The death is announced of a long term and active member of our community – Desmond Allen, aged 86, who died from cancer on Thursday 20th September 2018.
He is survived by his son, two daughters and one grandson. In 2017 he married Virginia Davies, and they had a brief but wonderful life together.
Desmond came to Andorra in 1987 and served as an ICA Board Member in the early ‘90s, when, amongst other things, he organised monthly events, and visits to Spain.
In 1995, the Andorran Government announced a controversial new Law for Passive Residents; Desmond called meetings of the English-speaking community and started talks with politicians together with other prominent members of our community.
Subsequently, the Law was replaced by another – less onerous version, especially for pre 1995 residents.
During many years, he enjoyed singing with the San Antonio choir in La Massana, the Orfeo d’Andorra and the Cor International. For 18 years he was Treasurer of the Hash House Harriers. In 2003 he started AndAds, which continues today. In 2013, he assisted in monitoring the introduction of Andorran Income Tax and also published English-language guidance notes on this subject.
The Board of the International Club of Andorra wish to express their condolences to all the members of Desmond’s family.
Eulogy read by David Allen at the remembrance service
in Escaldes-Engordany , Andorra, 23 September 2018
Thank you all for coming today. I know Dad would have been very pleasantly surprised and touched by your attendance.
I know some of you but for the most, this will be he first time we have met.
I am sure the majority of you know my father well and you probably know more about his life in Andorra than I do.
Knowing Dad as I do, I would imagine your knowledge of him and his early life could be likened to an incomplete jigsaw. What I would like to do now, is provide you with extra pieces of the jigsaw so your picture is more complete.
To assist me in writing this eulogy I have spoken to my mother, my two sisters, Lesley and Lindsey, and Dad’s brother David and drawn from their experiences and knowledge as well as my own.
Dad was born on 20th October 1931.
The first son to Stanley Ernest James Allen and Elizabeth Sarah Allen
He was born At Greenwich Hospital and taken home to 5 Brocklehurst Street in New Cross. For those who don’t know this area, it is in South East London, just off the Old Kent Road, the cheapest Street on the monopoly board, and for those who are interested in football, just around the corner from Millwall Football ground.
He was named Donald Stanley.
His father was a police constable working out of Tower Bridge Police Station and his mother a housewife.
Five years later Dad’s brother David was born. The war started when Dad was 7 years old.
In 1940 the House where they lived in in Brocklehurst Street was bombed and at this point, Don, as Dad was known by then, and brother David were evacuated to Cornwall.
In 1942, Dad and David returned to London and Dad attended Wilson’s Grammar School, which during the war was based in Horsham having been relocated away from Camberwell as Horsham was a safer bet during the war years. At the end of the war, Don and the school returned to Camberwell.
Whilst at school, Dad enjoyed acting in school plays and was, as most boys were at that time, in the army cadets. He was described as an above average student, but he excelled at maths and got the school maths prize every year.
Dad decided to leave school early and got a job or started some sort of apprenticeship in Woolwich. Very vague information regarding this but at some point Dad decided he needed to complete his education and put an end to this path and returned to school. Apparently a very unusual decision for that time.
In 1949 Dad took the Sandhurst entrance exam. His brother David, who now lives in Canada, told me that nobody could understand this at the time as they just weren’t Sandhurst people. I am sure Dad had his own ideas about that!
As it turned out not only did Dad pass the exam, he came top. There is a newspaper clipping I have seen announcing his achievement. It really was a very big deal.
Dad’s brother David describes the transition in him following his admittance to Sandhurst as huge. From South East London lad to officer and a gentleman.
I believe it was also at this point in his life that he decided to be called Desmond.
Dad joined the Royal Engineers.
He later attended Shrivenham Military College of Science where he obtained a first class honours degree in engineering. At some point he was also offered a place at Cambridge University but he chose the Army route.
In 1951, having met my mother Noreen at a Scottish dancing event, they got married. Soon after this, as the army didn’t approve of their officers marrying so young, he was posted away from Mum to Egypt, a virtual war zone at the time.
Following on from this however Dad was reunited with Mum and he continued his Army career serving in the UK, Germany and Cyprus.
He was very keen on cine photography at this time, and it is from these records that I have seen for myself some of the pursuits Dad followed and how his character was developing.
I have seen footage of him in uniform sitting at his desk very efficiently, shuffling papers and looking very proud of himself.
Of being shown to his car by his batman and being whisked off to some important meeting or other.
Rally driving for the Army team
Clearly doing well in his chosen career and proud of it.
In January 1959 my mother and father had their first child. A daughter named Lesley Jane.
In September 1961, whilst posted in Cyprus, I came along, their only son. In January 1962 Dad’s mother died aged 54.
Dad left the army later in 1962 having reached the rank of Captain and returned to the UK. He settled with his family in Bromley having bought a new house there.
Dad’s father died in January 1964 aged 55.
In January 1965 the last of his children was born, Lindsey Gail.
We were now a family of 5.
Dad’s energy was now being put into creating a good home and providing for his family.
I have been told that immediately after the Army, Dad got a job with J. Lyons coffee shops in their computer department. This sounds very like Dad but up until very recently I had no idea about this. The only place I knew where he worked was Molins. A company that made machines for making and packing cigarettes. He became one of their managing directors. I am told that his last task at Molins was in the setting up of a very generous pension scheme for the employees which he completed. After that he left!
Other than Molins, all I am really aware of is the fact he worked on various projects with a variety of companies and seemed to do very well for himself.
Throughout his working life he seemed to work very long hours, travelled extensively and never mixed his work with his family life. I can honestly say his work was never a subject he shared with me. He was a very private man in that respect.
Dad was not a conventional family man.
He had a passion for exciting things including cars, boats, planes and travel.
Going on family holidays was definitely of great importance to him. And they would always be exciting.
It must have been in the late 1960s and Dad had a Citroen Safari Estate. We were towing a trailer tent. Whilst normal families would have been content with a week in the Lake District, Dad had decided that we would have a nice seaside holiday on the Black Sea in Romania! A round trip of about 4000 miles. I clearly remember driving across dusty mountain roads with a smashed windscreen, hoovering up all sorts of insects and other debris! Dad never seemed to be phased by any of this. No problems ever seemed to be too great for him. I don’t think I have ever seen him flustered about any problem he was faced with. He would just get things done. We never doubted this. Never considered it would be any other way.
Our boating holidays followed. We started with a holiday on the Norfolk Broads on a hire boat. This holiday was shared with our cousins. The Fryers, with whom we also shared many a Christmas.
We had a lovely holiday and I believe this is what ignited his interest in owning boats.
In total, he owned three. Starting small but ending up with a powerful seaworthy boat. Our most ambitious journey in this was to leave our mooring on the River Medway setting off for France. We followed the coast towards Dover where the intention was to turn left and cross the channel. The wind had blown up however and things started to get a bit rough. Dad decided to pause for thought and not long after that we were joined by the coastguard who was enquiring as to our status and checking we were OK. We were assured our boat, would have no problems getting across the channel and off we went! A bit of a bumpy ride but very memorable and exciting and we made it to Calais safely.
I don’t know how Dad learned his boating skills. He seemed to spend all his waking hours working but somehow managed to get the knowledge to cross the busiest shipping lane in the world in a 30 foot boat.
We never had any doubt in his ability. never even considered any problems could arise that he couldn’t deal with.
Dad set high standards for his children. I believe he wanted to see us succeed and flourish as he had. Of course, as children generally do, we disappointed him on many an occasion and as a result he could be quite the disciplinarian.
Despite this and his incredible appetite for adventure he also had a gentle easy going side and longed for harmony, beauty and a peaceful environment. He also had a very kind and soft side. This came out when he decided to get us all a dog. He went to the rescue centre and found a lonely looking beagle who’d been re homed about 5 times only to be brought back because no one could cope with him so of course that was the dog dad chose. His name was Humpy and we soon realised his big problem. If he ever saw a means of escape from where he was, he would bolt. He escaped a few times, but always managed to find his way home with his tail between his legs and a smile on his face. One day however, he escaped & disappeared for days. We all thought we’d lost him. Eventually we got a phone call from a police station over 10 miles away saying he’d been found suffering from hypothermia and was in a cell being kept warm. There then followed a mass late night exodus to pick him up and a tearful reunion. Dad chose well with Humpy, a real character.
We continued with our family life. I went off to boarding school and my sisters attended the local girls grammar school.
Our holidays continued. Caravanning in the UK and Europe. Walking, exploring and eating. We all liked to eat!
In about 1980 our family life sadly came to an end when my parents split up and Dad left.
After moving around the UK, the Channel Islands and Spain Dad finally moved to Andorra in 1987. This seemed to suit him and allow him to flourish.
He made new friends and joined in with new activities. Eventually he met Maria Rosa, and in 1994 they got married. Dad seemed very happy at this time. They lived in an idyllic mountain setting with a big dog called Yeti who accompanied them both on the stunning walks they enjoyed. They had 14 years together before parting their ways.
As you undoubtedly already know, Dad fully immersed himself in the Andorran community, in a variety of ways which are well documented.
Whilst he was treasurer of the Hash House Harriers I attended one of their events. A walking weekend in Spain where I met a number of his friends and associates. Thoroughly enjoyable for me and clearly something in which he was very much engaged.
In 1998 Russell was born to Lindsey. Dad’s grandson. Dad took a great interest in Russell’s wellbeing and enjoyed spending time with him.
In more recent years a softer side to Dad seemed to emerge. My circumstances changed so that I could see more of him and he made more visits to the UK. Something he would only ever do for his children or others he may be visiting as he never relished the idea of coming to England. Apart from the people, the only things he missed were fish and chips, crumpets and sausages.
In 2017 after meeting Virginia and having fallen in love, they married.
I have never seen Dad so content and happy. Their relationship seemed so natural, fluent, loving, supportive and friendly. Never tiring of eachothers company.
His passion for adventure never ended. He has never stopped travelling and exploring the world. He managed to continue this passion with Virginia and between them they have been on many trips. Always returning home to plan the next one. In their flat he has a large framed map of the world on which he has placed little stickers where he has been. He has travelled extensively.
He has never allowed illness or any sort of disability to prevent him following his interests. Despite the inconveniences of dealing with certain aspects of his cancer, he was not stopped from a touring holiday of South Africa with Virginia earlier on this year. He reluctantly admitted he didn’t go on all the excursions through the African wilderness in a 4 wheel drive looking for wildlife, but he did manage at least half of them.
Dad was a kind, loving person who managed his life in his own way. He didn’t follow convention and never failed to succeed in moving forward. He never gave up on life, never looked back and never let his past get in the way of his future. Neither did he give up on those he loved. He was always there for all of us and despite the distance, always a rock we could rely on.
He set himself goals in his life and once achieved moved on. He didn’t want to waste a moment. He was and still is an inspiration to me and I am sure all those who loved him. He managed to maintain a level of physical fitness and youthful enthusiasm that defied his actual age. At the end, his only regret was that it couldn’t have lasted longer so that he and Virginia could have continued on their adventures for many years to come.
I hope I have helped you to complete the jigsaw puzzle representing the life of my father. A loving, complex, kind man who we all loved very much and who will never be forgotten.