Thursday, 26 January 2012

In memoriam: Laurence William Lumsden

Dad passed away on January 18th. He'd been fading away for a long time, since his stroke 14 years ago and accelerated recently by Alzheimer's, until only his smile was left to us. I'd like to remember him now as he used to be.

He worked for almost 20 years in the office of Bourke's Funeral Directors, quietly organizing in the background just as Alan Harmon and his staff at Bourke's did for us last Tuesday. He didn't like show or ostentation at any time so his own funeral was the low-key event he would have liked, with family and friends and some old hymns we all remembered from our childhoods.

When I was a teenager, his job at the funeral directors was a bit embarrassing to me  - I had to find another explanation for my friends as to why my Dad sometimes come home for his lunch in a mourning car. I mumbled something about "my Dad is in to vintage cars" and somehow they all accepted it. Dad could go on at length about the smooth power of the 3 litre straight-six engines but might never get around to clarifying that he was talking about a hearse.

Dad's principal mode of transport was always his bicycle - or rather his three bicycles including his beloved custom-made Claud Butler. He always had the three ready in case of a puncture or a mechanical problem; for Dad the daily dash through Dublin was just a couple of degrees removed from a stage of the Tour de France, and he was sharp and fit on his bikes well into his late seventies. No doubt he had the Roche genes from his mother Mary Roche - Dad's first cousin and life-long friend, Larry Roche, is the father of Stephen Roche.

Before my sister Ita and I were born, Dad and Mam went everywhere on his motorbike, a Sunbeam S8. He was a real biking enthusiast and Mam loved it too - but the Sunbeam was parked in the shed for a decade in favour of dull elderly cars that provided transport for his young family. I told myself as a youngster I'd never give up biking like that, but my Honda VFR is now gathering dust in a shed for the same reason. Like father, like son. When he took up biking again in the late 1970's his enthusiasm was undimmed - I recall hanging on for dear life when he took delivery of his Suzuki GT250A and gave it a lash up the Naas dual-carriageway.

Dad was always rather good at saying a few words, invariably well prepared, and in several languages: his Connemara accented Irish and his Grand Canal accented French. My sister's wedding is the last time I remember him performing, to a rousing cheer from the Gaelgoir's present.

He had some other vocabulary too from his 20 years as a book-keeper in the Dublin fish market. He kept that for special occasions, like the incident of the broken outboard motor, my Dad pulling our little boat from the canal bank like a dray horse, and the ripe cow pat he stepped in. Dad used his full fish market vocabulary as Ita and I laughed 'til we cried. That boat was his great hobby: painting, repairing and fiddling with it as much as using it.

Dad was a founder member, treasurer and manager of Sundrive Credit Union. It was set up in the late 1960's to counter the problem of exploitative money-lenders preying on the people of Crumlin and he was justly proud of its success. He introduced Ita and I to responsible borrowing: I remember at 11 years old filling the loan application form and solemnly meeting the new manager in order to borrow £9 for a watch, committing 50p each week to my loan repayment.

Dad is the last of the four Lumsden boys to pass away, after Jack, Vincent and Billy. You could imagine the 4 of them together now, Jack telling a story turning the air blue, Dad and Billy listening seriously, Vincent cracking jokes. We, their kids, can be happy that each of the Lumsden's married a strong, not to say feisty, woman, adding some longevity to the Lumsden DNA. Fran and my Mam are still with us today, still strong and, eh, feisty.

Really the last few years of my Dad's life have been all around the care he got from my Mam. Frankly I don't know how she did it, he needed round the clock help and he was blessed she has so much energy and patience. So as my Dad goes to his rest now, Mam is getting some well deserved rest too.

Laurence William Lumsden, my Dad Larry, was born  on January 11th 1928 and died on January 18th 2012. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal.

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