Life with My Father: A Nostalgic Look at Growing Up in a Working Class Family in North West England
Dad came from a very large family
I have so many fond memories of my late father that it's difficult to know where to begin.
In particular, I recall my own childhood being a very happy time, growing up in a seaside resort on the North West coast of England, UK, with a loving family and all my pets.
Although we were never well off and I would say we were a working class family, I never wanted for anything and was very lucky that I had such a wonderful start in life.
For my dad, it was a very different start in life. Born in 1929 in Bermondsey, which was one of the poorer boroughs of London at the time, he was one of 13 brothers and sisters.
Their parents were George Charles Evans and Alice Harriet Evans (nee Spilling).
Dad had a twin brother, Leonard, six sisters and five other brothers. Dad and Leonard were the second youngest children.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when dad was ten years old, he was one of hundreds of evacuees from the capital who were sent to various locations across the UK to keep them safe from the air raids.
Dad was sent to stay at the seaside.
It must have made a great impression on him, as he ended up living in a coastal resort for all his adult life.
In fact, many of his family moved to Lancashire, where he met and married my mum in the 1950s.
Mum and dad met at work - mum worked in the office and dad in the factory. She used to pay his wages out every week and romance blossomed which led to their getting married.
By the time I came along, my older brother was already 14 years old and dad's mum was very elderly. In fact, with dad being one of the youngest siblings in his family, I recall his oldest sister, Rose, was actually the same age as my own maternal grandma! There was a 20-year age span among my dad's brothers and sisters.
Because of this, unfortunately I have no memories of my paternal grandfather and only vague memories of my paternal grandma. I am told my Grandad Evans died in the mid-1950s, at the age of 69, before I was born.
I recall my Grandma Evans was a tiny woman, not even 5ft tall, who lived around the corner from mum and dad. She was very smartly dressed and always wore a long coat and hat when she went out.
I recall sitting in my pram in her hall when mum had taken me to visit her.
Mum always said what a hard-working woman she was and how difficult it was for ordinary working class families to bring up 13 children in the 1930s, before the days of the welfare state.
With the large age gap between all the children, this meant the older ones were earning a living and helping support the younger ones, as many started work at the age of 14 years in those days.
Mystery surrounds dad's family tree
I was fascinated by mum's tales of how I was apparently descended from the French aristocracy! I don't know whether it is true or not, but it has interested me to this day.
Dad's older sisters told my mum that their grandfather was the illicit love-child of a doomed relationship between a high-ranking French nobleman and a young girl of a much lower social rank in the 1800s.
Their romance and his existence would have caused a national scandal, so after he was born, he was secretly whisked away to London, where he was adopted and brought up by an ordinary working class family. No-one knew the identity of the nobleman, but they were sure it was true.
Even dad's mum didn't know the details and it would be impossible to find out now, I would imagine, too many years having passed and the cloak of secrecy surrounding the whole incident.
What ever the family history, by the 1950s, many of the siblings had moved to Blackpool, although some of the older brothers remained in London, where they already had family of their own.
Those living in Blackpool included my dad's sisters Ivy, Alice, Josie, Olive and Eileen.
All the siblings remained very close
My mum, who was one of two children, the other being my uncle Ken, suddenly found herself surrounded by a ready-made family of sister-in-laws, although she often said they were very different from her, having grown up in London. They wore the latest fashions, dyed their hair and wore make-up.
In the 1960s, they had the latest "beehive" hairstyles, dyed black or bleached blonde, with "winkle-picker" shoes with spiky heels and lots of black eyeliner. They were always impeccably turned out in the latest fashions.
My mum, who came from a small area of Leeds, Yorkshire, was from a different world.
My maternal grandma had never worn make-up and seemed to prefer "sensible" clothes and shoes, although she was always very well-presented and smart. I don't recall ever seeing grandma wearing even a little lipstick.
So I think in the beginning, mum was a little overwhelmed by all dad's sisters. Going out with my dad meant becoming part of the whole Evans "clan".
However, dad courted and romanced her and they fell in love despite their different backgrounds. My mum was very petite - just under 5ft tall - and used to wear huge high-heeled stilletos. She was still smaller than my dad.
In their youth, strolling down the seafront, they were sometimes mistaken for the husband and wife singers and entertainers, Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, famous in the 1950s and '60s! Looking back at the old photographs now, I can see the resemblance.
Mum and dad thought it was hilarious!
My dad remained very close to his brothers and sisters and throughout his life, he would visit those sisters who lived locally most days. He would also maintain their gardens for them, as he was a keen amateur gardener and loved being outdoors.
Dad learned to drive in the Army
Mum recalled how, in his youth, dad completed his National Service, as all young men were required to do in those days.
It was a constant source of pain to mum that dad had learned to drive in the Army, as she always said he drove his car like he was driving a tank!
In fact, she hated driving with him ... and her fears appeared justified when, before they were married, they were involved in a very serious accident in dad's Morris Minor, when he hit a kerb and the car overturned, rolling over several times.
Dad escaped unscathed, but mum was quite badly injured.
Mum recalled waking up in hospital and feeling pain in her head. She asked for a mirror and perhaps foolishly, a nurse passed her one - as the shock almost caused mum to feint when she saw her face.
The impact of the accident had split her head open and she had a huge cut which went across her brow near her hairline. It had been deep and required many stitches, so the surgeon had shaved her hair at the front to properly treat the wound. So being partially bald, with stitches snaking across her forehead and a badly swollen face came as a terrible shock to mum!
She has never got over the accident psychologically - even though it was about half a century ago - and to this day is a nervous wreck when a passenger in a car. Dad tried to teach mum to drive when she was in her 40s, thinking that if she was a driver herself, she would lose her fear of being on the road.
But mum never did learn to drive and to this day puts her hands over her eyes when we are on the motorway, with little gasps and squeaks of panic if she sees any vehicles near us (particularly lorries) as she "brakes" the imaginary brakes at her feet as I am slowing down!
Dad always drove carefully after his accident
Following the one serious accident, my dad had a relatively safe lifetime of driving and as far as I can remember had only one other accident, when his car was hit by a speeding motorbike.
He did a lot of driving in his lifetime, in particular he used to do deliveries in his spare time for Ardron's hardware store. The owner was his niece Carole's husband, Pete Ardron, who had his shop just over the road from our house in my youth. On a Saturday, dad would drive the transit van all over Lancashire, dropping off items for customers. I went with him on several occasions in the summer and enjoyed the day out.
My grandad - mum's father - still had his own upholstery business, Trigg and Oldfield, in Ossett, Yorkshire, which he had run since he was a young man in his 20s. He used to drive over to Blackpool from Yorkshire many times, but as he grew older, the drive became too much for him, so he would drive half way, to Gisburn, where he would leave the works van on a pub carpark and dad would meet him there and drive him back to Blackpool.
I recall the family waiting with great excitement for them to arrive back. Grandad appreciated the lift and it was only mum who remained terrified of dad's driving for the 40 years after their accident!
However, there was one occurrence when dad decided to drive with a broken ankle, which caused my mum no end of worry.
An accident led to dad's leg being in plaster
On a Friday night, dad sometimes went to a club called The Lemon Tree with his friends from his youth. It was on the seafront and the weather could be wild at times.
On this particular night, there had been storms and high tide. Dad always drove to the club, as he only had one beer while there. When he left, he saw the waves had burst over the sea wall and flooded the promenade. He could see his car about a hundred yards away, but there was sea water 2ft deep separating him from it.
He decided to try and walk on top of a low wall to reach his car without getting wet. Unfortunately, he slipped and fell off the wall. He thought he had sprained his ankle, hobbled back to his car and drove home. But the next day, his ankle was swollen like a balloon and he had to go to hospital.
He arrived home with his leg in plaster up to the knee, as it was quite a bad break.
However, after only a few days convalescing, he was so bored that he decided to see if he could drive. It was his left ankle which was broken - the foot which operated the clutch - and he devised a way of driving despite the plaster cast on his leg. I recall he went out in the car several times in this condition! Mum was so mad at him. But he insisted he was okay and he didn't have any problems, carrying on driving until the pot was removed.
Needless to say, perhaps rather sensibly, mum refused to travel in the car with him when he had the plaster cast on his leg.
I was not allowed to drive with him either.
I imagine if the police had pulled him over, he may have been in trouble!
Dad learned joinery at night classes to make furniture
In the early years of their marriage, when my brother was a child, but before I came along, dad attended night classes at the local college to learn joinery and woodworking.
He obviously did really well, as most of the furniture when they moved into the house where I grew up was made by my dad.
I remember he made all the wardrobes and dressing tables in every bedroom, thus saving them vast amounts of money. The furniture all looked very professional and was in matching wood, beautifully varnished.
I recall I loved my wardrobe when I was young, as it was huge, with a long rail for all my clothes; shelves underneath for my shoes; more shelves at one side for my cosmetics; four drawers for my underwear and nightclothes and a full-length mirror attached to the door.
I had the wardrobe and it was in daily use up until seven years ago, when I moved house. I would have brought it with me then, had it not been jammed in a room. Dad had dismantled it to get it up the narrow staircase and into the bedroom at my old house. He then put it all back together again.
Sadly, he had passed away some time afterwards and when I moved house again in 2007, I was sad that I couldn't take my wardrobe with me, as none of us knew how to dismantle it and it was stuck in the bedroom.
Dad also made the book case and book shelves, the glass-fronted cabinet in the dining room where mum displayed her favourite ornaments and even an authentic bar, with glass shelves going up the wall for the spirits and miniature bottles.
He also made two oak and glass coffee tables, one circular and the other oval, which were in use for many years.
The bar was in use for family parties
I recall the bar that dad made came in very useful for many years, as every Christmas, the clan would hold a party (a good old-fashioned "knees-up", as the Londoners called it) and dad enjoyed playing barman and serving all his family when it was our turn to host the party.
He also enjoyed making home-brew for many years, making a variety of beers and wine. In particular, he made delicious strawberry wine, the like of which I have never tasted again since.
Years later, when I was in my teens, dad still made his home-brew and had his bar and would give my friends and me a glass of his strawberry wine each when they came over to visit. It became legendary among my friends and we still remember it to this day!
New Year always a time of great celebration
In the early 1970s, the New Year's Eve parties were always hosted by dad's sister, my Auntie Ivy, a widow, who lived about ten minutes from us. They were always very lavish parties and members of the family came from London and other parts of the UK to see their relatives and enjoy the huge get-together, which always went on until the wee small hours.
Auntie Ivy and her daughter, Carole, used to provide a huge buffet, spread over several tables and including every kind of food you could possible imagine, with savoury snacks, sandwiches, pies, quiches, vol-au-vents, crisps and nuts standing alongside a huge selection of desserts - everything from fresh cream gateaux and trifles to cakes, buns and fruit-filled meringues.
In those days, there was just a record player and seven-inch vinyl singles, or 12-inch albums, to play, so all the party records were brought out and everyone would be dancing and singing along.
The evening would start out with lively festive music and the pop songs of the day, then we would do dances such as the Hokey Cokey and the Conga - and of course Auld Lang Syne at midnight - followed by slower songs as the hour got late, including nostalgic wartime songs, when everyone would become reflective and often teary-eyed.
I remember I once wreaked havoc during the Conga when I tripped over my dress - as we kids loved to dress up and wear ankle-length party dresses. I fell flat on my face and everyone behind me, including my dad, fell into me and we went down like dominoes, nobody able to stop. I was so embarrassed afterwards I ran off upstairs! I was only 11 years old and to fall flat on my face at a family party, causing a pile-up behind me, is an experience I have never forgotten!
Dad would party into the night at New Year
Grandma, my mum's mother, seldom went to the family party on New Year's Eve. She said it was too noisy and rowdy for her, preferring to stay at home and watch the festive television with her favourite tipple, a glass of Warnink's Avocaat. She only drank at Christmas and New Year.
I was allowed a snowball at Christmas - advocaat and lemonade - which was a great treat for me.
I remember mum would leave the party soon after midnight to take me home, as I was only 10 or 11 when I first went to the family get-togethers and it would finish much too late for me. Mum didn't mind the early departure, as it would get much noisier after midnight and she was never a big drinker. Nor was dad really - he only ever drank at Christmas and New Year.
The rest of the year, he went out only on a Friday night with his best mates from his youth, Reg, Geoff and Alan (known as 'Lofty' because he was about 6ft 4ins tall). Dad would have only a couple of bottles of 'mild' or Double Diamond on a Friday night and wasn't a drinker at all, although at Christmas he would have the odd glass of whiskey.
Mum only ever had one Cinzano and lemonade and then stuck to soft drinks - she recalled the first time she had an alcoholic drink, when she and dad were courting, it went straight to her head and she felt tipsy! She didn't like the feeling and she has always preferred fruit juice.
Family parties were legendary
I recall at the end of the night, I would go upstairs with mum to my Aunty Ivy's bedroom, where everyone's coats were piled up on the bed, to find our coats before getting a taxi home.
Most of the family members who had come over from London would be staying at various relatives' houses, although some booked into seafront hotels.
I always felt quite sad to be leaving the party, as I knew I wouldn't see some of my relatives for another year, although I would always be tired out after all the eating and dancing!
Dad would come home sometimes as late as 3am, although he must have been very quiet coming in, as he never woke me. Mum would jokingly call him a "dirty stop-out" the next day and would tease him for coming in so late! My dad was always up bright and early on New Year's Day and I don't think he ever suffered from a hang-over or any ill-effects from his partying the night before!
The New Year's Eve family parties were legendary and I will never forget them, although sadly, as my dad's generation passed away, the younger generations of my family have not carried on the tradition and I seldom keep in touch with any of my wider family now. We are spaced out all over the country and abroad, with dad's twin brother having emigrated to Australia.
Dad could repair anything when I was a kid!
One of my most vivid memories of dad was how, if something was broken, he could fix it, no matter what it was.
Old toys were brought back to life, old dolls had their legs fixed on - he even made me a swing, slide and see-saw in the back garden! I loved playing on them in the summer and often had friends over to enjoy our mini-playground at home.
I used to collect Barbie and Sindy dolls in the 1970s - I had hundreds of them - and my favourite was a Barbie with "growing" hair and jointed legs so she could sit down and bend her knees. One day, her leg fell off. I was upset, as I was never rough with my toys. When I came home from school, dad had repaired my doll by drilling a metal pin of some kind through her hard plastic body and top of the leg, so she was as good as new, not only with the leg fixed on again, but still as mobile as before. I was thrilled.
I knew my dad could do absolutely anything - furniture-making, plumbing, concreting the front garden, electrical repairs, fixing the car, putting in a new bathroom suite - I wonder today how he had so many skills.
I don't know if he was self-taught, but he really was a whizz at everything practical.
He had built his own garden shed, which was massive and - as mum often described it - "full of junk". I think it was his retreat to potter in the shed and maintain the back garden. He loved being outdoors.
I remember we never had to employ tradesmen to do any work around the house and garden, as dad was able to do everything himself.
I didn't realise how lucky we were at the time to have such a multi-skilled father.
Dad grew his own fruit and vegetables
In later years, dad erected a greenhouse on the patio in the back garden, where he started growing tomatoes every year. He was very green-fingered, so it was no surprise that they were the best tomatoes we had ever tasted.
I can still remember the smell in the greenhouse on a hot day, when I sometimes went in to help him water the "growbags" that were full of thriving tomato plants. It amazed me that they started life as tiny three-inch high "twigs", for want of a better word, in little plant pots. Then, in no time at all, they had grown like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk, with careful nurturing, watering and plant feed each day, until they were as high as the greenhouse ceiling and curling over the roof.
We literally had hundreds of tomatoes, but we never tired of them. The green ones were made into chutney and nothing ever went to waste.
Dad also tried his hand at growing marrows, strawberries, potatoes and other vegetables, but his tomatoes were always our favourites.
In fact, after dad's death, mum, who was elderly by this time, kept his greenhouse going right up until moving house and grew many tomatoes herself, which she gave to friends and neighbours, as dad had done.
When I was a child, we always spent our annual family holiday at Butlins holiday camp, in Pwllheli, Wales. I recall years later, watching the television series, Hi De Hi, a nostalgic comedy about holiday camps, it really did ring true to life and made me think of my own childhood holidays.
Butlins had been a tradition for many years and when my brother was a child, before I was born, the family used to have the same annual vacation to the holiday camp.
We always seemed to be blessed with good weather and there were lots of fun activities for kids, from the organized holiday camp competitions, such as fancy dress and talent shows, to a funfair and of course the beach.
Grandma always came on holiday with us and when I was little, we used to travel there by train. Arriving back at Blackpool's central station with our suitcases, we would then jump on a bus home, as our house was on a main bus route from the town centre.
Dad had not had another car since writing off the Morris Minor in the accident I mentioned earlier. In fact, he did not get another car until I was 11 years old and he bought a Morris Marina, which he loved.
When I was about 13 or 14, my mum's Auntie Madge bought a static caravan that would sleep eight people in Rhyll, North Wales, so we began taking holidays there. It was very luxurious and we always had fun. But I always had a soft spot for Butlins.
I also remember that we always had to "bring our rubbish home with us" if we couldn't find a bin! So many a time, we would alight from the train with bags of empty crisp packets, chocolate wrappers and sandwich bags - and if we couldn't see a bin at the station, the rubbish would be brought all the way home with us and binned there!
We never left any mess behind us - dad and mum would not have us being "litter louts".
Dad always worked hard
In his younger days, dad had been a delivery driver for a bakery, after which he worked at English Electric, in Preston, an aircraft manufacturer, about half an hour's drive away. He would get a lift to and from work with some of his co-workers and used to set off very early in the morning.
He also worked at Leyland Motors, in the bus and truck manufacturing division, for many years. I recall there was a discount scheme for employees to buy cars more cheaply and it was here that dad bought his Morris Marina, which he cherished.
His last employer before his retirement was the aircraft manufacturer British Aerospace, at Warton, Lancashire, where his job as a fitter involved his cycling from hangar to hangar at the very large site. He was always very fit.
In the evening, after his dinner, he would then go out again to a second job, when he helped deliver furniture with his long-time friend Reg Ormond, who owned his own shop, Ormond's Furnishings, quite near our house.
Dad was often out working with Reg until about 8pm and had to be up for work again at BAe at 5.45am every morning. But he never seemed tired and at weekends was always out gardening too!
Mum said he "never stopped", but dad hated being inactive and couldn't sit still for too long!
Dad the trades unionist
While at work, dad was a staunch believer in workers' rights and became actively involved in the AUEW (the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers) where he became the local branch secretary.
This involved his going to monthly meetings, speaking and doing some administration work.
He was also a blood donor and was honoured at a ceremony by the National Blood Service for giving 50 pints of blood during his adult life. He would go and give blood in his lunch break at work when the mobile unit arrived and would then be back at work within the hour.
I still have the commemorative badge and lapel pin that he was given.
Dad the chef
As dad grew older, he never slowed down at all and was still always buzzing about.
My grandma used to joke he had "ants in his pants" because he couldn't sit still!
Grandma had baked and cooked a lot in her younger days, but as she reached 80, she slowed down and with arthritis in her knees and fingers, she couldn't do as much.
Dad decided to try out cooking - and I remember for some time, he was often found in the kitchen, baking cakes and biscuits!
He was actually very good at this and his cakes were very light and fluffy!
I did come to realise that dad could turn his hand to absolutely anything!
Efforts to teach me to drive were not a success
One thing at which dad did not excel, however, was as a driving instructor.
He was trusting enough to let me drive his car as soon as I turned 17, when I applied for my provisional driving licence. Dad thought he could teach me to drive, as he was very patient. But my driving tried even his patience as I continually let the clutch up too quickly, causing the car to lurch and bounce forward.
Then I would stall in the middle of the road and on one occasion, I stalled while doing a right turn in rush hour, holding up all the traffic near a school and the supermarket. I couldn't get going again, car horns were beeped at us and suddenly dad was hopping out of the passenger seat, telling me to get out and that he was taking over!
That was the last time he gave me a lesson and I had a professional instructor after this.
Amazingly, I passed first time and was allowed to take dad's car out for a spin round the block. This turned out to be a big mistake. I recall dad had just arrived home and was sitting in his friend's van, parked outside our house. I came down the street pretty slowly and waving to them. I had seen dad turn the car into our drive countless times and decided to show off by swinging off the road and up the drive, still waving.
Sadly, I misjudged the turn and lost control, smashing the front wing (driver's side) into the solid brick gatepost, not only almost knocking the wing off altogether, but also knocking off the mirror and badly denting the driver's door and even the back door, as I didn't stop in my panic and continued scraping past the post. Luckily, dad was easy-going and didn't shout at me. He never did his entire life.
On another occasion, dad had lent me the car to drive to a city about 40 miles away to see a band. Driving back in the early hours of the morning - and just five minutes from home - I lost control on a bend, as it was raining heavily and the roads were wet. I skidded, bounced over a traffic island and came to a halt actually stuck there.
I went to a nearby phone box to ring home (as there were no mobile phones back then) and about ten minutes later, poor dad came trudging round the corner wearing his flat cap, work trousers and waterproof jacket, rainwater running in rivulets off his glasses and carrying a bag of tools, including spanners, hammer and various other items. It was lucky he hadn't been stopped by the police, or they would have thought he was equipped for a burglary!
I had badly damaged the suspension on the car with the impact, but dad somehow managed to hammer and bang at it, unjammed the wheels from the traffic island and bollard and drove us home. He barely spoke one word and I sat there feeling relieved that dad had come out to save me, but terrible that I had damaged his car.
Amazingly, he still trusted me to drive his car after this, but soon afterwards bought me my first car, which I recall was a Ford Escort estate and cost only £75 from a used car dealer!
A surprise party for all the family
As dad approached his 60th birthday, the family decided to throw a surprise party for him at Blackpool Cricket Club - and the major surprise was that his twin brother Leonard was flying over with his wife, Vivienne, from Australia for the do!
Dad had not seen him since he emigrated many years earlier and I have no idea how we managed to keep it quiet that there was to be a party and that Leonard was to attend!
But the secret was kept under wraps and dad was totally overwhelmed on the night when he saw his twin again and many other family members, who had come over especially from London and all over the UK.
It was a wonderful party and one of the last great gatherings of the Evans clan.
By this time, dad's elder sister, my Auntie Ivy, had passed away and our annual New Year's Eve parties had become a thing of the past.
It really did seem to be the older generation of the family who had made sure we all kept in touch and saw each other at least once a year. It is sad to think this is the case, but it's true.
Dad and his twin's birthday party was the special exception rather than the rule at that time.
Even after retirement dad couldn't sit still!
Dad retired from British Aerospace when he was 64, but of course was soon bored with retirement.
He had always enjoyed gardening, maintaining the family's gardens, but after his retirement, he also began gardening for neighbours and mainly elderly people. He enjoyed it so much and it kept him young.
When I moved into my own house, he would look after my back garden, which was 80ft long with a lawn and plenty of mature trees and bushes. It was quite overgrown when I moved in, but he soon had it looking beautiful and it was a pleasure to sit out there in the summer.
He was always "helped" by my rescue dog, Buster, who liked nothing better than to run through a pile of leaves that dad had just raked into a corner. Buster's other speciality was thundering through the flower beds, snapping buds off here and there and generally wreaking havoc.
Dad always laughed at his antics, even though my dog was more of a hindrance than a help!
One day, mum received a call to say that dad had been taken to the accident and emergency department of the local hospital after a fall while gardening at an elderly lady's house.
She rushed down in a panic, not really knowing what to expect.
Dad had suffered several injuries
Arriving at the waiting room, mum spotted dad on a stretcher and said the first thing she noticed was the fact his famous tweed flat cap was still firmly on his head. This was despite his having fallen 20ft out of a tree while pruning its branches and leaning over too far.
After the accident, dad, not realizing how badly he was injured, hobbled to his car and tried to drive to hospital, when he discovered he couldn't move one arm at all. He went to the householder's door and she called an ambulance.
He had broken his leg and his arm and the break in his arm was so bad, he required an immediate operation and a steel pin to be inserted.
He came home in a wheelchair the following day. My goodness, he was a terrible patient! He totally detested being housebound and was very impatient. He couldn't wait for his plaster casts to be removed and he spent a long time walking around a lot to strengthen his leg, which had also been badly broken.
Miraculously, he did not suffer any long-term damage or ill effects, even though he was about 67 by this time. He continued gardening for the rest of his life.
Surprise 70th birthday party for dad
As dad's 70th birthday approached in July 1999, we wanted to do something special for him, so mum organised a surprise party at a local restaurant called the Old Coach House.
We normally went out for a meal on a Sunday at a number of local restaurants, rotating them from week to week, so dad did not think it unusual when we set out for what he thought was going to be a quiet dinner with mum, me and mum's friend, Beryl, a widow, who always accompanied us for our Sunday dinner.
But little did he know we had booked a party at the Coach House and earlier had taken down a special birthday cake that mum and I had baked and decorated, with a little figure of a gardener wearing a flat cap sitting on a bench on top!
He also had no idea that his brothers and sisters, their children and their grandchildren were also going to be there!
Dad cried tears of joy
When we arrived at the Coach House, we walked in trying not to appear too excited - but as soon as we went through the door and all the family popped out, shouting, "Surprise!" dad was so thrilled and overwhelmed that his eyes filled up with tears.
He was amazed that all this had been going on without his knowledge and didn't know how we had managed to keep it secret for so long.
The party was a huge success and a very emotional occasion, as many of the relatives had not seen each other in a long time and there was much laughter and reminiscing.
The event has many memories, both happy and poignant, for me, as it was the last time dad and his surviving siblings were all together, although unfortunately, his twin brother, Leonard, had been unable to fly over from Australia to join them.
After a lovely meal, followed by coffee outside, as it was a beautiful July day, everyone came back to our house, where mum had prepared a buffet tea.
It was a wonderful and special occasion which I will never forget.
My dad will never be forgotten
Sadly, this was to be the last major gathering of the Evans clan.
My dad had suffered from angina for about two years, going for regular check-ups at the hospital and having medication to keep it under control. He had been advised by the medical specialist that his risk of a heart attack was zero.
Unfortunately, this proved wrong and only four months after the emotional 70th birthday party, my dad died in November 1999 of a sudden and totally unexpected heart attack. It was only four days after mum and dad celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary.
Despite paramedics being on the scene quickly and rushing dad to hospital, he had gone, leaving a gaping hole in our life that we will never get over.
He was a truly great man and father and I miss him still. I could never imagine life without him and can still hear his voice in my mind as if I just saw him yesterday.
It is good to sit down and write about the fun things that happened in his lifetime and I hope readers have enjoyed sharing this big part of my life.