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Catherine Cadwallader

Also known as: Titch.

Picture of Catherine Cadwallader.

Here is the eulogy I wrote for my Mother. It describes her, I hope, pretty well:
After I got the terrible news that Mum had died early on Monday morning January 16th, the only person I saw in Belfast before leaving for the airport, apart from Gerry, said to me: “I am so sorry you’ve lost your wee Mammy”.

Now “wee Mammy” are not words anyone would ever use to describe Catherine Cadwallader …

Jane and I had spent New Year with her and we sang Auld Lang Syne and she even sipped a little champagne. We feared she was becoming more frail but no-one thought she would go so fast. We were already planning to come over again this August for her ninetieth birthday.

Now she’s gone and silent forever.

First of all, I would like to thank the staff of Ridgewell House, Holland on Sea, for their kind and loving care over the past five years. Some of them are with us today and we really can’t thank them enough.

Similarly Veronica and Graham Mellor who went far beyond what could have been expected during her last years here in Wrabness, as well as John Hockley and others whose names I don’t know.

What can you say in a few minutes about Catherine Cadwallader?

She was not a woman who ever really saw her role in life solely as a “Mother”. Traveller, gardener and expert on just about any subject under the sun, certainly. Cook, navigator and house-renovator, maybe.

She didn’t entirely reject the status of motherhood though. She did take pride in her children although we could never possibly live up to her particular expectations.

When Sue was planning her wedding, Mum made it plain that she bitterly resented the words in the service when Dad would give her away: “Who gives this woman to be married?

“I brought her up”, she said, “while HE was travelling the world”.

“He” was the love of her life, my father Peter John Cadwallader who is buried in the churchyard here overlooking the view and countryside he loved so much.

Catherine would have liked the fact that a woman, Laura Garnham, is here conducting her funeral service. She was not a church-goer but she said many times that she wanted a Christian funeral.

I hesitate to quote the phrase that Mum used to pour contempt on the Church of England’s past refusal to allow women to become ministers. This sacred place is no place for such profanities.

Which brings me to an essential sadness at the heart of Catherine’s life. She was a feminist born a generation too early.

She would never have used that word to define herself, but that is what she was. She believed she never reached her true potential and she was probably quite right.

Women of her background who married and had children simply didn’t continue working in the 1950’s and she often said her ambition had always been to become a Doctor.

She was a person of many strong opinions. She loved my Dad and she loved Dad’s Army. She laughed out loud at “Yes Minister”, “Last of the Summer Wine” and “The Good Life”.

She loved ballet and classical music (Bach, Mozart and Handel, particularly the Messiah). She loved Lena Horne, Hoagy Carmichael and Laurel and Hardy.

She loved the colour turquoise and jewelry and chocolate and catching fish. She loved the fjords of Norway and the sunshine – and wine – of Spain.

Whatever she turned her hand to, she did with enthusiasm. She studied Dutch in Holland, Spanish in Spain and Norwegian in Norway. She didn’t just cook, she was a foodie well before her time and was always buying new Indonesian and Chinese cook-books.

She fixed up – to my certain knowledge – at least nine houses: in Norway, the Netherlands, Hamburg, two here in Wrabness and in Spain.

Gardening was a life-long passion. She was a fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society and knew the Latin names of all the hundreds of plants she grew. Her gardens here in Wrabness will survive for decades after her death.

She had many hates too. She hated loud music in bars. She despised anyone who drank tea. She had contempt for those who could not speak “the Queen’s English” ‘proper’.

She reserved a special hatred for socialism and the trade unions, particularly the railway-men and the miners. Mrs. Thatcher, she often said, was fine until she lost her nerve.

She didn’t like the Irish much, telling my husband, Gerry, once that she didn’t like his name and was going to call him “Paddy”. I won’t desecrate this church by giving his reply.

I actually think it was Gerry she really didn’t like, not the entire Irish race.

She said, in front of my sister, Jane’s, husband (Jesus) that Spain was a lovely country but wasn’t it “a pity about the Spanish”. I think she was trying to get a reaction out of him also.

I nearly starved touring Scotland with her one year when she refused to go into any restaurant, let alone eat there, which served either scampi or ham and pineapple. She was, in short, a bit of a snob.

But she was a bundle of contradictions because she would tell risque jokes with relish, swear like a trooper and she could put away drink like one too.

She thought nothing of driving, day and night for four-days, from Hamburg or The Hague down through the German autobahns and the Alps to Rome or Athens. Nothing intimidated her.

She survived the Second World War, first as a London-based military switchboard operator working 24 hours straight on the night of the D-Day landings – chatting to Winston Churchill during that long night.

She was then seconded to fight alongside the US Army as it advanced through France. “Not a patch on the BRITISH Army” she would say!

She could put up, and take down, a tent in double-quick time. She could sail and, surf and swim and cook for dozens and grow plants where no-one else could.

She was a strong, strong woman way ahead of her time. It’s hardly surprising that her four children are tough characters – we had to be to survive!

I was definitely not the best daughter in the world and she would never have claimed to be the best mother – but we had more fun together than many an ideal mother-and-daughter.

We travelled together throughout Europe – and to the Arctic Circle, the Land of the Midnight Sun, polishing off bottles of Remy Martin brandy and talking until dawn; fishing during the day and once nearly falling into the icy waters off the Lofoten Islands.

For a while, as with many families, some of us were estranged from her for varying lengths of time. It has only been in the last decade that some of us have come to know and appreciate her better.

Catherine was an extraordinary woman and we are here today to celebrate her life and mourn her passing. We shall not see her like again. Rest in peace Mummy and goodbye.

Added by: Anne Elizabeth Cadwallader on 2 April 2013.

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Picture of Catherine Cadwallader.
Picture of Catherine Cadwallader.
Picture of Catherine Cadwallader.

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