Centenary of mother’s birth

Our mother would have been 100 today.  She was a strong and energetic woman, a role model  not just for us, her three children, but for her two granddaughters.


She was born six months before our grandfather, a professional soldier, was killed on the Somme.  Later her mother, Tish, remarried and it was probably her stepfather’s ruling that prohibited her taking up her university place in the thirties (education wasted on women…). She never ceased to regret and resent this – but made up for it in later years by determined self-improvement – courses in carpentry (we had the best built henhouse in town), geology, botany, and German.

The selection of photos below show her strong character, clearly a very handsome young woman, and then – with few photos taken after the war – evidence that bringing up three children with too little money and lots of illness took their toll on her.

The war enabled Mum to assume a role of responsibility in MI6, which she relished – and then had to abandon when she married and had me. She didn’t enjoy being a stay at home mum, though she insisted on maintaining our huge Edwardian house to a standard commensurate with the comfort of staff employed in her family in the years gone by.  On top of running the house, she enjoyed working as the secretary to an MP, a family friend, making the journey from Richmond to Westminster on her ancient bicycle. Later she earned a modest revenue translating history and archaeology books from German, and for several years worked as secretary for the British Institute in East Africa. All this was done because she needed the cash (our father had charm and academic and political interests rather than skill as a breadwinner) but she also relished outlets for her formidable skills.

Even when arthritis gave her pain and restricted her movement, Mum threw herself into serious local history research, providing an outlet for that wish all her adult life to do more significant work.

I’m so glad that she lived long enough to see our two daughters grow up and flourish, but sad that the fall on her 80th birthday resulted in nearly two years of suffering at the end of her life.

Here is the tribute that we paid at her funeral.

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