Today, I’m off to Yorkie-world to see my ailing Dad. His name is Albert, but he is known to everyone as ‘Matty’ – which is short for ‘Matelot’ – another word for ‘Able Seaman’
My Dad comes from a seafaring family. His father, George served on the ‘Mauretania’ one of those sexy big Edwardian ocean going jobs that didn’t do a Titanic. When the ship was about to be decommissioned and eventually broken up, my Granddad, faithfully following the tradition of scally scousers robbed one of the nicely carved state room mahogany tables and plonked it in his front room. Apparently, you could hardly move around this carved leviathan – proudly residing in ‘the parlour’ for the favoured invited few to drool over….
Unfortunately, its demise was assured via an axe when hard times, cold weather and no coal conspired to seal its fate…..
My Granddad was a bit of a lad. He ran away from home aged 15, stowed away on a ship and ended up in South America…… Eventually he became a Gaucho on the Pampas….. How cool is that then - My Granddad, the South American Cowboy.
He then went up to the U.S. to work along the Eastern Seaboard and even found time to do a bit of acting on Broadway.
He found Communism, became a Marxist and a sailor and came back to Blighty to do some agitating. He became mates with George Orwell and other bohemian types of a left leaning persuasion. In his spare time he wrote plays under the pseudonym of ‘Matt Lowe’ – mostly about the degradations of the recession hit ‘30’s……
My Dad, joined the senior service before the war started – and saw action on the Atlantic & Russian Convoys – and in the relief of Malta. He was the Royal Navy Heavweight Boxing Champion – a man who was generally reckoned to be as hard as nails. He once beat up George Kelly and one of his henchmen to stop them slapping a couple of girls around in a city centre pub. Kelly was a nasty piece of work – a Liverpool gangster, eventually hung for the murder of two employees at the Cameo Cinema.
So that’s why I’m going over today to Dronfield - a rather drab suburb of Sheffield to see him. I’m taking with me a big pad of paper and a pen. I want him to write all the stuff he can remember about his early exploits and wartime experiences. It seems the appropriate thing to do today.