Here is another photograph of my parents’ wedding in 1952, taken on the steps of Barnes Methodist Church. Mum has her mother, my Grannie Lane, to her left, and her best friend and bridesmaid, my Auntie Margaret, behind her. To Dad’s right is Mum’s boss from the youth service where she worked at the time, who gave her away in place of her long-estranged father. Dad’s best friend and best man, Peter Mathew, towers over the group at the back. But the subject of my post today is the man who stands smiling next to him: Dad’s youngest brother Peter, who I have just learned has recently passed away.
I haven’t seen my Uncle Peter for a long time; his mind was taken by dementia some years ago and he would not have recognised me. I still feel his passing as a deep loss, though. The youngest of the 5 boys, Peter was born 18 years after my Dad, and was named for his father’s brother who perished in the Great War. By the time of his birth, the family had moved on from the cramped and impoverished conditions that my Dad remembered in the Gorbals tenement of his early childhood. I think this photo was taken outside the family’s council house in Bertram Street: Peter is astride the bike, with my Dad to his left and Peter’s wife, Mary, on his far right. I don’t know the identity of the young lady behind them, but if this is the 1950s then I presume the wee lad being held back by my Dad is their son, my cousin Peter.
As a young man in the second World War, Uncle Peter served in the RAF; like Dad and their brother Robert (who still lives, also under the cloud of dementia), he moved south to work at Heathrow Airport after the war. Peter, Mary and young Peter settled in Middlesex, later retiring to Hampshire. Auntie Mary died last year, and my cousins plan to inter their ashes together.
In my memories of Uncle Peter he is smiling broadly, as he is in these photos, joking and laughing. Exceptions being the family funerals at which he spoke so movingly, especially those of both my own parents. At my Mum’s funeral in 2001, held at this same church on Barnes Green, his grandson Iain (bucking the Peter principle) played the bagpipes for her coffin. But what I remember most vividly about Uncle Peter is his voice. Not just his gentle Glasgow brogue, but his beautiful singing voice; as my aunties were fond of saying, when he sang one of his party pieces at a family gathering, there would be “not a dry eye in the hoose.” I am sure that the same will be true at his funeral.
Rest in peace at last, Uncle Peter.