Remembrance Sunday

IMG_3456It was a bright crisp morning yesterday, and the turnout for the Remembrance Parade at the War Memorial in Hermitage Park was a good one.  I went, because when my father was able, he attended every year, sometimes participating in, sometimes leading the parade of the veterans in the British Legion.   He died on 19 October.

He had been active in local politics and many organisations in the town, and the Helensburgh newspaper published an obituary article.  I wish it had been better written.  In dealing with the many things that have to be done after his death, I have been surprised, and undone, by the number of people who knew him and have good things to say about him.

I won’t need a special Remembrance Day to think about him.  Every day there are things that I would like to tell him, because they would amuse or interest him, and of course, things I would like to ask him.

I compiled a eulogy on behalf of my family, which my brother in law read at the funeral.

It’s what we wanted to say.

Country boy, proud Trenchard Brat, Royal Navy aircraft engineer, Holder of the Queen’s Commission,  manager at Polaroid, elected representative on first Dumbarton District Council and then Argyll and Bute District Council, JP, a graduate of the Open University in history, active participant and sometime Chairman of many local organisations, lover of sport, especially rugby and cricket both as player and spectator, expert gardener with a fondness for vegetables growing in straight lines, keen appreciator of a good tune and a well told story, connoisseur of swashbuckling tales, corny cowboy films, and Broadway musicals, master of the well-polished shiny shoe, devotee of the Daily Telegraph general knowledge crossword, loyal and generous friend, gentleman, loving and loved father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother, uncle and, for 62 years, husband.

Norman was all of these things, and many more besides.  His was a full life of nearly 90 years.

He enjoyed good food, but was not a gifted cook.  When Sheila was in the maternity hospital with Rowena, left in charge of feeding M and K, Norman famously, and much to his daughters’ distress, fried them carrots for their tea.  Fortunately his excursions into the kitchen were rare because Sheila is such a good cook and looked after him and the whole family handsomely.  This could well have been his plan when he first met Sheila at the naval station at Anthorn, where she was a chef in the officers’ mess, and had access to better food which she shared with him when he showed up at the galley door.

He had an engrained sense of justice, and a belief that the punishment should fit the crime, as K found out when as a five year old she discovered a loose screw in the towel rail and used it to inscribe her name on the wall.  Observing her newfound desire to write, the penance Norman prescribed was 50 lines: I must not write on the bathroom wall.

He was proud of his 31 years’ service in the Royal Navy, but that didn’t stop him enjoying mischievous fun with it.  When the family was in St Louis in the States, he played it up by telling K and Rowena’s teachers that he worked for the Queen, and accepted their flamboyant curtsies as Her Majesty’s local representative.

His garden was a source of great pleasure, in the digging, planting and tending, as well as the harvesting and eating of the abundance of vegetables produced.  The kitchen garden at Holmehill was a labour of love, and, when he arrived home from work each evening in the summer, before coming into the house, he would take a tour of inspection to see how the crops were doing.  And, if he thought the ladies in the house next door were watching, he would stand to attention and salute the rows of vegetables.

Norman never lost his curiosity or his sense of adventure.  He had travelled around the world both with the Navy and later with Polaroid, and always had a story to tell of his experiences: from trading a pair of canvas shoes he’d never liked for a pineapple from a South African during the war, to thinking he was only going along for a preliminary chat about joining and finding that the Helensburgh Barbershop Choir already had the waistcoat uniform ready for him and had it on his back before a note had been sung.

When the family bought him a flying lesson for his 70th birthday, he embraced the challenge and carried on with a course to learn to do it properly, after only having done it on the sly as a young man.

He enriched our lives and we shall miss him terribly.

Leave a comment


  1. A beautiful eulogy Rowena. It’s good to know you’re back in London, and I hope we can make arrangements to get together when you feel ready. Lots of love, Voula x

  2. Rowena, I found this incredibly moving and poignant. I had no idea your father had such a rich life. With much love. Sally x


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