“There was a man, whose name was John. This man came to bear witness of the Light of God”
(from John 1:6-7)
This is probably one of the hardest things I have done, to try to sum up Dad in a few words. He was born in Rainham, but was still young when he moved to Barking. Like many born in the 1920’s he saw a lot of changes, his life covered so much of the history and development that led the way we live today.
Most of you know that Dad was a lay preacher; in fact many of you have heard him preach. However I wonder how many of you realised that the first time he spoke in public was not in a Church, but to open a carnival procession in celebration of King George V’s silver jubilee. At age 10, dressed as John Bull he led the procession through Barking and welcomed everyone to the town’s celebrations.
He admitted he hated senior school as it was very strict, and even the teachers teased him for the fact he wasn’t athletic, however he had hoped to stay on and pursue a career in Graphic Design, however his parents didn’t support him, So a month after his 14th birthday he had a job as a labourer with a builders, and a few months later changed to another builders.
However a few months later he was able to get a job, and an apprenticeship at the same firm his father worked for, Samuel Williams & Sons. They owned land on Barking creek and he trained to repair tugs, steam cranes and shunting locos. In fact he always seemed to spot a crane before the rest of us did, and loved looking at steam trains.
As it turned out war was declared soon after, and Dad’s job became a reserved occupation so he was never called up into the services. If he had still been at school as was his wish I wonder where life would have taken him.
He served as a fire watchman as did all those at Samuel Williams, and also joined the Home Guard, even doing Radio Operator training as he admitted to being musical. Unlike in Dad’s Army some of his regiment were killed, as they manned the search lights in Barking Park. Where he lived there was a lot of bomb damage, but other than losing all their windows a couple of times he was safe, even if his clothes weren’t. He recounted one tale of being on his way to Church when he heard a Doodlebug engine cut, so threw himself flat on the ground … only to land in a puddle. He, like many others even today, was knocked off his bike, but in his case it was due to the poor vehicle lights during blackout.
After the war he realised he wanted to go into full-time Christian work, so spent evenings studying to get his Maths & English grades, before going to a 2 year course at The National Young Life Campaign College in Surbiton, and Kew. He enjoyed those years and made good friends, learning to play a piano accordion so when they were on trek during the summer he could accompany the hymn singing.
By now, it’s 1949 and he was looking into the possibility of going to Japan as a missionary . However on his birthday that year he was introduced to a group of people from a small village in Northamptonshire by a friend, as they were looking to have a local campaign in their chapel the next Easter. He and Arthur took those services, but he continued to campaign because by December he was engaged.
Having worked at Fords as a maintenance man for a short time, he now got a job as a technical draftsman at a small firm called Colaro, who were working to design the first stereo record players. Mum and Dad married in March 1952, and were considered daring as they went to Jersey for their honeymoon. Although married they didn’t actually live together until Dad’s birthday 1953, when they got a house in Ilford. When they moved in Dad brought a pot plant home with him at the end of that first week, and every year after that he bought Mum a plant … even the last year she was alive, he came home with a plant a few days after his birthday for her.
Over the next 60 years they moved to Flint, Upminster, Bude and finally Torquay, having a baby at each of the first 3 houses, and a Grandson at the last two! Dad’s job changed to as he started doing part time lecturing while still at Colaro, and finally got a job as a lecturer at South East Essex Technical College, then senior lecturer at Flintshire Technical College and then back to Barking to the re-named North East London Polytechnic.
While we were kids we were always watching Dad study, first for his BSc at The London School of Economics, then his MSc at Imperial College and then finally his PhD. The first and last degrees were done at home, while the MSc was a 2 year course done in the one year. Seeing him study made me realise that if I wanted to get a qualification or career I needed to do so while I was still a teenager. The year before I qualified was my proudest moment as I went to see Dad receive his PhD in the Albert Hall.
However throughout all of these years there was one subject that he was more focused on than anything, except the family, and that was His Lord and Saviour. He had become a Christian as a young teen and was baptised during an air raid as a public witness of that faith. He helped his father in working with the children's work before going to Bible College.
Although he had thought about becoming a missionary he realised that his mission was to faithfully uphold God’s name wherever he was, either by preaching or teaching Bible Study, or filling in at Sunday School (as he did when I was 10). When we were kids we travelled to some very small chapels and obscure villages in East London and West Essex, as he supported these chapels, however small they were. We used to travel with him, because he also didn’t want his faith to split up the family. After the service he always made a point of speaking to people and one thing that always fascinated me was that he would hold his cup and his saucer with his left hand, so he could shake hands and not spill any of his tea.
He also preached at some chapels on a regular basis, and in fact the one we were members of had him take the service once a month. At those he would do systematic teaching but never without a challenge for all of us, both in our daily lives and in our faith in God. He only gave up a couple of years ago when his Alzheimer’s began to affect his ability to read.
When we moved to Bude there weren’t as many local chapels, so he channelled his energy into writing articles for a variety of Christian magazines, especially focusing on the second coming of Our Lord. He eventually completed, and self-published 2 books, the last of which he only finished a couple of years ago.
However wherever he preached or wrote there was one thing he would never do, and that is to compromise his faith. The Bible is true, and in fact he was asked to leave two churches as he wouldn’t water down the Gospel.
But, most of you know how studious he was, but that extended to other things as well. Whenever he did a crossword or a Sudoku, he would always fill them in with pencil first, so he could correct answers until he had finished them.
When we were kids, Dad was scared of water. It took him all his time to paddle, but at 50 he actually started to have swimming lessons, and although we used to laugh at the noise he made, he made the greatest effort and became the slowest swimmer. But he did well to overcome his fears, in fact better than me as he even leaned to dive.
As with his fear of water, he was bitten by a large dog as a child which left him scared of them. When he met Mum she had Vicky, who he learnt to love, and slowly over the years Scrappy, Perry, Misty and Jiffy became much loved companions. The day before he had his stroke he was still walking Jiffy, and in fact he and I were with Dad when he died.
As well as swimming he also had piano lessons during those years. He had played since a kid, and played well, but wanted to learn classical technique better. Unlike me he was willing to spend hours practicing scales, hence the piano had a celeste, and in fact even last year was still playing a bit, even though Alzheimer’s was robbing him of his ability to read notes and key signatures.
That ability to study and focus was great for him, and meant that he could enjoy stamp collecting and photography. He loved reading travel guides, but he loved even more that he could put that hobby to practical use. From one year to the next he would be looking at his books, buying more and planning the holidays. We never travelled directly but always stopped somewhere interesting on the way and while at a location he would have found interesting things to visit. I loved that, and have taken up his mantel in enjoying exploration. Sometimes the plans didn’t fully work out as we all recall a fabulous walk to see Paviland Caves in South Wales, but on one of mum and dad’s earliest trips he managed to persuade the travel company to combine 2 locations for them, so them could see 2 different locations on the same holiday. The last year we went abroad was 2009 and he and I went to speak to the reps and organised a day trip to Albania, yes dad certainly taught me to love travel.
Despite being born in the 1920’s he was still willing to rise to some cookery challenges, especially making bread. He used to do that while he was waiting to take and collect us from Crusadors, however his cookery had started with liquids, a lovely lemon wine was a real winner, and since he had his first TIA in 1990 he made red wine as he was advised to drink a glass a day.
As well as learning new things he was willing to extend old learnt skills, and in 1970, while recovering from his first dose of pneumonia he put the central heating system into our house. This was before gas certificates, etc, so just had a final check to see if it was OK. It was amazing that he did this because if there was one thing about dad, he tended to be a pessimist. When we had our holidays we always had a tent or caravan, and being organised he used to check the lights were OK, but he also would expect things to not work. We all got used to the timing to be able to yell yes when we knew he was checking the next indicator etc, well, they usually were OK!
So, as you can see I am very proud of my dad, someone who left school at 14, worked through a war, yet leant so much and the taught the 3 of us so much. He was so, so honest that you could come to him for advice, even in the last few months as he struggled with memory and health problems. That honesty was combined with politeness. Over the years we have sometimes had this response to a gift “Thank you, I don’t like it”, but over these last few weeks while the amazing nursing staff at Green Tree Court were feeding him, he always added thank you to all his replies, a lesson we all need to remember.
Dad was an incredibly special person, who loved his family and God. So 3 weeks before he died he told me he wanted to go Home, and to be with Mum. I reminded him that his kids would see him again, to which he said a loud YES. I know we will all miss his steady constant presence with us, but we can be assured that he is in Heaven and at peace.
I’ll miss you daddy, I love you.
''And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.''