In a number of the posts on this website I have referred to those who have died as having “gone under the wire”. I glommed this phrase from A.J. Liebling’s friend and subject, J.A.S. Macdonald – a.k.a, Col. John R. Stingo, a.a.k.a., The Honest Rainmaker. It is a horse racing term meaning those who have passed the finishing line. In Major’s case the usage is not entirely inappropriate as he was known to have an occasional flutter on the gee-gees during visits to what his son, when young, would refer to as ‘the horse bank’. When I last saw Major during his final visit to Cornwall he told me he was in dispute with the Betfred chain over a substantial four-figure sum which they were initially refusing to pay out. In the end he got his money.
Major figures prominently in several posts on this website. In the Memoir Category there is a paragraph in Chapter 3 – Dropout, that describes our meeting on the first day of classes at New York’s High School of Commerce – now itself “gone under the wire”. On that day in September 1958, the round, dark brown humorous face of the boy at the desk in front of mine turned and asked, “Haven’t I seen you around Washington Square?” I said it was very likely as I lived in Greenwich Village and was often in the Square. Major also makes notable appearances in Memoirs’ Chapter 9 – Back in Bohemia, and Chapter 10 – Good Old Music. A more recent post, Dublin 50 Years On, recounts several episodia (another Col. Stingo-ism) from Major’s visit to Ireland in 1971.
Since Major’s death I have had occasion to say in various places and to various people that during our 57-plus year friendship no one outside my immediate families had a greater or more lasting impact and influence on my life than Major Wiley. I loved him dearly and will not forget him until I “go under the wire” myself.
I’ve looked at this short post again today, the 5th of February 2017. which would have been Major’s 75th birthday.