My paternal grandfather, my grandad, has been on my mind today. I’m not sure why, but he was a fantastic man who deserves a blog post.
Born in Sunderland, he joined the Merchant Navy straight from school. His life was the sea, as it had been for his father and grandfather before him, and his service continued into the Second World War. At the fall of Singapore in 1942 he became a Prisoner of War, captured by the Japanese. He never really spoke about his time in captivity, but he came home a different man- in later life he had to have the bones in his feet broken and pinned so he could walk, caused by his treatment at the hands of the Japanese. No longer fit for service, he went on to become an engineer for Babcock and Wilcox, working on Ferrybridge C power station and staying with them until he retired.
When he met my nana she already had two children, and was divorced. She was pregnant with my dad when they got married. They moved along the coast from Sunderland to Seaton Sluice, living in a caravan on the edge of town. My grandad was happiest next to his beloved sea and, when they eventually moved inland, every weekend involved a drive out to the seaside and fish and chips on the front, eaten in the car in winter.
He was a savvy man, and with his engineering background knew that work would be done to shore up the cliff at the end of the garden of a house he saw at a knockdown price. His prediction was correct, although he lost part of the garden first, and he spent his retirement in his cliff top home watching the sea and the ships with his telescope.
My grandad was a very knowledgeable man, and always willing to share what he knew with his very inquisitive granddaughter – me. Together we repaired fences, combed the beach, walked their dogs (rough collies, also known as Lassie dogs), home brewed beer, watched the ships. He taught me about tides, gulf streams and weather fronts. He never forgave my dad for leaving and not staying in touch with me, and made sure he and my nana were in regular contact – most of my school holidays were spent with them.
My grandad was incredibly proud of K, doted on her. I just wish he could have taught her like he taught me, but she was still a baby when he died. But maybe a little bit of him lives on in my love of the Shipping Forecast