For many years this has been a special day in the F-S/Hall/Cragg world.
Today would have been John’s 81st birthday. John loved birthdays, as many of you will remember: presents and happy gatherings meant such a lot to him and he was quite charmingly shameless enjoying his own quite as much as anyone else’s.
There’s not much to be cheerful about these days. Covid-19 strengthens its grip – Tier 2 for Derbyshire Dales as from last Saturday night, lockdown from today Thursday 5th November, winter approaches and the days ae getting shorter… and as far as John’s immediate family and friends are concerned, the gap he leaves seems to get wider.
I’m afraid I have some very sad news. After several months of acute pain and ill-health met with great fortitude and dignity, John slipped away very peacefully on Saturday 19th September 2020.
He had been suffering from Discitis, an infection of a disc in his spine. He received wonderful care from everyone on Elmton Ward, Chesterfield Royal Hospital, and we kept thinking and hoping he might be turning the corner, but sadly it was not to be.
I am writing this in great haste with no time to tell you more. I will later.
There’ll be a Cremation Service at Chesterfield Crematorium at 10am on Thursday 8th October 2020 to which we can invite in theory a maximum of 30 people. It means, practically, more like about 10 or 12 and no legal opportunity afterwards to celebrate together the passing of a great friend and family man.
With all the increasing Covid restrictions it is proving very difficult to arange the kind of send off we would’ve wished for John, a man who had had a very full and interesting life with very many friends, colleagues and ex-pupils.
No singing, canned music…The only compensation is that the service will be streamed so that anyone unable (or perforce uninvited) to attend will be able to watch the service. We don’t yet have the link but when we have, if anyone would like me to send it to them please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be a notice tomorrow, Saturday 26th September, in both the Times and the Telegraph, thanks to the Old Bramcotian Society who have submitted it on our behalf.
And I will write more later when I have more time. Meanwhile, here is goodbye from him…
With an explanatory introduction for those family members under five or six…
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there were two young people who went out to Africa to live. They were called Douglas and Rachel Hall, and they lived in a country that then was called Northern Rhodesia. (Now it is called Zambia.)
Last week we were in Northumberland. Everything was lovely, apart from the weather but even that didn’t stop us. We did so much, and had such a good time I may risk sounding as if I were in the pay of Visit Northumberland. I assure you I am not!
So I will try to skip along quickly, before I come briefly to the family memories bit…
We stayed in The Byre, a superb holiday cottage by the sea, overlooking Holy Island. Our very good friends, the Cartwrights, stayed in the Mill House next door and during the week various permutations of the nine of us did various things, but all meeting up in the evening for very jolly and delicious suppers.
Of course we visited Holy Island, and most of us walked home one day along the Causeway, making sure it was very low tide and that we didn’t inadvertently kick any unexploded World War 2 armaments.
Inevitably we did lots of touristy things. Various of us visited Barter Books in Alnwick, and Alnwick Garden (The Poison Garden was alarming!) Seahouses for fresh fish, Budle Bay, and Budle Hall, a very lovely B&B. Our last evening we had a splendid meal at the Potted Lobster , in Bamburgh. It was a lovely way to conclude the holiday.
Then John and I drove up one particularly wet and windy day to Cockburnspath, in the Scottish Borders, to Dunglass where the Hall family lived for over two hundred years. The estate was sold in 1919 to the Usher family, who live there still although no longer in the ‘big house’ which was pulled down – well actually blown up – some time ago.
Dunglass is now a thriving wedding venue. Weddings are conducted in the most atmospheric and windowless church. Historic Environment Scotland casts the blame for its state of apparent disrepair firmly on the Halls.
In the 18C the Hall family apparently turned the church into a barn, knocking down one section you see in the photo below for easier access… However, several Halls are buried there and the plaques of many more are on the walls in the south transept so there can’t have been total disrespect…
While chatting to Simon and Joyce Usher they told us they hold about 60 weddings a year. (They also assured us that in chilly weather people are kept completely warm and comfortable, so current day Halls need perhaps not feel too guilty.)
We met for lunch Sally Wilson and her husband Kenneth, a multi-talented pair but I think essentially a writer/researcher and an artist. Sally has written a most interesting and informative book about Cockburnspath, and another about Lady Helen Hall, my several-times-great grandmother. We could have talked to Sally and Ken for so much longer.
Now back at home, I intend to re-read both books, and share with family, and any interested friends some of our Hall family history. (Of course there are various other families too, which I mustn’t ignore…)
My father retired in his early fifties after a career in Africa. My parents, Douglas and Rachel Hall, although sad to have left their life in Africa, were excited to be coming home, as far as my brother John and sister Ruth were concerned, we had left home and all our friends…
John and I went to what was then Yugoslavia for our honeymoon, staying on the island of Krk in the Adriatic. In those days we were blissfully ignorant of any family or sporting connections with the area… Continue reading Cricket in Croatia