My Father


Today is my father’s 90th birthday. It turns out he is just one day older than Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, where I am writing this tribute. He has had an amazing, full life.

He was born in Ferryhill, and has always lived in County Durham. Whilst still at school, he started work as a butcher’s apprentice. During World War Two, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and flew in Avro Ansons, for Coastal Command. After the war, he became a “Bevan Boy” and worked as a miner, fixing up the pumping system to keep the pit dry. He married Phyllis, from another mining village, Easington Colliery, and they moved into a house shared with another family, in Gordon Terrace. Next month, they will have been married for 66 years.

For most of his life, he was a dairyman. He started off using a horse and cart, later a van, to deliver milk to the village. After he sold the business, he trained as a health inspector, and then in electronics, but finally he worked as a postman until his retirement.

He is very fit for a nonagenarian. He enjoys walking and can still do 20 press ups! But unfortunately he has become very hard of hearing. This is sad, because he loves music and cannot play his electronic organ. He can’t use the telephone, but he has become a “silver surfer” and keeps in touch with me and his granddaughters via the internet.

I regret that I am not able to be with him for his birthday. He knows I love him very much and greatly appreciate all the love, help and support he has given me over the years. He is a wonderful man and I wish him many more birthdays to come. I am sure his three granddaughters will join me saying this.

Crack open that bottle of single malt I gave you, and pour yourself a wee dram, dad. And congratulate yourself on a life well lived.


10 Replies to “My Father”

    1. Hi, Ian. I loved your birthday greetings to your Dad.

      Is his name Les, by any chance? I mentioned your blog to my Mum in our weekly phone conversation, and she remembers him well. I live in Portsmouth, but was born and brought up in Ferryhill, where Mum still lives; my family were miners from way back; My Dad, Norman, was a blacksmith, welder and fitter at Dean & Chapter, and died a few years ago aged 87, so he’s very close in age to your father. My Mum, Ena, worked in the wages dept at the same colliery, and at Mainsforth. She remembers your father’s milk business, and she was a Dean Bank Junior.School mum with Phyllis. In fact, you were probably a contemporary of my elder brother Keith (who, like me, suffered the ignominy of a hairstyle made possible with wave setting lotion which would today be considered tantamount to child cruelty).

      In 1995, one of your followers, Alan Pinnegar, came to work for a telecomms manufacturer in Hampshire where I was responsible for application development. His accent was a bit of a give-away, and it turns out that he went to school with Keith! It was Alan who posted your blog entry about your Dad on to LinkedIn, which is where I saw it.

      With every blessing,

      Mike Brown

      1. His name is Joe. His younger brother, Les, still lives in Ferryhill, in South side, off Dean Road. Phyllis grew up in Easington Colliery, in a place that was so cold it was nicknamed Canada. My dad’s sister, Irene (but she was known as Renee) was married to Jack, who worked for the coal board. She died recently and Jack had a massive stroke which has left him debilitated. My dad’s other sister, June, moved to Sussex and died over ten years ago. My dad and mam wanted to live closer to me in Leicester, so they moved five miles down the old A1 to Newton Aycliffe 😉

      2. Thanks, Ian. Mum phoned me this morning to apologise that she got mixed up between Joe and Les. Her good friend Dorothy Mutch, who lives in Dean Road, sent a special birthday card to your father last week.

        Wonderful photography on your blog, and so interesting. I’ve been working with refugees in the UK for over 10 years now, and one man I helped is a medical biologist from Kinshasa who specialised in the treatment of malaria. Despite his qualifications and experience, his only route to practise in the UK is by going back to university, which he is doing, his dream being to work for the NHS.

        With every blessing for your work, Mike

      3. Keep up the good work with the refugees. I wonder if your Congolese doc has thought of contacting Medecins Sans Frontieres. They are placing European doctors in Katanga with minimal experience of malaria. He might be just the kind of doc they are after. Or have I got this all wrong, and he cannot return to DRC.
        BTW see if you can find Peter Piot’s article in the Weekend Mag of the Financial Times recently, about his trip back to the north of Zaire/DRC where he first tracked down the Ebola virus. Fascinating.

      4. Hi, Ian.

        My Congolese friend, Willy Mpasi, had to flee DRC because he resisted political pressure to use his position in the elite hospitals of Kinshasa to assassinate opposition politicians by falsifying test results or injecting of pathogens, so there’s no way he can go back. We struggled for a long time to locate his wife and 5 children who had been in hiding since his escape, and finally got them to the safety of the UK four years ago, and they all now have indefinite leave to remain. MSF is a really good idea, though, because there is a lot of work to be done in francophone Africa outside of DRC and he also speaks Swahili, so thanks for the tip.

        Best regards,


  1. Happy birthday Mr Cross senior.
    I don’t suppose your dad did his health inspector training after the war in Newcastle? Jos’s grandfather (Popples to us, Len Shaw to the wider world) did just that, and we couldn’t help wonder if they had been acquainted (& if so what a small and delightful world!), Popples had a long and happy life, as health inspector in Tanganyika as it then was, before returning to the North East (Corbridge), and is survived by Jos’s gran who is 93 and as fit as a flea.
    We love the blog by the way.

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