Alfred Burton Furniss was born in Gorleston in 1889. He was too young to remember this little seaside resort when he left on his lifetime adventures but was always proud to been born there. Something of the spirit of the litle town must have rubbed off on him.
He was the eldest of three boys who were obviously happy with their mother, a local girl with a large extended family around her that had existed and thrived before the fishing village was developed into a seaside resort. They had obviously adapted to the new situation as the village grew but carried on fishing and volunteering as RNLI crew members. The sea was in their blood.
Alfred Burton's adventures started when his mother died and he was packed off to stay with his grandfather in London.
Here he found his two half aunts and a step grandmother who were delighted to have a young boy to make a fuss of. He was dressed in a smart suit and spent many happy hours wandering around the City of London. He would tell stories to me and my sisters about his adventures in London and we regarded his aunts as our own. He was in touch with his aunts throughout our childhood.
This happy period was about to end abruptly. When his father, a trawler deck hand, remarried and moved to Hull, my dad (as I shall now refer to him) was packed off in his smart suit to live with his father and stepmother. As soon as he arrived he had his smart clothes removed and he was dressed in the worn out cast offs of his older stepbrothers. This was his first taste of the cruel twists that life can take. This episode affected the rest of his life and his stepmother was always referred to as the old witch.
By dint of cunning and a good imaginations the three boys now survived on the streets of early twentieth century Hull, getting into trouble with the police but avoiding a criminal record. This was fortunate as my father was to join the Army and my uncle Tom was to become a policeman in Hull. Both had successful and long careers. The youngest of the three boys, Harry became a skipper of a trawler, a lucrative and respected occupation.
As soon as he was old enough, at the age of fourteen, my father went to sea as the cook to a trawler crew fishing off Iceland. He quickly learnt how to bake bread even though a trawler galley is not an ideal spot to practice this art. He cooked lots of fish and could gut and fillet like a good 'un. He could pluck and prepare poultry and prepare rabbit for the table. He could swim and fish with a rod and line, water seemly his second home.
All this was good preparation for his life in the Army when he joined the East Yorkshire Regiment. Before long he had taken a course in Gymnastics. He became a Sergeant Major on the Army Gymnastic Staff. He finally left the Army to settle down with a small family, growing larger every two years, and before I was born he had become a schoolmaster, teaching gymnastics and sports at a good grammar school in Leicester.
Early setbacks put behind him he prospered until 1936 when life took another cruel twist, but that is another story.
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