My very dear Friends, I would like to begin by asking your forgiveness for resorting to modern technology in what is a very solemn and important occasion but it is because it is important that I have done so. The main reason, of course, is that it is an emotional time for all of us and I don’t want to fail at a crucial moment and lose forever my chance to speak of Madge to her friends.
She was my Lover. At times she was my Mother. In her final days, she was my Baby. And always she was my closest friend. I have often felt that we may have appeared selfish to others, turning inward to each other rather than outward to the world but on reflection that was not the case. In years gone by, before her health declined she was a very active helping person.
Thirty years ago, before we left England, she was Secretary of a Ratepayers Association, the Secretary of The Citizens Advice Bureau and a Member of the London Council Of Social Services. Although she did not enter Public Life when she came to Australia she quickly built up a circle of friends by her helpful outgoing personality.
Those of you who only knew the frail and gentle little old lady who sat so quietly in her chair may find it hard to imagine the incredibly strong and vital personality of her younger years. She was frightened of nothing in this world except, perhaps, spiders and even that fear she conquered by strength of will. She once forced herself to LOOK at a spider and then, turning, she remarked to me “They are really rather beautiful, aren’t they.”
This is not the time for endless anecdotes. Those will continue down the years as long as there remain two people who remember Madge. They are just the details of her life and today we are talking of her life itself.
By the time that I met her, she had successfully dealt with tragedy, crisis and disaster. Widowed during the war she was left with three young children and a mortgage in a hostile world that knew nothing at that time of modern Social Services. The fact that she survived and that her children were spared the Orphanage, which was the current solution to such problems, was due solely to her courage and the fact that she was a wonderful mother. Her children grew up to be a credit to her. Babs and Terry, here today, are living proof of that and her only son John, who sadly died in an accident in Rhodesia had grown into a wonderful man. His children and grandchildren will mourn the grandmother they never got to meet.
Our thirty-five years of marriage were based on love, re-enforced on my part by respect and admiration. She was not only my Love and my Wife. She was also my heroine and I consider myself endlessly fortunate that she could love me.
Let me leave you with an image. To many of you, it will seem nonsensical because it requires a memory of the time before coal gas was replaced by natural gas. But to those who remember it will make sense. My image of Madge was always that of a clear blue flame, not the flickering of a candle or the roar of oxyacetylene but the strong and courageous jet of coal gas. As coal gas was replaced by natural gas with its woolly shifting flame, so was Madge’s keen and penetrating personality made woolly by the ravages of her final problems.
It was still a pure and pretty blue and we all of us loved her dearly, let us better remember her as that strong and vital person that she was. The strong flame that was a beacon to us all.
Copyright H. St. V. Beechey 1987