Thursday, 28 December 2006


The attentive readers amongst you will have noticed that I am walking in memory of my father, who died earlier this year, after a long illness made bearable by Sue Ryder Care.
At this time of year I find myself reflecting on past events and so I hope you don't find this selfish of me, but I thought I would let you know a little about the man, and I can think of no better way, than to publish the tribute I made at his funeral.


At times like this, you often hear of the special achievements in a man’s life.

Dad had a wonderful working life as a teacher, but because of the sort of man he was, I don’t think he would have claimed to have been anything that special. But that is so far from the truth. He led a life incredibly rich in all the things that really matter. To us, and I am sure to all those who knew him, the man was remarkable. I will now try and explain why.

Jeff was born in Cardiff, the youngest of three children into a family that was not well-off by any standard. He was bright and did well at school. He went into the steelworks and when the Second World War came along he joined the RAF. He became a Leading Aircraftsman in a tank busting squadron of Hurricanes and travelled with them through North Africa, Palestine, the Adriatic and Italy, patching up the planes when they came back from a mission.

He returned home after the war, and met Mum at a Ball at the City Hall in Cardiff. Their first dance was to ‘In the Mood’ by Glenn Miller. That was sixty years ago. They courted, married and after a spell training as a school teacher, he was soon in the thick of it, teaching in Small Heath, a deprived area of Birmingham. He specialised in the Remedial streams and so he had his work cut out. He set about trying to enrich his pupils with the tools that they most urgently needed, that you probably won’t find on the modern curriculum; self respect.

He felt that once the children valued themselves then everything else; reading, writing and arithmetic would follow on. He ran sports teams and threw himself into the life of the school.

The family moved to Bracknell and he became head of the remedial department at the brand new Wick Hill Secondary Modern, while Mum, for a while, was at home bringing up an ever larger and larger family. Again, he was central in the life of the school, taking part in all the annual Gilbert & Sullivan extravaganzas and helping to run the school fetes. He looked after his pupils and on many an occasion, younger struggling members of staff as well, often turning around their careers. He stayed at the school when it merged with the grammar school, eventually rising to be Deputy Head of the Lower School, a role he filled with huge success. He was joined there for the last thirteen years of his career, by Mum, who became a Lower School secretary. He worked there until his retirement. He taught at the same school for thirty years.

But to talk of Dad just in terms of what he did for a living would miss the essence of the man by a country mile.

Dad & Mum had six children. That was considered quite a lot - even back then. Every single one of their children felt loved, cared for and nurtured. There were no single ‘favourites’ – we were all favourites.

He didn’t earn a fortune as a teacher, but every single one of the children went on school trips here there and everywhere and every year he would take us all away on holiday – often for weeks on end.

When the family outgrew the car, Dad set about converting a Bedford van into a Dormobile to carry us all on holiday, so we could all be together.

The family all being together inevitably brought about its own set of problems that Dad had to solve. There was one particular Grand Day Out that sticks in the memory – I think we were on holiday in Devon. In the space of one afternoon Hilary & Christine were of course behaving like little angels, and I split my head open throwing glass bottles in the air. David threw sand over a brand new car. The car’s owner took great exception, resulting in Dad having to square up to him trying to protect young David. Gwyn capped it all by building a sandcastle on baby Megan’s head.

How he didn’t just pack the car up and take us all home there and then I will never know.

Dad was a multi-talented chap. When he did have some free time – a precious commodity with six children – he enjoyed painting with water colours and sketching. He was incredibly well-read and knowledgeable. He was active politically and encouraged all his children to think and act in a socially responsible way. But most of all, Dad encouraged us all to take part as fully as possible in everything to do with having fun.

Mum & Dad were a double act – they supported their children in everything they did.

The boys were all Cubs and then Scouts, under the guidance of a wonderful scoutmaster. We had three head choirboys at Holy Trinity Church, and even toured the Eastern Seaboard of the States. We had paper-rounds, sang in school productions. Who can ever forget Police Sgt Sloman’s ‘You’ve got to pick a pocket or two’? We had two captains of the school’s first fifteen. We had a runner and a head-boy.

The girls sang in school choirs. They were Cub Leaders – Bagheera & Kim. We had a long jumper, a high jumper and a relay racer, a pretty good Amateur Dramatics actress and a cracking artist. His family thrived.

Dad successfully saw his children off to universities, colleges and careers. However, he and Mum were always there to bale them out of any troubles that came their way, with an ever open door at Bracknell or a bit of financial help when it was needed most.

With his children off his hands, he was not content to lean back and think his job was done; he had the energy and enthusiasm to help out with his grandchildren too. Amongst his many triumphs include teaching a small boy to learn to ride his bicycle and helping another lad with his Ethics homework (the lad did well and got an ‘A’ for that piece).

He had that uncanny knack of raising bubbles of laughter from all his grandchildren. He was to them, their ‘Funny Grandad’.

Dad’s influence spread well outside his family. He has former pupils far & wide that remember him with love and affection. It was not uncommon for Dad to be greeted with a ‘Hello Sir’ by pupils that now have grandchildren of their own. Dad & Mum were even invited out to visit one of them, Pelham, in Australia! He made a difference that often changed his pupils’ whole direction in life.

Dad and Mum were also active amongst the older community in Bracknell – Bracknell’s Active Retired Association - and Dad thoroughly enjoyed helping to organise trips for those wishing to stay active.

I have mentioned that Dad & Mum were a double act – In fact they were inseparable. Their partnership was a shining example to us all of tolerance, respect and a lasting love.

It is often said that you can ‘never take it with you’, and Dad certainly did not take it with him.

He has left behind a wife and family, and we will all miss him enormously. But he has also left behind a huge, warm bank of memories that we can all draw strength from when we miss him most.

I am sure that everyone here today will forever delight in being part of Dad’s magnificent effort.

Our Dad was an amazing man.


  1. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for sharing your memories. It's clear you loved your Dad a lot, and that he led a wonderful life raising you all! On late night TV last night, I was listening to someone reading a letter to a Dad from a son soon to be killed in the first world war: "I'm proud to have been your son, and love you more than I have ever shown." For me, this captured so much of the relationship we so often take for granted. Your tribute to your Dad tells me you did not take that relationship for granted.

    In planning my own LEJOG hike, I've noticed how people often do this hike to somehow make a personal, life-event statement. I've found myself in that place also. My home-made hiking sticks started off as my parents' old folk's walking sticks. I'm also thinking of this hike as a connection to two lost sons.


  2. Daryl

    Thank you for your thoughts. I hope your walk goes well for you. I love the idea of you sitting there re-working the sticks.

    When I finish my route planning perhaps there will be a way of meeting up and having a beer together near the end of our walks (My walk after Oban, you will see later, zig-zags wildly all over Scotland so you should easily catch me up - if not in the south-west!)
    All the best to you

  3. This is really a very beautiful piece of writing about your father ♥ Very moving. How proud he'd have been!


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