When I started this project, I knew that I did so because of the stories, the reasons why follies exist, why they have meaning, and how their meaning can change depending on our own histories and perceptions. So when Alan Terrill got in touch and sent me the photo and article below (first printed in the Folly Fellowship Magazine in 1999), I felt grateful that he was willing to share his story. I have created a new category, 'Folly Stories', to hopefully add to over the years, to show that follies, and the stories linked to them, are as alive now as hundreds of years ago. Thank you, Alan.

Rohan’s Tower was completed in May 1999 and stands at the bottom of my garden overlooking fields stretching to the North Downs. Since moving here six years ago I had toyed with the idea of building a tower for the millennium, but nothing other than the location had been decided, when in August 1997 my son Rohan was taken ill with cancer, and all such ideas had to take a back seat in the endless trips to hospital. During his illness we discussed building a tower and he said I’d have to make it with a ramp to the top so he could get up to the top in his wheelchair. Strangely enough I found such a tower in Copenhagen last summer, with a ramp big enough to take a carriage and horses.  When he died, aged 12, in April the following year, I set to work with a passion to make him a worthy memorial and to give me a purpose in life in the terrible months that followed.  My son’s grand passion was Lego, and he also had a great sense of humour, so I determined to make his tower incorporate some colourful elements and not be too grim and gothic. I scoured the architectural salvage yards for staircases and found a suitable straight fire escape rusting in the nettles not far away.  I had two extra legs welded to the platform to make it freestanding, and with the help of a neighbour with a JCB, erected the staircase and platform onto a concrete base. I cleaned the rust off the metalwork and painted it in the bright primary colours of Lego bricks.

            I looked around for suitable bricks and chose some nice shiny blue paving bricks which were available with matching kerb bricks which I thought I would use to give the tower rounded corners. I also chose two circular Greek key slabs, designed to go in the centre of patio designs, which I thought would look nice mounted vertically.  The evenings and weekends throughout the summer and autumn were spent patiently laying bricks to a general plan in my mind but with nothing on paper. A gothic arched doorway was made in one face and above this I mounted a stone plaque with `Rohan’s Tower 1998' engraved on it. Engraving reconstituted stone is one of those things you do quite easily with a hobby drill, yet somehow doesn’t get a mention in those TV adverts.  I got the plaque in place before the end of 1998, thus solving the problem of whether the date refers to Rohan’s death or the construction of the tower. My daughter bought me a gargoyle for Christmas which I determined to mount near the top, and after some searching I managed to find two more all different, so there was one for each face of the tower. After a couple of on the spot redesigns, the tower eventually reached the top of the handrails in April, the only problem being how to finish it off.  I thought battlements too cliched and uncomfortable to lean on, and although I fancied small obelisks I couldn’t find any small enough to fit. Eventually my wife suggested using the giant Lego bricks they sell as lunch-boxes and I have to admit they look rather nice when the sun catches their bright yellow surfaces. A stained glass window saved from a refurbished board room was added last, and makes the inside look slightly less like a privy. A maze in the shape of a tortoise is being marked out at the foot of the staircase, its shape only discernible from the top of the tower.

                        Just after completion, we held a sponsored bike ride for my son’s old school on the bike track which encircles the tower. In order to include the tower in the proceedings we asked the children to bring their teddy bears with them for a spot of bungee jumping from the parapet of the tower. They obliged by bringing all manner of bears dressed in helmets and goggles, and some of the braver bears took to skydiving onto a small trampoline.

                     I’m satisfied to have built my first tower and it provides a nice spot to watch the hot air balloons which pass over on summer evenings. I hope it will make people smile despite its function as a memorial.

Alan Terrill.

10/30/2011 02:39:01 pm

What a fantastic and unusual memorial. Thank you for sharing it.

Niky Sayers
11/1/2011 05:09:07 am

Thanks for sharing a really touching story and such a wonderful memorial!


Leave a Reply.