Friday, November 18, 2016

David Mitchell ( 3rd Dec 1935-12th Nov 2016)

My dad died on Saturday. He was a wee Clydebuilt dad; steady, trustworthy, the best, the strongest,  of substance that will never ever let you down.  Tributes have been pouring in, all of them mention his generosity, his humour, his intelligence and his legendary sweet tooth.

parents on a Scottish honeymoon- raining

David  grew up in Kinning Park, Glasgow when it was the most densely populated area of western Europe. The only bit of green space near by was the “big puffy hill”,  which was next to the “wee puffy hill”,  in between was the “canyon” and that  is where the three Mitchell boys; Robert, David and Lesley played with their toys…. Well a Milanda bread board on a set of pram wheels.  They were going fast on wheels even then. 
Davy excelled in the BB, getting a raft of medals that would  show up Stormin Norman  Schwarzkopf.  His awards included top marks in international semaphore????

The Mitchell boys; Robert the eldest  had a look of a De Niro Capone,  Leslie, the youngest bore semblance to a young, handsome Brian Clough, while Dad was a dead ringer for Bryan Ferry... if Bryan Ferry had been a member of the Glasgow Regent Cycling Club.
He did his national service in Hong Kong and Macau. He wasn't into square bashing so he signed up for anything that got him out of it. The  football team, the hockey team I get. But for a man so slight he had to run round in the shower to get wet, what exactly did he do in the tug of war team? Winning. 

His discharge papers said he had exemplary conduct; his medical report  noted his sense of humour.
My sister and I are chalk and cheese; one loves kids, one loves animals.  One loves baking, the other lives in a house with no kitchen. One keeps an immaculate home, as for me well my dad used to say he wiped his feet on the way out of my house. 

He called all my dogs by one name - “go away”.  

It was only after he died that mum found out when we were wee and she was out, dad did not give us milk and toast for supper, it was ice cream and smarties . 

And for one so successful in his career,  chief engineer of the main crane builders of the Clyde by his mid thirties, I never ever heard him talk about the good old days, or his work at all. He was always a man who looked forward. Many of the cranes now working in Hong Kong and Korea, were designed by him.

In the course of my work I have heard a lot about my Dad's cycling skill. They say 'are you Davy Mitchell's daughter?' And then say complementary things about his strength and his stamina but not in terms that can be repeated here; suffice to say that he was a bit good at 25, 50, 100 miles and staying on a bike for 12 hours and seeing how far he could go powered by Mars Bars. Cyclists were tougher in those days. In 2016 "David William Mitchell" was inducted into the cycling hall of fame.

And to his dying day he always made the distinction between a 'cyclist' and 'a guy on a bike'.

                                                            Can we not just eat the cake?

On family trips  down the water on the Waverley ( last ocean going paddle steamer in the world), my sister and I were allowed two minutes to admire the scenery  before being taken down to the engine rooms to admire the turbines and the pistons. By 5 years old I was an expert in horsepower to weight ratios. Maybe my dad was, at heart, a feminist.
Holidays were camping around Scotland or in Cornwall and usually near a beach. The Mitchells did not build sand castles like normal people. They built the Queen Mary - a precise model of the Queen Mary. Dad doing the hull and uncle Lesley doing the funnels and there was none of this just slapping a bucket of sand upside down to make the funnel. It had to be at the correct angle and there had to be three different heights.  When I visited the Queen Mary in Longbeach California, true to Mitchell form I spent 2 minutes admiring the scenery, then down to the engine rooms to take photographs for Dad.

Get the picture over with, I have ice cream to attend to.
But he had a dark side; he would cheat and steal. There should have been an 11th commandment ‘thou shalt not covet thy daughters lego’ – Wednesday nights in Mosspark, Dad and Uncle Lesley would get out the Lego basket and half an hour later the Hunterston Nuclear Power station was remodelled in red and white bricks. We kids didn’t get a look in.

We shall not talk about the great marzipan scandal of 1955.

He was a talented artist … as long as everything on the picture could be depicted by a straight line ( typical draughtsman). He was a master at icing wedding cakes,  a steady hand, a steady nerve. All Christmas cakes in the Mitchell house are iced at an angle -  so that half the house (Davy and Carole) could eat icing and no cake and  the other half (Helen and Linda) could have cake and no icing
He was a talented  musician, playing everything in waltz time apart from the blue Danube waltz of course - perverse as many Scots are.

He spoke in a family short hand. Wide load sticker required means  fat backside in front. Are you paying for your trousers by instalment?  was a fashion comment on pedal pushers. Can you stand a bit closer to the razor next time showed his feelings on designer stubble. A touch of the Victor Sylvesters meant it was going to snow. --- snow, snow, thick thick snow as the dance band leader used to say. And to Alan, were you too late to get a haircut.

When he was diagnosed, we were were asked what his wishes would be with regard to care – would he mind going into a home? The answer was unanimous – he’d be more worried about being a burden to us.
And he went to Adams house, a place he truly enjoyed- it became a home from home for us all. Dad did what he enjoyed most; sleeping, eating chocolate, watching chewing the fat. He was never without his orange juice and a smile for his carers . They treated him like a king, never without a  joke and a smile.  When a family places a loved one in a care home, there is a huge degree of trust placed in those that  work there,  but we knew Dad was in a safe pair of hands.
It says a lot for him that in his last days at the hospital, there were so many people going through the room to say goodbye, I could swear I  heard him say,  ‘Is that a door or a bloody turnstile?’


He was a much loved diamond,  a Clydebuilt diamond but a thousand time as precious.

Caro Ramsay/ Carole Mitchell   18/11/2016


  1. Very sorry for your loss, Caro, but a beautifully written memorial. I feel like I knew him myself.

  2. You would have had fun swapping puns.. the worse the better!

  3. Caro, all my deepest condolences to you at this moment. Like you, I was lucky to have a dad I loved and admired. I am sorry for your loss right now, but so happy for you that you had such a wonderful man for your father.

  4. The same smiling face in every photograph. It never aged. God bless and rest your father's sweet soul. All of Iceland Noir misses you and sends its love--including Barbara and moi.

  5. Missing you in Iceland, Caro, and thinking of you and your father. They say we judge people by the shape they leave in the world. Sounds like your dad has left a huge gulf.

  6. So sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Through his smiling photos, he looks like he was an incredible person, with great wit and love for his family.

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  8. Davie Mitchell was my old boss when I worked as a draughtsman at Butters Cranes in Kinning Park.
    He wished me well when I left to get married and emigrate to Canada.
    I reckon he was the best boss I ever had.
    Very sad to hear of his passing last year.
    Ronnie Hutchison

  9. Davie Mitchell was my old boss at Butters Cranes in the mid 70's.
    I left Sir William Arrol to join Butters around 1973.
    He was an excellent boss with great qualities, a sense of humour and willing to help you and give you a pat on the back when he thought it was due.
    He used to travel from Paisley on his bike every day.
    The last I saw him was when I left to get married and emigrate to Canada in October 1975. I never had another boss like him.
    I am so sad to hear of his passing last year.
    Ronnie Hutchison