Joan Mary Welburn
Lanercost 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 upstairs.
Joan or Jo as known by many, moved to Cumberland in 1973 from London so as to fulfil a lifestyle close to her heart. She found the people up here friendly and understanding.
What was so wonderful was that she was able to be slightly eccentric and get away with her rather blunt ways because of the patience of the people who accepted her as "that’s just Jo".
Not many knew her background before coming to Cumbria.
Joan was born in Surrey, 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.
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.
During her holidays Joan enjoyed the peace of the moors. Her love of the countryside and animals probably stemmed from this time.
I gather that as Joan reached school leaving age, she planned to go the Royal Academy of Music against her aunts recommendation but with her brothers support. 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 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 and it is interesting that after the war the motor bike licence automatically converted itself into a full car licence. She never took a test.
To understand Jo, one needs to consider the range of upheaval and grief that by the end of the war, in 1945 that this 25 year old young lady had experienced
It is difficult for most of us nowadays to appreciate the emotional unheaval of those who experienced love and grief in their early twenties during the war.
In addition to what has been said it seems worthwhile listing some of the other major life changing events that occurred to her over twelve year from the ages of 20 to 32.
For someone living and working on their own, with the responsibility of one son, this list of events 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 84 on her own after her second husband died in 1981.
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 a non-working 1933 Citroen and spent considerable time getting it going.
This vehicle got them started in the Car Hire business and subsequently into an exciting fulltime work in Car Hire and Road Transport. Jo was total involved and committed to the work and drove up to any one of eight limousines as a chauffeur as well as run the office side of the lorry business.
I resist the temptation of talking further about all this.
I am somewhat unsure of the other details of the 1950’s part of Joan’s life as I was at boarding school for eight months of the year for ten years, however I know that during the 1950’s she had breast cancer with a total mastectomy on one side. The breast cancer was the first of two, the second being many years later when she was living in Cumberland.
During the 1960’s the car hire business dwindled.
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 her first dog called Pippa which was followed by many others and also Muskevy ducks that paddled round the garden, occasionally flying off to Chiswick High Road and the River Thames.
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 the early 1970’s Joan starting looking for a new home in Cumberland. Her friend from the old days, Jean Irvine, was living in a farmhouse in Featherstone. Joan had visited a number of times and found that she could relax up here.
In 1973 she bought Gunshall Farm and changed the name to Gunshole Farm.
Douglas had seen the new house and agreed to move North and seemed to settle to the life. His ability to get on with people counterbalanced Joan nature to live fairly isolated.
Looking back at the years between moving and 1981 when Douglas died they seemed to have done and achieved a lot. Joan had the usually run of sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs, a donkey and a goat as well as extending the house. She was supported very generously by two or so local Farmers who were very competent with livestock. 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.
In June 1981 Douglas, her husband, died crashing the lorry in Shropshire. Her neighbours were concerned that Joan would want to move however she immediately made it clear that she planned to stay on and run the show on her own. With help from neighbours and later on with much of the heavy outside work being done by Thomas.
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 with rheumatoid arthritis, Joan struck up quite a relationship with the lady, Penny, 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 to visit and although quite frail managed to go to Samantha’s and Genevieve’s weddings in York and London by train. A few years before this she had gone to the south coast for a week to stay with Helen and John Davis. 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.
In 1999 Joan realised that she was not managing however she carried on until late 2004 when with Betty’s help she found a house in Brampton in early December and she was able to move in on her birthday 23th Jan 2005.
Her health deteriated and by this time 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 and whenever the occasion arouse she refused to be taken to the Cumbria 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 and for the second time ever 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.
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.
Recently, Joan was becoming more frustrated by her deafness, and sight that was not up to perfection and triggered off the process of having another cataract operation. This was agreed by the hospital and was due to be done in March.
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, I was able to 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. Talks with two of her carers Brenda and Susan 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. She will be sadly missed by many.
Her 35 years in Cumbria were enhanced by the friendship, care and support of very many people.