Family Tribute to Iris Savidge

We would like to share some of our memories to give a sense of our mum as the heart of our family, starting with a little about her early life before coming to Chesterfield.

Iris Savidge (née Joyce) 1933-2020

Mum was born in London in May 1933 and spent her early years living in Manor Place in Walworth with her parents and older brother Eric before leaving London with her mother at the outbreak of the second world war. They travelled to Belfast and spent a few months with mum’s maternal grandparents and extended Stewart family.

Mum remembered attending infant school in Belfast and when Helen, Rachel and I went with her to the city shortly before she fell ill, we sought out the school as well as old haunts, including her grandparents’ former home. She enjoyed reminiscing about her relatives in Northern Ireland and Canada with her cousin David and his family.

With little evidence of bombing, Iris and her mum returned to London after just a few months and when bombing started in earnest, they left again – Mum aged about seven – this time to South Petherton in Somerset. Grandfather stayed behind to fire watch and to safeguard the family home which survived the war despite the windows being blown out multiple times.

I think mum’s lifelong passion for the outdoors and gardening goes back to the years she spent in the South Petherton countryside. She certainly didn’t pick up her love of growing things in central London.

Throughout mum’s life she loved her garden, especially her roses and tending to her various fruit trees and bushes, from apples and pears to raspberries and gooseberries, we all remember helping with the fruit picking and eating!

Very recently on her last visit to a garden centre with Helen and Rachel, she gave Helen precise instructions on exactly where to plant a violet hellebore she wanted for the garden at Ardsley Road even though we all knew she would probably never see it grow.

A shared love of the countryside influenced our parents when they decided to move to Derbyshire. Our Dad, Brian was offered a choice between different areas of the country when the GPO decentralised in the early 1960s. He had been evacuated to Nottinghamshire and knew the area a little and they fell in love with the landscape here. They never regretted their move!

Returning to London at the end of the war, Mum went to Honor Oak School in Peckham. She always said that she chose the school because she liked the name! I think there were oak leaves on the badge. but she thrived there! passing her school certificate and doing one year of Highers – studying Art, English, History and French!

Quite apart from the education, Mum met two of her closest childhood friends at Honor Oak: June who was later to marry her brother Eric, and Daphne Romilly.

June sat behind mum on her first day at Honor Oak and She Daphne and Mum travelled to and from school on the same tram. June remembers them going fruit picking together and on holiday to Jersey!

Mum and Daphne went on to College together to learn secretarial skills which mum didn’t enjoy! Admin was not really her favourite thing! She much preferred reading a good book! Having said this she went on to work for the Home Office which is where she met our Dad!

What everyone remembers from this time is mum’s sense of fun and her adventurous streak.

She and Daphne went on holiday to France at the invitation of their French assistant Ginette who invited them to visit her family in Toulon. These two seventeen-year olds went travelling alone by bus to Paris where they stayed in a hotel arranged by an American contact of Ginette. Daphne remembers them hanging out of the hotel window eating Rum Babas because syrup was dripping everywhere! (Does anyone under 50 even know what a Rum Baba is!)

We think mum’s lively nature and sense of fun were the characteristics which attracted our dad, Brian who met mum in the early 1950s! Reading some of their letters it is quite clear that it was Iris who swept Brian off his feet! She was sociable, passionate and a natural extrovert – definitely a complementary character to Brian who was by nature quieter and more introspective but oh such a romantic.

They shared a love of travel, music, dancing, theatre and the arts – in one of mum’s letters to dad from Jersey in 1952 she writes:

P.S. Your dancing instructions although well-meant are rather unintelligible. I fell over trying to follow them so I’ll wait until we are together so that you may show me yourself.

Mum always did have trouble with her left and her right!

They went on hiking together in Cornwall and Brian proposed when on holiday in Jersey and Guernsey. They married in September 1956 at the Holy Trinity Church, Brompton with a reception at the Rembrandt Hotel in Knightsbridge. They travelled to Italy to honeymoon in Venice and along the Amalfi Coast!

This started a love of all things Italian. We remember mum seeking out extra-long spaghetti in blue wrapping, as seen in ‘Lady and the Tramp’! and they both liked a nice glass of Italian wine long before wine became popular in the UK.

Mum and Dad revisited Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in 1986, not long after Dad retired, with their friends Alex and Edith Grubb and they had plans to visit Venice again to celebrate their Ruby wedding but sadly dad died in 1996 just a month before their trip.

Once married, our parents moved into a little flat round the corner from Iris’s mum – very helpful when I came along, followed four years later by Mark – By this time Dad had moved to the Post Office and they were beginning to plan their move to Derbyshire. I think life in a small flat with two young children must have been challenging – Mum’s diary 29 January 1963 reads:

[A neighbour] came up from downstairs to see how I was… The place was a shambles as usual, but most of the shambles were what is known as “clean dirt” Jane’s toys and clean washing

We finally moved in to 43 Ardsley Road in 1963! Helen and Rachel were born there! and mum continued living there for 57 years!

When they moved into their newly built house, the plaster was falling off the walls due to the extreme cold that winter and the estate was half built! I remember this as an adventure playground as we played cowboys and Indians in the half-built structures – probably a health and safety nightmare!

Our parents did up the house in stages over many years. Much of the work carried out by Dad who hand laid and polished the wooden floors.

One memory of our childhood at Number 43 is that mum used to complain when we didn’t come back at mealtimes. She disliked trying to track us down at our friends so she took to standing on the doorstep ringing a handbell vigorously to summon us home!

Meals were actually a treat – Mum was a good cook and we have happy memories of a warm kitchen, lovely Italian meals, sausages for tea before Doctor Who, and home made soups, baked potatoes, treacle toffee and parkin on bonfire night.

It didn’t always go so well though, an extract from mum’s diary reads

Bought a pig’s head to make pate … some to roast and some to pressure cook! The pate turned out quite well although it could have spent longer in the blender. Unfortunately when I served the roast dinner one of the pigs’ unattractive teeth fell out onto Brian’s plate – this put him off the meal and everyone rather went off pork!

Later she was always very encouraging in getting all of us to cook. She had no worries about “messy play” us cooking and getting food and flour everywhere. She always said that Helen had “good pastry hands” nice and cool whereas mum always felt that her pastry making skills were undermined by her hot hands!

She was creative and fun in everything she took on and often quite ambitious! No challenge was too great: whether upholstering an armchair or coming up with a fancy-dress costume.

As kids she was always keen to get us dressed up– for the whit walk float, for Lowestoft carnival, for a school event, or a party! Potato sacks were transformed into animal costumes with me in top hat and waistcoat as Dr Doolittle? Rachel was dressed as the Pied Piper of Hamlyn with toy rats trailing behind her on ribbons! Mark remembers his pirate party with everyone in costume, bottles of lemonade labelled as grog and garibaldi biscuits as a stand in for ships biscuit complete with weevils!

Mum was patient and encouraging – she set Rachel, Helen and Mark to learn to knit to a backdrop of cries of “I’ve dropped a stitch mum!” and they remember buckets of dye in the kitchen for a Tie Dye project. Helen has inherited Mum’s love of all manner of crafts and textile arts.

Audrey, who has been mum’s close friend for many years, mentions that Mum always had a hat or a bit of ribbon or a scarf for every occasion. Rachel remembers her borrowing bits and pieces from her boys to add to a costume – a cowboy hat one year to wear for her church garden party.

We can’t speak about mum without remembering our lovely long summer holidays in Lowestoft where Brian’s parents, brother Jack and sister Myrtle lived. We went there every year and mum came with us except for the summers when Helen and Rachel were born. We stayed with our grandparents and Dad would join us at the beginning and end as his leave allowed.

We would create an encampment on the beach, swimming in the North Sea, getting wrapped up in beach robes and towelled dry by mum. She always had bags full of meat pies and bunround to keep up our energy levels. We would dig sand boats and sand sculptures and huge holes to sit in out of the wind and we would play with our cousins, digging sea defences to stop the tide as it drove us off the beach and back to our beach hut.

This was mum in her natural element. She was a water baby throughout her life and loved to swim from her early days when she working as a lifeguard and attendant at Manor Place Baths. She encouraged all of us with our swimming lessons and handing down her love of swimming. We have so many photographs of her in or by the sea. Mum liked to think that Sam, her grandson, a competitive swimmer and triathlete, got his swimming “genes” from her.

2018 – Rachel, Jane, Iris, Mark, Helen

Mum was incredibly proud of the achievements of her children and grandchildren although she sometimes found this hard to express. We think she wanted to make sure that praise didn’t go to our heads!

She particularly liked to hear about the activities and achievements of her nine grandchildren! Emily and Ben, Alice and Jack, Tom Harry and Joe, Sam and Mikey.

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