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lives lived

Desmond Lamb

Desmond Lamb: Physiotherapist. Fishmonger. Family man. Racehorse owner. Born Oct. 30, 1932, in Clydebank, Scotland; died Aug. 14, 2017, in St. Catharines, Ont., of natural causes; aged 84.

It was March, 1941, and the Luftwaffe bombs were destroying Clydebank, in Scotland's industrial heartland. Desmond's family, like so many others, were evacuated to the countryside in the midst of the blitz. They arrived in Lennoxtown, a quiet village nestled at the foot of the Campsie Fells.

Desmond's family had not long settled into country life when his only brother died of brain cancer at 16. As the war ended, his mother couldn't bring herself to leave the graveside of her eldest boy, and so the family remained. It was always a subject Desi refused to speak about, and it clearly shaped his young life in profound ways.

Desi fell in love with village life, finding lifelong friends and eventually training at the Glasgow Physiotherapy College. He remained in Campsie – the local's name for Lennoxtown – marrying his love Eileen, raising four children and commencing his many adventures in entrepreneurship. Whether it was raising chickens, racing greyhounds, growing chrysanthemums or running the local fishmonger's shop with a close friend, he did it all with a great deal of joy. "There's nae money in this camp, but there's a million laughs," said one of his friends.

Desi entertained all he encountered. Always willing to stand up and enthrall an assembled group with a song, a joke (in good taste) or a great story.

The late 1970s was a time of great economic upheaval in Scotland. Canada, on the other hand, had opportunity that could secure the future of Desi's children.

At the age of 47, with four kids and a few grand, he and Eileen made the bold move across the Atlantic. They struggled through the resulting dislocation and loneliness as so many have done in this country.

While working full-time, Desmond would also work every evening in his own fledgling private physio clinic. Eileen worked the nightshift as a nurse. Within two years, the clinic was doing so well he was able to work in his own business full time. That living ensured all five children (including a true Canadian born six years after their arrival) were university educated, thus fulfilling the dream he carried with him to Canada.

From childhood, Desi always fancied horseracing, but in the United Kingdom horse ownership was for the upper classes. There was no such barrier in Canada. In 1984, he bought a brood mare named Royal Canada and later raced her first foal. It was Royal Canada's second foal that proved to be the real winner for Desi.

Mated with a seemingly infertile grandson of Northern Dancer, they produced a colt that attracted quite a bit of interest. Desi knew he had hit paydirt in a game notorious for being anything but profitable. He ended up selling all three horses to an American breeder and paid off his mortgage: a sensible dreamer, he was.

Desmond loved Canada deeply, as it was Canada, he always said, that had opened its arms to his family, providing almost unlimited opportunity to succeed. He truly believed that this country allowed his entire family to fulfil their potential, and for that, he always said, he would be eternally grateful.

Dominic Lamb is Desmond's middle son.

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