Sunday, 19 June 2011

My Dad

My Dad has been gone a long time now... 34 years to be precise. But I wish him a Happy Father's Day anyway! He was a lovely Dad to me.

Frank was born in 1882 in Combe Martin in North Devon, in England. He was the fourth child of a family of ten children. Times were hard back then. His dad was a merchant seaman, away from home for many months at a time, only coming back to North Devon between voyages for short periods, just enough time to reacquaint himself with family life and start another new baby on the way.

The children grew up living with aunts, uncles and grandparents, as the rented tiny cottage by the sea wasn't big enough to hold all the children.

When my Dad was a young man, he would walk early in the morning to the nearby town of Ilfracombe, spend all day unloading the sailing ships that brought coal across the Bristol Channel from South Wales, load the ships with local strawberries for sale in the Welsh markets, and then walk the five miles home at night, perhaps catching a ride on a horse and cart, no cars back then, just to do it all again the following day.

Later, he worked at the Devon Trading Company yard... a builders supply yard hauling lumber, concrete, bricks etc. All physical work. He was a strong man.

During WW1 he went to Herefordshire and worked in a munitions factory. And during WW2 he was part of the Home Guard (Dad's Army) looking out for the Hun who might have intentions of invading from the Bristol Channel.

Dad married his sweetheart Rowena in 1908. But things didn't go smoothly. They had a child, but the child didn't live. I don't know if it was a girl or a boy, or how or why or even when the child died, my Dad never mentioned it.

After the loss of the child, Dad's wife became ultra-religious and spent most of her time at the local church. I think that was a hard time for my Dad. She died in the 1930s. By this time, Dad had purchased a strip of land on a south facing slope overlooking Combe Martin Bay and had built a brick bungalow. He tilled the land and planted 3 acres of strawberries, which was to become his major source of income.

And not only strawberries.... he grew all his own fruit and vegetables, including some extra that he sold, raised chickens and of course, there were always fresh eggs.

One day in May when he was working in the strawberry field (everything done by hand back then, no tractors or machinery), a woman called to him over the hedge asking the price of the strawberries. They chatted for a while, money and strawberries exchanged hands, and then my Dad invited this lady to come and have tea with him the following day.

Kath must have liked the way he made the tea, or perhaps it was the strawberry jam and scones that tempted her. Six weeks later they were married. That was back in 1941.

I arrived as quite a surprise to everyone in 1945.

I suppose my childhood was a little different from that of my friends, as my Dad was so much older than other dads, but he was a great dad to me. He played games with me, and he let me help him in the garden. His pet name for me as a child was Patsy.... I have no idea where that came from.

Dad lived a long and active life. The bungalow and the strawberry fields were sold in the early 1960s and we moved to the main street of the village, where Dad continued to raise all his own vegetables in the small back garden until his death in 1977, in his 96th year.

He celebrated two Silver Wedding anniversaries.... one with each wife. Not many people can claim that! He gave me away at my wedding and got to meet one of his grandsons, happy events that he never thought he would live to see.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!

20 comments:

~Sheila~ said...

What a lovely Dad.
A great story, sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.
I had a lovely Dad too, and miss him very much.
We were lucky weren't we?
xo

Charles Bjørnsen Ravndal said...

Beautiful story and you have a handsome dad! My biological father is a jerk, but i'm lucky that I have a wonderful adoptive father.

Vagabonde said...

That is a sweet story about your dad. My dad died in 1974, so it has been a long time too. I wish I had asked him many questions about his youth, but I did not then – he died at 66. I enjoyed reading your post.

Leena said...

The life story of your dad could be worth a book! And it could continue through you and your children and now those growing miracles, who make you more and more needed as a loving and loved help. I am thrilled about your news :)Is Isaac`s family living near you? You really will be needed next two - three years!
Do you know this blogs into books?
You find an address from my sitebar. I think, it is a good program, if you want to do a book from your blogs, you can choose, which posts you take into the book.

It`s raining here, I wish sunshine to you!

dogbait said...

A great story. Interesting coincidence is that my mother died 34 years ago and my father turns 96 in a month.

Ginnie said...

Oh, Sham! This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. Absolutely beautiful. It really touches my heart.

Ann's Art said...

I love this post about your Dad, you have such good memories of him, as I do mine. All the more interesting as I know the two Combe's....what I would call a Great Post, thanks for sharing.....ann.

EG Wow said...

Sounds like you had a GREAT dad. Wow! Two silver anniversaries!

RaineyDewey said...

Shammy, I too enjoyed your post about your Dad and am lucky to still have mine here. He turned 79 this year and after reading your post I can see that I need to get to know him better and I intend to do so. Thanks for that.
Rainey

Son #1 said...

Great story Mum. I really wish I had really go to know him.

Ann's Art said...

Hi ex Shammickite - So glad you like to hear news from North Devon. As you will no doubt remember Woolacombe is only a stones throw from Coombe Martin and we are frequently over there. Would you like us to track down the place that your Dad built and take some up to date photos for you? Also any other particular spots or memorable places that you would like to see the up to date picture of. If you would like me to do this then perhaps you could send me an email with details...my email address is: somesaddlesoap@hotmail.com
Regards, ann.

madretz said...

Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story about your dad, it was wonderful to read and also touched my heart.
We have another thing in common, older fathers, both over 60 when we were born, yes?

Suldog said...

Fascinating history. The part about two silver anniversaries is fairly uncommon, for sure. Nice job!

Anvilcloud said...

What an impressive guy and what a life -- good and long, long and good!

sonia a. mascaro said...

So lovely and fascinating story about your Dad!
So beautiful tribute!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Love your style, love your honesty, We have much in common. Quick one, see next blog. Thanks for the recommendation!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a fascinating life your Dad lived---Hard, but so very interestung. And how wonderful that he had two such long marriages and you, for a dear daughter....He sounds like someone I would have loved to know. And that he gfew Strawberries....I Love That!!!

You mentioned that you are 16 years younfer than me in your comment on my blog....Believe me, those 15 years makes such a huge difference. When I think how active I was and how good I felt physically at 65....All I can say is, enjoy, enjoy, my dear....And do EVERYTHING you want to do! It does sound like you have longevity in your genes from your fathers side...So, hopefully you will stay Well and Active for many many years to come!

Wendy said...

What a wonderful man he was. Happy Father's Day to your Dad. Life was tough, back then but somehow they survived.

LivingInAurora.ca said...

This is one beautiful tribute to your Dad. And you are one good story teller too. Anna :)

madretz said...

I'm glad you re-linked to this in your current post. It was nice to re-read your father's history. I'm sure your trek made you think about him a lot and miss him so very much. I miss my dad a lot, too. I think those older father's really dote on their baby daughters. Another little commonality...my parents had a big garden in the backyard and strawberries were one of the things they grew. They were small but sweet. I think the arid desert soil didn't give them enough nutrients to grow big and plump.