From James (eldest son)
The first thing to say about Dad is that, by his own admission, he was not a well travelled man and I used to joke with him that he might spontaneously explode if he left the borders of Hampshire - so I was quite surprised to learn of his chosen burial place … here in Dorset.
It also breaks a Hoskins family tradition that goes back 300 years of being buried at St John’s church in North Baddesley. But it was only in more recent years that we discovered just how many Hoskinses lived and worked in and around North Baddesley, Romsey and Chandlers Ford going right back to the 1600s and no doubt before. They didn’t travel far either ...
Our Hoskins ancestors were grafters - Dad’s great, great, great relatives, and greater, worked the fields and built the barns. His grandfather made the bricks for Hampshire’s houses, his father fought in the trenches In France and chased the Bulgarians out of Greece to help bring about the end of the first world war and then later spent his whole working life building and repairing Hampshire’s roads.
So young Brian was a bit of a disappointment. Not for him the army, brickyard, tarmac depots or crop fields - his teachers seemed determined that this 14 year old boy with a gift for drawing should go to Art School.
And so, as the second world war came to an end, Dad started along a very different path to earlier generations of the family and became a student at Winchester School of Art.
It must have been quite a challenge for a young working class boy more used to running through the countryside with the Ram Alley gang, evading gamekeepers, trapping rabbits and raiding birds nests, to study Art alongside the sons and daughters of doctors, military officers and company directors.
Not least because many of his fellow students were 7 years older than him and were continuing their education after coming back from wartime duties.
Dad credits his survival and eventual enjoyment of Art School to Jack Parker, the son of one time football legend Tom Parker, who befriended him despite the age gap and lack of worldly experience.
Sadly Dad never managed to get further than his early art school days when writing his life story but the general drift of his account was of an adolescent working class misfit who lusted after unattainable posh girls and, in his own humble opinion, was a much better illustrator and craftsman than the rest of them but never really understood what Art - with a capital A - was all about.
And I’m not sure he ever did. But it didn’t matter then and it certainly doesn’t matter today.
What matters is that his artistic talents and craftmanship have brought joy and satisfaction to a great many people over the years - whether that was helping them grow their businesses, design their houses and gardens or paint pictures of their loved ones and pets.
The common theme from the recent condolences is that people felt privileged to know him. Dad never thought much of himself or his value and so virtually gave away much of what he produced over the years…
I will now be sending out retrospective invoices with 30 day payment terms.
At face value Dad shared similarities with a one eyed, three legged cat named ‘Lucky’. Cursed with hereditary deafness, a wife who developed more than one chronic illness that destroyed her career and mobility and an unstoppable addiction to tobacco that gave him lung cancer and heart disease.
However, despite this challenging backdrop, Dad was a lucky man.
Dad was lucky to be born when he was. From the accounts of his early life it appears he spent many nights in terror sheltering from screeching and screaming bombs as Southampton and Portsmouth were targeted by the Nazi air raids - but post war Britain wanted to invest in and encourage its youth and he very much benefitted from the 5 year opportunity he was given to develop his gift for drawing and the patronage he received from local benefactors to help him do it.
Dad was lucky to be sent to sunny Cyprus for his National Service - the sort of two year mediterranean island adventure that young adults in their early 20s crave today - but paid for by Her Majesty’s Government. It was the one and only foreign trip he made in his life - as I’m pretty sure the Isle of Wight and Scilly Isles don’t count as truly foreign ...
Dad was lucky that his association with Winchester coincided with one Janet Constance Carter arriving in the city to advance her nursing career and them meeting at a dance. When she asked him what he did for a living he told her he designed toffee wrappers - and quite probably did at that time. He was particularly lucky that after their initial courtship she went to Kings College Hospital in London on a 5 year posting, rejected the advances of a dashing Greek doctor (whose name she remembers quite clearly to this day) and still came back to Southampton to marry Dad.
Dad was lucky to gain the patronage of William R Selwood, the founder of the plant and pump hire company, who bought him his first set of hearing aids - many decades before the government made companies consider such things - and to have a job that he thoroughly enjoyed for many years that helped him develop new skills.
Dad was lucky that he had a gift that didn’t depend on him being able to hear. This enabled him to continue a productive life without really needing to worry too much about office working and telephone communications.
Dad was lucky to survive his first scrape with lung cancer 26 years ago, a triple heart bypass operation 15 years ago and subsequent superbug pneumonia and live into his 80s to watch his grandchildren growing up.
Dad was lucky that the NHS helped him hear birdsong and classical music again through a cochlear implant operation at the age of 80.
And in his final weeks and months he really did come to recognise how lucky he was as people younger than him, and in one case half his age, occupied the beds around him at the Countess Mountbatten Hospice and sadly died before him.
And that is why, if there is one thing you do following this sad occasion today please make a donation to the hospice as they are doing a fantastic job in caring for cancer patients of all ages with tremendous dignity and compassion.
The information about donating to the hospice is on the website we created for Dad when celebrating his 80th birthday - www.brianhoskins.design - We have also added all of the words he painstakingly put together about his life, despite his dyslexia, on that website - a taster of which we have put in the remembrance leaflets created for today.
In my 50 years on this earth I have never met anyone else with such an ability to describe and illustrate from memory in the way Dad could - It was indeed a ‘gift’ and it is a privilege to say I am his son.
From Robert (youngest son)
As James said dad was lucky in some ways but as in most peoples lives there were challenging and difficult times too. Having reached the heights of company director dad then found himself unemployed..and it was here that luck turned its back on mum and dad. Previous employers had supported dads hearing needs but now during recession and stiff competition for jobs and dad’s increasing inability to deal with telephones and background noise he found it impossible to find an appropriate job.
With a young family to support dad had to find freelance work. A seemingly generous offer of financial assistance to built a studio extension to the house turned into a 10 year legal battle and my parents having to take on a mortgage at a staggering 16%.
During these challenging times I have huge respect for mum and dad. While we were forced to live with thread bare carpets and during the harshest winters I can remember we huddled around a single light bulb for warmth. There were always birthday and Christmas gifts. We were never hungry, although on wartime rations, and somehow they balanced their finances to ensure they kept our home. Some aspects of this may have been slightly exaggerated for dramatic impact.
When dad was diagnosed with cancer 26yrs ago he was almost willing to sacrifice his life for his dignity. As a very private person and could not bare the thought of some of the indignities he was going to suffer He needed to be reminded that he was valued by a lot of people and that he needed to get over it for their sake. He did survive the embarrassments and the operation to live on and enjoy his retirement. At 56 he was prepared to die at 83 he wanted to hold onto life because he had so much to do…
Dad was generous with his time and talents and wouldn’t turn down any requests for help with artistic or practical ventures. He gave up a lot of time to building carnival floats and producing posters, signage and leaflets for Mum’s charities and other organisations and assisting individuals to improve their quality of life.
Fittingly , a couple of years ago I was involved in building a garden at the Countess Mountbatten Hospice where dad spent his last days. A feature of this garden was a large butterfly mural which dad freely provided.
I am disappointed that his memoirs were unfinished. He didn’t write down much out about his National Service but I think I have heard the stories often enough to write that bit myself.
I asked my boys what they would say about Grandad. and they both immediately said he was kind and generous. Both boys recall how he let them pull his beard and Jordan’s favourite memory is of sitting on Grandad’s knee reading ‘The Dinosaur Book’
I will remember dad as a somewhat stubborn, obstinately opinionated, slightly self-centred, but none the less generous and kindly and obviously talented. who smelled of tobacco and whom I loved deeply.
From Georgia (eldest grandchild)
When I think of my Grandad the first thing that springs to mind is the amazing passion he had for art, which in turn inspired me to embrace my own creative side. One of my fondest memories is the joy of going round to Grandma and Grandad’s house and getting to play with the toy farm set he made, I always got very excited taking a trip into the organised mess that was his studio.
I feel that I became closer to Grandad in his later years of life, after he was able to hear better and we could have proper conversations, learning more about his past. I even got to talk to him over Facetime, which was interesting to say the least.
Despite his many attributes the one thing I will remember most about him is his beard. As a child, I was always too scared to kiss him because I thought his beard was too scratchy. On reflection that was obviously a very irrational fear, and it saddens me that I won’t get one last scratchy kiss.