A Cold Christmas

L to R: Ray’s grandfather (Fred), Ray, Ray’s grandmother (Kitty), Ray’s mother (Margaret) and sister (Susan) during their last year together.

Ray sang with the Birmingham Canoldir Choir for RoadPeace at the World Day of Remembrance Service held in St. Martin in the Bullring. After hearing the stories shared on Sunday, he wanted to share his story with RoadPeace.

“December is usually a cold month of the year but one day in December, or more-precisely, one date in December is always colder than all the others.

“It was the 16th December and as young children we had been put to bed.

“Three of us in a single bed in the box room, nose to tail, with my elder sister Sue aged 7 in the middle. She was often uncomfortable because our father’s wartime ex-navy canvas sheet had a thick seam down the middle where it had been ‘side-to-middled’ and had dried patches of distemper because it doubled as a decorating sheet.

“The only heating in the house came from the coal fire in the living room which had now been extinguished for the night with a shovel of nutty slack. That heat never did reach our tiny bedroom, the net curtains had been frozen to the window pane for days and our only dark brown horse blanket hardly kept out the cold.

“However, we knew that we would soon be warmer when our grandad came home from his bar work at the local golf club as he would drape his heavy winter greatcoat across our bed, blow us kisses and wish us sweet dreams.

“That night of the 16th December, as Christmas approached, the makeshift eiderdown of his overcoat never arrived and we huddled together to try to keep warm.

“A late night knock at the front door and loud voices beneath our box room freezer zone woke my sister and I but thankfully our youngest brother, only 3 years old, stayed asleep as we cuddled him to stop him shivering.

“We had little sleep that night as our grandmother’s plaintiff cries rang out as she bewailed our grandfather’s name “Fred, my Fred” over and over again.

“A speeding, drunken driver had careered off the side of the road and mown down our grandfather as he got off the back of the bus.

“He lay dying in the road covered only by his blood-soaked overcoat on the border between two local authorities while they argued over who should attend the scene.

“Needless to say the warmth of his coat, his cuddles and his kisses never came again and a week later we asked Father Christmas for a Candlewick bedspread instead of the present that we each might have received.

“On 16th December 2019 it will be 60 years since that fateful night but the memory will never diminish and Christmas will always be a time of cold comfort.

“Although this this happened 60 years ago it is a sad fact that even today all-too-often similar tragedies occur, lives are destroyed and at least one other family will have a cold Christmas without sparkle.

“I’m confident that the continuing work of RoadPeace will make a significant difference and not only help those left behind but also help to improve many aspects of road safety.”

Ray has also orchestrated a number of Road Safety Campaigns between 1999 and 2009 across 7 Shire Counties and 7 Metropolitan Authorities. He sat on the Regional Road Safety Liaison Group covering 14 Local Authorities and was part of the three teams establishing the very first Safety Camera Partnerships for Warwickshire, West Mercia and the West Midlands.