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Margaret Burden

Guide Dogs - Book of Remembrance
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Celebration by: Andrew Burden

Date added: 21 Nov 2013

Margo - Margaret May Burden was born in Wakefield. Her mum was a cook from a small village in Longney in Gloucestershire who had been sent into service at the age of 14; her dad a naval reservist – he had run away to sea as a child and became a chief petty officer.

The family moved for work settling in Coventry where her father worked for the admiralty as a munitions driver during the First World War. She remembered this War to her dying days: so many of her uncles died without trace, so many of her schoolmates’ dads died. A few weeks before her death she was telling a great grandchild about her memory of seeing a bomb crater from a Zeppelin.

She fondly remembered the holidays when they would go and visit Longney, where she would meet her cousins who lived in Leeds and Wakefield. Their children are unable to attend today, but send their love. These visits were so powerful that she imagined she was a country girl. She loved being beside her grandfather when he returned from the market. The horse would always stop the cart at the Anchor, his favourite watering hole. When Fred died, Richard and Eleri took Margo back to Longney for a visit and she talked about it for years afterwards.

Her school was Earsldon; where she met several life long friends. Later she went off gadding about to Nazi Germany with them, and her photo album has pictures of her with several handsome uniformed soldiers!

She left school at 14, and started work as a milliner’s assistant, but went to night school to learn typing. She then became secretary to the bosses of several of Coventry’s small companies: the Machine Tools; the Coventry Rad. Again she made more friends. She gained displeasure however from her dad, ‘Pop’ because her wage was better than many a man!

About this time she met a smartly dressed man: Fred; who she married just as war started. In fact they nearly got stuck in the south of France because they had holidayed just as war broke.

Fred became a fireman as World war 2 broke out and fought as Coventry and its cathedral burnt; Margo carried on working despite the air-raids. They lived with her parents and their home lost a lot of its roof and windows during one raid. Memorably they hid one night from the air raid in a field-only to be disconcerted when the ‘ack-ack’ from the air defence stationed in the next field opened up!

Then came Richard. Born in Burton on Trent where her aunt lived, and greeted by a telegram from one of her bosses saying that he could bring his cards round for a job. He did but some 17 years later!

Soon came the end of the war, then in 1947 one of the worst winters, during which Richard was admitted to hospital in mortal danger. He was kept in for weeks, with neither Margo or Fred able to visit because of the then Doctor and Nurse rules. This left a large mark on Margo, Fred and Richard. Richard resolved to become a doctor and improve conditions. Andrew was delivered amongst all this, and again Margo forged more friends from the antenatal clinic and maternity wards.

Later, in the early 1950s she started looking for work. She went to be interviewed as a dinner lady, but the head who interviewed her said that she would be wasted and needed to become a teacher. She worked at first as a Teachers Assistant. She entered Coventry Teachers College without any qualifications, and qualified with flying colours She practised on Richard and Andrew whilst they learnt from an early age to be ‘latchkey Kids’ they also learnt many extra useful things like bark rubbing and how to organise a painting class for 6 year olds!

This then was another of her strengths: life long learning.
Another strength helped her with the teaching: her family. Fred would do much more housework and cooking than most men: cooked breakfast for example every day, her mum [‘Ninny’] and Pop would provide lunch for the boys. The close-nest of her family was shown at her funeral by all the grandchildren [7!] and great grandchildren [12!] gathered together.

In her teaching she made new friends, and one in particular disserves a special mention. By now Richard had met Eleri, and was starting his medical education. Eleri’s dad also was a primary school teacher, and the two of them could be seen from to time to time giggling about the behaviour of one of their students.

Life after retirement was of holidays, more adult learning with the archaeology group and Holiday Fellowship, until Fred had his severe stroke. Margo’s teaching skills were employed brilliantly in getting Fred back to speaking and enjoying a decent quality of life for a further 13 years. By now in her 80s Margo was still enrolling attending and enjoying courses at Nottingham University.

Fred had been a choir member in his youth, and again after his retirement, so they introduced opera evening to their neighbours in Rochford Close in Edwalton, several of whom corresponded with her regularly. At this time she was delighted to go with Andrew and Mary when he received his doctorate. She was very proud of her two sons: both doctors; both consultants.
She was upset to leave her home, but delighted with the opulence of Sunrise at Solihull near Birmingham. She wrote in her diary ‘on arriving, those lovely heavy doors spelt security’, and about Daisy her dog being allowed to share her room: after 6 months separation ‘ as if returning from a comfort walk, a brief wag of her minuscule tail, a quick tour of the room, …a boisterous welcome to the carers. Daisy was well satisfied with her change of address. And so was I! Daisy had been cared for by Joan and Derek who helped Margo and daisy for many a year and party!

Margo always liked men and parties, for her 100th Birthday she had 3 parties and for one was serenaded by her favourite entertainer Pablo. Her favourite carer was called Simon, her last grand photo was of her and Simon in her room at Sunrise, dolled up to the nines.

To summarise: Margo had lots of loyal friends, several of whom were at her funeral and who have supported her in her declining days. She loved being surrounded by young people and took a keen interest in the outside world right up to her short illness two weeks before her death.
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