Father's Day tributes: 'He encouraged me to swim in wild winter waves in my clothes'

It's Father's Day and we are taking this opportunity to thank dads, grandads and carers for all they've done for us - thank you! So, as well as our 'Dead Dad' letters,  we asked IMAGE HQ team members and friends to find a photo of their dad and share their sentiments...


Marlene Wessels

My mom always said I can get anything I want from my dad. I didn’t always agree with her, but I have learned through the years to approach him with the preface “don’t answer now, please think about it first”. Expect a “no” and then give him some time to think over it. Most times the “no” becomes a “yes”. It’s an approach that has been well worth perfecting.

My dad’s name is Johan and he is old-school in may ways. He does not show his emotions easily and I have seen him sob only a handful of times, mostly when we lost a loved family pet. He adores animals. I always joke that he loves them more than his own children.

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My dad is an early riser, and got me and my brother up for school. By 6am (school started at 7.30am), he had finished his daily run, showered and said his morning prayer. At breakfast he was ready for a chat, while for his sleepy eyed kids, it was the last thing we felt like. He left for work at 6.30am and got home at 6pm, on time, every single day. His punctuality has definitely rubbed off on me.

Read more: A selection of 'Dear Dad' letters

My dad has always taken his health to heart. He is conscious of what he eats and, at most, will have two light beers. He is definitely not a party animal. He ran 5km every morning, until the age of 47 when, with the encouragement of my brother, he decided to start taking part in road races. Since then, he has completed many races, including the Comrades (87km) and Two Oceans (56km) ultra marathons, both in South Africa where he has lived his whole life.

When he was in his 70s, he was told to stop running or get a knee replacement. I was worried about how this was going to affect him. Instead he took up cycling and now at 79, still takes part in cycling events. I wish his discipline with healthy living could rub off on me!

He was always next to the sport field encouraging us, or in our garden playing cricket with us over the weekend. Every year, when we got our school reports, he took us for a celebratory meal, which is a tradition I’ve continued with my own kids. He always motivated us to do our best.

When we recently went to visit my parents in South Africa, he spent so much precious time with his grandchildren; playing board games, teaching them how to cast a fishing line and spraying them with a hose every time they got close to their loot during the Easter egg hunt. It was a little microcosm of all his gifts to us: his generosity, his silly sense of humour and his kindness.

Father’s Day in South Africa is the same day as in Ireland, and unlike my dear dad would be, I haven’t been organised enough to send a card.

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So dad, I hope this will do. If not, don’t answer now, please think about it first.

A very proud Joe (Marlene Wessels' son) with his 'Oupa' (Marlene's dad) who just completed a 70K cycling race.A very proud Joe with his 'Oupa' who just completed a 70K cycling race.

Leonie Corcoran

Wooping in the back of the car, we’d pull on our horse-riding hats and urge dad to drive “faster horsey, faster!” over the unforgiving humpback bump in the road just outside Tinahely. We’d hit the roof in fits of giggles and the Saab’s suspension took its weekly knock.

Dad was never into cars (just as well really) but a lot of my early memories are motor-related. Admittedly my memory is rubbish, but I remember our weekly horse-riding drives; sitting on the bonnet of the Saab eating ice cream with my two sisters; singing Ian Drury and the Blockheads “Hit me with your rhythm stick” on the way to somewhere; singing anything by the Beach Boys, Beatles or Monkeys. Maybe it’s the singing I rembember…

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About 10 years ago, I found a photo of he and mum in Istanbul. She was wearing a bandana and he was wearing flared jeans. They looked so cool, coupled-up and carefree. It was one of those moments when you realise your parents had a life before a family. From then on I tried to be more mindful of all the things they’ve done for us; where they chose to live and how they chose to live. It’s one of my favourite photos of him.

Last month, dad turned 70. Over the past 10 years, he has become “Pop”, the grandad who carries grandchildren on his back, feeds them ice-cream on the bonnet of the car and spins Beatles records with them. It’s sounding rather familiar actually.

Dad has given me many of the things that bring me real joy in my life and, in fact, define me. Dogs, horses, travel and friendship. And the occasional bottle of red wine watching the golf. He has shaped me in ways I am only starting to recognise.

One of his favourite photos of him is this one. I took it in Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in Masai Mara, Kenya, a few years. It was towards the end of a trip I insisted they come on. It involved treehouses in Nairobi, two-man tents north of Amboseli and semi-permanent tents in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy (his favourite) where we almost lost our bags to an overflowing Mara river. It involved six-seater planes, standing on red-earth runways calmly scanning the horizon for someone to show up to collect us (they did) and the most incredible moments of wildlife watching.

Dad inspired that. He watched hours of David Attenborough with me on TV, brought me to swim with dolphins and never said ‘no’ when I set off with a backpack when I was 18 (big shout-out to mum for that one!). He’s given me freedom to explore.

He has given me something else too. Something I carry everywhere I choose to travel – a quiet, calm sense of place. Too busy trying to be independent, I didn’t often ask Dad for help or tell him about the things that went wrong. But he’s always one of the first people I want to celebrate with when something goes right. And as I get older and a little more copped on, I plan to tell him and ask him more. And to bring him on an adventure this year.

It’s your call dad – where are we off to?

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PS Any chance you can keep the foster pup next week?

Pat Corcoran, father of Leonie CorcoranLeonie's dad Pat.

Mandy Allen

This is me with my brother and our grandpa (who we called Pa), Sidney Teperson. He's been on my mind so much of late, for so many reasons, and then today this turns up, a photo I thought was lost.

It's my absolute favourite picture of us with him because of all the things he was brilliant at as a grandpa, making us laugh was the thing he did best. This couldn't have been taken more than two or three months after our dad killed himself, maybe it was taken just before, but even so, we always, always laughed. And laughed. Before and after.

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He was the archetypal beloved country doctor: there for births; present to provide relief and compassion when death came around; there for fevers and broken bones and mental health breakdowns and gashes that needed stitches and infected ears and stuffed-up noses and to facilitate adoptions and to treat horses and pooches with conditions that had stumped the local veterinarians, but that he managed to sort out for his grateful human patients. 

He was such a good, moral man. When the local open-air go-kart ring in South Africa put up a 'Whites Only' sign, he explained to us why he couldn't take us there anymore. Once a week, in the evening, he would visit the local fishing village, set up a 'surgery' in someone's house and see scores of men, women and children who would otherwise never have been permitted to see a white private doctor in a white area.

He never expected payment or thanks, but often these men would turn up at his house under the cover of darkness a few days later with whole fresh fish or fruit pies made by their wives or large boxes filled with live crayfish. La Perla sê moer - these were massive. If the crayfish arrived on a night that I was sleeping over he would wake me up no matter the hour and my gran would put a pot of water on the boil, we'd drink sweet instant coffee with Cremora at the kitchen table and wait for the screams as she dispatched them. Then at the most ungodly hours we'd feast on crayfish and homemade Marie Rose sauce and ginger beer and then I'd go back to sleep.

Sleep at their house was often interrupted by the phone ringing. Sidney would get out of bed and throw on his jumper and take his black leather surgical bag and get into his cream-coloured Mercedes - with its leather seats that smelled of tobacco and peppermints and sawdust (he was a master carpenter) and Old Spice - and head off to make a house call.

He encouraged me to climb trees to the very skinniest, uppermost branches and swim in the wild winter waves in my clothes and try tomatoes off the vines and eat the whole waffle and love James Bond movies and be kind and say thank you to everyone and delight in the absurd side of life. He was tall and handsome and he was lovely and loving and beloved and brilliant and is terribly missed.

I am so happy that I found this picture.

Mandy Allen's photograph Mandy Allen's family photograph

Read more:  Father's Day for the fatherless

Read more: Six books your dad is sure to love

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Read more: Movies to watch with you dad

Read more: Our favourite on-screen dads

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