So let me be kind of brief…
On the 28th of December 2019, my wonderful Dad died peacefully at home. On the 14th January 2019, we said goodbye & celebrated his life.
On that hardest of days, I had the almost overwhelming privilege of standing in front of his Family & Friends to speak about him.
Afterwards, I was told what seemed like too many times that what I had said was “perfect”, “well done, that must have been hard for you” or “you did your Dad proud”
Some suggested I share it or send it to them… some did have a copy sent to them & I hope it brought them some comfort.
However, unlike before with my Mum, I had no urge to share what I said…it surprised me how tough I found it, to say what I did. I stumbled from the 1st paragraph & fought back hard on the tears to speak until the last.
It could have been that unlike with my mum I had found it tough as well as difficult to write & had not practiced reading it at all.
But more than that, I feel that losing the last connection to my individual, personal childhood… Losing my last parent who more than anyone kept us connected to Mum.
That was impossible to overcome at the time & completely impossible to share.
My Mum was as I said at her funeral “a tome of a book” that she happily shared. Her thoughts, opinions & experience were well known to those who knew her.
My Dad was the polar opposite & then some! He did not share words in that way, so I felt I should not share mine. But he was just as well loved as my Mum & would expect no different from me.
I have said enough… so after long consideration, I am going post my words on My Dad, below & unedited.
*If I have mentioned you by name & you are uncomfortable with this, please don’t hesitate to contact me & I will happily remove the reference to you.*
Songs on a Sunday
“Bright eyes, burning like fire. … how can you close and fail?
How can the light that burned so brightly, Suddenly burn so pale?” – some words that ring so very true at this moment – Taken from the music you would have heard as you entered today.
• Firstly, thank you all for coming here today – sharing in this Celebration & Farewell to our Dad.
• Secondly, I’m sure I do not need to tell you how he touched so many lives in his full almost 71 years. Every single one of them filled with music & song. Our Dad loved being surrounded by family & friends to hear them share their lives in so many ways. So please when you go from here after saying Good-Bye to Alex I encourage you to share, to tell your stories & sing the songs that no doubt mix in those memories.
• Thirdly, there should be some sentiment to say at this point, some perfect phrase that would hopefully make this day & all that follow pass more easily.
The best I can give you is our Dad was a man of music & more importantly songs- probably in his time sang most of them! Or at least that’s how it seemed! This influence filtered down the generations from this Alex to my Alexander as well everyone in between & beyond.
So with that in mind I’ll try to help as he frequently did, with a song quote or two along the way…
So, where to properly start? That’s a difficult one to be honest.
Our Dad was an enigma, a riddle wrapped in a mystery. As someone more eloquent than me said few a days ago; “Your Dad was a quiet man who kept his own counsel, but was the loudest in the room.”
Writing these words for today was so much more difficult than a little over 2 years ago for our Mum. Both spoke of their worlds in such differing ways. Mum was a tome of a book, but Dad was a 3 minute love song. He didn’t like fuss…so no fuss it is then!
Guess we should start at the beginning?
Alex was born on Hogmanay 1948, so like our mum, a Christmas baby. His Mum & Dad – Mary-Ellen & Alex were married on Boxing Day a few years before that. Christmas Time was definitely a time of celebration?!
According to his birth certificate he was born in Aboyne Street, Govan. He always maintained he was born in his Grannie’s kitchen in Carntyne, so who am I to say otherwise?
He was #1 son & child #3 of what eventually would be a total of 8. Sally & Eleanor before him with Walter, Carol, Myra, Graham & Scott across the next 20 years. By all accounts eating meals in shifts with Dad first to the table & last to leave.
Dad attended Greenfields Primary School & Broomloan Road School both in Govan. He said many times that school was not for him. I suspect he liked being outside more than anything. He seemed to be up before dawn for most of his life for that reason I suspect.
First, whilst still at school as a baker’s boy or milk boy depending on who he was telling the story to. As soon as school would let him he was out into the world, he still got up at the crack of dawn in “The Cleanie” as dad always called it. Alongside an also very young Michael Robinson.
Then he followed in his fathers footsteps as many did, by walking through the gates of a shipyard. He then worked at various levels as a Stager with Yarrow’s Shipbuilders & its subsequent incarnations, in Scotstoun.
In 1971, he married our mum, Christine, and together they had 3 children, that obviously would be me, then Richard & Christopher. Over time he was Grandpa to Alexander, David, Kiri-Louise, Matthew & Hannah. Being the lucky man that he was, in the last decade became Great-grandfather to Sophie & Noah.
So that’s the dry facts that show the cover but not the content. The outer sleeve cover to a record or a song can serve a purpose. But it doesn’t tell you what the song sounds like. The Sergeant Pepper Album cover, amazing as it is, doesn’t prepare you for the vast differences in emotion you’ll feel between listening to “She’s leaving Home” & “when I’m 64” – everything for dad came with an emotion.
I guess that if our Dad had a legacy it was, that he wove a thread through our lives that music & the power of songs was hung on. Whether he intended to or not he led by quiet example, but told a powerful message. He was a man of few spoken words that when voiced held importance & you had better pay attention. He led by actions & influenced by example more than anyone else.
However quiet is not the word I would use when the music started. His confidence rose alongside the volume. Our earliest childhood memories will be filled with Dad singing all the songs – lighting up the house with his passion for the words. He always maintained his “repertoire was second to none”
Every Sunday morning across our childhoods, before what most people would consider a reasonable hour. 2 things would wake you…
1st the sound of Dad singing at the top of his voice above the music playing & 2nd the smell of breakfast cooking. I certainly never recall a moment when we resented that. In fact for a time I used to get up earlier than him, plug in those massive headphones with the long, heavy curly cord that he had – plug in the microphone to his massive record player – hit record on the cassette & just revel in the music. Gently & carefully lifting out the vinyl out of its sleeve knowing how precious those black discs were to him. Then I’d sneak back to bed thinking he hadn’t noticed – now I know better, he knew every time.
Again, a man of few words… at least the spoken kind.
It always felt & still does that everything he said or did had a song attached to it. I could spend hours standing here sighting endless times he did that with endless supply of songs. But my dad wouldn’t want me to make him the centre of attention in that way.
But it does feel important to say a little more. So please indulge me for a few moments longer…
• “Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies” He was a man who never seemed to anger or let things get him down for long. He always believed that at some point things would work out. So please if you can carry that with you, be Mr Blue Sky just like Alex.
• When I was very young & on holiday, we were walking between Port Bannatyne & Rothesay. My dad was walking along singing some sort of song that made no sense to me – it was the 70’s! I turned to him & asked why he was singing a silly song. He stopped.. sat down & said “Alex, all songs tell a story, even silly ones. They are important” my indignant 6year old self said to him that couldn’t be true & then got distracted by a submarine sailing past.
But I never forgot his answer. Every now & then across the years I’d hear a song that couldn’t possibly be telling a story & ask him what story it was telling & he’d just repeat “all songs tell a story”. One day in the late 80’s there was dance music playing on the radio: “Rave” music. Ahh I thought to myself I’ve got him now! I asked how whoever wrote that was telling a story? It was just electronic noise with random words? He looked at the radio, then looked at me & his simple answer was “Alex, you’re getting it wrong, the story is what you hear not what they are saying. It’s not their story” – Our Dad the philosopher. Which he frequently was. A man of few words-all important.
• I could give you so many more times when our dad was the smartest man in the room or how often he made us feel safe & loved just by singing. I know that is something I have carried with me all through my years as a parent . Using a song to communicate how I am feeling or needing to say, much more than I could in plain words. His legacy lives on in my children now as adults as they, just as he did use music to get through their days.
• “And I would give anything I own. Give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own, Just to have you back again” Our Dad’s heart broke the day our Mum Christine left us & he was even more silent. When he did spend time with family around him, it was the same smile on his face, but the twinkle in his eye was gone. But he still lit up when a song came on that caused us to join in with him. That never changed.
• Which brings me to one more thing. In Dad’s final year when the world around him became more confusing. Music still brought him sense & pleasure. He would every single day hear music playing; Every now & then light up singing along word for word. Even near the end it brought him calm & despite no longer having many spoken words would still burst into song for a line or two. Lighting up the room once again.
I can remember the best example of that I saw, was when Kiri had come along to visit her Grandpa. Despite him being tired & not wanting to be around anyone, he lit up when one of “his girls” came in the room. He kinda sang along with the songs as they played & was clearly paying attention to fact that his favourite Granddaughter was there. Then American Pie began to play & I watched as he sat up proudly as both of them sang every single word at the top of of their voices. The room lit up in a way it hadn’t in a long time!
So I feel I have stood here for just a little too long – as always I talk too much. I’m most certainly not like my dad there!
Like our Mum, Dad was very clear that family was made up of those who he shared life with, week in-week out. If someone was important to you, then they were important to him. They would be treated the same, right down to being sang about & direct to! No-one was 2nd best, all were equally loved if they wished to share in his Family.
By his own admission he had his “favourites” in Auntie Annabell & Uncle Michael (who between them had known our parents for almost half a century) not forgetting their children, Michael, Andrew, Leeanne & Jacqueline. (though to be honest Jacqueline was really his only favourite).
At the end of his life, beyond the DNA which was secondary to him, he had so many family that cared for him as deeply as he cared for them. So thanks to Kevin, Lauren, Wil, Claire, Matthew, Hannah & Sophie, for bringing our Dad, immense joy of allowing him to call you Son, Daughter, Grandchild or Great-Grandchild.
Again, Thank-You for coming today to say Good-Bye to Dad.
So…Some Final Song Quotes:
“I hear her voice, in the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
Driving down the road, I get a feeling That I should have been home yesterday”
“I went down to the sacred store,
Where I’d heard the music years before.
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.
And in the streets the children screamed.
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken,
The church bells all were broken”
Let me give Dad, the final words:
“It’s not the cough that carries you off – But the coffin they carry you off in”
“Au Revoir – Bet you didn’t know I spoke that language?”