Marceline Bovill R.I.P

On 14 Feb 2018, my moth­er passed away.

Fol­low­ing are excerpts from the Eulo­gy I deliv­ered at her funeral.

Every­one knows that Mum, or Mam as some of us called her, was a Pom­mie.  Born and bred in Birken­head, Mam sur­vived many hor­rors such as Nazi bombs and a Catholic upbring­ing.  And if you find that com­ment offen­sive, then you prob­a­bly weren’t evac­u­at­ed and lived in fear of unusu­al­ly cru­el Catholic Nuns.  Or you’re a Nazi.

The only thing more ter­ri­fy­ing that Nuns and Nazis was Gwyn­nie Itchell, the local bul­ly on the streets when Mam was a kid.  My imag­i­na­tion would run wild with sto­ries of the tough­est hard-core dyke this side of the Mersey.  Mam told a sto­ry where she brave­ly faced off against Gwyn­nie, jump­ing down from a great height, star­tling the usu­al­ly unshake­able Gwyn­nie.  And anoth­er time where Mam chose to run off say­ing “Don’t hit me I’m a crip­ple!”, fak­ing a limp as she bolt­ed down the street.  I always imag­ined that Gwyn­nie grew up to be a prison war­den like The Freak (for those old enough to remem­ber Prisoner).

It’s in Birken­head that Mam met the dap­per cra­dle snatch­er, Bil­ly Bovill.  Dad man­aged to lure Mam away from Eng­land cit­ing nev­er end­ing blue skies.  Final­ly set­tling in sun­ny New­cas­tle, Mam gave birth to Jim, Chrissie, Car­ole and myself, albeit over a long peri­od of time.  Mam said that hav­ing chil­dren gave her a new unex­pect­ed con­fi­dence, and she recount­ed an old lady pok­ing tod­dler Jim with a walk­ing stick for some cranky old lady rea­son – to which Mam snatched the walk­ing stick from her and threat­ened to poke her back.  Who’d have thought some­one from Mersey­side could be so vio­lent.  I think we all inher­it­ed a bit of Mam’s tough­ness, and her dis­tain for injustice.

Fun­ni­ly enough, Mam always had this irra­tional fear of going to jail.  Which we always thought was hilar­i­ous­ly ridicu­lous, giv­en that Mam was quite the good­ie two shoes.  But then I remem­bered we did run off from a restau­rant with­out pay­ing that one time.  Ter­ri­ble ser­vice does not go unpun­ished in our family.

Mam and Dad were mar­ried for approx­i­mate­ly 25 years, before Dad unex­pect­ed­ly died in 1978.  Mam used to say that she had three main phas­es of her life.  Life before Dad, life with Dad, and life after Dad.  While clear­ly Dad’s death was a trau­mat­ic and trag­ic expe­ri­ence, I think the new-found inde­pen­dence Mam got after Dad died, made for some of the best days of her life.  Many of us have var­i­ous wood­en cre­ations that Mam made with her bare hands from scrap wood in her garage.  The wood was most­ly acquired from a local hard­ware shop, for free.  To get this wood, she had done her best “lit­tle-old-lady” impres­sion and told the guy at the hard­ware shop it was for fire­wood, and sub­se­quent­ly he would save it for her each week.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he start­ed even cut­ting it up for her into small pieces, which was less use­ful to build­ing things.  How­ev­er, she couldn’t ask him not to, as it would give the game away.

A lit­tle-known fact is that Mam also went to uni in her 50s and stud­ied Soci­ol­o­gy, and had a love/hate rela­tion­ship with the lec­tur­er whom she had mul­ti­ple intel­lec­tu­al argu­ments with. And it wasn’t until writ­ing this that I remem­bered that Mam also had a career deliv­er­ing flow­ers where she devel­oped some new friend­ships, and got to know every street in New­cas­tle and could have passed the taxi exam.

Mam loved ani­mals and nature.  All of the Bovill kids owe their love of ani­mals to Mam.  Although she would strong­ly deny this love.  “Ani­mals are nei­ther use nor orna­ment”, she would say.  But we know bet­ter as we’ve seen her love and care for mul­ti­tudes of chooks, mag­pies, dogs, pigeons, lizards and oth­er strays.  Mam loved fish­ing, and many of my fond­est child­hood mem­o­ries were fish­ing with Mam on Lake Mac­quar­ie.  It’s fit­ting that Mam on sev­er­al occa­sions said that she wants her ash­es to be cast onto the lake, where she can “give back” to the fish.

Mam liked peo­ple too.  Mam taught us, with mixed suc­cess, to not judge oth­ers too harsh­ly.  Even as a kid, I remem­ber Car­ole com­ing back from work­ing at the butch­ers shop and say­ing “This old lady was so rude today.”  And Mam would say “Don’t be too harsh, she might have some ter­ri­ble things going on in her life, like her hus­band might have just died, you nev­er know.”  I learned some­thing from that.  I think Car­ole just thought “Yeah, still a f‑ing bitch though’.

I guess the less fun part of Mam’s life was when she had her stroke in 2001 – which may have been the fourth phase of her life.  I remem­ber just being a mess and not know­ing how to deal with it at the time.  This is when I have to say that my sis­ter Car­ole shined.  Car­ole took charge and looked after Mam in her house for 10 years, and sub­se­quent­ly when Mam moved to Cameron Park Aged Care con­tin­ued in that car­ing role.  I know this is Mam’s eulo­gy, but I want to acknowl­edge how much Car­ole devot­ed her­self to Mam’s wel­fare, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the last 17 years of her life.  And I also want to acknowl­edge Bill Fitz who had his “not unde­mand­ing” Moth­er-in-Law liv­ing with him for this sig­nif­i­cant length of time.  And Zoe, who I know was such a light in Mam’s life.

And while I’ve got the thank you’s going:

Jim – no-one made Mam laugh like you did, and you could always get her up for a dance – you were clear­ly a favourite.

Chrissie – Mam was always inspired by you being such a dream­er, but also as a strong inde­pen­dent woman.  Thank you for being by Mam’s side in her last days.

And Car­ole, you were both Mam and Dad’s danc­ing queen, and I just can’t thank you enough for tak­ing care of her.  Enough said.

Thank you also to those who came and vis­it­ed her, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the last cou­ple of weeks.

As I said Mam was a great moth­er, and a won­der­ful grand­moth­er.  She cared deeply for all the grand­kids, and for those of you lucky enough to have spent time with her, I know she will live on in your hearts and minds.  I think from the won­der­ful video that Chrissie and Car­ole put togeth­er, it will be a reminder what a gen­uine­ly lov­ing and beau­ti­ful woman Mar­cy Bovill real­ly was, and we will all deeply miss her.

Mar­cy Bovill   1931 — 2018