Monday, 26 October 2015

Remembering my Dad, John Russell

When my father-in-law died eleven years ago, one of his sons delivered a thoughtful reflection at his funeral. My father attended the funeral and said to me afterwards - 'You'll hardly say something as nice about me when I die'. 

So here we are, at my Dad's funeral and I'd like to take him on about what he said then.
I had a privileged childhood. From an outsiders perspective, it didn't appear privileged as most of it was spend picking stones from newly ploughed fields. This may not sound like the most attractive of activities, but not alone did it involve myself and my brothers, but also a clatter of cousins and cousins cousins and indeed townies from Kingscourt, who came along voluntarily. Perhaps the allure of the post-stone-picking al fresco dining on cream crackers and Miwadi was the attraction.

Dad was known for picking ups strays and often brought someone home who he had met at the (cattle) Sales in Kingscourt, or who he had helped fix a puncture for along the road. Mam would have to do a 'loaves and fishes' on whatever food there was, but there was always plenty. That expectation of hospitality and welcome is something that has been passed on to us, his four children.
Of course, there is no such thing as a free cup of tea and the unsuspecting stray were often asked to 'come here for a minute', returning two hours later, mucky and bloody, having helped Dad to calve a cow down the yard.

His love of sport was infectious. Days at Croke Park with Dad watching Meath play were some of the best childhood memories that I had. I can still feel the atmosphere standing there beside him on Hill 16, me going along with the banter of the men, cursing the ref, even though I knew little of the rules.
More recently, many of you will know that you were not to phone or call in to Dad when a match is on TV. If you were the Pope, he wouldn't entertain you, (although you might have had some chance if you were a Fine Gael Cllr). He loved football, soccer and rugby and proudly supported Kilmainhamwood, Meath, Ireland. He had a terrible habit though, of watching matches on the TV, while simultaneously blaring a different commentary on the radio.

We knew not to interrupt Dad when the Lotto results, or the death notices were being announced on LMFM radio. 'Would yiz whisht ?' It was poignant that for once, we all stood quietly by the radio on Tuesday to listen to his own death notice, even though we knew the details already.

Dad loved a good funeral and he would have enjoyed this one. We are so grateful to you all, so many people who came along over the last few days to pay your respects to our Dad. He would have been chuffed to see you all.

Dad could be described as a 'typical Russell', strong willed, opinionated and determined. When I was younger, I thought that these were negative characteristics, but having inherited those characteristics from him (my brothers too), we can see that they are good things that have held us in good stead.

He had strong political views that he would share with anyone who would listen, even if they didn't want to listen. He often told us how to vote, expecting us to vote his way. Regardless of whether we did or not, he gave us all a strong sense of democracy and the importance of using your vote.  He was critical of government administration and often spoke of the overpaid staff with nothing to do. At the same time, he told me off for working too hard, forgetting that I was one of those aforementioned administrators. Like us all, Dad was a man of contradiction.

I would like to thank my Dad for passing on his fine head of hair to me. It was a running joke as to what John (a man not known for his attention to grooming) put in his hair to cover the grey hairs.
He had a strong work ethic, at times probably too strong. I sometimes described him as a beat up diesel Volkswagen Jetta that you kept patching up and just kept motoring along.

Dad had a strong sense of home and a sense of place. Over the past few days, many people remarked in the beauty of Milltown Glen where we lived. I always love that drive up the Glen, feeling that you were almost there, almost home. Living on the Meath-Cavan-Monaghan-Louth borders, our address caused some confusion. If you wanted to really wanted to insult my Dad (and indeed us, his children) all you had to do was mistake him for a Cavan Man. He liked nothing better than to slag real live Cavan men for their perceived meanness, eating their dinner out of drawers (so they could shut the drawer if a visitor came, incase they'd have to share).

There is one thing though I cannot forgive my father for - childhood sheep shearing. In fact, anything at all to do with sheep. It was one of those things that a child should never be subjected to. I'll say no more.

To my Dad, John, Grandad John, JR, thank you for making us who we are.
May you Rest in Peace.
Thanks to everyone who helped celebrate Dad's life over the last few days which was energising and lovely.

Thanks also for the donations to the MS Society.  We will add that to Mya and Leon's MSReadathon collection.

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