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Monday, 13 June 2011

John Weston - A Father's Day Tribute: Sentimental Sunday

Sunday is Father's Day in the UK and I am proud to write this tribute to my father,  John Weston who was born on 15th April 1912 - the date the fateful Titanic sank.

Ironbridge over the River Severn

Dad grew up in the small village  of Brosely, near Ironbridge, Shropshire, known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution with the building in 1779  of the first ever iron bridge over the River Severn. His father worked at the power house at Coalbrookdale, which meant a 35 minute walk each way each day

I persuaded Dad to write down an account of his early life and later his war time experiences and was pleased to have these, as I have very few photographs prior to his meeting my mother.  Sadly, photographs and memorabilia (including Dad's church choir and football team photographs)  were thrown out by the widow of his oldest brother, without any thought for other family members.

Dad  had a trial for  the schoolboys footballt eam, at Birmingham Football Club with his teacher driving him to  the city.   He was offered a place but his parents refused to let him take it and,  as he said,  "I sulked for a month".  However there was a bit of glory when, as vice-captain  his school team entered a cup competition and won - the first ever trophy  brought to Brosely.  One of the supporters took a pigeon to the match and set it loose at the end to let Brosely residents know the result!

Dad's first job was as an errand boy, delivering orders by horse and cart.  Somehow I cannot picture this, as he never showed the slightest interest in horses.

This is the earliest picture (below) I have of my father - with his youngest brother Charles c. mid 1930's.

Dad became a commercial traveller and got instructions to pick up a car and drive 90 miles north  to a new position in Blackpool.

""I had never driven a car before.  On Boxing Day, I went to the British School of Motoring and said I wanted some urgent lessons.  When I told the instructor I was driving to Blackpool the next day, he nearly had a fit.  I collected my car - a four door Morris saloon which I was expected to buy on hire  purchase at 18shillings per week.  It was a traumatic journey with me being  a complete novice, having had no proper tuition.  There was no heating, no radio of course to help pass the time, and the windscreen wipers kept seizing up.  I had also been told that the tyres were awful for punctures.  Still I made it, as darkness fell - just as well, as I wasn't too sure how the lights worked!"

Mum and Dad - wartime  c.1940.
In Blackpool he met my mother first at the Winter Gardens Ballroom and then a week later at the Tower Ballroom and they married at St. Chad's Church, Poulton-le-Fylde in 1938.  

Dad's often talked about his war time experiences and I must admit it did often provoke the reaction  “Not the war again, Dad”.  It was only later that we came to realise what a life-defining period it was, and I persuaded him to write an account for his granddaughter, then studying World War Two at school. 

He served in the RAF Codes & Ciphers Branch (so plenty of jokes about being in Intelligence)  and was  seconded to General Bradley’s US 12th Army Group HQ. The story of his landing at Omaha Beach in 1944, his advance through France and Belgium into Germany form the basis of other blog postings.  

A proud husband and father c..1951

After the war, we moved around with my father's work to York and then Edinburgh,  with he and Mum retiring back to St. Anne's, Lancashire. Wherever  he went,  Dad threw himself into the local community - he was a people person, a "joiner" and  an organiser of fetes and festivities in the church and village.  

Dad  always fancied journalism and was a regular contributor to the local paper, whether it was press releases on events he was involved in or letters to the editor, and he was not afraid to put an unpopular point of view.

He would have loved to have lived in the age of blogging.

He died at the age of 91 in 2003.

Sentimental Sunday  is a daily prompt from http://www.geneabloggers.com/, used by many  bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.

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