Wednesday, 1 June 2011

My Old Man – The Tale of Bill Dury, Part 2

Bill Dury as a young man. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb

Following their marriage in December 1938, Bill and Peggy moved into 1b Belsize Road, the flat that Peggy had been sharing with her sister Molly and occasional visitor Elisabeth. Bill was employed as a bus driver and would often arrive home from work to find his wife and her two sisters involved in some deep intellectual discussion from which he felt excluded. In 1939, with the threat of war with Germany on everyone’s mind, Bill persuaded Peggy that they should consider moving from the middle of London. Bill found some rentable housing in Harrow Weald, to where he and Peggy moved in the summer of that year. Molly came along too.

43 Weald Rise, Harrow Weald, the birthplace of Ian Dury

Ian was born at Weald Rise on 12 May 1942, but within 18 months Peggy had decided to take him to live with her mother in Cornwall, to avoid the bombing in and around London. Bill stayed at Weald Rise and continued to work for London Transport. In 1945, however, he saw an advertisement for a job as trainee chauffeur with Rolls Royce. Before long he was chauffeuring businessmen around England and even across Europe. When Ian contracted polio in 1949 and became a boarder at Chailey Heritage Craft School for disabled children in East Sussex, Bill would often visit his son and turn up in the Rolls Royce.

Bill visiting Ian in Chailey, 1951. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb

In 1954, Ian passed his eleven plus exams and entered the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. Bill, who was now estranged from Peggy and driving for the Western European Union, would often visit Ian at school.

Bill Dury, at the time he was driving for the Western European Union, circa 1963. The BOAC coach terminal at Victoria is in the background. Photo courtesy of Jemima Dury

For the remainder of his life Bill lived alone in small flat in Ebury Street, Victoria, but he and Peggy never divorced. Bill died from acute bronchitis and emphysema on 25 February 1968, aged 62.

A copy of Bill's death certificate

In 1998, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Ian described going to Caxton Hall to identify his father’s body. ‘So there’s my old man lying on this purple velvet slate with this strange smile. I knew he didn’t look quite right. I didn’t realise until I cleared his room out that he hadn’t got his teeth in.’ Ian asked Bill’s neighbour if he would mind disposing of his father’s teeth. ‘Everything else was all right,’ said Ian. ‘But I couldn’t touch his fucking teeth.’

Oi Oi!

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