Pat Skillicorn
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Wave to Your Daddy
"Well, what’s your book about then?"
It's a frequent question.
I’m inclined to mumble, "Well, it's an autobiography, family history, a memoir, a bit of social history."
Then I add hastily, "I hope it’s more interesting than that sounds."
"I remember the first time I saw my father. The boat suddenly appeared, sliding from behind the headland, looming against the eastern sky. I gasped at the sudden blare of its horn…a small packet came twisting through the air. Chocolate from my Daddy. "Ah, the boght, the lil’ darlin'." … I remember the rich creaminess which coated my tongue. I don’t remember my father’s face."
Fred Skillicorn in India
Fred Skillicorn in India with his foot on the bear he always regretted shooting
That’s the autobiographical beginning. It’s a common story of its time: husbands and wives meeting again as different people, children getting to know fathers they didn’t remember. This is not a so-called ‘misery lit’ story. I had a happy childhood with my mother and father and my new sister.

Autumn stooks
Autumn stooks
We lived a rural life in a community still bound by the cycle of the seasons and the soil, a community which used Gaelic words for fields and crops. Church and school were the hub of the village life. I often think that we were the last Manx generation to live such a life. So the book covers childhood play, the round of a village with its characters, its concerts and Eisteddfods, the annual meeting of friends and relatives on the fairground at St Johns on Tynwald Day.
I also write about how our lives changed; the coming of cars and television, the impact of free secondary education at Castle Rushen High School, the prospect of university and release into a wider world, growing up into the personal and sexual freedoms of the 1960s as the Isle of Man itself changed around us.
John Barron
John Barron, great-great grandfather
The book also explores the wider context of my family, going back to John Barron, born in 1811, farm labourer and Primitive Methodist lay preacher of whom it was said that he was illiterate but learnt the Scriptures by heart, the mystery which surrounds the life of his daughter Ellen. In the end, I circle back to the present to consider how family secrets kept for a lifetime can have an impact on the generations that follow.
"There is no theme to the story of these lives that span three centuries except the common theme of people who accepted the world into which they were born and strove to survive as well as they could. Only two attempted to change their communities: John Barron who had a vision of Heavenly perfection and Frederick Skillicorn who tried in his secular way to make a difference".
It is also a book about remembrance.
"Joalf, son of Thorolf the Red, erected this cross to the memory of Frida, his mother”. For a thousand years or more, the land has been marked out in stone. Crosses loomed again the sky, were set on a hillside or in the confines of a keeill churchyard. Here I lie. Remember me."
Wave to Your Daddy is available from Manx bookshops, and can be ordered online from Lexicon Bookshop.
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Copyright Pat Skillicorn
Manx tartan
Wave to Your Daddy