William Wyllie - The Final Days
W L Wyllie left for London on Saturday 4th April 1931 to deliver that year’s paintings to the RA. As per usual, he was to stay with their friends, The Crompton family, at 102 Fellows Road on Primrose Hill and due to return the following Wednesday.
The friendship between the Wyllies and the Cromptons dated back to Bill’s time at Heatherley School of Art, where the 15 year old Bill and even younger Johnnie Crompton teamed up to what was to become a lifelong friendship. John Crompton (1854 – 1927) later became the principal of the art school from 1888 until 1908. After John Crompton passed away, Bill stayed with his daughter Dorothy each year during the submission period of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Marion didn’t feel well enough to come. She had been suffering from heart problems of late, so it was decided that Bill would travel up with Commander Oliver, a great Family friend, as his car was more comfortable than his own.
The entries for that year’s RA exhibition had travelled ahead in WL’s own car.
On Sunday, after making some final preparations for the exhibition during his stay in London, the Crompton’s laid on a gathering of friends and family at the house, which was quite tiring for Bill.
That night Bill fell ill and complained that he had a pain. The doctor was called immediately but was too late to help and in the early hours of Easter Monday 6 April 1931, W L Wyllie died as a result of a heart attack before Marion and the rest of the family arrived in London to be with him. The reduced Easter holiday train timetable had delayed their journey. His last words, cradled in Dorothy’s caring arms were “Is Mim coming?”
On Wednesday, the day he was due to return to Portsmouth, his body was taken back home to Portsmouth. Waiting for them was a wealth of condolences, one of the first being from his majesty King George V and Queen Mary. His body was laid in his studio under a large unfinished painting of The Battle of Jutland.
On Friday 10th April 1931, W L Wyllie’s body was carried to the Cathedral for a memorial service by the newly appointed Bishop Neville Lovett and thereafter back to The Point, where he was placed on a cutter sent from The Navy’s flagship, HMS Nelson.
His beloved Seascouts rowed him to his final resting place in the grounds of Portchester Castle at St. Mary’s Church, situated at the Northern tip of Portsmouth Harbour.
The funeral party passed HMS Nelson and HMS Warspite, both with their ensigns at half mast. Even HMS Victory showed its respects by lowering its flag. He was buried next to his oldest daughter Eva and was later joined by his wife Marion (1937) and daughter Aileen (1987).