Love from Susan, Richard, Ben and Miles
Donate in memory of
MarionAlzheimer's Research UK
- St. Mary's Church, Rolleston on Dove Church road, Rolleston on Dove DE13 9BE
- 25th Apr 2018
- Funeral Director
- Murray’s Independent Funeral Directors Burton-on-Trent
- Bretby Crematorium Anglesey Chapel Geary Lane Bretby DE15 0QE
- 25th Apr 2018
In loving memory of Marion Lily James who sadly passed away on 7th April 2018, aged 94 years. Devoted wife of the late Charles, loving mother of Malcolm, dear mother in law to Alison, a much loved aunt to David, Michelle, Susan and Leslie and a caring sister in law to Carmel. A great friend to many.
Alison's reading 'Against the Tide' from 'God Calling' reflects Marion's spirit and determination in overcoming the many challenges that she faced in life:
The oarsman, trusting in Me, does not lean on his oars and drift with the tide, trusting to the current.
Nay, more often - once I have shown the way - it is against the tide you must direct all your effort.
And even when difficulties come, it is by your effort that they will be surmounted.
But always strength and the Joy in the doing you can have through Me.
Sarah's reading from Ecclesiastes 3 is reproduced below and elegantly summarises the balanced, cyclical nature of life:
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Malcolm's eulogy to his mother is reproduced in its entirety below:
Dear friends, thank you all for coming to St Mary’s today to remember my mum, Marion Lily James.
My mum lived for almost 95 years; a true ‘nonagenarian’! Although her last few years were by no means her best, she led a mostly happy and fulfilling life, of which 60 years were spent in the village community of Rolleston-on-Dove at 100 Beacon Road. I would like to spend a short time sharing some recollections of my mum’s life with you. Trying to compress the multitude of memories down into a meaningful “snapshot” has been challenging and immensely evocative to say the least, but I trust that you will gain some further insights into the wonderful lady that we all knew and loved.
Marion was born in Charles Street, Jarrow-on-Tyne, Co. Durham on 7th May 1923, the second child of her parents Alfred and Violet Rennie, and a baby sister to Violet junior. She was baptised at St Martin’s Church, attended the Jarrow Central School and also the Grange Road Baptist Sunday School during the mid-1930s. Her father Alfred was a marine engineer who had sailed with the North Atlantic convoys during World War I and whilst strictly non-political he had an acute sense of wellbeing for his fellow working men; qualities which would ultimately be recognised in his appointments as an Alderman, Mayor and Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Jarrow (1951).
Discipline at home was firm but fair and mum never forget the lesson from her father after she had bitten her sister’s knee – because she was hungry and it looked like a nice red rosy apple! There were also incidents involving knitting needles as the two sisters were avid fans but the details evade me now. One highlight of which mum had very fond memories was the wedding of her cousin Annie to John Jackson; Violet and her both being bridesmaids.
Growing up in the north-east of England during this period was harsh by today’s standards and Jarrow suffered mass unemployment and widespread poverty following the decline of its heavy industries during the 1920s. The famous Jarrow March of October 1936 was a direct result of the closure of the town’s main employer, Palmer’s Shipyard, and saw around 200 men march from Jarrow to London to petition the Government for the right to work. Mum was rightly proud of the fact that her father was involved in this defining event of the 1930s, helping to organise food and shelter for the marchers on their journey south. Her tenacity, justice and sense of fairness in the treatment of others almost certainly stem from these rather humble beginnings on Tyneside.
Family holidays were a rarity but mum had fond memories of times spent in the Northumbrian countryside at Rothbury, near to Cragside House and its ‘magical’ wooded estate. Here with Violet and their friends she enjoyed long walks in clean air and developed an interest in wild flowers; drying and pressing them into an album which she would frequently refer to during her handicraft pursuits of later years. Describing herself as an ‘average’ pupil, I think that she regretted not following her sister to the local Grammar School so she left school at 15 to take up work as an office junior. Bookkeeping became her strongpoint and these highly-transferrable skills were to serve her well in running the family finances and organisation for the next 75 years (no mean achievement). They also helped me too despite not saving as diligently as perhaps mum would have liked.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, Tyneside’s extensive shipyards and naval facilities became a prime target for enemy bombing raids. Mum once told me a story about how she was walking to work one hazy morning and heard the air raid siren, closely followed by a loud droning sound which she recognised as an approaching aircraft. Running for shelter she caught a brief glimpse of the lone bomber’s black cross markings as it flew low overhead before disappearing into the haze again. Too close for comfort was I think how she described this incident!
Violet married my Uncle Jim Davidson in 1943 and mum was once again a bridesmaid at the tender age of 20 years. Shortly afterwards she joined the Women’s Land Army (WLA) and became one of the 80,000 women who provided a rural workforce to help boost food production and undertake jobs normally done by the men who were away fighting the war. Mum was posted to Burton-on-Trent and lived in one of the town’s hostels with several other girls, some such as Vera Hudspath becoming lifelong friends. She also became friendly with a young RAF pilot who was posted abroad and whom she never saw again; something which she kept a secret close to her heart for over 60 years. Mum worked at the timber yard of W H Mason & Son off Wetmore Road and her jobs included the measuring of trees prior to sawing, organisation of the cut timber and shipments to the destination points.
Mum met her soul mate and future husband Charlie at a Burton Town Hall dance in 1945. As a qualified electrician his ‘reserved occupation’ exempted him from fighting and saw him working underground at Rawdon and Marquis Colliery, Donisthorpe. However, the coal dust affected Charlie’s health and he was ill with pneumonia for several months. Mum always said that their “lucky break” came in 1946 when he joined the then Ind, Coope & Allsopp brewery, remaining with Allied Breweries as it eventually became known for the rest of his working life; 39 years continuous service which culminated in his retirement in 1985 aged 62 years.
Mum and dad were married at St Bede’s Church, Jarrow on 16th April 1949; a happy union which saw them celebrate their 60 years’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary in 2009. Early holidays together were in the English Lake District at Borrowdale on Derwentwater, where they would spend the days on group hikes to places such as the Langdale Pikes, Helvellyn and Scafell. The ‘Lakes’ always held a special place in mum’s affections and she treasured the way in which poets such as William Wordsworth and the artist J M W Turner could seemingly convey their sheer beauty in a few lines or brushstrokes. On honeymoon in Edinburgh, Charlie’s long-standing interest in boats and the sea was captured on camera for the first time; there being almost as many pictures of ships on the Firth of Forth as there were of the newlyweds!
The first four years of married life were spent living with dad’s parents Percy and Florence James in the house that they had built on Rosliston Road, Stapenhill. Mum often joked about these times as Percy was an archetypal Victorian gentleman and World War I veteran, rather strict, sometimes blunt to the point, pipe smoking and frequently disdaining of the ‘modern generation’ which he saw as “having it easy” by comparison – sounds familiar? Percy also kept bees which mum admitted that she was scared of. Mum worked at S. Davis & Sons Ltd. hosiery manufacturers in Byrkley Street for a few years where she struck up a friendship with Kathleen and Norman Hall; my eventual godparents. Also around this time she decided to become a confirmed member of the Church of England and travelled to Lichfield Cathedral for the service.
Moving to 100 Beacon Road, Rolleston in 1953, Marion and Charlie began an association with the village which has endured unbroken through 65 years to the present day. Ever the pragmatist, Charlie seems to have convinced mum that the pedal cycle was a safer mode of transport than the motor car and so they both cycled to work in Burton for several years. Charlie acquired his treasured wood shed (which mum was told would be a ‘temporary’ measure – it still stands to this day), laid out the back garden, grew privet hedges and eventually built a garage for his first car, an old Austin A30. This became the family mode of transport after I arrived on the scene in the late 1950s and was arguably Charlie’s only “true love” after Marion; the car being lavished with much care and attention to keep its black paint, chrome and original “AA” badge in pristine condition. There was also Penelope of Sharmanshill or ‘Penny’ as we knew her, a beautiful blue roan cocker spaniel who was to become a constant companion during my infant years. Sunday ‘runs out’ to places like Markeaton Park, Dovedale and Gregory’s rose gardens at Stapleford were regular occurrences, with mum always providing an ample picnic of one form or another; usually with her favourite salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones and tea from a flask.
With Charlie actively engaged at work and in the garden, mum joined the Rolleston Women’s Institute (WI) and picked up where she had left off with her handicrafts. Materials, stencils and patterns were acquired from various sources, some as bargains and others not quite so; some to be transformed into clothes or cuddly toys relatively quickly, whilst others would remain in her many storage ‘locations’ for decades. I still remember visits to some of the old shops in Burton such as Ordish & Hall, Stockbridges' and Herrett's wool shop on High Street to obtain ‘supplies’; and being bribed into secrecy in return for fish and chips at Tommy’s Fish Bar in New Street or a cream cake from Birds. 100 Beacon Road not being a particularly large house, the sheer volume of fabrics and materials often became a bone of contention until the inevitable tidy up (actual ‘clear outs’ being avoided at all costs)! Nonetheless, mum’s perseverance prevailed and her output was prolific at times; knitted sweaters, woolly hats, scarves, cane baskets, embroidered clothes hangers, pressed-flower bookmarks, decorative leather items and even embossed metalwork one year.
There was always something for the WI Christmas Fayre held at the Forest-of-Needwood School and two of these items are now amongst our most treasured possessions; an oak foot stool and tripod stool with floral painted leatherwork. Mum remained a member of this cherished institution for over 50 years and contributed considerably to its success; even if she never really sought any recognition for her efforts. She could be very competitive at times and I remember an episode during the late 1960s or early 1970s when her prize-winning strawberry jam was adjudged to have been enhanced using an artificial sweetener (which by the way it hadn’t). Disqualification didn’t deter her (although she did get quite upset) and she simply refined her recipes to be the undisputed winner the following year!
Relishes and especially piccalilli (i.e. English interpretation of South Asian pickles) was where mum and dad combined their creative talents in the kitchen. The September ritual was something that I dreaded because the highly pungent aroma of the various spices, onions, garlic and mustard powder seemed to pervade every corner of the house – there was simply no escaping it unless you went into the garden! Numerous jars would be filled and put into the cool of the pantry. Then there would be a seemingly endless procession of visitors to take away this prized delicacy. Even today I find the whole saga quite bemusing because neither of my parents were fond of what they referred to as ‘foreign food’ as they felt that it had too much spice in it! The first time that they ate in an Indian restaurant was in 1993 and the diversity of the menu was a revelation to them.
Mum also loved travelling around England to see interesting places. School holidays meant coach trips with Viking Travel to places like Chester and London, Stonehenge and Exeter. Everywhere we went she would buy me an embroidered badge for my anorak and then dutifully stitch it on; so that ultimately I must have resembled a walking advertisement for ‘Visit Britain’ or similar! It was her way of opening my young eyes to the world and of showing me the rich heritage and diversity of our wonderful country. It also helped engender an interest in history and geography which I maintain to this day.
My passion for small boat sailing developed during the 1970s, with mum and dad providing practical and moral support at a personal and club-level. Mum liked nothing more than to be involved with the catering arrangements for the galley and the club members made a note of her duty turns – because they knew that the quality and quantity of the food would be good. Once again mum and dad’s laid-back social nature saw them make long-standing friends at Burton Sailing Club and further afield when we travelled to regattas at other clubs. Again, mum’s picnics were something to behold and attracted a lot of interest from my friends at this time, especially the boys from Repton School who never seemed to get enough to eat!
After dad retired, he kept in touch with former work colleagues through the Allied Pensioners Club and I remember both him and mum being very upset at its eventual demise. They then spent many happy years together visiting Scotland in the summer on MacPhersons’ coach tours and again made new friends. They helped me enormously when I moved to Berkshire in 1987 through work and we shared memorable times visiting castles, stately homes and other places of interest in southern England; although sadly we never made it to Winston’s Churchills’ home at Chartwell – somewhere that I know mum really wanted to go.
Mum carried on as best she could after dad passed away in 2009 but we all knew that it was the twilight of an era and that she would not be able to venture far without him. Conscious of her advancing years she fought hard to maintain the status quo which she had developed over nearly 60 years but in the end running the house simply became too much for her. She moved into residential care in late-2012 and spent the last five years of her life at Branston Court Nursing Home. Here she was looked after with great care and dignity by the devoted staff and her beaming smiles again warmed her to the hearts of many.
That, then, is a brief synopsis of mum’s life but what sort of a lady was she really?
What were the particular qualities which made her so special to us all?
Many words come to mind, including kind, caring, considerate, courteous, dependable, conscientious, methodical, determined and modest (almost to the point of being shy sometimes). She was a very practical person especially where fabrics and food were concerned but tended to leave the gardening tasks to my dad and me. Getting stung on the eyelid by a wasp was probably one of the underlying reasons – going for that rosy red apple again! Generosity to family and friends was another strongpoint and my cousin Michelle reminded me yesterday of the fond memories that her, Susan and David shared of coming to Auntie Marion's and Uncle Charlie’s on New Year’s Day for a feast of roast beef and Yorkshire Puddings. Also, the ‘real’ Christmas tree with chocolate decorations which mum gave to each of us, the £5 note for a birthday present and tin of Twirl chocolate bars hidden in the pantry . . . .
Determination and thoughtfulness are the two key virtues which define my mum and for which I will always be most grateful. Perhaps because she had not achieved as much in her academic life than she would have liked, she was determined that I should have better opportunities and ‘”do my best always”. Night school and day release engineering courses therefore came as a bit of shock to me aged 16 years but in all fairness she helped me to achieve things and gain qualifications which I never thought possible. Her mantra was simply “if at first you don’t succeed then try and try again”; also, “don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today” and “don’t judge yourself by others – be yourself”.
Sometimes mum would get angry for sure but it was usually because of something stupid that I’d said or done – dad and her rarely if ever had arguments, except perhaps over the fabric collection! She had an acute sense of hearing which could detect my tiptoeing into the pantry or raiding of her biscuit tins, irrespective of where she was in the house. Often she’d criticise my dress sense or try to persuade me that I wasn’t ‘”wrapped up well enough”; infuriating at the time, especially in front of your ‘mates’ but quite understandable on reflection given that she had experienced the loss of a daughter before I was born. She was quite highly strung I suppose as a result of this trauma and found it difficult to relax at times, busying herself in the housework and with her handicrafts. In later life when she could no longer use her hands to make things she found solace in classical music and listened to it on a radio cassette player for most of the day. Just listening was enough for her and she never wanted to travel to hear live performances or attend a ‘prestigious’ venue. She also liked watching TV, with ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and the original series of ‘Poldark’ being amongst her favourites.
Even now, it amazes us just how many people my mum knew and apart from the odd grumble, she rarely had a bad word for anybody. She made good friends and then kept them for life. Her wry sense of humour, the odd Baileys liquor, cheesecake, Terry’s chocolate oranges and partiality to the odd bit of village gossip kept her amused through an ever-changing world; one which she increasingly felt out of time with as she got older. She never passed a driving test and could be a ‘challenging’ passenger to say the least; mainly due to her penchant for pointing out interesting sights en-route and her criticism of other road users. Never of a mechanical mind-set, car seat adjustment mechanisms held a particular challenge and I remember once on Little Burton Bridge where she grabbed my steering wheel as the passenger seat reclined to almost horizontal position! Luckily we avoided the oncoming traffic and the bridge parapet to arrive safely wherever we were going.
Apart from fabrics, Chapman’s Sheepskin Shop at Tutbury and Brigdens' in High Street, mum had no real extravagances in life and she firmly believed in “making do”. Nothing was thrown away, least it might “come in useful” and new items for the house purchased only when absolutely necessary. Both mum and dad put family first before themselves and would never buy anything unless they could afford it – credit cards being almost a dirty word when I was living at home. I honestly believe that they were genuinely content with everything that they had in their shared lives together and with what they had managed to achieve from their diverse working class upbringings.
So, drawing to a close, what more remains to be said?
Mum loved her family, friends and country, never venturing beyond its borders once. She obtained a passport in 1997 as we were living abroad at the time but dad convinced her that Dubai would be too hot at any time of the year (he was right in that respect). So the furthest that they actually travelled was to the Channel Islands in 1977 on a (long - almost 24 hours I recall) and rough crossing from Weymouth. I sometimes think that she regretted not travelling abroad as she had a former WLA friend living in Vancouver Canada and often remarked about the destinations of the many cruise liners which we would watch leaving the Tyne for Scandinavia. She was always there when people needed her (family and friends alike) and was very generous with her time in helping others.
But perhaps my most endearing memory will be her tenacious spirit, guiding hand and inspirational advice in helping overcome life’s seemingly insurmountable setbacks when you are growing up. Alison’s reading of ‘Against the Tide’ sums up my mum’s determination perfectly and is particularly poignant as it is printed in the book under the entry for 7th May; mum’s birthday. Although I knew her for all of my life, looking back now it doesn’t seem that I knew her long enough, as I am sure that there is still so much that I could have learned from her. Never much of a one for speeches, she probably wouldn’t thank me for saying any of this today (and especially for talking for so long!) and certainly wouldn’t want us making a fuss on her behalf – but she would love the fact that all of her family and friends are together again.
Thank you mum for everything.