Saturday, 28 August 2010

I loved his eccentricities.

Some thoughts and Musings on a Gentleman and a scholar- Ross Beckingham (son-in-law)

To say I was fond of Warrington Taylor (or “Granddad” as he was affectionately called by all in our home) would be an understatement…over the years we were privileged to have him living with us in our home at St Clair - Dunedin, I first deeply respected, and then in time - grew to love him dearly.

Karitane, Otago, a place where Warrington Taylor spent many holidays with his family. Photo: Brian Taylor

I loved his eccentricities. I loved his pragmatic and intelligent dialogue on almost any subject you could imagine. He never “paraded” his vast knowledge, or made you feel inferior if (as was the case many times) the conversation became a little complex for me, he would instead just draw a big breath and explain himself in simpler terms. He was an inordinately patient man!

Grandad was probably the most honest and sincere person of his generation I have ever met. His reputation in the legal fraternity and with those of his older clients continued long after he retired from the legal practice. On many occasions he would say: “I’m off to visit “Miss So and So” in Maori Hill-she’s an old client and wants me to check out some papers for her and as long as I am visiting Catherine - it’s not out of my way”. His wife was at the time hospitalised in Marinoto Clinic, and he religiously visited her every day. I don’t believe he missed more than half a dozen days the whole time she was alive and cared for at the hospital-a tribute to his love, devotion, and so typical of his attention to doing the “right thing” by people. If he couldn’t visit her - he rang and spoke to her.

All of this advice to old clients would of course be completely free of charge-it would never occur to him to either ask, or accept, any remuneration for his time. He believed client relationships were for life. We of course teased him mercilessly about his “afternoon assignations with the old ladies” – all of which he endured with a wonderful spirit, and an embarrassed smile.

On the few times I visited with Suzanne at the Highgate family home, I was always treated with courtesy and warm hospitality. On one memorable occasion he quietly took me aside and asked “Had I ever been up top?” Seeing my bewilderment he whispered “Come with me…it will be our secret?” He proceeded to show me the way up a ladder into the roof cavity of the family’s giant home –literally a football pitch in size! But this was only the beginning –we then climbed through - and out onto the slate roof itself. Grandad had marked out on the roof an elaborate system of numbered markers beside the individual slates that were his “stepping” stones for a safe excursion out on the roof-just another example of the mans delightful practicality. He guided me up - one foot after another, using marker one-(right foot), marker 2 (left foot) and so on. Once on the top of the roof gable he sat me down beside him our feet straddling the horrifically high gable, and the view from this vantage point was breathtaking! A full 360 degree vista across to the Mosgiel plains in the West right around to Mt Cargill in the North, and then further around to the harbour heads and all the way up to city itself with harbour and the southern and eastern suburbs sparkling in the sunshine, and then finally to the South. This view and memory will last with me forever! Retracing our steps, we climbed inside and before closing the trapdoor Grandad whispered again-“Remember…it’s our secret,- we won’t mention this to Catherine-she wouldn’t approve!”

Some of the most fun times we had together were washing and drying tea time dishes at night. Suzanne having cooed tea for the family, would leave to organise children’s homework and stuff for the next day, and Warrington and I would take probably 3 times longer than necessary to wash and dry the dishes discussing all kinds of things and setting the world to rights. We were often chastised by Suzanne for taking far too long-but it was the banter-not the task we enjoyed, and I know he enjoyed it equally as much as I did.

I wasn’t really able to do much for him by way of “pampering”, but we did develop a rather lovely scenario where last thing at night I would make him a Milo or Hot Chocolate drink, (he was a prodigious chocolate eater) throw a white tea towel over one arm and carry a hot drink and plate with (always) a couple of chocolate biscuits down to his bedsit to present to him for supper. The scene never altered…a tap on the door. “You rang M’Laud” I would say, introducing myself, and when he called me in, he always said the same thing: “Oh Ross, …..RICH!” You are really too kind”. We both enjoyed this little interlude immensely.

Stand out memories would be:

His remarkable recovery from Parkinson’s disease:

When he first came to live with us he was physically very frail and worn out from a long stint of caring for Catherine at Highgate. I would have to cut his meat on his plate into bite size pieces as he hadn’t the strength to do so himself. After a few weeks on a course “Sinimet” (the wonder drug of the day-apparently) prescribed by family doctor Jim Reid, he was up and doing for himself - all manner of things, including walking up to catch the St Clair bus into town, and then visit Catherine-a remarkable turn around in health, and we were lucky he enjoyed good health for the four or so years he spent with Suzanne and I and the children.

His obsession with “altering” things which were on the face of it - perfectly serviceable:

On one occasion I went to see him in his room, to find he had drilled a hole in the Queen Anne Mahogany headboard of his bed to install a (highly illegal) “ganged-up” three pin plug arrangement into which he was able to plug his kettle, his TV, and his electric blanket! On retiring at night last thing he would reach up and switch them all off. “See - it’s much more convenient Ross.” You could not fault the reasoning- only the necessity?

His work on the Taylor and McCarter Family Trees:

He was able to share a lot of this history with our children all of whom were very interested-especially our daughter Tanya-with whom he spent a great deal of time explaining and copying out family history for.

His love of reading:

He was the most voracious reader I have ever met. He also had the rather annoying habit (from my sense of tidiness anyway) of underlining points or paragraphs of interest to him throughout a book in red pen! Never pencil - that might be able to be removed…always red pen!His habit of cutting his toast in the mornings:

Always done to match the size of the mosaic tiles set into the top of the breakfast bar in the kitchen-“Perfect bite-size pieces-Ross!”

His habit of eating peas-one at a time!

Often a little frustrating while we waiting to clean up at night, and the children often looked in anguish at the number of peas still to be devoured so they might be able to leave the table!
His excitement and great joy of meeting up with his brother - after 52 years apart!

In conclusion, he once said to me: “The measure of a persons worth in this life Ross, is usually directly related to the amount of times they are thought of or spoken about - once they are gone.”

If this is the case then “Grandad” will never be forgotten, and his worth is priceless!

No comments:

Post a Comment