Four generations of Buckinghamshire women on the precious links in their countryside home that bind them together
PUBLISHED: 12:39 24 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:39 24 April 2015
Over 300 years have passed since French historian Louis de Beaufort proclaimed: ‘The future of society is in the hands of mothers; if the world was lost through woman, she alone can save it.’ Yet with the transient nature of modern life has this become no more than an outdated or idealistic notion?
Perhaps not. Determined to prove that these timeless words continue to portray the pivotal value of motherhood not only within the individual family but beyond the home to the local community and, in turn, our wider society, I went in search of a family for whom blood ties seal a commitment and devotion to each other, and discovered the perfect example in the heart of our county.
Maureen Audsley’s family line extends to generations of daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters. She is also a respected resident in the Parish of Ellesborough, with a meeting room in the Village Hall named after her, and villagers are frequently in awe of her dedication to the neighbourhood. In fact, while on my way to her cottage in the hamlet of Terrick, my expectations revolve around a dominating matriarch, someone exuding a level of authority of which Jane Austen’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh would be proud.
The 94-year-old, however, soon quashes my pre-conceived judgment. Approachable and welcoming, Maureen ushers me across the threshold where I’m greeted by two of her daughters, Jackie and Jo, and genetic predispositions to independence and sociability are quickly revealed.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of everything I’ve done,” Maureen says. “I love the Buckinghamshire countryside and like to be involved in the village.” Indeed her role as Chair of Ellesborough Parish Hall has spanned 37 years, an achievement which makes her daughters proud.
“Mother is respected. She has been involved in most organisations and worked hard,” Jo states. “The village gave mother a social life and the village gained someone who was dedicated to it.”
Jackie nods in agreement, adding: “In our family we care about each other; we’re all different people but we’re there for each other.”
The tiny cottage is a haven to family memories where Maureen needs little encouragement to share her own reminiscences. “I was born in Wendover and went to school there. At the sweet shop - now Sally Turner Antiques - my cousins and I would buy ha’penny worth of pear drops. I used to love walking around Heron Path and went to the local church.”
Once married, Maureen settled in a cottage in nearby Chalkshire Road. Her children clearly enjoyed their childhood in Butlers Cross.
“The village was a community,” Jo recollects, before Jackie, who made her home in Winslow 30 years ago, adds: “There were hardly any cars so we played tennis in the road. We bought sweets from Mr and Mrs Cooper’s sweet shop and learned to dance in the Village Hall. Sometimes, when granddad was enjoying a pint in the Russell Arms, we’d go round to the back door for a Vimto and packet of crisps from the tenant, Mrs Mooney.”
Conversation flows as readily as memories. Surrounded as we are by family photographs there’s a comforting reassurance about this dynasty. I’m captivated by Maureen’s strength and positivity, not to mention her glowing complexion, shrewdness and perception, all of which belie her age.
That this charming lady is adamant about remaining as independent as possible. Nevertheless, with declining mobility a degree of help is essential. She speaks highly of her wonderful neighbours in this hamlet, while regular visits from family ensure the nonagenarian receives ample support and companionship.
Such an independent spirit, however, prevails throughout the various generations of this close knit family. There’s a tangible determination in Jo and Jackie, an enviable self assuredness which asserts itself in an aura of getting on with life, regardless of what obstacles might be encountered.
Maureen has two more daughters, June and Janice, who live abroad, and a son, John. Along with grandchildren and great grandchildren, offspring gather together for their mother’s birthday each summer. Celebrations for her 90th celebration were held in Ellesborough Village Hall, 10 years after the Maureen Audsley Room was so named.
Speaking to other family members, the indomitable kindred character filters through everyone, regardless of their age. Granddaughter Nicky was just 12 years old when she recognised a calling to join the Royal Navy. “My family was supportive,” she insists. “If I hadn’t been a strong person I’d have crashed and burned, but I can deal with things.”
Each generation I talk to muses about fun sleepovers. Food, too, encapsulates happy memories. Fresh jam doughnuts from a local bakery, toast with lashings of butter, wild strawberry picking and Sunday tea are each recalled with affection.
Relatives aside, Maureen’s self confessed interest in people has stimulated much passion for the region. She has, at various times, taken on roles for the church, The Royal British Legion and Parish Council. Fêtes and quizzes have taken place under her organisation; she has taught at Sunday School and been a choir member. The attraction of those around her, and life in general, lies at her core, feeding an enthusiasm which persists unabated.
Indeed, such enthusiasm infuses the whole lineage. From granddaughter Nicky’s declaration of: “A close, caring family with a good support network; someone is always there,” to 13 year old great granddaughter, Annabel’s appreciation of Maureen: “I’m glad to have her as my nanny,” this is a cohesive family unit powered by teamwork and cemented via a common bond which manifests itself in traditional values.
I may have spent a mere couple of hours in Maureen’s company, but that is sufficient for her determination and resilience to inspire me. Her stoical attitude – “You have to put in effort and learn to deal with the world together” – resonates commonsense. It’s a simple philosophy; one that continues to work for this extended family and simultaneously benefits the local community, too.
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