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It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of John Dable, he had picked up my website from the internet and we started to correspond via email.  I never had the priviledge of meeting John, his family, however have been gracious enough to allow me to place this eulogy to John which was said at his funeral.

R.I.P John  a true gentleman.

 

Eulogy for John Dable

Posted by dablefamily on November 12, 2011

I spent last weekend writing this eulogy for Antonia’s father John. I delivered it at his funeral at St Sebastian’s in Great Gonerby, Grantham on Thursday. Afterwards quite a few of the other mourners offered kind words in response to the eulogy; that they’d been moved by this account of John’s life, that they felt it captured his life and personality, and that they’d been surprised by one or other story contained. Folk asked me to send a copy, so I though I’d just post here for their benefit, and for anyone who couldn’t be there on the day…

Eulogy for John Dable 

John Dable was born into a well to do Nottingham family in Dec 1933. 
John's father John Dable senior had married Winifred, the only daughter 
of John Wood, of Wood's Navy Rum fame. Though his circumstances were 
apparently comfortable, his early life was a struggle. His mother 
Winifred died giving birth to him. His father John was severe or cold 
with his son by turn. John himself said that his father never recovered 
from his mother's death. And in this account from John of the earliest 
part of his life we can already see one of his finest character traits, 
that he saw only the best in people. He didn't seek to condemn his own 
father's hard treatment, only to understand and forgive it. The child is 
the father of the man, and it's a testament to John's character that he 
never allowed those harsh early years to turn him into a harsh person. 
Fortunately for John he had a source of maternal love in his grandmother 
Ethel, who took on much of the work of young John's upbringing and 
spoiled him rotten with bread and dripping sandwiches and occasional 
trips to Fortnum and Masons. 

Another bright spot in those early years often recalled by John was a 
Mediterranean cruise in the summer of 1939. War in Europe was drawing 
closer, and John’s grandfather John Wood had become convinced they were 
all going to be gassed by the Germans. Deciding to seize the day, he 
paid for the whole family to take a Mediterranean cruise on the RMS 
Lancastria, a Cunard White Star Liner sailing from Liverpool. Cunard 
operated a 22 day 22 guinea cruise in those days calling at Gibraltar, 
Tangier, Villefranche and Lisbon. It must have been a happy time for the 
whole family, soaking up the Mediterranean sun and escaping from the 
looming war. Later, in March 1940 that same ship Lancastria carried 
several hundred Jewish refugees from Liverpool to New York. Shortly 
after that, the Lancastria became a troop ship and was sunk in June 1940 
evacuating military and civilians from France. 4000 lives were lost, 
more than Titanic and Lusitania combined. 

John's early school days were in wartime. Children were more independent 
then, and John was walking the two miles to his first school, Whitemoor, 
at the age of 4½ with friends in the summer of 1938. We might think that 
risky by today's standards, but John recalled much of the traffic being 
horse drawn including coal carts, milk carts and brewers drays. He 
remembered much else about wartime schooldays in Nottingham too, 
including the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. John himself wrote... 

“...I was out one day alone, wearing short trousers of course, down at 
our local river in Nottingham paddling up to my knees with a jam-jar and 
fishing net attempting to catch some minnows or … sticklebacks. Close by 
[there were] ... tall cube-like brick and concrete tanktraps, and ... a 
semi-derelict old watermill. I do recall it was a brilliantly sunny day, 
and as I wasn't at school or at church it must have been a Saturday. The 
air-raid siren sounded suggesting a raid was about to happen. This 
didn't seem to worry me unduly, I had witnessed daylight raids in the 
open on several occasions. I know it might sound somewhat potty but in 
those days it was only the night raids I worried about. Also the chance 
I might get caught by a warden or policeman without my gasmask was 
pretty remote in that part of my local area. I only carried a gasmask in 
its case when going to school,or going elsewhere with my family. The 
raid began and I could see the usual cottonwool-like puffs in the sky 
indicating exploded anti-aircraft shells. There was an interwoven mass 
of aircraft contrails too. I forgot about my fishing and watched the 
aerial display instead. Spitfires and ...hurricanes chasing and being 
chased in turn by German fighter aircraft which were there to help 
protect the enemy bombers. The display continued for quite sometime. 
Then I noticed an aircraft apparently in a dive heading right for me. Or 
it seemed like that at the time. At what seemed like the last moment the 
aircraft, with smoke issuing from it, pulled out of the dive and flew by 
me, low enough for me to make out an enemy identification cross on its 
fuselage before it narrowly missed hitting the roof of the old 
watermill. A while later I heard a loud explosion. But I never did find 
out where it crashed. I assume its pilot was killed. He was much too low 
to bailout. Later to avoid trouble I fibbed about going into a street 
shelter somewhere. In those days if I was honest all the time I would 
never have been allowed out on my own ever again. There again I never 
lied about really important matters.” 

Presumably one of those really important matters was the anti aircraft 
shell incident. Again, in John's words... 

“I did get into trouble once at least when I swapped the rudder from a 
German aircraft for a live anti-aircraft shell. Someone, I know not who, 
told a policeman. Rightly so looking back at the incident. We were going 
to explode it. Remotely of course. Away from other people. Luckily for 
us the authorities turned up in force putting an end to our game. I 
think I can still feel the chastisement I got after a wigging from our 
local police sergeant. I found it difficult to sit down properly for 
days, and my ears felt as if they were both on fire as well. After that 
I was mighty careful what I swapped for shrapnel.” 

In these schoolboy adventures we can see another aspect of John's 
character illuminated: he was a bold and adventurous spirit. Later on, 
as a young man that boldness showed itself in his sporting pursuits. 

As the war ended John was ready for senior school, and his grandfather 
John Wood offered to the pay the fees for a place at Nottingham Boys 
High. Unfortunately John's father was opposed, and while battle raged 
over his education his grammar school places at the Boys High and 
Mundella were lost. John ended up at one of Nottingham's new technical 
schools. He was never happy there, so it was a relief when he went on to 
Nottingham School of Art. 

Back in the 1950s this country still had conscription, so John did his 
two years national service in the RAF, where he enjoyed mixed fortunes. 
He was lucky enough to get posted to one of the RAF's most sort after 
stations: Cyprus – plenty of sunny beaches and retsina ! But his luck 
turned when he found himself in the same squadron as Jimmy Tarbuck, a 
colleague John remembered as particularly exasperating. 

After national service John returned to Nottingham to make his own way 
in life. The Woods Navy Rum fortune had been invested in property and 
coal mines around the county; on his grandfather's death a part of that 
fortune was made over to John to give him a start in life. He pursued a 
range of exciting hobbies: skiing, flying, climbing and caving. We 
shouldn't be surprised that John continued his interest in aviation 
after RAF service, he was a distant relative of Captain Albert Ball, the 
highest scoring fighter ace on the British side during the First World 
War. He acquired a private pilot's license, and later on flew his 
fiancé- Joan- to Paris for dinner. He went climbing and caving around 
Derbyshire and Yorkshire, exploring remote and dangerous underground 
cave systems. And he taught himself to ski, climbing up the slopes with 
skis on his back in the days before ski lifts. As I said a moment ago, 
John was quite an adventurer ! 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a 
fortune must be in want of a wife. And so it proved, when John met his 
future wife Joan Kay-Kreizman at a party organised by young communists 
in Nottingham in 1954. John was never a communist himself, being a Tory 
voter until the rise of another Grantham notable later sent him 
leftwards. But the result of that party was his meeting Joan, falling in 
love with her, and that romantic flight to Paris for dinner. But Joan 
was too smart to be entirely taken in by John's playboy lifestyle, and 
detected a shortfall in educational attainment, something not easily 
overlooked by a lady from a Jewish family background, where scholarly 
achievement is one of the highest virtues. So, before romance could run 
its course, John was required to pass his School Certificate, the 1950s 
predecessor to today's GCSEs. He duly passed, and Joan judged that her 
standards had been met. Engagement, and marriage in Nottingham in March 
1956 followed. 

John and Joan spent the first part of their married life in Mablethorpe, 
before they bought the Old Tavern in Westborough in 1964. They set up 
home with their infant sons, Jeremy & Julian, and soon two further 
additions to the family followed: Antonia and Alexandra. John pursued 
his business interests as an antique dealer, and Joan taught at local 
secondary schools. The children were educated at the local primary 
school in the next village, and when playing they romped happily through 
the countryside surrounding the village. His children remember John as a 
loving and tender father in those days. Childish misdemeanours might be 
corrected with a smack, but the smack was always followed by a hug, to 
let the miscreant know they were still loved. Though maybe I should say 
'almost always followed by a hug', because apparently on the occasion 
that Jeremy set fire to the Old Tavern, John was too busy calling the 
fire brigade out for the follow up hug. Joking aside, here we must pause 
to note another of John's traits: he was a tender and loving father who 
couldn't bear to see distress in his children, or in anyone close to 
him. 

Unfortunately, this rural idyll couldn't last forever. By the mid 1970s 
John's business fortunes had taken a turn for the worse. He and Joan 
were forced to sell the Old Tavern and downsize to Arnold Avenue in 
Gonerby Hill Foot, Grantham. A new phase of the family's life started 
with the children moving on to Grantham's secondary schools. 
Fortunately, Joan had prevailed on John to give up expensive and risky 
pastimes like flying and caving. Now he spent his spare time on 
archaeology and arts and crafts. His interest in Roman Britain paid off 
spectacularly in 1977 when he found the largest cache of Roman coins yet 
discovered in this country – 500 silver coins in total. John attributed 
the find to guidance from the spirit of a Roman Centurion by the name of 
Quintus. He was keen on painting and sculpture too. One particular 
piece, a font with boy holding grapes was weathered in the garden for a 
few years and then presented as a medieval artefact to an expert from 
the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge as a jest. The carving was so well 
executed that this expert believed it to be an original piece. It can 
still be seen today, misattributed, in the Fitzwilliam. This last brings 
us to another important facet of John's make up: he had a great sense of 
mischief. His eyes would twinkle as he told a joke or spun out a 
humorous yarn. And he could take a joke in good part too. 

John and Joan were very proud of their four children as, in turn, they 
each went off to university and became graduates. That educational 
success was testament to their free thinking intellectual household. But 
in the midst of that parental success John had to face the hardest blow 
of his adult life. Joan died suddenly after a brief illness at the early 
age of 55. Her passing was a great loss to all the family. John had 
loved her dearly through all the ups and downs of married life. John's 
immense love for Joan, and his enduring loyalty to her were perhaps his 
greatest achievements. 

After Joan's passing, and with the children having left home, John lived 
quietly and modestly. Kipling enjoins us to treat success and failure 
both as imposters. The younger John had enjoyed money while he had it. 
The older John didn't let the lack of means stand in the way of enjoying 
life. This is the part of his life when I first knew John. I remember 
how much he enjoyed the company of younger adults, especially those with 
a taste for eating and drinking well ! I know he enjoyed many happy 
moments in the beer gardens of Oxfordshire, soaking up the local ale and 
spinning out a tale about his travels around Britain as an antique 
dealer. Certainly I enjoyed listening to those stories. But the 
important point to remember is that of John's humility and serenity in 
the face of his varying fortunes. He'd had money, and he'd mixed with 
some very grand types in his days as an antiques dealer. He'd lost 
money, and he always mixed well with folk from all types of background. 
None of it turned his head. He wasn't a vain man. He always approached 
life with a generosity of spirit. He always had time to share with the 
ever growing ranks of his children, grand children and great grand 
children, and he always had a kind word of reassurance, encouragement or 
congratulation for them. 

John was a spiritual man – he always looked beyond the temporal world. 
He may have been born into an Anglican family, but he went on to engage 
with some alternative belief systems as a young man. Whether he was 
accepting treasure hunting guidance from a long dead Roman Centurion, or 
recounting how he felt Joan's presence in the house after her passing, 
he always accepted the supernatural as real. Later on he embraced his 
Jewish heritage. Although he never formally converted to Judaism, he 
learned Hebrew prayers and participated in Jewish religious festivals. 
As usual, he was instantly at ease and instantly accepted in the Jewish 
community. 

John was a very fortunate man in many ways. He was assured of the love 
and regard of his children, just as they had been assured of his love 
when growing up. John was impecunious for many years; his children 
looked after him with cars, computers, a new kitchens, gas heaters, even 
socks and gloves ! But of all the gifts one can give, time is the most 
valuable. So special mention must go to Alex, who as close friend and 
confidant offered boundless practical and emotional support in John’s 
final years. We are all immeasurably grateful for her huge commitment of 
time and energy. A final testament to John’s regard for his children can 
be found in two things that have only emerged in recent days. A month 
ago John phoned round his children and let them know that he had paid 
off his mortgage. He did not wish to burden them with any debt. John had 
also been saving quietly for a number of years to cover his own funeral 
expenses. We are all immensely proud of John for the foresight and 
consideration he showed in this. 

John Dable led a rich and varied life. His charm, wit and humility 
touched all he met. We mourn his passing. We celebrate his life. And we 
take heart from knowing that "The souls of the righteous are in the 
hands of God, there no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the 
foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an 
affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they 
are at peace. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great 
good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself. Their 
reward is with the Lord, the most High takes care of them." 

 

 

 

 

I will attempt to relate some
anecdotes and observations that are part of my life.They couldn't
possibly be as interesting as yours are to me

though.

 


Around sixty-five years ago now I was out one day alone,wearing short
trousers of course,down at our local river in Nottingham paddling up to
my knees with a jam-jar and
fishing net attempting to catch some minnows,and or sticklebacks.Close
by the tall cube-like brick and concrete tanktraps,and not far from a
semi-derelict old watermill.I do
recall it was a brilliantly sunny day,and as I wasn't at school or at
church it must have been a Saturday.The air-raid siren sounded
suggesting a raid was about to happen.This
didn't seem to worry me unduly,I had witnessed daylight raids in the
open on several occasions.I know it might sound somewhat potty but in
those days it was only the night raids
I worried about.Also the chance I might get caught by a warden or
policeman without my gasmask was pretty remote in that part of my local
area.I only carried a gasmask in its
case when going to school,or going elsewhere with my family.The raid
began and I could see the usual cottonwool-like puffs in the sky
indicating exploded anti-aircraft shells.
There was an interwoven mass of aircraft contrails too.I forgot about
my fishing and watched the aerial display instead.Spitfires,and or
Hurricanes chasing and being chased
inturn by German fighter aircraft which were there to help protect the
enemy bombers.The display continued for quite sometime.Then I noticed
an aircraft apparently in a dive
heading right for me.Or it seemed like that at the time.At what seemed
like the last moment the aircraft, with smoke issuing from it, pulled
out of the dive and flew by me,low enough for me to makeout an enemy
identification cross on its fuselage before it narrowly missed hitting
the roof of the old watermill.Awhile later I heard a loud explosion.But
I never did find out
where it crashed.I assume its pilot was killed.He was much too low to
bailout.Later to avoid trouble I fibbed about going into a street
shelter somewhere.In those days if I was
honest all the time I would never have been allowed out on my own ever
again.There again I never lied about really important matters.

 

 

I mentioned a pre-war Mediterranean cruise my late maternal
grandfather treated the family to,on the mistaken assumption that we
were all going to be gassed to death by

the Germans. About a year or so after the cruise, the ship,the RMS
Lancastria, was used as a hospital ship, and was the very first large
vessel to be sunk in WW2 by a U=Boat.

With a great loss of life.My first school in Nottingham was called
Whitemoor.It was about two miles from were I lived. I cannot recall
being taken there more than a couple of times.

 From then on,as it wasn't considered to be all that far away, I was
told to walk to and from the school on my own. I wasn't alone either,
other kids of my age(roughly four and a half)

did too. My own children were shepherded a lot better than that. Parents
today more so still. Traffic was a great deal lighter,as you may recall
yourself Mary,even though you are

several years younger than I am. I well remember street gas lighting
and lots of horse drawn vehicles. Two wheeled coal carts,brewers drays
with teams of smartly arrayed shire-

horses,usually four at least,milk floats too,At least one milkman I
remember used a dog-cart as well.crying- out "Milko!". In those early
days we bought milk and cream from churns

on the cart. We had school milk as well,which we all looked forward to
with relish.Later I was elevated to the exalted rank of milk-monitor
for my class.

John

 

Spring at last,and now we can look forward optimistically to what Summer has in store for us.To resume my own memories of yesteryear.In particular those
wonderful summers of Double-Summertime we seemed to have during WW2.I remember as a small child various strange features that began to appear
almost everywhere in Nottingham. Moreso in that part of the city where I lived.At least it seemed that way at the time.Very long and large deep trenches,which I recall we were informed were "Secret Weapons".I discovered years later they were dug by the army as mass graves to hold the bodies of
local residents, whom, it was believed at the time, would be victims of German gas attacks.Tank-traps of various kinds were erected too.Some were square ten foot high brick-lined concrete blocks set six foot apart in rows of three or four to hopefully stop enemy tanks from crossing rivers.At fordable places
beside bridges.The bridges themselves would,in the event of an invasion be blownup presumably.Nearby too were concrete machine-gun posts.At a later stage it was decided not to blowup the bridges,but to defend them with vertical lengths of trainline,which could be quickly slotted into small holes specially dug into the roads at bridge sites. Other more practical features,such as static water tanks, were also erected. One beside a main road I used each day going to and returning from the primary school I attended.After a local boy was drowned attempting to swim in it, the tank was covered over with strong steel netting. Along the central reservation of this main road wooden boards on poles were put up and then painted yellow. When I asked what they were for I got the usual reply."They're Secret Weapons Sonny-Jim!." In reality they, in the event of a poison-gas attack, would turn green.Always assuming there was anyone left around to see it.All the windows at school were at first protected by diagonal strips of brown sticky paper which our teachers stuck to them.
Later soldiers erected high walls of sandbags,which meant that classroom lights had to be left on.During the daytime at least. Any faint glimmer of light at night was frowned upon,as you may recall Mary.Where we lived we also had foul smelling smoke-screens set at ten foot intervals,which were lit up every night to fox enemy bomb-aimers.*In those early days we had raids most nights,and all but my grandad at home went out to our back garden Anderson Shelter.Even if the raids continued for several hours we still had to walk to school the following morning.

 

 

 

.If I drink at all it is nomore than a half of Lager.In my old age I only drink socially.Never out for a drink on my own.Looking back I suppose I began drinking alcohol properly at the age of twelve or thirteen,unbeknown to my family that is.Apart from my life-long interest in the pursuit of archaeology,I had some degree of involvement in numerous other hobbies too.The drinking
dates from my earlier rock-climbing and caving days.The latter mostly in Derbyshire,and the Craven Area of Yorkshire.I don't know if you are familiar with that part of your county.We
had bases in both Settle and at Ingleton.The club I joined that is.In those far off days it was still possible to explore,survey and map some natural cave systems where no one had ever been before,Also to research ancient mine workings too.Lead mines that is.I have been into old coal workings,but gas is always a problem there.In that case I was with people who were expert in such matters.The main problem with natural caves is water.Somewhat too much of it on occasions.At a later time I was a member of a cave rescue team.My wife perhaps rightfully made me give up such pursuits when our first child was born.My pilot's license too.There again flying could be rather expensive.So I concentrated on archaeology,which was relatively inexpensive,and in and around local areas where we lived at the time.I didn't have all that much spare time anyhow.I love to get out into the local countryside,much as you do yourself Mary.My trouble now though is walking.I can only walk around fifty yards(with a walking stick).Then I have to take a rest.Not so many years ago I could walk for miles without hardly tiring at all.In my mind I imagine I can still do it.In reality though I can't

John

I more or less live out in the countryside,At the end
of the road a relatively short distance away are fields with hills too
which stretch for several miles at least.I live on one of the hillsides
myself.It is called Gonerby Hill.Noted by Sir Walter Scott as "Killer
Hill"because coach horses died on it occasionally.He also noted that
the nearby village of Great Gonerby on the top of the hill had many
welcome hostileries,and was also well known for its many orchards.Today
there is only one pub called
The Recruiting Sergeant.It got its name from an old soldier who made a
living dropping King's Shillings into pint pots of unwary men.The story
goes that if they as much as touched the coin, by the Law of the
Land,they had accepted recruitment in the army of the day for no less
than five years.For the Napoleanic War especially.There is a hotel in
Grantham called The Angel and Royal.It is largely intact and dates back
in time to at least the reign of King John.The one who is reputed to
have lost the Crown Jewels in the Wash near Kings
Lynn.He ended up dying a rather unpleasant death at Newark Castle.He
held his court in the upper Long-Room at The Angel and Royal,which is
now the hotel dining room.Today is pretty awful here sofar Mary.The
town was crowded as usual when I drove down there this morning.The only
way of getting around properly to avoid congestion is to take lengthy
detours.Not the ideal way to cut down on fuel and do my bit to try and
save the planet.At least my old gas- guzzler runs mostly on LPG,I only
use petrol to start it with,Thank God LPG is half the price of
petrol.It is a lot more environmentaly friendly too

John

Recently I was able to find
> some photographs of the old house where
> I spent the first few months of my own life.My late maternal
> grandparent's place.At least the one they had at the time.Whilst lovely
> in a way,it was just a shade too close to a large racecourse for my
> grandma's peace of mind.It appears they'd had several
> break-ins,burglaries that is. Also it was far from being private in
> other ways on race days. On a picture
> postcard it looks idyllic.In reality it was far from that it seems.

 

Dear Mary  6th April, 2007

I hope you are both well and enjoying this wonderful sunshine today.It
does help enormously to cope with our ailments and any other problem
that comes our way I find.It would be
lovely if the powers that be would bring back double-summertime as we
had back in the years of WW2.As a child it seemed like a heaps of fun
to watch vapour-trails of aircraft in the
sunny sky overhead.Our's and enemy aircraft chasing oneanother in
dog-fights.I never bothered to think how serious it really was. We also
had barrage balloons in the vicinity the
aircraft weaved through,either as a means of escape,or it an attempt to
to lure oneanother into danger.At the same time anti-aircraft guns were
firing rapidly.Their exploding shells
showing up  like puffs of cotton-wool about the sky.I know I should
have been in an air-raid shelter somewhere really.I rarely was though
if out on my own.Nor did it register on my
mind that jagged sherds of hot shrapnel, often falling to earth around
me,would more than likely kill me if I was struck by any.I had quite a
large collection of the stuff,as did several
other kids I knew.The buzz of the day then was to swap bits for all
manner of odds and ends.most of which was rubbish of course.There again
I sometimes got comics,or penny-
dreadfuls left over from former times.I did get into trouble once at
least when I swapped the rudder from a German aircraft for a live
anti-aicraft shell.Someone,I know not who,told
a policeman.Rightly so looking back at the incident.We were going to
explode it.Remotely of course.away from other people.Luckily for us the
authorities turned up in force putting
an end to our game.I think I can still feel the chastisement I got
after a wigging from our local police sergeant.I found it difficult to
sit down properly for days,and my ears felt as if they were both on
fire as well.After that I was mighty careful what I swapped for
shrapnel,or other odds and ends that came my way from the sky.Two
friends and I more or less witnessed
an aircraft crash.We later discovered it was a Miles Master training
machine.The pupil pilot was a Pole.There were several Polish servicemen
in Nottingham during the war.Both
the pupil and his trainer were regretably killed.I remember that we,
together with lots of other people, put bunches of flowers later at the
crash site.We have a great deal to thank
the Poles for.And other foreign nationals who came to our aid in those
trying times.They of course saw the war differently from a perspective
viewed by a child like me at the time.
Nomatter howmuch we were warned of its perils we still took stupid
risks,keeping our adventures far away from adult ears lest we got our
own bitten off at the very least.As you are well aware Mary they were
far different times to these children grow up in today.I still wouldn't
want to change them evenso. Keep well,and I hope that Stan's pains are
easing at
last.
The very best to your lovely family too.

Shalom

John.