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Monday, 26 May 2014

Mum’s the word

My mother was born Florence Lillian Ross on this day in 1918. Harking from the north-east, I called her Mam. At some point I probably changed from using Mummy or Mammy, but don’t know when that happens. When self-consciousness sets in? Who knows. My mother-in-law came from the north-west, so I called her Mum. Americans use Mom. It all means the same, really.

I was adopted as a baby. She was and always will be my Mam. One day in the 1950s, sitting in Junior School class, I felt my face glow red when my Mam walked in to have a brief chat with our teacher. She looked really elegant, in a summer frock similar to that pictured below. A friend sitting next to me noticed my embarrassment and said, ‘Who’s that – your sister?’ When I got home, I told Mam about that and it made her day.
Mam and me in Carlisle forest

Mam in our garden
She was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks after Jen and I were married and we were on our way to Malta for eighteen months; she held our daughter once, when she was three months old, and the cancer claimed her on 7 June 1976, aged 58.

I was at sea on HMS Mermaid at the time, the ship’s Petty Officer Writer, and received the signal about her death. Because my Mam was dead, Family Welfare couldn’t finance the flight on compassionate grounds, so I’d have to; however, before I could make arrangements, an extraordinary meeting was held by the ship’s welfare committee and they voted to pay the funds for my flight. I’d barely been on the ship three months and was humbled by this generous gesture. I flew from Gibraltar to UK and thence northwards to attend the funeral. My return to Gibraltar a few days later was uneventful, save that the ship was no longer there, it had been called out on a Subsunk exercise in the Med. By their very nature, these exercises are unplanned. The ship has to set sail at once, allowing very little time to recall crew legitimately ashore, so often a handful of crew might not be found by patrols and announcements before the warship casts off. The ship’s next port of call was Malta, so I had to fly back to UK and then on to Malta, since there were no direct flights.

Later, a rose was planted in the garden of remembrance and Dad regularly painted its plaque. By the time it was his turn to shuffle off this mortal coil in 2000, it was no longer permitted to plant anything in remembrance; maintenance cutbacks, perhaps...
Rest in peace, Mam.

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