Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My Grandfather, could he have been Autistic too?

One of my great passions, when I get the time, is researching my family tree. So this post is a tribute to my Grandfather, or Grandad as I called him. He died when I was 7, so dont have many memories of him and had to rely on what other people told me, including my amazing Gran who I spoke about here Memories of a Special Lady.

My Grandfather, Thomas Flucker (Tommy to his friends), was born in 1904 in a fishing village called Newhaven, which is now part of Edinburgh. This was a very close knit community and they rarely married outside of their own. I have traced the Flucker's (yes , it is a real name :))back to the 1600's and they were mainly fishermen. My grandfather left this trade and worked as a joiner in the shipyards right up till his death in 1971. 

I remember him as a very quiet man and can still picture him sitting in his chair, wearing one of the many jumpers my gran used to knit for him. My gran loved him dearly and said he was the first and last love of her life, I know she missed him terribly after his death.

While doing my research a man got in contact with me, asking if I was Tommy's grandaughter, turns out he worked in the shipyards with him and he sent me a lovely email with his memories of him..it brought him to life for me. He describes him as eccentric and now wonder if he could possibly have had the same form of autism as my son, I guess in those days it wasn't recognised like it is today. Here is part of the email he sent me, let me know what you think.

Thanks for your prompt reply, I'm delighted to hear that you are indeed
the grandaughter of Tommy, and you've confirmed and awakened many
youthful memories.
As I said, I worked as an apprentice joiner in Robb's from 1948 to 1955,
then, like everyone else was called up for National Service in the
army.  I returned to Robb's for a short while after serving three years
with the Royal Engineers, then my life took a different turn, and I
moved on.
I was a rather " Favoured" apprentice, and worked on the top floor of
the joiner's shop, I was on the bench next to Tommy.  His job at that
time was to "Break out" all the wooden mouldings for the ships under
construction, and prepare them for the French polishers.  Tommy was very
precise in everything he did, and was always on top of his job.  He was
much respected as a tradesman in a shop of over 200 joiners, who, in my
opinion, were the best tradesmen in the country.  He was known as a man
of great general knowledge, and I suspect, thought of as slightly
eccentric.  He had a very fiery temper, and could be "Wound up," if
people voiced opinions contrary to his firmly held views on everything,
particularly on the subject of his beloved Hearts.  I was on of the
"Infidels," being a Hibs supporter, but Tommy obviously made allowances
for this aberration, and took me under his wing.  At lunch times, having
our "pieces" together, and our drum (old jam tins) of Tea, Tommy would
teach me many things beyond the everyday world of a daft young laddie.
As I've said he taught me Chess, which I've enjoyed ever since.  He
could, you know, "Talk" a game of Chess, and did so with his brother in
law, (I think) without a board or pieces,, and they'd both continue the
game entirely in their heads !  He knew all about steam locomotives,
politics, and a wide range of subjects, that filled out my then empty
head.  Cycling was of course one of his great loves, touring mainly, not
racing, and it was very popular at that time, everyone had bikes and
enjoyed it.  He was so kind to me, that once he offered to cycle with me
to Ibrox in Glasgow to see Hibs play Rangers in a League decider, we
went on his Tandem, I had to bring my own saddle he said, otherwise I'd
have a sore bum ! I can remember that day vividly, Hibs won !

As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, Tommy would work mainly
on time transits of the stars, at the old Royal Observatory on the
Calton hill.  I remember him making a "Black box" to measure these
transits, and claiming that the time accuracy was six hundredths of a
Tommy was very proud of his "Bow Tow," heritage, claiming that the
Fluckers came over with the Huguenots to escape persecution, and was
very well versed in history generally.  He was a good man, very handsome
in a clean cut way, and proud and protective of his daughters.  I lived
then in Newhaven Road, but my cousins the Jeffrey's, lived in 10
Hawthornvale, my uncle Peter Jeffrey was a riveter in Robbs, so as a lad
I was down the Vale regularly.
In those days (the 50's) the workers in the Yard were very highly
politicised, rationing was still in force, but we'd made advancements in
obtaining a free health service, we then got a weeks holiday in the
Summer, with pay, the working week was to be reduced from 48 hours, and
it looked to Socialists as if the workers were going to influence
politics for the good.  We were all Socialists (at least) many of us
Communists, and we sympathised with the experiments in Socialism started
in Russia and China. Tommy actually taught me the words of "The Red
Flag," the old Old Independent Labour Party anthem, including the bawdy
parody ! Relations with the shipyard management were never good, indeed
constantly fraught with tension, and fear of losing jobs, they all
remembered the Depression years vividly.  We weren't even allowed
teabreaks, (but we had them illegally!) you could be dismissed for
drinking tea, other than at dinner time, the tea urns were kept
padlocked until the hooter sounded.  Even going to the toilet was under
surveillance, you had to drop your works check at a turnstile at the
entrance to a very smelly and basic lavatory, and if you were over 7
minutes there, you were docked a quarter of an hour of pay. As an
apprentice, your time record was kept for the five years, and any late
time or absences were made up at the end of the five years, at
apprentice's pay, not Tradesman's pay.
Something else has just come to mind, I think Tommy was one of the First
of the Fluckers NOT to have gone to sea and the fishing, that must have
been a big decision in Newhaven in those days.

I still remember the "log" books of my grandfather's cycle rides that my gran had kept, he wrote down EVERY cycle ride he ever did, and when I sent this email to my aunty, she told me she still had them and sent me the page of the cycle ride mentioned above!

Page out my grandfather book logging his cycle ride
Am still in awe of how he could play a game of chess in his head!!

Thank you for taking the time to read, and still miss and love you lots grandad xx


  1. Maybe a little ADHD? We ADHD-ers can get obsessed and hyperfocus on random things like Aspergers folks do. Awesome to find this info out though from someone who knew him! I do a little genealogy myself and would love to have something like this. <3

  2. Very interesting post. Oddly enough, my mum has admitted to me that she thinks her father (my grandfather) was autistic. Everybody used to talk about his odd ways for years: how he would never communicate in social situations, how he would avoid going anywhere, his bursts of aggression and attempts to control things. Yet he was also very clever in maths and an almost obsessive reader. Its fascinating isn't it?

  3. Thank you both for the comments. Think it was the bit about him being able to play chess in his head that got me, C was able to play chess from a very young age, only took him an hour to pick it up..and yes it is fascinating x