Alan Roy Thompson
Alan Roy Thompson was my father-in-law. This lovely man was also a dearly loved friend of mine and I consider myself privileged to have known him. I will remember him and cherish my memories of him for the rest of my life.
We were introduced at Middlestone House, Bishop Sutton in 1996 shortly after Emily and I had met.
To me he was amazing example of a father, grandfather, host and was a fantastic companion. He was outgoing, friendly, and displayed a natural and healthy interest in people he met and knew. The Brummie chattiness of this great man threw open welcoming doors and put genuine smiles on the faces of the people he encountered. He could strike a conversation with a barn door and if the barn door didn’t initially feel like talking Alan generally had enough thoughts and opinions to share about politics, football, rugby and cricket that would get a creak or two out of it.
His songs and his singing are one of the foremost things that I associate with him. Many a time sitting round the dining table at Middle stone house from out of the blue he would burst into song. Jerusalem and Swing low were two that often occurred, clearly rugby related, but he would often dive into his Irish collection too, which I suspect that he picked up on his many trips to Galway and Mayo to see “The Irish” (Alans affectionate collective name for Teresa’s side of the family). His chosen recital for me was the poem called” Jim” by Hillaire Belloc and was about a boy called Jim who got eaten by a lion… I thought it a very apt and witty choice for a father-in-law to choose for his son in law. It appealed very much to my sense of humour and made me smile every time he delivered it. Though to be fair I never quite made it to being eaten by the lion in Alan’s rendition, either he never remembered that far down the poem or he was being his good kind self.
As other people have mentioned Alan would tweak the names of many a buddy around him and in my case, Jim was tweaked to “Sonny Jim”. I’ve now learned this was probably from the “address for a boy or young man” which would emphasise Alan as the senior and I was the new coming junior to the house. Although such was his immense general knowledge it seems that I could have been associated with a breakfast cereal or peanut butter marketing character. Regardless of the reason for his choice of my pseudo name it serves to remind me of Alans wit and intelligence, oh and of course his charm to pull it off!
Alan was a proud Englishman, and he was a proud British man. In my eyes he had an unmatched amount of respect and interest for all parts and all the people of the United Kingdom. Throw in the love, respect and interest he had for “The Irish” and it was clear to me that he was a man who dearly loved the whole of the British Isles and Ireland.
This was reflected when he raised a glass and said his combined English, Welsh and Irish toast of “Cheers, iechyd da, Slàinte” at the dinner table. I tried once or twice to get him to include the Scottish variant “Slàinte Mhath” but I had to settle with sharing the Irish and English version. Although years later, on one of our occasional visits to the “The Tam” as Alan called it – Tam O’ Shanter pub in Ayr, he’d also include the Scots variant when we clinked our glasses together.
Alan was a highly intelligent man and this intelligence combined with his immense interest in everything that caught his attention meant that he had gathered an astounding knowledge, not just about history, places and people but also of everyday life in general.
When we were living in Cheddar we needed a new fridge freezer and during a visit to Middlestone House Emily, Teresa and I had been talking / debating in the kitchen about what we were thinking of getting. Alan caught me in the Livingroom on my own and said “You listen to Old Al, I’m a married man with three daughters and I’ve survived in a house full of women all these years. You’re a married man with three daughters. If you want to know how to survive and what’s good for you then you need to learn a few things and one of those things is that choosing a fridge freezer or a washing machine is nothing to do with you…. that’s for the women folk to decide….. although you do get to pay for it….” And then he burst into his infectious laugh. It was typical of his light-hearted wisdom and his fantastic sense of humour, which I loved.
I often remember I’d answer the door in Cheddar, to find Alan on his own heading back from a job and he’d cheekily say, “I’m not here to see you I just came to see the girls” and he’d spend an hour sitting at the kitchen table doing painting and drawing with Heather, Orla and Katherine. I always disappointed him though as I couldn’t give him his basic Nescafe and he had to settle for gold blend. “Awe that’ll have to do” he’d say.
Emily and I could not have wished for a better grand father for our three girls I am so grateful that they all got to know and love you as they did. I am sure you know how important you were in their lives and I hope that you know how important your influence and manner will be for them as they continue through their own lives and chosen careers. The positive and precious influence you had on my three daughters and indeed on all your grandchildren will remain with them. Knowing you and your love will be like an immense corner foundation stone that I hope will help to keep every single one of them true and steady for the rest of their lives.
Alan was a keen fan of rugby and he took me to see my first professional rugby match which was obviously a Bath home game at the “Rec”. In total he took me to 4 home games and Bath won everyone of them. By doing so Alan showed me inside another pocket of his life and introduced me to Bryden, Donald, David, and Maurice his 4 fabled rugby mates. The hip flask of whisky was passed round every time Bath scored a try and the pints flowed in the pub before and after the game. Alan loved those Rugby days and it was lovely for me to experience a few of them with him.
Football was Alans real sporting passion. I expect the Villa has been mentioned more times than you can shake a stick at. My three girls have Villa tops each numbered 1, 2 or 3 and with “Grandad” on the back waiting for them at Middlestone House. It was Alan who took me to see my first professional football match. It was Northwich Victoria against Chester at Christmas 2001. We lived in Northwich at the time and Alan had it all researched and planned for us to go…. Granny would be happy to stay in the house with Emily and our 6-month-old baby Heather so we’d have no problem at all getting permission to go to the “footie”. He knew the history of Northwich Victoria and followed them thereafter. He even had a Northwich Victoria mug. I used to get an unheard-of text message from him now and then when they were playing. With him being a keen historian, he talked about his disheartenment when they gave up the oldest continually played football ground in England for house building and moved to a new green field site. Like football, Alans’ love of history couldn’t be hidden.
When we moved to Ayr it was Alan who took me to see Ayr United play for the first time… again I’d get the odd text from him telling me that they were showing the game on BBC ALBA. I think Emily found this hilarious as she said that it was just accepted that “Grandad didn’t send text messages” …. Clearly football was an exception. I remember that on several occasions when there was the choice of going to see either Ayr Rugby or Ayr United he’d always choose the football. He said that as much as he loved the game of rugby, the rugby spirit and the rugby atmosphere he found football more exciting. In Bristol he used to follow Bristol Rovers and although I never went to any Villa or Rovers games with him, he executed his plans a few times to take me down to see Yeovil Town play… I think Yeovil Town became one of his teams as it happened to be in a preferred driving direction from Middlestone House.
There was the night Lizzie and her friend went out in the friend’s VW Polo. While going down an unlit country road the car hit an embankment and flipped onto its roof effectively blocking the road. We all rushed to the scene, the police were in attendance, no one was hurt, all was good. Then a car’s headlights could be seen in the distance and Alan putting people before himself took a small torch and started walking up the road trying to bring the oncoming cars attention to the fact that the road was blocked by the Polo on its roof…. I remember the look on the police officers face when she saw what he was trying to do with this wee torch and as I recall, she ran to catch up with Alan and used her considerably brighter torch to bring the oncoming car to a stop.
Some years later Alan came to our assistance with his beloved Rover 75 and brought all the traffic to a halt or directed it off the road so that Emily could bring our big people carrier complete with the towing caravan behind it and a full set of bikes on the roof along the narrow lane that leads from Ramslade Caravan site near Stoke Gabriel in Devon … All because I had broken my ankle and couldn’t drive….. He was a man on a mission, his daughter was coming through with a great big car, a caravan and his three granddaughters were on board…….. that road was being taken under his control no matter what! However, he was truly gifted in chatting to people and he buttered everyone up, cars, lorries and vans, I think nearly to the extent that some of them were on the verge of cheering us along as Emily manoeuvred up that narrow lane. We heard “well done” and “you’re doing great” , “your dad has explained” conveyed by some of the people in the cars that Alan had put into field gate ways and road passing points.
One final thing that I’d like to share was a memory from 2014 when Alan, David Campbell and I brought a Moody 346 sailing yacht called KYLORA (which Emily and I shared with David) back from the Commonwealth games Flotilla in Glasgow. We motored down the river Clyde with all the other boats from the flotilla and when we reached open water just south of Dunoon, we raised the sails and turned the engine off. David and I trimmed the sails while Alan took the helm and we sailed down to Largs marina. Alan started singing “I am sailing” so David put Rod Stewart’s version full blast on the boat CD player and Alan and Rod sang us on our way for a while. David was the best man at Emily and my wedding a little over 9 years previous. The father of the bride, the groom and the best man all out on a boat on a nice day in a beautiful setting combined with how much Alan enjoyed himself made this a very special and memorable day for me. I’m so very glad that I managed to take some video footage and a few pictures of Alan sitting relaxed at the helm taking it all in his stride and signing along with Rod.
Grandad sailing a boat! He loved it!
A little bit of the video can be seen by clicking the video camera icon for the video condolence message.
Droves of nice memories are flooding back to me involving Alan, too many to share here. I know for sure that when we lose someone like Alan, who we love and care for, that these memories will keep popping up. Very often it will happen when we least expect it and when it does then for a few moments once again I’ll be back in the company of this lovely man.
Go steady Alan thank you for all that you have done, it was a privilege and a pleasure to have had you in my life. You’ll live on in my memories forever. I so wish that you could have stayed with us longer.
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne
Jim “Sonny Jim”