Tuesday, 10 June 2008

John Burn

My father-in-law died yesterday morning. John had been ill for some time, fighting a series of infections, Parkinsons, and a slowly creeping dementia. In the years I knew him he was one of the quietest, most gentle men you are ever likely to meet. He had worked, man and boy, manufacturing prosthetic limbs at Roehampton, in London, including legs for war hero Douglas 'not very nice` Bader. He and Pam had been married for more than 50 years.

I never found out what John thought of his youngest daughter marrying me, he certainly didn't express any concerns to me. Mind you, he wasn't the kind of man to do the 'if you hurt my little girl I'll hunt you down` speech. He was more of a 'do you fancy a cup of tea?` type man. I really liked him. We would often sit together in silence, listening to his wife and daughter engage in their stream of consciousness conversations. Every now and then he would ask what I thought was the best way to the A405. He wasn't going to travel there; he just liked to know. Fair enough.


Jesus said, “In my father's house are many mansions.” I don't see John as a mansion man. He was more of a shed man. He was never happier than when he was in his beloved garden shed, arranging different sized screws and bits and bobs into neatly arranged tobacco tins, and potting up seedlings. There were times in her childhood when Polly thought her father lived at the bottom of the garden.


One of Polly`s fondest memories of John is of a childhood sea side holiday. Polly had been given an inflatable dinghy and she wanted to spend every waking minute bobbing about on the water. John, worried that his daughter would drift out to sea, spent his holiday sitting on the beach holding on to a length of string, so that Polly, anchored to her dad, could play safely knowing that he would never let go. Now she feels it is her who has let go of the string and her father who has drifted away.


We will all miss John very much. His gentle spirit will live on through his children and grandchildren. I'm glad I had the opportunity to know him.


John Burn 1931 - 2008