Dave and I grew up together, we were part of a group that hung around in playground huddles – me (Rammo), Westy, Youngy, Hossy and Sykesy (Dave). We went through infants, junior school and then secondary school, and from the ages of around 6 to about 16 we were a fairly tight knit team.
I remember fondly going to Dave’s house one schoolday lunchtime when we were around 14, to listen to his Monty Python records – yes we were the kind of brats on the school bus that would recite the Election Night Special sketch with Tarquin Ptang Ptang Ole Biscuit Barrel. We also had a collective love for rock music and attended many concerts together in our teenage years at glamorous venues such as Sheffield City Hall and Leeds Queens Hall to see bands like Rainbow, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, UFO. We all wore wrangler jackets, we all had band names embroidered on the back. But Dave preferred a leather jacket.
We borrowed albums off each other, we talked about girls, we drank, and we did all the things lads do growing up together, but after O-levels things started to change. Some of us went on to further education, some of us didn’t, some moved away and went to university, some stayed at home, getting jobs locally. Dave, despite having the intelligence to continue his education as far as he wanted, for he was as bright as any of us, stayed in/around Barnsley.
Fast forward to 2015, we were all 50, and we had a school reunion borne out of Facebook. Many of us hadn’t met for around 35 years and it was scary as shit, but it was also a beautiful moment, not least because most of us had appalling memories of our secondary school days at Kendray Oaks. It was a rough school by anyone’s standards, there was horrendous bullying and violent beatings dotted through our school years and many of us carried that baggage with us well into adulthood.
We all had people we were scared of, our own personal enemies, and there were always groups, ‘us’ and ‘them’ factions throughout. Most of us lads got into scrapes at some point or other, and many of the girls too. All of us in fact, except Dave. Dave was neither Ardsley or Kendray, Dave was Dave. At the reunion we all regaled tales of who we liked and didn’t like, and to a man (and woman) I think I’m right in saying everybody liked Dave.
Some people had forgotten me, some remembered me fondly, some remembered me then ignored me and this was probably true for everyone one on reunion night. Except Dave. Everyone knew Dave and everyone liked Dave. I honestly can’t remember him ever having a bad word for anyone, or ever getting into any kind of scrape. Whilst we hid in our cliques, Dave could walk freely between Ardsley and Kendray, knowing he had friends in both camps. Dave was our bridge, he was our rock, he was what held us together 35 years on.
Despite some fairly serious health issues Dave was pivotal in organising the reunion. He helped sort the venue, he sorted the DJ equipment, he was also the DJ and he was the liaison between Kendray and Ardsley. I remember helping him set up the sound system for the big evening – he was clearly in a lot of pain but never grumbled. He could have easily let others organise things and everyone would have understood perfectly, but he didn’t. When it came to saying a few words, Dave threw the microphone to me, although I helped behind the scenes, Dave was the catalyst that brought us all together, but in true Dave style, he didn’t want any of the glory or praise.
In the photo below, that’s Dave and me at Scout Dyke circa 1981. I’m the gobby twat singing lead vocals and hogging the limelight, Dave is the cool dude playing bass with a snooker cue at the side. That was Dave – always there, always contributing quietly but essentially, keeping the music playing, but never, ever seeking the limelight for himself.
We all knew he was ill. I called in to see him on a trip up north earlier this year and he was clearly struggling but managed to wear his trademark smile and brave face. He told me he was fine, we chatted, reminisced, hugged briefly and I went on my way.
Dave passed away two days ago, aged just 51. He lived a private life, often alone, yet he had a warmth and compassion that connected and united many of us. It’s ironic that someone could live alone yet touch so many others at the same time. Without Dave we had no reunion, without Dave I may never have become such a Monty Python fan, but I have so much more to thank him for – his warmth, his humour, his humility, his friendship.
I know I speak on behalf of everyone in the class of ’81 when I say this – we miss you Dave, you were all our best friend and no-one’s enemy and we miss you terribly.
Take care big man.
From all the class of ’81