My Grandfather's story is very much a story of the unexpected and the unclear. I guess I shouldn't expect it to change now, just because I have tried to find out a few things.
My Mum always talks of him with great love and it is clear from what is said that he was well liked and respected by many. He stands tall in my families memories even though as you begin to look, there is a lack of concrete facts.
His father was a cabinet maker and I believe he died when my Grandfather and his brother were pretty young. The family was plunged into poverty and the boys spent time in an orphanage because there just wasn't the money to feed them. This is where the first hint of possible (as oppose to definite) tragedy comes in as there is the vaguest hint of possible abuse suffered in the orphanage.
The brothers grew up and my Grandfather went to war in India. He didn't talk about the war much but my Mum remembers that he said he helped build a road. The allies had pretty much finished their road building by the time the war started it seems. The Japanese however used Prisoners of War to build roads in the jungle and many, many died. The Japanese just couldn't understand that the West thought differently, it was duty to survive to fight another day whereas the Japanese committed suicide rather than be captured. The POWs were without honour as far as they were concerned and this tragedy of misunderstanding resulted in horrific treatment of the POWs.
My Grandfather met my Gran and my Gran tells a story about how she had to marry him because they went on a day trip with friends but left it too late to leave. She found herself in a position where she had to share a room with him and honour required she marry him. I don't think this was at all what she wanted. I don't think she loved him.
Two children later and my Grandfather moved to another town with work. My Mum always believed that they were to follow but the family never did. Instead a divorce came along and eventually a Stepfather who they did not enjoy living with. He was a man who liked to be alone and was best off in his garden. When we went and stayed he would manage for a day or two and then retreat to the garden. He had a brilliant smile and was not a bad chap but I can not imagine he ever wanted to live with someone else's children.
My step grandfather did something silly which caused my Uncle to spend a lot of time in hospital. Because of this my Uncle missed out on the last few years of his Father's life. For my Grandfather became ill. The added tragedy of this is he was to be married to a widower whose first husband died of exactly the same, not so common, illness. They didn't marry because he wanted to ensure my Gran carried on receiving his pension.
On a visit to see my Gran, she told my Mum and I a story. Knowing my Nan and given the way she told us, I have no idea if the story is true or not. My Grandfather was caught doing something that was still illegal at that time. It apparently resulted him losing his job and having to move and also resulted in the end of his marriage. The planned move had been a lie, told to ease the ending. It is possible from what was said that my Grandfather was gay or bisexual.
My Great Uncle didn't step in and help the family at all. In fact he was a headmaster at my Mum and Uncles school. My Mum was not academic but she had a dream to be a nurse. In his position of Headmaster, you would expect him to support them, no matter how he felt about things. He told my Mum to give up her dreams as she was not good enough and he put it in writing in her school report. Luckily she didn't listen.
So a life full of suspected tragedy, abused child, Japanese POW and society outcast... but yet he walks tall and all of these half guessed things might not be so.
There isn't many people to ask about him. My Gran is vague and not necessarily inclined to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Asking difficult questions of the lady he nearly married seems a way of just causing hurt and upset. He did however have two good friends that my Mum remembers. One I have no idea how to track down but the other is pretty well known, a celebrity.
So after not doing it for a looong time, I finallys ent him an email. I didn't say much, just who I was and why I was writing. Today I received a very nice and polite reply. Not the one I expected at all. It seems in those circles that there was another gent of the same name. The email apologised for not being of much assistance but said that he didn't really know him and suggested I look in a different circle.
I sent back a brief and equally polite email explaining that this man was not my Grandfather. I gave my Grandfathers profession and nickname as well as explaining that the eminent celebrity had in fact crafted a celebration of my Grandfather following his death but that all the information I have is second hand.
And now I wait.
It was 50 years ago after all. Could he really be forgotten? This man who walks so tall? Whose genial shadow comes down through time... My Uncle moved to the last town my Grandfather lived in and went to a pub one day. A man at the bar went into shock as he looked the spit of his father. All those years later, surely the celebrity can not have forgotten?
Expect the unexpected.... *sigh*
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