Joan Mary Welburn
The early years in Chiswick, 33 Wellesley Road, seem to be occupied by the house, war damage repairs, piano playing and tuition and lodgers. We occasionally visited a very small circle of close friend and relation travelling around London by underground and bus. Those we visited included my Grandmother Vera Guise, Mater, and two Aunts living with her and nearby, Maria and Yvonne, Uncle Rex and Peggy, the Montford family in Sutton and Aunt Margaret and Gerard in Kew. Also we visited Auntie Gertie and Uncle Lewis in Reigate travelling down on the Green line bus. There we met many of the Haycraft/Davis family notably John and Helen Davis who were often quite some support to Joan at various time in her life. These visits became an important part of life and were latter well supported by Douglas and were considerably easier with a car.
She had a very tight routine related to running the house, cleaning rooms and washing up in the morning and music in the afternoon.
At this time, she had three possible suitors, the local builder, Bertie Stokes, the original boy next door from her childhood in Sutton, David Muir, and one of her lodgers, Douglas Welburn, whom she subsequently married in 1952. One notable lodger, by the name of Richard Ellis, an ex solicitor and struggling sculptor, had one downstairs room in the house with the adjacent conservatory which was his studio. The relationship with this person was obviously fraught as she would have judged his level of talent against her families capability, and because he would have survived financially better as a solicitor, and financial survival was high of Joan’s agenda.
During the late 1940’s, Joan’s bought a caravan near Winsdor. This was, in fact, a huge railway carriage costing about £500. I remember one visit to this with excitement, being driven down by David Muir and returning in the fog, so thick that it required Joan walking in front with a scarf or something. Subsequently the farmer in whose field the carriage was parked, let pigs into the field and it became unreachable, presumably slowly sinking in the mug.
At about this time we moved for a short while to Sutton staying with a friend Joan and her husband Hugh. This friend was the same one that had accompanied us to France in 1947 for a week’s holiday. This stay, in Sutton, was long enough for me to have to change school, change my main name to Peter as Raoul seemed to be rather tiresome at the time and have new name tags made. I think that the potential move to the caravan and the move to Sutton was in someway associated with problems with the house.
Her marriage to Douglas was the beginning of a new era of her life, with the introduction of road transport. Before marrying they had bought in 1951 a non-working 1933 Citroen and spent considerable time getting it going. This they then used for a camping holiday honeymoon after their wedding on 26th July 1952.
This vehicle got them started in the Car Hire business and in 1954 they bought a 1930’s Austin 16 ‘AUL694’. This enabled then to improve the quality of service, however it must be reported that such a vehicle could offer considerable problems.
If you considered running a twenty year old vehicle commercially nowadays, one would be laughed at, however it must be appreciated that at such a short period after the second world war, resources were scarce and to obtain a large car at that time was difficult. The Austin used to add to the excitement of carrying customers by binding its brakes on as you added more people into the back. This was due to the geometry of the suspension and the cable brakes. One had to reach underneath on each side of the car and release the cable shorteners, remembering to re-adjust them when the passengers had got out. Before meeting Douglas, Joan had not driven a car and had taken no official Driving Test, however her motorbike license from the war somehow designated her as able to drive a wide class of vehicles including a car. Douglas sort of taught her to drive but I do remember that "how to do it right" was always a major source of argument for many years to come.
By this time, I think Joan would have given up offering piano tuition and was working much of the time as a chauffeur, one of her main customers being an local doctor doing her rounds every morning. In about 1956 they bought a new luxury car, a 1933 four seater Packard Super 8 ‘AYY 939’ with a partition window between the front and back seats and a microphone for the passengers to talk to the driver. This was followed by 3 more 1933 Packards two of which were seven seaters. Now they were seriously in the wedding and funeral business although Douglas continued to work at London Transport as a lorry driver for his day job.
It was sometime in the late 1950’s that Douglas gave up the day job and bought his first lorry, which was his dream; a second hand Atkinson, just under three tons, with the spare wheel removed, flat truck. This with the help of experienced engineers from London Transport was rebuild, re-floored and painted in glorious red and cream. Joan’s cousin Adrian came and did the signwriting. By this time in his career Douglas had amassed a considerable number of friends and contacts through London Transport and elsewhere, particularly a remarkable young man, John Faulkner. He had been an apprentice engineer at London Transport, Chiswick, where they stripped buses down to the last nut and bolt, renovated every part and then rebuilt the buses. Over the years he worked his way up to being a highly respected and well loved manager for buses in South London. He was an endless source of advice and guidance as well as being a resource for all sorts of component rebuilding jobs.
Unfortunately the dream lorry, an Atkinson with a Gardiner engine, managed only one trip to Birmingham and back, carrying cement and soot. The fuel injection system was not up to even the gentle hills on the newly built M1. It was sold in part exchange for a new Commer TS3 vehicle of the same size but no way the same class.
To start in transport in those days was not easy. A goods carrying license had to be purchased from within some strange market structure that derived from the de-nationalisation of British Road Services Transport by the Conservative Government. Before that time all transport in the country was handled by British Rail, trains and Scammell delivery trucks, British Road Services and Pickfords for the big stuff.
In 1958/59 they bought a ten year old Austin FX3 Taxi which would have been a more suitable vehicle for London station work and local shopping trips. This taxi had the fourth door added and was a wonderful car to drive in London but took a considerable amount of time and money to get to reliable running condition. The vehicle, when purchased, was on object lesson in good vehicle management, by the taxi firm, as virtually every mechanical component was worn out. By the time the thing was fit for use it had had a new engine, gearbox, back axle steering and brakes as well as it new fourth door and front passenger seat. But what a joy to drive then.
In about 1959 they bought a 1946 Austin Ruby for personal running around and for me to learn to drive on. This was my introduction to car repair work. This was followed in about 1961 by a 1939 Packard super 8, seven seater, with independent suspension on the front and automatic free-wheeling overdrive. What a machine! By this time I was at Imperial College studying engineering while working at home with the business, driving and maintaining the vehicles, in the evenings and weekends.
I am somewhat unsure of the details of the 1950’s part of Joan’s life as I was at boarding school for eight months of the year, however I was made aware of some of the other issues that effected her life. During the 1950’s she had breast cancer with a total mastectomy on one side and a miscarriage caused by an ectopic pregnancy. They had gone to some trouble to have their own children but all attempts failed. The Breast cancer was the first of two, the second being many years when she was living in Cumberland.
During the 1960’s the car hire business dwindled partly because of the changing nature on the market with the introduction of Radio controlled mini-cabs and partly because of the increase in the lorry business, which expanded to two vehicles and a second driver.
At about this time Joan felt the need to get out from the confines of the house and business for a while and went out to work for a short while doing secretarial work in a small company, but this only lasted for a while although she did make a close friend as a result. Later she attended art classes and pottery classes demonstrating extreme talent in both fields. These classes rekindled a talent that she had obviously demonstrated during her time at school. She had a remarkable eye for portraits and could produce accurate painting of still life, portraits and scenery.
Animals always played a significant part of Joan’s life.
Once settled in Chiswick in a house of her own she obtained a wired hair
fox terrier called Pippa. This was sister to her friend Jean’s dog and
the two together gave us many an exciting time. All at peace at one moment
and then jaws locked in battle the next. This dog was followed by a small
light brown Border Collie called Schroon who had a puppies and one of
which stayed at home – Rennie. During this time at Chiswick two
Labradors turned up, Jim a large black and Rusty a small mistreated one,
salvaged from South Wales. Also at this time Joan had Muskevy ducks that
paddle round the garden, occasionally flying off to Chiswick High Road, or
the River or to Chiswick House Grounds.
Between 1968 and 1973 Joan was an important practical support for the young Guise family in so far as she acted as nearly full time day baby sitter for Samantha while Joanna, her daughter in law, was in hospital for about 6 to 8 weeks having Genevieve and then 2 or so years later over a period of three years while Joanna was in hospital. During that three years, Joanna was in hospital a total of 1 year and so Joan baby-sat for Genevieve during the working day.