My Uncle David passed away a few weeks ago. There are some people who make you smile just to think about them, he was that way. I am sad he is gone… but when I think of him i can’t help but to smile - he was an upbeat and funny guy and for everyone who had the opportunity to know him we are better people. This was the Celebration of his life that was read at his funeral.
David McIntosh Cameron was born on the 10th of June 1922 in Canada. His Mother Elizabeth had gone out to Canada to work with Indian children on a reservation and there she met and married David’s father John – or Black jack as he was also known. They had 3 children together, Nan, Margaret and David. Sadly the marriage was not to last and when David was 6 months old he returned with his mother to her home town of Perth. His sister Nan also returned with them but Margaret remained in Canada with an Aunt and Uncle. She did come back to Scotland but eventually went back to Canada to live permanently.
As he grew up in Perth David first attended Craigie Primary and then Balhousie Boy’s School. After he left school he went to Ross’s Commercial College, which used to be in St John’s Place, however that was not to last long; an incident involving something to do with putting carbon into inkwells. Very dramatic result I believe but very messy! While he was at Ross’s he also worked in Caird’s the gents outfitters; the beginning of a long career in the trade. His boss at Caird’s would ask him how it was going at the College and David would reply “just fine” – the truth was he wasn’t going to college as the inkwell incident had resulted in him being asked to leave! He went on to work in Smith Brothers in Dundee until he was called up to serve in the forces in 1941 when he was 19. David joined the Royal Navy serving on HMS Mauritius. His grandson Cameron did a project about the Second World War at school and David was thrilled to be able to tell him tales – some of them of them on the tall side I think - of his exploits and give him photos of shells being fired from the ship and suchlike. Cameron was the only one in his class to do a project about a living person and when asked who it was, he was very proud to announce “my Grandad”.
David was demobbed in 1946 and it was shortly after his return to Perth that his eye and heart were caught by a lovely young woman called Margaret. They first met at Perth Ice Rink where they had been watching an ice hockey game. After the game they and many others took to the ice themselves to skate. Margaret was a good skater and with her beautiful strawberry blonde hair David soon noticed her; David was always adamant that there was nothing gingery about Margaret’s hair, she was a strawberry blonde and that was that!
He skated over to her and promptly fell over, the ice was very wet after the game and so was David when he managed to get up! He must have impressed Margaret somehow though as she agreed to go out with him and the rest as they say is history. They were married on the 25th August 1948 in St Stephen’s Church in Perth with Margaret’s niece Hazel as a flower girl. Margaret remembers that rationing was still in force and everyone helped out with coupons – saving them up and donating them towards the cake and the wedding clothes especially; David was very particular about his appearance and they were a smart couple. She also remembers that the taxi to take them to the railway station to catch the train to Aberdeen for their honeymoon didn’t turn up and it was pouring rain – however the day was saved by Mr Law who gave them a lift in his car.
They started out married life as many did in a room and kitchen in West Mill Street and in 1949 knew the joy of parenthood with the arrival of Joyce. In 1952 they moved to their current address 91 Struan Road; it was a busy year as the family also expanded with the birth of David junior.
David continued his career in the gent’s outfitters trade, a job he really enjoyed, both for the interaction with colleagues and customers and because he took pride in providing a good service and meeting the needs of his customers. He used to say he was the only person in Dundee who could measure a suit properly - but he said it with a twinkle in his eye. After he and Margaret were married he went to work in Dan Taylors in Perth which no doubt some of you will remember; and he worked there until the shop closed in 1971. While there he worked with a young lad called Gordon Ford, who was learning the ropes and tricks of the trade as his apprentice. After the shop shut in 1971 they used to meet every Thursday right up until March of this year when David’s health began to fail. With the closure of the shop David returned to working in Dundee first in Draffens and then in Keith Scotts until he retired in 1987. Before work he went for a cup of tea to the same wee Italian café every morning after he got off the train in Dundee. David never had a driving licence and when he worked in Perth got about on a push bike then graduated to a scooter. Margaret did get on the back of the scooter – but only once! It’s not strictly true that David never had a car, he did at one point have a 3 wheeler but he drove it like a scooter, making everyone “lean” when going round corners and the like, so that only lasted about a month!
David always liked to be smartly dressed and wore a shirt, tie and jacket everyday even in retirement. As his son David said “Dad didn’t do casual” it seems casual to David was a short sleeved shirt! His granddaughters also remember a tie pin he always wore and that he had a silk hankie in his top pocket. Alison remembers when she was little that her Grandad’s hair was always “brylcreamed”. Even in hospital it was important to David to have his hair combed and to be shaved. It seems appropriate that someone so particular, meticulous and stylish should work in the business of gentleman’s outfitting. David was friendly, outgoing and sociable, a real asset in his job. Margaret told me he would speak to everybody, or was that anybody?! Even cats and dogs. Going for the paper could take half an hour, although there was a suggestion that might be so that when he got home Margaret would have done everything!
David and Margaret also enjoyed going on holiday. To begin with it was caravan holidays in Arbroath, and then trips to Morecombe and Blackpool. Their first holiday abroad was in the 1970’s and David had to get a passport. So off he and Margaret went and to their very great shock he was turned down; all his life he had considered himself British and had served in the British Navy but he was actually born in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. All ended well and David enjoyed many holidays in the sun which he loved. His favourite place was Benidorm and great times were had there with their close friends Babs and Alec and Betty and Stewart. In fact Margaret, Babs and Betty have been friends since they were sixteen. Despite everything that’s been said, while on holiday David did do casual and I’ve seen the photos to prove it – shorts and a shirt unbuttoned to show off his tanned chest! Admittedly he did make even casual look very stylish. The six of them also enjoyed socialising together and went out to various clubs and dinner dances. David enjoyed dancing but like skating he wasn’t very good at it…….something to do with two left feet. Joyce remembers going to dance classes with her Dad as a young teenager, not that the lessons helped much, they had fun but never got any better. The only dance she recalls is the Cha Cha Cha – probably best if we leave it there!
His garden was another source of pleasure and enjoyment for David and he was a keen gardener. What he was most proud of though was his shed; it was just a 4 by 6 shed but he painted it and had hanging baskets round it……..and he loved it! When he was in hospital the family took photos in for him and the picture that he liked the best? Yes the one of his shed! Last year when he was less able to do the garden some of the family decided to help out and plant up some hanging baskets and tubs. David supervised from the window and although he thought they were putting too much stuff into them he appreciated the effort they were making.
David was a real family man and Margaret was the love of his life. Joyce recalls her Dad saying that “no-one can hold a candle to your mother, not even my beautiful grandchildren”. He did love his grandchildren and great grandchildren very much though and enjoyed spending time with them immensely. He used to put on the Birdie dance for them and sing and dance; he knew all the words and actions and would play it over and over again! When they were wee Cameron and Russell would go out into the garden with him and get mucky rolling down the slope at the back, in truth it is barely a slope but they were small and climbing back up to go again, felt like climbing a mountain. I don’t think David joined in but he certainly encouraged them. He was practical and quite creative, turning his hand to most jobs that needed doing including putting a nail through a water pipe on one memorable occasion. His talents included making toys and one Christmas he spend weeks making a fantastic wooden castle for Cameron, complete with turrets, a drawbridge and trees. The turrets that came off so you could fill the castle with soldier., As Christmas approached Margaret pointed out that he couldn’t give a castle to Cameron without one for Russell, it wasn’t fair. He saw the point and in record time two castles were ready for the big day and many hours of fun were had playing with them. I hear Cameron fell out of bed one night onto one of the turrets which wasn’t so much fun.
David loved his family and was contented with his life. Margaret told me he was a man of simple tastes and accepted that whatever stage of his life he was at it was the right place to be. After retirement David took a part-time job as a general handyman at Farquhar the printers, cheerfully doing whatever needed doing; he continued there into his 70’s enjoying the banter with his colleagues. Whatever losses getting older might bring there were also compensations and a new chapter to write.
All stories end however and David had been unwell with Pneumonia for some weeks before he was taken into Tay ward in Perth Royal Infirmary, sadly it was not a battle he could win and he died peacefully with Margaret, Joyce and David there with him through his final hours. His last words to his family were that they were not to be sad, well they could be sad for one whole hour not a minute more, not a minute less.
David lived his life well. He was deeply loved by his family and loved them deeply in return. He was liked and respected by all who knew him. In the words of the roman philosopher Seneca……….
In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life. We must be able to accept death and go from its presence better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others. Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our sorrows, we join with all those before us who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts.
I think David would have approved of these words.