Sadly one of the things I didn’t expect to be doing in my 50th year was to be mourning the loss of my father. Unfortunately he passed away quite suddenly on the morning of the 27th of March ’17 while cycling on The Crow Road with a group of friends from The Western Baths. Below I’ve reproduced the eulogy I read to my dad at his funeral and included a few photos too that maybe give a better flavour to the type of man he was.
“Firstly I would like to thank everyone for the messages that the family have received over the past week which have shown us what a well loved and respected man our father was.
It has obviously come as a massive shock to us all his passing but I think it important that we try and celebrate his life quite simply because he was the sort of man to embrace life itself and was never one to sit and wallow in pity.
I’d like to try and give you all a bit of flavour on his life so that those of you who knew him in different circumstances can get a greater understanding of his life as a whole.
My father was born of April 17th 1944 at Rottenrow Maternity Hospital which was in Glasgow City Centre. He was the only son of Fred and Mary Craig. Initially they lived on the Gallowgate but as far as I can gather the family business which was founded in 1937 was doing rather well and within a few years they had moved to Thornwood in Glasgow’s West End.
My dad attended St. Peter’s primary school in Partick and it was here he met his lifelong and dearest friend Gerry Donahoe who sadly passed away last year.
From what we can gather he had a pretty good childhood and from holiday snaps we can see that traveled around the UK quite a bit as my grandfather was the proud owner of a Rover Car and rumoured to be the only man in his street with a car.
For secondary school he went to St. Gerard’s in Govan which would have involved a daily trip across the Clyde on the legendary Govan ferry. While at St. Gerard’s he met my mum and also I understand Rita too.
Leaving school he immediately went into the family business and while we cannot be sure are fairly certain he did his builders apprenticeship .He was throughout his life a bit of a dab hand with a plaster board, could lay bricks with ease and slate roof repairs were always something he enjoyed.
I don’t know a great deal of my dad’s activities through his youth but he was close to his cousins Arnold and Arthur and enjoyed a night at the dancing particularly the F&F on Dumbarton Road.
Musically he was a big fan of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. He was obviously with my mum at this time because he never tired of telling me that his prized Buddy Holly singles were stolen when someone broke into my mum’s house in Knightswood when he’d left them there.
In September 1963 my mum and dad married at St.Ninian’s in Knightwood and they bought their first home in Henrietta Street in Scotstoun.
My dad said he paid £500 for the house and took the £100 down payment along to the lawyer’s office on the bus all the time terrified he’d either lose the money or get mugged. We have actually found these records and this is all true with him paying off his mortgage at £6 a month.
They had a great time in Henrietta Street and formed lifelong friendships with Nan and George Shearer who were their neighbours and through Nan and George they got very close to John and Betty McCreadie with John being another lifelong and close friend of my dad and always know to us as Uncle John. Amongst other things they were big fans of model car racing and also The Glasgow Tigers Speedway team.
I was born in 1966 and by the time Gerry came along in 1968 the flat was too small and we moved to Thornwood Gardens which was right across from John and Betty in Laurel Place. I have great memories of Thornwood including my dad having to sort out a fight between myself and the current manager of Sunderland as the Moyes family were neighbours.
Upstairs was his good friend Peter McNaughton. Although my dad lost contact with him when he emigrated to Canada through the power of the internet they rekindled that friendship in recent years with my dad visiting Peter in Canada and Peter coming across to Scotland.
Chris arrived in 1970 and we continued to live in Thornwood Gardens. The business was busy and my dad was working many hours and weekends. Although if he was honest he was probably dodging trying to sort out three boys who seemed to be constantly fighting each other leaving that to my mum. Hid did from time to time step in including famously taking a two year old Chris for haircut to Stuperts on Crow Rd. Chris hated this process and my mum had warned my dad so he took John along for support.
Short version is Chris came back without a haircut and was banned for life.
My dad had a few mishaps at this time including the now legendary time he fell off a tenement roof. He recently told Gerry that as he slid off the roof he managed to catch his claw hammer in the gutter thereby stopping his fall. But then the rubber handle slowly slid from the main shaft and he said that his last thought was “I shouldn’t have bought such a cheap hammer”. He survived the fall landing in a back green and was taken home in a state of shock. He told me that as they were carrying him in the house all he could see was my mum in tears and a pile of insurance certificates laid out.
From that day on though he always bought the best hammers.
We moved to Bishopbriggs in 1976 mainly because my mum wanted a bit of privacy and was fed up with tenement life.
Initially we lived in Woodhill but again my mum got fed up with this too and with the birth of Kate in 1978 they were looking for somewhere larger and finally bought the house at Westerhill Road.
I know it was a big stretch for mum and dad to buy this because we had to move in with the house having no heating, carpets, functioning kitchen and single pane windows made of wrought iron. The timing of this move wasn’t great as that first winter was brutal and we were literally freezing constantly. However dad being dad lashed out and bought us all hot water bottles to keep warm.
Westerhill Road was eventually transformed through time into a lovely home and it is here that I think my mum and dad were at their happiest. During his time in Bishopbriggs my dad became very active in many community activities. Although not really being much of a footballer he helped run Woodhill Boys Club with Andy Cuddihy and Mike Stevenson amongst others.
He was active in Turnbull High School PTA and was at one point Chairman although his favourite part of that activity was popping out after meetings for a pint with Father John McGinley in his soft top MG.
He formed a close friendship with his Monday Club group at Quinn’s pub where my dad Paul, John, Bill, Jim, Ken and others would put the world to rights. I asked Paul how they got together as a group and Paul just said that my dad came over introduced himself, bought a round and that was that.
In April 1979 my dad and grandad bought Jordanhill Garden Supplies to add onto their business interests. Things were fine until the summer 1985 which was catastrophically wet and as a consequence the business began to struggle. My dad must have been under tremendous strain but kept it hidden from us. I was at an age where I could partially figure that something was wrong and I know he sold his car and remortgaged the house to keep the business going.
Eventually though as the business recovered and things got busier he sold of the building business and focused solely on the Builder Merchants as he found the strain of running multiple businesses too much.
Myself and all of my brothers and sister had to work every holiday at JGS whether we liked it or not. Each of us at some point had big fall outs with dad – usually over wages. He didn’t really understand why a 14 year old getting paid £28 for a six day week objected to being pulled from bed at 6am every day during summer when friends were out enjoying themselves.
This though instilled in each of us a work ethic and an attitude that I cannot thank my dad enough for. His view was always work hard, do your best and be honest and you’ll be fine. JGS has been a true family business with Linda, Karen and Holly also working there.
At JGS he built many friendships with Danny and Tony being loyal staff for him for an eternity and guys like Dave Brown and JP also being with him for years. He built close friendships with customers and suppliers such as Paul Stokes and Alistair McVitie. I want to thank all of you for the many years of friendship you gave my father.
During the JGS years there have been too many funny events not to look back and laugh at. My dad held his HGV license so many a time during holidays or weekends would head out on deliveries with Gerry back in the office just waiting for the fall-out.
Amongst other things flatted a car when he mistakenly dropped a pack of slabs on it and also unfortunately broke his back when he ran a truck into a railway bridge in Maryhill. He put the Glasgow train network out of action for the weekend but put himself in a spinal unit flat on his back for 4 months. He did though fully recover through time.
My dad also loved to travel and over past couple of decades has been a frequent visitor out to Canada, USA, Singapore and Australia where he has built up a circle of friends and I know he was particularly fond of meeting up with his cousins in St.Catharines near Toronto.
In 2011 myself and my dad went on a 6 week round the world tour which I look back on now with great fondness.
Before we went I was talking to my mum and asked her if she thought it would be a good idea if we shared hotel rooms. Her response was that dad snored so bad I’d be better booking separate hotels.
Our trip though was fantastic. Starting in Singapore we went to South Africa, Turkey, Sweden, USA, Japan, China, and New Zealand and then met up with Janet and the girls at our home in Sydney.
We had some fantastic fun although I did get weary of the fact that at every restaurant we went to for the whole 6 weeks he’d ask to see desert menu, spend an age reading it and without failure ask if they had vanilla ice cream. Basically my dad only did vanilla ice cream.
In Los Angeles we took a train through South Central and Watts and I honestly think we were lucky to get out alive.
We spent the trip catching up with friends that my dad has all over. It really was a great journey.
Throughout his life my dad was a very enthusiastic table tennis player. At Christmas after lunch at my parents’ house we’d clear the dining table and put up a table tennis net and there would be hours of games played which invariably my dad won.
As a member of The Western Baths in Hillhead he would play regularly along with attending his spin classes, circuit training and getting out on the bike too. He loved the Western Baths and we recently had his surprise retirement party there.
Work wise he began a process of retiring a few years ago but only really fully retired late in 2015. He had been from 2013 to 2015 the Chairman of the Builders Merchants Federation in Scotland a role he thoroughly enjoyed.
My mum passed away in 2012 and in 2013 he bumped into Rita who he had known from school and they rekindled their friendship which ultimately led to their marriage in July 2015. Rita brought my dad companionship that he enjoyed and they have both done much in a relatively short time.
My dad has grown close to Rita’s family spending time in Jersey with James Rita’s brother and other family members coming to Scotland.
They traveled a fair bit and went to shows and the like. I really appreciated how much they did for my daughter Holly when she moved to the UK for University always making time to pop through to see her in Edinburgh or making room for her in Glasgow. Only last December Dad and Rita went to Mauritius on holiday and when I was back a few weeks ago they’d been off to see Trainspotting, went to Evita and had a holiday planned and opera tickets booked too.
My dad also liked going to football. On my last visit only in February I had the good fortune to get tickets to see Celtic v Aberdeen so with my good friend Peter and his son Sean we had a lovely meal together at his house then went off to the game.
My dad was a much loved dad and grandfather. All of the grandchildren will miss him terribly as he was a big part of their lives.
He was due to fork out for at least three ponies later this year due to flippant promises he had made years ago. Both Rita and my dad loved having the kids around the house and Marnie doesn’t know who’ll work the telly now that Freddie is gone.
As I finish I want to thank Frank and Tom for being with my dad on the day he passed away. He always said he’d like to go quickly doing something he loved so a beautiful spring day on The Campsie’s on his bike with good mates despite being a shock to all of us isn’t so bad. I have found out that he would wear a yellow jersey sometimes when riding which is a complete no-no if you know your etiquette but he just would have thought it funny.
I am very sure I have missed out many people who have touched my dad’s life in some way. It was really difficult to keep up with as he was so active and so social and it is equally difficult to capture his life in a short eulogy.
Finally I want to thank my dad for everything he has done for each of us through his life. Nobody had a bad word to say about him. He was an incredibly hard working man who embraced life in its entirety. He was not someone who passed out lectures he simply led by example and believed that you make your own mistakes and learn from them. He did not have a bad word to say about anyone (except perhaps B&Q) and I know he would want all of us to move on and live our lives like he lived his which was to the full.