Una Barrett-Lennard


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Tribute to Mum

My mother was born on the 16th August 1912. My grandmother was the eldest of ten children and my grandfather one of eight. As a result they both decided that they would only have one child, hence Una. At the age of fourteen my Grandfather stowed away on a sailing ship and went to America. He worked in Chicago and qualified as an accountant. On the death of his father he returned to the United Kingdom to help his mother look after the family. The spirit of adventure became part of my mother’s character.

My mother attended Wallasey High School from the age of five years. She was very tall and slim and rumour has it that she broke the high jump record. However, we know that my mother would not spoil a good story for a few facts! She was an excellent public speaker and at school became the President of the League of Nations. At the age of eighteen she attended Bezanson University in France to study French. I was always told she was fluent but the only phrases I grew up with were "sans cesse" and "cela va sans dire" I did hear more about the Professor’s son, Gilbert.

Following this she attended Liverpool University to study Social Science. She found statistics difficult, but was always good at money sums. When asked to write a dissertation about the oldest profession she wrote about carpentry. The Professor asked her why. She said that Jesus was the oldest man she knew and he was a carpenter. Her first job was as Personal Manager at Lewis’s in Manchester. She stayed in digs during the week and travelled home at the weekends by train. On one of these journeys she met a handsome blonde man, whose parents and my grandparents had mutual friends. Needless to say the man was checked out successfully and became my father.

At the time my mother was married, my father was Sales Manager for Thomas Hedley, later to become Proctor and Gamble. They lived in Glasgow. The War began and despite my farther being in a reserved occupation, he decided to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer reserves and join his friends and colleagues. As the war lingered on, my parents decided to start a family, the result being me. At that time married women were not allowed to be employed. My mother did become a model, based on the intense interest she had in clothes and was extremely well dressed and made-up not forgetting the nail varnish. One of the fashion shows with which she was involved was attended by Lady Shanks of the lavatory fame. She always wished to buy the clothes Lucille, the name by which my mother was known in modelling, wore. As Lady Shanks was short and dumpy they did not look quite the same. However, soon after I was one years old my father was killed on active service in Belgium, by one of the first V2 bombs. My mother was staying with my grandparents when she received a telegram to this effect. She looked at me and said that this baby had lost her father and was not going to have a miserable mother. I never did.

My mother never returned to Scotland and we lived with my grandparents. She became a Psychiatric Social Worker in Wallasey, working form 8.30a.m.until 6.00 p.m. during the week and until 12.00 on a Saturday. At the age of two I attended a day nursery. My mother, in suit, coat, hat and gloves cycled some four miles with me in a seat on the back, to the nursery. She collected me at night and cycled home to my grandparents.

At the age of ten my mother and I visited my father’s grave in Belgium. During this time we also visited the casino in Ostend not to gamble, as my mother had not a clue, but to enjoy the ambiance.

After the War my mother joined the War Widows Association and was instrumental in the War Widows receiving their pensions free of tax, as had the German War Widows. Latterly we attended a lunch at High Grove. Needless to say I was instructed to wear a hat by my mother. Prince Charles came to talk with us and said "Mother and daughter" to which my mother replied "it is to be hoped you know which is which".

My mother was a Founder member of the Wallasey Soroptimist Club and continued to attend the annual dinners, until this year. On the death of Winston Churchill a Memorial Trust fund was set up, which awarded travelling scholarships. At the age of fifty-five my mother became one of the first Churchill Fellows and travelled from the East coast of the United States of America to the West coast and back again studying Child Guidance. We attended some excellent dinners on her return and visited the Mansion House in London, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, meeting Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

One of the highlights was an invitation to a Garden party at Buckingham Palace. My mother really enjoyed the spectacle and was delighted to meet the Queen and Prince Philip.

Unfortunately time took its toll. Having fallen at the end of last year my mother’s health deteriorated to the extent that she was unable to attend Wimbledon. Last year, at the age of ninety-seven she insisted I put her on the train to London and that Virgin would look after her. Rachel met her and looked after her taking not only to the tennis but also to Claridges for afternoon tea. Similarly she was unable to come on holiday to Palma with David and myself. She had come on holiday with us for all our married life, that is for forty years, with various different suitors over the years. It did seem rather peculiar.

She has been a wonderful mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great grandmother. David delighted her as her son-in-law being kind, considerate and thoughtful and was well able to mend things. Rachel had lots in common including such things as clothes and fancy things. She always kept in touch with Grandma sending her letters and cards on a regular basis. Dacre reminded her of her husband, especially with his prowess on the sports field. She admired the way he coped with life and always with a smile. Following his marriage to Susie, she had three great grandchildren, Alfie aged four years, Evie aged two years and Martha aged seven months. My mother seemed to have a meaningful relationship with them despite the huge age gap and often said "Susie is a very good mother". Throughout her life she has been loving, encouraging, supportive and always showed a sense of humour, not only to her family but also to all her friends and colleagues. She was a lady.

Finally, there are three things which have been part of my life, two phrases and one poem. The first is a question she asked me often "Darling, do I look alright?" The second a poem:-

Not until the looms are silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unfold his message and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful in the weaver’s skilful hand
As the gold and silver threads in the pattern he has planned.

The third:-

"Darling, we have had a very happy life, haven’t we?" Yes.

Added by: Paula Staines on 8th March 2011.

 

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Picture of Una Barrett-Lennard.
Picture of Una Barrett-Lennard.
Picture of Una Barrett-Lennard.
 

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Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
67 Portland Place, London W1B 1AR
0800 169 2942
Registered Charity No. 1081009