His second was when I was sixteen, just out of school and had no sense of the direction my life should be going, when he pointed me towards the local newspaper, the Kelso Chronicle and Jedburgh Gazette, which had a vacancy for a junior reporter.
We buried Bill Jackson on Wednesday at a beautiful spot on the hillside overlooking Jedburgh, with views out to the south and east and the hills he loved where generations of my family worked as shepherds. He took ill on holiday and spent eleven weeks in hospital but for the first eight none of us had any idea just how sick he was. In the end he was told it was 'dialysis or die', but when it became clear the dialysis was only delaying the inevitable he took the decision to let nature take its course. The day after they unhooked him from the machine he almost looked his old self, and the family had a lovely day reminiscing about old holidays and memories; his mind was sharp and his sense of humour as keen as ever. He died the next day and the courage and serenity with which he approached the end humbled all of us who witnessed it. His last words were: I'm going home.'
With eery aforethought, a few months before his death he'd given me a 32-page history of his early years growing up on a farm near Jedburgh during the Second World War. It was only then that I learned he'd shipped out as a cabin boy on a merchant ship at the age of sixteen and had seen Canada, the United States and Brazil before he was eighteen. I'd known that he'd served in Malaya in the fifties, but he'd never told me about the jungle patrols he led with his bren gun, the ambushes in which his friends died, or the regret that he hadn't been able to save them.
I gave the eulogy in St. Mary's Church, Jedburgh, and all the time I was talking I could swear he was at my shoulder. I'll miss him.