Day dad felt too far from home

Sheffielder John Fowler's third instalment of his childhood memories of living in Zambia begin on a sad note this week.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:17 pm
Fowler family pictures: Grandad Charlie, little John (my dad) and Robert (dad's brother), taken in Midland Street, off Shoreham Street, Sheffield
Fowler family pictures: Grandad Charlie, little John (my dad) and Robert (dad's brother), taken in Midland Street, off Shoreham Street, Sheffield

While we were in Zambia, dad's much-loved father (also called John Charles Fowler, like dad and I, but he was universally known as Charlie) passed away.

Instead of being sent a telegram, dad received a letter telling him of this sad news several weeks after the funeral.

Fowler family pictures: Grandad Charlie with his wife, Alice, ne Crookes. They were on their way to the seaside.

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Grandad Charlie had been retired about six months after a full working life in Sheffield's steel industry. He died in his sleep.

Grandad was one of the many thousands of hard-working men and women who made Sheffield world famous.

At home he loved tending his roses in the back garden at Midland Street.

On occasion he would walk up Bramall Lane with his wife, Alice (Grandma is featured in Part 6), to visit the Sheaf House pub at the top of the road.

Before we went to Zambia, mum and dad would sometimes join them, other members of the family coming too, including mum's stepdad, Harry, who was known as Taffy because he came from Cardiff. Mum's dad died when she was two or three years old.

Grandad and grandma had three other children - Sheila, Barbara and Robert - and 10 grandchildren.

Grandad suffered from depression, like dad and I, so he would go on walks to Lodge Moor via the reservoirs, taking one or more of his children, walking until he felt better. Dad did the same with Andrea and I when we returned to England.

Like his grandson John, Grandad Charlie avoided the doctor like the plague! "Keep that quack away from me," he would say during times of illness.

Dad felt guilty about missing the funeral, even though he was completely blameless. He started drinking more but continued working. We carried on much as before but I was aware of dad's grief.

The town of Mufulira seemed quite small, with just one bank, as I recall. A branch of Barclays, it was sited on the left-hand corner as we approached town, large and had armed guards outside.

We also visited the meat market often; we grew our own vegetables. Andrea and I's favourite place in town was a little café just off the main street, not far from the bank, that sold milkshakes. These were very pleasant considering the tropical heat.

I was impressed with the Zambian women at the market. They would carry babies in cloth slings and various amounts of items balanced on their heads. They were very resourceful women.