A Tribute to Sidney Hardwick

Sidney Hardwick 1924-2011

A Tribute from Daughter Sarah:

Our mother died during the night of Sunday 8 May and her funeral was held on Friday 27 May, so that her brother and his family from Canada could be there.

Mum was born on 12 December 1924 in Lindsay, Ontario. Whilst still a baby, her parents decided to move to Vancouver and the family travelled by train across Canada with Mum “in a laundry basket”. Eventually, Mum went to the University of British Columbia, studying first Domestic Science, before deciding that Bacteriology was more interesting option, only partly because there were more boys on that course…After graduating, she was made redundant from her first job in a canning factory. She then found a job at Canada’s Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories in Ontario. It was here that she met our father, Bill. He had studied chemistry at Oxford during the war and had decided that Canada after the war was a better bet than cold and draughty Cambridge…They married in 1949 and came back to England in 1951, where Dad started work at AERE, Harwell. They spent their early married life in a prefab at Chilton and then built their own house in Upton to where they moved in 1956. About 9 years later, Mum discovered pottery, thanks to an evening class given by Ron Freeborn, art master at St Birinus, and this, together with her beloved family, gave her the most enormous pleasure and satisfaction throughout her life.

The following is the tribute that my brother made to her memory at her funeral in Blewbury Church:

“You have all chosen to come here to remember Mum and to honour her. Sarah and I, and our families, are proud and grateful to you. Mum would have been so touched and so surprised. She didn’t feel she was this special; she always wanted to help people and was just profoundly grateful for your friendship and support.

Her warmth to people, whether she knew them or not, sprang partly from her feeling that she was very lucky. Indeed she was – particularly her Canadian relatives, her wonderful husband and her three children, and her house she and Dad helped design and where she entertained many of you. Later on she had seven grandchildren to love and to spoil. Three of them, Ed, Will and Jack are pallbearers, while Anna and Matilda have followed the coffin down the aisle. The 6th pallbearer is their father, Tony.

Mum felt another aspect of her luck was her income which enabled her to travel to so many parts of the world (with some of you) and to go to Canada nearly every year. There she would meet up with Uncle Charles, Aunty Luce and their family, cousins and friends and spend time at Hornby Island off the west coast of British Columbia. In fact the unusual piece of wood on top of Mum’s coffin is genuine BC driftwood, brought over specially by her niece Alix. Mum loved Hornby, the scenery, the light, the space, the people on the island, and of course the sea. Even in her 70’s, Mum was still diving off the rocks, smoothly and gracefully, into the blue ocean. But among the people on the island were some of her favourite potters.

POTTERY: This, and her warmth and generosity, are what most people will remember about her. She first started going to pottery classes as an escape from her troublesome children. It captivated her. She attended more classes and gradually acquired the essential equipment and the skills to use it. After a while she was able to share her skills by teaching at St Birinus School in Didcot. Her enthusiasm (and height!) helped her maintain order among large teenage boys, a few of whom are here today. Her first exhibition was here in Blewbury at the Borlase Gallery and was a resounding success, with nearly all her pots selling in the first twenty minutes. There was almost a struggle for some of the little red “sold” stickers. She was so exhilarated by it that we have lost count of the number of exhibitions she has taken part in, but 2 or 3 per year for nearly 50 years certainly adds up. She was still exhibiting less than 3 weeks ago, at Cuddesdon and at Cedarwood. Even on the afternoon of Sunday 8th May she was welcoming visitors to Cedarwood as part of Art Week. Her Alzheimer’s was developing, but there she was, talking lucidly and enthusiastically to complete strangers about different aspects of glazing pots, and still selling them!

But after that she was very tired. We had supper and Mum was thrilled to see her youngest grandson, happily named Sidney after her, take his first tentative crawling steps. Next morning, Sarah, who had been worried about her tiredness, was phoning her unsuccessfully. A longstanding friend, Sheila Dawson, found her apparently unconscious. She called the ambulance, who confirmed that Mum had died peacefully in her sleep.

Maybe that was more good luck, to have such a peaceful end compared with enduring late stage Alzheimer’s? But should you think that Mum just had a blessedly happy and lucky life, you would seriously under-estimate her strength of character and her courage. Three events required all her strength:

1. The loss of her baby sister Judy at the age of only 5

2. The loss of her wonderful husband: Dad needed one of the world’s first open heart operations when they had been married for only 2 years. He survived but was always weakened and died early, leaving Mum on her own for another 23 years.

3. And the loss of our sister Kathy, who was taken by cancer at the age of only nine.

Yet even while Mum would be missing them, and grieving, she soldiered on, making friends and lighting up people’s lives. She would affect people right from their first meeting. We have received so many glowing tributes, from you, and from lots of people who couldn’t be here today. Perhaps I could end with just one from some-one at a pottery materials supplier she hardly knew, and who met her only once:

“So very sorry to hear about Sidney. I thought she was a lovely lady with a fantastic personality. I had the great pleasure of meeting her once through work, many years ago, and the recollection of that meeting still brings a smile to my face. She was instantly recognisable to me because of her glorious accent. She was a lovely lady to do business with, she would have all relevant information ready at hand and always so very polite and professional. My deepest sympathies to you all. Claire.”

We are all privileged to have known and loved such a wonderful person and mother. “

Gordon Hardwick