My Dad died recently. This is the tribute my brother Mark and sister Julie and I read at his funeral near Kendal last Monday. It was a beautiful day, and the clouds put on a special display for him in the morning and evening:
Dad was, among many other things, a photographer. The photos on the front and back of the ‘batting order’ are his, taken in the French Alps, the Lincolnshire Wolds and from Scout Scar, only a few miles from here. As children, and as grandchildren, we spent hours being posed in front of mountain views, clouds, during family holidays, playing at home. Here’s one of his cameras, a (now vintage) Leica. The film took a seemingly unending amount of time to spool and unspool.
But one of the things you discover with a photographer in the family is that – while there are many photos of us – there aren’t so many of Dad. But we found a particularly nice one of him which we’ve put on the inside. He has his camera round his neck, and is outside, on a walk with our Mum at Silverdale.
Walking, with his camera round his neck, whether in the Alps, the Jura, the high fells, or a low-level stroll, taking pictures of unusual cloud formations, some of which became cover shots in the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Magazine, being able to read the landscape like a book, be it the Pre-Cambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous… Many of our fondest memories of Dad come from walks with him, and I’m sure that’s the case with many of you, as well. Once he’d realised you also had an interest in the skies and the rock formations beneath your feet he’d tell you about them with passion, knowledge and humour. He brought this into his teaching, too, as you’ve already heard from David and Juanita.
We all went to the secondary school where Dad taught. Unlike what you might expect when your dad was a teacher in your school, being Mr Squires’ son or daughter actually had a certain cachet. For us as young children, his classroom at King Edwards was a thing of fascination – not least because he had some fossilised dinosaur poo among his collection. For Julie and Michael’s wedding last year, Dad had the superb idea of collecting some very rare fossilised hail stones (aka bird’s eye tuff) from a top secret Cumbrian location to serve as place markers.
Dad was also a keen sportsman: rugby and cricket, in particular, including bowling out Middlesex’s two opening batsmen in his first two overs at the age of 17 for Buckinghamshire Colts, playing for the Thames Valley Licenced Victuallers’ Association – and bombing around in a friend’s Messerschmitt car. A great highlight as a sports watcher was seeing Viv Richards score a half century for the West Indies at Trent Bridge with Mark. When Mum and Dad moved to Kendal, he became a member of Kendal Cricket Club, and would regularly head down to watch the match on a Saturday afternoon. We were really touched – and we know Dad would have been delighted – to receive an email to say that a flag would be raised for him at the Cricket Club.
As children we played many a game of back garden cricket, with the cry of ‘6 and out’ heralding another ball lofted into the back field. We played long games of catch – itself a competitive sport for Squireses. We’ve watched the final Six Nations games together these last two weekends, and missed Dad and Grandad’s presence.
There were certain things you shouldn’t do around Dad, though – speak during the weather forecast, or try to fill the dishwasher. Any attempt to do the latter would find your efforts quietly taken out and restacked. As Dad got poorly over the course of the year he started to leave dishwasher filling to others, but still recently he did a thorough clean of it.
One thing Dad kept until his dying day, though, was his amusement and engagement with people and with politics, and particularly his encouragement and love of children and young people. One of our friends said ‘I remember how his eyes lit up when he saw our children’; his last DIY job was to make a little ‘fairy door’ for another’s child. Dad’s favourite reading matter in recent months (alongside the Guardian, the New Statesman, Weather Magazine and Practical Photography) was the Screwfix catalogue. He’d always be heading out to get the right washer or nail, and not too long ago he sent Mum out to fetch hardware supplies. The tools in the garage are in immaculate order, each screwdriver, pair of pliers, and hammer in its place. His music collection is perhaps not quite so ordered, but he gave us instructions about the music we’d play today. His favourites were the soundtrack of our childhood.
Dad would regale us as children with his made-up tales of Flemish-speaking gnomes who lived in a room in our house dubbed the Glory Hole. He was a great storyteller for adults, too. Meeting the Beatles while at university (unimpressed), spotting the cricketer Jack Hobbs in his shop (lifetime highlight), lunch with The Nawaab of Pataudi, who went on to become ‘India’s finest cricket captain’, the adventures and sad demise of Jim the Ferret – these were just a few of the tales he told. I’m sure you know some more, and we’d love to hear them.
For Harriet and Tom, Dad’s youngest grandchildren, their memories are that their Grandad would play chase games with them round the house when they were little, take them walking to Arnside and to the beach café, and that he was always kind. Once, said Tom, ‘when we were playing chase I threw a marble that hit his foot, and he said no, we don’t throw things inside, and I knew it was a really serious thing.’ Harriet says her Grandad always asked her what she was reading, and when Dad and Philip and Colin would ‘go on about rugby or clouds or rocks and I didn’t really understand he would explain it in an organised sensible way so that it was easy.’ Even when he was poorly, says Harriet, ‘He told me stories about when Dad and Claire and Julie were little and made it sound like an important secret’. Their grandad loved people, Harriet says, and cheese, and knickerbocker glories. We adults would also add wine to that list…
Cheese and wine were, of course, two loves that went hand-in-hand with Dad’s greatest love, for Mum. Mum and Dad met while Mum was a French assistant at King Edwards, and they swiftly agreed to marry. Our aunt Marie-Claude, Mum’s sister, tells how Dad came into their French lives as a breeze of happiness, a ‘Prince Charmant’, always full of laughter, stories, and maps. He very quickly made Mum’s family his family, sharing wonderful summer holidays in France, under the August skies filled with shooting stars.
When we were children, going with Dad down into the town would take an age, as he’d meet people he knew, and stop to chat. When Mum and Dad moved to Kendal after several years of retirement, it didn’t take long before the same effect started to happen. The house Mum and Dad moved to in Kendal is close to the river but is not – as Dad well knew – on the flood plain. When Storm Desmond hit, Dad’s excitement at extreme weather conditions was evident, although his vindication at buying a house away from the flood plain did not lessen his sympathy for all those affected by the floods.
Writing this on a day when the spring sunshine warms the skin and the birds sing through the air, we’re so sad that he won’t see this year’s spring flowers, the new lambs, and the longer evenings. Mark talked this week about cutting the grass, and how in the act of doing it himself (probably not quite so carefully or neatly), he remembers Dad pushing the old petrol-powered lawnmower, cutting the edges, lifting the swing from around the frame to mow underneath. It’s in these small, repeated, quiet acts – doing the crossword, filling the dishwasher, bending to pick up an interesting rock – that we’ll miss him most of all, and remember him best.
The ‘Batting Order’: