February 11, 2005
Today marks what would have been the 80th birthday of my mother. Sadly, she died in 1999 after a very brief illness which followed major surgery.
Grace Eleanor Frances - Mater to her irreverent elder son - as a young woman.
She had a very interesting life and a sometimes very difficult one. Her father was from Ireland, her mother from a very well to do farming family in South Africa. Mater (as I used to call her to tease her), was born in Durban in 1925, spent three years from the age of 2 in the UK and then returned to SA with her parents. The Second World War wiped out her father's business, and the droughts and animal plagues of the 1930's had wiped out the farms, so Grandfather set to work to rebuild his family's security from scratch in wartime.
Mater joined the WRNS in Cape Town and served on the Cypher Staff of the Commander in Chief, South Atlantic, the then Rear Admiral Burnett. As a "Hostilities Only" rating she was discharged in 1945 and had some wonderful tales to tell of the signals which flew around the world detailing the triumphs and disasters as they unfolded. She remembered, too, the Code names for the huge Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary as they shuttled round the Cape with troops for various theatres and how they always arrived at night, landed their troops for a "Route March" which left Cape Town's streets along the route they were given whitened by the boots, and then sailed again with the dawn.
Our family life, as with all families, had its up's and down's, and my brother and I remember most of these with a touch of humour.
Mater came to join my family in the UK when she retired in 1991 and lived here until her death in 1999. Her ashes were, in accordance with her request, returned to South Africa and now rest in her beloved Cape Town in view of the mountain.
May she rest in peace as she so richly deserves.
Posted by The Gray Monk at February 11, 2005 11:36 AM