I’ve mentioned dad in a few of my previous blogs, and I have to admit, I haven’t really painted him in the best way, mainly because I probably never saw or experienced him at his best. He did many things wrong as a husband and a father, but mum would occasionally talk about him with pride and sometimes, with a little hope in her eyes.
Dad was very vain, taking so, so long to shave and dress himself for a night out. When dad passed away in 1994, my mum was devastated, despite all the heartache dad had caused her throughout their married life, she still loved him with an ingrained passion. Mum knew more than any other member of the family how vain dad was, but we (Me and my siblings) never truly understood how vain he was until mum finally received his birth certificate (Don’t know why she requested it) after his death. His certificate came by post several weeks after the funeral and what was recorded on it even took my mother by surprise. He had always told mum and my mother’s family members that he was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland in 1918. His birth certificate contradicted his fallacy, stating that he was born in a town called Mullaglass, Northern Ireland in 1914! For a reason that will always remain a mystery, he not only lied about his place of birth, he also took 4 years off his age 🤣 Of course we have hypothesized about his reasons for lying about his age but as for the reason his lied about his place of birth, that has always stumped us.
During one of those rare times he tried to be a father, he would always mention that he had smuggled cigarettes and booze over the border into Southern Ireland during the second world war. I dare not ask him myself but I asked mum why he hadn’t fought during the war. Mum would reply with a shrug of her shoulders and say “How the bloody hell do I know, ask your dad” but I never did. One thing was for certain, he didn’t like the English because he was always raging about being a proud, fighting Irishman when he was drunk and always shouting something about the English man being “Yellow and cowardly”! Yet he would drink with English men, socialising on a very regular basis and of course, he married an English woman!
His sister came to visit him once, travelling from Ireland to stop at our house for a couple of days. During her visit she told my mum a few things about her husband (Dad) that mum knew nothing about. As a family, we knew he could play a violin because he kept one stored away in a cupboard, only taking it out to clean it, tune it and play it for a short time. My auntie told my mum about her father, my grandfather, and how he made tin violins as a hobby and eventually as a means of bringing a little bit of extra money into the household by selling them. Grandad was a skilled violinist, and he taught my dad how to play. Apparently dad took to learning to play very quickly, and became very accomplished in a short space of time. Dad would tune up and play every violin his father made. Dad’s reputation grew and he was sent to a school that specialised in teaching music alongside a regular curriculum. Dad’s brother Tommy also had a natural aptitude for playing the violin, so they practiced and played together in a local orchestra. Someone from the Belfast Philharmonic orchestra spotted them during a visit to the area and they were both invited to audition in Belfast. Unfortunately, things became unstuck, caused by their own stupidity. Not only did dad and Tommy share a love for the violin, they also shared a love for drinking heavily. That being the case, they both turned up for their audition blind drunk. They blew their chance. Whilst Tommy backed away from drinking heavily, dad continued on his lonely course after the disappointment of letting himself down.
I did ask dad about his violin days a few times as I grew up but he would never talk about it, he said it didn’t matter and it was non of my business.
So somewhere in his distant past, I think he must have been happy because he obviously had a love and passion for music. We never experienced love or passion from him (Maybe if we’d all been born looking like violins!) He would do anything for anybody outside of the home, which is why people liked him.
His sister told mum that he never got over his mother’s death, and the drinking took over his life soon after her funeral. He would regularly get drunk and fall asleep on his mother’s grave, always woken up by the guy who looked after the graveyard in the early hours. He would work like a horse to help local farmers and friends, only accepting bottles of alcohol as payment.
So I guess he can’t have been all bad and I often wonder what he would have made of his life if his mum had survived long enough to steer him in the right direction.
I guess dad can’t have been all bad.