Gordon Andrew Roberts (1935-2023)

Gordon Andrew  Roberts

  • Born 1935 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England
  • Died 2023 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England
  • Married in 1960 in Liverpool to:

Ruth Otterson

  • Born 1939 South Tidworth, Hampshire, England
  • Two children
Gordon and Ruth on 62nd wedding anniversary, 2022
Gordon and Ruth on 62nd wedding anniversary, 2022

GORDON ROBERTS once described his childhood life as "normal." In fact, it was anything but normal. Born four years before World War II started, Gordon was old enough to experience the wail of the warning air raid sirens as German bombers approached, the crash of bombs and, later, even the dog fights between British and German aircraft.

The life sketch below is taken primarily from conversations with Gordon's wife, Ruth, in the year or more before he died. All photographs on this page are taken from the Roberts family collection.

GORDON ROBERTS was born in 1935, a time when Britain was preparing to meet the challenge of a resurgent Germany.  Like millions of other British children, his earliest years would include memories of a backyard air raid shelter, the sound of bombs falling and warning sirens wailing.

Before and at the beginning of World War II, the British government provided 3 million homes with what were called Anderson air raid shelters, installed by residents in the back gardens common to most pre-war houses. Named after Sir John Anderson, the government official in charge of air-raid precautions, the shelters accommodated six people and consisted of galvanized steel panels, with a roof formed into an arch, which were then partially buried with soil piled on top.

Gordon remembers his family scurrying to the shelter when the warning sirens sounded.

"The German planes would always come over late evening, from 9pm onwards," he recalled. "Once the sirens went, we would hear gunfire from all around. Mam, Jack and I would go into the shelter. Our next-door neighbour and good friend, Mrs. Wilburn, always came into our shelter with us. Women would sometimes take knitting into the shelters with them, and food. Kids would take comics."

If, during a raid, anyone in the shelter needed to use the toilet attached to the back of the house, they would try to avoid light showing from the shelter. The alternative was to incur the wrath of the air raid wardens who would yell, "Put that light out!"

"We would stay in the shelter until the all-clear was sounded – a long, steady note. Sometimes we would only be out there for a couple of hours; at other times, when more bombers came over, we might be there all night. There were makeshift beds in the shelter and we would take blankets and pillows with us. We couldn’t leave them in the shelter because they would have got damp. I don’t remember ever feeling frightened. I suppose it was a big adventure."

Some local houses were destroyed by bombs, but the Roberts' home was untouched and his family was never hurt in the bombing raids. But tragedy would come in 1944, when his older brother, Jack, by now a rear gunner in the Royal Air Force, was killed after his plane was shot down over France.

During all this time, school continued. Gordon recalled later, "Occasionally we would see dog fights between our planes and the Germans. To us kids, that was really exciting. Normal life for us."

It was also normal for men between 18 and 45 years old to be drafted to fight in the war, unless they were in an industry considered essential to the war effort, or had fought in World War 1. Gordon's father, John, had been enlisted during that war, and this time volunteered as an air warden. His regular job was with the gas company, fixing pipes in main roads.

John and his wife, the former Paulina Andrew, had been married in 1922 and their first son, Jack, was born two years later. But it was a long wait for Gordon - his older brother was 12 when Gordon was born on 21 November 1935 at their home at 28 Lynsted Road, Dovecot, a Liverpool suburb.

Gordon Roberts about 6 months old
Gordon about 6 months. (Roberts family collection)
With older brother Jack
With older brother Jack
Gordon baby 2 (1)
Gordon baby 3 (1)
Learning to drive
Learning to drive

Above: Gordon as baby and infant.  His brother, Jack, would be lost in World War II.

Below: A woman waters the vegetables she has planted on top of an Anderson air raid shelter. Many families grew vegetables in the soil that had been piled on top of the shelter for extra protection.

Gordon as toddler with dad
Gordon child salute
Gordon playing soldiers
Gordon with Rasca
Gordon schoolboy

Top:  On the beach, with Dad and unidentified friends.

Above and below: Playing at soldiers, with neighbor's dog, and in school uniform.

Gordon on pony

"Mam said I cried a lot as a baby, night and day," Gordon said, "and sometimes they felt like throwing me out of the bedroom window, as they got hardly any sleep! It turned out that I was just hungry. Mam didn’t like milk and wasn’t drinking enough, so wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy me. When the district nurse suggested putting me on Ostermilk in a bottle, at last I was getting enough and began to sleep properly."

Gordon remembered little about his first school, only that he didn't like it. It was an era when corporal punishment was standard in British schools, and teachers wouldn't hesitate to hit children on the hand or the back of the legs for not knowing answers, or for misbehavior. "I was smacked a few times," Gordon said.

Out of school, Gordon and local children played games typical of the era. Few could afford a full-sized soccer ball, so the kids played with a small rubber or sponge ball. Other games included marbles, termed "ollies" in the local Liverpool vernacular. 

"The pavements were gravel and if you fell over you would run home with knees bleeding," Gordon said. "We all had a mass of scabs on our legs from old wounds."

When he turned 8, Gordon transferred to Stonefield Road Juniors school, and at 11 moved on to Grant Road Seniors.

"The only teacher I remember there was Mr. Grundy, who taught French and was hated by all the kids. He had a massive cane and that’s probably why I remember him. He caned me once and my hands had purple bruises on them. Dad went down and complained to the head, but was told that if I had misbehaved, then I deserved it. The teachers were very powerful and often ruled by fear."

At the time, all children took an exam at age 11, the results of which would channel them into one of two educational streams in their teens. Gordon's exam was held at the Holt Grammar School, where the teachers all wore caps and gowns and carried large canes. Intimidated, Gordon couldn't concentrate on the exam and only finished about half.  "Naturally I didn’t pass," he said.

But at age 12 he passed an exam for technical school, which was to prove a much more pleasant experience. He opted for art school and the printing trade. Some of his pals from his previous school traveled together to the school in Hope Street in Liverpool's inner city, taking an old rickety tram each day. 

The teachers were kinder, and treated the students well. The lessons were more interesting - and there were no caps and gowns. Of course, there were still incidents. On one occasion, during one of Mrs. Lichy's English lessons, she sneezed and Gordon called out, "God bless you!"  That initiative cost him the punishment of writing out 100 times, "I must not shout out in class." But that was the extent of the punishment at art school.

There was no sports field at the school, so the students would travel on the free bus to other schools to play football about twice a week and meet others their own age.

At the art school, all the printing machinery was kept in the basement.  There were three teachers there to teach letterpress and lithography, and Gordon enjoyed the lessons - except those taught by Mr. Caldwell, a Scot with an accent so thick he was barely understandable.

"He had a thick book on lithography," Gordon remembers. "He would walk in with the book under his arm, put it on the desk open it, and then he would just read from it for two hours and we were supposed to write it all down. Nobody learned anything from that."

Gordon school boy with bike (1)

While still at the art school, Gordon ventured into paid employment for the first time by taking a job in a printing company. He didn't anticipate the foul smells and lack of ventilation, and quickly tried another printing firm, but with the same claustrophobic result.

Meanwhile, Liverpool was facing an acute housing shortage. Like many other British cities, Liverpool had been repeatedly bombed during the early years of the war. Rubble-strewn building sites were everywhere, especially in the inner city. One solution was to build prefabricated homes, which could be erected in a few days and still provide decent accommodation for a family.

On the south side of Liverpool, a half-dozen miles from the city center, the largest prefabricated housing estate in Britain was nearing completion at Belle Vale. Gordon's mother had heard about it, successfully applied, and the Roberts family moved from Lynsted Road into a brand new prefab at 5 Cloverdale Road.

The prefab families soon developed into a close community. The homes were laid out in groups of six, accessible by an "avenue" only accessible by pedestrians. Each house had two bedrooms, a small living area, a bathroom and a kitchen fitted with the appliances common to the day. A small garden was attached to each home, front and back.

Gordon soon made friends with the neighborhood kids, especially with Brian Wallace, with whom he remained a lifelong friend. A hundred yards away, at the top end of the estate, was a small park where the boys would play football and cricket. And the family acquired a black spaniel they called Mickey, and a cat, Ginger.

A mile away from the Roberts home, on the southern edge of the prefab estate, was an old pub called the Bridge Inn. Opposite was a car service station. The inn gave its name to the general area. Gordon, always interested in cars, engines and how things worked, applied for work and was promised an apprenticeship. However, once there, nothing more was said about training and his work day after day was to clean compressors that had been returned from the desert after the war. The young men would use high-pressure hoses and then wipe down the compressors to ensure they were clean. After a year, and no sign of an apprenticeship, Gordon left to work for another service station in the Liverpool inner suburb of Picton.

Prefab on the Belle Vale estate.
A Belle Vale prefab. Photographer unknown.
Inside a prefab, 1950s-1960s
A prefab kitchen, Wales housing museum. Photo by Michael Otterson
Gordon with lifelong friend Brian Wallace
Gordon with lifelong friend Brian Wallace
Gordon with parents John and Paulina Roberts
Gordon with parents John and Paulina Roberts

This time Gordon worked on re-bores and engine overhauls, five days a week plus Saturday mornings. "Having been told that I could work myself up through the ranks," Gordon said, "I thought this would have been a good career. What they didn’t say was that the only chance of moving up was if the chap at the top either died or moved on!"

A crucial decision point came soon after, when an old friend invited Gordon and his parents to his wedding in Manchester.

Gordon recalled: "I wanted to go but would have to ask for the half-day off on the Saturday. I duly asked the boss on the Monday prior to the wedding and he said, 'Come and see me on Friday.' Friday came, and I waited until as late as possible before asking him again and he refused me the time off. I rode home on my bike, covered in chemicals as usual, mightily miffed. I decided that I wasn’t going to put up with that job anymore."

He duly attended the wedding. On Monday morning he returned to work, where he was met at the gate by the boss himself, holding his national insurance cards - a sure sign of dismissal. The boss didn’t say a word, just handed me the cards. “Thank goodness for that”, I said, and rode back home on my bike.

Gordon wasn't out of work for long - in fact, he was never unemployed during his entire life, except for the short times between jobs.

Gordon when working for British Railways
Gordon when working for British Railways
Gordon with the RAF
Gordon with the RAF
Gordon, bottom right,  with RAF mates
Gordon, bottom right, with RAF mates
Gordon as RAF driver
Gordon as RAF driver
Gordon as driver for high-ranking RAF officers

Within a couple of weeks, a friend suggested he try to get a job with British Railways. The country's rail network had been nationalized by the British government in 1947. Gordon wrote a letter of application, and received a reply a week later with the welcome news that there was a vacancy at Liverpool's Allerton station and that he should come and see the station master. Gordon was offered the job on the spot and started a few days later.

His job was to light the oil lamps, then climb up and put them in the relevant boxes on the gantries over the rail lines. Sometimes if it was windy, the lights would go out and he would have to climb down, re-light the lamp and climb up again. 

On one winter night, Gordon had a narrow escape from what would have been a fatal accident. He was walking down the track carrying several large lamps, when he heard a working colleague shout, “Get off the track!” Gordon flung himself full length to the side of the track as the London-Liverpool express thundered past. He hadn’t heard it because of the gale blowing.

After 12 months at the Allerton station, a vacancy came at the Speke Junction signal box, about the same distance from home. He was offered a transfer and decided to accept it. Although it was a more responsible job, there was no pay increase. He was still only 17.

Gordon enjoyed his new job and stayed there for a year. This time he didn’t leave voluntarily. Young men his age were being called up for national service. Since the National Service Act of 1948, young men aged 17 to 21 had been required to serve in the armed forces. By 1953, the service period was two years. 

Gordon opted for the Royal Air Force, and because he wanted to learn a trade as a mechanic, he signed up for five full years. "Mam was not pleased! " he said. 

After a brief two weeks for medical checks and form-filling at Cardington, Bedfordshire, Gordon  received a letter telling him to go to RAF Padgate, Warrington, Cheshire, where he spent eight weeks in basic training, square bashing and learning how to fire a rifle.  On passing out at the end of the eight weeks, he was told to go home and await further instructions, and several weeks later was instructed to report to RAF Weeton, near Blackpool, north of Liverpool.

Finally, Gordon could begin proper training as a mechanic. "Now I began training as a mechanic - 16 weeks working on light vehicles. When the course finished, we were told we would be posted elsewhere, and it could be to anywhere in the world. With our luck, our group were all posted to RAF Weeton!" Gordon lamented. 

In the summer of 1956, Gordon was promoted to corporal. This was also the start of a driving career that would last a lifetime. He was appointed driver for the base commanding officer, and particularly remembered his last assignment with Group Captain Merritt.

"I would pick him up from home each morning and return him each evening, and also take him to meetings or functions. Sometimes he would give me £5 to go to the cinema while he was busy, rather than have me wait around. Often when I was early, his daughter would come out with a plate of cake or biscuits and a drink while I was waiting. 

"Often when taking him home late at night we would see recruits returning home and he would tell me to pick them up and give them a lift back to the station."

When an Air Commanding Officer was due to attend, there would be a parade of all staff except for emergency staff. Group Captain Merritt recommended Gordon to drive the ACO during his visits. On one occasion, the ACO asked Gordon where he could get Blackpool rock - a form of English candy in the shape of a foot-long stick and typically sold at seaside resorts.

"I took him and his ADC down to the town centre where the rock was made. He took off his jacket (full of regalia), threw it on the back seat and the two of them went into the rock shops, with me slowly following them along the road in the car. He didn’t buy me any rock!"

Gordon said that a  couple of months later an Air Marshall came to the camp. "I can’t remember his name but he was a “sir”. He was another really nice man. He came to tell Group Captain Merritt that he had been promoted. This meant he moved to London as an Air Vice Marshall. Merritt was the only person to come and visit me in Blackpool Victoria Hospital when I was rushed in with appendicitis."

Gordon thoroughly enjoyed his time in the RAF and was discharged in December 1958.

While Gordon was in the RAF, his mother became friendly with Doris Otterson, a widow in Whinhurst Road, a neighboring street in the prefab estate. Since the Ottersons didn't have a TV, Mrs. Roberts invited Doris's three children - Ruth, Ann and Michael - to watch children's shows on the black-and-white TV in their home each Monday evening. That friendship between Paulina Roberts and Doris Otterson would lead to Gordon and Ruth becoming acquainted.

When Gordon was 21, his family invited some friends to their house for a tea party – Brian Wallace, Dorcas Kelly and Ruth, then aged 17. Gordon asked Ruth on a date, and they went to the Abbey cinema. Neither of them can remember the film.

The couple would see each other every weekend Gordon  was able to come home from the RAF, and they became engaged when Ruth was 19 and Gordon was 23. They were married on 11 June 1960, at St. James Methodist Church in the village of Woolton. Ruth’s sister, Ann, was bridesmaid and her Uncle Harry Hill "gave her away." The reception was at the Mansion House in Reynolds Park and the honeymoon in Bude, Cornwall – a beautiful part of Britain, but that week marred by constant rain until the day they came home.

Ruth and Gordon lived with his parents for three months while waiting for their new house to be finished in Stonyhurst Road, Woolton. Gordon sold his Morris Minor car to put down a deposit on the house.

Gordon's first job as a married man was with the Mersey Tunnel Police. It was shift work, inhaling fumes all day and night. He didn’t enjoy the work and stayed for only seven weeks.

His real hope was to work with the ambulance service, and he applied, in the meantime working as a conductor on the large, double decker green buses seen on every major Liverpool street. After five weeks he received the call to start work on the ambulances. Again, it was shift work, but Gordon loved the work. Looking back years later, it was the ambulance service that Gordon remembered most fondly.

But the pay was poor for a married man, and when their daughter Lesley was born in April 1964, things were difficult financially. Ruth has been working in ICI, the giant chemical company, but didn't return to work after Lesley was born.  When overtime was cut on the ambulance service, Gordon looked for something to pay better.  He found it at Dista Products in the suburb of Speke, near Liverpool's airport.

As a process operator in the factory, his work was far less satisfying than the ambulance service, but it paid twice as much. And it was close enough for him to cycle to work, and so had no travel expenses. 

In 1967, second daughter Karen was born. By this time, Gordon had transferred from the Dista plant into transport, doing long distance driving and deliveries. Life was much better when he was able to transfer to local deliveries and able to see his family. He maintained that job for the rest of his time at Dista.

By the time his girls were 14 and 11, Ruth was able to start working as a secretary for Alsop Stevens, a law firm in India Buildings in Liverpool city center, which she enjoyed.

Ruth’s mother, Doris Otterson, had passed away in 1977, having had Parkinson’s Disease for many years. Gordon's father passed away in 1982, aged 84, with heart failure after a chest infection, and his mother two years later from colon cancer. She was 86.

When Gordon's Aunty Rose, his mother's sister, died, she left her house to Gordon, her two brothers having passed away some years earlier.

"It was the first time we had ever had a new car – a red Ford Escort 1.6, my pride and joy. All the old cars we’d had previously owned would break down at some point, usually when we were on holiday!"

Gordon took early retirement in 1997 when the transport department closed down at Dista and he received a generous payout, which was wisely invested. 

Retirement didn't suit Gordon, who always preferred being actively engaged in some project or activity. After nine months of being at home, he successfully applied for a part-time job delivering Meals on Wheels. For the next 5 years he thoroughly enjoyed this work, in spite of having to work some weekends and even on Christmas Day. He would cycle along the old rail track to the depot in Aintree, about 20 miles a day. "I was fit in those days!" he said.

After mandatory retirement at age 65, he finished with Meals on Wheels, and by now Ruth had also retired after 20 years with her firm.

Their more comfortable financial circumstances allowed them some superb holidays. In 1985, the whole family visited Australia where Ruth's brother and his family had been living for several years. Years later, in 2001, Gordon and Ruth fulfilled the dream of a lifetime and took an extended holiday to Australia, visiting dear friends Pat and Ray Pont, then childhood friend Brian Wallace and his wife, Heidi, in New Zealand, along with visits to Fiji, Bali and Singapore, and finally to the United States where her brother, Mike, and his family had moved ten years earlier. The trip lasted seven weeks.

Both Gordon and Ruth described the highlight of their lives, apart from the births of their own two girls, as the arrival of their grandchildren – Karen and Dave’s Ben in 1999 and Eleanor in 2002, Lesley and Darren’s Jack in 2001 and Tom in 2004.

When Gordon was in his mid-80s, the family was rocked by the news that Gordon had brain cancer. His last days were spent at the Marie Curie hospice, just a few minutes from their home in Woolton where they had spent their whole lives together. The funeral was held at the Allerton Crematorium on 24 February 2023.

A day or two after Gordon had passed away, the sympathy cards began to pour in to his wife, Ruth, from family and friends - more than 80 in all. And one theme was dominant in those messages to his wife and children  - Gordon's kindness and generosity, and their friends' affection for Ruth.

Gordon and Ruth on the Belle Vale prefab estate
Gordon and Ruth on the Belle Vale prefab estate
Wedding day 1960
Wedding day 1960
Screen Shot 2023-03-10 at 3.18.17 PM

Above: Newly married Gordon and Ruth Roberts; sister and bridesmaid Ann Otterson, and best man Brian Wallace; bride's mother Doris Otterson and groom's father John Roberts; Ruth's Uncle Harry Hill and Gordon's mother Pauline Roberts.

With first child, daughter Lesley
With first child, daughter Lesley
Gordon and daughter Lesley
Gordon and daughter Lesley
Gordon and Ruth with Lesley
Gordon and Ruth with Lesley
On Geek Island of Kos, age 52.
On Geek Island of Kos, age 52.
Screen Shot 2023-03-10 at 3.18.36 PM
With grandson Jack, son of daughter Lesley
With grandson Jack, son of daughter Lesley
Screen Shot 2023-03-10 at 3.18.12 PM
With grandson Ben, son of daughter Karen
With grandson Ben, son of daughter Karen
With daughters Lesley and Karen at Lesley's university graduation
With daughters Lesley and Karen at Lesley's university graduation

Relationship of Gordon Roberts to Webmaster 
Gordon Roberts is the brother-in-law of Michael Robert Otterson (webmaster)

The following remarks were delivered on behalf of the family at Gordon's funeral, by his brother-in-law, Mike Otterson

Gordon was the brother I always wished for. I was the baby in our family. Both my sisters, Ruth and Ann, were nearly a decade older than me. They were the world’s best sisters, so I take nothing away from them when I say that I always wanted an older brother.  When Ruth and Gordon got married in 1960, Gordon became that brother.

As the cards and message of sympathy have flooded into Ruth this past 10 days, one theme has stood out above all others - Gordon’s kindness. That’s how he’ll be remembered - for his kindness and generosity.

Gordon absolutely did not want a funeral where everyone wore long faces.  Ruth, especially, has been clear that both of them preferred something lighter and celebratory, something to stimulate the happy memories, not dwelling on the trying times of the past few months.

They want to remember the Gordon who always did things for people without being asked.  The Gordon who mowed a widowed neighbor’s lawn for years, and when she died, continued to mow the same lawn for the new neighbors. The Gordon who got up early on the morning the bin man came, so he could take the bins back in - for not one, but ten of his neighbors. 

And the Gordon who knew every street in Liverpool, and a lot more around the country. If you ever asked him directions, he’d talk your legs off. I sometimes thought that it took him as long to explain directions as it would actually take the time to drive there.  In his wish to be helpful, not only would you get every detail of the way to go, but he’d also tell you the ways not to go - because of road works, or because of peak hour traffic. If there were five exits to a roundabout, he’d tell you where the others would take you if you made a wrong turn. Perhaps that’s not surprising, since several of the jobs he had over the years involved driving, including the ambulance service that he loved. 

I think the worst day of his life must have been when they invented SatNav.

But that didn’t deter him. More than once, when some of my kids and their families came to visit from America and were ready to leave, he would insist on driving his own car from his house to the M56 with them following. In fact, he could argue convincingly that SatNav didn’t know the way as well as he did.

Gordon has told something of his early life to Ruth, and it would be remiss of me not to share with you some of his own memories, written in his own words, from a time which now seems so far away from the way we live in today.

He was born four years before World War II started. Every house was supposed to have access to an air raid shelter. They were unloaded from lorries and installed in back gardens, a concrete structure with a corrugated iron arch fitted over the top. 

Gordon, young as he was then, always remembered the air raid sirens - that terrifying wailing sound that rose and fell as enemy aircraft were approaching - and then the bombs would fall. When the warning sirens began, the family would scurry to the air raid shelter. 

This is how Gordon described it in his own words:

“Sometimes we would only be out there for a couple of hours; at other times, when more bombers came over, we might be there all night. There were makeshift beds in the shelter and we would take blankets and pillows with us. We couldn’t leave them in the shelter because they would have got damp.”

Yet Gordon says he never remembers feeling frightened, just that it was a big adventure. But at the other end of that war, there was tragedy. In May 1944 Gordon’s brother, Jack, was the rear gunner in a plane that was shot down over France and he was killed. Years later Gordon and Ruth spent an emotional hour at the side of his grave in Orleans.

The war continued for five long years, but school went on mostly as usual. Again, Gordon’s words:

“Occasionally we would see dog fights between our planes and the Germans. To us kids, that was really exciting. Normal life for us. Some houses locally were destroyed by bombs but our road remained untouched. “

Gordon’s memories of school weren’t particularly pleasant. The teachers were strict. They carried big canes and didn’t hesitate to use them to keep kids in line. Different times.

“The only teacher I remember,” Gordon recalled,  “was Mr. Grundy, who taught French and was hated by all the kids. (I hope there are no relatives of Mr. Grundy here). He had a massive cane and that’s probably why I remember him. He caned me once and my hands had purple bruises on them. Dad went down and complained to the head but was told that if I had misbehaved, then I deserved it. The teachers were very powerful and often ruled by fear.

"I went to the Holt Grammar School to take the 11-plus exam. It was really intimidating because the teachers all wore caps and gowns and carried huge canes. I was so scared that I couldn’t concentrate on the exam and only did about half of it. Naturally I didn’t pass.”

But at age 12 he took an exam for technical school and passed, and was admitted to an art school to study the printing trade.

I can’t imagine Gordon being mischievous even as a kid, but there was a sequel in Art School to the previous caning he’d received.

Gordon’s own words again:

“During one of Mrs. Lichy’s lessons, she sneezed. I called out “God bless you.” For that brilliant piece of initiative, he had to write out 100 times as punishment, “I must not call out in class.”

It was a bit galling, Gordon said, when handing in his 100 hand-written, identical sentences, to see the teacher just put them in the bin.

Gordon didn’t like the work associated with printing. It was smelly, there was no ventilation and after two jobs in printing firms he opted for a series of other jobs that equipped him with skills he would use later in life. Working in garages, overhauling engines, later on the railways and then into the RAF where he signed up for five years to be trained as a mechanic. And it was while in the RAF that he met Ruth.  

When he was promoted to corporal he was assigned to drive his commanding officer to and from his meetings and appointments. He always loved driving. Later in life he would drive for the ambulance service, then as delivery driver for Dista pharmaceutical company.  Even when he took early retirement from Dista, he became a part-time driver for Meals on Wheels until his proper retirement at 65. Then, true to form, he volunteered as a driver for the Minibus Agency, taking disabled children to school, or older people on days out. He did that until he was 78.

In fact, it was Gordon who taught me how to drive. I had already failed my first driving test after six lessons from a professional instructor. After a few lessons with Gordon, I passed. I’d bought an old black Morris Minor for £50. It didn’t have flashing indicator lights and it had loads of other defects, but the worst thing was I couldn’t lock the doors. Maybe that didn’t matter - it would have been an act of charity for someone to steal it. But Gordon had a solution to the missing key. He opened the bonnet (the hood as they say in America), and showed me how to remove the distributor cap. “No one can drive it without this,” he said, confidently. Of course, he was right.

I don’t even know if cars have distributor caps today, but it was a little larger than a tennis ball and covered with dirt and grime and oil. It was a dirty job to remove  it. Can you imagine me walking into the local chippy, with the distributor cap held up in one hand and my other hand filthy?  “A six of chips please and a pie,”  Not the best idea you ever had, Gordon!

Gordon was a really good driver. Careful, attentive. I remember a holiday in Devon when he drove his Morris Minor with Ann and me on the 8-hour drive to Devon. This was before motorways. In the back seat was Ann’s pet mouse, Susie, in her cage full of sawdust, with its wire front. The car chugged along, mostly at 45 miles an hour, and as we got near Taunton another driver suddenly cut Gordon off. Gordon slammed on the brakes, we all lunged forward, including the cage with the now flying mouse, and sawdust all over the car.  

That mouse, by the way, eventually got sick and started to lose its fur. This is the only time I ever remember Gordon speaking sternly to me. Ann had to drown the mouse because it was suffering. As a kid, I was upset. Gordon saw my quivering lip, looked me straight in the eye and said firmly, “D-O-N’-T cry.”  So I didn’t.

As much as he was kind to people, Gordon was kind to animals. He loved dogs. He loved the birds in his garden. As Emily mentioned, he would talk to them, and I’m not just talking about (sounds of birds). He would actually talk to them. In English. And I’m sure he felt he was comforting them. Maybe he was.

When he knew I wanted a pet - and a dog or cat were out of the question - he took me to buy a budgie. They were expensive - ten shillings was a fortune to me when the average working man’s wage was around £15 a week. When we got to the aviary, the lady said the budgie I picked out was 15 shillings. Gordon didn’t hesitate. I got my budgie.  

He and Ruth were even more generous when I reached the age of 16. As a widow, my Mum had never been able to afford a bike for me. I desperately wanted one, and Gordon asked his Dad if I could have his old one. It was one of those sit-up-and-beg ancient bikes that weighed a ton. My pal next door had a beautiful, sleek red racing bike. I wasn’t exactly the envy of the neighborhood. But I was happy with the old clunker until I came home from youth club on my 16th birthday to find Ruth and Gordon, with Mum and my sister Ann, sitting in the living room, all wearing smirks. It took me a minute to see it, but then it hit me. A beautiful new racing bike was leaning against the piano. And it was red. That couldn’t possibly be for me! But Ruth and Gordon had bought it for me, and I was no longer the kid known for riding that crummy ancient bike. I went everywhere on my new bike - Wales, Jodrell Bank radio telescope, anywhere I could explore. 

That was Gordon. If he could do something for anyone in need, he would do it. When friends Neil and Jeanette were renovating a house in France, Gordon would go over to help them. When Ruth and Gordon came to visit us in America, it was Gordon who helped remove tons of earth to build a rampart wall, and again to help build a deck at the back of our house, even though by then  he was in his 70s.

We will all remember those wonderful holidays to Australia, not only to see my family but also their lifelong friends Pat and Ray Pont in Sydney. And their visit to New Zealand to see Gordon’s teenage friend Brian Wallace, with whom he would cycle to Wales and all over the country. These are all part of Gordon’s legacy.

We will all miss this kind, generous soul who meant so much to so many.  We won’t think of him as he lay in his hospital bed, mostly unable to recognize us, but rather as he was for all of his life - a devoted husband to Ruth, father to Lesley and Karen, granddad to Ben and Eleanor, Jack and Tom, and beloved uncle to my own large family, all of whom think of Ruth and Gordon with profound affection.

Goodbye Gordon, our dear family member and friend.