Ben Doyle Senior was born in Dublin on 5 October 1925. He married my mum in 1953, and they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
When I was a kid, Dad was great. He bought me sweets every pay day, and because I lived at home all the way through university I was still getting those sweets until age 20!
We had a trip out somewhere almost every Sunday. In the winter we would go somewhere even if the weather was bad – a ramble through the Furry Glen in the Phoenix Park, or a walk along the pier in Dun Laoghaire, or a drive out to Howth Head. In the spring he would start taking us further afield as the weather got better – Easter was usually the first big expedition, when he would take us down to Avondale or Glendalough.
Even in recent years we have done this when I have come home for the weekend, often with the youngest grandchildren in tow.
Summers were spent on one or other of the Dublin and Wicklow beaches – Dollymount where you could drive right onto the beach and sit surrounded by windcheaters trying not to feeeze to death, or maybe out to Bray to sit in the gardens by the stony beach and try in vain to make tea on our old Primus stove. Autumn was usually off into the mountains – driving over the Sally Gap on the way to Glendalough or Glenasmole, with Dad naming every mountain, forest and lake for us. He passed on his love of geography to most of his children, and we all love poring over maps still.
In summer we would almost always travel across the country to Galway, for two weeks in a caravan by the sea. It always took all day to get there, two adults and four children plus lots of luggage in a standard saloon car – I usually got to sit on a folding stool crammed between the others’ legs!
As I grew up and studied engineering he was, I think, fascinated to see a daughter of his moving into a career he knew something of – he had spent his working life as a structural steel welder. I even visited his work and met his manager one day as I was considering my university options.
When I started work he was really interested in what I did, and managed to visit most of the places I worked in. He nearly blagged himself a job once by impressing my senior engineer with his welding skills!
I once asked him what the secret of his long marriage was. After the usual joke answer, he settled in and gave me his real answer. The core of a successful marriage, he told me, was based on honesty, trust and shared goals. And never arguing over money.
All my life he has been there, a quiet but solid support, even from afar. He calls me up and tells me bad jokes on the phone, always draws a pint of Guinness in biro on every note and card he writes, and until recently insisted that it was his job alone to pick me up from the airport. His best mate is his only grandson (and clone), 7-year-old Connor.
Now he is a bit frailer after a year of ill health, but he is still there at the head of the household. He is a role model to me – a dedicated husband, a caring father and a doting grandfather. He is my Man of the Year.