Rose Shaw, a remembrance by her nephew
Rose Elaine Shaw
Rose was born in 1927 in Bushal India, the youngest of 6 children. She had 3 sisters and 2 brothers. The children were born in 2 stages as her father Fredrick Bangs was in the British Army in the Second Boer war. After that war and before the first World War he and my Grandma Millicent had their first 3 children, Dick, Gladys and Rena. After the WW1 ended Fredrick returned to England and following his discharge returned to India to work in the Civil Service when the next 3 were born. Rose was the youngest. When Rose was around 8 Grandma Millicent died and it was left to Rena and Len to raise Jimmy, my mum Dorothy and Rose. At that time, Rena and Len also had 3 children who were just a few years younger than Rose, they were Grace, Norma and Rodney, who is here today. They were all brought up as brothers and sisters instead of aunt and nephew and nieces. As Len was working on building the railway, Jimmy, Dorothy and Rose were sent to Dulalli. Yes there is such a place, to boarding school. Barnes school, Barnes High School as Rose used to say. She used to tell me about her time there with my mum and Jimmy and how she was very lucky to have had such an education. Up to fairly recently the school used to hold reunions in England every year and all the children of the families were taken to be shown off. It was at one of these that poor Aunt Rose tried to teach me to dance the foxtrot, a skill I still have not mastered today. I say poor because what sore feet she must have had. Still she was very patient with me.
During WW2 Rose enlisted as a telephone operator and her discharge papers said that she always stayed calm under a great deal of pressure. It must have been really hectic with telephone calls and messages going back and forth. After the war Rose left India for England and arrived in Liverpool as an illegal immigrant she claimed to be British, but had no papers to back it up. Luckily Rena, Gladys and Jim were already here so they must have vouched for her.
In 1953 she married Chas and what an attractive couple they made. If you take a look at their wedding photograph in the order of service they both looked like films stars. She again began working as a telephonist/receptionist. Going through old photos taken then, she looked very glamourous, always smart, well-groomed and was very well spoken. The photo of her at work, in the order of service, is for an advertising campaign that the company Acheson used. She was chosen to be the point of first contact when customers called, either on the phone or at the office. I think that this must have been a staged photo. She must have been highly thought of as several photos show her at receptions and farewell parties of the company’s directors, often held in the Dorchester, she was always nicely dressed and very glamourous, the Grace Kelly look.
Both Rose and Chas loved children, when we were young, it was always they who took us to the museums, the fair, the seaside and even the races. Rose used to remind me of the first time she saw me was when we arrived in Southampton having left Burma. She said I was very scrawny, hard to believe today I know, and the first words I said to her was that I had been sick every single day.
I remember that Rose and Chas lived in some very grand addresses in Chelsea and Kensington and it was there that she taught me to iron Chas’s hankies. In 1967 they moved to Selworthy House and Rose often spoke of her first view of the house. She said that no way could she live in such a high building. Chas suggested that they have a look before they made their mind up. On arriving in her flat and looking out, Rose fell in love with it, she couldn’t get over the view, Big Ben, Parliament, St. Pauls, places you can hardly make out today. The reason for the move was to enable them to have a second bedroom for the child they longed for and this flat allowed them to adopt their precious Nicola. It’s amazing what one finds when trying to clear out old papers. We found a letter from the adoption agency telling them that they had a little girl who needed a loving mother and father. The unmarried birth mother wanted her child to be brought up in a loving household. Who better could they have found than Chas and Rose? The letter said that they were to bring along a carry cot and blanket so that they could take Nicola home with them. I can just imagine how they would have felt, at last a child of their own to love and cherish. And this is exactly what they did until that day in 1972 when Nicola, age 4, died with leukaemia. Can you imagine how devastated they must have been? All those years waiting, finally having Nicola and then losing her.
Rose never blamed God or was angry with him and like Job, she said that the lord gives and the lord takes away. It was Rose’s faith that kept her going. I remember passing through Cricklewood, where Rena and Len lived and calling at their house to find, all the family were gathered there. It was the day of Nicola’s funeral and I was very upset. Rose took me upstairs and spoke to me about the love of God and how privileged they were that they had been given such a beautiful daughter to love and care for the time she was alive. After Nicola died both Rose and Chas poured their love into the family, those in England and those of her beloved Norma in Canada. Rose and Norma were very close in age and nature. They both had the same wicked sense of humour and when together you would always find them laughing. I have lots of photos of them laughing, usually when they had ganged up on my mum and doing something to make her laugh.
Rose was active in St Mary’s, teaching Sunday school and Flower arranging and this church played a vital role in her life especially after Nicola died. Chas was of the Jewish faith, but you could not find a man who, like Rose, showed the meaning of Christian love to those he knew.
At this point I would like to thank the people of St Mary’s who never forgot Rose even when she was not able to attend services. She was regularly given communion both in her flat and lately at Meadbank and for this I must thank Peter and Allison Wintgens, Diana Goodwin, Carol Brindle. Even the day before she died she took an active part in communion at the home.
I would also like to thank Sister Kumbi and her staff on floor 2 at Meadbank where Rose spent her final few months. They were always very kind and caring towards her, I know that she was regarded as a cutie but she did have her stubborn side too. One good side effect of going into hospital and then the Meadbank was that finally she had to give up smoking. Something that she was loathe to do when living on her own.
I would also like to thank her very faithful friends Florence Toms and Robin Woodley. They checked on her regularly, tried to get her to come out of her flat, cajoling her, sometimes bullying her, going with her to do her shopping and generally showed her a lot of love. Flo tells me of the time when Rose was again on about dying and being with Chas. This time they were on the bus going to Clapham. As they passed the station, Flo suggested that Rose got off the bus there. When Rose said why? Flo said that Larners was just around the corner so she could just go into and arrange her funeral. I don’t think Rose found this funny.
I must also thank members of her family who took the time and trouble to visit her, Rodney and Katie, Derek and Carol her sister in law. She even had a visitors from Canada, Jennifer Norma’s daughter and Madelaine Norma’s’ granddaughter. It was obvious that she was very much loved by all.
When you visited her she always spoke about not wanting to live anymore and wondered why she was still around. I usually reminded her that Jesus said that in his father’s house there were many rooms and he was going to prepare a place for her, just that hers’ wasn’t finished yet and she would just have to be patient. She usually agreed with that but said that her wish was to go up there, pointing with her thumb heavenwards. We used to take her to lunch and without fail, as we walked past St Mary’s church, Rose would point to the church and remind us that she wanted to end up in the rose bed just where her Chas was. The only problem is that she had kept the ashes of her pet dog Petra and she wanted these to be there too. I didn’t know how to put this unusual request to the church and often used to joke with Sandie, my wife, about how we could achieve this. Perhaps, like the episode in Only Fools and Horses, we could just sneak into the grounds in middle of the night and quickly dig a hole and empty the ashes in, hoping not be caught by the police.
The bible tells us that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to weep and a time to laugh.
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
In Auntie Rose’s life there has been a lot of all of these things. We often spoke with her about her life and I can tell you that she always said how lucky she felt that she had such a loving family. She had made her peace with God a long time ago and was not afraid of dying. For her dying was to gain everything that she had lost. Now it is our turn to weep and mourn but Rose would rather that we remember her and laugh at the memories each of us have. By her bedside she kept one of her favourite prayers. The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and I’d like to say that prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console,
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
How can I sum up Auntie Rose, I think that Antony, Norma’s son in Canada does it very well. He remembers Rose as a wonderful woman, who gave freely of herself and in particular of her love to others – that he felt it from an ocean and miles away. Hers was an unconditional love that is rare to find in this world.
Every time we visited her as we were leaving saying our goodbyes, Rose would always say and I mean always “Love you, always have and always will”.
We are fortunate to have had such love in our family.
Thank you Auntie Rose.