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John Burgum - Lost Memories

by Doug Burgum

Published in Summer 2006, Autumn/Fall 2006 and winter 2007, this article appeared in Volumes 66, 67 and 68 of the BFHS Journal.

My Father, John Burgum (picture left), no longer knows who I am. His memories have all but faded. Luckily I sat down with him some nineteen years ago (1987) and recorded some of his early memories. Recently I found the tape and transcribed it. Here are those memories….

My name is John Burgum and I was born at No. 8 Dee Street, Poplar, London E14, on 9th September 1929. My only recollections of Dee Street are when there was a conflict between my mother, her parents and my father and his parents. One time in particular my father’s mother (Mary Garner Burgum) came over to have a fight with my mother (Rose Toulson Burgum).

She came up the stairs, as I remember, with hat pins in her hand and I stood there trying to protect my mother! At this time I was about the age of four. I remember my grandmother saying “I will scar your face for life”! In the meantime my father came home and the argument was stopped.

I went to the school called Dee Street School. After a short period of time being that I must have been around four or five years old, we then moved to a street that was a little further down the road, called Dunkeld Street. This again was in Poplar, London E14.

Times were very hard and my father worked for a building company called Caxton Floors, who did a lot of work for big properties in the West End of London. My father worked on the Savoy Hotel, the Regent’s Palace Hotel, and many other of the large hotels in the London area. When we lived in Dunkeld Street I can remember that his firm did have a contract at a place called Black Rock, which is just outside Brighton and as there was a lot of work to do, we went away for some weekends to stay down there at his lodgings.

My Nan (my mother’s mother) was a money lender and lived in Preston Road, which was in the Docks area of Poplar. Her name was Margaret Toulson. She had a strong cockney accent and she swore and she often used to sit in a rocking chair with jet black hair and plaits, rolled around to cover her ears. She always wore a black blouse, a black skirt down to her ankles and a black pinafore. Now, when she put her hand under the pinafore, we always knew she was going to give us our pocket money, when she would call us “crafty little b*ggers”. She used to say that was the only thing we went down there for on a Saturday.

I vividly remember my grandfather (Fred Burgum) when I was a child with his donkey and barrow going round the streets selling salt. (Picture below) It was block salt, which was cut, into lumps which in them days, people used to buy. They used to buy what they call a hearthstone; this was what people used to clean their steps outside their house. My father used to help by cutting up wood, binding it up with string into bundles. He sold flowers, pegs and the blue bag what women used to use for their washing.

I do remember that my grandfather, after he’d finished his work, sometimes went to the pub. He used to like his glass of beer and many’s the time he got drunk and they’ve carried him out and put him on the donkey and the donkey has found his own way home.

Coming through Poplar, E14, when the donkey got to the traffic lights, if they were at red, he would stop and wait for them to change to green. Going over the iron bridge between Poplar and Canning Town, the donkey would make his way into the centre and his wheel would get trapped in the tram lines. The only way to get the wheel out was for the tram to bump up the trap and push it over the top of the hill. The donkey could then break free from the tram lines further up.

When he got home, many’s the time the donkey would stop outside the house. My Gran would come out and hit my Grandfather, because he had spent the money that he was supposed to earn for her and the children. They would unload what they could and take it into one of the rooms, while the barrow was left outside. The donkey was taken through the passage and taken out into the back yard. This was where they stabled it.

There is another occasion my mother told me when she was courting my father and he invited her over to tea. She said yes, and went with one of my aunts (my aunt Nan). They walked passed the house and thought someone had been looking at them. When they looked back to where the curtain had moved they saw the donkey staring back at them! They went in, had a good laugh over it and Whit and Rose eventually got married and, of course, I came along.

My mother had let out clothes, bed linen, dress, coats, shoes and so forth, and they would then pay her thrupence, sixpence or a shilling a week until the debt was paid for and then they could buy more. My mother used to put this money away and she was a very hard saver. My grandfather, in the meantime, died of cancer of the tongue. This was put down to his smoking a pipe that did not belong to him and it scratched his mouth.

At the funeral, my Nan said “Alright Alf, within a year, I’ll be with you.” A year, to the day, when my Nanna said this, she died. She was buried with my grandfather. She left the sons and daughters £250 each. Whereas the rest of the family had parties, good booze-ups and spent their money, my mother kept hers and adding it to her savings, enabled her to buy the tenancy of a public house. As a tenant, you had to have enough money to cover fixtures and fittings and to place a bond.

We had lived in Dunkeld Street until about July or August 1939 when we moved into that public house, called the Five Bells and Bladebone. It was at 27 Three Colt Street, opposite Limehouse Church. We were there a matter of weeks when the Second World War broke out. After a short period of time, my brother Charles Burgum (Charlie) and I were sent to No 14 Newham Road, Truro, in Cornwall.

As my mother found out, when they came to visit us, we were treated very well and everything was nice. Mother (by this time earning money) used to send us small food parcels consisting of sweets and malt (which was to build us up) and sometimes money. When this was delivered to the house, the woman used to take it in and everything had to be divided between my brother, myself, and the other two girls. These were the daughters of Mr and Mrs Hawk.

Mr Hawk was a railway driver and Mrs Hawk was a housewife. Their eldest, a son, was a train driver as well. Sometimes my mother and father came down, or just my mother on her own. We were living in a nice front bedroom with single beds. The room was pleasant, looking over the river to the timber yard to the right with nice views, but to the left was the gas works, which wasn’t too bad a view. However as soon as my mother went back, we were then transferred back up into the attic where we had to sleep in a double bed, the son’s bed, and the son then had the nice room downstairs.

One day my mother came down on the spur of the moment, being depressed and missing us, and left Plymouth, coming across the Tamar Bridge, the train she was in was machine-gunned by a German bomber. She thought “Well, this is something, having the Germans so far down bombing us.” Being that she wasn’t announced, no one had expected her.

Mrs Hawk was out shopping and we saw my mother and ran to her. She asked to be taken home and then she then said she would come up to our bedroom. We took her up to our bedroom and, of course, she found out we were in the loft. She was very unhappy about this and had an argument with Mrs Hawk on her return.

In the meantime, just the week before, the Germans had dropped a bomb in Truro, which landed in a field, killing a sheep. They had a church service on and, being told about it, my mother said what hypocrites they were. She then thought - Well, her being machine-gunned on the way down, the Germans dropping a bomb there, plus us not being looked after as a family, we would take our chances together. So it was we were then taken back to the pub in London.

My father was an air raid warden (ARP) and on one occasion a bomb dropped in the church. There was a tree in the churchyard which, if you had three, maybe four people joining hands together, that would be the circumference of the tree. The bomb dropped on the side of the tree, blowing it right across the road and into the pub.”

The church yard opposite the Five Bells and Bladebone had been bombed. The cellar had been re-enforced by my father, with railway sleepers because of the bombing. That helped save us. I can think of a couple of things that happened there. (From Doug –The tree fell through the roof and into my father’s bedroom and across his bed. Luckily he had been down in the cellar with the rest of his family. He recalls seeing the sky through his bedroom ceiling and dozens of dead birds lying on his bedroom floor, killed while nesting in the tree).

I was allowed to go into the bar and pick up glasses and take them to the counter. Once there were two Norwegians who were swearing and trying to cause trouble. When they swore at my mother, some the locals intervened and asked the Norwegians to leave. When they refused to do so, the locals took them outside and marched them up to the end of the road (to the Commercial Road).

One man was tied to a Belisha Beacon with his belt. This was a black and white striped lamp post, with a bright orange globe on top marking a road crossing. The second man was attached to a street light, lit by gas. First his jacket was threaded through the cross bar. He was then raised high above the ground, suspended by his jacket and left hanging by the road side. This was the punishment for swearing at the landlady, my mother.
(Picture - Five Bells and Bladebone Public House)

Sometimes the police would call round, but generally we would be tipped off first. We would have holes dug in the garden, where we would hide things such as eggs, which were rationed. My mother traded these on the black market.

I also recall seeing a Dray, which is two Shire horses pulling a cart, which delivered the beer, making unscheduled stops at the pub. A barrel would be “lost” and rolled down into the cellar by the draymen at a time when stocks were short. Money would change hands, but as the draymen would often drink at the pub, it proved to be doubly good business.

After the bomb damage to the Five Bells and Bladebone Public House, we moved to the Rathbone Arms, at 27 Rathbone Street, Canning Town. It stood in Rathbone Street, by the market. (Picture right - A pub outing outside the Rathbone Arms. William Rolston, husband of my father's aunt Mabel, is in the 2nd row back, 3rd from the right).

My grandfather, Fred, worked there as a “pot man” picking up the glasses and sweeping up after closing. He was retired, but the job enabled him to have a drop of beer and smoke his half ounce of Nut Brown, which he used to smoke in a clay pipe. My grandparents were living in No. 4 Malmesbury Road at this time.

Almost opposite the pub, at 36 Rathbone Street, Canning Town was a shop, an old café called Jack Williams. The front was a café, but the back was an old ice cream factory. Always making money and looking to make more, my parents bought the café.

They would make ice cream out the back and sell it out the front, while in the café they would do tea and toast in the morning for the workers going through to the dock area. For the rest of the day, they produced light snacks for the people in the market.

I never went to school during this time, as the school I was meant to go to got bombed. Even in Cornwall, there were great plans to send us to school in a big hall, but that never materialised. When I did go to school it was at a Catholic school, where the nuns simply read to us. As a result, I knew a lot about religion, but could not read or write. (As the years went on, the only way I did learn to read and write was when I went into the army!)

My father also bought a taxi with a Hackney Carriage plate. This meant people would hire it by telephone. Eventually, he and a partner owned four cars. During this time I had grown up and learned to drive. One of my jobs was to go into the docks and pick up the sailors from the merchant ships. I would take them to Victoria, Waterloo, Liverpool Street, or any other of the main railway stations in London.

(Picture left - Rathbone Market).
Another business my mother bought was a restaurant named “Roses” on the corner of the main street going down to West Ham Speedway. This was a bit more classy than we had been used to!

When I wasn’t driving, I would work behind the bar. I remember one of our customers called Peg Dooley, who had a wooden leg. He was one of the hard cases of Canning Town and he often got drunk. The police would sometimes come to arrest him and he would stand there on one leg, swinging and hitting the police with his wooden leg. He was respected, however, and when he died the police placed a wreath on his coffin shaped like a wooden leg!

Another memory is of the transit camp at the back of our pub. Soldiers, British, Canadian and all sorts, were waiting for ships to take them across the English Channel for D-Day. The soldiers were confined to camp, surrounded by three rolls of barbed wire. Two men would hold a rifle between them, throwing a man over the barbed wire. They had been trained for this, of course. They would come into the pub to drink beer and, if they had no money, they would barter with army blankets, while one man even sold his boots, returning to camp in his bare feet!

On another occasion, my parents offered to pay for me to go on holiday. They arranged for me to go away with a young lady called Joan Collins (not the Joan Collins!). Her parents and mine had arranged for us to go away to a hotel and hired bedrooms next door to each other. However, me being pure, this did not satisfy me. Up until then I had not even kissed a girl goodnight - I used to shake hands with her! I arranged for the rooms to be moved further apart and when I returned off holiday, my parents thought I was mad!

Soon after I was conscripted to join the Army. My parents tried to get me out of it by having medicals, etc. I had two years to do and was sent to a camp in Maidstone, joining the Royal West Kents. I was going, had my railway warrant, but my parents insisted on running me down to Kent in a chauffeur driven car. When we arrived at the barracks, they called out the guard and lifted up the barrier for us to go through. When the car stopped they had the shock of their lives because I jumped out with my little suitcase!

After spending seven to eight weeks training in Maidstone, I was transferred to the Corp of Royal Military Police at Inkerman Barracks, Woking. (Picture right).
I was thrown out of there because I did not do my duty properly. I failed to punish a soldier who was not wearing his belt properly (he was a friend of mine, anyhow). He was with his wife at the time and felt you did not “knock off” your mate when he was with his wife. I was “RTU’ed” which is “returned to unit” and then sent to Chester.

I was sent there because I was a good driver (having driven the taxis), trained to drive lorries up to tank transporters. I drove many officers including Generals and Major Generals and drove with Montgomery’s bodyguard (he had his own driver).

On one occasion I was sent to Carlisle with a Major of the Black Watch to pick up Emanuel Shinwell, the Secretary of State for War. When we got to Shap Fell, we were involved in an accident where the front of our car ended up hanging over a cliff. We had to climb out of the back to get out safely. We got onto our knees and put chains on the underside of the motor so that we could be towed back onto the road. This was particularly difficult for the Black Watch officer who was in a kilt!

We were about five hours late arriving in Carlisle and an angry Manny Shinwell refused to accept our excuse that we had been in an accident and put me on a charge. This was the one and only time I was ever charged in the army. I was sent back to my camp, minus my vehicle, where my OC (Officer Commanding) understood my part of the trouble, but had no choice but to charge me.

My punishment was the basic minimum, which was five days CB (confined to barracks). Instead of the usual punishment of cleaning out the cook house, I was given a four day tour of duty driving minor officers around. On my return, I reported back to my sergeant, who was working out in the gym. I used to work out with him and boxed for the army. On two occasions I got into the quarter finals and the semi-finals for the area championships.

Once I drove Field Marshal Slim who was Chief of the Imperial General Staff and later became Governor-General of Australia (1953–1960). It was while based at Chester that I furthered my education, taught by a friend of mine, a sergeant in the Education Corps. I was also taught to ride motorbikes.

While I was in the army, my parents sold the Rathbone Arms and moved to a house at Lynhurst Gardens, in Barking. I never ever saw that house. By the time I had finally left the army, my parents had moved to a small holding at 30 Woodlands Road, in Hockley, in Essex. They had chickens, pigs, orchards, etc in what I think was about two and a half acres.

My first job after that was at an engineering firm in East Hanningfield. Unfortunately that job only lasted about eight months as the firm went bust! The company, a family concern, had been experimenting with jet-propelled helicopters!

It was about this time that I met Josephine Gunning. That happened in Southend. As young men, we did not believe in queuing to go to the cinema. We would pick on a couple of girls near the front of the queue, chatted them up, then gave them the money to buy our tickets.

(Picture left - The Kursall, in Southend on Sea).

We made a date to meet up with the girls at the Kursaal where the resident band leader was Howard Baker. We had a few dances and a drink and then went to the fair ground at the back. We would go home by taxi and the more in the taxi, the cheaper it would be.

I sat in the front and grabbed hold of Jo so that she would sit near me. Then another man wanted to sit in the taxi, so Jo sat on my lap and we had a bit of a cuddle. So, from there, I used to ask her to meet me and we made our own way, going out together.

I would come down from Hockley to Camborne, on the Lower Road by Hullbridge. Her parents had a very small holding as well, with chickens and a couple of small pigs. They grew a lot of flowers such as sweet peas and chrysanthemums.

I can remember the first time I called for Jo to take her out. I arrived down the bottom of the hill, walked passed the house, it was raining. I stood under a tree until someone looked out of the window and noticed me. I was then called over to the house. I can’t remember how long we were courting.

One day we went to Billericay to visit a couple of pubs. We had gone by bus and we were waiting under an archway by a pub, I think called the Coach and Horses.
I just asked her – “How about getting married?”
She said – “Ask me another time.”
So we got to Hockley and I asked her again.
This time she said – “You might have had too much to drink. I’ll phone you up in the morning.”

Being Sunday, she phoned me up and when the phone rang, I knew it was for me. I rushed over to the phone and my mother and father, being the type of people they were, didn’t move. They always wanted to know what was going on.

Jo said to me –“Did you mean what you said last night?”
I said – “Of course I did” but then she then said – “Well, tell me then. Tell me you love me.” Well, my parents were sitting there with their ears wagging, so I didn’t say it.

I arranged to meet her again that evening, this time in Rayleigh. Again it was raining and as we waited for the bus, I asked her again. This time she accepted, but this did not go down very well with my parents. They had already arranged for me to marry someone that they liked, but I told her to get lost. I then carried on going out with the girl I fell in love with.

In the end we got married in a Registry Office. The people who turned up were my brother, Charlie, and my wife’s sister Jean and a couple of friends. My parents did not want to know, while my mother-in-law stayed at home and got a bit of tea ready.

We went down the pub for a celebratory drink. We went to the Park Hotel, called in by friends of mine; Norman Hammond and his brother Donald. They bought a bottle of champagne and took the cork, split it and wedged a sixpence in it. They then handed it to my wife (who was very naive), putting it her hand and asked her did she know what to do with it!

We arrived home and my mother-in-law, being a very nice woman, had got us a celebration tea and I had already taken my bag down there with a few clothes and I moved in. This was at Camborne where we lived for about a year.

Our son Douglas was born while we lived there on 20th September 1953 (he was actually born in Rochford Hospital). We then moved to Ilford, in the High Street, above a fish shop owned by my brother-in-law, Len Ruffell and his wife Joyce.

My brother-in-law was not always a very nice fellow and on occasion, after a few drinks, he asked my wife to look after the shop. She did not want to do this because she was looking after our very young son and he threatened to throw her out by the seat of her draws! So we moved from there and went back to Hockley, living in a caravan on my mother’s land, which wasn’t very nice for us.

I had previously worked for about a year at a garage in Billericay, spraying and repairing Rolls Royce cars, but then moved on to work at Coryton. I worked at the Mobil Oil Refinery with my father, my brother Charlie and my father-in-law, William Gunning. Mostly I did cable-laying, putting in telephone and electrical cables underground.

While we were in the caravan at Woodlands road, Jo got pregnant with our daughter Susan. We were there a matter of months but, because of the verbal abuse from my mother, Jo used to take our son in the pram and walk with him, often down to her mothers, just to get out the way. My wife had left my dinner in the oven but, when I got home, it was cold. I re-lit the oven and got blown out of the caravan, not realising the gas had been blown out by the wind.

We looked around for a flat and found a one-bedroomed flat at 10 Pooles Lane, on the end of a terrace. Our son Douglas caught German Measles which was a great worry for my wife. Our daughter Susan was born there, but the last straw was when I painted the ceiling (twice) and it fell in!

As a result we went back to Woodlands Road (picture right) and lived in a converted loft at my mother’s house for about eighteen months. The arguments continued, so Jo would put the baby in the pram and wander the streets. I would often meet her crying and realised we could not put up with this. Jo had various meetings and we were allotted a council house.

Our council house was at 13 Coniston Villas, at Hullbridge. It was quite nice really with a big lounge downstairs, with three bedrooms and a large garden. I was now working for F. H. Marshalls as a polisher and spraying furniture. The company were later taken over by Julius Thorn of the Thorn Electric Group and we went on to make radio and television sets.

my father and I built a bungalow at 30a Woodlands Road, next to my father’s house at No. 30. We then moved back into 30 Woodlands Road and it was there that my daughter Venessa was born, delivered in the front room. In April 1962 I went to work for a builder called J.R.King. My father also worked for J.R.King as a chargehand, but he and another man, the general foreman Bert Eves, had a bust up with J.R.King and so branched out on their own forming Eves and Burgum.

Later my father formed his own company, and I was made a quarter partner for tax reasons. We also had a chap working for us called Curly Serles. We built houses in Hockley, Rochford, Benfleet and Canvey.

Times were difficult and everything had to be sold; the lorry, materials, and building plant. Money and resources had also been diverted into my father’s house in Canewdon, which Burgum and Sons could not take and the company went bust. We had creditors on the doorstep and times were very, very hard.

Jean, Jo’s sister, had married Geoffrey Johnson, and Geoff had a brother Cleave. He asked me to work for him. I worked initially as a labourer, but soon found myself working as a foreman. I worked for this company for many years.

During this time, my youngest son David was born in Rochford Hospital. I was sick and unable to visit my wife. What I did not know was that my mother was in the same hospital at the same time. David was born on 23rd February 1970. My mother Rose died 7th March 1970.

We often went on holiday to Devon and Cornwall and loved the area. We always said we would finish our days out down here. My father, not having my mother any more, said – “Oh if you are coming down here to live, I’d like to come with you. I’ll put my money in…” and other things he used to say So in the end we finished up buying a Bass Charrington Public House named the Shute Arms. This was at Seaton Junction, near Axminster, in Devon.

It was about six miles from Seaton and four miles from Axminster. It was an out of the way place off the road and you had to rely on holiday traffic. At this point I can say this place did prove to be a white elephant. We had arguments where my father wanted to fetch his mates home at ungodly hours and allowed to drink in the pub.

My father eventually withdrew his investment from the pub and we were forced to put it on the market. Jo and I then moved to Plymouth. The reason we chose Plymouth was because two of my wife’s sisters lived there at the time. One, Kim, lived in a flat. The other, Betty, lived in Wesley Gardens. We bought a house in Abbots Road, Peverell, one of the suburbs of Plymouth. We just five minutes walk from Betty and Harry’s house.

We only stayed in Plymouth a short while because of the unemployment situation. There was no way of getting a job and it was not through the want of trying. Every day I went to the labour exchange and I tried and I tried, but we couldn’t find anything.

In the end we decided the money we were paying for this house was too much. We could not continue paying the mortgage because our savings were dwindling away very fast. So we decided to sell the house and try and get something in Axminster.

Another reason for leaving Plymouth was that Betty contracted had cancer and died. This obviously upset Jo. One sister gone, the other busy working in night clubs (she was a singer), debt building up and no work.

My wife and our daughter Venessa took the bus to Axminster and found a cottage. They ask me to come down and look at it. I told my wife if I got a job, I’d be out to work and she’d be the one living in it, the decision was left to her provided I liked it.

Picture right - Castle Hill, Axminster)

Jo showed me the house and, in a way, I took an instant dislike to it. However, the position was right, three-quarters of the way up a hill away from the river that flood once or twice every year. We looked around it. It was stone, over two hundred years old, with walls 18 inches thick front and back. It was terraced and had a nice long garden at the back. Behind the garden were playingfields for the boy (David).

The difference in house prices meant we could pay off our debts. The man wanted £8,500 for the house in Castle Hill and our Plymouth house was up for sale for £16,000. With the difference, we could pay off our mortgage.

Being I had been a builder, I got a knife and checked the woodwork, and the wiring. I decided it would have to be re-wired, need new floors and quite a lot of other work done, which the man agreed.
Castle Hill, Axminster - geograph.org.uk - 969717

I then, in turn, told him I would make him an offer. I would only make one offer; I would not barter with him, and if he was satisfied we would pay him cash straight away. I offered him £7,000 and told him we would go up in the town to a café and have a cup of coffee. In reply he said to my wife and I – “Don’t bother going up the road for a cup of coffee. Have one here. I’ll accept your offer.” We did the deal, and bought the place.

We knew there was a lot of work to do on the house, so we applied to council for a grant and took out a mortgage to do the work. The ceilings had to be raised, new windows installed, as was every door. The floors were replaced and the walls damp-proofed. Within six weeks of us moving in, I got a job with the Devon County Council as a stonemason. Jo meanwhile got a job cooking at the local Cottage Hospital. She worked six days a week 2.30pm to 7.00pm and every other Saturday of Sunday.

I liked my job, but age was catching me up. The work was heavy so I started to look for something lighter. I applied for a job at an engineering firm called Shands, who made type for the machine and computer companies. Soon I was made a chargehand setter, which was all very well until the company hit hard times and I was made redundant after two and a half years.

After about five weeks I managed to get a job at Axminster Carpets, where they made 100% pure wool quality carpets. The job is not too bad, but it was low paid. I had been in hospital for two weeks, and had loads of tests but they had proved negative. The muscles in my legs are wasting away and no one knows why…..

*    *    *

That was the last of my father’s words on the tape, recorded some 19 years ago. His illness turned out to be related to diabetes and he was treated accordingly. My parents used to visit me in the Forest of Dean and, quite simply, fell in love with the area. I tried to persuade my father to retire, but there was always an excuse. One more bill to pay, the mortgage payment to make.

One Christmas I removed that last obstacle for them and my father finally retired. They moved away from Axminster and came to the Forest of Dean, settling in Parkend. They made friends quickly. My father, aware of the family history, liked the idea of coming back to his roots and boasted about the Burgums living in the Forest for hundreds of years. While others were considered outsiders, my father was welcomed as a Forester.

Eventually my father began showing the signs of dementia and my mother spent a gruelling three years caring for my father. It became more and more difficult, but my mother persisted, sometimes at the expense of her own health.

One day I received a telephone call in the middle of the night from the police. My parents had been burgled and they were very distressed. Could I go around and help? When I arrived, the police showed me the damaged door. The tall freezer was on its side, hi-fi smashed, curtains torn from the walls. The ground floor had been entirely trashed.

I comforted my mother and I tried to establish what had been stolen. I then spoke to my father. He was holding his hands and rubbing them; they were sore. Had he seen anybody? Yes, he said, a strange man with a dog. (This was the police dog-handler searching the garden). My father looked at me blankly. I asked whether he knew who I was. He suggested I might be the police officer in charge.

I spoke to the police and suggested it might not be a robbery after all. Could my father have done this? The police looked at me in disbelief. They re-examined the door. Yes, it could have been forced afterwards. Nothing appeared to be missing. No scent picked up by the police dog in the garden. A policeman spoke to my father who simply said he was very, very tired and afraid.

The next morning I drove my father to a local secure hospital. He now resides in a home and will never come home again. He is in pain from sores on his legs. He has gangrene (necrosis) where the living cells and tissue in his legs is dying. Often the condition spreads, but in my father’s case, it has stabilised.

(Picture left - my father and I in 2004)

My father was in pain and pulled at the dressings. Our occasional visits distressed him and they distressed us. The hospital refused to treat him because he was not-compliant and sometime violent. They would not sedate him as this infringed his civil rights! Finally we got him moved to a better place and he is much happier now. My mother is still required to pay for his keep from their meagre pension. She struggles to do so.

The world has gone mad! He does not know his family. The memories written here are long since lost to him. They are written here in memory of the father we knew. When he is gone, which may not be for many years, I shall re-read this article. These will be part of the many memories I shall have of him. Loved by my mother and loved by his children. Dad, we still love you.

Please note - The words in italics above were written by me in 2006. It seems very strange that I was writing about memories that my father had lost several years before he died in April 2007. I am so glad I taped him all those years ago. I hope you enjoyed his thoughts as much as I did.

More about John Burgum - My Father and Alzheimers.