Friday, April 3, 2015

D is for my Dad

I was named after my Dad. His name was Philip and I am Philipa. Throughout his childhood he was known to everyone as Pip, and even into his adulthood some of his siblings still called him Pip and several nephews and nieces would call him Uncle Pip. When I was little I was Pippa but that changed to Pip - so I found it funny when his sisters would call him Pip.

My Dad was born in 1917 in Lidcombe, a suburb of Sydney in NSW Australia. He had an older brother and 2 older sisters and a younger sister and brother.

Above. Dad with his mum at a month old and above right with his family at the beach when he was a toddler. He is the baby on his dad's knee

Dad with his younger brother Jack at back and 2 of his sisters and a cousin in the 1990s

Dad and his older sister Doris. She married mum's brother so we were extra close to this family

My mum and dad married when she was 18 and he was 23. He had enlisted in the army after the outbreak of the Second World War and they were married before he was shipped overseas. 

Mum and Dad during their courtship days

On their wedding day in February 1941

Unlike many men Dad spoke often of his years of service in the army but he always told us stories of mateship, adventures, humourous stories of mischief he or others in his platoon got up to. There seemed to be endless war movies on tv when I was young as well as tv shows. I remember one called Combat. They seemed to glorify the conflict and the fighting and one day I asked my dad if he had ever killed any of the enemy. He said "No, but I saved the lives of some of them". I was disappointed I think, initially and then he told me the story. He had been out on patrol one day with a group of others when they came across some Italian soldiers who quickly surrendered to them. Many of the Italian soldiers were conscripted into the army by a government they didn't support and so they weren't always keen fighters. Their heart wasn't in the battle. When prisoners are taken they have to be returned to base with an escort obviously and for some reason whoever was in charge of Dad's group of men wasn't keen to do this  and so he reckoned that they could just shoot them instead. Dad protested about this and so the person in charge knew he couldn't do it (unless he shot Dad too) and so he made Dad take them back to base which he did. 

As I reflected upon this story over the years I became increasingly proud of my Dad for sticking up for what was right - putting himself in danger, if not physical danger then in danger of becoming unpopular with someone more senior to him. I was proud of him for defending the defenceless and living out his Christian principles even when it wasn't easy.

Of course the truth is my dad was in the army. He carried a weapon. He was no doubt involved in fire fights when he wasn't able to see where his bullets went or what affect that they had. I guess his answer was really Not that I know of. And I am glad for him that he was able to say that.

Dad's faith was the most important thing to him... that and his family. And the two weren't in conflict but were one.

He and mum had 8 children who lived to adulthood. I had one sister who died at a two weeks old and till the day he died Dad said that was the worst thing that had ever  happened to him. Margaret May was born premature at a time when there wasn't a lot that could be done for tiny babies. She was wrapped in tin foil and put under lamps to keep her warm... that was about as much as they could do.

I was the youngest of their 6 daughters and 2 sons. I say they quit at perfection. Dad would say they realised that they lost their touch. Dad was a joker and a tease. He told funny stories (the same ones over and over) He was never afraid to laugh at himself... in fact he told stories against himself constantly. He adored our mum and was so proud of all his children.

Dad wasn't much of a handy man. He was jack of all trades, master of none. He would have a go at most things but the results were never great. They were ok... but not great. Things he glued were usually a bit crooked. Rooms he painted were done...but there were a good few splatters about and I remember when he painted my bedroom as a kid he painted over the stickers on the wall instead of taking them off.  So crafty he wasn't and he didn't have a hobby that involved making things but he was creative

He wrote well. He would write us all great interesting letters. He was a popular preacher in church circles.... as kids we would wait to see if we were featured in his sermons... and often we were. My reaction was always a mixture of pride at being mentioned and embarrassment for the same reason. 

One day, encouraged by the family and assisted by one of my sisters, Dad wrote down some of the stories of his life in a book he called "There's No Taste to Nothing" and then later an addendum "Things I forgot to say".

Dad loved his grandchildren too and even though our children only got to see my Mum and Dad once a year at best they all loved him and responded instantly to him. There never needed to be a period where they got to know and trust them again. Of course the fact that he always had a ready supply of lollies for the visiting grandchildren helped. (Jelly snakes were his trade mark)
With our oldest daughter the first time he got to meet her. We were living in Central Qld and they were in Sydney. She was 4 months old when I flew down to see my family with her

Our 3rd child was born in Sydney due to complications in my pregnancy so Mum and Dad got to meet him at a much earlier age. He's only a few hours old here.
A Christmas gathering. Dec 2006. Not everyone in the shot are family... but then not all the family are in the shot either :) Worked out about equal

Taken Sept 2007 this is the last photo we have of my family with mum and dad. We were celebrating his 90th and and mum's 85th birthdays

He died the day after my 49th birthday 7 years ago. I had spoken to him the evening of my birthday and he died a couple of hours later, a few months short of his 91st birthday

I never got to make him a quilt of his own. I did give him and mum a Christmas Quilt early on in my quilting career. 

My Darling Dad


  1. Thank you. I just wrote a reply and its might pop up again some time so won't repeat it!

  2. Thank you for sharing the story about your lovely dad. Good luck in the challenge. Carolyn from Participant in the A to Z Challenge.

  3. I envy you your large and loving family. I have a small family! Loving, but small.
    I often wonder what it's like having so many relatives. Your Dad would have loved this post.

    Thank you for sharing your Dad with us. What a great D post.

    Jenny, Pearson Report
    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador

  4. He looks like a sweet man. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute!