Mother’s Day

It being Mother’s Day, I have been thinking of mine, her great and passionate knowledge of every aspect of nature – every bird and wild flower – which she had learned from her father and, at the same time, of my nearly complete failure to learn this imparted knowledge from her while she was still alive, in spite of accompanying her on her daily walks in the fields and countryside, most especially in the west coast of Ireland, on Three Castle’s Head.

I should maybe add, whilst opportunity arises, that this obituary I wrote is a bit inaccurate, based on my memory of what I thought I knew of her. She wasn’t there to check the facts. I think she went to Girton when she was in her early twenties and the idea that she read Arabic was a fiction. She thought of changing to Chinese. But even now my knowledge of this part of her life is a bit hazy. It was only much later in her life that I discovered that she was one of the generation who wasn’t allowed to take a degree.

I guess that, like all children, I wish I had asked more questions about her life while she was still alive, not least about her time in Germany in the early 1930s.


3 thoughts on “Mother’s Day

  1. She was not alone. Few women of her generation went to University and even fewer got a degree.
    Where she is unusual is in having a son who could write such a modest and rounded obituary.

  2. Robert Jennings says:

    My mother (born 1912) would have been at Girton at much the same time as yours. Strictly women were awarded the title of a degree, having taken the necessary exams, rather than the degree itself. Somewhere I have my mother’s degree certificate, which confirms the basis of her joke that she could correctly put B.A.(tit) after her name. I think at some stage they were graciously permitted if they wished to convert their titles into a proper degree.

    I was interested in the comment in your charming obituary that in a different age your mother would have had a career. That was exactly my mother’s experience. Decades later one thinks that it was a bit of waste, though as housemaster’s wife at Marlborough she was expected to manage catering for the boys, which at least made some use of a pre-marital career as a dietician. And as a son I benefited enormously, as you clearly did, and remain deeply grateful that she was at home and not ‘out at work’ during the holidays.

    I logged on to see the follow up to John Dancy(1) on which I commented. On a similar theme John Dancy said approvingly that the arrival of the girls at Marlborough had given his wife Angela a real role for the first time. The social and domestic arrangements must have been her responsibility at first. Earlier headmaster’s wives would have been amazed.

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