THEY joke that older newspaper readers turn first to the obituary page. But there are lessons in life for us all in those epitaphs.
A cutting of one from this newspaper was shown to me during a pint in the Taps at Lytham.
“David Franks,” the fellow showing it me explained.
“Nice man, lovely voice,” others muttered.
“One of your lot (a journalist, he meant), but a pukka gent. Never married but had a housekeeper; lunched out every day at different restaurants.”
Well, I thought, obviously he hadn’t retired on local newspaper pay.
David Franks, 86, whose funeral was last Friday, in fact worked on the Daily Express, then the Mail and was the first reporter at the Munich Air Disaster.
But he began humbly, as a cub reporter on the Lytham Times and Preston Pilot.
The reporter and adventurer’s thrilling life read like a bestseller.
David, of Station Square, had been round the world on just a tenner.
He had turned his hand to any job that came along, and cycled or hitched most of the way.
He served in the Navy and later restored a ruin on a remote Irish islet, before finally coming home.
His story reminded me of a stirring obituary while editing Welsh newspapers in Oswestry.
I was given handwritten notes on a shipping boss.
He started as a cabin boy under sail, and rose to skipper, but had been refused the hand of the owner’s daughter – not by her, as they were in love.
Undeterred, our hero left, built up a line of steam ships then returned to claim his patiently waiting prize.
More recently, a tribute to the chief obituary writer of the Los Angeles Times pointed out that these epitaphs are full of real adventure, romance and, well, life!
Also, this branch of journalism is the most revealing – as the dead cannot sue.
The late writer had penned tomes on obituary crafting and rather hoped his own might read: ‘Shot dead, aged 90, by a jealous husband’.
Sadly, it turned out to be, ‘Died at 67, after long illness’.
However, all this inspired me to write a novel based on a fictional obituary magazine.
In contrast to ‘Hello!’ for celebrity lives, I called this magazine ‘Goodbye!’ The resulting book, entitled Where Angels Tread, was published by Amazon.
So, you see, there’s much to be gained from appreciating others’ lives.
An Edinburgh review kindly judged Where Angels Tread: “A clever and touching story, full of atmosphere and wonderful characters . . .”
Not a bad epitaph in itself!
* Books by Roy are available in paperback from bookstores and on kindle, see www.royedmonds-blackpool.com for full details.