Two family revelations came to my attention recently – both courtesy of my dad, and both concerning my mother’s family.
‘Did you know,’ my dad said, over a family meal at Easter, ‘your granddad could have had an OBE.’
We all stopped eating, drinking, chatting, and stared at him. ‘Which one?’ I asked.
‘Arthur.’ He replied, meaning my mum’s father.
‘What do you mean could have?’ I asked, dreams of reflected glory fading rapidly.
The background to the story is this: in the late fifties or early sixties Arthur was a big noise in the local Labour movement. Among other things he was: the regional convenor for the engineering union, friends with Hugh Gaitskell the Leeds MP who became leader of the Labour Party. So, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could have been nominated for an OBE.
The story was – and I’ve no means of checking this as Arthur is long gone and mum’s no longer around either – the phone rang one day, Arthur answered and was told by the caller, who introduced himself, that he was being nominated for an OBE, and would he accept? Arthur thinking he was having his leg pulled by his mates declined in no uncertain terms. Gradually, as time passed, and there were no chuckles, or sly glances, he came to the conclusion that it had been a genuine call and he’d turned down the chance of becoming an OBE.
The other revelation concerned my mum’s brother, Alwyn. In his teenage years he was both a keen musician, and an excellent footballer. Eventually he had to choose, and he chose the trumpet.
Now, I’ve heard Alwyn play the trumpet and he was very good. He had his own band for many years playing on the northern club circuit, and but for the odd bit of luck here and there, he could have been right up there at the top. He was a contestant on Opportunity Knocks in the 70s, okay, didn’t win, but showbands weren’t that big at the time.
But, what I didn’t know until recently, was that he was invited for trials with Leeds United – and turned them down!
I was incredulous. When I was at school, to have laid claim to an uncle who’d played for Leeds would have had me right up there at the top of the list for everything imaginable.
I’m just glad I didn’t know at the time.