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Kirkland Laing – ‘Happy-go-lucky until the end’

Kirkland Laing
Kirkland Laing may have been a special boxer but he was an even better father, writes his daughter Delene Laing

MY dad had an unmistakeable presence right up until the end. He would light up a room with that smile, a loveable rogue until his dying day.

When we were kids we didn’t really understand what a special boxer he was. We knew he was a fighter but I didn’t understand how good.

Everyone else seemed to! He would come to the school and I’d be in class. The teacher would say, ‘Delene, go to the office. Your dad has arrived.’ He’d turn up out of the blue! He’d be sat there in the office, he’d have a beaver hat on, a t-shirt, some slacks with that red, gold and green belt on. I was embarrassed by how he was dressed. ‘No, Dad, what are you doing?’ But he had his own style.

He’d pick us up and throw us in the air. He was so loving and always so funny, we had good banter with him. There was no sadness in him, he was always happy-go-lucky. He played with us and made us feel so special. Even my friends adored him. One of them cut their knee and my dad picked her up and carried her on his shoulder.

He would go to our mum’s, pack our bags and take us kids to London. We’d be driving down the M1 from Nottingham with the windows down, the music pumping. If we ever wanted a wee he’d pull that car up anywhere. He’d be having one over there, we’d be having one over here. Then we’d all fall asleep in the car then we’d wake up in London and it was so exciting.

I’ll never forget being on those London buses where you could hop on and hop off. He’d get us kids to sit down but when the bus was moving slowly in traffic we’d all have to get off and walk past the bus because he couldn’t stand not to be moving. When the bus caught us up we’d all jump on it again, then jump off when it was moving slowly again. I’ll never forget him walking quickly in front of us. The conductor would ask him for tickets. ‘Tickets?’ my dad would say, ‘Leave it out!’

He’d play his music so loud in the house. Everyone would be there, just excited to be around him. I’d be walking round the house closing all the windows because the music was so loud.

People would say what a good boxer he was. They’d come up to him at Kings Cross station and he’d jump over the barrier. The ticket man would be chasing him saying he hadn’t paid and my dad would be stopping to sign autographs for people with a big smile on his face. I’d just be wondering what was going on!

But he was so generous to everyone. People would come up to him and say, ‘Kirk, have you got a pound?’ and he’d give them a £50 note. I’d wonder what he was doing. People would say they liked his coat or his watch and he’d just take them off and give his jacket or his watch to them and then never think of it again. He wasn’t at all materialistic. ‘You like them? You have them!’ He just wanted to be happy and for those around him to be happy. He was so laid back.

My mum would say, ‘Your dad is having a fight tonight,’ and we’d all come running down the stairs to watch on the TV. Even at the end of his life he would hold his fists up and put them in his boxing pose. But to me, he was always just my dad. It’s been truly overwhelming to read all the messages about him over the last few days, he would have been so honoured and so pleased. I want to thank everyone for those messages, it’s been such a comfort to know how well he is remembered and how much everyone thought of him.

Even now, when we’d take him out, people would come up to him and say, ‘Yes, Champ!’ or ‘Yes, Kirk!’ and they’d be so pleased to see him. I loved that. That was my dad!

He was happy-go-lucky to the end. We’d take him his Guinness punch that we’d make for him. We’d put YouTube on, play his fights for him. He’d play snooker, pool, he loved all that. I put music on for him and his eyes would pop out of his head with excitement. ‘Delene, me want to party!’ I’d say, ‘You ain’t going nowhere, mate!’ He really thought he could go out and rave. In his head he thought he was alright. He was free as a bird, nothing phased him.

He never lost his spirit. I’m glad he didn’t know what was happening. It’s sad what happened but I’ve looked after him. He was happy and I’m glad it didn’t get worse. He wouldn’t have wanted that.

I have nothing but fond memories of him. He was never miserable. At the end of his life, I’d be doing what he used to do for us; I’d drive him around, wind the windows down and let the music blare out. It was like the good old times.

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