Thursday, 26 September 2013

Win Cash - A Tribute

This is the text of the tribute Win's son David delivered at her recent memorial service:

One of the special aspects of living in a remote place like Kilchoan is that everyone gets to know everyone else. This was an important factor in Win’s decision to move here in 2003. Over the decade she spent here Win became well known and well respected, with the result that, in this congregation, I know, and my Mom would have known, everyone.

For at least the last third of her life, Win suffered both from osteoporosis, and from a significant hearing loss. These, together with other issues, meant that she became quite well known to the local Nursing team – Jessie and Carolyn. A huge thank you to you both.

While of very solid spirit, Win needed a progressively increasing amount of help to allow her to continue her independent life at Skippers Cottage. The girls from Care at Home have been brilliant - Mairi Irvine, Lynda McKenzie, and Mairi McFarlane. It wasn’t just what they did, it was how they did it, that made their care so special.

May McNicol and Anne Jackson similarly provided both help and support. Mom became great friends with all five helpers, and this friendship was reciprocated. Thank you from Win and myself.

Win had become progressively frail over recent times. Her osteoporosis played a large part in this, and in its turn the osteoporosis took its toll on the rest of Mom’s body – what we could see and what we couldn’t.

During the last weekend of Win’s life, she became seriously ill. On the Monday, we were forced to put her through the uncomfortable journey – which she always hated - to travel up to the Belford - to “find out what was going on.”

It turned out that part of her lower gut had become twisted around itself. An operation was the only answer and on the Tuesday a decision was made. The surgeon was not optimistic, but the operation was necessary - to give Win a “fighting chance”. Win wanted to have this operation. The operation was a success, but the toll on her frail body was too much.

When Mom died in the Belford she was 92. I was with her - and she died painlessly and with dignity. The team at the Belford were exceptional.

At the time of her death, I learned that Win had yet another skill. She knew – exactly – the right time to get off the bus taking her on the journey of life. I have taken great comfort from this. We all should.

Mom’s wish was that she should have her ashes scattered with my father’s in Yeovil, Dorset. This will happen in due course.

Win spent her the final decade of her life in Kilchoan. This is just 11% of her long and fascinating life – a little of which I am going to tell you about in the next few minutes.

Win was born in 1921, just after the First World War. Times were hard, and she was the youngest of four children born to Joseph Thomas Shakespeare and Elizabeth Shakespeare. The family lived in Staffordshire in an area known as the Potteries. Predictably, the industry carried on there concerned ceramics, from ornate Doulton dinner ware to functional Twyfords lavatory pans!

Her older siblings were Joseph – Jo, Emily – Emmie, and Harry – Our ‘Arry. Despite the hard times, their childhood resulted in many a happy story including being forced to admire Jo’s latest electronic “invention”, trying to cover up after Harry's mischiefs, and making the home comfortable with Emmie. Win’s birth certificate tells us that her father was a potter’s saggar maker. Google tells us that a saggar is a ceramic, boxlike container used in the firing of pottery to enclose or protect ware in kilns - from open flame, smoke, gases and kiln debris.

It seems that as well as making saggars Win’s father did a “wee trade” in “near perfect seconds” and as a result the family ate well, and he seemed to drink well – stories came along, such of him arriving home after a “bit of a sesh” with a large whole cod under his arm.

When she was able to leave school her father took Win to the pottery factory to introduce her to the various jobs on offer. Win simply said that she didn’t want to work there, to which her father replied, "You'd better find something else and quick!" This she did. Win responded to an advert requesting help to look after a baby. She got the job, and it transpires that the baby’s father was a doctor, which brought her in contact with “well to do” folk. She was offered a job by a friend of the doctor’s family when her services were no longer needed, becoming a clerk in a Co-Op. She pursued this career working in various places until the Second World War.

She was 18 when war broke out and in due course she joined the ATS - The Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British Army.

Win was posted all over the country and attained the rank of sergeant. There are stories of operating powerful searchlights to allow the gunners to see their targets – German aeroplanes – and of working in radar rooms monitoring the skies to give information on incoming air attacks. She was known as “Shakey”, from her surname. There is no doubt that she enjoyed this period in her life, along with her siblings who were involved with the war effort. It enabled them to see further than their family past in the Potteries. She will have had a whale of a time.

Soon after the war, and while on a walking holiday with a girl friend, my father and mother met. Initially a few words were exchanged, and my father followed this up – literally – by following the coach in which my mother was travelling on a motorbike. They became friends, they shared common interests.

Win and Dennis were married in 1951. Win moved from the Potteries to Handsworth, Birmingham. Mom had numerous clerical posts and Dad taught maths and carpentry.

Numerous phases passed in the years following , including the birth of their only child – a son!

I was blessed with fantastic parents, diligent, loving, attentive. Family was important.

I remember – after moving to Sutton Coldfield at about the age of four – a life of Sunday school, lawn mowing, cooking with Mom, rose beds, and happiness. One incident I recall was a measure of Win’s "spirit”. I had done something wrong, I will never know what. I was about nine. To avoid a telling off, I ran from my Mom. I remember, running to the end of the garden, through the gate, along the track, thinking “she will never catch me now” – to soon be overtaken and confronted!

Mom and Dad moved to Dorset in 1975 to carry on a more rural way of life and to enable my father to work for Westland Helicopters. This was another happy phase, and both parents worked until retirement. Early years of retirement were happy, but Dad was unfortunate enough to succumb to a dementia condition called PSP.

Dad couldn’t have been married to a better person. Win cared for him for many years at home – in challenging circumstances – until the doctor told Mom that either my father would have be taken into care or she would end up in hospital herself – with exhaustion. Her sense of duty was clear: she had to look after Dennis. While he was in care, she travelled a round trip of about twenty miles to visit him, at least daily, until he died in 2001. He spent considerably less than a year in a care home.

Mom spent a few more years in Dorset , before moving to be close to her family in Kilchoan.

In this last decade in Kilchoan Win has gained many friends, become an active member of many clubs, been the inspiration behind the local gardening club (the WAGS), had her gall bladder removed, and recovered from a broken hip.

As I said at Win's 90th, in the Community Centre: “She is pretty wonderful and generally a hell of an inspiration to us all!”

We are all sad that she is no longer with us, but we really do have cause to celebrate her life.

Stella, Phoebe, and I have had an enormous number of cards and notes of condolence in the past few days. Thanks for this comfort.

No comments:

Post a comment