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!