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'Beryl Mann' by her daughter Gillian Mann - read at Beryl's funeral 19 April 2002
Julian and I thank you for being with us today, to say farewell to Beryl and to celebrate her life.
Today, the 19th of April is Primrose Day, my late father's birthday.
My mother was born on a summer's day 20 June 1910, the year King Edward VII died and George V (grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II) came to the throne. I like to think it was a beautiful sunny day, when Elizabeth and John Watson welcomed their little daugter into the world. She was born in Stapenhill, a villiage by the River Trent where it divides Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
Over the river from Stapenhill was Burton-on-Trent. This down, famous for it's beer, was where she grew up and married.
Her father's family were coopers and furniture makers, but John Watson's interest was music. He played the flute in the band of the Royal Staffordshire Regiment. He was brilliant enough to be trained at Kneller Hall, the famous school for military musicians. He died when Beryl was 6 1/2.
Her mother Elizabeth married again and give birth to Beryl's sister, Beatrice Mellor. Elizabeth began her worlking life at the end of the 19th centuary as a nannie to a little girl, also called Beryl, the daughter of the Vicar of Litchfield.
Elizabeth believed in the necessity of a good education. Beryl gained two scholarships and left school at 17, an accomplished young lady ready to begin her career as a secretary.
She was from the beginning, vain like her mother. She was pretty, full of fun, always beautifully dressed, had many boy friends, and loved to go dancing at the town hall. There she met my father Charles Barton Mann. He was a struggling young journalist, quiet, serious, bookish. She was a flirt. He did not dance, but he woo'd her anyway, enchanting her with poetry and beautifully written love letters. She liked his mind. He was her stability. She was his shining star.
They were married 7 years before I was born. They were a modern young couple, who planned their daughter's birth, into, they presumed, an idyliic peaceful world. But 4 months after my birth in 1939, war was declared and everything changed. Charles eventually joined the RAF, went into radar and left for Ceylon.
Beryl was persuaded to take my father's place as a journalist at the Derby Evening Telegraph. To her surprise, but not her husband's, she was good at it. She became their star social interest writer. Many a good story she told me over the years, of the famous muscians, poets, writers and actors she interviewed during this period, when they toured the provinces for their war effort. In her archives is a letter from her editor who praises her for her excellent music criticisms and the amazing literary tallent, so evident in the Mann family.
In 1946, Charles returned from Ceylon and resumed his journalistic career. Beryl become what she most wanted to be, a personal private secretary. She was probably the only woman at that time to work in such a capacity, for a grand master of the Order of Masons. She loved it and she sent me to a private school for young ladies. My father advanced to a sub-editorship at Nottingham.
Beryl was so energetic. She went to night school. She learned dressmaking, milinary adn men's tailoring. She built a beautiful garden. She had her man, her work, her child, her mother, her garden, her dog and numerous cats. She was happy.
But change was again afoot. Charles was appointed editor of the Lancaster Guardian in 1953. Beryl did not want to go to Lancaster, neither did I. Charles had two disgruntled females on his hands. Disaster loomed. The day was saved by Charles becoming a member of Rotary. For Beryl, lost momentarily ina new world, the Innerwheel club of Rotary gave her life meaning and social involvement.
The 1950s, a period of hats and elaborate dressing up. Her night school classes bore fruit. She made hats and clothes galore adn become happily sociable. She grew not old in Lancaster, but interesting and decoratively mature. Very mature!
She was an active Innerwheel member. She joined in 1954 and within 7 months was the 1st Distriction International Organiser, and within 9 months, the International Club representative. She was president 5 times, secretary 6 times. District editor of the Bulletin for 3 years. Altogether, an active valuable Innerwheel member for 48 years.
Her other social activity was the Editor's Guild. Each year the North West of England's newspaper editors held a conference. Beryl liked the company of journalists and had a great old time at these gathering. So popular was she, that for 25 years after the death of her husband, no conference was considered complete without her company.
It was a great sadness for her when Charles died in 1975, but being a brave woman, she decided to be a merry widow and project a sense of fun and happiness. She might have lost Charles, but she had gained a grandson. Julian, born in 1965, became the apple of her eye. And as he matured, he entered into her sense of fun and became to her great delight and pride, her 'secret admirer'.
There is no doubt about it, she had a full interesting and long life. She was a remarkably accomplished embroiderer. She was always beautiful. Always instested in life and other people.
In the end, her body wore out, not her mind or her very independant spirit. Only this year at almost 92, she had decided to be a computer user. This year was to have been our computer adventure. Sadly it was not to be.
She was remarkable. I am proud to be her daughter.
Let us now pause for a while and think of her with pleasure, of her life so well spent.