Today I will read a tribute to my grandad at his funeral. I say I will read it, I mean, I’m not quite sure how I’ll keep together but I’m going to try my very best. (I scheduled this post too. Obviously).
Whilst I love writing, putting together a eulogy isn’t high up there on my list of things to do, but being able to compose something on behalf of my family was a great honour. For anyone who knew grandad and couldn’t make it to the service, or for anyone who has this difficult task ahead of them, I wanted to share this for you.
Sidney, or Sid as he was known to his nearest and dearest, was born in 1929 to Elsie and William Williams. He had six siblings; three brothers and three sisters. Bill, Pamela and David are still living but sadly we have lost Hilda, Eileen and Alec.
When he was 14, he started working at CEAG before moving to Redfearns Glassworks at the Old Mill on Harborough Hills Road where he worked as a fitter/engineer. When the Old Mill closed, he moved to the Monk Bretton Rexam Glass site, where he worked until he retired. During this time, he met the woman who would become his beloved wife, Mary Newton.
Following their marriage, along came their four children Iris, Phil, Paul and Geoff. Sunday’s quickly became ‘family day’ in the Williams household. The family used to cram into Sid’s car and take a picnic to Elsecar Pond or the Yorkshire Moors (where Grandad once set his arm on fire, but the less said about that the better). Without a doubt though, his greatest pleasure was going to the ‘caravan’, which was in fact a railway coach which he had converted himself, on the cliff top at Skipsea. This tradition stuck with the family, with Phil and Iris both taking land on the East coast in later life, to spend time with their growing families.
The cornerstone of the large Williams family, Sid played a crucial role in so many lives, whether it be a word of advice to his four cherished children, keeping his nine rowdy grandchildren on the straight and narrow or entertaining one of his fourteen great grandchildren with a game of Bagatelle, you always knew you could head around to Ledbury Road for a cup of tea and a biscuit. Even the window cleaner got invited in when Grandad saw him working.
When my cousins and I were young, the whole family would get together every Saturday evening for tea. Grandad had a great knack of making a £1 cake or a tin of Heinz treacle pudding feed a table full of hungry mouths. My uncle Paul regularly eats one to himself now and wonders how they ever used to cope.
It isn’t just our large family that are feeling the loss of this great character though. Grandad was much-loved by everyone he met, and leaves behind a raft of friends and neighbours. Even the staff at Barnsley Hospital who cared for him in the final months of his life had a particular soft spot for him.
When in good health, Grandad loved nothing more than whiling away the hours in his garage. His love affair with engineering sometimes got him in trouble with his late wife Mary, mainly when she’d left him unattended at a car boot sale and he had bought another lathe, or a box full of hammers, nails and washers to add to his already extensive collection.
The beauty of Grandad’s habit of expanding his own personal workshop meant that he could fix just about anything. And that he did. Family, friends and neighbours were regularly turning up at his gate with something decidedly second-hand and within an hour or two, it was as good as new.
One of the many other great things about Grandad was that you could always count on him to say exactly what was on his mind. Whether he was telling Iris that her brand new red coat wasn’t the most flattering and to ‘throw it straight in the bin the minute she gets home’, or pointing out that one of my cousins looked like they had been ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ he was always brutally honest and never tried to mince his words, although his comments were never made with any malice.
He devoted himself to his family, and my grandparents’ marriage was one which most of us aspire to. Sid and Mary adored each other, and it was plain to see. When we lost Grandma in August 2014, we lost a part of Grandad too. Although he put on a brave face for those around him, his heart was truly with Mary. I know that our family are taking comfort in the knowledge that they are walking hand in hand once again.
But Grandad wouldn’t want you to sit here and mourn his passing. He’d probably recite the poem Sea Fever and send you on your way with £1 for a treat on your way home. He would remind you to take the hand of your loved one and tell them how much you love them, for he is now with his darling wife once again.