We lost my father in the Summer last year (2017) and as I write (11th November 2018), Mum is on her way to glory. Both of them had a strong Christian faith and were sure of their place with the Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were … ‘I go to a better, better place.’
I want to write a little about both Mum and Dad. I hope that you will indulge me in a couple of posts! The second of these posts tells Mum’s story and can be found at:
I have just said in sermons on Remembrance Sunday (2018) that we are rooted in who we are most effectively when we tell our own stories and as we hear the stories of our communities. …… So perhaps it is appropriate that I tell the story of two saints that I remember with affection.
The words below are predominantly those that Dad wanted to say about himself.
In the second post I’ll share Mum’s story too. …
Dad was born on 29th September 1931 at Nelson Street, Horwich, to Wilfred and Hilda Mary (nee Carr) Farnworth. His Dad (Grandad) was a blacksmith at Horwich Loco Works and his Mum was a Cotton Mill worker prior to getting married. Dad’s first visit to church was when he was 2 weeks old. His family went to Horwich Gospel Hall. Apparently he was not interested in the message but was reported to be sucking noisily and had a good meal!
Dad was not sure of the date, but his family moved to 29 (I think), Crown Lane when Grandad became unemployed. For a time Grandad worked for engine builders in the Salford area (possibly Beyer Garrett) before finding work at Derby L.M.S. Loco Works.
Before moving to the Midlands they were living next door to Grandma’s parents and Dad had his first experience of death when his Grandma died. Dad was about 3 years old and was found sitting on the bed talking to the corpse. They also lived within 300 yards of Grandad’s parents who had a chicken farm. Dad said: “I was a regular visitor, primarily to get in on Gran’s cooking!”
Dad shares two things that he was reputed to have done. He said …. “I eloped to school when about 3 years old. All the kids down the row were going, so I just joined them!” and, “During a particularly dry summer, the women were asked not to empty their wash tubs so that local gardeners could use the water. I ended up in our’s and was fished out by my Grandad – very wet!”
Around 1935, Dad and his family moved to Derby for Grandad’s work. They lived at 768 Osmaston Road and went to church at Curzon Street Gospel Hall in the City centre. Dad says it was a “solemn assembly!”
He started school at Nightingale Road School which was next door to the Rolls Royce factory. “The nearest,” says Dad, “that I ever got to a ‘Roller’. He made a second attempt at drowning himself by falling through the ice on the frozen canal and being fished out by a passing stranger who took him home – again dripping wet!
Around 1938 Grandad was, again, out of work until he found a job as a blacksmith working for Stanton (later Stanton and Staveley) Iron Works. They moved to 28, Shanklin Drive, Stapleford and went to church at Eatons Road Gospel Hall (another solemn assembly!). Church was made more solemn by all the younger men going off to war.
Dad attended Albany Primary School and Grandma worked at the local ‘National Feeding Centre’. Eventually, Grandad went back to Derby L.M.S. Works, mainly working nights, but we continued to live in Stapleford.
In September 1942, Dad went to Henry Mellish Grammar School, Bulwell and remained there until 1949, for School Certificate and Higher School Certificate. He couldn’t remember the results. He was far more interested in rugby, swimming, cricket and athletics at school, and soccer (Stapleford Rovers and others) out of school. The round ball was banned at the grammar school! There were no more drowning incidents, but he did learn to swim in the local canal – warm, smelly and dirty!
In September 1949, Dad went to Loughborough College (as it was then, now Loughborough University), staying there for 3 years. He studied Mechanical Engineering. It was an unusual arrangement – one week in lectures and then the next week in the extensive college workshops. He gained a 1st Class honours Mechanical Engineering Diploma. His priorities were quite clear. He says: “I went home most weekends to play football.”
While at College Dad had contact with a strong Christian Union, a number of members later became Christian Leaders and Missionaries.
After College, in 1952, Dad started working in Birmingham for the General Electric Company (GEC) as a graduate apprentice at their Witton Works. He was mainly working on heavy electrical machinery for the first year.
Dad was in digs with the Fletcher family at 47, Wheelwright Road, Erdington. Mrs Fletcher was the widow of the man who’d headed up the GEC Accounts Department. She was a rather presidential Victorian old lady who was rather domineering. Dad says: “Just imagine my reaction.”
Two of their 4 children had married and incurred disapproval, and so were never mentioned! The two remaining children were Kitty, who was a rather sour middle-aged spinster who taught at a Girl’s Grammar School; and Theo who brought some reality into the setup! He worked at GEC in Research and was one of the leaders of the Erdington Boy Crusader Class. Interestingly, Theo married immediately after his mother died!i
The Fletchers had a live-in maid, an old spinster who was a very good cook. Dad says: “That enabled me to bear with the rest of it!”
Dad comments: “After an introduction to church at two weeks of age, and with biblical things running like blood through my veins it was not, however, until the time spent in Birmingham that Jesus became real to me and I was baptised at Charlton Road Gospel Hall.
In about August 1953, Dad was transferred to London (Erith) by GEC to Fraser and Chalmers – manufacturers of heavy mining machinery for a period of just over 12 months. He lived in Rostrevor Guest House, Belvedere and worshipped at Belvedere Gospel Hall – a happy family – a time of spiritual growth. He was involved as a Counsellor at the 1954 Harringay Billy Graham Crusade.
From November 1954 until November 1956, Dad did his 2 years National Service in the Royal Navy (RNVR). He says: “Initially, for basic courses, I was a Stoker at HMS Raleigh in Plymouth. Then as a Sub.Lt(E) for 3 months at R.N. Engineering College Manadon, Plymouth. It was during this time that I first met Phyl (and her very welcome cheese pies) at times of fellowship at her home with other naval folk and some nurses. I was then posted abroad.”
(You may have picked up a common theme in Dad’s autobiography …. food!)
Dad served in Malta on HMS Striker (a tank landing craft) and HMS Whirlwind (a frigate) around the Mediterranean, Northern Ireland, Spain, France and Bermuda – all for short stays Finally, he served on HMS Savage for trials of low noise propellers to avoid submarine detection.
Dad says: “These were times of spiritual growth and great fellowship, both with naval personnel an in the churches that I visited, particularly in Malta. I found my theological views being broadened!”
In November 1956, Dad found himself working with ‘Shell’ at Stanlow Refinery as plant maintenance engineer for major petrochemical plants. He lived in Chester and worshipped at Chester Gospel Hall.
In February 1958, Dad was transferred to ‘Shell Chemicals’ at Carrington as Project Engineer for the production of petrochemicals (polyethylene and polystyrene). It was at this time that he became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Dad was living initially in Sale, and then later (1960) in Broadheath at 112, Lindsell Road. he says: “I married Phyl in August 1959 and we were worshipping at Hebron Hall, close to the ice-rink in Altrincham. For some of the time I served as an Elder. Over the next few years, Roger, Gill and Dave joined the family.”
In 1965, Dad gave up working for Shell Chemicals and studied at Bolton Teacher Training College.The family continued living in Broadheath.
We moved, right at the end of 1965, to Hull. From January 1966 to 1970 we lived at 103, Carr Lane, Willerby and Dad was lecturing at Hull Technical College. We were worshipping at Walton Street Gospel Hall and Dad was an Elder for part of the time that we were there. Ian, my youngest brother joined us in 1966 and Dad says, “We became ‘F, P & Co. Ltd’!”
From 1970 to 1972 we lived in Braintree in Essex and Dad taught at Chelmsford Tech. (Dovedale) as a Senior Lecturer. We lived on Sycamore Grove in Braintree and worshipped at Coggeshall Road Gospel Hall in Braintree.
We lived in Kings Lynn, Norfolk from 1972. Mum and Dad stayed there until 1986. Dad was based Norfolk College in Kings Lynn as Head of the Engineering Department and later as Head of the Faculty of Technology until early retirement in December 1985.
We lived, first, for about 12 months in Terrington St. Clement and then at 5, Elvington in Gaywood in King’s Lynn We worshipped at Seabank Chapel and I led the Covenantor Group for several years. During this time, Nana, Phyl’s mum came to live with us in a Granny Flat extension to the house.
There is, perhaps, a lot more to tell about Mum and Dad’s last few years in King’s Lynn as they found themselves in the midst of difficult times at Seabank Chapel. Dad chose not to focus on this in his notes, but they really were difficult times for both Mum and Dad. By this time, I was living in Manchester and watching from afar. Dad and Mum showed great integrity and leadership during this time and suffered some significant levels of stress.
Dad and I had/have differing views about our shared faith and he struggled with my decision to become an Anglican priest, feeling unable to take Communion from me. However, he always acted with integrity and at times found remaining true to his convictions difficult, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Mum and Dad moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, in South Oxfordshire in August 1986 to manage a small estate of 15 bungalows mainly provided for retired missionaries and Christian workers. There were some very interesting folk. Nana had her own bungalow. The estate belonged to the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship (later to be known as ‘Rural Ministries’).
Dad and Mum also had a small house in Didcot because their bungalow on site in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell was very small. They worshipped in the little free church (FIEC) in the village. After about 6 months of being there, the young pastor of the church had a breakdown and eventually resigned and moved away. Dad led the church for about 7 years until a new pastor was appointed. At almost the same tim as the new pastor was appointed, Nana died at the age of 99 years and the Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the complex of bungalows. Mum and Dad moved into their house in Didcot.
While Dad and Mum were in Brightwell they were involved not only in looking after the bungalows and leading the FIEC church, but also took part in various village-wide things like Lent Courses and a Men’s Prayer Breakfast.
Mum and Dad lived in Didcot for a further 12 months, worshipping and helping out in a small Mission Church in Hanney, Oxfordshire. At the end of that 12 months they rented out the Didcot house and set off for Zambia!
From 1994 to 1996, Mum and Dad worked for ‘Africa Evangelical Fellowship’ seconded to the ‘Evangelical Church in Zambia’. The brief said: ‘To work as Town & Travel Manager’. The job spec. included the phrase: ‘must be able to cope with a high degree of ambiguity’ – Spot on! The job involved virtually all of the mission business in Lusaka – immigration, customs, banking, post office, travel agents, technical shopping for folks up country, and airport duties (meeting people coming into the country and helping others leave.
Dad says: “I succeeded in losing the Australian Office Manager. Having delivered him to the airport at 5am om a Sunday morning for a flight to Namibia (2 hours), we received a call at 2pm: ‘Where is he?’ I guess that he got there eventually but I have never heard of him since. Was this a case of lions at the airport?”
Meanwhile, Dad says, “Phyl did all kinds of things – helping him in Lusaka, standing in for folks who should have spoken on the radio, various clinics, etc.”
They lived at Chamba valley, 10 kilometres outside Lusaka and worshipped at the mission church on site. Occasionally they travelled in, on a Sunday evening, to worship at Lusaka Baptist Church. Their little car, a Subaru Justy, enabled them to travel out quite a bit on business and for holidays to:
- North West and South West Zambia
- Zimbabwe (several times) – to Kariba, Harare, Victoria Falls and the eastern highlands
- South Africa – to Johannesburg, Durban and the Kruger Game Park
- Malawi – including a 4 day sail down the lake on a ferry as it carried local passengers and goods from port to port.
From 1996 to 1997, after getting back from Zambia, Dad and Mum spent about 12 months living in Didcot before selling up and moving to Mattersey Thorpe, North Nottinghamshire.
In 2005, Mum and Dad moved North to Scotland. They lived in Auchlochan, a privately run retirement village built around 4 small lochs. It was a complex of Bungalows, flats, apartments and units for residential care. Mum and Dad bought a bungalow and worshipped at the fellowship on site. The complex is now operated by Methodist Homes.
In 2010, Dad and Mum moved South again to a flat at Royd Court, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, in a group of 56 flats run by Pilgrim Homes. They worshipped on site and attended Batley Evangelical Church as well.
We lost Dad in August 2017. Mum continued to live in their flat in Royd Court and often spoke longingly of going home …. She too is now at rest, at home with her Lord.