A life-long friend of Tony’s – author and biographer Philip Norman, having recently completed a biography of Paul McCartney, has paid tribute to Tony in New Statesman magazine:
‘Dying of the light
Luxuriating in my new freedom, I take the catamaran across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, disembarking at Ryde Pier Head. During the 1950s, my father was the end-of-the-pier showman, operating a roller skating rink, a pinball arcade, a ballroom, restaurants and bars. I used to help him during my school holidays, giving change in the arcade, blowing up balloons for his carnival dances and selling refreshments from a trolley. Present-day Ryde is a bit threadbare but in Victorian times it was the island’s grandest town, frequently visited by the monarch from her holiday home, Osborne House. Ryde’s Royal Victoria Arcade, modelled on Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly, contained the studios of four royal photographers and a supplier of turtle soup made from turtles kept on the premises.
I’m here for the funeral of Tony Packer, who worked for my father at the end of the pier. The service is followed by drinks at the heritage centre Tony co-founded in the Royal Victoria Arcade. When I last saw him, he was hugely excited about a discovery underneath the arcade – a brick-lined ice well once used by the turtle soup shop.
I take the catamaran back to Portsmouth, feeling desperately sad. My wretched pier-bound childhood had few bright spots. Small, shy and formidably intelligent Tony Packer was one of the brightest.’