Philip Henry Cheshire, grew up with his two half-brothers, Jack and Sam and three sisters, Frances, Louie and Sheila (their youngest sister Lorna died of meningitis at age four). He started to earn his keep from a tender age by selling vegetables from Granny’s allotment. Phil remembered many good times on Haughmond Hill, which resulted in one of our favourite photos of him, though he protested that he looked like a ragamuffin.
He said he learned to swim when his brothers threw him into the River Severn above the weir! He told us the story of a painful run home after swinging off some rafters in a barn somewhere, and shouting “Mum! I think I’ve broken my nose!”… and Granny replying “Get ‘orf down the hospital!”
In 1942, Phil joined the Air Training Corps with a view to becoming a pilot or navigator. In 1944 he joined the Army, rising to Sergeant in the 10th Survey Regiment, Royal Artillery. After the war, Phil worked with his brother Jack, first at Boots the Chemist in Shrewsbury and then they opened a new photographic shop “Bishop and Brown” on Wyle Cop.
Photography was an important and serious pastime for Phil and we have some fabulous pictures as mementoes, though we well remember the painstaking way he angled us with faces in full sun for the best exposure, regardless of our squinting tear-streaked faces.
Phil met Pam in the swimming baths in Shrewsbury. They were married on April Fools’ Day in 1950, Phil in his de-mob suit and Pam in a borrowed pink outfit.
Phil tried to interest us in his mountaineering hobby – he often escaped on the back of his friend’s motor bike to go hiking in the hills – and later we got to know Snowdon’s Pyg Track. A highlight for Phil was fording a freezing cold causeway.
Phil’s first car was a 1932 black Fiat complete with running boards and a starting handle that “kicked like a mule”. If he couldn’t be found in house or garden, he was sure to be underneath a car in the garage, spanner and wrench within easy reach.
During one of many trips to the seaside, we stopped at traffic lights in the middle of Welshpool. We could smell something strange, but thought nothing of it as the car always had the aroma of scrap-yard about it. Smoke started to curl up from beneath the back seat and we all made a hasty escape, to the astonishment of passers-by. The fire had been started by a spark from the battery under the seat and was taken up by the straw stuffing.
Happy seaside trips tended towards military operations. Only pebble beaches were tolerated as Phil didn’t like sand in the car (or anywhere else for that matter!). The beach-head was secured with wind-breaks, oil and vinegar dressing liberally applied as sun-screen, buckets and spades present and correct. After a bracing swim and picnic rations, we reported for obligatory tar inspection and removal before re-embarkation.
Camping deployments to Cornwall and Devon started with “Revaille” just before dawn for epic 8-hour journeys. We were sandwiched into the back of the car with the camping equipment. Farmer Littlejohn’s field was the venue for exhausted and fractious tent construction, cows and cow-pats notwithstanding. Our rewards for good behaviour were gigantic whippy ice-creams at Mevagissey Harbour.
Phil worked at Rolls Royce and then at the Shirehall by Lord Hill’s column in Shrewsbury. Mum and Dad spent all their spare time renovating old houses and selling them on. They called their last house in Shrewsbury “Journey’s End”. But that wasn’t the end, because when they retired they moved to Dorset – first Lyme Regis, then Seaton. In all they moved about 13 times!
Phil and Pam’s working lives revolved around accumulating days off for their 3 or 4-week touring holidays, initially in converted VWs and finally in their beloved Eriba. They travelled extensively in Europe. Once retired, they spent longer periods abroad; Portugal for the winter sun and a 3-month continental jaunt every Sep to their favourite camp-site in Benidorm.
It was during a stay in Portugal that Pam started to become ill. Dad’s dedication during her long illness was extraordinary. He was by her side, fighting to ensure she got the best care possible. He was with her every step of the way. For this we will be eternally grateful. Phil’s main pleasure in life from then on was soaking up the sun on his balcony, looking out to sea and beyond to the Isle of Wight, in speedos whenever possible.
Phil insisted on maintaining his independence to the last, but his health began to deteriorate, resulting in falls. During his last stay in the community hospital he earned the respect of the nurses, who said he was a “character”. With his ready wit, he made a pleasant change from their normal intake. Phil was taken to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital on 28 Mar 2017 where he was cared for with compassion and great kindness. He gently drifted away, no doubt to a sun-bed with his name on it.