wax worx – for the record 6 – Pops

todayJune 18, 2023 1280 19 3

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for the record #6


My father was taken from us long before his time, in 1994 at just 60yrs old, the responsibility of sharing his story is now mine.

Pops looking dapper!

One day, I want to write a book about our Burmese family history, the roots of which trace back to the Burmese Royal Household, with our great Grandmother Daw Pwa Sei, being associated to the Konbaung dynasty of the Royal Court, possibly even a princess! Her husband, my great Grandfather Richard Reginald Theodore Wall, played in the first ever game of football in Burma.

Photo of George Scott (Centre) with my great Grandfather Richard, (middle right, white top) taken during the first game of football in Burma (Myanmar)
My great Grandfather Richard Reginald Theodore Wall and his Burmese Wife, my great Grandmother Daw Pwa Sei.

Herbert Jules Wall (who liked to be known as Jon) and was just Pops to me, was the son of Herbert Edward & Grace Adeline Wall born in Maymyo, Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) on the 18th of March 1934.

My dads mother, Grace Adeline Wall

He had one older sister at the time, Lorna, who was 2 years his senior. Sadly, their mother Grace passed away when my father was just 2 years old. His father, Herbert went on to remarry, the lady’s name was Denise Elizabeth Donahue, and they had 3 more children, Michael (my name’s sake) Elizabeth and Susan.

His sister Susans Wedding, my his half brother, Michael (my name sake right)

He spent his early childhood in Maymyo and then in India, when they had to flee Burma during WW2, they attempted to return after the war, only to find the family home destroyed, and possessions gone.

I remember him telling me stories about his childhood when I was little, about making their own wooden, spinning tops and kites, he still had some of them when I was very little and he would let me play with them. I remember him showing me a kite he had kept, it was fragile, made of thin rice paper, he told me it was a fighting kite and that he and his friends would go up on the roofs and duel each other from across the rooftops.

Herbert, my grandfather, decided to take the family from Burma to the UK, they arrived in Liverpool by boat on 21st May 1948 when my father was 14.

Arrival document to UK.

Sadly, I do not know so much about my father’s initial years here in the UK, before meeting my mother. I have, since my brother Tim passed, reunited with my father’s side of the family through my cousins, the children of his sister Lorna, who I also found out did some modelling and was even featured in Vogue Magazine, and the daughter of his half-sister Elizabeth is Tiffany, who my brother and I randomly first met in person when living in Sydney, Australia.

His sister Lorna

Tiffany’s parents, Ian and Liz (My dads half sister) have since filled me in on some of his history, including just how close he was to his half-brother Michael, who, I was named after, who also sadly lost his life to soon, passing away the year I was born. They told me he was a bit of a Teddy boy in his youth and was known as a connector, and how important was music for him and was in our family, sharing some of the songs that were being played in the house where they grew up.

me, with my uncle Ian, Aunty Liz, cousin Tiff and her daughter.

My father moved to Wimbledon at some point, I’ve managed to trace where he was living when he was working at Bentall’s department store, where he went on to meet his future wife, my mother Gloria.

My dad on his wedding day, in the Garden of my Nan (mothers mother) Glady’s Faulkner. Erringham Road, Shoreham 1961

They were Married on 25th March 1961 in Shoreham By Sea and had their first child my eldest brother Mark, in September the following year, then my sister Joanne in 1964, Tim in 66 with myself not making a late entrance till a decade later in 1977.

Mark (with freckles the dog) Joanne, Baby Michael and Tim.

From what I have been told, they moved to Shoreham just after Mark was born, living in a flat in West Street. They went on to live next to the children’s home on Shoreham Beach, then later moving to Lancing which is where I was born in April 1977.

I am told my father was working away when I was born, he had a contract he could not turn down in the Shetland Isles, but my first childhood memory is of him, bouncing me on his knee, then carrying me in his arms up to my cot.

My childhood memories of him are always of just how loving, kind, and gentle he was, I do not remember him ever raising his voice, I know now this was partly due to his up bringing and Buddhist nature.

He was a hardworking man, he had to be to support his ever-expanding family. He was a salesman initially but later became a carpet fitter, going on to have his own carpet shop in Lancing, just by the train station, called Waterwall Carpets.

Pops with his Business Partner in the carpet shop (and unknown lady)

I have so many fond memories of going there with my friends after school, usually waiting to blag a lift home, or some money, mucking about in the storage room upstairs at the shop. The shop also sponsored one of the local football teams, Kingston Broadway FC, of which my brothers both played for, and he would take me along every Sunday to watch them both play.

In 1989 we moved from Lancing to Shoreham Beach, 49 Old Fort Road, known locally as one of the last remaining train carriage houses.

clip from local paper not long after we moved into 49 Old Fort Road, Shoreham.

He continued with his carpet shop business, but later would have to give up carpet fitting himself due to having trouble with his knees, then his foot. I remember he had to get an automatic car at some point, due to the trouble it was causing him.

Other things I remember are his love of Buddy Rich, and Jazz in general, his Moccasin slippers, his carpet fitting bag that he handmade out of old bits of carpet, his Miami Dolphins baseball cap, he even used to wear that to work! his baby Blue VW Variant Estate, and later a dark Blue VW Beetle. He was a lover of football, Chelsea was his team, and his pet name for me was Blue Boy, or Bluey!

He also loved to play music, I remember growing up he had a guitar, but no memories of him playing it, he did always have a keyboard of some kind, I remember his white, electric Casio keyboard, and later he had an old organ that we had in our lounge at Old Fort Road, I remember he would spend time on Sundays, playing away to himself in his headphones.

It was in May 1994 that he sadly passed away, my memories of this time are hazy, I was 17 and in shock, but I have since got in contact with his old business partner from the carpet shop, who thankfully has filled in some missing truths of what happened at the time for me.

According to his recollection my father was off work for some time before he passed, he recalls my mother calling him at the shop one day and just saying “He won’t be coming back!” and putting the phone down. He told me how he would take my father’s wages round every week, passing them over to my mother.

He said the next thing was the call from her saying he had passed, he remembers being shocked and even though he knew he was not well, how sudden it all was.

He did also share some happy memories with me, including that of how they met when working at a shop called Queensway, he told me that my father was manager of the carpet sales dept, and when the carpets got delivered, all the staff would have to help him bring them all in. He said many of the staff would hide when the trucks arrived, so to not have to help, but that he would always help my dad and that he repaid the favour but signing over any sales he made to him, as mangers did not get commission like the sales reps.

He said he never mentioned to him about doing this, that he just did it, with no thanks needed, he remembers just what a kind and generous person he was.

It was a couple of years later that he got the call, Pops offered to go into business with him! He recalled “at the time I felt really special, it was a good few years later he told me I was not the first person he called lol”     

He said that going into business together was great, but not easy! Neither of them had ever run their own business before, he said more than anything they always had a good laugh.

I do remember my father becoming unwell, he used to come home early from work, and I would find him sleeping in my bedroom when I came home from school.

My mother told me at the time that he had been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid gland but did not mention anything that sounded life threatening. It was not until he was admitted to hospital as he then suffered a stroke that I had any serious concerns.

I’m not sure how long he was in hospital for, I remember being taken to see him only once before he passed, he was not able to speak which really scared me, but my mother said he would be discharged and home soon.

5th May 1994

I had been out the night before with my friend Nathan, we were returning home to my house the next day when I discovered my father had passed.

We went to walk in, and my brother Tim was already at the door, he told my friend Nathan that he could not come in, that we had some family things to discuss, and I followed him inside. I remember looking down the hallway, seeing my mother in the kitchen and walking towards her, “Mum?” I said, she just shook her head side to side and said “no” “Mum? What’s going on? is Pops ok?” again she just shook her head and said “No, he’s gone”

In shock, I went to try and hug her, something she never let us do, and she turned away so I couldn’t. At that point I just went to my room and cried.

The next thing I remember is my mother taking me upstairs to their bedroom, opening his wardrobe, and asking me if I wanted anything to take it. She left me their staring at all his clothes, I wish I had taken some, but all I focused on at the time was his box of records, so that’s what I took, and they are still one of my most treasured possessions to this day.

I have memories of his funeral, driving to the crematorium in Worthing, seeing all the people waiting there for us to arrive, the amazing flowers that had been left for him. I also remember feeling guilty for not crying during the service, I was choked, I felt embarrassed, I was actively holding in the tears, something I now realise is due to being disallowed to show emotion by my mother, she shows no emotion, but I’m not here to talk about her today.

I don’t remember when my mother told me, but she did say sometime after the reason my dad had passed was due to him having a heart attack while in hospital. She told me that she had gone to visit him and found him dead in his chair next to his bed.

After the day he died, we never spoke openly about him within the family.  Not until much later when Tim start tracing our family roots, later visiting his homeland of Burma in 2013, it’s then that we started to allow ourselves to think about him more.

My brother Tim in my fathers homeland of Burma (Myanmar) 2013

We never celebrated his birthday or remembered him as family together, or the anniversary of his passing, no photos of him were displayed around my mum’s home, at the time she told me that she did not have any photos of him.

Tim and I were then sent off on our travels to New Zealand and Australia, not returning to live again in the family home until 2002.

Tim and I did speak about our dad while away travelling, but never in much detail, it had been made so difficult for both of us to express ourselves, and there was so much in my brothers past, that happened before I was born, when I was really young, that he did not want to share with me yet, he was protecting me, he became my father figure when Pops died, he always looked out for me.

Tim & Michael at the Harbourside, Sydney Australia 1995

It took me until I was in my 30’s, some 25 years later, to really start to be able to grieve for the loss of my father, I wrote him a note that I took with me to Burning Man in 2014, where I married the love of my life, I put it in the temple there and spent some time meditating on my love for him.

Our dusty wedding in the desert, outside the temple where I left the letter to my pops. Burning Man 2014

I have felt my father’s presence, more and more since Tim passed away. In fact, on the day Tim passed, before we knew anything had happened, my wife said that she could feel his presence, we were sat at the table having lunch and she turned to me and said “Mike, I don’t want to sound weird but I can feel your dads presence here with us” she said that the only way she could describe it was like a feeling of reassurance, of love and support. It was only an hour later, when the police knocked on the door, to tell me brother was dead.

Something I want to say to close this blog is this, when we lose the people we love, it’s often the biggest loss and trauma of our lives, and I understand how some people can find it so difficult to talk about their loved one once they are gone, but it is important to do so, they live on in our hearts and our minds, they may not be here physically anymore, but they do say, that it’s only when we stop speaking their name that those gone truly die forever.

Their life’s legacy should live on, and it does that through the people left behind sharing their memories, the people who knew them and loved them keep telling their stories, and let these be the lessons passed on down through the generations.

Happy heavenly Father’s Day Pop’s, I will always do my best honour you, your name, your true love, and your legacy lives on through me and in every breath I take.

Love always

Blue Boy

Written by: mike wall

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