My Dad – an obituary

Dad was born in Tilbury in 1929, the only surviving son of Clarisse and Ernest Caswell. He is survived by Mum, Beth and I as well as his sister Clarisse. His father, my grandfather worked in the construction industry and the family moved about the countryside.

One of those moves was to Southampton where they lived until Dad was about 9 years of age. When Grandad got a job at Shell, the family moved back to Ellesmere Port. Dad never forgot the move, he broke a favourite ornament of his mother’s and they traveled int he back of the removal van, all sitting on the sofa!

They lived in Westminster Road (by the old police station) and later moved to Oxford Street. The story goes that not long after coming to the ‘Port, he decided to walk to Chester and back! We think he missed the turning at Backford and eventually the police brought him home from Little Sutton.

He spent the next week in bed. As we all know he continued to enjoy walking and before his Alzheimer’s was too bad, Mum and I would take him to Chester, drop him off at Victoria Crescent and he would walk around the City, the walls and the Cathedral precincts – until they tried to charge him. We estimated that it was around 18 miles and he did this at least three times a week, taking between six and ten hours to complete the walk- depending on what he wanted to look at and what the weather was like.

Dad attended John Street School, but as a youngster did not like, nor appreciated schooling. He joined the Air Training Corps as a cadet, but actually joined the regular army as a full time soldier at 17. His first ‘overseas’ posting was with the Cheshire Regiment to Palace Barracks in Holywood, Northern Ireland – a few miles from where Mum lived although they didn’t meet. He was transferred to the Middlesex Regiment where he trained as a telegraphist/signaler.

After training he was billeted in The Tower of London – a doddle of a posting according to Dad – his bed was in the telephone room, so he had a room to himself – a little luxury which suited him down to the ground. His next postings were in German and Hong Kong and it was from Hong Kong that he was sent to Korea. Along with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Middlesex were the first British troops to land. He never spoke much about his time during the ‘forgotten war’.

But one of the few things he did describe was being in a tank that overturned – luckily no one was killed. He also spoke about getting as far as the Chinese border before being chased back to South Korea. He described quite vividly how back breaking it was, carrying all his equipment, the transmitter and receiver on his back.

Dad didn’t have a lot of faith in the Generals of the Allied Forces. One of his few horror stories was how allied troops were killed by American Air Force – so called ‘friendly fire’ – and his unit being detailed to go and clean up the area. He also spent some time in hospital in Japan, which was a much more pleasant experience.

His army pay book on discharge commended him, but added that he worked best alone. And nothing changed. All who new him and loved him, recognised him as a loner.

Dad was very straight – embarrassingly so at times. But, as his many friends said, you knew where you were with him, and he was always there if needed and his advice was always well thought out and sound.

On demob, he came home to England and got a job locally with Esso. It was during the routine medical that he found he had contracted TB whilst in the Far East. He spent a year in Barrowmore isolation hospital making some great friends along the way.

He then went to work for a local engineering firm (BECA). It was during this time that he began to study – a late starter in schooling, but at least he began to recognise the value of education. He studied Cost Accountancy, achieving Part 2 of the Intermediate Examination, and also gained the British Institute of Management’s Intermediate Certificate in Management Studies.

He met my mother in 1957 and moved to work at Williams and Williams at Hooton, but when they decided to get married Dad, moved to Cabot Carbon where he knew he would be earning more money. He was there for 25 years, taking early retirement in 1984.

As well as my sister and I, there was my brother Peter, who died when he was six years of age. I’m not sure any of us really recovered from Peter’s death but Dad was always very proud of the achievements of the rest of us.

He had a great love of the countryside, he used to say he would love to have been an old time road man with a stretch of country lane to care for – he would have enjoyed sitting under a hedge watching the world go by. Because of this interest he attended Chester College where he gained diplomas in Field Biology and Landscape History.

For someone who was not enamoured of school as a youngster he certainly enjoyed studying as he got older. He loved to spend time researching in Ellesmere Port Library. The whole family joined the Youth Hostels Association and spent many happy holidays cycling round the countryside, in counties like Shropshire, Yorkshire, Devon and Norfolk. And for five years, Dad was a member of the YHA Executive for the North West.

When he retired from Cabot Carbon he joined the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers where he learned hedge laying, dry stone walling, pond clearing, tree planting and was very happy to be found on all fours clearing bracken in and around Cheshire. His group did may jobs in and around the Duke of Westminster’s estate, where Gerald as the group called him, was not averse to getting down to the job in hand along with the lads – and swapping sandwiches.

With conservation in mind he decided to get an allotment and was rarely happier than when spending time tending his hugely productive patch at the Poplars site, and taking on the role of Colony secretary. But he was never one to stand back and let others get the better of something he believed in and when a local business wanted the land and the lane leading to the site, Dad went to court to fight for, and got, the allotments’ right to stay where they were.

We all enjoyed the fruits of his labours – especially Mum as a vegetarian. His interest in all things environmental was reflected in his membership of the Leisure and Allotment Holders Association and also of the Henry Doubleday Institute. He was a very keen supporter of the Intermediate Technology Development Group – a charity set up by EF Schumacher – the advocate of the theory that ‘small is beautiful’. Dad also supported the charity Farm Africa, but believed that sustainable farming was not just for the third world, but also necessary in the UK which was why he was such a good allotmenteer.

Dad always supported us in any of our ventures. He was often ‘Mr Brown Owl’ when Mum was enrolling Brownies because some parents didn’t come to their daughters enrollment. This meant that the Brownie that didn’t have anyone there to turn and salute would use Dad instead when they were invited to salute their company and their families. He was always touched by the smile he got from the Brownies. He was especially always there if any of us needed him and I have lost count of the number of times he helped Beth and I move house or decorate.

Although he never took formal membership of Trinity, saying that Trinity didn’t have to pay for him at Assessment time, he worked very hard to keep Trinity going. For over twenty years he worked as Property Steward, Bookings Secretary and Resources Committee Secretary. I think he just loved the bricks of the place.

Dad contracted Alzheimer’s Disease in the late 1990’s, and eventually moved to Mayfields where he was obviously comfortable, and all three of us would like you to hear our heartfelt thanks to all the staff there. Throughout his Alzheimer’s he still had something to teach and it is during this time that I was shown the power of living and being in the present, enjoying the moment and expecting nothing else than the beauty of life. I shall always be thankful to have had him as my father, without him my world would not have expanded, I would not have trod the roads I did and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

It has been said that love is invisible, yet it makes the world go round. It makes life worth living, it provides the warmth, the relationships and the caring that we all need. Dad had that love, even with Alzheimer’s he was able to express it in so many ways, and for this we can praise God.

Truth is invisible, yet people search for it, fight for it and are willing to die for it. It’s the chance to be true to yourself and love by the best standards you now and not live a lie. Dad had that truth and until Alzheimer’s robbed him of his reasoning powers, his beliefs and his actions rang true. And for this we praise God.

Personality is invisible, yet we struggle and strain to build our own integrity and discover that we really are a special person made in the image of God. And Dad was that, a real 22 carat personality whom it was a joy and a privilege to have known and loved, and for that we can praise God.

Dad has left a good name behind him, he was a loving husband and father and lives on in the hearts of those who loved him. May God level the road for his soul.

My father died at 9pm on 30th November 2007.

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