A Posthumous Birthday

My Father and Me, 1960

My Father and Me, 1960

Today—6th March—would have been my father’s 110th birthday. The photo above is the earliest of the two of us together that has survived. I was about 6 months old at the time, so it shouldn’t be difficult to guess which of us is which! It was taken in my father’s beloved rose garden, at the back of our house. Unfortunately, it is somewhat over-exposed, but it has survived because most of our photos in those days were taken by my father, so he appears in very few of them.

Of course, my father is not alive today to celebrate this occasion; he died shortly after his 70th birthday, in 1979.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my father suffered his first stroke when I was about 2 years old. Given that he was the family’s sole breadwinner, that was obviously a catastrophic event, although I was much too young to appreciate what was happening at the time.

He never recovered fully from the effects of the first stroke, although he was able to continue working as a teacher until the early 1970s. As I described elsewhere, our family then operated a guest house to generate income for a few years, until my brother and I grew up.

The family group photo below was taken in about 1966, also in our back garden, but this time with the camera on a tripod, and using the auto-timer, so that my father could run around and include himself in the image. In the front row are my younger brother, my mother and me. My mother is sitting on a well-used push-around stuffed dog, called “Woofy”.

The Family with Woofy, 1966

The Family with Woofy, 1966

You can see that my father’s smile here is somewhat lopsided, which was one of the noticeable effects of his stroke.

I mentioned in an earlier post that my father was quite a talented amateur artist, and it has always puzzled me that he never seemed to have made any attempt to earn a living using those skills. That seemed to be an unfortunate theme in our family in those days; enviable talent that largely went ignored.

I think that he suffered many frustrations in his life. His own father (my grandfather) owned a woolen factory in Leeds, and refused to pay for my father to go to university and get a degree, on the grounds that he was going to inherit the business. There were no student grants or loans in those days, so, if his parents would not finance his studies, my father could not go to college.

Unfortunately, by the time that my father became an adult, my grandfather had so mismanaged the business that it was bankrupt, leaving my father not only with no degree, but also with no business to inherit. He then established an electrical contracting business, which was successful for several years, until World War II intervened.

The last photo of my father is below, taken in October 1977, at May Beck on the North Yorkshire Moors. He was exploring the moors with our West Highland terrier, Meg.

At May Beck with Meg, 1977

At May Beck with Meg, 1977

The gift that I gave my father on what turned out to be his last birthday, in March 1979, was a book—Colour Photography: the First Hundred Years—which contains some fascinating examples of early color film technologies. Given the color photos of him that are left to me, that seems appropriate. I hope he enjoyed reading that book during the short time that he had left.

My Father and Me, 1960

My Father and Me, 1960

One thought on “A Posthumous Birthday

  1. I straight away wondered about the dates – he was around 50 when you came along. It can be good to have children later in life. What bad luck to become ill so soon afterwards.


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