INSIGHTS ON IVOR
Tragedy struck our family in January 1956 when my mother suffered a recurrence of her cancer: first diagnosed in 1947. Once again my father’s two sisters moved in with us to help nurse her but it was to no avail and Mum was again admitted to hospital. After more diagnosis, we were given the sad news that there was nothing more they could do and she was bought home where she died on January 19th aged sixty. Although by this time we were all prepared for the inevitable ending, it was still hard to come to terms with the reality of the loss.
My mother and father had known each other for 41 years and been married for 37. And even though Dad had survived all the horrors of Trench warfare during the First World War: seeing comrades blown to pieces and endured his own physical and mental scars, he described this loss as the most shattering experience he had ever had. To him, Mum was the finest wife and mother to their children that any man could have. My brothers and sister would agree with that heartfelt appraisal, in fact, we would extend it by saying Mum and Dad were the best parents any child could have.
I was twenty-five years old when Mum died and it’s true to say that as I got older I realized more and more what a debt we allowed her. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 she watched Dad join the thousands of like-minded patriotic young men, proudly join the Army and march off to serve their country. Of course, no one knew then the unbelievable hell which awaited them in the battlefields and trenches on the Western Front. Although this madness finished in 1918 Dad didn’t return home until the following year. Thankfully he was physically intact but mentally scarred by the utter carnage he had witnessed during those four years. Although the horrific memories he had witnessed lay mainly dormant within his subconscious mind for the rest of his life there were times when they would reappear and Dad would have nightmares and scream out in terror as the vivid images of going over the top and seeing men being blown apart, returned to invade his deserved sleep.
All of us children would also be awoken and, particularly the younger ones, would be somewhat frightened by these sudden night time outbursts of realistic unbridled horror but thankfully Mum was always there to calm Dad’s fears and soothe his troubled mind.
Throughout their marriage, Mum was always supportive of Dad. Whether it was throughout the duration of WWI or Dad’s meeting with T.E. Lawrence and printing Lawrence’s masterpiece Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Mum was always there sharing these historic events with him. Likewise, when Dad was doubtful about accepting the offer of pressman at the Gregynog Press in Mid Wales it was Mum who resolved the issue by suggesting she would stay in London with the children while Dad accepted the offer on a three-month trial basis. The trial period was successful. Dad accepted the offer and returned home to join Mum in making the necessary arrangements to move from noisy, dirty, but to them, familiar and much loved London. So, in 1927 with their three children, they moved to Bettws Cedewen in Wales and Dad took up his new post at the Gregynog Press.
This whole area of Wales was for them a completely different environment: one which offered them green fields, beautiful countryside, tranquillity and clean air where birds sang freely instead of coughing as they did in smoky polluted London. But once again it was Mum who was the lynchpin providing Dad with love and support by not only looking after Bert, Lily and Bernard but adding another two boys when, in 1930 and 1931 respectively, David and Ivor arrived into this happy and loving family.
During the Second World War like many others, Dad and Mum did their share to help on the Home Front. Dad became an A.R.P (Air Raid Precaution) Warden which entailed patrolling the local streets checking that every building had no lights shining from them which could help enemy planes flying overhead. Upon seeing any light showing the Warden would shout out the order ‘Put that light out’, a command which usually was quickly obeyed.
Like many other women, Mum also responded to the call to help the war effort by working in a factory which made radio parts. So, not only did she cope with feeding Dad and three of her children, despite the food rationing, she also found time to do the one hundred and one other things that all Mothers do for their families. On top of all of that, she had the inner worry of dealing with the absence of her two eldest children being drafted into the Armed Forces. Firstly her eldest son Bert was away serving with the Eighth Army in the Middle East. This was followed by her daughter Lily, who was in the ATS (The Auxiliary Territorial Service) assisting with the Ack Ack guns defending London during the Blitz. Even when the war finished and both Bert and Lily returned home safely she still had to face more worry when, in 1947, her second son Bernard, another Soldier, was sent to Palestine when the Palestinian war with Israel broke out. It’s no wonder she also suffered a lot with Dermatitis and yet somehow still managed to rise above it, showing great courage, stoicism and fortitude. Being the youngest and last of her children to leave home I, along with my father, witnessed her suffering and pain many times and it hurt to see it. There were occasions when Mum would be so bad that I would offer to stay in to keep Dad company and help him with Mum instead of going out with friends but both of them, whilst thanking me for offering, would always insist that I go out and ‘enjoy’ sic! myself. I think the truth was that Mum was too ill to worry too much and Dad didn’t want me to see Mum’s pain and suffering too much!
There was one little touch on the day of Mum’s funeral which I’ve always remembered. As the hearse and car procession made its way along the Greenford road to the cemetery we passed a man waiting at a bus stop. As we passed him he quickly removed his hat and bowed his head. I’ve often thought that this man, a complete stranger to us, will never know what his simple act of respect meant to us.
Finally, I have to say that one of the saddest aspects of Mum dying so young is that
she and my wife Kathy (who I met and married two years after Mum’s passing) never had the chance of meeting each other. Whilst our two sons Chris and Martin remember my Dad with affection, they and Mum also were denied the love, influence, and memories they could have shared by knowing each other.
--End of Part Thirty-One—