Papa’s Eulogy

Adam Martin 1924-2016

Adam Martin 1924-2016

Welcome everybody, and thank you for coming along today to St Mary Magdalene’s. We’re here to wish farewell to your friend, our Dad, our Papa, in this beautiful little church, more or less next door to where our family did so much of its growing up.

Most of you will have a favourite memory of Adam – “a true gentleman” was the phrase I’ve heard most often in recent days – as well as a ‘good neighbour and ‘great dad’ too.

Many of you may even feel you know him quite well.

So, I’m going to spend a few minutes reflecting on our Dad’s long and much loved life and, hopefully, I’ll be able to share a few things you don’t know: some of the stories he told me in recent times; the happy and sad circumstances which made Adam the calm, considerate, unabrasive yet unafraid man he always seemed to be.

And, maybe more than that, I’m sure, as a private man, he meant some subtle message to be gleaned from each telling.

If you’ve seen photos of Adam in his younger days – with his matinee idol looks – you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he had been in the movie business.

And he was – if not in movies per se – at least in movie theatres.

His first full-time job, aged just 14, was at the Kelvin Cinema in Glasgow. He worked as a bellhop selling chocolates and cigarettes, mainly to queues of star-struck girls it seems.

But Adam wasn’t just a pretty face. As the German bombs began to fall on Clydebank, the cinema had to take down its huge chandeliers made up of glass tubes of different sizes. The manager was puzzling over how to pack the chandeliers safely, when young Adam piped up with a bright idea: put the small tubes inside the medium-sized tubes, and the medium-sized tubes inside the large tubes.

“Clever boy,” said the manager and promoted him on the spot to projectionist – which was quite a high tech job in those days. And that’s how, as the war in the Far East became fierce, Dad was recruited into the Royal Air Force to become an electrical technician….

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You’re probably wondering why a clever boy like that isn’t at school. Why is he working, aged just 14 – living on a VC pie and a pint of milk each day – and fending for himself?

Well, Adam had been offered at place at St Mungo’s Academy. But his father didn’t want him at school. In fact, he didn’t want young Adam at home either. And so, like his brothers before him, Adam left his father’s house.

He got a job in the cinema, and looked out for himself, living in dodgy digs where the landlady pawned his clothes on his days off, until his older brother David came to his rescue…

But to understand that situation I’ll have to take you back to the beginning.

Adam was born in 1924, on the 25th of February, the last of 8 children born to Daniel Martin and his wife Sarah, neé Scott, a couple from West Tyrone in Ireland. Though some of the children were born in Ireland and some in Glasgow, the family had moved to Perth where Adam was born at 200 High Street.

It’s believed his mother died in childbirth, in 1927, when Adam was just three years old. While his father worked, there was no-one at home to care for little Adam, so he was allowed to attend St Johns School with his brother David.

When he was four, the family moved back to Glasgow, and teachers at the local primary school were amazed to discover that this tiny boy could already read.

And yet, fate is by definition cruel.

Little Adam was brought up by his loving older sister, Sarah. Affectionately known as Sadie, she also had a part-time job as a waitress to bring a few pennies into the family. But Sadie was tragically killed at the café.

As a workman botched a gas repair, an explosion tore apart the building, and shattered Adam’s world.

Not surprisingly, his father took to drink – almost as strongly as Adam took a dislike to the new housekeeper, whom his father eventually married.

From then on, it doesn’t seem like Adam had much parental guidance, unless you consider a good beating as good parenting.

Truth to tell, he became a bit of a Bash Street kid.

When he was aged 11 or 12, there was a break-in at the local Biscuit Factory. Like all the boys in the street, he was caught in possession of a large tin of Family Assortment – an unheard-of luxury.

It sounds ridiculous now, but the whole gang of boys was rounded up by the police and sent to court. Adam was lucky not to get sent to juvenile detention with the rest of the ‘angels with dirty faces’. He was too young, but not too young to feel the force of his father’s anger.

And so, by the age of 14, a boy who’d spend hours at the library reading the dictionary rather than go home after school, he found himself out in the world on his own, and unafraid.

His brother David found him a place to stay with an aunt and as the second world war raged, his career in the movie business flickered into life, building up an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies and a life-long love of film.

All was well until, aged 17, he had a brief flirtation with a girl he had met at the cinema. Innocent enough but, as was often the case in wartime, her big burly fiancé was coming home from the Navy, and friends advised Adam that he should ‘get out of Dodge’.

And so he signed up for the RAF, as if being shot at by the Japanese was somehow a better idea than being punched by a Glaswegian?

Trained as an aircraft technician, ‘Boy Martin’ as the aircrews called him, served in 354 squadron in India and Burma, and in Ceylon with 160 Squadron. Cadging flights with friendly crews for fun, he recounted how he could have been killed when the bomb doors opened underneath him by mistake in mid-flight, or how a Japanese fighter shot holes in the plane he was in. But none of that scared him.

I suppose when your mother has died, your sister’s been killed and your father’s abandoned you, maybe you feel there’s not much worse can happen. Except perhaps if your older brother Danny is murdered, shot point blank in an army barracks, over a pointless argument.

In Ceylon though, cupid’s dart was probably still the biggest danger for Adam. He found a friend in a beautiful Sinalese girl who taught English at the convent school in Trincomalee. Like a scene from the musical South Pacific, it could have been “Happy, Happy Talk” ever after, had 160 Squadron not been shipped out of Ceylon without so much as a cheerio. Luckily for so many of us here today.

The war over, he found himself shivering in a lightweight tropical uniform up north at RAF Lossiemouth in 1947 – one of the coldest winters on record. And probably still too smart for his own good.

After one parade, he was put on a charge for having dirty boots. “Excuse me, sir,” he told the officer. “I don’t have dirty boots. These are shoes.” And so found he himself peeling potatoes for a week.

Back in civvy street, he found work as an electrician, building Grangemouth and working on Scotland’s hydro dams where he got on famously with the Kelly brothers, John and Pat.

Invited back to Granny Kelly’s in Perth to play cards on Sundays, he first set eyes on the belle of the family – the beautiful young Margaret. Or did she set eyes on him?

Coming through the South Inch with her sister Mary, they spied young Adam strolling down King Street. “There’s that boy who comes to the house,” said Margaret to Mary. “You go on ahead. I want to speak to him.”

And so with an aim deadlier than a Japanese pilot, Nana set her sights on Papa. He didn’t stand a chance.

I can imagine them now, gliding round the dance floor of Perth City hall to the big band sounds, as smoothly as their years together slipped by.

Adam and Margaret were married in February 1950. Love blossomed, as they say, and by 1954 the family was blessed by the birth of Patricia, followed closely by Mary, then Anthony, myself – always Mum’s favourite – and Paul – or was he Mum’s favourite? – and, last but not least, today’s terror of Tulloch’s primary school pupils, Bernadette.

Mum and Dad were also blessed with great friends, Jerry Winton – a wonderful singer, and Elizabeth the beautiful dancer – not to mention the Alexanders, and the whole Kelly clan, as well as having Dad’s brothers Pate and Robert close at hand. Dad also kept in touch with his wider relations: David and family in West Calder; Susie and cousin Sadie and their families in Glasgow.

With a burgeoning brood of kids, it’s just as well Dad had workaholic tendencies. Since he didn’t have an electrician’s union card, he started at the Royal Navy Repair Depot in Almondbank as a labourer, then leapt through the exams and promotions to be appointed Inspector, while also holding down a second evening job with GPO telephones.

But the role in which he flourished most was working for Ladbrokes from 1974 till he retired in 1986, yes, 30 years ago. Perhaps he liked being his own boss. Maybe it was the new technology of printed circuit boards and the ‘secret squirrel’ nature of the security cameras. Or maybe it was just the company car and all that driving, which he loved.

He seemed to have no qualms about driving great distances in conditions which would have made sane men blanche: sheet ice, blizzards, even when a lorry – reversing onto a dual carriage way – carved his car in half length-ways, it didn’t change his attitude. He was fearless.

Which is maybe why he loved that TV reality show about Ice Road Truckers in Alaska…

And yet, no matter how hard Dad worked – and, boy, did he know how to put in a shift – he always put family first.

I’d come out of school in Dundee, and he’d be waiting to give me a lift home. After a full day’s work, he’d think nothing of taking Paul and Bernadette for a drive in the country. At weekends, he’d support Ants in his football career.

As the years flew past faster than a Liberator plane, he stayed constant. Constant in his love of Margaret, constant in his pride in his grandchildren and great grandchildren, and constantly on holiday with Ben and Colin and taking trips to Jersey to see Ants and Maria.

As the game of life want on, he never lost his winning ways. Ask any of the grandchildren about the energy he’d put into playing games with them, and the fun he’d have plainly cheating them at cards, hoping they’d catch him, so he could have even more fun denying it.

And so you can see, in the strength of the man, the boy who had lost so much of the love and care which childhood needs.

From the pain and wrath in which he grew up blooms the determination to do better by his children and their children and their children’s children; his belief in peace and tolerance; in genial competitiveness; in education and self-advancement.

From the dark and frightening unfolding of his early life, we see the shining example of his later years: the unruffled gentlemanly way of being, the undimmed courage of doing, of keeping on and going strong.

And even in the hardest times, with the passing of his beloved Margaret, and the sorrowful ending of his son Anthony’s life too soon – bitter blows that might have pushed a lesser man from the straight road – he kept on. The howl of anguish he kept inside.

And as the shadow fell upon himself, I never once saw him show fear either. “Well, things have got to be some way,” he would say, and hum the little tune from Punchinello.

And that fortitude and calm consideration has been re-paid over the years with love and respect – a feeling that’s amplified in the hearts of everyone here today – gratitude for all the years he spent with us.

And so, thanks…

Firstly, thank you Monsignor for your gracious service today, and for the years of good friendship towards Dad, and spiritual guidance.

For material sustenance, thanks to Mandy Winton who took Dad weekly shopping to his favourite stores… and to Alice Kelly for helping Dad at home more than words can say.

In health support, thanks to the doctors at Glover Street and the staff at the PRI.

Then there’s the girls from Marie Curie, and the community nurses from the NHS. Dad often said he believed in ministering angels and, in the end, he wasn’t far wrong.

Thanks of course to my own family – particularly Tricia, Mary, Paul and Bernadette, but also Steve, Michael, Martin, Amber, Robbie, Roben, Colin and so many others – all, who with courage and care, walked the last mile with Dad to his dying breath. And, while he would not ‘go gentle into that good night’ – while he played Death a cheating hand as long as life lasted – believe me friends, he went without fear.

So, take courage one and all.

Take courage that Dad lived the best life he could.

That he strived for others’ sakes, not his own.

That he leaves us richer and prouder for having known him.

That he sleeps untroubled, and lives on ever in our thanks.

Our boundless thanks, to a fearless, peerless gent.

Adam Martin.