This was the moving tribute at Olive’s funeral service on Tuesday 14th November 2017 by her grandson Neil Westlake.
Olive was born on the 6th March, 1928, in Doncaster – yes, she was a South Yorkshire lass, although you would have never have known it; listening to her speak, she sounded like a quintessential Hampshire hog.
She was the baby of the Davis family, the youngest of a family of thirteen children, two of which died before she was born. Her mum and dad, Charles and Flora, were itinerant hired hands (originally from the London area) who wandered the length and breadth of the country in the years following the Great Depression. As you may know, they were trying times back then; out of necessity, the family had to go to wherever there was work to be had – whether it was in the coal mines of County Durham or the (one would imagine) more ‘forgiving’ hop farms of Kent. They would travel by foot or by buggy and bed down at night in whatever places were available to them, often at short-notice – barns, sheds, abandoned houses – any place that could offer them a temporary shelter from the elements.
To supplement their income, Flora would perform as a highland sword dancer at pubs, clubs and music halls. Where this Scottish aspect came from, is anyone’s guess, but it no doubt added an eccentric flourish to what otherwise would have been a hard, hand-to mouth existence.
Olive’s first job was at the Beacon’s Brush Factory in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. After a while, she moved to Lincolnshire to join her sister, Auntie Annie, to work ‘on the land’ thereabouts.
The family was reunited when Olive moved to Hampshire, and settled, just up the road from here, in Couch Green. It was then that she began working for Harry Gray, down at Graces Farm, as a dairymaid. It was here that she caught the eye of a young farm boy, Harold, who admired her awhile from afar. Toby was too shy to ask Flora, directly, for permission to court her daughter, so he enlisted the help of his seven-year old nephew, Derick, to ask her for him. This cost Toby tuppence, a meager sum that paid off a huge dividend when he eventually got the nod from Mum.
From that moment, Olive and Toby were virtually inseparable.
They were married at the Winchester registry office in 1946 and set about their wedded life together at Graces Farm Cottages under the thatched roof of her in-laws, Albert and Alice Rose. However, they were parted for much of the following year while Toby did his National Service with the Army Service Corps, in Italy. When he was demobbed, the young couple moved into their own house. Not that they had far to go, mind – little further than the garden fence, to number 3. Literally, next door. And it was in this tiny house that they lived out their days until Toby passed away in 1999.
For thirty years, Olive worked as a cook and kitchen manager in Curry’s, at Worthy Park. I remember how she seemed completely in her element there, in her pinafore dress, surrounded by good friends and good company. Those were years she cherished. However, this paled and was eclipsed by her role as a devoted mother to her only daughter, Jenny (on whom, both she and Toby, doted.)
After retiring from Worthy Park, Olive worked as a Cleaner, down at the bottom pub, in The Chestnut Horse. I remember her on her moped, heading off down to Easton Corner as if it were yesterday.
In time, the family grew ever more. I turned up on the scene. Then six years later, Sarah was born, thus giving her a complete set of grandchildren to dote on – as was her wont. Fast forward: in the fullness of time, yet another generation would emerge. I consider Toby, Farley and Freya to be fortunate; one and all, they were blessed to have this loving and temperate soul in their young lives – albeit for a short while.
Olive was one of those people whose needs and wants were always placed on the back burner, so to speak. While this selflessness may be detrimental to some, it was genuinely a way that Olive found fulfillment in her life. Her love was a verb. It was a doing thing, demonstrable, shown. When Olive loved you, you felt it spades. You just knew.
Her home was a happy one, full of good food and laughter. It was at her feet that I had some of my own more memorable experiences in life. Lying there on the carpet, snuggling with her black Labrador, Caine, are some of my earliest and most cherished memories. And it was through her that I first developed a love of the cinema. We would watch the Friday night horror movies together while Toby was down the Cricketers. The Mummy, the Wolfman and Count Dracula were scary, but it was all rather manageable, as I felt so loved and safe, there, in front of the fire.
Olive, has now gone to join her beloved Toby along with the rest of her clan – Charlie, Hughe, Billy, Arthur, Eddy, Dorrell, Vera, Annie to mention but a few.
I love you Granny, you will remain in our hearts forever.