My Mother – Lily 1926-2017

Lily Plumley

My mother passed away on 5th December this year, aged 91. So I thought I would repost this article I wrote for her 90th birthday.

She loved and was loved.


Wednesday 16th March was my mother’s 90th birthday. Following on from last week’s blog I thought I’d write about her early life and changes. Ninety years would be too long to cover in one blog.

Mother’s family moved from the Marlborough area of the Wiltshire countryside, settling in Archway, North London in the 1890s. If grandmother had been born a few days earlier she would have been born in Wiltshire. The family seem to have found a more prosperous life in London. At age eight a census shows my great grandfather living in a workhouse with his widowed father and brother, but life had improved considerably.

My mother was the youngest of three, with an older brother and sister. She was born in the same house my Grandmother lived in as a child and her grandparents lived with them. The area must have been a lively community where mother and family were well know. My mother remembers a constant stream of people calling in on my grandmother. Great-grandmother was trained as a cook and meals followed a regular pattern of roast beef on Sunday, cold Monday, minced Tuesday through at least until Thursday. Once a year the family spent a week’s holiday in Southend-on-Sea where great grandmother always lost her hat from Southend pier.

At the beginning of WW2, aged 13, mother was evacuated, with her sister, to Luton. Luton was a strange choice, being one of the first areas bombed. She was not made welcome, they were homesick, underfed and she spent her time hanging around parks and places to avoid their new carer. Pretty soon my grandmother decided to fetch them back and both sisters then remained in London for the entire war.

Archway being on a hill, mother had a panoramic view of the devastation caused by the bombing in the Blitz and remembers seeing St Pauls Cathedral surrounded by fire.

Mother worked at the admiralty in the heart of London. I think the worst bombing, for her, occurred later in the war with the doodlebugs and then the V2 rockets. Doodlebugs could be heard and when the engine stopped that is when they fell. The next innovation, V2s, was silent, they effectively fell out of a clear sky.

It wasn’t all rationing and bombs she went dancing a lot and ate out regularly  (possibly courtesy of various boyfriends) as restaurant meals weren’t subject to the same meager rations as food. There were  few young British men around, she went out with a Canadian, which was respectable. Americans were too brash!

Although in a reserved occupation, mother’s brother Arthur joined the army and was sent to Burma, he was wounded but returned to duty. When VE day arrived mother’s family were mourning his recent death in Burma from sniper fire.

Rationing continued after the war, perhaps this was the reason mother caught TB. Although I understand that penicillin had been discovered it was not yet a treatment for TB. Treatment was complete rest, fresh air and exercise at a sanatorium somewhere in the country. Mother spent almost a year recovering but not all patients survived.

So that briefly a quick run-through of Lily Plumley’s first 21 years, it is history but it is also a snapshot of person’s life.

2016-03-15 17.16.17 (2)Happy 90th birthday Lily.

5 Responses to My Mother – Lily 1926-2017

  1. How interesting to read about your mum and her life and work experiences … it must have been quite difficult for her being evacuated during the war … for all children and their parents.

    Hope your mum had a lovely birthday.

  2. This was an interesting read and how wonderful that Lily has celebrated her 90th. My mother was also evacuated from East London during the war. She went to Devon where she was also very unhappy. Her carer was also very unkind. It makes me wonder how many of these poor children went through similar unhappy times. I so wish my mum had got round to documenting much of this before she died. Such rich stories aren’t they. Happy Bitthday Lily!

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