Saturday, 1 November 2008

Tribute to my Mum

Margaret Leathley was a remarkable woman. As we mourn the loss of her, we should also celebrate her life.

Margaret Tolson was born in Bradford on October 14th 1920. As a child, I always thought that Nanna and Grandad Tolson’s children were very special people because their names were Mary and Joseph.

Margaret was brought up in Hartlepool with her younger sister Agnes and her brothers John and Peter. Another brother, Dennis, sadly died as a baby and although she didn’t ever speak much about him, she must have felt the loss of a baby brother very deeply.

The family moved to Peterborough in 1934 leaving Margaret with the extended family in Hartlepool to continue her secondary education. Margaret re-joined the family when she left school and worked as a shorthand-typist at Baker Perkins in Peterborough. Like many of the females in our family, she told me that she wasn’t always keen to get up for work and would often be riding her bike, pedalling madly whilst eating a slice of toast.

During the war, she was called up and joined the army where she learned to drive and do some car mechanics. She mainly drove ambulances but very rarely spoke of her wartime experiences as they were obviously painful memories. I do remember a few years ago she told me that if she’d been brave enough, she would have refused the call up and been a conchi (conscientious objector). If she’d done that, then she’d never have had that dance with Clark Gable J

Don Leathley appeared on the scene in the early 1940’s and courted Margaret. With Don in the RAF and Margaret in the WRAC, stationed in different places, that courtship must have been difficult, but love prevailed and they were married in January 1944 at St Peter and All Souls church in Peterborough. They were to be honeymooning at Auntie Hilda’s in Beckenham, but because of an air raid which caused delay of the trains to London, they spent the first night of their marriage on a cold and draughty station, eventually arriving at Auntie Hilda’s at about 8 o’clock the next morning just in time for Dad to go to bed and for Mum to go to Mass.

Mum and Dad had almost 56 years of happy marriage. In 1945 I was born, followed by Christine in 1947 and Barbara in 1950. Catherine was a wonderful surprise addition to the family in 1962. Both Mum and Dad were so proud of their daughters and the families they themselves produced. Mum and Dad are solely responsible for the creation of 29 people. An achievement many of today’s generation may never reach.

During their marriage Mum worked hard in various part-time jobs to help to buy their first house and ended her working life as a cook – a talent she has passed on to all her children.

Mum was strict with us but never stern. She expected and received respect for ourselves and others, high standards of decency, dignity, decorum and modesty. Her high standards have been passed on to us girls and we in turn, in our own ways, have passed these standards on to our own children and grandchildren. In spite of loosing Dad in 1999, she still retained a wicked sense of humour, and would often have a good girly giggle with us.

Our Mum was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, grandma, great grandma, friend and confidant. Mum was a proud lady. Kind, generous, dignified, determined, often stubborn. She loved to be in control and be the main decision maker. She was always a very independent lady and deeply resented loosing that independence due to her blindness and illness. She was a devout Catholic, never missing Mass if she could help it and always received Holy Communion whether at Mass or at home. The Lady’s Guild was one of her few activities in her later years and she made many good friends through that. She died on October 16th 2008; all of her girls were with her as she breathed her last. She will be so very sadly missed by so many people whose lives she has touched. She will always be remembered with love by all of us.

We sisters, her 4 daughters, all make a solemn promise to you Mum that we will always stay in touch with each other, we will share our good news and our not so good news with each other, we will ask each other for help if and when it is needed. We will also, for as long as we are able, have at least 1 silly get-together every year.

We love you Mum, so very much. We will miss you. God bless you and keep you safe.

By the way Mum, don’t forget that you’ve told Christine you’ll send her a text message or an email to let us know what it’s like where you are now.