Potted History

My father, Charles Kenneth Williamson, was in the Territorials attached to the Middlesex Regiment. The 1st Battalion the Middlesex Regiment was posted to Hong Kong and was there when the Japanese invaded in December 1941.  He was killed in the fighting at Stanley on Hong Kong island Christmas Eve 1941, at which time, I was three months old.  In the annals of the Regiment it is recorded that “The 1st Battalion the Middlesex was annihilated in Hong Kong 1941.

My mother and I were then living in London with my grandparents.  My mother had an offer from a Scottish teacher training college friend, to move with her to her family home in Edinburgh to escape the blitz in London.  We stayed there for 6 months.  Margaret had a son almost the same age as me. My mother had wanted to name me Muriel, but my father disagreed.  A Scottish friend of Margaret's came up with the idea to name me Eileen and so it happened.  He was John Kerr Cross who was at the time a broadcaster with the BBC.

After we returned to England my mother went into the Land Army because she was able to keep me with her.  She was posted to Devon, so once more she got away from the bombing.

In 1946 my mother received confirmation of my father's death 24.12.1941.  I recall that in my younger years my mother had one best dress - it was navy with navy and white piping round the collar. There was no money for more.  For most of the post war years Mum was teaching Home Science and she made sure that I got a good education.

My step-father, Cecil Gathercole, was a young man at the start of World War 2 and volunteered for Air Raid Precaution duties (ARP). When he was able to, he joined the Royal Air Force and was posted to Canada for training.  He became a navigator in the RAF and saw active service in Europe and Ceylon. After the war, Cecil followed his father into “the rag trade" (garment making industry).

My mother and Cecil met at the local history society at Wembley.  I think I was about 15 when they started going out together and Mum's life changed.  Cecil was always good to me and remains one of the best men I ever met. He brought colour into my mother's life, as he was able to give her some of the sample lengths of fabric after sales had been completed. Suddenly, instead of wearing grey or navy she wore green or red and other bright colours. She became much younger as a result of the courtship and I always saw her that way until she died in 2009.

Cecil was a bachelor prior to marrying my mother.  She waited a long time to remarry and it was worth the wait.

In 1969 the agency for which Cecil worked, closed down and he found difficulty with getting further employment and Mum suggested that they capitalise on his interest in good cooking and proposed that they move to Cornwall and take a small hotel.

I had been living in New Zealand during 1965-66 following 2 years in Australia and I returned to England having promised my mother that I would do so after 3 years away.  I didn't want to leave New Zealand, but a promise is a promise. In 1967, about 6 months after my return, I was offered a job in Brazil and having wanted to go to South America for several years, I accepted the job. I missed New Zealand so much that I booked my return passage from the UK to New Zealand in Sao Paulo. It was my intention to live here permanently, which I did in late 1968.

In 1969 - with the employment difficulties - Cecil suggested to my mother, "If we are going to move why don't we go the whole hog and go to New Zealand?"  So they sold up in England and arrived here in January 1970, much to my relief.  Mo mother had worked with young New Zealand teachers in the UK so she knew a little about the country. Cecil took to the lifestyle like a duck to water - Mum said he converted to jandals the first week on the ship. In 1971, after having a look around they bought a house in Howick. He was a member of the Howick RSA for many years.

They only left Howick in 2006 when Cecil had to be hospitalised and so my mother came to live with me. They were married for 47 years and Mum never really recovered from his death 10 days after he was admitted to hospital.  In 2009 my mother became too ill for me to look after and she was also hospitalised, but only for one week. She was only semi conscious at the end and I told he it was OK to let go.  I would manage. She had always looked after me and for those last three years, it was my turn to look after her. Her first marriage was short due to the war and her second gave her a new life with a wonderful  man and also enabled me to go travelling, which I would not otherwise have done.

The photos show Cecil as a young man, with my  mother during his woollen agent years; and outside Shamrock Cottage in Howick during the time that they had the lease. Mum did the morning and afternoon teas and lunches and Cecil cooked dinners in the evenings. They really enjoyed their time, a good partnership.


Tel: + 64 9 432 0746

Email Us: info@waipumuseum.com
Contact: Waipu Museum
36 The Centre
Waipu 2054
New Zealand