APPENDIX 1 – My Father Charles Henry Morpeth – A tribute
Charles Henry Morpeth, my Father
This appendix is designed to be placed at the end of the book, along with any others which I write during the course of the story. Some of the content refers to things the reader will already be aware of while other parts refer to things which I have not yet covered. To separate these two sets of text would be to compromise the continuity of the tale and so I can only hope my method of writing does not become too confusing for readers.
In February 1976, while serving at H.M.S.Pembroke in Chatham, I received a newspaper cutting from a relative in Newcastletelling me that my natural Father had died of a heart attack. Big deal. So What. I was totally indifferent. He’d never been a Father to me. In fact after he’d dumped me into care he then went back to his Wife and had another child when he couldn’t even look after the ones he already had. From what I knew of him he was nothing short of a drunken, schizophrenic wife beater, although from the sound of it Elsie gave back as good as she got. No doubt now that he had finally gone ‘downstairs’ he was getting his come uppance.
By this time, I was a 20 year old man, and when I looked back I realised that I had only met Charlie once in my life; at the Christening of my niece Mia, who was the daughter of my sister Kerrie. I had managed to get special leave to attend the event inNewcastle, and was really excited about seeing the baby. After the church service, everyone went back to a pub for the celebrations when someone, (I can’t remember who), asked me if I knew the man sitting at the bar. When I said that I didn’t, I was told that it was my Father, Charlie. Although shocked I went over to say hello. Offering a hand shake I said “Hello, I’m Alan”. Charlie looked up from the bar and returned the hand shake saying “Oh aye, lad. Are y’aalreet?”. When I said that I was, he turned back to his pint of beer on the bar; nothing more was said and I never saw him again. If anything, our meeting did nothing but reinforce the opinion I had of him being a cruel, selfish b***ard; an opinion I maintained for over 30 years.
In the December of 2006, at the age of 51, I decided to write my autobiography as a dedication to my family; largely so that our little people would have some idea of their roots, but also because there was some sort of a need within in me to do it. Along the way, fate seemed to have a habit of bringing the past to me, and one day my niece Mia rang me to tell me she had ‘found’ my Father’s Brother Trevor. I was thrilled.
On 27 April 2007, I travelled toNewcastleto meet my Uncle Trevor with the real hope that he would fill in some of the gaps of my early years. Time had also mellowed the hatred I felt for my Father; I think writing the song ‘Young Women’ helped me to exorcise most of the negativity I felt towards him, and I had now become receptive to learning more about him, the man.
The two or three hours I spent with Uncle Trevor were wonderful. From the minute we met there was an instant affinity; a virtual telepathy, despite our 19 year age gap. And as the afternoon wore on, so a story unfolded which eventually left tears in my eyes.
My Father Charlie was born on New Years Day 1921, the first of eight children, to Anthony and Hannah Morpeth; sadly, only four of the children would survive into adulthood. The family lived comfortabvly in a large semi detached house in Highfield; Anthony worked as a metallurgist earning £25 a week at a time when the average wage was £6 a week. To the rear of the house was a lawned garden with a path running down the middle from the back door to the gate which opened up almost directly into the school yard.
The second child, Billy, died aged six after jumping off the back of a bus and “having his heed ran owa by a motorbike”. Jumping off bus flaps was a regular game among boys at the time; a sort of ‘chicken’ or ‘dare’.
My beloved Aunty Joan, was the third child (born 1927), and was about six years younger than my Father. She lived a long unhappy life, dogged by ill health, and married to a man who in Uncle Trevors words was a ‘brute…. who beat her’. All her life was pained by the suffering of others, in particular that of my Father and the fact that his children were in care. She died aged 73 on New Years Day 2000; my Fathers birthday. The fourth child born was a second daughter, Kerrie, who died in the house on Christmas Day 1944 of meningitis. She was 18 years old.
Matthew and Mark, the twins, were the 5th and 6th arrivals in the family but were not to survive long. A tragic accident saw their pram hit by a vehicle and the children died outright.
In 1937, Hannah gave birth to Trevor, who in adult life qualified as a Chemist and worked as Chief Analyst atNewcastlelabratories before changing direction in midlife to become a publican, owning several differnt establishments around the North East. At our meeting recently we found that we had several things in common with each other; one of which was that we were both tea-total alcoholics! Hannah’s last child Robert was born in 1940, and although I currently have no contact with him, I am aware that he is a Newcastle Town Councillor and (God willing) I hope to meet him in due course.
In 1938, at the age of 17, my Father, Charlie, went into the Army as a driver although I do not know whether he was conscripted, or if he enlisted voluntarily. Following the break out of World War 2 in 1939, he arrived inFranceduring theNormandylandings and remained in combat zones for the entire duration of the war, seeing active service in both Europe andNorth Africa. He was finally lifted fromDunkirkand returned to the U.K where he was demobbed after spending seven years away most of which was at the front.
One day, back in Highfield, Trevor (aged 10) and Robert (Bobby aged 8) were playing in the back garden of their home when a scruffily dressed stranger came to the back gate. Thinking he was a vagrant begging, they called for Hannah who came out of the house and told him ‘Am sorry hinney av got nothin for ya”. When Joan followed Hannah out, she knew immediately that it was no vagrant, but that Charlie had come home. The little boys naturally didn’t know him, and his own Mother hadn’t recognised him. But Joan knew.
In the parlour of the house, Joan immediately set about cutting the boots off my Fathers feet, as they were swollen (like balloons) from malaria; a condition which would flare up on occasions throughout the rest of his life. ‘Blisters the size of footbaaalls’ was the description given to me by my Uncle Trevor. His stained army fatigues were binned, and the tin bath tub was brought out for him to have the soak he had so longed for.
It would be extremely rare for Charlie to talk about his wartime experiences although on one unguarded moment later in life he confided his feelings to Trevor about having to use the dead bodies of his friends to form a barrier between german gunfire and those who were still alive. Trevor knew nothing about the bullet which had been lodged in his head (a tale told to me by Aunty Joan, which she said caused him to have a split personality condition), but then Joan was nearer to Charlie in age whilst Trevor was some 16 years his junior and so there is an element of plausibility about it.
In settling back into ‘normal’ life, Charlie (according to Trevor) dated many a bonnie lass before settling with, and marrying Elsie Dorritt, much to the dismay of the family who (in Trevors words) was “nowt but a f****ing nutter… Wor Charlie coulda had any lass he’s waanted”. I’m minded to think that their marriage was somewhere around 1949-50, as their first child Kerrie was born in 1951, with the rest of us coming along at 2 year intervals; 1953 (Christine), 1955 (me) and 1957 (Brenda). There’s still very little I know about the early years of their marriage in terms of jobs and addresses but by 1955 Charlie was a forestry worker and the family lived at Stonehaugh, Northumberland. At some point Charlie’s work took the family to Keilder where he continued as a forestry worker, but in a fairly short space of time the marriage had become violent and abusive resulting in Charlie going home to Rowlands Gill (where Anthony and Hannah had now moved to) on regular occasions. Eventually the couple seperated permanently although they never divorced. Indeed Elsie, who survived Charlie for many years had the benefit of a widows pension in her twilight years.
On the break up of the marriage, the children were displaced. Kerrie was kept and raised by Charlie at Rowlands Gill; Christine and me were put into care, and Brenda was adopted. Throughout his life Charlie grieved for the loss of his family and when I finally realised this at the age of 51 I accepted with immense pride that I was my Fathers Son.
During a particular period in my life, I underwent 6 years of intensive therapy which concluded in 1995 with my ‘Journeys End’ exhibition. At that time the views I held of my Father were very negative, borne of a bitterness which I now feel is unfounded. Some of that bitterness was expressed in a song I wrote for my daughters whilst looking at my own role as a Father. Whilst the sentiments expressed for my children remain the same now as they did then, I apologise to my Father posthumously for references relating to him in this song. It is as a tribute to him that the song is included in his appendix as one way of acknowledging my wrong.
Oh mine Papa where were you when I needed you
Oh mine Papa why did you turn away?
You’ll never know just how much I wanted you
Or what through your indifference that you threw away
How could I be a Father to my children when
You couldn’t see I took my lead from you then
Now as a man I know how much a Father means
And how by a child he is depended on
I know that I, a better Father could have been
I wasn’t always there in days not long ago gone
Children of mine I am so very proud of you
If pride is a crime forgive me Lord, I’m guilty
One day the Lord will call me to account to Him
The legacy I leave that wasn’t here before I came
Paintings and poetry and songs could never substitute
Three beautiful young women who are my claim to fame
||APPENDIX 2 – My Sister Brenda
Brenda at Chester Park on the River Dee
This appendix is designed to be placed at the end of the book, along with any others which I write during the course of the story. Some of the content refers to things the reader will already be aware of, while other parts refer to things which I have not yet covered. To separate these two sets of text would be to compromise the continuity of the tale and so I can only hope my method of writing does not become too confusing for readers.
Readers of Manboy will be aware of my search for my sister Brenda, a quest which seems to have taken up most of my adult life (metaphorically speaking). The need within me to find her (other than the obvious) was also based on worry.
The older I become, the more I seem able to recall things from the very distant past, even though I can’t always remember what I did yesterday. Any memories I have of Brenda (at the time we were children) are of someone very vulnerable; not helped by my knowing she had been born seriously visually impaired following an incident of domestic violence between our parents prior to her birth. In reality I wasn’t much less vulnerable myself but I could handle that somehow; I think you can when it’s yourself.
Probably the most clear recollections I have, and which I still treasure, are those rare yet wonderfully innocent days at the seaside up there in Seaburn in the late fifties. I suppose I was around 4 years old while Brenda would be about 2, and while our elder sisters did what elder sisters do, we passed the time in the sand doing our own thing often without a word being said. Just being together was enough. Those days were halcyon for me and just so opposite to the life I led which had become almost a day to day survival. I remember hating the end of the day seeing Brenda going off with Elsie to wherever they went off to, as I was taken back to the home; the worst part of which was not even knowing where she was going to.
At some point the holidays just stopped and I was never told why. I was just left to wonder and to worry within my own head. The imagination is a wonderful thing in the positive sense but quite the opposite in the negative; in the end I didn’t even dare to wonder. I couldn’t bear the idea that she was unhappy somewhere. Whenever thoughts of Brenda came into my head (usually at night when my defenses were down) I had to consciously force myself to think of something else.
For many years I believed that Elsie had kept Brenda and, in the absence of knowledge, I’d convinced myself that because of her dislike of boys (and of me in particular) she had moved away somewhere to make it difficult for me to see her.
As I got older I became less prepared to just accept the cruelty of the situation and at length found out (I think from a kind social worker – although I hadn’t come across many of them) that my sister had been adopted by a kind family of the name Cooper who lived in theWest Midlands. I also learned their exact address, memorized it in my head, and vowed one day to find Brenda.
On the one hand I was very relieved that Brenda’s new family were kind and must have loved her to have taken her as their own; but then on the other hand I became quite grief stricken and convinced that now she had been accepted into a new family that I was no longer wanted, needed, or even related. Strangers (in my eyes) had more rights than I did. I had no rights whatsoever. I was no longer even her brother. Thoughts such as these brought so bad a physical pain to my stomach that I developed a tendency to sit in the fetal position to ease it, and what little appetite I had plummeted. (This ‘stress-to-stomach’ syndrome continued well into my adulthood ending only at the age of 40 when a burst stomach ulcer almost killed me).
While being tormented with these thoughts, something even worse occurred to me. If I were ever to go and find Brenda what would I do if she rejected me? How would I feel? Could I cope with that? After all she had moved in with a family who loved her, and the longer time went on the more likely it was that she would have bonded and forgotten about me. It was also quite probable that Mum and Dad Cooper would not be overly keen to see me poll up on their doorstep. Chances were that I may have become an embarrassment all round.
Fifteen years later I would find out the answers, when I did pluck up the courage to turn up on her doorstep.
It’s difficult for me to pinpoint the year I actually saw Brenda again but I’m inclined to think it was either 1972 or 1973 which would have made me 17 or 18 and Brenda 15 or 16; the reason I think this is because I was abroad for almost the whole of 1974 and was married in 1975 and my Wife Carol had never met her before 2007). I’m quite shocked in realizing this because I had somehow convinced myself that my visit to see Brenda was after Katie died (27.2.74) but clearly it wasn’t although I question very much if I would have mentioned it to her. My devotion to Katie was such that I would never have run the risk of hurting her and so the chances are that I would probably have been economic with the truth.
For a young man who appeared to have had the world at his feet it seems even the world was not enough to take away the desperate yearning I had to see my little sister again and as I have already indicated this period of my life was one (of several) when I was at my most selfish.
In hindsight I think it’s probable that Katie did know I was going to find Brenda but had the wisdom to understand it and loved me enough to accept my need; which is just typical of why I adored her so much.
Not being a driver I persuaded an old friend (Sten) to drive me over the Pennines toWarringtonfor the price of his petrol (and a few bob besides) and somehow managed to land myself in a phone box right outside my sister’s house. I don’t remember how long I had been standing in there before Sten began banging on the door. ‘Get on with it. We’ve got to go before dark I’ve got a side light out. And besides, people will start wondering what I’m doing in a phone box with a sailor’.
After throwing Sten out I telephoned the number and a woman answered who I presumed was Brenda’s Mam which although I should have expected, I hadn’t. “Er…er.. can I speak to Brenda please?” I stammered waiting for her to say no (my daughter doesn’t take calls from strangers). “Yes who’s calling please?” she replied. I swallowed then coughed “Erm…its Alan…her brother”. Certain that the phone would now be slammed down on me I braced myself for the dialing tone and a long miserable drive home. “Ooo, one moment please” said the woman, in what seemed almost like a welcoming tone, which virtually blew me away.
After a short wait Brenda spoke “Hello Alan where are you?”. ‘I’m in the phone box outside your house’ I gaggled. As the phone went down the front door opened and Brenda stood on the threshold.
As she walked up the path to meet me I could hardly believe the sight I saw. Not just finally seeing my sister again, but the five or six children who followed her up the path…all girls apart from one little boy at the end. Somewhere along the line I seemed to remember being told that Brenda had been taken in by a family who didn’t have any children of their own; clearly things had changed, or once again I had been given wrong information. But whichever was the case was just so irrelevant to me; I was really chuffed for her. Even a bit envious if I’m honest. She was part of a lovely big family now, and the children (in my eyes) were all wonderful.
Mum Tina made me really welcome and fed me; and gave me that space I needed, just to be with Brenda again albeit for the short time we had. In some ways our time together was not dissimilar to when we were little. Not a lot was said between us but then we never were great chatterboxes. It wasn’t about words. It was just about being together. But then if there were any pregnant pauses during the visit they were completely masked by the little children doing what little children do. I think I was a something of a novelty to them; it’s not every day a sailor comes into your house – particularly one who says he’s your sister’s brother!? Just for a while I felt part of that fabulously warm hearted family; and part of Brenda’s life.
But when the time came for me to leave I knew I wasn’t a part of them, and as I left Warrington I was so confused I wasn’t even sure if I was still a part of Brenda’s life. She seemed so much a part of something not connected to me that I wondered whether I should now let her go to get on with her life (without me in it to complicate things).
Over the years, at my worst times, I convinced myself that ‘to leave be’ was what everyone would prefer that I did although the thought positively haunted me. Regardless of what I thought, or how I felt, it would be 34 years before I saw Brenda again. Thirty four years.
Regular readers of Manboy will be aware that when I first began writing my story my main aim was to trace my roots and put my life into perspective; partly I think for my own peace of mind but mainly because I didn’t want the little people in my family to find themselves in the void that I had arrived in later in life.
The more I travel this road the more convinced I become that my endeavors are worthwhile particularly as I observe my children and my grandchildren today. I suppose it is my legacy to them which I hope one day will give them peace of mind and a sense of belonging; and most of all the knowledge that they were truly loved.
As my writings continued, gaping gaps in my story became apparent (some of which still gape like open wounds) but which hopefully I will resolve along the way. One such gap of course was the absence in my life of my beloved sister Brenda.
Over the years I had had some contact with both my elder sisters, and also with Elsie, but no contact whatever with the sibling whom I missed so much.
One night after having posted my Manboy update I sat gawping at my computer convinced that, in this day and age, I could contact Brenda if I just put my mind to it. As a ‘blogger’ I had naturally already checked out Myspace and Facebook, and even made a search of U-tube thinking she may have become a musician, but with no results.
Then, for some reason, I remembered she had trained in Physiotherapy and so typed that into the search engine. Up came the C.S.P. (Chartered Society of Physiotherapists). As I entered the site I quickly found that I was unable to view anything as I wasn’t a Physio and therefore couldn’t log in, but at the top of the page was a ‘contact us’ link and so I fired off an email to the Society saying who I was, who I was looking for, and adding my contact details.
Within a day or two a reply came back from the CSP saying that they could not guarantee anything but had passed my mail to their forwarding service. So all I could do now was to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long. A few days later I was sitting in my armchair at home when I received a text on my mobile. It was from Brenda.
Disbelief is the only word I could use to describe how I felt looking at a text on my mobile from the sister I hadn’t seen for thirty four years. I’ve still got it and read it often:Hi Alan! Got your e:mail from CSP on Sat. Tried 2 reply 2 u but msg failed. I was stunned but very pleased 2 hear from you. I wud like 2 meet up with you. I live in Warrington~ where is that in relation 2 u. Somehow I managed to gaggle to my Wife Carol who was almost as tearful with joy as me. That evening we had friends coming to dinner and so I didn’t feel able to ring her directly as I had little spare time. Besides that I didn’t have a clue what I would say. I mean how do you start such a conversation? ‘Oh Hi Brenda and how have you been for the past three and a half decades?’.After composing myself I managed to text back that I would phone her the following day and so that was arranged but all through dinner and through the following day I could barely focus on anything else. Veering between nervous anxiety and excitement the time seemed to fly past until suddenly it was 6pm and I was in the bedroom alone with the door shut looking at the phone. I picked it up and dialed the number.It’s a strange thing hearing a voice you don’t recognize coming from someone you love. Not having heard Brenda speak before I was unable to read her characteristics or idiosyncrasies and so was unable to decide whether she was pleased to be in touch with me or was merely being polite. My natural paranoia decided that she was being polite; contrarily my logic said the opposite. It didn’t help being unable to detect an accent or dialect I was familiar with. In the absence of these (usually taken for granted) indicators, I reasoned that if she hadn’t been interested she would never have replied to my email.The call lasted about half an hour and it wasn’t long before I realized that any worries I had harbored were unfounded. The conversation we had was just so long overdue that the only way to describe it would be to say that there is no way to describe it. Perhaps to imagine two children, a brother and sister, separated in real terms for fifty years, and then reunited, says it all.After such a long separation we decided to meet up as soon as possible which would be the following Sunday; in three days time. Brenda and her Husband Mike were to come to our house for dinner and in the preceding days we texted each other every day. We also exchanged photos by email which was both exciting and very surreal. Looking at the pictures I wondered if I would ever have been able to recognize her if I had met her in the street.When the big day arrived I found myself pacing up and down the kitchen getting under Carol’s feet as she tried to prepare dinner, more nervous than I had been about anything in my life. Notably I didn’t get smacked with a frying pan; Carol confided that she had absolutely no idea how I must have been feeling. When I thought about it, I had no idea either!Finally they arrived, and as we went out to meet them Brenda got out of the car and we had just the biggest hug in the world; in the street, in front of anyone who chose to watch.Our day together lasted almost ten hours and was one I will cherish as a memory all my life; I like to think that Brenda feels the same way. Carol and Mike, the only witnesses to such a momentous occasion in the lives of their respective spouses, stood back and just soaked up the occasion.Throughout the day, questions were asked and questions were answered, and what became immediately apparent was the strength of our mutual trust; based on a love that had never died. So many things were shared serving only to reinforce that bond.Similarities in our lives were so copious it almost left us feeling (comically) that we were really Siamese twins and that Elsie had forgotten to state that on our birth certificates. Medical allergies, medical conditions, our chosen professional paths and our shared vocation of supporting life’s underdogs were just a few of the many things we had in common.In closing this appendix, I think it’s only fair to tell readers that my meeting with Brenda gave me a lot of new information which I will write into Manboy at points I feel are relevant to the story, but which don’t take away from the day being probably one of the most important (and wonderful) days of my life. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to both Carol and Mike for their understanding and support through what must have seemed a very bizarre occasion.
To my little sister Brenda, a hole in my heart has been healed. I love you. Alan x
With Brenda at a gig in Farndon, Newark. 2007
APPENDIX 3 – NAVAL RANKS AND RATINGS
Just to help the reader understand Naval hierarchy I thought this appendix might be useful. It’s done from memory really so if any old seadogs out there spot mistakes please let me know so I can update things.
Junior Assistant Stores Accountant Class 2 (in basic training) – JASA2
Junior Assistant Stores Accountant Class 1 (in professional training) – JASA1
Assistant Stores Accountant (automatic at age 17 and a half) – ASA
Stores Accountant 2 (automatic at age 18) – SA2
Stores Accountant 1 (Passed for Leading Rate awaiting promotion) – SA1
Acting Leading Stores Accountant (awaiting confirmation) – ALSA
Leading Stores Accountant 2 – LSA2
Leading Stores Accountant 1 (Passed for Petty Officer awaiting promotion) – LSA1
Acting Petty Officer Stores Accountant (awaiting confirmation) – APOSA
Petty Officer Stores Accountant2 – POSA2
Petty Officer Stores Accountant1 – POSA1 (Passed for Chief Petty Officer awaiting)
Chief Petty Officer Stores Accountant – CPOSA
Fleet Chief Petty Officer Stores Accountant (FCPOSA)
Midshipman (White buttonholes, no Rings on cuffs)
Sub Lieutenant (One Ring on cuffs)
Lieutenant (Two Rings on cuffs)
Lieutenant Commander (Two and a half Rings on cuffs)
Commander (Three Rings on cuffs)
Captain (Four Rings on cuffs)
Commodore (One Broad Ring on cuffs)
Rear Admiral (One Broad Ring and one Ring on cuffs)
Vice Admiral (One Broad Ring and two rings on cuffs)
Admiral (One Broad Ring and three rings on cuffs)
Admiral of the Fleet (One Broad Ring and four rings on cuffs)