Fathers Network Scotland was founded in 2008 by a much-loved social entrepreneur David Drysdale. The father of two children, David was a popular and widely-respected campaigner, with a particular passion for men’s personal development and the role of dads in families.
Diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in March 2015, he underwent many months of chemotherapy which seemed to leave him clear of the initial tumour. In early 2016 he returned to the job he loved at Fathers Network Scotland to help launch Year of the Dad with the Scottish Government and dozens of partner organisations, “celebrating the difference a great dad can make”. Sadly, shortly after a new scan showed the disease had spread to his lung and in July of that year he passed away at just 50 years old.
David found his personal mission to support men’s development after the apparent suicides of two friends caused him to rethink his own life. The shock and delight of fatherhood proved another defining moment, when his son was born in Edinburgh in 2007. Determined to share hands-on parenting with his beloved wife, he experienced a bias against male carers which he saw as the flipside of the inequality women experienced in the workplace.
He resolved to do something about both at once and gathered a group of concerned professionals together and Fathers Network Scotland was born in 2008.
From the start, David wasn't interested in sparking off the old gender wars or fathers’ rights. He modelled a very different energy, because he saw that mothers and fathers were allies whose greatest love was their children – and in their different ways both suffered from society’s imbalance. He took the debate out of the polarising arena of gender politics, and showed how supporting dads as nurturing parents benefits everybody: children, families, society as a whole.
Sadly David was not able to witness the full impact of Year of the Dad. The campaign reached half a million people through Scottish & UK media. And almost 15,000 people enjoyed one of the 95 events put on by 56 organisations across Scotland - with everything from family fun days to festival shows, from conferences to cycle rides. Nor has he seen how the charity has grown and developed. In the last 5 years:
- We’ve asked over 3,000 Scottish dads how they are doing through our dads surveys
- We’ve attended 271 events and meetings to help dads have their voice heard, reaching around 8,500 people
- We’ve helped more than 1,800 practitioners “Understand Dad” and how to support Dads Mental Health through our training programme
- Our dad-friendly directory has grown from just 24 to 220 organisations helping tens of thousands of dads and families find the support they need when they need it.
Soon after David died, Nick a close friend and member of the FNS team recalled: “I know his hardest moment was having to tell his beloved 8-year-old son he wasn’t going to survive – but even then he was determined to help him feel all his emotions, encourage him not to bottle them up in the old male way”
Some of us have been lucky enough to have a dad or father-figure like David in our lives, others have been less fortunate. Yet good or bad the impact of dads and father-figures ripple through all our lives. And now research clearly shows how important dads are to their children who tend to be smarter, healthier and more resilient if dad is positively involved. It also benefits women who rightly expect a good dad to be involved in birth plans, child care and decision-making about children.
We think David would be pleased at the ever increasing numbers of dads who want to be actively involved in their life and the amount of support available. However, we are sure he would also see how much more needs to be done to achieve sustained behavioural change in policy, practice and parenting. Dads are still passively excluded within our public services and more needs to be done to make them feel welcome and included. They also need support from their employers and the government to help them be there for their children and share the care with mothers.
In David's last public address he explained that "this isn't just about dads...it's about something far bigger its about building a better world for our children, our families the wider community and society." This sentiment continues to provide our true North, but as David knew only to well we can't make change happen on our own. So he would also be delighted that you are interested in the charity and curious about joining our community that aims to build a better world.
David Drysdale's last public words during Year of the Dad