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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Another Ordinary Life

Today I will spend in my native Lancashire, attending the funeral [and the associated socialisation] for my Aunt Ada, who has died aged 102. Such an event causes reflection; both on the person and on her times. She grew up on the rural fringe of Preston, where my grandfather was a guard on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, based at Lostock Hall Station which is only 200 yards from the church where the funeral will take place.

She married a farmer in the 'thirties, when almost all the motive power on the farm was derived from horses. Despite being a large-framed, fit young man he died of TB; leaving my aunt widowed, with a baby son, shortly before the second world war began. In the middle of the war she married a friend of my father - Ronnie Ashworth - who was serving in the navy. He never returned from his next voyage, leaving her pregnant with a daughter who was born four months later.

She moved into my grandmother's house where she brought up her children and took the lion's share of care for my grandmother who died at a great age. She remained in that house, and died there last week: thus her occupancy lasted for over sixty years. She got a job that she greatly enjoyed, as PA to the general manager of the Preston Co-op, which was then a major institution in the town. Throughout her long retirement she was active, with beautiful writing. She remained a churchgoer. On her hundredth birthday she was in excellent form; surrounded by the extended family. One of my cousins commented that this was the first time we had all been together in that room since our grandmother's seventy-fifth birthday. My cousin, Ada's son, quietly told me that afternoon that he had been diagnosed with melanoma: he was scared; and he was dead in six months. Thus my aunt's decline over the past two years is easily explicable; and it is fair to say that her death was a release, especially for her daughter Eileen and her close family.

Superficially, Ada Ashworth had a very ordinary, routine life: but that is untrue. She was a person of great resilience, deep understanding and the highest principles. She lived through hugely changing times, from infancy in the reign of Edward VII for more than a decade into this century. Long may she be remembered!

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