Remembering my dear old dad...

Taken in London in July 1968 six months before my dad died. From left, my sister Janet, Mother, Dad, and sisters Margaret and Marion
Taken in London in July 1968 six months before my dad died. From left, my sister Janet, Mother, Dad, and sisters Margaret and Marion

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane recalls his late father, a great but ordinary man.

People are living longer. A lot longer and I’m sure they owe much to improved medicine.

Scan the obituary column of this newspaper and you see more people shuffling off in the 80s and 90s rather than their 50s and 60s.

Today you’ll forgive me if I recall a man who died 50 years ago today aged just 53.

He was a man with a true likeability factor, a man with a great sense of humour, a man with a zest for life.

That man was my dad.

Half a century has gone by, but how well I recall the fun and laughter that filled the house at Christmas 1968.

We were not to know of the shattering despair that would come when the new year dawned.

In his younger days, he had worked in the building trade, but with four children to support he went down the mines. I only appreciated much later the terrible conditions which affected pitmen’s health.

That and the 40 cigarettes a day and a frying pan diet.

None of this was up for consideration as the years rolled by. The hacking cough was part of dad.

I’ll never forget him coming off work on May 6 when he was diagnosed with angina. It was the beginning of the end.

On the night he died, he’d been with the family at the Wakes pub and there had been much humour and singing and jollification.

At midnight he went to bed and died of a heart attack. I was 23, my sisters just 14, 16 and 18. Mother 52.

The funeral was on a Tuesday and 53 floral tributes carpeted the lawn at the front of the house.

And when we arrived at the cemetery dusk crept over the burial of a great and ordinary man.