In April 2018 Jane received devastating news. Her much loved dad, Gerry, had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and only had weeks to live. She was devastated. She and partner Mike had been thinking about getting married in 2019, but hadn’t got far with planning. She was so looking forward to the part of her wedding ceremony when her dad walked her ‘down the aisle’. Gerry was such an important influence on her life and she loved him dearly. But 2019 was going to be too late for dad. With no time to loose, Jane and Mike decided to bring their wedding forward and were granted special permission from the registrar to marry at short notice.
Jane approached Anne Widdop at Fuze Ceremonies to ask if she was available to conduct the ceremony in the Highlands. When Anne understood the reason that the wedding was planned for only a few weeks hence, she offered to conduct the ceremony in exchange for a discretionary donation to the Fuze Foundation. This is exactly the reason that the Fuze Foundation was established, to help people and support families in their hour of need.
It was not a huge wedding, that was not Jane and Mikes’ wishes, but it was a great success. Gerry gave her away and entertained everyone with a hilarious speech, despite his failing health. There were lots of tears and laughter and a day that no-one will forget.
After the wedding, Jane cared for her dad in her home. He made the best of his remaining days and died on the 24th of July. Anne conducted the funeral ceremony and laid Gerry to rest in the cemetery in Arisaig.
Jane and her family are grateful for the assistance of the Fuze Foundation, and especially the careful consideration and support of their Celebrant Anne. Jane said ‘What the Fuze Foundation did for us has been amazing. Anne made our wedding ceremony a real high and helped us through the pain of losing dad, we can’t thank her enough’
As a lasting tribute to Gerry, Jane is happy his Eulogy is published below.
He will never be forgotten and is forever in the heart of friends and family.
A Eulogy for Gerry Bucknell
Gerry was born in Hull, at home, in 1934 to George-Edward and Ethel.
Although he was an only child, a sister did arrive in the shape of Jo – who was literally left of the doorstep by her mother. The family took her in, which was not uncommon in those days. They brought her and Gerry up as brother and sister, and she became Auntie Jo to David and Jane. He started his formal education at Penhurst School and around the time he finished primary school the Second World War started. Gerry would have been 11.
Hull was heavily bombed. It annoyed him that when the blitz was mentioned it was always London that was the focus of attention. In some ways Hull suffered even more as the Humber was not only a weigh-point for the bombers to sight and approach the UK before they tracked down the south coast but sadly it was also a dumping ground for unused payloads. Bombs were dispatched, falling on Hull and the surrounding area before the planes returned home.
Hull was the most severely destroyed city in the UK with 95% of property damaged or flattened. The city spent more than one thousand hours under alert during raids from 1940 to 1945, around twelve hundred people in the city killed as a result of the bombing, half the population were made homeless. For a young boy, it must have been a terrifying time. Gerry always maintained that Hitler tried to kill him. It was said half in jest but I’m sure it masked the many horrors he may have witnessed which he rarely spoke about.
During the war he started at Beverly Grammar. He was a bright lad who showed great promise, passing the exams which enabled him to secure a coveted place at the Grammar school. This was a big deal for a working class lad. Gerry had an early talent for both numbers and language. He was a quick thinker, a quick wit too and fast at mental arithmetic, something that never left him. He had an early thirst for adventure. When offered the chance, at the tender age of 15, to board a trawler and brave the freezing waters of the north Atlantic to sail for Spitzbergen no less, he jumped at the chance. Snow and ice, freezing temperatures, not many comforts but a great adventure and Gerry loved it. It was the start of his love of the sea, but it wasn’t shared by all the boys who went on the trip, some of them swore they would never go aboard a boat again when they returned home. But not Gerry, it was the start of the life of travel and adventure.
He hoped to train as an accountant after school, which was indeed what happened, or started to happen. His early career in accountancy was rudely interrupted by a call up for the National Service. It cut short a blossoming career, something Gerry always regretted.
But he was the sort of man who just got on with it, challenges were there to be overcome. He was packed off to Wilmslow to train in the RAF for what he always referred to as ‘square bashing’ or military drills, to you and me. It was something that was to have a major influence on his life. He always referred to himself, tongue in cheek as one of ‘us RAF types’ but there was loyalty and pride there too. He recalled seeing the first ever Vulcan bomber take its maiden flight.
He left the RAF after his compulsory 3 years’ service, it wasn’t the future he wanted and in the 50’s he started work as an auditor for Rank Hovis. This opened up a world of travel and he enjoyed trips to Southern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, something he loved. In the late 50’s he met Cynthia and they married after a few years dating.
In the mid 60’s David was born followed 2 years later by Jane. By then Gerry was working with Newington Trawlers as the cashier. The boats fished predominately in the Icelandic waters, it was a long trip for these trawler men. Gerry loved the job and was proudly boasted that as soon as the boats were back in dock, he had the wages ready. His fishermen were the first paid in the fleet. He respected them and the hard job they had did, and he wasn’t going to keep them waiting for a pint. He was a popular man, not just because he held the purse strings, but because he was an easy man to like and always had a joke with the boys. He said that he spent 35 years working at Newington Trawlers, but it wasn’t quite as long as that, but the point is that it was the best part of his working life. David and Jane remember happy days being taken down to the docks with dad. His had tremendous rapport with the fishermen and as a treat, he arranged a special trip to take the kids out on a trawler. That’s pretty memorable for young kids, they looked up to their dad. One of the perks of having a dad involved with the fishing was that there was never a shortage of fresh fish, Gerry used to fill up everyone’s fridge in the neighbourhood with prime cuts and the kids even used to take fish to the chippy !
Sadly the Cod wars killed the fishing industry in Hull in the 1970s and with the trawlers went Gerry’s job. Another sad part of Gerry’s life was the break-up of his marriage, the kids were still very young. It was a very difficult time for everyone involved. It was unheard of in those days that the man would take custody of the children, but that’s what happened. That’s what Gerry, David and Jane all wanted, they stayed as a close family unit. Gerry never re-married, he focussed all his love and attention on his kids.
He went on to work for Tin Smelting works and then Blue Circle Cement. He lived in Ullapool and made many trips to the Shetlands. He struck up friendships wherever he went. But he was drawn back to the sea and to the fishing community. He made friends with a wild bunch of Russian fishermen, sharing stories and drinking the occasional vodka (ok maybe more that an occasional vodka).
There was always a story with Gerry, he loved adventure and he was a great story teller. In part because he had lots of adventures, but also because of his command of the English language and his great wit. He could tell jokes, but his stories and play on words were better. For those of your there, remember that speech at Jane’s wedding…although Gerry was very ill, he was prepared, he was a natural speaker, engaging and very funny.
He had other passions in life too – and sport was one of them. He was a Hull man, so was more than passable at cricket and football, but he was an ardent fan of Rugby League – a lifelong supporter of Hull FC. It was Hull City for football and no prizes for guessing who for cricket … yes Hull. He loved music too especially big band Jazz, Blues and Classical music. When he arrived at Lochailort this year, he had his full CD collection in tow. The music chosen for today’s ceremony were some of his favourites.
As a single parent he instilled a love for sport in both his kids. They both had a sound grounding playing sport too, David being a very good cricketer and tennis player and Jane a medal winning swimmer. Nothing was too much effort for their dad. He did everything he could to make them happy. Jane told me that a real treat at the weekend was getting a fresh loaf from the bakery. The kids would hurry home with the warm loaf and both would argue over the crust smothered in butter. Ever the diplomat, keeping the peace and to treating them equally, Gerry would cut the ends off both sides of the loaf and give them a crust each. It’s a small example of the kind of dad he was – he gave them everything he could.
David shared some stories with me, one of which was from his very early years, when he was around 3 years old and still learning to speak. His dad always retold this story and would laugh heartily at it. For some reason, David called ‘slippers’, ‘fartats’. He has no idea why, he just did. Dad would sit him on his knee and try to teach him to say ‘slippers’. The conversation always went like this:
David: Fartats Dad: Slippers
David: Fartats Dad: Say Slip
David: Slip Dad: Say pers
David: Pers Dad: Slip-pers
Gerry would burst out laughing and David of course would giggle, happy that he had made Dad laugh. Gerry would try and try again but it always ended in with a lot of laughing and of course Fartats. He’d happily spend time at the weekend entertaining the kids, playing games like ‘crocodiles and alligators’, which is a game where I gathered from Jane, where Jane and David basically attacked their dad and he had to fight them off, they all loved it.
Gerry would travel all over the place taking Jane swimming. She had shown promise and he scraped together the cash to fund a swimming competition for her in Hong Kong; Holland and Ireland. That was a big deal in those days, and it paid off, she won the Irish nationals. A proud day for Jane but even prouder day for her dad. Jane also told me that he’d send them down to the ‘beer off’ at the weekend – now for those of us not from Hull – this is the off licence – Cider for dad and a bit of chocolate for the kids.
Gerry instilled in David and Jane a strong sense of right and wrong that has moulded them both as people and it is something that they are both eternally grateful for. David said it has helped him enormously in his adult years. When he was about 10 years old he had a debate with his dad about doing things the right way, with Gerry suggesting that there were only two ways to do things: the right way and the wrong way.
For years David would bring examples to his dad and assert that this was not the case, but inevitably Gerry won the day and would convince David he was wrong; there was a right way and a wrong way. This is something that has never left David and whilst he now understands that there is often a third way that is eminently suitable – he can’t help himself trying to do everything, the right way. It can range from the sublime to the extreme – such as still indicating correctly onto and off a roundabout even at 4 am with no other cars in sight … but more seriously David said that his dad instilled in him something that has been fundamental in his life, especially in his professional life. He always strives to do things to the best of his ability; always going the extra mile. David said, this attitude has served him very well and he particularly wishes to thank his Dad for this gift he gave him.
Gerry was very well educated and had a terrific vocabulary, his time at the Grammar school served him well, but he was a self-made man. He read a lot, he was brilliant at cryptic crosswords and never lost his gift with numbers. As he got older, he would spend time in the library and read a newspaper cover to cover every day. He loved Private Eye, he liked their challenge of the establishment, something he was not afraid to do. He refused to buy a newspaper, the one in the library would do fine. He wasn’t mean but he liked to ensure value for money. He kept his social life going, even when he was poorly. People were important to Gerry. He’d meet up with his old fishing mates for a pint, and he still knew where to find a decent pint of stout for £1.35, something he would boast about when he saw the ludicrous prices being charged for a beer today.
He was creative with the English language and anyone who knew him will have groaned at the word play jokes he was so fond of. David said he is proud to admit that this passed on to him, even though his vocabulary does not match his dad’s. Gerry was delighted to find out that this trait had passed to his grand-son, James, whose vocabulary already far exceeds David’s and I suspect also Gerry’s. Every day James amazes his family with words they have never heard of and wordplay that is every bit as witty as his Grandfather. It’s another legacy from Gerry and one David is also thankful for.
Ill health didn’t deter Gerry, he just got on with life. He loved the Highlands, there had been many family holidays in this area, especially at Roshven Farm and Glen Uig. So coming here at the end of his life was an easy thing to do, he was happy to be here and I am sure happy to be buried within sight of his beloved sea. Sadly, early in the morning of the 24th of July Gerry passed away in his sleep. Jane found him in the morning, hand on heart. He lived his last few months in the presence of his loving and caring daughter, that was as it should have been, he was with people he loved.
Gerry will be greatly missed. There were many special people in his life and none more so than his precious kids David and Jane. A beautiful picture of the kids, his favourite, is in Gerry’s coffin – along with a bottle of whisky and his Hull FC scarf. David and Jane, your dad brought you up almost singled handed. It was one of his proudest achievements.
What can you say to someone who was an essential part of your world?, Who took you by the hand when you were little and showed you right from wrong? Who stood by and helped you grow, who nurtured and cared for you? Someone who provided strength and support so you could become the person you are today? What can you say to let him know that he’s the best dad there is? And that you hope you have inherited some of his wit, wisdom and strength.
Just say “I love you dad” And know he understands.
For many of you here today, you are here to pay your respects to a wonderful man, but for David and Jane, their lives have changed forever. Remember that in the weeks, months and years to come and support them in their grief.
Poem used at committal
I’m content to be in the Highlands
To travel my last happy mile,
Just forget, if you can, that I ever frowned
And remember only the smile.
Forget the stubborn and cantankerous;
Remember some good I have done;
Forget if I’ve blustered and blundered
I’ve always known right from wrong.
Forget to grieve for my going
I would not have you sad for a day
But in summer just gather some flowers
And remember the place where I lay,
And come in the shade of the evening
When the sun paints the sky in the west,
Look to the sea and stand for a moment beside me,
And remember me at my best.
By Anne Widdop