On 26th March the funeral took place at St. Michael’s Church, Withyham of
Ann HYNES of Neaves Park, Cotchford Hill, Hartfield who died at the Hospice in the Weald on 12th March 2021 aged 68, followed by burial in the Churchyard.
Robert MURRAY WILLIS
Robert died at Pembury on 6th February having contracted Covid-19 only a couple of weeks or so before. His death was a terrible blow to his much-loved family – Fenella and their children Tom, Will and Lucy, his elderly mother Kay and older brothers James and Charlie. It was a shock too to the many people who knew him locally, including since he and Fenella moved from Tunbridge Wells to the Rectory Wing eight years ago.
In the announcement of his death in the Daily Telegraph the family described Robert as an ‘adventurer, naturalist, gold miner, Royal Engineer, ‘free spirit’ and wonderful storyteller.’
ROBERT- In one of the many recent letters to Fenella about Robert, it was recalled that he had been late for his wedding. Not true. Both Robert and I were in our places in the church waiting anxiously for the arrival of our parents, who were the ones that didn't get themselves to the church on time.
Further back, I never knew how much Robert had appreciated Dad’s decision to send him to Jack Webster's house at Harrow, rather than joining Charlie and I at Eton. Dad had known Jack for many years and Charlie and I both agree that Robert got the more human housemaster.
As young children, Charlie, being a bit closer in age, had the closer fraternal relationship with Robert. And it was not until the first of Robert's Gap Years, when he was not that long out of school, and after various jobs in Australia, when he was travelling back overland, that I got to know him better. I had cynically exploited the parent’s fears for his safety, to get sent out to India to see how things were on the ground.
After a successful rendezvous in Calcutta, we jumped on the overnight train to Siliguri for Darjeeling. Something of a culture shock for me and it was clear that Robert was the leader of this expedition and any overseeing on my part wasn't necessary. Our travels in the Lower Himalyas were varied and included a stay at the Royal Palace in Sikkim thanks to a Robert managed invitation from the Crown Prince, another Harrow contemporary.
All too soon, I was leaving the expedition to report back to the parents that all was well and to resume my desk job in London
Robert always had the ability to surprise and an example of this was at a sell-out Rolling Stones concert at Olympia. I had tickets, but unfortunately for Robert, he didn't.
As we were settling into our seats up in the Gods, I felt a kick on my shoulder and turned round to the row behind, to register my indignation, only to see, that it was Robert, dressed in a standard black tee shirt. He’d got himself hired as Security for the event earlier in the day.
Accounts of Robert's military career with The Royal Engineers are best left to his brothers in arms. Suffice to say that his experience included tours;
- in Germany,
- in Northern Ireland, during what is now euphemistically known as "The Troubles",
- and in Oman, attached to The Sultan’s forces, where Robert and Fenella began their married life on what appeared to us to be, an extended honeymoon
Robert loved projects, both at home and away, and of all his projects, refurbishing The Rectory Wing, its garden and outbuildings here in Withyham over the past few years, must have counted as his best loved and happiest.
The thread that runs through Robert’s life, is the number of very good friends he accumulated along the way, as is born out by the number of affectionate letters to Fenella and the family and by this attendance.
Robert was immensely proud of his family, of Fenella and of Tom, Will and Lucy, whose careers and wellbeing brought him great pleasure. And he continued to be a very loving and dutiful son to our mother, Kay.
We are proud of him and will miss him greatly.
Thank you James, Charlie & Tom for your words and all of the amazing memories that you have shared with us about Daddy’s life.
I still find it difficult coming to the realisation that such a wonderful person has gone. He was always someone that I looked up to throughout my life & He will be hugely missed. I take comfort that he really did live life to its absolute fullest, right up until the end.
Something that has really helped process this, and also amazed me is the sheer number of letters and cards received and people getting in touch over the last few weeks since Dad passed. They all were so lovely, and although they were all written by different friends who knew Dad at different stages in his life, there were key themes that resonated throughout that I’d like to share with you today:
- Firstly his love of Adventure, whether that was:
- Rescuing a monkey from being eaten by a tribe in the Amazon & smuggling Hugo back by boat to England where he lived a lovely life between houses in London & the countryside. My Godmother Delia told me recently that Dad used to pay her to collect spiders for Hugo to eat – 5p for small ones and 10p for the larger ones!
There is a picture on the service sheet of him on his balsawood raft around the same time he rescued Jugo!
- One of his biggest adventures, which can’t go unmentioned - Gold mining – but I won’t go into this for mummy’s sake…
- More recently, Paddling around the Isle of Wight for charity – this challenge was not enough for him & after we had done that, his aim was to Kite-Kayak across the channel – he built a special kayak himself & bought a ridiculous 12m inflatable kite. However, his plan was scuppered when he broke his collarbone practicing flying the kite on Camber Sands!
That reminds me – we have a 12m kite for sale, with no safety instructions – please get in touch if interested?
- The next Characteristic that resonated was his kind and gentle nature:
- whether that be his smile
- the joy he bought to everyone who he knew
- his love of all things to do with nature
- or that he always made time to stop and talk to people & would go out of his way to help people wherever he could.
- His Uniqueness or his “eccentricity” –
- He always wanted to walk his own path through life & do things in his own special way.
He was always doing something different, or had some kind of project on, that he would so wonderfully rope anybody into who happened to be passing by.
- Lastly His happiness, Positivity and eternal patience – he was always in a good mood - no matter how much Tom, me or Lucy tried to annoy him…
- Which in more recent years came out as him crying with happiness at the drop of a hat –
- he nearly broke into tears when uncle James gave him a birthday card last year –
- and he could hardly get out a sentence at Lucy’s wedding …
There are plenty of characteristics that I’ve missed off, but he was a remarkable unique person & he always made a lasting impression on people – everybody has a story they remember about daddy
I feel incredibly lucky that Beth and I were staying with Mum and dad in Withyham through December and January while we were between houses – it meant that I got to spend a lot of time with him in what we didn’t know would be his last couple of months.
We were trying to keep ourselves busy going on lots of walks. One of the best ones was a walk in Eastbourne between Christmas and New Year’s eve led by Uncle Frank, it was freezing cold, but he still insisted on going for a swim in the sea, and posing on the water’s edge afterwards in his underwear.
I’d like today to be a celebration of a life that was well lived, and full of happiness and joy.
Although he is gone physically, his presence lives on spiritually in so many places with us – and there are so many things that are reminders of him – whether that’s the birds singing, seeing a butterfly flying, eating marzipan chocolate, or watching the Sun go down over the beautiful Sussex countryside.
Old Man River
Eulogy - 10/3/2021
Daddy, Pappo, Roberty, Old Man River. He was a special person.
When I started writing this, my mind was flooded with a lot of amazing memories and I did
not know where to start. I’ve put them into a few different themes to share with you today.
There was one theme that reoccurred throughout the years - digging!
In Molyneux Park Road Daddy dug a cellar, I remember playing under the structural
supports. The new owners were not so happy when they had to fill it in with concrete!
Roberty took it to the next level in California where he dug for gold. What an amazing
adventure that was, not so much for mother! He was literally in his element out there.
Back at The Squirrels, Old Man River couldn’t dig under the house so he started digging
ponds. We ended up with 5 all interconnected with a waterfall, a river and a bridge!
We thought that Pappo had calmed down a bit by the time they got to Rectory Wing as
there was already a cellar and a pond when they moved in. Little did we know that he had
built a huge new pond and a whole village at the top of the garden!
Another theme that came up was nature, he had a great love of the natural world.
When I was younger I remember many, many bird watching trips! I did not fully appreciate
them at the time but he was teaching me to appreciate the beauty that is all around us.
In California he lectured us about geology while driving through the mountains. We limited
his lectures to 17 seconds, I wish we hadn’t but there were just so many rock formations!
I loved telling him about the wildlife in Finland. I am so glad that he made it over a couple
of years ago. He especially enjoyed an icy dip in the Baltic sea after going to sauna!
Since he left us a huge clattering of jackdaws has put on a beautiful show over the fields in
front of the house every evening. The crow family is said to represent loss, they apparently
guide the soul from the realm of the living into the afterlife.
The last and maybe most important theme is travel and he did not hold back there.
During my A Levels I was getting a little distracted so he bribed me to pass my exams. The
catch was that the money for getting good grades had to be spent on a gap year.It is clear now that he wanted to teach me the same love and appreciation of different
places, people and cultures that he had learnt during several gap years back in the 70’s.
The Californian adventure certainly opened my mind to living in different countries, maybe
that was what he intended. The world was his oyster and nothing ever held him back.
His incredible stories inspired me to hit the road again in 2015 on a trip to South America.
Before I left he gave me his 1971 Lonely Planet. He cried when he saw my photos as so
many of the places he had visited are now overdeveloped and nature is disappearing.
That brings me to the end and I think we can all agree that his was a life well lived.
The stories pouring in from friends and family over the recent weeks have been filled with
happiness. I take comfort in knowing that he managed to pack 100 years into 68!
He was a kind, generous, cheerful man who never had a bad word to say about anyone.
He was also an eccentric with many ambitious plans, some of which he actually finished!
I’m so glad that he got to enjoy his last years here in Withyham with Mummy in a very
happy place. Very well done to her for putting up with 40 years of his lovely madness!
I am going to finish by sharing some words from a Whatsapp message that he sent me
last summer as I think it perfectly encapsulates his character and contentment towards the
end. He was an inspirational father and I will always aspire to be like him.
“Hi Tom. I admire your joy of the cabin, the forest and the beauty that it
brings. That beauty is free! Right now it’s a quarter to five. I’ve been up
for an hour, sitting in the white rocking chair in the summer house with
both doors wide open. It’ll be a scorcher. I can hear the ducks on the
lake. The first birds are waking. Wood pigeon; another, then a third
calling to the first one. The dawn sky is waking too. Last Saturday I
bought two colourful Koi carp, both exquisitely beautiful. They have
settled in quickly with the 29 other ghost carp. Keep smiling and stay
happy. You have found a lovely beautiful partner, look after her and stay
safe. Love from Pappo.”
Charles Murray Willis’s eulogy for his dearest younger brother Robert - at Withyham Church
- Wednesday 10th March 2021
I would like to say a few words about Robert and mention some of the happy memories that
we shared together.
Robert and myself had been partners in crime and adventure from an early age. When he was
aged about five and I was eight - there was a complaint from one of the members of the
Cooden Beach Golf club, a club member drinking at the bar had witnessing Robert fleecing
the fruit machine of money - winning the jackpot over and over again until the machine was
empty of coins. And then with bulging pockets he was seen to disappear from the room
presumably to count the money and divide it with me, his obvious partner. This was true, we
had devised a simple system where it was relatively easy - with the aid of a wooden stick
from an ice-cream lolly inserted into the fruit-machine – and with a little bit of manipulation
– bonanza – bingo - we’d won the jackpot, and all the money started pouring out. The club
secretary was not amused by this behaviour and my father had to refund the money or the
family might lose its membership.
At the time we were living in Bexhill in a house that was only a 10 minute walk from the
beach and a lot of the time was spent beside the sea on the beach – either fishing, shrimping
or prawning – but one day Robert and myself were caught by the turning tide and there were
no parents or life-guards watching. When we realized we had left it too late we had to
abandon the nets and either walk over the slippery rocks or swim for it, and as the tide was
going in - this was more easy – as luckily we both reasonable swimmers
A lot of our early memories also centred around the Cooden Beach Golf club– and one of
Robert’s closest friends was David Dunnett, who also went to Harrow and like Robert served
as an army officer. At Summerfields Robert excelled in sport –winning the tennis doubles tournament with me
when he was aged 9, and later he was captain of cricket, winner of the squash cup, the golf
cup – and also the billiards competition
Robert went on to Harrow and was fortunate to have Jack Webster as his house master, as
Jack had known my father since the 1940’s when they played in the same Northants County
cricket team. In 1967 our older brother James was playing in the Eton cricket team against
Harrow at Lords - and I have a cine-film which shows Robert leading a large group of
Harrovian supporters heckling Etonians, including me, and hurling beer cans and other
missiles in our direction.
After excelling at sport at Harrow - Robert spent five years in the army and then about ten
years working in the city in the Insurance business which put an end to his lust for adventure
- but as soon as he had left the city – he was off to California - for five years to make his
fortune – in gold mining.
Robert had actually got an A level in geology and now was the time to put this qualification
to good use – he became Manager of a Gold Mining Company in California in a town called
Downieville which had thrived in 1849, at the time of the Gold Rush when thousands of
people had arrived hoping to make their fortune – unfortunately I think Robert may have
arrived a little too late, as after five years – the mine closed and Robert had to return to
I spent four weeks living with Robert and I could never understand why he kept loaded guns
lying around the house - a colt 45 and a shotgun. I said surely there can’t be many burglars
around here in this remote location – however - the next day Robert had just gone off to work
and I was having a peaceful breakfast and lo and behold - a huge black bear appeared on the
veranda just outside the open kitchen door and without noticing me - began eating the apples
that Robert had left in a basket. Fortunately the bear was more interested in the apples than
Robert had a zest for life - defying the odds with a contempt for danger and risk – and we as a
family are immensely proud of his unique abilities - and his dedication and love for his
family - and we shall all miss this wonderful spirit. Version 2
Robert and myself were partners in crime from an early age. When he was aged about five
and I was eight - there was a complaint from one of the members of the Cooden Beach Golf
club, a member drinking at from the bar had witnessing Robert continuously fleecing the fruit
machine of money - winning the jackpot over and over again until the machine was empty of
coins. And then with bulging pockets of hundreds of sixpences he was seen to disappear from
the room presumably to count how much money he had made and divide it with me who was
obviously his partner. This was true, we had devised a simple system where it was relatively
easy - with the aid of a wooden stick from an ice-cream lolly that was inserted into the fruitmachine - with a little bit of tweaking – bonanza – bingo - we’d won the jackpot, all the
money poured out. The club secretary was not amused by this behaviour and my father had to
refund the money or the family would lose its membership. This incident displays Robert’s
cunning - and desire to get ahead in the business world - even though he was aged only five.
At the time we were living in Bexhill in a house that was only a 10 minute walk from the
beach and a lot of the time was spent beside the sea on the beach – either fishing, shrimping
or prawning - and another incident displays Robert’s contempt for danger and risk – we were
literally caught by the turning tide and there were no parents or life-guards keeping an eye on
two boys catching prawns on distant rocks that were fast disappearing due to the turning tide.
When we realized we had left it too late we had to rapidly abandon the prawn nets and either
try and walk over the slippery rocks that were being submerged – or swim for it, and as the
tide was going in - this was more easy – the schooling we’d had at Sandown and
Summerfields saved the day as both Robert and myself were good swimmers from an early
A lot of our early memories centred around the Cooden Beach Golf club between 1958 to
1965 – and one of Robert’s closest friends was David Dunnett, who also went to Harrow and
like Robert served as an army officer.
At Summerfields between 1961-65 Robert excelled in sport – seeming to win almost
everything- in 1962 he played with me winning the tennis doubles tournament when he was aged 9, and three years later in 1965 not only was he captain of cricket, he also won the
squash cup, and the golf cup, thanks to his ‘fiendish competitive temperament’ – and also the
billiards competition beating his old rival Crosbie-Dawson yet again. One of the other semifinalists was Jamil Nasser from Jordan who also went to Harrow and has remained one of
Robert’s closest friends. But winning all these events was still not enough for Robert’s
competitive spirit, in the school magazine it was reported that Robert came in second to
Crosbie-Dawson - in guess what ? - Bird Watching – I quote – ‘a record number of exciting
new birds were seen on the school bird-table this term - Crosbie- Dawson winning first place
seeing 42 – and in second place was Murray Willis with 41.
We moved from Bexhill inland to Hurst Green – to Swiftsden House which had a large
garden and a wood where Robert could continue studying wild life and collecting butterflies
but it was nowhere near the Cooden Beach Golf Club where Robert had spent so much time.
However - after winning all these competitions at Summerfields - Robert went on to Harrow
and was fortunate to have Jack Webster as his house master, as Jack had known my father
since the 1940’s when he played in the same Northants County cricket team in 1945. In 1967
when Robert was aged 14 - our older brother James was playing in the Eton cricket team
against Harrow at Lords - and I have a cine-film which shows Robert leading a large group of
Harrovian supporters heckling Etonians, including me, hurling beer cans and other missiles in
Once again Robert excelled in sport, being captain of the Harrow squash team, the golf team,
and playing for the second XI at cricket, and also being a school prefect or monitor. What
many people do not know however is that – according to my father’s diary of May 1966 –
Robert was also in the Harrow school choir – and he always use to say that he couldn’t sing
and that he was tone-deaf - when actually he had been trained by the school music teacher
and therefore must have had a good voice. After this distinguished career at Harrow - Robert did a number of things before joining the
army and going around the world, shooting rapids in South America etc. – I talked him into
buying with me a broken down semi-derelict house in Battersea, 20 Octavia St. - and we
spent the next few months attempting to renovate it - pulling down walls, adding a bathroom,
inserting new windows etc. all without any planning permission. Fortunately there were no
Building inspectors around and after several months when we thought the house was more or
less finished - Robert insisted on having a large party in the house to celebrate its completion.
The party was a great success but the extra costs effectively finished off our dwindling assets
and sadly we had to sell the house to try and recoup some of the money to pay off the large
Robert needed to do something more positive than restoring broken down houses and so
eventually joined the army, he always said it was my idea - anyway he served five years with
the Royal Engineers, seeing service in Northern Ireland and Oman in the Middle East.
After this he spent a number of years in the city in the Insurance business which put an end to
his roving spirit and lust for adventure - but as soon as he had the opportunity - when he was
finished with these years of frustration working in the city – he was off to California - for five
years to make his fortune – in gold mining.
Robert was always interested in geology and had actually got an A level in this subject at
Harrow, and now was the time to become Manager of a Gold Mining Company in California
in a town called Downieville which had thrived in 1849, at the time of the Gold Rush when
thousands of people had arrived hoping to make their fortune – I think Robert may have
arrived slightly too late as after five years of painstaking work the mining company went
bankrupt and he had to return to England. But Robert told me he had enjoyed the experience
living in a beautiful location up in the mountains. Before he got the wooden cabin beside the
river he had to share accommodation with his old friend Richard Cooke in a tiny caravan
with which was perched half way up the mountain, and in the winter they were cut off for weeks or months because of the high level of snow. Robert told me the worst thing he had to
endure - was not the freezing temperatures or the tins of beans and frozen fish – it was trying
to sleep in that caravan with Richard who snored all night.
I spent four weeks living with Robert before the mine went bankrupt and the one thing I
remember most clearly apart from the over-friendly bears – was our drive to Lake Tahoe.
Robert was driving a huge pick-up truck which had a 70 ton Caterpillar Digger on the back
which he was driving to the equipment centre near Lake Tahoe - which was about a three
hour drive – in below freezing conditions on a icy road and it was also snowing – I
reluctantly agree to follow him a Cherokee jeep so we could return together when he had
parked the truck and the Caterpillar Digger – I don’t want to think about that trip even today
as it was so dangerous – but this was another example of his tremendous zest for life -
defying the odds with a contempt for obvious risk or danger.
We as a family are immensely proud of Robert’s unique abilities and his dedication and love
for his family and we shall all miss this wonderful spirit.
Notes on Natural Beauty
By Lucy Murray Willis
Daddy used to post us watercolour paintings of his caravan sat at the
edge of a mountain top next to the mine, pick up bugs gently to
educate us as to how amazing nature can be, write us inquisitive
notecards asking about smells and colours whilst we were travelling,
encourage us to love and travel by reading us stories and of course
telling his own unforgettable ones. He collected a lot of wood, in the
piles are the most beautiful storytelling beams, full of wood worm and
burrs. He collected butterflies, added to cabinets we spent months
exploring as a children. His diaries still have wings in delicate bags
pressed into the last pages, maps drawn with the most intricate detail
and the smallest pen. He would send letters and texts from the safari
lodge at the top of the garden at dawn describing birdsong in detail,
often whistling in reply to it. The beauty of a mushroom on a walk
with Lily could put mummy in danger at any time. The house has a
rock per room each with a geology tale too long to tell today, a
beautiful formation making it one of a kind.
His eye for finding so much beauty was one of a kind. A kind we were
so incredibly lucky to have been part of and that has given us great
comfort in our surroundings of nature everyday since he passed, along
with knowing he will find beauty in this next adventure too
Funeral Service for Rosemary Goolden
Withyham Church 25th February 2021
Address given by Michael Goolden
Memories of Ro
These are rather restricted circumstances, but thank you all for coming today, covid haircuts and all! It’s great and you represent Ma’s wide circle of family and friends, ancient and modern if I may say, and some of you have travelled far, notably John Hadley who we have known all our lives and who has kindly driven from Bristol to take part in this service. Jilly, Alastair and I really appreciate it.
99 years ago today, our lovely mother was born. A long time ago – that was before Tutankhamun was discovered; even before the BBC was created. Rosemary, or Ro, (or Granny Butter or Ro-Ro as she was latterly known), experienced so much change in those 99 years.
Her father was Christopher Lowther and her mother Dorothy Bromley Davenport – and those 2 families have each produced more Members of Parliament than any other. However Ma herself was not political, but she did have strong opinions and values, which were a firm guiding force throughout her life.
Though some may think she was born into a life of privilege her early years were touched with great sadness. When she was 5 a sister was born, but died as a baby; happiness returned when another sister, Jenny, was born when she was 10, but when she was 12 her father, to whom she was devoted, died suddenly from peritonitis. Ro was sent off to boarding school, which she hated, and then to a school in France and to a family in Austria to learn French and German. Her teens were decidedly unsettled.
When War broke out, she enlisted in the Wrens at the age of 17, and she served throughout, rising to the rank of 2nd Officer. But the War brought further sadness as all three of her half brothers were killed. Since the War she never missed the Remembrance Day service, and for many years, with a tear in her heart if not in her eyes, she has recited Binyon’s poem for the fallen:
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn……”
And it’s rather poignant that the last time those words were heard in this church was when she spoke them from memory last November.
It was during the War that she met Douglas, introduced by their mutual friend Frank Giles, and they were married on 7th July 1945 in Mayfair, when Ro was 23. Frank and Kitty were great friends throughout their lives, and it was through them and Kitty’s parents, Buck and Diana de la Warr, that they came to live in Withyham over 70 years ago when Ma was 27.
As happens, children came along; first me, then Jilly and Alastair, and we had a happy country childhood through the 50’s and 60’s. Ro, perhaps reflecting her own upbringing, and not versed in the art of bringing up children, encouraged us to roam widely, and we had a rather free-range sort of existence.
We have received lots of very kind messages following Ma’s death, many from our friends from those times with some really fond childhood memories, and it is very special to all of us that families who were close to ours over so many years are represented here today. As one friend wrote, “Along with the Church and the Dorset Arms, Ro was Withyham”.
Those reminiscences are of our mother as a magnet around whom family life revolved, a warm and welcoming person who would dish out tea and crumpets in front of the Aga or, when needed, put a sticking plaster on a bicycling wound. If her idea of bringing up children was to get them to fend for themselves, it’s not surprising that she would often put together some sandwiches and a bottle of squash or Tizer and send us off on our bikes for a day of fishing or exploring – and if accidents occurred she would be there to wipe away the blood or tears, or, possibly accompanied by a stern reprimand, dry us out if we fell into the river or pond! She could be forthright and sometimes scary if you got it wrong. She was not an adventurous cook – she learnt nothing from her mother who was always cooked for – but after a day out playing there would be some homely food to come back to, and if you were lucky, her legendary steak and kidney pudding.
Horses always played a big part in Ro’s life. She had ponies as a little girl – and was keen to instill the love of horses in us when we became old enough. We had riding lessons with the intimidating Major Bateman in the stables opposite Forge Cottage, with Ma urging us on from the sidelines, and by the time we had ponies of our own – Blossom and Russell were the first – Ma had converted us. I didn’t really persevere with riding, and nor did Alastair, but Jilly was very keen in those days, and still is. Ma had a number of horses and, after we left home, she took a succession of teenage girls under her wing and nurtured their interest in riding. She herself continued to ride right into her 80’s.
Dogs were also important to her since we came to Withyham. Wilkes was the first, and he was succeeded by a succession of Basset Hounds – Cheerful, Bashful, Blissful, Joyful and Bonnie (they sound like the seven dwarfs!), and the last was Maud, a much-loved border terrier whose death last autumn saddened her greatly.
Once we children had left home, she turned to other things. She volunteered with the WRVS, and at one time was head of meals-on-wheels for West Kent. I think we all remember on high days and holidays, when there weren’t enough regular drivers, helping her take meals round, sometimes trying to deliver to places rather difficult to find in those pre-sat-nav days, before the food got cold. And she was a Governor and great supporter of the Village School, always proud when it was rated as outstanding by Inspectors.
Although she studied Art in Chelsea before the War, it was not really till after we had left home that she took up her paintbrush again. She was instrumental in setting up the Withyham Art Group and was very active in this flourishing body for 40 or 50 years. Art was important to her, and she was an exceptional and gifted painter with a good eye for colour and composition. Many were the painting holidays she took with friends (and once with granddaughter Oriel) in the UK and overseas.
In due course, grandchildren came along – Freya, Milly, Oriel, Verity, Chloe and Pip, and I should also add Jo, my niece, who always looked on Ro as her own Granny. She passed on her artistic talents to many of her grandchildren, and was a hands-on Granny – perhaps more relaxed with them than with her own children. She was always happy to have the grandchildren to stay or to take them on exciting outings. We all had many fun times together – often over a Sunday lunch, with the family gathered. She was very proud of her grandchildren, and always interested to hear what they were doing as they grew up.
Her relationships with children blossomed once again when the great-grandchildren started to arrive. She had 7 from the ages of 9 to 0, and 4 step-great-grandchildren, and they were all as fond of her as she was of them. She was never happier than when young people were around her, either all together or in smaller groups, and she particularly loved seeing the great-grandchildren, whether as babies or growing up.
Recently, Ma had become increasingly frail – but resolutely stalwart in confronting the effects of old age – “not for wimps” as she said. Jilly has been a wonderful friend and daughter to her and managed the care that was needed for her to stay at Forge Cottage, which was something she wanted above anything – and she did.
She was blessed with a number of kind Helpers and Carers who managed her increasing needs with huge devotion and loyalty – and always with a sense of humour, which she really appreciated. All brilliant, thank you ladies.
And finally, Alastair who has been heroic since the first lockdown, when he moved into Forge Cottage. He was the most caring son and greatly brightened our mother’s last months with his presence. And thank you too, Alastair, for putting together the recordings for today.
Ah well – the sad end of an era, as many have said, or written so kindly.
And I know I speak for all three of us, her children, as I say thank you and goodbye to our lovely and wonderful mother.
Pauline Elƒrida Cremer 1925-2020
Extracts from the Family’s Memories read at her funeral on 25th January
Rev. Paul McMichael began by saying that many people thought of Pauline as a feisty woman, of keen intellect with an impish sense of humour who spoke her mind. She was, though, a kind person who preferred to be busy and would always help out, often rallying others to assist in her endeavours … even in her 80’s.
Pauline was born on 1st October 1925 in Paddington, Westminster. She was the first child of Morris, known as Travers, and Elfrida Cleaver; in 1928 her brother George was born. Pauline always loved sport, both as spectator and participant. She and George rode everywhere on their bikes, in her youth she was a good tennis player and represented England in the ladies’ hockey team. When she left school, Pauline went to France to work as an au pair for friends of her mother. She taught the children English and learnt French herself.
In 1965 Pauline married George Cremer. George was a widower, older than Pauline with a grown-up son. He and his first wife had been friends of her parents. Pauline and George set up home in Tunbridge Wells. Both of them were big cricket fans and members of both the Tunbridge Wells and Kent Cricket Clubs and would enjoy watching the matches. She and George had no children, but they had Jack Russells as companions. Timmy and his mother Topsy … rather frenetic … Cleo … the star of many an obedience show … and finally Echo … who will now live with her great friend Pat Arnold.
Pauline was an accountant working for the Clergy Orphan Cooperation who provided governance to St Margaret's School, Bushey; later she produced the Withyham Church accounts for many years.
When George and Pauline moved to Crowborough, she was very active for the Conservative Party and organised their lunches enrolling Pat as to help cook. Through their friendship, Pauline became one of the Hartfield Singers, as well as a member of Withyham Church Choir and the local Arts Society.
Pembury, Pauline’s house in Crowborough, provided the ideal opportunity to embrace one of her greatest passions, gardening. Pauline worked tirelessly with Roy and then Kevin who kept the garden looking beautiful.
Family were always important: in recent years Pauline spent Christmas with family members followed by New Year at George's house with a Cleaver family party of up to 16.
Pauline was a lively, generous person with many diverse interests, she leaves behind friends from all walks of life. The messages of condolence the family received reinforced the high esteem in which Pauline was held. A plucky lady with a great sense of humour and civic duty, she was open hearted and well loved. She will be deeply missed.