Thursday, 7 October 2010

Major George Wilkinson MBE

My dear father in law, George Wilkinson, has died at the age of 94.  I've only known George during the last 12 or so years of his long life, but it was a privilege. I can't tell you about his military career, of which he was so proud, - he would regale any audience with reminiscences of his life in Germany during and after the war. I can't tell you about his early life, born as he was into a very modest Yorkshire mining family and destined to go down the pit, until the army opened up an entirely new life and unimagined opportunities for him. I can't even tell you much about his later career as a gun dog trainer, and country sports enthusiast. Suffice to say that his son, my husband, has to this day a somewhat ambivalent attitude to roast pheasant, born he says of the many ever-so-slightly-past-it's-best, game dinners he endured as a child in the post war years.  And we will draw a veil over the apocryphal Roast Swan I Thought It Was A Goose incident.

What I can tell you is that George was one of the Old School. He was a gentleman and a charmer to the end.  He was engaging and funny to talk to whether you were young or old, humble or grand. Because there was no silver spoon for any baby born into George's family back in 1915, he appreciated and enjoyed the good things that had come to him in life, perhaps like only those who have known a degree of deprivation can do. A potter in his pristine garden, followed by a good dinner with a glass of red wine, (or two), and a dog at his feet, and life was good. And although I only knew him in his later years, I can truly say I never heard him say a bad word about anyone.

Ninety four year olds are not often known for their witty riposts, but George would often surprise you, even in the last months of his life when you thought he wasn't really listening, or able to take things in, he would suddenly add some little aside, make some little joke. Just a week before he died, he and Marjorie celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, there was a write up in the local paper, since 70 years together is pretty special, and amid the cards, photos and congratulations George was heard to ask "Do I get a long service medal yet?"

We will miss him.

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