As a family we moved every four or five years. We were fortunate in that this included periods in both Jersey and Guernsey, places where many people are not lucky enough to be able to live, but as a family we also lived in Chichester, the Isle of Wight and finally settling in Waterlooville. On each of these occasions, prior to the whole family moving, Dad would spend up to 6 months in the new location setting up his work and our new home, leaving Mum to deal with everything that two growing boys could do. If that wasn’t enough the first day in a new place generally didn’t go smoothly. On the first day in Chichester Martin fed Paul poison berries. On the first day in Guernsey our new neighbour came round to play and ran through a plate glass window. On the first day on the Isle of Wight Paul fell off his bike and needed to go to A&E. None of these problems seemed to faze Mum very much!
Whatever was going on in her life, it was the family unit that was always Mum’s priority. She was there to collect us at the school gate when we were little, and in later years from the school bus when it was raining (she was clearly worried that her teenage sons may drift away!). We were very keen swimmers as children. After an incident when she herself was a child, mum had a lifetime fear of water, so was worried whenever she saw us at the deep end of the swimming pool. She was calmer when we were in the shallow end despite the fact that we weren’t tall enough to be able to touch the bottom there either. Mum would take Paul and I to Wick, which from the Channel Islands was a long, long journey of trains, planes, and automobiles. Going across London on the tube with two young boys and all their luggage was not for the faint hearted but it didn’t matter what we needed, Mum would always try and ensure that we were able to do it.
We say we were most important, but for Mum’s true affections it was always a close competition between us and the family dog. When we were in Jersey Mum rang Dad and said, presumably in a pleading voice, that there were two dogs at the animal shelter. Dad’s response was an emphatic “NO’’. When he got home from work there was Donald the Jack Russel to meet him. Since then, Honey and then Hamish succeeded Donald as Mum’s firm companions. Both Donald and Hamish, particularly Hamish, were quite frankly crazy. Hamish used to bark so much that mum would have to leave the house to get some peace and quiet. She was just too nice to be any good at showing dogs who should be the boss. In hospital recently she couldn’t say very much but did admit that “Hamish was a nightmare”, though at the time she was looking at his photo and smiling.
Mum loved a bargain. If anything was to be purchased then it had to be a bargain, but if there was a bargain available then it often had to be bought. I am not sure whether that is a Scottish trait, or just reflects that when they were growing up, her family had very little money. Dad has said that it wasn’t until we got to Jersey that there was enough money for us to be able to eat out sometimes. So, Dad was willing to spend too, but he did have a bank manager attitude, and that could come into conflict with Mum’s approach. Shockingly, there were times while we were growing up that both Martin and I needed money. Dad would say, quite reasonably, that he could provide a loan, but would charge interest. Like her faith, money within the family was another of the select issues about which Mum had a determined opinion. “You are NOT making your sons pay interest!” and we never did.
Mum always had a very strong faith and as a girl was a member of the Kings Messengers. She was quite flexible about most things, but firm on a few things that were particularly important to her. Faith, and the way in which it should be administered, was one of those and caused some challenges within the family. It was a regret for Mum that neither Paul nor I particularly shared her beliefs, but Church just wasn't for us, but she never blamed or tried to convert us. All I can say is Mum we are sorry, but we are all on different pathways. In time our paths may bring us back to the church so all may not yet be lost!
One other thing that we can say for certain about Mum is that she would have been very uncomfortable with the fact that today she is the centre of attention. She would much prefer to be in the background, being supportive and helpful, but in a quiet, anonymous way. These parts of her character were epitomised in her twenty years plus service with Portsmouth Samaritans. With us she only ever discussed that in very general terms, but we know she was a committed volunteer, still taking on night shifts even as her health declined. Trying to help others really was something she took very seriously. In that and other ways, she could also be relied on for support when things were tough.
All these things are what made our Mum and are the reasons why we all miss her very dearly, but we also know that she had a very difficult time with her health over the last few years and take comfort knowing that the pain she had had to endure is now finally over.
This Eulogy was read at the Thanksgiving Service for Margaret held at St George’s on Thursday 23rd June.
Mum was born in 1944 in a little-known town called Wick in the far north of Scotland, very removed from the sunnier climes of the south coast of England. The early years of Mum’s life was spent travelling between England and Scotland where her two siblings, George and Tina, were born. As a result, Mum started her education in Scotland. Eventually though the family all moved back to Kings Lynn where our grandfather was employed in a firm of estate agents and grandmother employed as a nurse. Mum passed the 11+ to go to Kings Lynn High School (all girls). On leaving school at the age of 16, Mum announced she was joining Barclays Bank, much to the horror of her maths’ teacher. Let’s just say that whenever Paul and I needed homework assistance, we would turn to Mum for English, but always to Dad for maths.
Mum met Dad in 1960/61 when he was transferred by the Bank to work in the Kings Lynn Branch. Having discovered that Mum and Dad were “walking out together”, Barclays immediately moved Dad to Wells-next-the-Sea. Fortunately for us this ploy didn’t part them, and they were married in November 1964 now almost sixty years ago. We eventually arrived a few years later with Martin being born in November 1971 and with Paul following in August 1973.