Stuart Roberts began the eulogy:
Mum — or, to use her full name, Lilian Edith Beatrice Roberts — was born on 6th August 1912 in a small Welsh village called Machynlleth. Years later she knew that she could not spell Machynlleth, so she put down "Cardif" — spelt C A R D I F — as her place of birth on an official form. So today in memory of Mum and of her spelling ability at that time, we are offering a prize — a cask of Mum's favourite white wine — for the first person here to hand in a slip of paper after this Memorial Service with Machynlleth correctly spelt on it. However, the judges of this competition have decreed that Bobby Roberts, Betty Jones, and Graham Shephard are not eligible to take part in it. No correspondence will be entered into, and the judge's decision — or, in this particular case, the Federal Magistrate's decision — will be final.
Mum came from a reasonably large family. Her parents, Walter and Marion Wynn, had a total of five girls and one boy. Mum was their middle daughter. Her two older sisters were Jenny and Vicky, her brother was Leslie, and her two younger sisters were Marion and Gladys. Gladys — known as Bobbie but not to be confused with this Bobby! — is now the only surviving Wynn child; she is 80 years old and lives with her husband, Norman Selverstone, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our thoughts are very much with our Aunt Bobbie (and to avoid confusion we will continue to call her Gladys today).
The Wynn family lived in Ayr in Scotland during and after the First World War, and it was there that Mum and her two older sisters went to one of Scotland's oldest schools, the Ayr Academy. Four years ago, Nigel visited that school, and was given copies of the three girls' school records. We are happy to report that Mum's academic and attendance records were far better than those of at least one of her sister's (even if she could not spell Cardiff after she had left the Ayr Academy).
In the mid-1920s, the Wynn family moved to London, where the older girls enrolled in a local tennis club. As many of you would know, tennis was something that Mum continued to enjoy until she was 75 years old. In London in the late-1920s and early-1930s, the Wynn girls' membership of the tennis club apparently did wonders for the interest in tennis exhibited by young men in the neighbourhood — just like Mum, all her sisters were very attractive women.
Lilian Wynn aged 17
One of those young men was a certain medical student. His studies and career meant that he subsequently moved away from the area, and Mum met and in 1935 married a pilot in the RAF called Sandy Banks. However, one of the guests at their wedding was that former medical student, who was by then a doctor. Consequently, Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as "Dad") is one of very few people who can claim to have been to both Mum's weddings!
On 2nd August 1936, Mum's and Sandy's son Anthony Hamilton Banks was born. Sadly, though, tragedy struck Mum's life less than two years later when an aeroplane in which Sandy Banks was training RAF pilots crashed into the sea.
At the age of 25, as a widow with a 20-month-old son, Mum returned home to live with her parents for a time. Gladys was still living at home — she was only 15, and as a result, a particularly close bond developed between Mum and Gladys, as well as between Anthony and Gladys.
At this point we should add that in November 1998, tragedy again marred Mum's life, when Anthony — who was then living in Portugal — died after a short illness following the removal of part of one of his lungs. Losing her eldest son was a terrible blow for Mum, and our thoughts today are also in England with Anthony's daughter, Tania, Mum's oldest grandchild, and with her husband Steve, and their 12-year-old son, Luke — Mum's only great-grandchild.
Charles Roberts continued the eulogy:
Going back to our chronological story, Mum enrolled in the Auxiliary Territorial Services during the war, and became a Sergeant Major, which is not an image or a role any of us, even her sons, usually associate with the person most of you know as Lilian and we know as Mum.
In 1941, Lilian Banks and Bobby Roberts bumped into each other in a street in London. Lilian was on her way to a Lyons Corner House for a cup of tea. The enterprising Dr Roberts rapidly completed the anaesthetic he was on his way to perform and joined Lilian for a cup of tea. One cup of tea led to another, and Lilian and Bobby were married in the Marylebone Registry Office on the 5th September 1942. Some of you may know that Mum and Dad's car number plate is BL 5942 — that way, hopefully neither of them could forget their wedding anniversary!
Nigel was born in 1944. Two years later, Stuart was a front-runner in the postwar baby-boom. Both Nigel and Stuart were born in the Middlesex Hospital where Dad worked throughout the Second World War. Mum and Dad, Anthony, Nigel and Stuart spent 18 months in Holland in 1947-48, and the family then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, in early 1949. I don't think they flew with South African Airways, but they didn't have me around in those days to help with their travel arrangements ... !
The family loved Africa and living in Africa in the 1950s, and Mum's fourth son, Charles (c'est moi ... !) was born in Johannesburg in 1951 shortly after the family moved into a large old house on two acres of land. We lived there for 11 years, the longest period of time Mum and Dad ever lived in one house (but followed very closely in length of stay by the house here in Redwood Village).
Mum's skills flourished in this house in Johannesburg. She supervised the domestic staff (known as servants in those colonial days), organised many memorable dinner parties, and ensured the garden was bold and striking with rockeries, large trees and expansive lawns, and later on a swimming pool that was so good it featured on the cover of a South African House and Garden type magazine at the time. Mum began painting while she was in South Africa, something that Mum continued in Tasmania — and we are justly proud to be able to exhibit two of her pictures here today. Mum's painting of Maria Island is going to cause particular problems in our family: we all want it! Mum's artistic skills and sense of style led her to work for a local drama company in Johannesburg, decorating the sets and making props.
We must also report that whilst living in Johannesburg, Mum became a real estate agent, but with considerably less success than her grandson George: she never sold a house ... but she probably had a huge following of prospective buyers because she was so nice to deal with!
Lilian Roberts (from a portrait
painted by Alma Flynn in 1976)
Mum's oldest son, Anthony, returned to England in the mid-1950s to study dentistry at Guys Hospital; the rest of the family left South Africa in mid-1962 and migrated to Tasmania after Dad was appointed Director of Anaesthesia at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Mum turned 50 shortly after her arrival in Hobart. As many of you are aware, she turned 90 in August 2002. Thus, with the exception of six years from 1972 to 1978, Mum and Dad lived in Tasmania over a period of forty years. This is where you got to know Mum, and why you are here today.
Hobart is where Mum saw her three younger sons grow up and leave the proverbial nest.
Nigel Roberts concluded the eulogy:
The career paths Stuart, Charles, and I followed mean that none of us now lives in Hobart. As you heard at the start of this service, two of our wives are currently overseas. I would like to share with you the thoughts that Heather, my wife, expressed in an email she sent from Vietnam on Wednesday:-
Heather said Lilian "was the most wonderful mother-in-law, accepting me into the family. That has been very important to me: she did not expect me to change in any way to join the Roberts family, it was simply enough to love and want to marry you for her to accept me.
"I always liked the way she was so proud of everyone in the family. No matter what they chose to do, she believed they would do it well.
"And then there was her taste and sense of beauty, in her paintings and other art work, but also in the way that she dressed and cared about herself. I will always treasure the story about her the first time [she went into] hospital in September [with her lung disease] feeling so much better when she had had her hair done! It may seem trivial but it was important to her and was I think a sense in her that everything was an occasion that you made important by looking good."
I'll interrupt Heather at this stage to say that last month Heather told me how Lilian had taught her a great deal about colour coordination and fashion. Well, Heather had this shirt made for me in Vietnam, and when I wore it when I visited Lilian I hospital last week, she twice said how much she liked it. Then when I was saying goodbye to Lilian that evening, she suggested I leave the shirt lying around so she could pinch it. I'm wearing this shirt today for Lilian.
Going back to Heather — she continued: "She was kind and generous and caring and very sociable. To be around her was to share the goodness and joy of life, looking on the bright side. ... Nearly everyone ... will remember [her] smiling and laughing and enjoying whatever it was that she did."
We think that really captures the essence of Lilian. We suspect you'll think so too.
But not even Lilian was perfect. We must admit that she had one fault.
Lilian sometimes spent money like it was going out fashion. Dad used to say that if Mum wanted to save $30, she went out and bought three things that had each been reduced by ten dollars. Lilian acknowledged there was some truth in this. When she was in hospital from Christmas Eve until her death on New Year's Day, she noted several times that the fact that her lung disease had left her pretty-well incapacitated since early September had meant that Dad was having to do the shopping. As a result, said Lilian, Bobby was saving lots of money. She could appreciate the fact — even if she couldn't understand why — that Dad wasn't attracted by the many bargains in Chickenfeed! We'd advise those of you with shares in Chickenfeed to consider selling them now ...
There's a tradition after almost every Olympic Games that the head of the International Olympic Committee declares the Games that have just been held to be the "best ever." Likewise, there's a tendency among all children to regard their mothers as the "best ever". I have only ever been to one Olympic Games (as a spectator I must admit). They were in Sydney two years ago. They were fantastic; and on the basis of my experience I agree — they were the best ever.
Likewise, Anthony, Stuart, Charles and I had only one mother. She too was fantastic; and on the basis of our experience, we agree — she was the best ever.
Lilian was also an amazingly caring, loving, and (dare I say it?) tolerant wife. I'm sure that Dad would also agree — she was the best ever.
— Stuart, Charles, and Nigel Roberts
Hobart, Tasmania; Saturday, 4 January 2003