Remembering my dad, 26 years on

Edward Ellis (also known as Ted) born 11th January 1928 in Dunmanway, Ireland. Died 17th November 1986 aged 58 at home, Bristol.

My Dad

26 years have passed since my fathers death I still miss him. The pain of loss has largely subsided and good memories remain, here are a few of them.

Christmas was always a special time for us kids. My fathers brothers Jim and Charlie would come to stay with us for a few days arriving Christmas Eve and leaving anytime between Boxing and New Years Day. We lived in a small house in Horfield, Bristol and the moment they arrived my father was so happy – talking about family and the old days, chain smoking and quaffing Paddy’s whiskey. My dad wasn’t a big drinker, it was just Christmas but there was room for a little potcheen. We loved having them around, I remember these times every Christmas.

Dad worked alot, and by that I mean an awful lot. Money was tight, so he dug deep and worked as much overtime as he possibly could at ‘BAC’ (British Aeroplane Company) where he was a timekeeper – one of those jobs that completely disappeared with the onset of the computer. This meant that he was not home that much, and when he was he was tired and napping.

His father died when he was a young child, when times were really tough in rural Ireland, especially for a young family with six children. He was the youngest, the baby, his older brothers looked out for him. For dad, the priority was paying the mortgage and putting food on the table – that’s was a good dad did.

He passed away when I was only 25 years old, too soon by any measure. There are a few moments from my early life where I remember him clearly.

  • Scooting around in my pedal car in the back garden, and helping him gardening
  • Death of his older brother Jim, who died with us over the Christmas period. It was the fist time that I saw him visibly sad and upset, I didn’t know what to say or do.
  • Going to see the Tutankhamun Exhibition in London, when I was eleven. Staying overnight in a B&B, getting lost at the British Museum and visiting his brother Tom.
  • Demolishing our garage, involving smashing a wooden construction to bits, fascinating for a young boy.
  • Mending our car. It was years before we had a car, but when we did – our first was a Zephyr 6, it was always breaking down. His colourful language was not to be repeated inside the house.
  • First day of work. I got a summer job at BAC, and I went to see him in his office, it was strange to see him out of the home environment
  • My graduation. He and Mum were as proud as punch. It was his approval that meant that I got to stay on at Sixth Form and got to go to Bristol Polytechnic.

He regarded himself as English rather than Irish, which surprised me. But this attitude was borne, I think, of his upbringing in Church of Ireland (Protestant) Southern Ireland after Irish Free State was set up. He and most of his brothers fought for the British Army. By the time he joined the Royal Marines, World War II was over. After meeting my mother, he ended up in Portsmouth and after leaving the Marines back to her home town of Bristol. He never yearned to be back in Ireland, he liked visiting family there of course, but his life was in Bristol.

My regrets include the things that he missed. Me settling down, getting married and having sons of my own. Having a career and ‘putting food on the table’ myself. There are many times I have thought about him and played out conversations in my head. I happen to believe in an afterlife, which helps – as one day I am sure we’ll be able to catch up properly.

What final memories do I have? Well, his smell – cigarettes (he was a Players Navy Cut man), Brylcream and sweat. His voice – a strong West Cork accent – sometimes hard to interpret for those outside the family, and his laugh. Oh, and a strong sense of being loved.

Miss you dad.

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