I’d like to introduce you to George Lawton. Here he is when he joined the Army during the Second World War.He volunteered. With his amazing skill at languages, he got sent to help liberate Europe because he spoke German and French fluently – his Yiddish was pretty good too!
He worked on the de-nazification of captured German personnel and was even known to do a bit of bomb disposal work when he wasn’t liberating cafés with his mates.
After the War he joined the Metropolitan Police and made Class Captain in his year. He was always a bright lad, our George. He’d brought himself up by his bootstraps and he carried on doing so all his life.
It wasn’t long before his ability to learn languages got him promoted and he went into Special Branch. His job was protecting and acting as interpreter for visiting foreign dignitaries. By this time he’d picked up a working knowledge of Hungarian and Czech. He was often armed and the job was very stressful even if he did get nice presents from important people like Marshall Tito!
He got married and George was always popular because although he was a self-taught pianist, he could play anything “by ear” and in the days before electronic music people would gather around the joanna to sing along while George bashed out the tune. Never forgot his Manchester roots, never got above himself.
And eventually they had a little girl and he used to call her Button – maybe because she had a snub button-nose or perhaps because she was his pearl-button, small but very precious. I don’t know why – I never got a chance to ask him.
So he and the girl from his class in the Police Training School were very happy until he decided that like any responsible father, he should take out life-insurance and it was during the medical that it was discovered that he had stomach cancer. He must have had it for some time.
Button was only two and a half when her Daddy went into hospital and because things were so strict, they didn’t allow children to visit very sick patients. So she never got to say goodbye to him.
She was four when he died of cancer and he was only 38 years old. What a terrible, shocking waste of a wonderful life and all that talent. His little girl got very sick and nearly died too. Her Mummy went a bit loopy and life wasn’t very much fun for either of them for most of the time.
Button is now 56 and there is still a Daddy-sized hole in her life which nobody will ever fill. She can’t watch the film of the Railway Children because at the end when Bobbi runs down the platform saying “My daddy, it’s my daddy!” She gets up and leaves the room so that nobody sees her crying.
Why am I telling you this? Because, you see … I’m Button, although nobody has ever called me that ever again. It was George’s special name and I keep it closed away for him, in a box.
I’m working to raise money for Cancer Research UK in the hope that no other children will ever have to grow up wondering what it must be like to have a mother or father. It leaves terrible mental scars to lose a parent so young.