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

Carshalton Eulogy from her Son

Welcome Family and Friends of Joan Mary Welburn

On behalf of myself, my wife, Joanna and daughters, Samantha and Genevieve, I thank you for coming and remind you that there is tea and plenty of refreshments afterwards at the scout hut in Ruskin Road

Joan was born in this area, in 1920, 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 other brother Stanley had died at the age of seven. In her own words she was difficult child. At the age of 11 or 12 she went to boarding school in Bexhill on the South Coast. She showed significant artistic talent and played the piano and violin although she said that she would have preferred the cello.

Her parents lived just 600 yards south of here and no doubt attended this church. From letters and documents one can tell that there was a strong religious tradition within the family.

I quote from a letter from Lionel to his sister Marian Montford in Australia at the time of the death of their father William Joseph Dibdin "You know our faith, as his, & we yours, so that whilst we are sorry for ourselves and you, we are glad for him. …

Personally I feel that the conviction of his fuller knowledge of any future life will help me to be more worthy in the coming years of his memory and of the reunion later"

I am sure that Jo had a working relationship with God but church was another matter. This of course was not surprising considering the behaviour of a certain aunt and uncle. Sadly we never got round to having a dialogue about the relationship between church and personal spirituality although she spoke freely of the issue with her first husband Tony and seems to have had some dialogue with her wise Uncle Rex.

In 1933, when 13 years old both her parents died in the worst plane crash that England had experienced by that time. Sadly the estate was handed over the Public Trustees and for the next 8 years her life was subject to a ridiculous level of official control. Her brother, Peter, who was still under twenty one, had limited legal rights.

Joan continued at boarding school and she was sent to live with her Aunt Edith in the holidays at Castleton in the North Yorkshire Moors.

When Joan reached school leaving age, she went to the Royal Academy of Music against her aunts recommendation, but with her brother’s support. The start of the war in 1939 drew her into the Red Cross and the excitement of wartime London. It was her cousin, Don Haycraft, from Nottingham who introduced her and her brother to the Guise family in Streatham. This was to lead to her marriage to Anthony Guise, an artist before the war, who was training as a 2nd Lieutenant.

After the first period of bombing in London, she joined the army and trained as a motorbike courier – because she could ride a bicycle.

To understand Jo, one needs to consider the range of upheaval and grief that by the end of the war, in 1945, this 25 year old young lady had experienced. Born in the shadow of the 1st world war and the death of a brother, she had 7 bereavements including both parents at 13 and later her brother and husband for whom she bore a son.

By the age of 32 she had set up a house full of lodgers, qualified at the piano so as to teach, bought and lost a railway carriage and re-married.

Her marriage to Douglas, one of her lodgers, was the beginning of a new era of her life, with the introduction of car hire and road transport.

Some here will have watched this phase of her life.

During the 1960’s the car hire business dwindled.

She attended art 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 paintings 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 her first dog called Pippa which was followed by many others, as well as Muscovy ducks that paddled round the garden, occasionally flying off to Chiswick High Road and the River Thames.

1968 Onwards

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 some weeks having Genevieve and then 2 or so years later over a period of three years while Joanna was in and out of hospital.

In 1973 Joan moved to a smallholding in Cumberland where she felt at ease and by 1981 they seemed to have done and achieved a lot. She had sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs, a donkey and a goat as well as extending the house. With the support of local farmers she satisfied her wish to become self sufficient, at least in theoretical terms and seemed content to be living in a sort of Beatrix Potter world.



Life alone

In June 1981 Douglas, her husband, died crashing the lorry in Shropshire. She stayed on, running the smallholding with help from neighbours.

During the 24 years on her own, she returned to painting and enjoyed much, the art lessons at the local secondary school. When unfortunately, the teacher became seriously ill, Joan struck up quite a relationship with the lady and was of some help to her ferrying her about to hospital appointments and so on.

Although living the life of a recluse, she always was committed to helping people when the circumstance demanded and when she saw clearly what the need was. Dealing with difficulties and handling emergencies was a major strength.

She occasionally travelled far a field attending weddings and funerals and visiting Helen and John Davis near the south coast.

Gunshole Farm was always open house for visitors and over the years many members of the family and friends from the days in London came to stay.

Leaving Gunshole.

In 1999 Joan realised that she was not managing however she carried on until 2005 when she was able to move into a house in Brampton on her birthday - 23th Jan.

Her health deteriorated and by mid year, she had regular care help every day.

As 2006 passed, she became frailer but still managed at home and was able to enjoy a small family Christmas. In 2007 she had two months in Brampton Hospital which she enjoyed very much refusing to go to the Cumberland Infirmary. At Brampton the food was excellent, she was very well cared for and in her words "they treated her as sensible".

The second half of 2007 saw considerable improvement in her health she painted her own Christmas card for printing. She entered 2008 fairly energetically. This was an excellent year for her, despite having to get used to a new care agency. She developed strong friendships with her carers and I believe they seemed to enjoy her company. During the year she began to take an interest in her family’s history, reading and sorting out hundred year old letters between her mother and father.

It did seem that she was returning to her roots and she and I were able to discuss death and how she would like things to happen after she died. She was thrilled to see the photograph of her family grave and liked the idea of being buried here although she felt a loyalty to Douglas and Cumbria.

So 2008 was a busy year, with no hospital admissions but too little time to do all that she wished to do. Her neighbour, whose husband had died tragically 3 years previously, became a very close friend and I gather they spend much time together.


She jumped, for the first time ever, at the chance to come to Yorkshire for Christmas and enjoyed it immensely, seeing two new babies and a puppy and taking a keen interest in the scenery on the journeys.

Within 18 hours of returning home, apparently well, except for a slight sore throat, Jo became seriously ill and was admitted to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and put on intravenous antibiotics and fluids.

Within hours, we were with her and stayed until she final faded away peacefully on Monday at 5.40pm. She, in fact, had pneumonia, and her heart began to fail. Throughout those hours in hospital, she was comfortable and very well treated with all her needs being met.

During Monday she was fairly conscious, and aware enough to indicate the wish for a drink and Jo seemed totally at ease.

I have every reason to believe that privately, she realised that her body was becoming tired and yet her mind and will were stronger than ever.

I feel that it is important to drawing out the following point. Those that knew Jo, both in Cumbria and before that in London knew her particular ways and that she not really at ease with people particularly strangers.

During her last three years she had 4 visits a day by up to 16 different carers. During her last year there was a change of management of the care agency and a large number of the carers left. She was well aware of the difficulties that the girls suffered and after one major incident wrote an 8 page letter about the issue, correctly analysing the problems with the management – from her armchair.

Talks with three of her carers, revealed how she had developed really good friendships with them and how much she was enjoying life and her re-introduction to the life of her parents and family through their letters. She relished her role as mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother, talking to others often of them all. People tell me that she was writing lots a letters, something she hated doing earlier in her life.

She was surely approaching Nirvana or perhaps even Heaven and now she has come home.

Before leaving for Yorkshire at Christmas while one carer was busy getting her breakfast and packing her things, another who had only known her for eight months, just dropped it to wish a good journey.

The local day to day manager of the carers, Peggy, who felt she felt that she had to leave soon after the top management changeover, then often visited Jo as a friend and wrote to me after the funerals in Cumbria -

I quote :

"the two services were very enlightening and she managed to bring together 5 of the old caring team. She was a "people person" and said I made a good cup of tea."