50 Years On
Today is the 50th anniversary of my dad’s passing; I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.
On my school holidays I had just finished listening to my new LP, Sticky Fingers, when a knock came at the door. He and mum had gone to Burnham on Sea for the day but he had collapsed with a heart attack at the bus stop. I ran to the hospital but he died before I got there. I saw him for one last time and then mum and I walked silently home.
Dad was born in Nelson in 1895 and left school at 11 to work in the mill. In 1914 he was called up and spent the next four years on the Western front. He very rarely talked about the war, save to mention the twin brothers in his class who went with him and the others and who were killed by the same shell. He did, however, tell me about his journey with his friends in the back of an open top truck to Crystal Palace to see us win the FA Cup just a few months before the outbreak of war.
He moved to Somerset when the mills began to close, got a job as a postman, and met mum some time later. Our annual holiday was a trip to Nelson on the train to stay with my Uncle Tom; we always went in the summer, never in the football season! On one holiday he took me to the Turf to show me the ground I had heard so much about. Whoever was on duty that day let him take me round the ground and onto the pitch and on the way out gave me a handful of (1960’s) programmes; I still have them to this day. It is my greatest regret in life that I never saw the Clarets with him.
A year after dad died I got a place at Leeds University and my first game at the Turf was a 4-3 win against Blackpool. It was the 1972/73 promotion season and I was hooked!
I wonder what he would have made of the wilderness years. Could he have contemplated that I would stand on the Longside in a crowd of just over 2,000 against Rochdale? I like to think he would have enjoyed the Orient game and my view right behind Neil Grewcock as his shot flew into the net in front of a full house, something not witnessed for many years. My overriding memories of the day are the Orient fans chanting Burnley at the end of the game even though we had just denied them a play-off place and my crawl up the M6 on the way to the match and the good luck messages shouted by Everton fans on their way to collect the League title.
If it was not for my dad, Sue (my wife) and I would never have experienced that proud moment when, having walked from Lancaster to Burnley with his friend Paul to raise funds for a club in dire financial circumstances, our eldest son Ben (and Paul) was given a standing ovation by the Turf at half time, especially, and to their credit, by the visiting Ipswich fans. Dad’s other grandson Joe is also a dyed in the wool Claret; like us all he had no choice in the matter!
Why am I writing this? I have never written anything like this before. I was inspired by the Club’s film “Where We Belong” and, in particular, the shot of the gentleman with the empty seat next to him occupied by only a claret and blue scarf. It made me think of all those games over the years where I am sure dad was with me in spirit.
For me that film summed up what our Club is about and reminded me that I am lucky to have two families, those close to me and those I don’t know by name but with whom I share hope, despair and sometimes elation on a Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t think of a better way to mark Dad’s anniversary than to share his story with them.
RIP Dad. Long gone but never forgotten. Up The Clarets.Follow UpTheClarets:
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