Granddad’s Funeral – 22 December 2010
Today, at noon, we had our last opportunity to say our goodbyes to Leslie Ernest Hallworth – my grandfather – who died at the age of 84 a couple of weeks ago. It was, unquestionably, a great send-off for a great man, but sadly (due to mobility-related issues, problems caused by the snow, and unrealistic distances) some were unable to attend. However, it is right that they should be able to enjoy the tributes made, so – due to the success and hit-count of my tribute – I have published them here for that purpose.
Tribute – Mr Richard Burdett (Leslie’s son-in-law)
“Hello Dad” – Ann’s cheery response when entering his house, or answering phone calls from her father, is something I have heard throughout our married life. I probably heard it for the first time in the summer of 1985 when I took her home and first met Leslie. I knew by the time we were married a year later that I was acquiring a tremendous wife – what I had not considered, but actually found an unexpected bonus, was that I was also acquiring a second family. And key to that family was Leslie who, over the subsequent 25 years, I grew to know and love almost as a second father.
Leslie Ernest Hallworth was born in November 1926 in Willesden, northwest London, ten minutes after his twin brother, Bernard. Two and half years later, they were joined by baby sister, Gladys.
The Hallworths had a happy family life, and the twins occupied themselves with boyish games, including stealing apples from garden orchards. On one occasion Leslie cut his leg very badly while escaping capture by climbing over a wall, leaving them with the problem of how to explain the injury to their parents. They went to the park and told the park keeper that the accident had occurred on the railings there, which when mother was sent for she duly believed.
They attended the same primary, but different grammar schools; they were both choirboys and, as true Londoners, were confirmed together in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Leslie was a loyal son and very protective of his parents, especially his father, who had a damaged eye as a result of a First World War injury and who, therefore, would never agree to be photographed facing the camera when it would be obvious.
On the day war broke out the family were on holiday with relatives in Gloucestershire, so the children stayed on for a few weeks while the parents returned to London. Later that autumn they were then officially evacuated, with the boys being send to Northampton and Gladys to Wales. The twins were looked after by a couple who had never had children, and by all accounts it was not a happy time for them – indeed they tried to escape and planned to walk back to London following the railway line. Like many other evacuees they rapidly returned to live at home in London.
Their home suffered damage in the blitz when the house opposite was hit by an oil bomb, but they survived. In later raids they took shelter under a large solid wooden kitchen table, and Gladys remembers how Leslie comforted her and tried to stop her being too frightened.
He left school at 16 and worked for Great Western Railway as a draughtsman, initially being based at Aldermaston Wharf, travelling out and back by train from Paddington each day.
Turning 18 in 1944 he joined the Royal Artillery and was posted to India, but sadly became ill and so never got to visit the Taj Mahal. Following demobilization he returned to London, rejoining the Great Western railway but studying for a building surveyor’s qualification at Willesden Technical College. While there, he met Geoff Kempton, who became a lifelong friend and, as young men they toured Italy on a motorbike, although missed seeing the artistic treasures of Florence since they did not recognize its Italian name of Firenze on a signpost.
He also at this time made the one change of employer of his career, moving from the railway to work for London Transport.
An aunt was responsible for introducing him to Hilda Jones; they rapidly fell in love, he proposed to her on Richmond Hill, and they were married in her home town of Harrow on the Hill in September 1958. They were a close and devoted couple and shared many common interests, including both still and cine photography, and they became keen members of Maidenhead Cameral Club. He also enjoyed stage management, and used his practical skills to make props and scenery for the London Transport Players’ productions at Wimbledon Theatre.
He was a great painter and decorator, not only of his own house, but also for family and friends. He even did some bricklaying, helping build the garage for Gladys and Don, and stated that he knew the exact brick he was laying when news came through of the safe arrival of their twin boys, David and Stephen.
He had enormous patience and attention to detail, resulting in the construction of a number of large toys in the garage at his Altwood Drive house. These included stilts, a dolls house with working lights, a fort with drawbridge, and, best of all, a puppet theatre complete with backdrops, trap door, revolving stage, and even a screen for shadow puppetry. The toys were masterpieces and provided hours of fun, and were so well made that despite considerable use at the time, they were able to be lovingly refurbished for subsequent reuse by the grandchildren.
He used the skills he learned as a draughtsman and his innate artistic flair to create beautifully lettered posters, name cards, and mementos, such as his trademark silver cardboard “good luck” horseshoes that he made for family weddings. The skills also came in useful for helping, or rather actually doing, Ann’s Art homework, for which she then usually got top marks.
His daily commute to work took him to London Transport’s head office at 55 Broadway. It was a very paternalistic employer at the time, with staff welfare a high priority, and this included providing hot meals at all their many depots. Leslie was responsible for procuring catering equipment and maintaining the kitchens in each facility, a job he loved since it fitted well with his love of food. He told me trips to the Walls factory in Gloucester to sample ice creams, and to Cambridgeshire potato growers to test chips. He remained with London Transport right through to his retirement in the summer of 1987, and retained links with his former employer by serving on the committee of the 55 Society, which is a group for retired professional LT staff. He created and edited a newsletter, and had people send him envelopes for their distribution, which when they arrived did occasionally cause a little friction with Hilda and lead to her speaking of London Transport in none too complimentary terms.
Leslie was, though, first and foremost a real family man. He was dependable, willing to help Ann and Derek with their homework, wait at the finishing line for cross country competitions on frosty mornings, and be the chaperone for Derek when he sang in a television dramatisation of “Love for Lydia”. He was also kind to others, and took occasional Wednesday afternoons as holiday to help Hilda when she organized outings for patients from Townlands Hospital to places such as the Royal Tournament, Henley Regatta, Horse of the Year show, or simply a picnic by the river.
He retired in June 1987 and he and Hilda went on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords to celebrate. He then helped us by redecorating 41 Aldebury Road during the spring of 1988, and a year later he and Hilda shared our joy on the arrival of Matthew, and they became wonderful grandparents to our three children and to India, who called him Dad Dad. But I’ll leave the description of his talents in this area to Andrew and Harriet.
In retirement he also continued to help others by doing decorating and gardening jobs for Maidenhead Care, and also spent more time in his own garden, which was always a riot of colour from spring through to autumn, with his special love being spring flowering bulbs. When we moved house in November 1994 he had another redecorating project to occupy his time, and it we worked well together as a team – me doing the rewiring and plumbing, he the painting and wallpapering.
The first signs of infirmity came around ten years ago, leading to diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. But even with this he was always very cheerful and retained his trademark smile through much adversity. Initially Hilda nursed him, but then, with her more rapidly deteriorating health, he nursed her until she went into hospital in May 2006. He loyally visited her every day until she died a year later, and even though he was distressed by her death, he recovered. In autumn 2008, after a prolonged stay in hospital following a minor heart attack, Social Services suggested he “Mr Hallsworth” might consider a residential home. He politely told them that his name was Mr Hallworth and that he would be going home, and that is exactly what he did – and where he was able to remain until May this year.
Even though his last years were very restricted, he still enjoyed life and came to us for Sunday roast dinners, to the children’s concerts and activities, and was able to go out for lunch with Derek. The half hip replacement following his fall in May this year actually healed very well, but he could not avoid the increasing restrictions caused by the Parkinson’s disease. However, he was finally able to move back to live in the town in which he had spent most of his life in early October, and received the most loving care right through to the end from the staff at St Mark’s Nursing Centre. Just over two weeks ago he was even able to be hoisted into his wheelchair so that he could see all the Christmas decorations around the home, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Two weeks ago today I am sure that Ann would have said “Hello Dad” on entering his room at the Nursing Centre. As we now mourn his passing, let us not say “Goodbye Dad”, but acknowledge his wonderfully full and happy life with a heartfelt “Thanks, Dad, for everything”.
Mr Andrew Burdett (Leslie’s grandson)
On Wednesday 8 December 2010, at 9:00pm, my grandfather died at the age of 84. He always had a smile on his face – even when the going got tough, and was a true inspiration to me. I feel privileged to have been his grandson.
When I was 12, Granddad bought me a new bike. It was a great present, not least because – as the youngest of three children – all of my previous bikes had been hand-me-downs. It allowed me to cycle to school everyday; let me take myself off to town as and when I wanted; and enjoy bike rides with friends in the school holidays to Windsor, Cookham, and Marlow. But there was a problem. Anyone who knows me well knows that it had good days and bad days, and to the dismay of my father, was constantly getting punctures. In some ways, this echoed the health of my dear Granddad, who would one day be a really pleasant gentleman, and the next… less so.
There’s one way the bicycle differed from Granddad: it gave me freedom, something that – since he developed Parkinson’s disease about seven years ago – was slowly taken away from him.
The various drugs and medicines that were prescribed to deal with it meant that the brilliant carers sadly sometimes saw a different person to the loving, gentle man that was Ann and Derek’s father, and grandfather to Matthew, Harriet, India, and me.
He was not a rich man but was always so generous, and paid for all of our music lessons because, he said, the concerts gave him so much enjoyment. I would cycle to see him on a weekly basis at his Altwood Drive house after drama classes at nearby Norden Farm – another of my activities that he covered the cost of.
To quote Shakespeare, Granddad was “full of wise saws and modern instances”. It’s because of him that I’ve never smoked. And wonderfully, he said that one should never let an unresolved argument go down under the sun, just in case – for whatever reason – you never saw that person again.
He used to want to live to the age of 100. He actually only celebrated his 84th birthday a few weeks ago (but that’s still five years longer than average life expectancy). Despite his Parkinson’s, on the whole he loved life. He was a trooper and battled his way through many occasions when it looked like his candle was going to go out.
But on that Wednesday night, his body decided it had simply had enough and mercifully, his passing was peaceful.
Mr Derek Hallworth (Leslie’s son)
It’s impossible to describe Dad in just one word! He was kind, loyal, hard working, fun, generous, patient and selfless. There really wasn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for his family. He also very rarely lost his temper, that is apart from the infamous Fondant Fancy incident of 1973 ! Ann and Derek were sitting at the kitchen table with their Mum and Dad, enjoying a fondant fancy and of course a cup of tea. There was one fondant fancy left. What followed was reminiscent of a scene from a spaghetti western…. Ann looking at the cake, Derek looking at Ann, Ann looking at Derek, Derek looking at the cake etc… Then the arguing started! After what seemed like 15 minutes but was probably only a couple, Dad very calmly raised his fist and in true dramatic style, proceeded to smash the poor, helpless, fondant fancy into crumbs! Needless to say, Ann and Derek didn’t argue over a cake again!!
One of the things Dad also enjoyed was swimming. In later life it was one of the things that he really would have liked to have done again, but because of his lack of mobility, it sadly made it impossible.
Which springs to mind another story about Dad… there was a swimming gala at Ann’s club in Slough. There were the usual races between all club members, but there was also a parents’ fancy dress race. Dad duly entered, and being a good sport he entered as a … submarine!
He made a four foot black cut-out of a submarine, strapped it to his back and swam the whole length underwater with one breath! Amazingly he came third and I should just add that the enthusiastic winner was a Dad dressed as a vicar!!
Leslie and, of course, Bernard were born in 1926, which turned out to be a vintage year. Not only were Leslie and Bernard born, but they were joined by some famous names as well, another Leslie – Leslie Nielson, Lionel Jeffries, Marilyn Monroe, John Schlesinger, Joan Sutherland, Tony Bennett, David Attenborough, Kenneth WIlliams and of course Queen Elizabeth II.
2010 has also been another vintage year for famous people passing away, Joan Sutherland, Lionel Jeffries, Leslie Nielson, Tony Curtis, Michael Foot, Sir John Dankworth and finally, my favourite, Norman Wisdom. And to quote the great comic actor himself, and I don’t mean Mr Grimsdale…
“I was born in very sorry circumstances. Both my parents were very sorry!”
“As you get older 3 things happen, the first is your memory goes, and… I can’t remember the other two!”
“Such is life, and life is such,
and after all it isn’t much.
First a cradle, then a hearse.
It might have been better, but it could have been worse.”
Miss Harriet Burdett (Leslie’s granddaughter)
When Matthew and I were both young, we would go for “sleepovers” at Nanna and Granddad’s. Nanna thought this was a great idea, but I’m not sure Granddad agreed. We would stay up “past our bedtime” watching Noel’s House Party, eating pink wafer biscuits in their bed the next morning, and making “Sunny D” by crushing up tangerines and adding copious amounts of sugar. Granddad was very accepting and embracing of our childhood ways but there was just one game that would drive him round the bend… KerPlunk! As the marbles would crash to the floor, he would subtly increase the television volume until it was so loud, we resorted to another room.
However, Granddad is the only grandparent who shared my final stages of growing up with me. He was always extremely interested in what I was up to and took great pleasure in all my achievements. To this end, he even became quite a celebrity featuring in Maidenhead Advertiser articles and on BBC Choir of the Year footage as “a dedicated granddad”. And that he was. When we were young, Granddad would patiently listen to us sawing away at our instruments, however, as we improved (thanks to both Nanna and his support), he would actually enjoy the mini impromptu concerts on Sunday evenings. I used to really enjoy seeing the pride (often accompanied by tears) on his face when I would play a solo in a concert or play for an hour or so at Gardener House. He used to always tell me “Your Nanna would be very proud of you.”
I am sad he is gone (in body) and it will be a big change for us all. There will be an empty space at the Sunday evening dinner table for a long time. However, I know his caring, gentle, selfless personality will live on through his family and friends and hope everyone can learn something from his loving ways.
To this end, Nanna and Granddad, I dedicate the final piece to you, for all that you taught me. Thank you.
(A CD recording was then played of Harriet playing her clarinet – which Leslie used to love hearing – accompanied by her friend Miss Alison Hopper. The coffin was then escorted and buried at Oakley Green Cemetery.)