Thursday 1 March 2012

Eulogy - drb

J.A.H. Redacted
February 22 1920 February 18 2012
My Dad was a very modest man. He never took credit for the great things he was responsible for. When something worked out well as a result of his meticulous planning or skill, he preferred to give the credit to fate and say that we had been lucky.
A man of very simple pleasures, he enjoyed listening to Jazz music, the occasional glass of wine, a really hot curry and a cigar at Christmas. His real loves were his family and his boats.
Hard work, honesty and integrity were very important to him, not only did he live by these values, but expected it of those around him. Always an early riser, if anyone appeared for breakfast after 8 o’clock they were dismissed as having “missed the best part of the day”.
He was very intelligent and knowledgably and would amaze me at his breadth of understanding of an enormous range of subjects, from classical music, to ancient history, to foreign languages, to wine making, it seemed there was nothing he didn’t have some understanding of. In contrast, Dad was also very practical and enjoyed working with his hands, tinkering with electronics and his boats. Not many people would happily disassemble an expensive Swiss watch confident they could put it back together.
Dad was a very resourceful and determined man almost to the point of stubborn. If he could not mend something with what he had at hand, then it was either impossible to repair or so inferior that he would make something better himself. We used to joke that it only took one Redacted to change a light bulb, but the rest of the family to try and mend the broken one.
His preferred medium was the back of an envelope. Whether it was drawing a circuit diagram, designing a self-steering gear or writing a shopping list, if it couldn't be contained in the limited area of 3”x 8”, it was too complicated.
He was born in 1920 on the Isle of Wight in the Solent, the salt air and maritime environment must have got into his blood at an early age as boats and the sea were to become a huge part of his life. His father, John Redacted, died when he was 8 and he moved to Eastbourne on the Sussex coast with his mother, Mable. Dad went to school in Hasting’s making the 14 mile trip along the south coast by bicycle. At 16 he took his school certificate and started at Hartley-Turners as an apprentice working in the very early days of high quality sound reproduction, what would eventually be known as Hi-Fi. It was at about this time that he gained his HAM radio license; we think he was the youngest in the UK.
He served his country during the Second World War, joining the Royal Air force at age 19 and due to his previous experience with electronics and radio he was immediately selected to work in the ground breaking and top secret RADAR technology that was so vital during the conflict. His training manuals were kept and are now in the RAF museum. Throughout the war, his work was absolutely cutting edge and he traveled across the UK, Europe and after liberation India, by this time promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

In 1946 he left the RAF and returned to live with his Mum in Richmond, South London where he kept his first yacht Cathrine and embarked on his first continental cruise to Holland. By now he had met Noel Bevan to become a lifelong friend and who he would later sail with in the Fasnet race, beating the MP Ted Heath.

In 1950, after a few years dedicated to sailing and HAM radio, He started work at HJ Leak, renowned for the latest technology in amplifiers and public address systems where he met Ted and Alma Ashley who also became lifelong friends.

He returned to sailing full time in 1953, Cathrine was sold and Dad bought Monie (Virtue # 3) a true ocean going yacht designed by the famous Laurent Giles. He joined the Cruising Association to use their library for navigation information and taught himself astro navigation, he was now confidant enough to sail single-handed from the Hamble to Gibraltar. He advertised in the Times newspaper for a sailing companion for the return voyage Dick Tizzard a Cambridge professor responded and they became close friends and later business partners.

He thought he had better go back to work and in 1955 and joined Electronic Instruments as an engineer involved in a huge range of process monitoring and control from cigarette manufacture to letter sorting. Dad made a significant improvement in the design of one piece of equipment and registered a patent for a measurement pump still used in and hospitals today.

It was around this time that my Mum “breezed in” to his life at Electronic Instruments and in 1959 they went on their first date to a promenade concert to see the Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony. They were married in 1960 and with total predictability he planned a sailing holiday in Monie for the honeymoon. The weather was very bad and they arrived in The Channel Islands in a thunder storm so severe it made the papers. During his time with Electronic Instruments he traveled all over the world, but with enough time at home to start a family.

In 1961 he replied to a job advert for Griffin and George. He was attracted to Plymouth for the ease of keeping a boat and going sailing, but it was rumored, to get away from his mother in law. He was given the job and in 1962 sailed from Portsmouth to Plymouth to start work.

Following the closure of the Griffon &George factory in 1964, Dick. Tizzard and Dad took the opportunity to set up Plymouth Sound Yacht Services in Turnchaple just as sailing became increasingly popular. However, the demands of his young family by this time Mary, John and I, the need for a larger house and nearby schools made him decide to sell his beloved Monie and move to Furzehatt Road in 1966 where he would spend the next 46 years.

After 5 years of running the boat yard, he decided that his hobby was not a good occupation and he sold it as a successful business. He took a job with the Plymouth Gas Processing Plant in Oreston This gave Dad more time to spend with his family and the opportunity to have a boat again. He found Bathilda a Norwegian 18’ open motor boat in a state of disrepair in Stonehouse creek. After restoring the boat it was used for many family outings and Dad gave up weekends to serve as Plym Yacht club’s rescue boat.

With a ready-made crew, in the early 70’s Dad bought “Wandering Star” a 26' steel yacht that over the next 10 years was to cruise hundreds of miles around the Devon and Cornwall coast and be the source of many happy family holidays to the Channel Islands and Brittany. He was by now working for Plymouth Polytechnic helping students with their project work, well beyond his role of a lab technician. And, to the surprise of all of us, and the delight of my Dad, Richard was born.

In March of 1982, Dad had a heart attack and decided to retire. He kept himself busy with a huge range of projects, including designing and building plywood pram dinghies for friends and those lucky enough to get on the list. With his children moved away he replaced Wandering Star with an 18’ Plymouth Pilot, “Mimosa” and would use this boat to cruise the inland waterways of France. The peace of the canals and rural France appealed to him as did the 35 franc 3 course dinners.
John, my father, Dad, “the Old Man” was a quiet and often private person. He was very modest about all these achievements and his humility is probably the characteristic that describes him most completely and the one that I will remember him for.
Aren't we lucky?

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