Thursday, February 21, 2008

Death Down Under

my mother just returned from oz . she hadn't planned the 3 week visit down under: at the end of january she received a sad call from her eldest sister to say that her brother, Ken, had died. he was 72, the eldest of her siblings.

the neighbours hadn't seem him for a while so the police broke in to his house where he was found in his bed. it's unclear how long he was there for, it could have been up to a couple of weeks. his sister, living in melbourne, thought that it was funny she hadn't heard from him on her birthday, on the 25th january. this was a little weird, but not out of the ordinary, he had been forgetting a few birthdays over the last year.

Kenny was my siblings' favourite uncle when we were children. as a merchant seaman, and a lifelong bachelor, he always gave us more money than we were used to getting as pocket money. he would play silly games folding paper, guessing games and tricks with the prize being cash. he was very generous but more often than not he was plastered. drinking too much does seem to be an affliction that many sailors from the western isles seem to have, but Ken had a few more reasons to drink.

when he was younger he suffered an accident on a building site which left him in a lot of pain. in his mid 50s he had another accident. Kenny was in the cabin of a boat that was being lowered into the water when the cables holding the boat snapped on one side. the men that were on deck fell into the water, but my uncle was thrown around this cabin putting him in hospital once again. he needed metal rods inserted into his arm to rebuild his shattered elbow. drinking for him probably killed the pain to some extent, but also made him a little childlike himself. on the whole he was a likeable drunk, but in his later years, alcohol probably got the better of him.

most people liked Ken. in australia they mostly likely thought he was a crazy scotsman, while on his visits back home, many thought he was a crazy australian. he 'emigrated' to australia many years ago, well that's not quite true. he jumped ship in australia, and hid out in new zealand for a while until the coast was clear. he told me that you probably wouldn't be able to pull the same stunt nowadays, but he got away with it.

my mother, along with another sister, flew out to melbourne, to see to Ken's funeral, put his affairs in order, and clean out his house. so there were 3 of his 5 sisters at the funeral. he was cremated and his ashes have been brought back to be scattered in the western isles. at the cremation ceremony my mother, and her sisters, were wondering about the identity of 3 young girls. could they be long family, a hebridean connection? quite possible as Ken knew a few scottish families out there. actually, no. they turned out to be barmaids from his local watering hole. kudos. my uncle must have been a good tipper. i'm sure he would have appreciated that.