Joan Lindley COBBOLD

Born1890 Ipswich, Suffolk
FatherAlfred Townshend COBBOLD OBE (1852 – 1934)
MotherAlice Bessie NUNN Mus Bac (1859 – 1928)
OccupationIndispensable Secretary and Manager to Martin

Biography and Notes

Joan Lindley Cobbold 1890 - 1974

Joan was the fourth of eight children, and thus was the principle elder sister for her younger four siblings, especially her immediate younger brother Rowland, who was born with a cleft palate.

Rowland died in the 1914 - 18 war, and around that time, whilst she was a tutor at Whitelands Teacher Training College in London, she met and married the composer Dr. Martin Shaw.

In Martin Shaw, her life's work was fulfilled - not only through having children, but in her capabilities as a manager for her husband. These days the role is sometimes recognised more officially: writers, singers etc. are married to their actual managers. And in her, Martin Shaw was also fulfilled, as she gave him the space, the daily structure, the discipline if you like, in which to create and compose. Creativity often needs someone to harness it (Shakespeare would have written much less if a friend hadn't made him sit in a room above a pub and write ) and/or to relieve the composer of the regular chores so necessary to living, allowing them time to create. This Joan did ably, whilst on some projects, such as The Redeemer, Joan and Martin collaborated - Joan choosing and editing the text, Martin composing the music. She herself was a capable writer.

After her marriage to Martin, Joan continued to take an interest in teaching, both as a teacher herself (primarily to fund the children's education at boarding school) and as a school governor - principally at St Mary's School Wantage.

I remember her fondly, as someone who always had time for me. In her house on the cliffs at Southwold, her bedroom overlooked the sea; somehow the colours of sea and foam were reflected in the decor of grey-blue and white. Under the window was an ottoman where I could kneel and look out at the waves of the North Sea. In one corner of her room was a spare bed, where I would sleep. As children do, I would wake early in the mornings, and call out to Granny - sometimes if it was too early, she would say 'can I have another five minutes?' which I allowed, but when I was patient no longer I would climb up into her large soft two-poster bed, and she would tell me stories:

Of her younger brother Uncle Rowland, who had a cleft palate, yet who managed to join the brass band - much to his father's disbelief!
Having a cleft palate meant Rowland could not play a trumpet, but he wanted terribly to join the brass band. One day Rowland announced that he had done so. Alfred said what nonsense, Rowland could not possibly have joined! But along went Rowland to practices every week. Eventually the brass band was due to play in a parade, so Alfred, went along to see how on earth Rowland could be playing a trumpet. The parade began, and along came the flautists, (Rowland wasn't there), along came the trumpeteers, the trombonists (Rowland wasn't' there) along came the horn players, and still Rowland wasn't there. Alfred was sure he was right, Rowland wasn't in the brass band all! Then Finally, last of all, along came a man with a big drum strapped to his chest, and who should be banging it but - Rowland! Alfred was surprised! Then realised he had been silly to say Rowland couldn't play in a brass band - because not everyone in a brass band needs to play a brass instrument!

Of the cook, who would not cook rabbit.
In a Victorian household such as the Cobbold's, it was necessary to employ a number of servants. There was certainly a gardener, a butler, a housemaid a nurserymaid - and a cook. There were no supermarkets in those days; although there were butchers, the cook at a house such as the Cobbold's would have prepared animals such as game and fowl from scratch - that meant skinning and cleaning them. Granny remembered the dreadful mess of feathers in the yard when a hen had to be plucked! As is the way of things, staff come and go, and one day it was necessary to employ a new cook. This new cook, (let us call her Mrs White) had certain ideas on what to cook - and what she was not prepared to cook and in her case, she was not prepared to cook rabbit. Now as it happened, rabbit pie was rather a favourite of Alfred Cobbold's, and he missed its presence from the menu quite considerably. After some time, the polite requests for rabbit pie became somewhat more insistent, and then - eventually - rabbit pie for lunch became an order. Lunchtime came, and the eight children sat waiting at the table, four down one side, four down the other; Papa at one end, Mama at the other. The pie was brought in, and set down before Papa. Papa stood up to serve the pie, and opened the crust - but Oh! What was there? Instead of a delicious rabbit pie with meat and peas and carrots, there was just a rabbit, cooked to be sure, but lying there completely whole with its fur and its ears. The cook had done nothing but plonked the rabbit in the dish round the pastry support, and put a pie crust over it. So the cook was summoned to the table, and dismissed.

In her later years, after Martin had died and her children grown up and married, Joan continued to be a great support to her family, both financially and physically, being a housekeeper for her son Diccon at his house in London until her death at 83 in 1974. As a collector she will be gratefully remembered for keeping all the letters her daughter Jackie (Mary Elizabeth Shaw) ever sent her, which amount to some 700.

Isobel Platings January 2008

Life Events

1916Married Dr. Martin Edward Fallas SHAW OBE FRCM
1917Birth of son John Fallas Cobbold SHAW
1920Birth of son Richard (Diccon) Brinkley SHAW
1923Birth of daughter Mary Elizabeth (Jackie) SHAW
1928Death of mother Alice Bessie NUNN Mus Bac
1934Death of father Alfred Townshend COBBOLD OBE
1958Death of husband Dr. Martin Edward Fallas SHAW OBE FRCM
1973Death of son John Fallas Cobbold SHAW

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