Five minutes with…
Harvey Thomas is chairman of the Council of the Cremation Society of Great Britain and the London Cremation Company, and an international public relations consultant.
He has also worked for evangelist Billy Graham and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and was staying in the Brighton Grand Hotel in October 1984 when a bomb went off.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Leaving the White House after Dr Billy Graham had been to see the US president, I asked him: “Isn’t it a big strain always having to deal with very important people?” He looked at me and said: “Harvey – they’re just people.”
What's the worst situation you've ever been in?
The 1984 Brighton bomb, which was about 6ft under my bed when it went off. I went up through the roof and down three floors and was buried under 10 tons of rubble for about two and a half hours.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Start your pension now!
What would you be doing if you weren't working in the funeral world?
I’ve always wanted to be a policeman, but when I applied they told me I was colour blind, so couldn’t join. So I became involved in teaching public speaking, producing events and executive coaching. I would have included politics, but today that is the 'funeral world'!
Which person would you most like to meet and what would you ask them?
I’ve met most people I want to meet through my work with Billy Graham and Margaret Thatcher, so I’ve been very fortunate. But I would like to meet Arsene Wenger and ask him why he can’t find a decent goalkeeper. Arsenal haven’t had a really good goalkeeper since Jack Kelsey.
What ambitions have you yet to fulfil?
I wish I could persuade Premier League managers to donate a million pounds from their multi-million transfers to water projects in Africa. They could change the world and they wouldn’t even notice the difference.
What super power would you choose?
Time Travel. I’d love to see who really shot Kennedy – and whether Arsenal are going to win the league this year.
What does your ideal day off look like?
I don’t know – I’d be asleep.
What was your best present?
The births of my two wonderful daughters Leah and Lani from my wife Marlies.
What would you like as your epitaph?
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Looking back, I would not edit, but looking forward from 50 years ago, I would not have chosen to be colour blind. I would have joined the police and retired 10 years ago with a nice pension. Fortunately God knew what he was doing … and I am still colour blind.
Get more with a subscription.
Everything you need to know in the funeral industry. Get much more with a subscription to FSJ, from just £1.73 per month.