Thursday, 21 November 2013

Remembering Dad

Ernest Alexander Prestwich 1913 - 1983

The British composer Benjamin Britten's centenary is being celebrated this year. He would have been 100 years old on 22nd November.  My dad would also have celebrated his 100th birthday on 21st November so he was actually 1 day older than Benjamin Britten. Sadly my dad passed away on 31st August 1983 three months shy of his 70th birthday.  In the 30 years since his death I have remembered him often of course, especially on birthdays and anniversaries but I thought it would be a fitting tribute to tell you a little bit about his life and celebrate my dad's centenary here on my blog.

Born in Oldham, Lancashire my dad was the youngest of seven. He had five brothers Thomas, Andrew, John, Samuel, James and one sister Emma.  Oldham at that time was the centre of the textile industry and his father Nimrod worked at the cotton mill as did most people who lived in Oldham and when my dad was old enough joined his brothers and sister to work at the mill.  When many of the Lancashire cotton mills started to close during the 1930s and jobs were getting scarcer my dad and two of his brothers came down to the Midlands to look for work where the car and airplane industry was booming.

After serving in the army during the war he settled in Birmingham and met my mum Frances on the no 11 Outer Circle bus where she was working as a bus conductress as part of the war effort.  They married in 1948 and settled at first in Ladywood, Birmingham living with my mum's parents. My brother Andrew came along in 1950 and then soon after they got the chance of moving to a house on a new council estate in Harborne, Birmingham. During the post-war years there was a major boom in council house construction to provide housing to replace the four million homes that were destroyed or damaged during the Second World War.  To my mum and dad this house was a palace compared to what they had been used to as it was brand new, had an inside toilet, a bathroom and hot running water. I came along in 1959.

My dad's job at this time was as a panel beater working for Fisher & Ludlow based in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham who were a car body pressings sub-contractor for most of the British Motor Corporation (later British Leyland) and during his time here he worked on the manufacture of the Austin Mini and Austin 1100 and 1300.

Ironically we did not have a car of our own until the end of the 1960s when he decided it was high time my mum, now in her early 40s should learn to drive. My dad did have a license but he never really liked driving although during the 1950s he drove a motor bike that had a sidecar attached for my mum and brother to sit alongside. Our first car was a Morris 1100 but he wasn't one of life's confident drivers and I remember being in the car once with him but he never went above 20 mph and never got out of second gear.

My dad did not enjoy the best of health having been invalided out of the army during the war because he had contracted TB in an ankle joint.  Towards his late fifties ill health forced him to give up the car trade and after a brief spell working for Post Office Telephones (now BT) he retired. 

I remember him for lots of things but most of all I loved his great Northern sense of humour - he was always cracking jokes (corny ones at the best of times). I loved his Lancashire accent. I loved that when he finished a long week's work on a Friday he would nip into the paper shop on his way home to get his Birmingham Evening Mail and always treat us to some chocolate - a treat for the weekend. I would get a Bounty bar (they are my favourites to this day), a Mars bar or a Flake for my brother and always a Fry's Turkish Delight for my mum.  He loved a pint and he loved reading, getting through about 6 library books every couple of weeks.

He smoked a pipe which my mum got very annoyed about, not for any health reason but because the smoke ruined the decorating.  He always had a pipe in his mouth and when he lit it up he would disappear behind a cloud of smoke.  Me and my brother often comment that both of us smoked from the day we were born.

He was a man of his generation. He did his bit for his country, he married, had a family and his prime concern was to provide and look after his family.  He was most happiest with his family around him and loved it when his grandchildren came along. Yes he could be grumpy like a lot of dads and I hated getting a telling off from him if I had been naughty but he was my dad and we loved him to bits.

Happy 100th birthday Dad! xx

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