Biography and Notes
EULOGY by her son, Martin.
Thank you all for coming to honour my mother and her life. At her funeral the well known hymn "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small..." was sung. There is no more appropriate hymn for Mum. She embodied throughout her life everything that was bright and beautiful, and any creature great or small that was looked after by her was indeed a lucky animal.
Let me take you through a journey of her life. She was born December 31st 1925. Her parents were Pamela and Charles Hambro. Her mother was a Cobbold from the famous Suffolk brewery family who married Charles Hambro in 1919. So, Mum was the 3rd child and 3rd daughter of the union of 2 great business families. Many of you may have read the excellent book by Jane Dismore, "Voice from the Garden" which chronicles the history of these 2 great families, particularly in the 20th century. Mum's 2 elder sisters were Cynthia and Diana and 5 years after Mum was born she gained a baby brother, Charlie. Mum was named after her mother but has always been called "Pammie".
In 1932 tragedy struck the family at their home in Milton Abbey in Dorset. Their mother died of Pneumonia after contracting Septicemia. She was only 32. In her book Jane Dismore stresses how much Mum's mother was loved by everyone who met her. Funny, positive, beautiful and accessible to everyone whatever their background, kind, caring and compassionate as well as a fearless horsewoman, hunter and skillful fisherwoman. All these characteristics and sporting gifts were to be matched by Mum as she grew into a beautiful woman herself. She inherited her own Mum's sense of humour and love of riding and fishing. Not shooting though. I suspect that Mum loved the animals and the birds too much to kill them. Her own Mum's tragic and early death affected her and her sisters very much.
Her father was an eminent and powerful man in British Society who went on to become Chairman of Hambros Bank and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, threw himself into taking care of his young family, and Mum always revered her father and loved him deeply. A few years later he married again to Dorothy Wallenburg and sister Sally was born. Mum loved her stepmother very much too throughout her life. Then the 2nd World War began in 1939. By this time Mum was nearly 14. In 1940 Britain faced invasion from Hitler and the Nazis, and this meant particular danger for any family with a Jewish background, such as the Hambros. Sir Charles decided to send his children to America to protect them.
The Hambros had a special relationship with another great banking family, J P Morgan and Mum was put in charge of escorting younger sister, Sally, Charlie and her step sister. The ship was a neutral Portuguese, but that meant nothing to a Nazi submarine commander as they had already blown up one such ship only a day or so before Mum and her young siblings set sail.
Mum told me that she had her first taste of alcohol on this perilous journey when a man had taken a fancy to her and invited her for a drink. "Mm, I'll have that green one" Mum said pointing to a bottle. It was Creme de Menthe and after a few glasses of this she had to retire to her cabin somewhat the worse for wear, leaving a disappointed young man.
She, Sally and Charlie spent 3 years in America being superbly looked after by the Morgans. She remembers that her hosts had servants and their own private planes, so the children wanted for nothing. She remembers the New York winters as being perishing cold and the summers very hot. But she loved her new family and made sure that she kept in contact with them throughout her life. There is a lovely photograph of all the Morgan children lined up alongside Mum, Sally and Charlie at Wyecliff. Mum's American education and experience created within herself a very strong bond with the USA throughout the rest of her life.
In 1943 she, Sally and Charlie returned via Flying Boat to England but only after a clandestine "drop off" at Lisbon. This was to avoid the German submarines. By this time Sir Charles Hambro had created the British spy organisation, SOE. He helped train male and female spies to drop into occupied Europe and cause mayhem to the Nazis. Therefore on her return to England, Mum as a 17-year old worked as a secretary in SOE in Baker Street, London. When I asked her about this she laughed and told me it was a great job because the handsome male spies would ask her out to dinner and she would go dancing. She described herself as a sort of forerunner to Miss Moneypenny! She was quick to point out though that there was no 'hanky-panky'. Many of these men and women never returned.
Towards the end of the war she fell in love with a Guards officer called Robin Lowe. She told her father that she wanted to marry Robin. According to Mum, her Dad was not amused by this revelation and tried to stop her. With characteristic determination and courage she defied one of the most powerful men in Britain, and duly ran away to marry the man she had fallen in love with. They were to have a son, Ian, my elder brother who was born in Germany in 1947. By this time Mum and Robin lived in West Germany as Robin was part of the Allied force there to keep Mr Stalin out. My mother is the kindest, most compassionate caring and courageous person I have ever met and she never talked nastily about any individual except Mr Hitler.
In July 1951 she married my father. She had met him at Doldowlod Hall, his family home. By this time Dad's elder brother David had married Mum's elder sister Diana. Mum told me that at first she did not really think much of Dad. He was "rather awkward and shy" she said. But clearly love grew and they married which was lucky for me as I popped out in 1952 followed 4 years later by Ros and then James. Mum had 4 children now and the family moved to Essex where we all lived in a lovely village house called "Crossings". Times were starting to change in Britain. Food rationing was a thing of the past now and it was the 60s. Society loosened up considerably in a social sense and the Essex social scene was very lively. Mum was the "belle of the ball" so to speak. A very beautiful woman admired by all.
She made a lifelong friend with an American lady called "Trish" and her daughter and husband, John Ogier became tremendous friends of our family. As did Sally and Tony Blunt and their daughters Antonia and Camilla. I remember one memorable family summer holiday with Trish and her children when Mum drove her Mini Minor to Brittany in France. This iconic British car was surrounded by Frenchmen wherever we stopped, who stared and exclaimed "Voila le Mini". Despite the endless stream of social occasions in Essex Mum was utterly devoted to Dad and vice versa. They loved each other so much and it really rubbed off on us children. As a child you notice how one's parents engage with each other and right up until Mum died I have never known a couple to be so much in love with each other. Whilst other people in the 60s, 70s and 80s seemed to have relationship problems, not Mum and Dad. Every day their marriage grew stronger and their love for each other was so inspiring. It has left a lasting impression on me.
In 1966 the family moved to Putney in SW London. There Mum and Dad were delighted to find that our 1st cousin Christine and her husband Christopher Hains lived in the same road - Grand Avenue. Also living there was a young family called Millns. They had 2 daughters Georgina and Alexandra. Tragically their Mum and Dad died but our Mum and Dad who had become friends decided that Georgina and Alex should join us permanently. And so now I have 3 lovely sisters and I love them all so much. As the years pass by my love for all my brothers and sisters grew stronger. This love has been passed down by Mum and Dad.
Soon Dad was to retire from work and he and Mum returned to Wales, first to live at Boatside then Wyecliff. Mum threw herself into creating the lovely garden at Wyecliff, into riding her horses, and supporting Dad in creating Wales' first vineyard! Mum loved the community in Hay and Clyro and although not Welsh herself she loved Wales. She once told me "If Wales had the weather it would be the perfect country". She and Dad loved this church. He was warden for many years and she supported him. Mum was a devoted Christian. She believed very strongly in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, as did my father. In my humble opinion nobody was more Christian than my Mum and Dad. She was always forgiving of people, was never ever bitter, accepted life's difficulties with all her faith. As a result she never complained about anything, and she had a fair amount to complain about.
While living in Putney she had suffered a bad fall from her horse which really damaged her back to the extent that she had to have a serious operation with steel plates put in. She was often in great pain but kept riding horses and never complained. She rode until she was 78 years old. In her old age she suffered terribly from debilitating arthritis. In 2004 she had a life-changing heart operation which was very successful. However she contracted serious septicemia like her own mother had in 1932. At one stage we all thought we had lost her in Worcester hospital, but she pulled through and lived another 11 years.
In March 2006 Dad died. This was a terrible blow to Mum. She told me that she did not want to live, she wanted to join him. It upset me so much to see her so sad but again with huge courage she defied her grief and carried on for 9 years more. She truly became the matriarch of the extended family. For the first five years she was able to drive her Smart car, and a very good driver she was too. Sadly her eyesight started to deteriorate and so driving was not an option. But mentally she was so sharp. She knew everything that was going on in the world. She had her telly - Frost, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot being her favourites. She became a mother figure to everyone - listening to their problems and advising them when she could.
I used to phone her from Thailand every Sunday and we would talk about the family, exchange details about the weather in Wales and Thailand. I used to tell her about my wife's family and she was so interested in the welfare of the children in the village. Sometimes I would tell her about the local wildlife including the snakes, "Oh no, I draw the line at snakes" she would exclaim. One week before she died I phoned her and told her that we were visiting my wife's sister at her home near the Laos border. "Oh what about your doggies, who is looking after them?" She never stopped thinking about other people or their dogs, cats or horses.
A true Christian lady in every sense and an inspiring example to us all. Her's was a wonderfully well lived life, loved by everyone. She left us as she would have wanted - on her own terms; in her own bed at her own home which she loved so much, facing the garden that she created. I believe that in life and death Mum got it right.