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Derricks Grandsons

Derricks Grandsons, originally uploaded by ccgd.

Derrick, Ruth's Dad died last week, and the funeral was on Monday. I delivered the Eulogy, not as well as I could have, but Ruth's Mum, Brother and Sister seemed pleased enough. It was well written (even though I say so myself), but I was a bit emotional in the delivery.

One of the paradoxical things about funerals is the chance for all the family to get together. Here are all the Grandsons (no grand-daughters) captured together at the wake.

And here is what I said at the funeral.

"Derrick Henry Handford was born on the 12th of June 1926, in Edinburgh and died in Inverness on the 25th November 2007, aged 81. He was a husband, a brother, a father and a grandfather, loved by his family, and well respected as a friend, colleague and neighbour to many here today. I’d like to spend the next little while remembering Derrick the man, and sharing with you some glimpses of his life.

Derrick, with his older brother and sister attended George Watson’s College, a fact of which he was very proud, in his quiet way, all through his life. In 1943, aged 17, in volunteering for the Royal Navy, he followed his brother into the senior service. He served as a radio operator, but at the end of the war the recurrence of a serious disease from childhood meant that he spent some months in Hospital, until he was cured by a remarkable new scientific discovery called Penicillin.

After the war he joined the civil service in Edinburgh, like his father and uncle, and Derrick, Irene and a toddler named Ruth moved to Inverness in 1960, where he worked with the Red Deer Commission and Crofters commission. Judith was born later the same year, and Dick followed in 1962. They lived initially in Laggan Road, then Midmills Road, moving to Culduthel Gardens in the late 70’s, and finally to Wester Inches Drive just a few years ago.

Now some people live to work, but Derrick worked to live, which he did to the full through his family, his garden and his sport.

Derrick was the consummate all round sportsman, achieving excellence at whatever game he turned his hand to. A Scottish trialist, he played competitive hockey until he was 50. A championship swimmer, he would think nothing of disappearing for hours in sea and loch, frightening the life out of Irene and the kids as he swam into the distance. A keen Golfer, he was the handicap champion at Culcabock, and a long time member of Royal Dornoch. He was the Veteran Squash Champion at Bishop Road, and a serious Badminton opponent. He was a District level Cricketer, playing in Scottish Select sides, and in fact after 30 years he almost got me interested in that most noble of sports. My boys remember how Derrick taught them all how to play snooker on the half size table that lived in the attic of Culduthel Gardens. When he finally laid down his bat, stick and clubs, he and Irene took up bowls, winning numerous cups of course, and he was active until just a few years ago. When not playing sport, he watched it, with the TV invariably tuned to Sky Sports.

Of course as an active sportsman, he played his full part in the day to day running and organisation of the many clubs and teams of which of he belonged. Just yesterday Irene told me that she was touched by the many cards and letter she had received since Derrick’s death, and how many of them were from old friends with whom he had played sport with over the years. Indeed one, from an old school and hockey pal, recorded how Derrick had – with the utmost tact and decorum – quietly told him he was dropped from the first team.

His love of sport of course rubbed off on all those around him, Irene with her golf and bowls – if you can’t beat em, join em – Judith with her Horses, Ruth with her Squash, Dick, Craig and Dougie with their Hockey, Charlie and Hamish with their swimming and Football, Angus with his golf, and Magnus with his cycling. His love of sport was always gentlemanly and inclusive – it was the taking part, and doing your best that was important to Derrick, but he could not help but be pleased when Dick won his University Blue for Hockey, Judith her professional riding qualifications, and Magnus his success in the Scotland under 19 Cycling Squad, recalling Derrick’s own experience swimming and training with those who went on to represent their country in what was then called the Empire games.

When people say someone is a green fingered gardener, they could only have been talking about Derrick. Flowers or vegetables, lawns or Fruit trees, Derrick’s were always the biggest, the greenest or most colourful, the most productive and the most flavoursome. After eating his tomatoes or Strawberries, any other fruit or vegetable was a poor shadow of the everyday fair served in the Handford household. Visually he planned his garden so that there was always something of interest, whatever the season or weather, and no visit to Culduthel Gardens was complete without a guided tour of the garden, vegetable plot, greenhouse and compost heap.

I learnt a lot about compost heaps over the years.

Whilst Derrick could give the impression of being quiet and studious, nothing could be further form the truth when with his friends and family, and particularity in his own house. He had a wicked sense of humour, inordinately fond of puns – I remember once spending nearly 15 minutes playing a spontaneous game of pun tennis on the subject of sheep, which he won game, set and match – as well as gentle practical jokes, of which Irene and the grand sons were often at the receiving end. He also had a unique gardening dress style for sunny days, where he could be seen in Wellington boots and swimming trunks – occasionally accompanied by a bee helmet - watering the garden.

Derrick was also a keen photographer, and the house is of full of visual records of the Handford family growing up, invariably taken on a Sutherland Beach, or by a Highland loch. Now the photographer is usually always behind the lens, but Derrick was a dab hand with the self timer, long before most folk even knew they could be found on a camera. His approach to photography, to gardening, to home decoration – he could wall paper a room better than most professional decorator’s – summed up his approach to life.

If you are going to do something, do it properly, and do it well.

Finally, in remembering Derrick as a family man, I’ve thought a lot over the past week in how to describe his gentleness, his authority, and his love for his family. But anything I wrote could not match the words Irene quickly penned a week last Sunday, just a few hours after his death,

Let me just remind you of them now.

“Derrick Hendry Handford, a loving and much loved husband to Irene, a loving Father to Ruth, Judith and Dick, and a proud Grandfather to Angus, Dougie, Magnus, Craig, Hamish and Charlie.”

And also the finest Father-in-Law any man could as for."

Very touching, Callum. Eulogies are not easy to give under the best of circumstances, of course which there never are... but the good thing is, because they're given from the heart they're always well-received.

Very well done, C. Only met Derrick the once, but sad to hear this news.
Love and thoughts to you all

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