Obituary: Gabriel ‘Jerry’ Jerdan KStJ; committed Christian with a passion for Freemasonry and a deep love for his family
Born: 5 August, 1914, in Edinburgh. Died: 29 September, 2012, in Bridge of Weir, aged 98.
Gabriel Jerdan was born on his grandfather’s birthday, and consequently named after him, being the seventh person in the family to bear that name, the first having been born in Kelso in 1751. However, it was a name which he never liked, and throughout his life he was known to all as Jerry.
His schooling was at James Gillespie’s and George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, which he left with sufficient Highers to enrol as an actuarial student. He joined the staff of the Scottish Equitable Life Assurance Society, and when not working or studying, his great interests and passions – which he maintained throughout his long life – were music and rugby.
When he was 16 his music teacher declared that he had nothing more he could teach him, so he joined the Edinburgh Society of Organists and was on its list of available locums, which resulted in him playing an interesting variety of organs at a number of churches throughout Edinburgh, and earning modest but welcome pocket money.
He was also the piano accompanist to the Corstorphine Philharmonic Choir and the organist for the Cairns Children’s Choir when they gave Sunday concerts in churches.
In 1938, his father advised him that Chamberlain was wrong and that if you wanted to progress in the inevitable war it was as well to get in first. Consequently, he enlisted as a gunner in a TA regiment, the 57th Medium Regiment, RA, in 1938, and, accordingly, was called up immediately when war broke out in 1939.
His war service took him to Belgium, Dunkirk, South Africa, Egypt, Benghazi, Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, Holland and Germany. By the time he was demobilised in 1945, he had obtained the rank of Captain.
His love story was a splendid one, and one which would be unlikely to happen today. During the early stages of the war he had met a young nurse from Eyemouth named Helen (“Ella”) Wood. After the usual courtship, during which they met whenever they were both in the same part of Scotland, Jerry proposed in 1941 but they decided that they would wait until the end of the war before marrying, in case either of them did not survive.
Little did they know that they would not see each other for nearly four years. Ella nursed in India from 1942-45, and was demobbed as soon as the war ended.
Jerry was stuck in Germany, so they arranged, by post, to marry on 10 December, 1945. Jerry got back to Edinburgh on 7 December, and they met for the first time in nearly four years the following day, and were married two days later.
It was a marriage that lasted for just short of 60 years, until Ella’s death in April 2005. After their marriage, Jerry took up a post with the Scottish Equitable in Glasgow, and then became manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland for London Life.
He was a committed Christian and became an elder of the church in Langside Avenue and then at Newlands South, where he went on to become Session Clerk for five years.
His great interest outside work and family was Scottish Freemasonry. He followed his father and uncles by joining the Watsonian Lodge in 1946 and then joined Glasgow Kilwinning Lodge No 4 in 1949, and became the Master in 1958/59.
He went on to great things in Freemasonry, becoming a member of the Grand Committee of Grand Lodge in 1973, then Grand Almoner and finally Depute Grand Master in 1994/95.
His keen interest in Masonic affairs led to much international travel to Canada, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. Jerry and Ella were also very involved in the affairs of the Glasgow Branch of the Order of St John and Jerry was secretary from 1982 to 1995.
Their huge input to the order was officially recognised when they were appointed Knight and Dame of the Order in 1993. Their son David and daughter Helen were invited to attend the dubbing in St James’s Palace, where Ella was proud to have sat alongside Margaret Thatcher and had a great discussion about their mutual liking of designer buttons!
His main interest, however, was his children, David and Helen, his grandchildren, Elizabeth, Elaine, Andrew and Helen, and his great-grandchildren, Sam, Jamie, Robbie, Max, Grace and Calum.
He would closely follow all results, exam or sporting, and just “be there” to lend support. As with many of his generation, he kept his feelings pretty close to his chest.
He would shout loud support when watching sport, but said little in one-to-one situations, and yet the love that he had for all the family showed through in so many ways. His children used to say that he never raised his voice except when singing at full volume.
In his last few years, after Ella died, he showed a remarkable ability to adapt. He managed for himself in the flat in Netherlee, with help from his family, and this allowed him to maintain an independent lifestyle, and he simply adored seeing the grandchildren and great grandchildren.
However, failing health meant that he had to give up some of his independence, and he moved into a Masonic home – Marcus Humphrey House in Bridge of Weir – which he had helped to set up in 1986.
Despite his reservations about living in a home, he immediately settled in and was extremely happy, comfortable and well cared for in such a loving, caring environment. Typically, he hardly ever complained, although latterly, by his own admission, life was not much fun and he was exhausted. He did, however, tell staff that he had had a great life. What more could anyone ask?
He touched the lives of all who knew and met him. His family were greatly comforted at his funeral service in Newlands South Church by the large number of people who expressed their appreciation of a well-respected member of the organisations with which he was involved, and of “a true gentleman”.
His wife Ella predeceased him in 2005, and he is survived by his son, David, his daughter, Helen Burton, and his four grandchildren and six great- grandchildren.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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