This is the speech that I gave at my brother’s wedding on March 5, 2009. It’s not verbatim, and probably includes some little things that I wanted to say. And yes, there are stage directions!
I don’t want to go through a chronology of my brother’s life. Most of you here know it anyway. Instead I thought that I would tell you about what Matthew means to his family, and the influence he has had on their lives.
I believe it was a Thursday in 1970 when my mother had the zipper opened, the one that had been installed for the two births prior. The zipper slid back, and I was born. [Waves like royalty.] But suddenly the doctors and nurses realised that something wasn’t quite right.
[Places hands inside zipper and looks about. Look’s up and whispers, “There is another one in there.” Frantic pulling of umbilical cord, and then pulling out a baby but the feet triumphantly.]
And then, the man himself was born. The man that would come to win the 1988 Swansea High School Troy David Johnston Look-alike Award.
Matthew has long been a family man. We both started of in the family business. As Milkmen. Every morning one of us would get up in the wee small hours and help our Uncle John deliver milk around the streets of Swansea. Late Matthew would continue in the family business, building, with our Uncle John. Unfortunately John cannot be here today because of illness, and we certainly wish him all the very best.
Matthew has had a long history of impersonations. Anyone who has spent five minutes with him would have experienced this. Much to our sisters’ disappointment, Matthew has taught his niece and nephews that the meaning of life can be found in each and every …. Simpson’s episode.
[Nieces and Nephews all stand, and quote aka Mr Burns with accompanying finger motions, “Excellent!”]
Some of you may not be aware that our mother has a penchant for seeing the darker side of life. She likes to believe that the worst will always happen because then you will be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t. This lead to Matthew refining his three word impersonation of Billy Connolly, “YOU NEVER KNOW!”
My brother likes to give our parents a voice. He has taught them over the years to voice their opinion no matter what. This was especially true in the times of when he would play soccer, of which our father was the team coach. He would encourage our parents to voice their opinions. And indeed they did. So much so that on occasions they had to be escorted from the grounds. That’s the sort of son he is.
Someone who isn’t here tonight is our step-mother Kay. Matthew was a solid support system for our father in times that were so pleasant with Kay’s illness. In better times, Matthew was the son that Kay could share her love and joy with. Which gave her much comfort. Kay was a wonderful lady, and we miss her dearly.
People would often ask is Matthew and I ever got up to any “twin” exploits. It was rare, but on occasions we had the odd scam or two. In the actuality of our birth, we sat back to back and had synchronised heart beats. In 1970 the scanning techniques were not as they were today, so they could only ever detect one child. Until two weeks before we were born it was, “Surprise! Fooled ya!”
Also we both share the memroies of scamming money. Many many times were would come hrutling through the back door of our grandparents house a young boys, and my Grandfather would be standing at the stove watching this whirlwind with a huge smile on his face. “The boys are here!” He used the collective term “boys” because he had no understanding of how to telling us apart. He would immediately thrust his hands in his pockets and pull out every available coin and start handing it out. Our love was for sale, and he was cashed up and only to willing to buy.
Some of you may not realise but there is actually a fifth Johnston. We have our little adopted sister all the way from Estonia, Maria. We treat our little cousin Maria like our very own. And like all good older brothers we have picked on her and poked her. So much so, on one journey in Estonia while sitting in the back of the car, after hours of berating and comic genius from her new elder brothers, in the quiet of the journey Maria – a stoic little Estonian girl – burst into hysterical laughter for no apparent reason. Matthew and I just looked at each other. “I think we broke her!” Older brother’s job done!
Which leads me to my next point. Matthew gave me a gift that has truly changed my life. Some years ago while investigating our family heritage with our father so we could obtain European Passports, Matthew made an incredible discovery. He found out that our maternal grandfather had no perished in the Second World War as thought. He actually survived. Unbeknown to our grandmother who became a refugee, he married and had a second family. My mother was no longer the eldest of 6 children, but of 14. We immediately got on a plane and flew halfway across the world. There we got to meet the Martin family, and visit my grandfather’s grave, and most of all, connect with the Sinivee family. Two of whom have made that journey to be with us tonight. My cousins Monika and Maria. This simple gift gave me a new sense of family, and a new sense of who I was one. And it’s value is beyond price. Thank you.
So that’s my brother. Matthew. My family. He is a Clealand, who were bakers. He is a Drew, who were pastry chefs. He is a Vanags, who were tailors and metal workers. He is a Sinivee and a Martin, who were farmers. And he is a 10th generation Johnston who are builders and miners. And now, with just a touch of the Kemp about him.
I was the first person in the family to get to meet Rachael Kemp. And I knew after about three minutes in her company, that we were done. Here was the girl that Matthew was going to marry. We didn’t need to worry about him anymore. There were times when life was a bit of a rut for Matthew. And I have witnessed Rachael bring him out of that. Through her, Matthew has once again stood up and become the man we all knew he could be … the man he is today.
I’d welcome you to the family, Rachael, but you are already here. You are already part of our family. My nieces love you. Your mother Helen is always with us. Even your new-born niece Amali has become my mother’s new favourite grandchild.
So I would just like to wish you joy and happiness. I wish you love. And most importantly, I wish you tolerance for all The Simpsons episodes you are going to have to watch.