Grandfather

John Frederick Hind, 22 October 1925 – 28 October 2016; this is the text of the speech I gave at his funeral, 4 November 2016.

Hi, thanks for joining us today as we remember a life that Grandad often reflected on with a contented sigh and the much-repeated phrase – “Happy Days!”.

Growing up separated by distance from our extended family, we only spent a small proportion of time with Grandad & Grandma. But frequent phone calls & letters and the occasional visit have given many lasting memories. Family was very important to Grandad and before leaving England he often travelled some distance to ensure he saw his family regularly. Grandad & Grandma made three trips back to the UK, each involved extensive visiting of family & friends. Over my years living in the UK, I enjoyed getting to know Grandad’s extended family and hearing their fond memories of him. His niece Trish in particular has many of these: she was flower girl at Grandad & Grandma’s wedding; she remembers her first ride on the Tube being with Grandad; visits to parks and bedtime stories. This hospitality continued when Trish first came to live in Australia.

Perhaps the earliest & strongest of my memories relate to Grandad’s mechanical abilities & his fantastic workshop – which was endlessly fascinating to a young child. The workshop was a treasure trove of interesting things and complicated machinery to my young eyes. After visiting the Powerhouse Museum, where Grandad worked when I was young, I began to appreciate his work more. Having Grandad later teach me to use his lathe & milling machine were highlights of our visits – both for me and for me. I was always impressed by Grandad’s ability to solve problems – whether they were complex mechanical ones that I didn’t really understand or simple solutions around the home. A large dose of pride in my grandfather developed when I discovered a collection of surgical instruments in London’s Hunterian Museum. Many of the instruments had been made by Down Bros, where Grandad had apprenticed and worked in the early part of his career. I was impressed by the intricacy & craftsmanship.

Another area where these practical skills were shown were in the ubiquitous vans that Grandad owned. They have been mentioned by all who’ve told me of their memories of Grandad. Zooming around Sydney perched high, with Grandad’s seeming sixth sense of traffic light timing was always exhilarating, if not a little alarming in later years. Forty years of vans were fitted with many Grandad-extras, such as: tables & beds in the rear, cupboards under seats, gas cookers and gas fridges. The Kombis in particular went on many a camping trip. Favourite destinations for the family were national parks and areas with caves. The largest trip was over the Western Plains to Adelaide, before returning via the coast and Melbourne. Such trips were often spoken of in our home, being fond memories of Mum. These trips always sounded adventurous and carried on lifelong passions Grandad developed in his teens. Grandad started Youth Hostelling in his teens as his horizons expanded by cycling in the UK & abroad. When Mum returned to Sydney from England, Grandad followed her into the Sydney Region of the YHA. A frequent attendee at association events, Grandad enjoyed weekend trips, water activities, work parties and even international folk dancing! Pittwater was a particularly special place to him. Grandad was a member of the State Council and became a Life Member of the YHA.

Apprenticed in a reserved occupation in London during WWII, cycling was Grandad’s greatest interest outside of work – partly because it enabled an affordable escape from the Blitz-ravaged city. His first holiday ever was aged seventeen, riding with friends to Land’s End. Later trips were even more ambitious. Four times Grandad and friends would leave London on Friday evening & ride through the night about 150 miles to Wales. Then Saturday was an eighty mile round trip to the Black Mountains before finally sleeping Saturday night. Then on Sunday it was back to London for work. Over six hundred kilometres in two days! It’s all the more incredible when one considers the roads and bikes they must have been on. Grandad also twice rode across to the south-west coast of Ireland to visit close cycling friends, the Applebys. Pleasingly this sense of adventure and the friendships has flowed through to successive generations – I can attribute one of my closest friendships back to Grandad and his adventures. I thought often of Grandad on my own little tour of Western Europe two years ago. It was particularly poignant for me crossing the Alps – Geoff having told me the day previous that I was riding over the same pass between Italy & Switzerland that Grandad had conquered sixty-odd years beforehand. Pleasingly some of our photos are remarkably similar. While not often involving bikes, my sister Adele’s adventurous spirit is even more pronounced.

So while we may not have spent large amounts of time with Grandad & Grandma, I’d like to think that of all the memories, the biggest influence Grandad has passed to us in our natures is that seed of seeking to explore adventurously, push ourselves, overcome the resulting obstacles & enjoy fantastic friendships along the way. I, for one, will be well pleased if I can look back as Grandad did at a fulfilling life, let out a contented sigh and mutter “Happy Days”.

Biking to go places, going places to bike.