Joan Mary Welburn
Formally: Joan Mary Guise
Maiden name: Joan Mary Dibdin
L.R.A.M. A.R.C.M.
23rd January 1920  -  19th December 2008

Joan was born the third child of Lionel and Cecily Dibdin when they were about 40 years old. Her brother Peter was 7 years older and 3 years before her birth her brother Stanley had died at the age of seven. In her own words she was difficult child. For three years she attended Sutton High School where her mother and aunts had been and where coincidentally her cousin by marriage later to John Davis, Helen Ouin, was also at school. At the age of 11 or 12 she went to boarding school in Bexhill and had little knowledge of the work and activities of her parents. Judging from examples of her work she showed significant artistic talent and played the piano and violin although she has said that she would have preferred the cello.

The impact on the family of the death of Stanley, I think was considerable and Joan probably grew up in the shadow of his loss as well as being the child of older parents.

In 1933, when 13 years old both her parents died in the worst plane crash that England had experienced by that time. Owing the rules of inheritance the estate was handed over be managed by the Public Trustees and for the next 8 year her life was subject to that level of control. Her brother, Peter, was still under twenty one and so had limited legal rights and, although in some respects part of his father property development company, lost all partnership rights and subsequently went to work for a Government office, in the field of surveying until the war. The exact details of this may come to light with more research.

Joan continued at boarding school and after much arguing amongst Aunts and Uncles on both her mothers and father sides of the family she was sent to live with her Aunt Edith, a Headmistress of a private school in Saltburn. Edith was her mother’s older sister and had promised her mother some years before that she would look after Joan if Cecily died while in hospital under some serious treatment. Shortly after 1933 Edith retired From her post as Head mistress of the Towers, a girls boarding school, to live with a companion in Castleton in the North Yorkshire moors. Joan then spent her holidays at Castleton

During her longish holidays Joan enjoyed the peace of the moors and spent time riding the local milkman’s horse. Her love of the countryside and animals probably stemmed from this time.

During her childhood and early twenties, Joan had contact with many of her mother’s and father’s family with some having a significant role to play either as support or influence. Her Uncle Rex, Reginald Dibdin, acted as understanding pillar of wisdom. Cousins, on the Haycraft side, in Nottingham were like siblings and a source of fun. Aunty Gertie, her mother’s sister, who married Lewis Davis, offered pleasant and stable hospitality and the Davis family have been good friends for much of her life. Joan always saw one of Gertie’s sons, John Davis, a man of exceptional qualities as a sound source of advice and his wife as a friend and inspiration.

John Davis worked in colonial Malaya before the war and then fought, with the Malayan communists in the jungle against the Japanese. After the war he then had to work against the communist rebels in Malaya.

Ref: Times obituary and Private papers.

I gather that as Joan reached school leaving age, she planned to go the Royal Academy of Music against her aunt's recommendation and that Peter strongly took Joan’s side in the argument between two strong willed personalities.

The start of the war in 1939 drew Joan into the Red Cross and the excitement of wartime London. It was her cousin, Don Haycraft, from Nottingham who introduced Joan and her brother to the Guise family at 4 Pinfold Road, in Streatham. This was to lead to her marriage to Anthony Benoit Guise, an artist before the war, and the a young trainee Lieutenant later posted to Ceylon during the war.

During the war she worked in the Red Cross and then joined the army as a motorbike courier and it is interesting that after the war the bike license automatically converted itself into a full car license. Her introduction to car driving was when Douglas, her second husband, gave her a few driving lessons in the old 1928 Citroen which was their first car at the time of their marriage in 1952.

By the end of the war, in 1945, this 25 year old young lady had experienced more upheaval and grief than most of us can imagine and it is salutary to reflect on these as a sequence.

Age 5 Grandfather died 
Age 8 Grandmother died
Age 12 went to boarding school
Age 13 both parents die: life and family home dismantled.
Age 19 starts study at Royal Academy
Age 22 met Tony who was to be love of her life. Tony a soldier later stationed in
Age 23 son Raoul born
Age 23 brother Peter killed
Age 24 evacuates with son out of London
Age 24 husband killed.
Most of these major upheavals and disasters within twelve years

It is difficult for must of us nowadays to appreciate the emotions of those who experienced love and grief in the their twenties during the war.

Excerpts from Joan’s diary

28th March 1944
It is eleven years ago today that Mother and Father died; it is six months today that Peter died. Have been to the cemetery this afternoon.

Peter, her brother died 28th September 1943 on active service.

Sun 2nd April
Quiet day at home –turned out some of the boxes and cases. Was very harassing – going through Peters things. Poor darling he must have had a miserable life & so lonely. I wish I could have been more help to him – wrote to Tony.

5th April 1944 Tony’s Birthday

It is just past 6.00 and have just drunk Tony’s health and happiness
I wonder if he is thinking of home at the moment and having a drink with me.
Oh God bless you my dearest Husband "Bon voyage & safe return – my heart is yours forever.


During the next four months Joan evacuated to Meols near Liverpool with her child of one year and suffered the death of her husband Tony who died 11th Aug 1944 on active service in Columbo in Ceylon.

Earlier there was reference to the grieves in Joan life over a period of twelve years from 13 to 25. 
It seems worthwhile listing the major life changing events that occurred to her over twelve year from the ages of 20 to 32.

Ages 20-25 experiences and works in London during the second world war.

Age 22 meets Tony who was to be love of her life. Tony was a trainee
             lieutenant soldier later to be stationed in Ceylon.
Age 23 son Raoul born 
Age 23 sets up flat in Streatham
Age 23 brother Peter killed
Age 24 evacuates with son out of London
Age 24 husband killed.
Age 27 leave Streatham – buys leasehold house in Chiswick large enough to 
            rent rooms to lodgers.
            Takes son on holiday to Paris
Age 28 Restarts her time at Royal Academy, and soon qualifies as a teacher and
             takes on Piano students.
Age 29 Buys a railway carriage caravan near Windsor and looses it in a field
            of pigs.
            Moves temporarily to a house in Sutton while someone else manages 
            the lodgers in Chiswick.
Age 30 sends son to boarding school to fulfil promise to deceased husband.
             During the previous 3 years her house needed considerable repair work
             under the title of war damage.
Age 32  Married again to Douglas Welburn, one of her lodgers who
             worked in transport

For someone living and working on their own, with the responsibility of one son, having just come out from under the financial control of the Public Trustees, this list of events and these are only the documented ones, is quite remarkable.

Seen in the context of this it is no wonder that she was such an independent person that she felt at ease continuing to run the small holding in Cumbria between the ages of 61 to 85 on her own after her second husband died in 1981.