"Today is a double celebration. It is my 74th birthday, a landmark in my life that it is a pleasure to reach as well as being our fourth wedding anniversary. Sheila and I married on my 70th birthday. It is a day that leads me to recall some of my past life.
The photograph is of me, taken thirty years ago, when I had the world by its tail and swung it in the direction of my satisfaction. At that time, I'd established myself internationally in the field of 'Anger Management' that I founded, and the success of my relaxation training groups in probation offices, hostels, hospitals, psychiatric wings, prisons, community halls, churches and educational establishments had proved highly successful. My body of work was nationally acclaimed and assured me of regular media coverage on the television, radio and the press (Over two thousand photographs and news paper articles of me between 1971 and 2000 in Yorkshire regional papers and a few nationals). I had much to feel good about and so much to be grateful for.
Shortly after this photograph was taken in 1986 my mother died. The suddenness and unexpected nature of her death momentarily knocked the emotional stuffing out of me and for a while, I carried on with my life and for a few months, I operated on 'automatic pilot.' After the death of mum, and for the next five years until my dad died, I visited him daily. Over our many chats we had together, I got to know him and identify with him in a way that I hadn't previously when mum was alive. It's strange, but the dominance and emotional influence of one parent in a child's life, invariably prevents that child's relationship becoming as close with the other parent as it could and would otherwise have been. It was as though my mum needed to die before I could fully engage emotionally with my staunchly independent dad who had always been one of those men who said little, always did what was required, and kept his own company. It was as though mum's passing had enabled our emotional 'coming together', the late bonding in life of dad and me.
As I got to know my father anew, I began to see in him qualities I'd never previously seen, along with character flaws of which I knew not. Over the next five years, I was able to take my aloof dad down from the pedestal I'd placed him on since my early twenties and see him as a good, yet ordinary man, who had done many exceptional things in his life, yet had faults like any other man. I had effectively humanised him and this enabled me to get much closer to the man he truly was.
It was dad who once told me one day when we were chatting away, that everyone has a song for every important occasion and significant person in their life. I knew that his own favourite song had been 'Sweet Sixteen' and he told me that his and mum's song was, 'Some Enchanted Evening'. These were the only two songs I ever heard him sing or hum when he was in the bath:
This got me thinking about songs and the importance they play in our lives. Indeed, the more I thought about it, the clearer became their musical significance. I now believe that strangers will probably get a deeper insight into and learn more about any person, by listening to the songs which shaped the different stages of their lives, the songs that enjoined the people they loved. This catalogue of musical taste probably charts out the developments in my life far better than any autobiography ever could.
Throughout my childhood, my mother would sing the same song (always out of tune), day in and day out. As Les Dawson might have said, 'She would sing all the right notes, but in the wrong order.' Whenever I told mum that she couldn't sing for toffee, her reply was, 'Who says good singers have a monopoly on singing, Billy Forde. Didn't God give everyone the right to sing!' The song mum sang daily was 'Far away Places' by the force's sweetheart, Vera Lynn. Little could she or I suspect then, that I would in later years become a friend to Vera, her idol, who would help me many times with my charity work:
The very first song that I fell in love with for my own choice was when I was aged nine years old. At the time, I was a good singer and I entered a singing contest at the Savoy Picture House (Cinema) in Cleckheaton. I won the first prize of £10. At the time, £10 represented a man's wages for the week. I'd never seen so much money in my life and ran home one and a half miles waving the two fivers which I tipped up to mum to help with the housekeeping. The song I sang was 'Too Young' by Jimmy Young, who would become one of the country's best disc jockeys over the years ahead, and who died aged 95 years old, a few days ago:
The first time I became infatuated with a girl was about a year later. She was 11-year-old Winifred Healey, and we shared the love of a song. It was by one of my favourite singers of the time, Slim Whitman, singing, 'Rose Marie':
The song that I shared with my first Irish girlfriend, Dooney Quinn, who introduced me to 'Skinny dipping' up in the streams of Curramorough during my early teenage years, was naturally an Irish tune/song. It was 'The Isle of Innisfree' theme tune from 'The Quiet Man' film starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. This film is a must for the Forde family every Christmas. Indeed, Christmas in the Forde household wouldn't be Christmas until the Christmas tree is up, and in the background can be heard this haunting and memorable tune which evokes such Irish memories of mine of my youthful teens:
By the age of 18 years old, I had a reputation with the girls of being 'a bad boy' who moved from girl to girl as frequently as I changed my shirt. Anyone would have got 100-1 odds that I'd never marry and settle down. Indeed, my signature tune at the time was 'The Wanderer' by Dion:
Between the ages of 21 and 23 years of age I lived in Canada where I knew true love (not infatuation), for the first time to a lovely young woman called Jenny. The song that enjoined us at the time was 'In Dreams' by Roy Orbison. That relationship was regrettably ended by me when I returned home to England in 1965. Jenny was the daughter of the then British Trade Commissioner based in Toronto, and believing that I could never give her a life style to which she was accustomed, I felt it only right to give her up. That was probably the first big mistake I ever made in my early life:
By the age of 26 years, I was married to my first wife, Janet. The song shared between me and Janet was 'Somewhere' by P.J.Proby. We loved the song so much that we had it played at our wedding. Unfortunately, neither time nor place was ever found by us to make our union work, but we had two beautiful sons, James and Adam from our union:
My second marriage was to Fiona. We both loved country and western singing and our song became 'Annie's Song' by John Denver. That marriage was very good for over twenty years until we grew apart. After both our children, William and Rebecca, had passed through university and had left home, we gradually had to accept that our marriage had passed its 'sell by date':
Towards the end of the century, after having written many books for children, the National Lottery funded my production of the 'Douglas the Dragon Musical Play.' We had six new songs written, composed, professionally recorded and produced, which included the very first song I ever wrote, 'Our World'. That song was promoted by the two leading world environmentalist at the time, Robert Swann (the first person ever to walk to the North and South Poles), and the 'Body Shop' pioneer, the late Anita Roddick. I will never forget me and Anita walking over 1000 disabled children from the railway station in Huddersfield to the Town Hall, where another 1000 school children joined them to sing the 'Our World' song. That is the only time in my life when I managed to stop the traffic through Huddersfield centre for forty minutes. I felt proud to hear so many children sing my song. Even the then Prime Minister, John Major and his wife, Norma wrote an open letter of congratulations to the children of Kirklees for their part in the 'Our World' song project:
My third wife and the love of my life was Sheila. We met in 2010 and got married on my 70th birthday in 2012. Sheila is a very beautiful and spiritual person; the most selfless person I've ever met.The day she came into my life was the happiest of all days. When we met, she played the organ weekly at her church. So on the day before our first Easter Sunday, 2011, I composed her, her own hymn, 'Be my Life':
When Sheila and I got married, our song that enjoined us was 'Secret Love' by Doris Day. I have never been happier in my life since that first day we met in Haworth and as any of my Facebook contacts will know, there is absolutely nothing secret about the love we share. We even shout it from the highest hills every now and then,'I love you, Sheila Forde':
I suppose it would be fitting on this, the anniversary of my first day of my life on earth, and the anniversary of my first day of married life with Sheila, to end this post with a sweet contemplation of my favourite hymn that I will request playing at my funeral service on my last day of life. This hymn was played at my wedding service to Sheila. Despite having being born an Irishman who has remained a proud Irish citizen all my life, it would be churlish of me not to recognise my love for England; this great country that gave me, my parents and siblings everything we ever needed after we emigrated here in 1946. What more fitting song and words therefore to end my days than those immortal words of William Blake in that stirring rendition of 'Jerusalem, a song that invokes the spirit of England, this great land." William Forde: November 10th, 2016: