6th December 2021

Friday of this week marks what would have been my father’s one hundreth birthday, though he died in his late sixties. The eldest of six, he turned down a place at the local High School because he judged his mother couldn’t afford the uniform and the daily bus fares. He left school as soon as he could to bring extra money into the family. When war broke out, he was turned down by all three services because of perforated eardrums and spent the war working in the shipyards of Tyneside during the day and fire watching by night. A friendly, though private, man, he was hard-working, honest as they come and utterly loyal to his family and friends. In other words, his was a thoroughly ordinary and unspectacular life.

He and I got on well enough without being especially close, but as I’ve looked back I’ve grown to appreciate the sheer, steady reliability of the man. My sister and I took our stable home life for granted, knowing we came first with both our parents. Come what may, we always knew we were loved and would be provided for. I sometimes wonder if that was in God’s mind when he chose the parents for his Son. Mary rightfully gets some attention in the gospels, but poor old Joseph usually remains ‘that bloke in the background’ about whom we know almost nothing. And yet, his quiet, hard-working presence, providing for and protecting his family, surely helped Jesus become the man he was. Three cheers for the reliable, unspectacular dads!

Ken Stewart