Springingtiger's Blog


My Father, My Hero

I was watching Chris Tarrant on the One Show and he reminded me of how little I knew of my Father’s war, in fact he said so little about it I can probably quote out verbatim.

Most of my father’s service in the Second World War was on mine sweepers in the Mediterranean, but not exclusively. I think his opinion of the enemy was expressed in the comment, “I didn’t like dive bombers!”. All  I know of his voyage to Archangel is, “When they issued us with woolen underwear, we guessed they weren’t sending us back to the Med.” He had been a navigations officer and taught me the unhelpful mnemonic, “green to red, red to green, all is clear sail between” a receipe for disaster! My father was on minesweepers because he got extra danger money, I suppose he was a brave man, I know that because of his fear of heights he forced himself to stand on the button of the mast of the training college.

My father would push himself to accomplish his goals. Despite getting a first in Law from Queen’s Belfast, he became a salesman for Burroughs , selling adding machines. Back in the late forties and early fifties adding machines were metal machines a little like a typewriter and they were heavy. When he started my father could not afford a car and so carried his sample machine on his shoulders from prospect to prospect. My mother told me that some evenings, after a disappointing day, as she rubbed his shoulders he would be in tears, but the next day he’d go out again carrying his machine. He became one of the company’s most successful branch managers, but left after many years because his bosses would not follow instructions from him, he was not s natural subordinate and was inclined to be frank in the expression of his opinions. He worked as a consultant for a few years before being almost killed by an embolism on his spine which left him an invalid (I hate the word “invalid”, he imbued life with validity!)

My father had an amazing mind and also a love of literature, thanks to my parents’ love of reading I was able to read before I went to school. I remember one long car journey being considerably shortened by his making up an epic poem, mostly about my brother and I, in the rhythm of Longfellow’s Hiawatha. Another wonderful memory is of my father and I sitting at the dining table reading from Shakespeare. He loved Shakespeare and had committed many speeches to memory; thanks to my father and to Russell Harty  who introduced me to the experience of watching the plays, I too have have been blessed with an abiding love of Shakespeare.

In many ways my father kept his feelings to himself. When I was thirty I did the est Training and afterwards phoned my father and told him I loved him, that was the first time he told me that he loved me, and I realised he had never told me because to him it was a self-evident truth. In his later years, not too long before he died, I wrote to him a long letter containing so many things he had given me and for which I wished to thank him, his reply written with a shaking hand, left me in no doubt of the warmth of his feeling. He was not inclined to be demonstrative but he did feel; when my wife, Neelam, made a point of visiting him, when on a course near his home, he expressed his delight again by letter.

I sometimes regret not having spent more time with my father, when I was young he was busy working long hours, and when I left school I moved to Glasgow. My father drove me to Glasgow for the first time, we stayed in the Campsie Glen Hotel then the next day he sorted out my student accommodation, it was a great trip. I may regret not having spent more time with him but I treasure the time I did. I was scared of him when I was small, but I had no cause to be. If  I have any regret it’s that he never got to know his granddaughter, and he’d have loved her children. Strangely, although it is many years since he died, sometimes I remember him so vividly  I feel as if he’s in the room. I suppose he will somehow always be with me, I’m glad of that.

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