We asked our homeowners and retirement community teams to share memories of their mums – happy, heart-warming, poignant or plain funny – and, as always, they didn’t disappoint. We were inundated with evocative and moving poems, stories, anecdotes and some beautiful photographs too. Sadly we couldn’t use all of them (there were so many!), but here’s a selection for you to enjoy.
A big-hearted landlady
Lots of people thought a great deal of my mother for what she did for our village in Hampshire in the 1940s/50s. As landlady of the local public house The Shoulder of Mutton, village shop and also village post office – all attached, she was looked on with great affection. She also welcomed the Battle of Britain pilots, so badly burnt and maimed into her pub, as other publicans would not have them on the premises! She welcomed them nightly by the bus load with their chief surgeon from the hospital in Basingstoke, where he was using plastic surgery for the first time. She banged a gong at 10 pm to tell her regulars ‘Time to go home, boys’. There was never any trouble, just a hearty ‘goodnight Glad, see you tomorrow!’ They all thought the world of her, and all my life and hers, so did I and still do.
- Audrey Edwards, Homeowner, Blake Court, Bridgwater
My Mother in World War Two
When war broke out in 1939, I was one of three children of a coal miner father and a cotton weaver mother. Luxuries were few but we children accepted the life we had. My father was in a protected occupation, but he was also an army reservist and was one of the first to go to war. He left behind a pregnant wife with a worried future.
Mum (or Mam as we called her) was into recycling before it was given a name. She would cut up old bicycle tyres to mend our clogs and her speciality was making pegged rugs from worn-out clothes. There was no NHS in 1942 and my mother supplied rugs to our local doctor in payment for services rendered for a family of five. She also kept chickens in our small back garden, grew potatoes and veg, and erected our Anderson air raid shelter. Our food was plain, and it was rationed by the government, but we four children were never hungry. This came home to us after the war when we realised our mother’s weight had dropped from 10 stone in 1939 to 6 stone in 1946 when the war was over.
She was a loving mother and grandmother and is remembered by all with great affection. Now in my 90th year, I have benefited from the values and principles she taught me and the example she set.
- Lillian, 90, Homeowner, Lawn Court, Bolton, Greater Manchester
A prickly intruder
My mum always had pets around her, she loved all creatures. One of her cats used to bring her “little treasures” in, and leave them mauled to death, for her praise. One day she was meeting a good friend for afternoon tea at a very posh hotel, they had a gentle stroll around the beautiful gardens before going into the restaurant. Mum was complaining that her shoe was uncomfortable, she thought her stockings were rucked up. When the two friends were seated in the dining room, she removed her shoe to find a very squashed, very dead mouse in it! She stared aghast and quietly tipped it out under the table.
A few days later, she set out for coffee with a friend and heaved her heavy handbag into the car, onto the passenger seat beside her. As she left the driveway, the bag started to tremble and shake. She pulled over and peeped inside. Two little eyes blinked at her. Curled into a ball, with only the eyes showing, was a small hedgehog. It had crept through the cat flap into mum’s bedroom and climbed into her handbag which was always on the floor beside her bed. Although the hedgehog was returned to the garden, he did keep coming into the house and mum had a hunt every morning to see where he was hiding. The cats were not amused having to share their food with a prickly intruder. Mum thought it was pay-back for leaving a dead mouse in her shoe.
- Suzanne McQueen, House Manager, Culpeper Court, Headcorn, Kent
My Ingenious Mother
My mother, Lily Heggie (nee Robinson), was born in 1901 in a Sheffield slum with an outside bucket toilet. She went to the local school and stayed there until she was 12 (the minimum school leaving age was only raised to 14 in 1918). She then found a job, but wisely went to evening classes to study shorthand and typing. She turned out to be very good at this and, by the time she was in her mid-20s, she had risen to become the Personal Private Secretary to Sir Samuel Osborne, the “Sheffield Cutlery King”.
I asked her what it was like growing up in a Sheffield slum at the turn of the Century. She said it was pretty grim and that going to the outside toilet was particularly unpleasant, because of all the flies. However, she was a clever lady and she soon found a partial solution to this problem. She went to the outside toilet at meal times, because that was when most of the flies were in the kitchen!
- Ian Heggie, Homeowner, Harvard Place, Stratford-Upon-Avon
A poem for Mum
Let me tell you about my Mum, there’s quite a lot to tell
Her given name was Ellen but my Father called her Nell
You wouldn’t say she was pretty, more classic I suppose
Her stature always upright from her head down to her toes
Her children always came first I was one of eight
We always seemed quite happy but mealtimes I would hate
You weren’t allowed to talk your mouth was there for eating
She had a stick which she would say would be very good for beating
We knew she’d never do this, her love was there to see
But eight children needed rules and that is up to me
She would say that for a reason for my Dad we hardly saw
He worked in the Munition Factory, our Country was at war.
My Mum became an Air Raid Warden walking the streets at night
Looking for any houses that dared to show a light
My family were very lucky we all survived the war, no Bombs not much food
No fruit at all for sure.
But Mum made sure our bellies were nearly always full, she helped Dad dig the
Lawn up for Potatoes she wanted to pull
She had chickens running round the garden some even in the house it got so
Crowded in there we had no room for a mouse
She was very good at doing all that needed to be done to put a chicken on the
Table but watching it wasn’t fun.
I could talk for hours and hours about my lovely Mum for I’m very very proud of
The Root that I came from.
- Winifred, 93, Homeowner, Kings Place, Fleet, Hampshire
Celebrating homeowner and businesswoman
Therese and her husband Michael ran a photography business in Kampala, Uganda before moving it to Birmingham over 50 years ago. She was highly skilled at colouring in black and white photographs. They successfully ran the business until they retired, and travelled the world. Her daughter Valerie says "She is very creative, active and business orientated. She went to night school and updated her skills in carpentry woodwork, learnt languages Hindi and Swahili for the business. She used to teach cookery in Africa and was an excellent cook in Chinese cooking and I remember she cooked for large parties. She lived in her large house until she was 94, managing her house and garden. She was good with gardening too."
She is now happily settled in Ryland Place and has five grandchildren and two great grand children. Valerie continues, “Sadly our dad passed away 12 years ago leaving her a widow. With her strength of character she has continued to live a long and healthy life with support from her children and grand children. She has adapted well to her move to Ryland Place (in October 2020), Birmingham and this has been good for her health and well-being. She enjoys the activities and meeting the residents. She has been an amazing mother and a good example of her life experience and is the same generation as the Queen. The family is pleased she can now enjoy the time she has left at Ryland Place living in a safe, comfortable and good environment with a great team of staff.”
- Therese, 97, Ryland Place, Birmingham
Devoted to her family
My Mum was born in 1897 and grew up in a loving family; she left school at twelve years of age and went into service for many years until she married in 1921. I had two brothers and three sisters and we lived in a modest four bedroom terrace house in Tunbridge Wells. My mother spent her entire life devoted to her family and was supported by my dad. Mum was always at home for us and was at the centre of our family life. She was always busy in the home cooking our meals, darning socks, mending clothing, knitting, keeping everything spotless, shopping, acting as nurse and doctor to us and making sure we were always smart for school. Neighbours relied on her experiences in diagnosing illnesses and nothing appeared to bother my mum. In spite of her hospitalisation in the 1950’s she bounced back with the same old loving energy. How I loved my mum and I will remember her as a person from a humble background that lived for her family. My mum was certainly number one.
- Michael, Homeowner, Ridgeway Court, Heathfield, East Sussex
A mum with a saying for everything
So many memories. So many times, I think I hear my mother's voice. It's in my head. The things she said. And she said a lot! Sometimes more than once. "You've just said that, Jeanne," my father would tease. Her reply? "Well, then, it must be worth saying."
"Piles," she would warn, "you'll get piles if you sit on cold walls." Piles? They didn't sound very nice. I'd pull a face. "You'll stay like that, mind."
"Don't stand with your back to the fire or your marrow will melt." My marrow? No idea what my marrow was but I always took great care not to melt it!
She seemed to have a never-ending supply of sayings. I want never gets but I would like stands a chance. Who's she when she's at home? I'm all of a hoo-ha. Well, I'll go to France. I'll tell you one thing and that's not two things.
Under the weather? She'd say, "I feel like one o'clock half-struck." Sometimes it was more a case of being pulled through a hedge backwards but if I didn't feel too good, it was a different matter. "Well, when you get to school, you'll soon feel better.
If anyone rubbed her up the wrong way, even just slightly, "Their taste's all in their mouth," she would huff. For something more serious? "She's got a face like the back of a bus. " Even worse, and, thankfully, not used too often, "She's got a face like the back of a bus turned inside out and whitewashed."
Sometimes, there was a muttered, "Just wait." My mother was a firm believer in Karma. What goes around comes around. And, you know, it often did. People did get their comeuppances. Then, she was sorry for them. "Poor souls," she would say.
As well as a saying for nearly everything, she mixed certain words up. Mesembryanthemums. This she pronounced differently every single time. I still think she did it just to make my father laugh!
And the last word? Well. she liked having that, so, here it is. Life with my mother? "Hunky-dory."
All Mums can be special and mine was no exception
“As well as providing all the support and motherly love, she also had the extra role needed when my father was at sea serving in the Royal Navy in my younger days.
She has served as a Red Cross Nurse during the latter part of World War One so was called to serve again on WW2. This was in Portsmouth dealing with the casualties during the blitz on the City. With my father at sea, my brother in the RAF and me at boarding school she was also living alone and had to cope when our home suffered significant damage in the raids and the loss of friends and colleagues when her first aid post was hit.
Warm-hearted, very capable, quietly stoic and much loved, I was so fortunate to have been her son.”
- David, Clover Leaf Court, Alton, Hampshire
A tribute to mothers and daughters
“All the photos are mostly my daughter and me on different Mother’s Days. She would dress up and give me a big hug and in the evening, we’d go for dinner and she’d pay for drinks from her pocket money."
"My daughter now lives in Nottingham but she comes every year for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We are lucky to have here. She is the most caring person." Jyoti is now a proud great grandmother and adds, “Mother a life giver. Symbol of love and strength. That is why it is said that behind every successful man there is a woman. A mother, wife, sister, or daughter.”
- Jyoti, Rosen House, Harrow
My Mum didn’t have an easy life
She was taken from her unmarried mother and brought up in a Children’s Home. Not the best of starts but Mum was very happy there and cared for by kindly adults doing their best to keep the children warm and fed with a cuddle when needed.
Mum spoke of growing up doing household chores with the other children learning how to clean & cook etc. She also loved the winter when the playground turned to ice and they made ‘slides’ right across, getting into trouble because the adults could slip up on them.
During WWII Mum suffered with TB staying in hospital, flat on her back in a back plaster for 2yrs. During the summer the nurses would wheel the beds outside for the patients to enjoy the sunshine.
I remember from an early age walking to the shops with Mum and people coming towards us greeting with Hello or Nice Day. I asked her one day who that person was, she had no idea but she always had a smile on her face which encouraged passers-by to acknowledge her - I learnt a valuable lesson that day.
Mum was a very talented needlewoman turning her hand to tailoring and upholstery as well as the dressmaking she was known for. Many’s a time I would see her unpicking a customer’s garment, laying the pieces onto brown paper sheets, making patterns then sewing the pieces back together and making a new garment from the pattern.
My memories of Mum are of the happy aura around her, she never complained when her back was troubling her, there was always a smile on her face. She encouraged my brothers and myself with whatever we wanted to do and always had time to listen.
She was an inspiration to me growing up, always glass half full not half empty and making the most of what you have, working hard to achieve your goals.- Ann, Homeowner, Broadstone, Poole, Dorset
“One Bank Holiday weekend we were out at a local pub and there was a bit of low-key live music. The next thing we knew, my Mum was up from her seat and dancing with a complete stranger! At the time she was 85 years old. Sadly she’s no longer with us, but I have this lovely memory and these photos which capture her warmth and sense of fun perfectly.“- Marion Bune, Administrator Cartwright Court, Malvern, Worcestershire