Battleshed Diaries

Saturday 15 October 2016


The last three weeks have been the toughest of my life as I lost my dad on 30th September. He was my rock, as he was for my younger brother, James. I was unsure whether to divulge our loss on this platform but it was dad that made me what I am today, with my varied interests, experiences and a family that I dearly love. Thanks so much dad!

His Eulogy is copied below for my readers that may be interested in the man that guided this gamer.

For anyone else, apologies for my indulgence on this occasion. Please skip this postI. I hope you understand. Normal service will resume shortly.

[Tim McDowall] How to honour our dad who led such an active and adventurous life in just a few short minutes?

We could start at the beginning – how dad grew up in Ruthin, North Wales with his two brothers, Andrew and Christopher. Later, moving to Cambridge and then to London where dad started out as apprentice toolmaker. Where he met our mum, which led to 53 years of marriage together.

Dad later downed his tools to become the swimming baths manager in Paddington. And a three years later they moved ‘up north’ to run the baths in Crewe - and eventually to manage the amenities department for Crewe and Nantwich borough council.

But It wasn’t until James and I were in mum and dad’s garage, just a few days ago, that it all came back to us...

There’s an old motorcycle helmet from his early biking days with mum. Apparently they had a whale of a time racing up and down the country, mum clinging on - or more likely frozen on – for dear life.
I’ve seen the old black and white photos. He’s with his brothers - as they proudly lined up their motorbikes, trying to look cool!

There’s the big pile of fishing gear. With that strange musty smell associated with rods and tackle dropped in far too many muddy ponds. Dad certainly had a lot of gear compared to the amount of fish that I remember him actually catching!

There’s the big frame tent popular in the 70s that led to so many family holidays up and down the country. Dad, packing the car to the brim with military precision and somehow finding a tiny space for me. There were no child seats in those days of course. Helping construct this seemingly enormous tent is where I first started dad’s ‘hold this’ apprenticeship that would last for many years to come!

There’s the bikes. Dad’s prized Claud Butler sports bike hanging from one of his custom Bungee cord storage systems. We soon joined the local cycling club – Crewe Clarion Wheelers – racing and touring for many miles together. Dad took me on a week’s cycle tour of North Wales once. Careening down the Lllanberis Pass with fully loaded panniers, overtaking cars and unable to stop…(sorry mum!)

There are many others reminders of dad: For swimming, pistol shooting, badminton. There are even old drawings and paintings. Like everything dad took up, he went at it with zeal, enthusiasm and talent.

[James McDowall] One activity dad certainly had a passion and talent for in his earlier days was Fencing. Having made it through to the all England finals where he got knocked out due to an illegal move. This was typical of dad; Unorthodox. Later he ran and instructed for the Santune Fencing club.

Many family holidays and laughs were had in the Caravan from John a Groats to Land’s End and usually with dogs in tow. With dad planning routes to all sorts of strange places, then on to more European destinations as Mum and Dad got older. The hours of arguments over setting up an awning, especially when dad forgot the poles after a 200-mile drive - but somehow Mum made him forget them! Dad loved his many dogs too, most recently Megan, who were all good walking companions.

[Tim McDowall] The biggest assortment of dad’s things far in the garage though was his mountaineering gear. I can hear dad now, the constant rustle of plastic bags as he packed and repacked his ruck sack. Preparing for a trip into the wilds of North Wales, the Lakes or the great wilderness that he just referred to as ‘Scotland’.

Above all, it was the Mountains that fulfilled dad's thirst for adventure. A lifelong affinity with mountains and wild places that ran to the core of dad. As it will be with some honouring him here today. An interest that had a profound effect on myself and James from an early age.

[James McDowall] When the family moved to Crewe, Dad started climbing regularly with South Cheshire Climbing Club from The Roaches, Stanage & Peak to NorthWales and the Lakes. A well-established club in Chester had two huts which would become the perfect springboard for many a summer and winter adventure. Dad Joined Chester Mountaineering Club in the 1970’s. Many friends and many trips were made from the UK and in Europe.

One of his favourite regular jaunts was the CMC Scottish Winter Meet, in which about 20 of the club’s members hire another hut or cottage in Scotland to tackle a number of Winter Climbs or Munros. This is usually accompanied by one or two barrels of beer. Coincidentally, this was a meet he rarely missed for 30 years! The club hut in Wales “Pen Ceaunant” played an import part in his later years; where he spent many an hour ‘reflecting ‘over the fire. So much so that he became hut custodian providing much-needed upkeep to the hut for a number of years.

[Tim McDowall] Dad was so many things to me. And I couldn’t have asked for a better father. His enthusiasm for everything we did was infectious.

He was an inherent storyteller and had a wonderful imagination that has inspired me to this day.

He had a fantastic, irreverent humour, and a sharp wit. But was never hurtful or crude. He was skilled and knowledgeable about so many things and subjects. And he was willing to give anything a try before passing judgement. He was independent of mind and thought.

He often advised me to, "Question everything you are told, or read. Never blindly follow the crowd. Always do what YOU think is right.” A wisdom for us all.

Dad was a deeply honourable man and highly respected by those that understand that most fundamental of traits. He was a true gentleman.

[James McDowall] Ultimately, family was dads first love and although he spent many hours indulging his passions he always made time and effort where it counted. Never one for overtly romantic or soppy gestures but he was always there, never afraid or too proud to say “I love you”.

Dads affinity to people and willingness to help allowed for a decade of charitable efforts helping to raise monies for good causes through” Crewe and Nantwich Lions. Dad was always positive and aspirational, he used to say; to be a true mountaineer I needed “the eyes to perceive and the heart to endure.” He certainly had that!

To me, Dad’s finest quality was his patience; an inherent ability to listen, to absorb and to offer a point of view based on quiet, measured wisdom. However, with his patience came determination; Some may even go as far as “Stubborn”. But if you asked him, he would say, “I'm not stubborn, I'm independent!”

It’s difficult to imagine him not being around. Dad lived a full and happy life. He was an imposing figure of a man, a tall, handsome character whose reassuring presence we all felt during difficult times. When Tim and I moved out of home and started families of our own, I began to understand my father in new way.

We were able to find time to sit and discuss what it means to be a parent (usually at the hut with a mug of Tea by the fire), particularly in a modern world that’s fast-changing and very different to the one in which either of us were born. Dad gave sage advice on everything from teaching me manners and responsibility, Job advice to the other important area of family life, keeping a happy marriage.

Dad passed happy in the knowledge that he was blessed with two grandchildren, Cameron (Tim) and Grace (James) whom he thought the world of. Often while walking in the hills with Dad when I was little, he used to get me to recite a short passage by Edward Whymper, which he said was applicable to many things in life, he believed in this and so do I, which I will read to you now…

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end."

[Tim McDowall] As we close we would like to thank all our family friends and close neighbours for travelling here to honour dad’s memory and helping us through this difficult time. Seeing all these faces just shows how much our dad was loved and respected and I know he’d be touched knowing you could all be here for him today.

[James McDowall] Finally, to remember and commemorate dad’s life, lets bid him farewell as we mourn the loss of a lively, dignified adventurous soul.

He conquered many a mountain but this last one was the hardest for us all.
Our dad, Alec McDowall

[For dad's farewell on the day; music - Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd, Jerusalem, William Blake, Con Te Partiro, Paul Potts. Readings - The Dash, Linda Ellis, Gaelic Blessing, Journey's End, J R R Tolkien]

'Wish You Were Here,' dad. 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond.'

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