Bernie Davis 1945 - 2021

Bernie - a Life:

Bernard, or Bernie as he is more commonly known, was born at home on Kings Drive in Woolton, on the unexpectedly snowy day of 23rd April 1945. It wasn’t long before he showed a talent for performance and for making people laugh. At a Sunday school concert at St Peters Church Hall in Woolton, he performed the song I Had a Little Pony dressed in hunting clothes with a tiny riding crop. Later Bernard and his brother Rod were the only two boys in their classes at the Vernon Johnson School of Dance, where they learned tap dancing and ballet. Shows were held at the Crane Theatre in Liverpool city centre where the brothers played teddies in a Teddy Bears Picnic number and Bernard was a duck. Bernard was a thoughtful big brother, promising his sister Rosemary on the day she was born that he would teach her to climb the pear tree in the back garden. And, years later, he did. One cherished memory is of playing ‘dance school’ on a rainy afternoon - Bernard as the Dancing Master with a strong French accent and a swishy cape, shouting ‘Encore! Encore!’ while stroking an imaginary large moustache. Bernard grew up in a musical household. His dad Jim played violin, sometimes accompanied by his younger son on guitar. Bernard’s Mum, Nora, was an enthusiastic member of the Woolton Follies. At family parties, everyone was expected to perform a turn. One New Year, when Bernard was about 12, he dressed up in an old blanket for a kilt and performed The White Heather Club and The Highland Fling in a ridiculous Scottish accent - his natural sense of the absurd and fantastic comic timing shining through. Rosemary remembers everyone crying with laughter until they begged him to stop. Old friends may recall a later incarnation of this party piece, in which Bernard performed William McGonagall’s apparently never-ending poem The Tay Bridge Disaster wearing a red tartan blanket. As a boy, Bernard had many passions. He loved horses and spent every spare second at Jim Blundell’s stables in Gateacre - and many decades later looked on proudly as his grandson Archie rode for the first time. With his brother Rod he built model aeroplanes from Keil Kraft kits and larger versions from wooden planks balanced on paint pots in the back garden. As a teenager he took up cycling and cross country running. But it was music that endured throughout his life. With ill-fated piano lessons behind them, the two brothers badgered their parents to buy them a guitar or banjo. They ended up with the latter, a pre-war Windsor Whirle five-string that had belonged to the brother-in-law of their Uncle George in Wales. George Davies played fiddle and musical saw - the very musical saw that Bernard would himself later play in folk clubs, at music festivals across the world and during his daughters’ weddings. After leaving Quarry Bank School in 1963, Bernard completed a Teacher Training Certificate at St Luke’s College in Exeter, where he became a familiar face at the local folk clubs. But it was at another folk club back home in Liverpool when he met his wife Vera. Initially attracted to his speaking voice, which she overheard in the Green Moose café, she first saw him performing at the Folk at the Inferno at the Lamb Hotel where he was a member of the resident band, The Phoenix. Bernard was playing mandolin and wearing a pith helmet. They began their nearly 44-year marriage in March 1977 when they were married at St Peter’s Church in Woolton. The zany, creative qualities that Vera loved about Bernard were matched with a dependability and kindness that would make her and their two daughters always feel secure. Happy memories from the girls’ childhood include Sunday trips to the Irish Centre on Mount Pleasant, where they would take fiddle lessons while ‘Dad’ had a pint of Guinness and a music session in the bar. Then there were the family holidays to Wales and later France, pulling a four-berth caravan hundreds of miles for two weeks of sunshine, baguettes and outdoor swimming, long walks and cheap red wine. Bernard would always put his family first. If it poured down while the tent needed pitching he would do it solo while the others sheltered in the car. Once the car broke down during the journey to the ferry so he pulled over and put down the caravan’s legs. They were all inside it, drinking tea and playing Knock Out Whist, when the AA man arrived. Family photos show years of fun - the girls initchy balaclavas clinging to the triangulationpillars at the top of a snowy Ben Nevis; Bernard playingmelodeon as his daughters climbed the stairs on Christmas Eve holding candlesticks and stockings; Bernard and Vera smiling on a balcony in Parga where they enjoyed many holidays with Irene and Brian, Curly Pete, and Margaret and Roy; Bernard grinning at the helm of his sailing boat on the River Dee; and a happy Grandpa’ cuddling each newly-born grandchild. Click to continue: