New Year's Day, 2003
Alistair and Duncan
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It is with great sadness that we report the death of Duncan Campbell Mills on 23 November 2003. He died peacefully at the grand old age of 93.
The funeral was held on Tuesday 2 December 2003.
- 12.00 Service of Thanksgiving
United Free Church, Brisbane Road, Largs
- 13.00 Committal
- 14.00 Lunch
Priory House Hotel, Broomfields, Largs
The service at the Church and the Committal at the Crematorium were conducted by Rev Brian Rodgers, formerly the Minister of the United Free Church in Largs. The Mills family wish to publicly thank Mr Rodgers for conducting the services with great dignity, respect and appropriate humour. It was both moving and beautiful. Thank you, Brian
Duncan Campbell Mills was born in Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland on 30 August 1910 to Harold Mills and Lizzie Campbell. Duncan was the youngest of three siblings:
It's a remarkable fact that Robina and Rita were best friends at school and were to marry brothers. It's more remarkable that when they were first courting their prospective husbands, they did wonder if they were seeing the same person!
Duncan married Beanie (as Robina was always known) in April 1939 - just before the outbreak of war. Duncan worked in retailing - working for Greenock Co-op as a draper. He was called up during the War and Served in the Army Pay Corps from 1940 till 1947 - reaching the rank of Sergeant. Because of his disability - he only had one eye - Duncan was never called for front line service. He played his part in the defeat of Nazi Germany armed to the teeth with a pencil and eraser.
The marriage to Beanie was blessed with four children:
Duncan moved to Largs at the time of his marriage and lived there for the rest of his life. Initially the family lived in a flat (apartment) in Nelson Street, and following the birth of Irene, moved to a house in Eastern Avenue - where the twins were born. With the arrival of the twins, the growing family moved to a larger house in Moorburn Road and Duncan and Beanie lived there for around 30 years.
The family grew up and were academically successful. All three boys graduated with First Class Honours in Engineering from Glasgow University. Irene qualified as a radiographer and worked for several years in hospitals in the West of Scotland. The family all made successful marriages. Ian married Eileen and now lives in Canberra, Australia. Irene married Robert and now lives in Houston, Texas. Alistair married Cathy and now lives in Wokingham, England. Robin married Alison and now lives in San Jose, California. Duncan has three grand-sons, three grand-daughters and one great grand-daughter.
After the family grew up, things started to go wrong for Beanie. After a lengthy period of confusion, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Duncan bore the burden of care for Beanie for several years, before she was admitted to a special hospital with the facilities to care for such patients. She died three months later in July 1985 at the age of 70.
During the period of Beanie's illness, Duncan moved to a smaller home - a ground floor flat in Harper Crescent and he lived there for about 20 years. Following a stroke in November 2001, it was necessary to move him into a residential home for the elderly. He died peacefully in Haylie House in November 2003.
Duncan's strongest interest in life was the Church and he worshipped at the United Free Church of Scotland in Brisbane Road for around 50 years. On his retiral from the Session and the Board, the church held a dinner in his honour. A poem "Duncan Mills" marks this very special occasion.
Of course there's lighter side to him as well - his sense of humour. No better demonstrated than his love of Greenock Morton Football Club. A life-long supporter of a club characterised by several spectacularly successful seasons (and many more unsuccessful seasons!). The only time Morton won the Scottish Cup was in 1922 - when Duncan was 11. As for his jokes, it's best not to repeat them. However the wit, intellegence and wisdom were instantly apparent to all who met him.
To list these facts about Duncan's life, does not explain or really describe this remarkable person. Above all else, "Wee Duncan" (he was 5ft 3in tall) was a very charming gentle christian man. His service to his Church, family and community were widely known and respected. On many occasions, people have said things like "Ah, you're Duncan's son. Duncan's a lovely man!". I can't improve on such sentiment. He is more than just "My Dad", he was a mentor and role model and a calm, decent human being.
My brother Robin has written a note describing various aspects of Duncan's life. I would like to add a few words of my own, and to take a more anecdotal view of Duncan.
Duncan died on Sunday 23 November 2003. Six hours after his death there was a total eclipse of the Sun. It was not visible in Largs. To see it you would have had to journey to Antarctica, the only continent that Duncan never visited. In some cultures, people assign significance to such a combination of circumstances. In ours we assign it no significance. Duncan would not have assigned it significance!
Duncan always said that he did not know why people grieved and were sorrowful at a funeral. If a person lived a good life and was on their way to Heaven, then we should celebrate their departure. While I am very sorry that Duncan is no longer with us, I am very glad that we have enjoyed his company for 93 years. I shall personally miss him very much. Since he went to live in Haylie House I have been visiting him every five weeks. I shall miss my weekend trips to Largs. The landladies of Largs will miss my business!
I entered the life of Duncan abruptly one dark morning in January 1951 at 05:20. Beanie was expecting a baby. At the time Ian was 8 and Irene 3. Beanie was experienced in the business of babies, and decided not to go to the maternity hospital as she had on previous occasions. She decided that a home birth assisted by the midwife would be satisfactory. No one was however aware that she was expecting twins. Following the successful arrival of the baby, the midwife declared it a healthy baby boy and was shocked when Beanie announced that another was on the way. The midwife quickly summoned Duncan who was in the kitchen boiling water (as they did in these days). Duncan then delivered the second of the twins, while the midwife hastily prepared a second crib using Irene's doll's pram!
In 1973 Irene gave birth to the first of Duncan and Beanie's six grandchildren. In the twenty years since the birth of the twins, it had become fashionable for children to be born in hospital, and for the father to be present. Duncan and Beanie were clearly unaware of this change, and were quite shocked at the idea of the father being present at the birth. However they thought about this and having verified that this was indeed quite normal, realised that their dim, dark secret about the arrival of the twins was no longer a shameful matter. Duncan then used to tell the story, concluding with the words "It was my finest hour!".
This story is typical of much of what was great about Duncan. His quick thought, his adaptability, his sense of duty to others, and of course his sense of humour! It was the first of millions of things, which Duncan did for the twins.
Duncan was born into a Victorian world prior to the First World War. Much changed around him during his life. He adapted to these changes quickly and easily, and recognized the value of many changes. He was not at all fazed by technology changes. He understood and appreciated the value of the Internet. He would approve of publishing this on the Internet. He did not resist change or hanker for the "good old days". The most outstanding example of his adaptability was his reaction to the illness of Beanie. By 1983 Beanie was in very poor health, and required constant attention. It was a task, which a man half his age would have found daunting - I know this, as at the time I was a man half his age. However he took on this burden and never complained and rarely called for help. He looked after Beanie with good humour and endless patience. I was so proud of him. I felt guilty that at the time I could do so little to assist. I would like to declare now that for me, "That was his finest time".
Following the death of Beanie, Duncan adapted to life as a widower quickly and easily. However he had to fend off the ladies. There was no shortage of widows who would have liked to take him in and mother him. Duncan would have none of it. He valued his independence. He lived alone and cared for himself until he was 91. Following a stroke, living on his own was not practical. When he went to Haylie House, he had to continue to rebuff the ladies (in the nicest possible way). Many of the kind ladies both living and working at Haylie House made very sincere statements of their affection for him. I must admit to some feelings of envy!
Duncan lost an eye during a very serious illness when he was only five. He nearly died. Between 5 and 91 he only went to hospital to see others, apart from a minor operation to remove a cataract from his eye when he was 78. His mother used to say, "When the Good Lord let him loose the eye, He made sure that the other was a good one!". One of the few things, which bothered Duncan in life, was the appearance of the loss of the eye. He was always careful not to upset others by being without his glass eye. Three weeks before he died he was in hospital for ten days. When I visited, he did not complain about his condition or even the food. He asked me to go to Haylie House to get the glass eye, so that he would not upset other people.
One of Duncan's life long interests was the church, and the United Free Church in particular. However he was involved with all of the churches in Largs to some extent. He had a friend called Harry McGavin. Harry's work with the Sunday Schools of Largs was extensive. A couple of generations of children in Largs knew Harry and his terrible jokes! Harry had a serious birth defect that affected his limbs. Duncan used to say, "When I get to Heaven, Harry will be there, and his limbs will be well, and that I will have both of my eyes." I hope that his wishes have been fulfilled, and that Harry jokes have been restored also!
I opened this piece by noting the total eclipse of the Sun on the day that Duncan died. I have checked the astronomical almanac. No unusual events occurred on the day of his birth!
So long Dad, we shall never forget you.
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Last Modified: Thursday December 4, 2003