1927 was the year that Ford stopped production of the Model T, the year that for all practical purposes Television was invented, the year that the Spirit of St. Louis crossed the Atlantic to become the first nonstop transatlantic flight and the year that the League of Nations signed a treaty abolishing slavery.
1927 was also the year my Daddy was born. Born into a world that was a radically different to the one we live in today.
He was born in Belfast into a devote Presbyterian family and grew up during the Second World War. From Belfast he moved to Dublin to train as a Vet at Trinity.
Moving to a catholic country presented dad with new opportunities – for starters – he was able to supplement his student income by smuggling condoms across the border and selling them to his fellow students.
Although we might all admire this entrepreneurial spirit I should point out that this additional income wasn’t always put to good use.
For when he and his friend, Billy MacArthur, found a bat’s roost they scooped up a bagful of unfortunate bats and headed off to the local cinema, who happened to be showing a zombie movie. I like to think that when he and Billy released the bats they invented the first 3D cinema experience.
After Trinity he left Ireland for Cornwall, where he met mum. The two of them then moved to Bedford where he setup his own practice and started a family.
After 40 years they returned to Cornwall.
Retirement can be a risky business – but my parents where lucky. They found friends who made them laugh, who also enjoyed a bottle of red wine or few, who made their retirement a full and happy time.
But on the 24th of January, my daddy died of cancer.
My father, as anyone who met him will know, was a cantankerous, stubborn bugger. He would argue with anyone about any subject. I sometimes wondered why.
I’m sure he did it because he loved the challenge, loved the debate, loved challenging why people thought what they thought, and because he was endlessly curious about the world.
Born into a world that was soon to disappear, washed away by the flood of the modern world. It would have been easy for him to have retreated into what he knew.
But his determination and curiosity drove him forward. Stopped him from retreating into the past.
Instead he did what he loved and explored the world – he caught animals in East Africa, worked and travelled in Asia, read anything and everything, built his practice and then in recent years started to explore the world via the Web.
But more than his willingness to embrace the new was his desire to challenge the status quo and the beliefs that others held.
He knew that whoever you are you’re just a mammal. That it was ok to question what you and others believed and did. He taught me that not only was it ok to question but also not to be scared of the consequences. He taught me to question others and do what I thought was right. He taught me quiet determination.
This Christmas, my brother, Sean and I ended up discussing life and death over a bottle of whisky. And at some point Sean asked me what I wanted out of life.
I told him I wanted to die happy having made interesting things I could be proud of. I think Dad managed that.
What I learned from my daddy’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.
In the final days of his life he was very tired but when he woke he woke with a smile. He was happy even though he knew he was dying. He was happy because he was happy with his life, he loved being a vet, he loved living in Cornwall, he was proud of us: his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and, he was proud of what he made of his life but most of all he loved his wife, my mummy.
Don’t mourn his death; he wouldn’t want that.
Remember him for the last time he teased you, the last time you fell for one of his practical jokes, the last time you winced at one of his emails or perhaps just the last time he made you look at the world in a different way.