There he was again. The old man, some said was in his nineties out for his constitutional. Bowed shoulders, walking stick, still he walked at a good pace, miles everyday. Someone said it staved off Alzheimers. Every good advice he followed.
People knew him thereabouts. By name. Roughly where he lived. By sight. The country folk would greet him, and he would smile back. A gentle smile. A man who had harmed no-one in 90 years of life.
He had started work at 14, before that if you counted working on farms in the school holidays. Worked to be paid in potatoes and vegetables for his family.
He watched the Titanic sail out of Belfast Lough. He remembered airships and the first cars. Planes came later.
He learnt a trade. Then another one. He went to night school and took his Radio Exams, and set sail on his first ship, “The City of Yokohama” in 1927. And fell in love with the Orient. Curries in Calcutta and martial arts in Japan still very traditional before the 2WW.
He sailed the seven seas, but saw little of it as his money went to support his mother’s family.
He brought his wife from the Antipodes, and continued working for Marconi, but on land, on the docks.
When Marconi retired him, he retook his exams and returned to sea as a Radio Officer. He sailed the North Atlantic to Canada. The years fell off him as he returned to the work he loved. The work and the sea.
But the Unions caught up with him and forced him to retire at 70.
He took up bowling. And in between he walked, every day, miles in the countryside to stave off Alzheimers – and he did.
He had given death a good run, but at 94 death finally caught him.
The country people saw the man who walked – but nobody knew him.
In tribute to my father
William John Agnew 1905-1999