manipulative, maybe, but it actually proved to be life changing and to my great advantage. One humorous story comes to mind of those shared offices between Lambert and Thomas’s.· Ken Thomas and John worked really well together, sitting opposite each other in a room with nine others, but they were like chalk and cheese in their personalities.· Both God-fearing men but Ken, as an ex-sea captain, was more inclined to unleash the odd obscenity at the drop of a hat. This would always bring the response from John that God was watching and “He is not going to let you in”. One day, John had arranged the sailing of a Malaysian ship for that evening, when he received a phone call that a snake had been spotted in the hold and that the dockers had walked off. As many will know, the cost of a cancelled sailing, plus the cost of delay to the vessel, was enormous so naturally John was frustrated. He sat back in his chair and sighed -·only for the phone to ring again some five minutes later. This time it was the port operations manager to tell him that the gang would return to the hold if they were each given a bonus of £30 per man to complete the vessel that evening. John reluctantly agreed but slammed the phone down before exclaiming, “those cheating bleep bleep bleeps, they care less about their lives than money. Without raising his head, Ken chipped in, “Mr John Iles, ... You’re never going to heaven’... Regardless, as we all know, that is where John is bound, and no doubt Ken is waiting there for him to resume their great friendship.
Following John’s retirement, he recommended my taking over as managing director of Lambert despite the fact that I had left the company three years previously - again influencing me greatly. John moved sideways into Brown Jenkinson to continue his Malaysian international agencies before finally retiring where he could devote all of his time to the role of the Honorary Royal Thai Consul for Wales. John held that position for 40 years, being the second Lambert man to perform this role, which we had obtained as ship agents to Uni-Thai shipping line. During that period, he was twice decorated with Orders of the Elephant and eventually the highest rank obtainable by a civilian as a Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Crown of Thailand. This is the equivalent of a knighthood here and just recognition of John’s work with the local community. The insignia appendant of this order is that which you can see hung here. There is so much I could add but I think·that John’s esteem is best seen in a letter that has been written by the present ambassador, despite John retiring 5 years ago from the role:
"....John contributed greatly to the work of the Royal Thai Embassy.
Over four decades, the friendship and bonds that John cultivated has been more than just friendship. He was part of the Thai family -- like a loving father or a caring uncle to all of us. Indeed, John was well known and much loved among the Thai community, ambassadors and the Thai officials.
John will be fondly remembered as a kind-hearted gentleman with generous mind and gentle soul. Together we pray for the eternal rest of such a distinguished man. May God give him eternal repose in peace.
For the post, and following a long process of interviews, I was elected over four other applicants. Typical of John, he had the last word in that regard by saying that he had only put me forward as it would·provide a job for my son Simon in the Visa office. ... At the time my son James was leaving university and I thought it was a good stop-gap job for him to gain work experience and credibility. John agreed, saying·though that it had been intended for Simon, so we compromised, and James went full time and·Simon part time. John instantly took to James and paid me and him the greatest of·compliments when a few months later he said he felt for James as if he were his own grandson - quickly adding, though, that it did not mean he thought of me as a son!!!! John was delighted to attend James’s wedding almost 2 years ago where he joined my family table and we were honoured to have him there with us.
John has influenced my life, looked after me like a father, treated my wife and children as if they were his own family, and though he is a hard act to follow, I feel privileged to have followed in the footsteps of such a loved and great man.