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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Thomas James Greig, 1931 - 2007

April 16th, 2007 (07:43 pm)
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current location: KY16 8SX

As most people reading this will already know, my Dad died on the 9th of March. Thanks to all who expressed their sympathy, in whatever way.

Dad was born on the 7th of December 1931 in Aberdeen, to Alice and Tom Greig. When he was still quite young, they moved to Kirriemuir in Angus, and for the most part that is where he grew up, though he did return to Aberdeen during the war, to be looked after by an aunt while his mother was seriously ill and his father was serving overseas as RAF ground crew.

Dad as a schoolboyIt's probably in Aberdeen that he indulged in standing on bridges and throwing snowballs at the steam trains going by underneath. At least, he did until on one occasion he was horrified to see his snowball go straight down the funnel and legged it before (as he feared) the engine could explode!

In Kirrie, he and a group of friends went out for a longish ride on their bikes, but my Granny was bit concerned when he told her who had been along. She knew that one of the boys mentioned didn't have a bike of his own, so she asked him about it. "Oh, he was fine," Dad replied. "He had a gird."

Dad's graduation photoDad went to University College in Dundee, which was then a part of the University of St. Andrews. His time at University was interrupted by National Service (he served in the Royal Corps of Signals), and he had difficulty with nerves in exams, but he graduated with a degree in French and German.

He took part in amateur dramatics while on National Service and afterwards, and it was during this time that he played the part of Macduff in a production of Macbeth. The play lived up to its reputation. One night, the person playing Macbeth misplaced his prop sword for the final battle and substituted a real knife. All things considered, Dad was probably lucky he only got stabbed in the hand!

Mum and Dad at their weddingHe became a teacher of Modern Languages - French and German, of course - and started his career back in Kirriemuir. He met my mother - the younger sister of his best friend from university - and married her in 1965. Two years later they moved to Galashiels, about a month before I came along. My sister joined us in 1970.

We moved to Banff, on the north coast, in 1973, for Dad to take up a more promoted post, and then in 1975 we moved to Glendaruel in Argyll and Dad became the Head of the Modern Languages department in Dunoon Grammar School. The school had what was then the latest thing in language labs.

As a teacher's son, I think you probably have a fair idea of whether your Dad is popular or not. I think he was. When I came up to secondary school, I was accosted by older boys, but it was to tell me: "Your Dad belted me! He's a'right!" (Corporal punishment was abolished in Scottish schools when I was in my third or fourth year.)

Dad at my first graduationDad was a distinctive figure in the school corridors. He often had a military bearing, and reputedly wore tackety boots (actually they were just normal brogues with steel tips to the heels to stop them wearing down too fast, rather than boots with hob-nails). He also wore a beard which earned him the nickname of Billy Goat Gruff.

One of those older boys who greeted me when I arrived at secondary school suggested that I should be called Billy the Kid - but plainly that was too cool a nickname, and never took off!

During the 80s, Dad suffered from ME, and after a long period of illness decided to accept a generous offer of early retirement in 1988. Although he had a reasonable length of retirement, he never really got to do the woodworking he wanted to. A combination of tiredness in the earlier years and arthritis in the later ones prevented it.

Dad's last mugshotDad smoked for pretty much all his life, and three or four years ago he suffered two heart attacks and two strokes in fairly quick succession. There was not much that could be done apart from by medication, and he was sent home at Christmas 2004 with a life-expectation of months.

We were lucky that he was with us for over two years more. He stopped smoking, and he responded well to Warfarin. He was able to celebrate his ruby wedding anniversary in 2005 with family and friends, and he stayed mostly cheerful despite at times suffering great pain from his arthritis. He would complain how hard it was for "Poor Tommy", but always with a twinkle in his eye!

He was hospitalised with pneumonia at the start of March this year, and two days later suffered another heart attack. Although he restarted before the crash team could arrive, it was for the last time. A little under a week later, his heart failed.


Posted by: Nik Whitehead (sharikkamur)
Posted at: April 16th, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)

That's a beautifully written obit, and conjures up some vivid images. I do like the idea of snowballs as train-wreckers.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 16th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)

Thank you. I've been meaning to write it for a couple of weeks, but I've not rushed back into blogging.

The snowball caught my imagination too; I can just imagine how I would feel if I'd been him!

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: April 16th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
Smiley Rosa

A delightful tribute! He sounds a great Dad! Thank you, Billy the Kid!

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)

Thank you.

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
Smiley Rosa

I shall now think of you as 'Billy the Kid'.
It is, as you say, a cool one!

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 09:58 am (UTC)

He sounds great - and looks wonderful in the photos!

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)

Thanks Alice. I especially appreciate such kind thoughts coming from a "real life" stranger, though a well-established online friend.

Posted by: It's my brain and I'll do what I like in it (pink_weasel)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 01:03 pm (UTC)

This is a lovely tribute!

If I had the right words to convey my sympathies, I would use them.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)

If I had the right words to convey my sympathies, I would use them.

That'll do nicely. As I commented in reply to huskyteer above, I especially appreciate receiving your kind thoughts when we've never met in "real life". Thank you.

Posted by: myceliumme (myceliumme)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC)

I'm particularly impressed by the story of the gird - fantastic! I hope your dad read this entry wherever he is and see how much (and how eloquently) he has been appreciated. (I know this comment doesn't read very well but I hope you'll understand what I'm trying to say.)

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: April 17th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)

Thanks Bruce.

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