Special memories of a dad 
not cut out for domesticity

Sandra Chapman with her father
Sandra Chapman with her father

I never did get to send my father a Father’s Day card.

When he died 33 years ago my recollections are that only Mother’s Day cards were available up to that time. The shops this week were full of cards and the sight of them brought a lump to my throat.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

What would he have thought of the way we celebrate the event today? I’m certain he would have opened his card and with his familiar little incredulous smile would have said ‘boys a boys, what about that’, a well used South Derry colloquialism of the time.

My father Sam Scott died much too young. He was 73 and had not been in good health for some time. As a family we had fought to get him good hospital care much as many families today have to do. Care for the elderly ill was deplorable then. Today it’s still unacceptable.

He was of the old school. I don’t ever recall him making a meal, changing a nappy or cleaning windows. What would he have made of his grandsons, my boys, who do all these things today without thinking? Another of his favourite expressions was ‘isn’t that tara’. I’m certain that’s what he would have said though I’ve no idea what the word ‘tara’ was derived from – maybe it’s Ulster Scots - but it was another typical South Derry expression. I even find myself using it now and then getting blank looks from Himself who was from another county altogether.

As for matters sartorial he believed suits were for weddings and funerals only, yet as children we often perused the family photographs where he was seen in the trendy styles of the 1920s looking a bit like the character Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind.

He also had a fancy car when he was very young but the tough years of the 1930s must have depleted his fortunes, though he never dwelled on the past or complained. Things must have been even worse after the end of the Second World War

because it was a very long time before he had a car again.

He never went to school sports’ days or school concerts nor did he see our school reports. All that sort of stuff was left to my mother. Family life had clear dividing lines in those days, the woman ran the house and the children, the man preferred the outdoors and the company of other men.

While my mother would have slaved over the stove on a Sunday afternoon to make sure we had high tea, my father could often be found with his local friends, chatting on a grassy bank under a favourite beech tree near the local priest’s house puffing away on the cigarettes which were, eventually, to destroy his health.

My father had very good manners and when the local minister would call for his annual visit our dad would send us into paroxysms of giggles when he addressed him as Your Reverence. Today’s children on the other hand would be so engrossed in their mobile phones they wouldn’t even look up if a Minister came to the house. As someone who loved children I often wonder what he would think of that?

I’m certain today’s irreverent society would have been too much for him yet there is still so little understanding of old people today who are trying to live in a fast moving world which is leaving even the computer literate behind.

He must have had a premonition of his death because he was anxious one evening to talk to me about how to deal with his funeral.

A popular, well liked man he must have known he could never have his wish for a private event. It wasn’t and I know what he would have said too: ‘getaway, that’s tara’. I can’t send him a card this weekend but I still miss him.