Master Signwriter

Family Man

Alfred’s family in WW2

Joy Gough

Life after Joy

Alfred, in loco parantis


Joy in sand castle

Alfred, in loco parantis

'He who speaks little will live a hundred years'. That is a Sicilian proverb, and for our grandfather, it seems to have worked. Well, nearly, he lived to be 98. For us youngsters, his silence wasn't always helpful as we grew up. We knew that he meant well and accepted this quietness, but it did mean that a lot of our world went unexplained.


Alfred, Dominic, Marc and Rosemary, photographed by a seaside photographer

Looking back, I realise that it would have been difficult for Alfred to act as our father figure when he came to live with us, aged 73 in 1966. It wasn't just the age gap, it was the culture gap too. Born in 1893, Alfred was a man shaped by Victorian values - duty before pleasure. And here he was, living in a hippy era when everyone (bar us) were being encouraged to let it all hang out.

Also, he had already been a dad to two girls. but now he had to help look after two boys, which required very different parental skills. He accepted his mission. Alfred dutifully, and generously, sold up his house in Grove Place and gave the proceeds to our mother. She put that sum towards a house, big enough to have three bedrooms. A tiny box room for him, a larger one with a double bed for her, and one with two single beds shared by me and Marc until we left home.

Pépé and us

A boiling hot day and Pépé is sticking to his idea of decorum by wearing both jacket and jumper

We called our grandfather 'Pépé'. French was my mother tongue as I was born in France and had spent my first five years there. Mum didn't want to be reminded of France though, and said it was rude to speak French in front of grandfather. I very rapidly learnt English and forgot my French. Totally. I even failed my CSE French exam. I now get by in French thanks to a gap year spent in Belgium before I enrolled at polytechnic.

I have titled this section in loco parentis because Alfred was effectively taking the place of a parent. He wasn't really a father figure though. He would never raise his voice, nor tell us off. The most he would do is give a look of disapproval and move on. My brother Marc says that he wasn't even a conventional grandfather, one who would impart knowledge. He suggests 'ghost-father' or 'caretaker-grandad'. But let's face it, the poor chap was in his eighties when we became teenagers. At that age, we must then have appeared even more alien to him.

My mother spent most of her week working as a school teacher and did very well getting promotion after promotion until she became a head teacher. Her relationship with her father was cool, they were both rather shy souls. After shared meal times she would sit in the front room doing her marking or watching television. I can't remember her bringing a boyfriend home except one. Sleeping over would have been awkward as sound travelled easily and she slept in the room next to her father.

Pépé would spend a lot of time in the garden growing gooseberries, harvesting pears and planting flowers. He enjoyed that and was good at it. He also enjoyed listening to music, especially singers like The Seekers, Nana Mouskouri and Val Doonican. Easy listening.


Pépé's wallpaper hanging tools which I inherited and still use. He would frown upon the rust on the scissors and seam roller

He was a handyman and could repair most things. I remember, before we had double glazing, that he invented and made duplicate windows of light timber and toughened plastic. They would fit inside our regular windows, keep the warmth in and be taken down each Spring.

He also did all the decorating, the painting and hanging of the wallpaper. In fact, that is a skill that he did pass on to me. When he was 90, and couldn't manage to physically climb steps and change the bathroom wallpaper, he instructed me on how to put up paper. He did tell me not to overlap wallpaper sheets and to always cut into the corners - both details I ignored and regretted when the paper edges started to peel away a few weeks later.

Rosemary and Alfred

It is Pépé's 94th birthday and he is serving us tea and cakes at his residential home. Pictures of his daughters are on the wall

When Pépé was 92, Mum had her first stroke. She was 52 and spent 6 months in hospital, underwent rehabilitation, before coming home.

Pépé could see that Mum wouldn't be able to work again and that I would likely need to move back home and look after her till she found her feet. He very bravely said: 'I think I need to go into a Home'. I researched and made a shortlist of local residential homes. His niece, Vera, took him around so that he could make the final choice.

 He chose well and was to spend the last six years of his life in a comfortable place which did good, traditional food. The staff thought him a proper gentleman and I think he probably felt more at home there, than with us by that time in his life. He could finally let go of all responsibilities and let others look after him.

Mr A Gough

Alfred Gough 1893-1992

A few days after Rosa, his first great granddaughter was born in Italy, Pepe died peacefully. He loved children and would have liked to have seen that baby, especially one named so close to his own beloved Rosie.

On his wish list for his internment, he underlined Do not make a fuss. That neatly summed up his unassuming nature and reticence. My mother wrote down a few notes on the evening of the funeral after meeting the many mourners. She should have the last words:

"Why did it take your death to tell me who you were? You were my father, I had always known you. To me, you were safety and protection. Who were you to others? People said 'He was a truly modest man, who considered himself of no importance. He wanted no fuss.'You wanted the impossible.

"You were not an insubstantial person. You made your mark. Your gentleness was your strength. Your modesty fully clothed you. Your only weapon was your kindness, with which you touched us all. You wanted no applause for a life well lived. But today you were missed by so many."

Alfred had purchased a plot for three and so joined his wife, Rosie, and first daughter, Joy, at Foster Hill Road cemetery.


Grandfather kept this extra roll of 1960s excess wallpaper in the loft, just in case my brother or I damaged the original on our childhood bedroom wall in Dudley Street


This 1970s roll was back up for our dining room wallpaper in Phillpotts Avenue