Mary Blackburn, 100 not out

Mum was 100 on December 8th 2020 and I wanted to write something for her great grandchildren and their children to read one day; these words are a part of that.

Mum left school at 14 to work as a mother’s help. At 17, she left for London, where she worked below stairs in Eaton Place. She’d been there a year when war broke out and she was summoned home by her father where she joined the Wrens and worked in the wardroom in Grimsby. Mum enjoyed her job but not the heartbreak of colleagues who were losing family, fiancés and friends on a daily basis. She met my father as he was preparing for embarkation to the Middle East with the Yorkshire Hussars. They married in 1943 and lived in Middlesbrough, retiring to Lincolnshire where Mum grew up and her mother and two sisters still lived.

At 79, Mum moved to Milton with her Westie where she joined the WI and the church choir. In 2016, she moved into The Paddocks, later receiving her 100th birthday card from the Queen. This thrill was eclipsed by a Middlesbrough football shirt with her name on – she’s always been mad about football! Her birthday saw members of the Wychcraft Choir singing on her patio – mum enthusiastically joining in from indoors!

My daughters’ memories of their beloved grandma:

Catherine: Hilda Mary has always been a natural when it comes to grandmothering. She’d welcome us into her pretty cottage, delighted when we visited. Grandma’s a real giggler with a great sense of humour. One of my favourite stories is when her father told her off for being a voracious reader. He’d say, “No good will ever come from reading books.”  Grandma always smiles when telling this story, smugly reminding us it did her no harm at all!

Anna: Grandma is an amazing lady: pragmatic and an absolute hoot at parties. I have many happy childhood memories of staying at Appletree Cottage with its deathly winding staircase, her excellent shepherd’s pie with huge mounds of cabbage, and her absolute insistence on clean ears and knees despite my sisters’ and my ongoing plea that the knees were bruised rather than dirty.

Lily: Childhood visits to Grandma were full of enormous beef dinners, card games and dominoes with extended family. Grandma has always been perfect partner for a cuppa, a biscuit and a chat about her beloved ‘Boro, talking about books and family gossip. Grandma’s oft uttered “Keep buggering on” stoicism has surely kept her strong and positive all these years. Her other famous advice: “You always feel better when you’ve had your dinner.”

Jill Mavin

April-May 2021