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My father, Jack Donkersley, was born on the 28th June 1917 in Waterhead Oldham and after minimal schooling worked on a local farm, developing his lifelong positive attitude to hard work and an honest living.
At the age of 19, having saved up and bought himself a smart suit, he came home from work, planning a night out, only to find that his elder brother was already out wearing the new suit.
Incensed and discontented, he advised the family that he was "joining the army". This announcement being met with anguish from his mother and lack of consent (which was required at the time for one so young).
So he crossed the Pennines to Halifax, on foot, rather than joining at the Manchester barracks, where he could have been traced and returned home.
There, he lied about parental consent and joined the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. The story, told to my sister, many years later, on a drive to Halifax, really sums up the picture. He pointed to a window at the Barracks and described himself "with a cleaning cloth in one hand and a bar of chocolate in the other, as the happiest boy in the world". Why? Because the time allowed for his parents to object was passed and he was "in the Dukes".
I'm not sure how long the smile would have lasted during his time on the retreat through Burma but I do know he returned to England with a liking for drink. On reflection, I don't honestly know if he drank to remember or drank to forget but I wish now I had paid more attention to what he had to say when under the influence, rather than being dismissive of his stupor.
My own journey to Halifax, where I lived for 29 years, was pure co-incidence and as a result of my career with the Halifax Building Society.
In his memory, on my fathers 101st Birthday on 28th June this year, I intend to run from Waterhead Park, where my father and I both played rugby, to Halifax Bowling Club, which is close to the Wellesley Barracks, where he signed up and which is currently the home of the Loyal Georgean Society, a Halifax friendly society formed in 1779, of which I was President in 2012.
It was the members of the Loyal Georgeans who gave me the encouragement to undertake this activity, which will help to ensure the wonderful memorial is built in their town.
Whilst I am a bit of a runner, with 2 marathons and 10 half marathons completed in the last 9 years, I hate hills, so a trip across the Pennines with 4 major climbs in an estimated 17 miles will be no mean feat for a 62 year old asthmatic.
I will be accompanied by another ex Duke, William Hoyle, and his work colleague at Ultrasyntec, Lee Sunderland will be supporting us on route.
Will and I are just in training and on serious countdown to the big day.
I hope you will find it in your heart to support us on this noble cause.
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