Today is the 6th of October, today is a day to remember for me. Today is my Grandad’s birthday.
He was a great man who had a considerable influence on my life he died fifteen years ago on the 31st of July 2002 if he were still alive he would have been 98 years old today.
He was one of the best people I have ever known in my life and my god did he have a full life.
Born in 1919 he grew up as part of a large family. At the age of 16, he left home to join the Foreign Legion to fight in the Spanish Civil war.
He served with them for a few years, then he joined the Merchant Navy before joining the Royal Navy after that.
He fought in World War II and got shot in the leg 3 times, but that didn’t stop him he rose through the ranks to become Chief Petty Officer on the HMS Ark Royal, he was on it when it sank.
He held the rank of Chief Petty Officer a few times, and he kept getting busted down the ranks for fighting. He wasn’t the type of man who would take any shit from anyone, gee I wonder where I get that from?
When he left the Navy, he came home and raised a family of 7 kids, my mum was the second youngest of the lot.
He went on to be a Fireman, a fully qualified butcher, a driver, he trained the men to drive the Fire Engines, he loved his garden and would spend hours in it growing all of his own veg.
He also had his darker side he was once arrested, charged and imprisoned for 6 months for stealing from the Whisky Bond, he swiped a few caskets of whisky.
He used to take his two eldest sons out at night to steal car parts form the scrap yards. He would get them to climb the fence and have a look around to make sure it was safe before he would go over. He was a smart man.
He was also a bit of a poacher. He would go out and steal sheep from the local fields take them home and butcher them in the kitchen.
This was something he did on the day that my mum first brought my dad home to meet the family. They walked in my mum recognised the smell and, yup, he was in the kitchen elbow deep in the guts of a sheep on the kitchen table. My dad never knew.
When I was growing up he would take us round to steal stuff out of a skip behind a furniture makers workshop to get some good stuff and wood for the fire, he had a real coal burning fire in the living room.
He had a massive influence on me growing up he taught me how to fight, how to fish, how to shoot and many other things. I got most of my morals from him, he taught me how to be a man.
He’s the one that taught me to put others before myself, to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
He made me who I am today.
He had a fun side as well, he loved a good practical joke. When I was young there was a TV show called Strange But True, which told stories that happened to people and some of them were really quite creepy, when I was 8, and we were watching ones about a haunting. I was sitting on the floor with my mum, and none of us noticed that he got up, opened the window and left the room.
Sitting there, engrossed in the show, when suddenly a fucking mop comes flying in the window.
Scared the crap out of me, and everyone else, then all of a sudden there was a cackling laugh coming from outside in the garden.
That is just one of the stories that I have, there are hundreds of them.
He had a huge influence on me.
Then in 2002 he became sick and died from heart disease on the 31st of July 2002.
To this day I still have tremendous guilt over this. When I was 18, I went down to London to work for the summer doing traffic management. I was due to come home on the 30th of July, but one of the guys missed his flight there, so I stayed an extra day.
My grandad had been in the hospital for a few weeks, and my mum had been going up every night to see him after work.
But on that day she came home to see me first, then went up to the hospital to see him, and missed him by half an hour. He had died before she got there. My mum missed saying goodbye to her dad by half an hour because she came home to see me.
I still feel guilty about this to this day.
I know that’s stupid, but it’s how I feel.
His funeral was one of the hardest days of my life, and since that day I have been wearing his ring that he had for years. It has never come off my finger since that day, and it always will be there.
He still has influences on me now. I try to live by the example he set me all those years ago, and I named the main Character of my Novel, Journeys End, after him.
So here is to you, Happy Birthday Samuel, where ever you are.