Although it is now nearly 40 years since my dad died he is often in my thoughts. He was something of a mystery in some ways, none of which will ever be solved by me as there is nobody to ask about him.
Hang on...I am getting a bit ahead of myself. Who was this man? He was the wonderful man that agreed (with his wife) to adopt a baby girl. He already had a son of nearly 20 years (his first wife had died when only 32 years old) and it is not known why this couple could not conceive but his wife really wanted a child and so they became my parents in 1932. I have already explained about my adoption in a previous post.
As previously said dad was a bit of an enigma....I do know he didn't marry his first wife until 9 days prior to the birth of their son. I also know that after emigrating to Australia he had no contact whatsoever with any of his family or his first wife's family. Was he perhaps considered to be the black sheep of the family? Perhaps that could have been the case. His family was never mentioned and none of them went to the wedding when he married my mum. Something was surely amiss and it is no good speculating what it may have been.
I do know he came from a very respectable family in London; his father was a wheelwright and coach builder employing several men. What did he do to become an outcast from his loved ones? He had an excellent job with the Sugar Commission (chief clerk) which was important during the first world war because of the shortage of sugar. I also know that George V presented him with an MBE for work he did during that time. That is also a mystery as I have no idea just what he did to merit that award. Mum told me that she thought he used to sometimes go to one of the underground railway stations to meet a train and either hand over or receive a package of some kind. All another mystery to which there is no answer.
After the first world war there was a worldwide influenza epidemic and I am told dad became very ill and after he recovered his doctor advised him to leave England where the climate was bad for his health and emigrate to warmer climes. The decision was made to go to Australia and, of all things, take up farming. What a choice for two city people who previously had only ever done office work.
They sailed on the "Euripides" and arrived in Australia on 9th May, 1920 with dad's son who at that time was 9 years of age. They disembarked in Albany and they farmed three different properties in the Great Southern at Chorkerup, Redmond and finally Narrikup which is where I lived for nearly 6 years.
They had many adventures and misadventures (including their house burning down when they lost all their possessions) during their 17 years of farming and finally were forced to give it all up as mum had become very ill and she was told by her doctor that they should leave the farm. It was very hard for them as they had battled through the depression in the early 1930s and virtually had to walk off the farm with only their personal possessions.
Life was something of a battle during the first year or two in Perth but somehow they managed to send me to a good school and I often think now of the things they went without to do that. I know my mum only had one good dress to wear if she needed to go out at all which restricted her somewhat and probably dad had just the one suit. In those days the men wore shirts with detachable (starched) collars so they could wear the same shirt for several days by just wearing a clean collar each day. Seems strange to us now but that was how things were 'way back then'.
Dad eventually got a job as a travelling salesman for the Rawleighs company and he was a great success and was often "best salesman in W.A." and if I remember rightly one year he achieved best salesman for the whole of Australia. He had a very bright personality and got on particularly well with women and children. My mum always reckoned he could pick up an item from your front garden and actually sell it to you. This may have been stretching it a little but he was certainly a wonderful salesman.
I never knew dad fall out with anyone and yet having had red hair one would think he would have a temper. He very rarely ever went mad at me, in fact I don't remember him ever raising his voice to me. He would tell mum about any restrictions he thought should be placed on me like being 'in' by 10pm when I was a teenager and that type of thing. He certainly never smacked me so my memories of him are of a very gentle man with a great sense of humour (he loved watching Charle Chaplin movies) that seemed to get on well with everyone. He used to love to do tricks to make kids laugh and I remember mum used to make a rabbit out of a pocket handkerchief and dad would tell the kids to stroke the rabbit and then make it 'jump' just as they went to touch it and he'd have the kids in fits of laughter. Probably sound silly to people these days but back then it was just so wonderful to watch him.
When I was very ill just after I turned 12 and my life was in the balance he told me that if I got better he would buy me a push bike. I think it was his way of trying to give me a reason to live and it obviously worked OK. I don't remember him as being an over emotional man so perhaps that was his way of telling me he loved me.
He loved to listen to the Test Matches on the short wave radio and he also enjoyed Aussie Rules football (like me he followed East Perth) although he had been a soccer player in his youth. He had played for Tottenham Hotspurs as a goalie and actually had his England cap and I think played for England in Germany at least once. In those days it was amateur football only so of course they couldn't be paid but he said when they came to get dressed after a game there would be a pound note in one of their shoes which helped cover their expenses. He broke his ankle playing soccer but fortunately it didn't seem to affect him in later life.
When I was about 16 and we were living in Fitzgerald Street in North Perth dad liked to wander across to the park that was opposite our home and watch the North Perth soccer team practising. One day he offered to show them his experience in goal and in doing so he broke his little finger when trying to stop a ball from going into the goal. He was then in his 60s and I feel he then decided he was perhaps a little too old to play.
My biggest regret is that he and mum separated when I was about 22 years of age. They say it is hard for children when their parents split up but I sometimes wonder if it is not worse if you are grown up when it happens. Dad was made to think that I somehow was involved in this split that occurred and I did not see him for many years which deprived my two children of having a wonderful grandfather which seemed most unfair. I was so glad several years before his death to be able to tell him my side of the story and he then realised I had had nothing whatsoever to do with my mum deciding she wanted them to part. At least my children got to meet their grandfather but by then he was quite old and living in a retirement home. I so regret all those lost years. He died in 1971 when he was 85.
There are so many great 'little' memories but this post is already too long so best I leave it there, at least for now.
We don't have the opportunity to choose our dads but I don't think I could have done much better than I did with the one I had. He was brought up in the Victorian era so was of course a little old-fashioned in some of his ways but I know he cared very much about me and I adored him and still miss him very much. Thank you so much for being my dad.