What Time Is It ?

What can I say about Dad ? I’ve known him all my life, as have many of us here. :-)

My earliest memories are of him being away a lot, but when he came home, it was always for months, and he always brought home a present.

Dad was born in Stockton in 1919, the second of three brothers, and went to school at Kirkleatham. He left school early to go to sea, which was his life, just like his elder brother Teddy. They were dangerous times to be in the merchant navy, thanks to the war, but he made it through, despite his loss of hearing, which he blamed on a particularly heavy bombing raid when he was in a harbour in the Mediterranean. He didn’t talk about it much, but he was on one convoy across the Atlantic which had to turn back because of engine trouble, a very dangerous thing to do. He returned safely to port for repairs, but the rest of the convoy was attacked and sunk a few days later.

He progressed through the ranks, making Captain in the early 60’s. He married Yvonne in 1948, and they moved to Englefield Green in the late 50’s, where he has lived ever since. I was born in 61. Due to Mum’s poor health, she couldn’t have children so I was adopted, and Dad always took great amusement in reminding me that I cost 12/6-, the court fees in those days.

Dad was a stickler for timekeeping, everything had to happen when it was supposed to. There are stories of him leaving port without the pilot if the pilot was late. There was one occasion when a tankard had been ordered secretly for his birthday, and it hadn’t arrived. He was insisting on departing anyway as the package was being driven at high speed down the dock, so it was thrown across the water into the ship just as they were leaving - after all, the ship had to leave on time. When Matthew was born, and was 10 days late, Dad was most perplexed because the baby didn’t arrive on the due date. Even for a simple pub lunch, he would be waiting on the step at exactly the allotted time and I would be in all sorts of trouble if we were late picking him up…

Dad loved his parties and social events, and the summer bar-b-ques he started after Mum died became a regular feature in his garden for many years. Some of these event were used to raise money for Mission to Seafarers, and I remember the celebration when we tooped the £1000 for a bring and buy sale. He also loved his garden, and was a keen member and treasurer of the local gardening association. He loved the events on the Wellington, with the Master Mariners and also the Trinity house lunches and dinners. He used to go up by train, so he could have “a beer or two”, then on hias return would drive back from Egham station – “It’s all right” he would say I’m going by train” ! – I never could explain that one to him…When I could, I would pick him and his friends up myself – that was always an amusing drive home….

When he retired, he worked at Thorpe Park looking after the water side of things. There he met Ron and Marian, who have been close friends ever since. They have looked after him when he has been unwell, and I would like to say a special thank you to them for all they have done, especially in the last few years.

Dad had many many wonderful friends from all over the world, and many of you are here today. Thank you all for coming, and Ken, Nikki and I sincerely hope, no INSIST that you all join us for a drink and a bite to eat afterwards. We look forward to hearing more stories and tails about the old sea dog.

We were with Dad when he passed away, and it was quite peaceful. You’ll be amused to know that his last words to me were “What time is it?” – so we had all better not be late…….