Doris Mullish

Doris Mullish

Born
04 January 1922
London, United Kingdom
Died
15 April 2023
London, United Kingdom
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Words by
Adrian Mullish Son

Mum was born in 1922 to Joe and Annie Pollock in Stoke Newington. A bright girl with a brilliantly sharp intelligence whose ambition was to be a doctor. Sadly, she had to leave school before her fourteenth birthday, despite her headteacher’s protests at losing his star student. She worked in a manufacturing company in Old Street and attended evening classes. Within a few years she could turn her hand to any role within the firm.

Then came the war with bombs falling, sleeping in an air raid shelter every night and the hardships of the Blitz. She excitedly signed up with the Women’s Royal Naval Service, the Wrens, despite her mother’s tears and after her induction at Mill Hill, she had a marvellous few years, being stationed in many places that were requisitioned by the Navy, including Highgate School, Windsor, (where she lived at Eton College), Hampstead and Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. Her field was sailors’ pay and she was promoted, eventually reaching the rank of Petty Officer. She loved her time serving her country and it gave her experiences and a level of independence she would never have otherwise had. She always said it was her equivalent of going away to university.

She would have made a fantastic accountant

The war ended and through a series of remarkable coincidences, she then met the one love of her life, my Dad, Ben, who similarly was newly demobbed. They were married in June 1947, lived in a flat in Evering Road, Stamford Hill and a year later my brother David was born. Life was not easy as money was always tight. She helped my Dad work at his market stall in Bermondsey market where she would take her wares to sell in suitcases on two buses. In 1956 they managed to move to Ilford and my recently widowed Grandpa Joe came to live with them and I was born in 1959.

Dad ended up owning a confectioners, newsagents and tobacconists in Shoreditch, where he was at last truly happy. Mum worked with him there although shop work never really appealed to her. Her favourite job was working in an office adding up columns of figures, which she had a real head for. She would have made a fantastic accountant, that being her second ideal career choice. In 1978 my Dad died suddenly leaving Mum as a widow in her mid fifties with no income and a shop to run. She managed, with help from my brother and my marvellous Auntie Sheila to keep the business running until she was able to sell it. It was very hard work, requiring early starts and long hours. She also at this time developed skin cancer but came through it. She was never ever one to sit and feel sorry for herself.

The Merry Widows

She then successfully built a new second life for herself. At that time, there was no shortage of widows in our family, so she had a group of similarly bereaved ladies (Aunties Sylvia, Daphne and Betty) with whom she socialised. The Merry Widows. She was involved with social groups. She learnt to swim and became a regular swimmer three times a week. She learnt bridge, often playing several times a week. She practiced yoga but kept falling asleep. She always worked, ending up as a receptionist at David’s practice. David married Sharon and Mum was blessed with a grandson, Benjamin, on whom she doted. I married Sharon and Mum delighted in three more grandchildren; Joel, Talya and Rafi.

Then twenty five years ago the cruellest of blows with the untimely death of first, my Uncle Ivor and then tragically, my brother David. Losing a child is a very difficult thing for any parent to go through and it really affected her. It is hard to imagine much worse, but, in keeping with her character, she pulled herself back through it.

She adored all her grandchildren and was happy to spend countless hours with them. She waited over one hundred years for great-grandchildren and was so excited to get to hold Imogen and Nathan. Sadly, she has missed her great-grandchild number three by a few weeks, but we know that she will be looking down and smiling on the new arrival.

These are the facts of her life. But what was she like?

ever optimistic and always incredibly grateful

For many years whenever people have asked me about Mum, they have always told me that she is an amazing lady. Recently I have been asking them what they mean by this, and I have collected a few thoughts on her many outstanding qualities. There are far too many to go through now, so I have just picked a couple.

She was a glass half-full and happy and cheerful person. She did not have an easy life and faced many challenges that would have embittered many other people. But she remained ever optimistic and always incredibly grateful for what she felt was her blessed life. She woke up every day thanking God for how fortunate she was and for giving her another day.

She smiled a lot and was interested in everyone she met. She made everyone feel that they were important to her and was so generous with her time and attention.

She had the most amazing memory, remembering just about everything from her long life and was definitely the person you would want to have on your supper quiz team. Facts, figures, birthdays, her friend’s grandchildren’s birthdays, telephone numbers, the lyrics of every musical she had ever seen, just about everything in fact. And she was always coming up with newly remembered things that I had never heard before. Just one example. Last year I told her that we were going to see South Pacific at Saddlers Wells. “Oh yes,” she said, “that’s in Rosebury Avenue, isn’t it? When I was twelve, we had a school trip there and I saw Charles Laughton and his wife, Elsa Lanchester there in The Tempest.” She had waited sixty three years to tell me this. (For those who do not know, Charles Laughton was the most famous English actor of his generation).

they refused to believe that my Mum’s totally neat and perfect written records could be anything other than fakes

She was incredibly neat, ordered and well organised. In her flat, she knew where every document and every letter was kept. Talya was looking through some of her recipes, I think one for her delicious strudel, and her handwriting is just impeccable and the freehand layout looks like it was done on a spreadsheet. In fact, I remember her telling me that when the Inland Revenue looked at my Dad’s accounts, they demanded to see the originals as they refused to believe that my Mum’s totally neat and perfect written records could be anything other than fakes.

She exuded warmth and love and kindness to everyone. She was full of life and always happy to try new things and meet new people. We loved her company, and Grandma coming over was always a cause of great joy and excitement. She used to drive to us in her yellow Corolla, the “Dorismobile”, then, after she stopped driving, by train and then by me collecting her. She would never arrive empty-handed; there was always a box of halva or some other goodie. She was a central figure in our family life. All our friends, all the children’s friends knew her and our niece and nephews on Sharon’s side of the family always called her Grandma Doris.

She was totally devoted to and loved her family. She was with my Dad for thirty years and without him for forty five and she loved him every one of those days.

she was definitely one of life’s givers

She used to tell me that there are two types of people in the world: givers and takers and she was definitely one of life’s givers. She was one of the most generous people ever, not only financially from the little she had but giving of her time and giving of her love and attention.

Last year we had the most wonderful time with her as we celebrated her centenary. She was on absolute top form as she held court guiding us round her old neighbourhood where she could remember every street name and every bus route. We were all so privileged.

She has left us all with an example of how to live a good life and how to count your blessings which we will treasure forever. It is really us who were blessed by having her.

I would like to thank the wonderful staff at Whipps Cross Hospital who made Mum’s final journey so comfortable, and also to mention her friends at her home in Westminster Court where she was the longest residing resident, especially her one hundred and four year old bestie, Dora, to whom she spoke every single day.

For many years now I have come here every year with Mum to visit Dad’s and David’s graves. Mum always joked that, provided she got to leave the grounds, she was OK. Neither of us ever said it but we both knew that one day we would come here together but only one of us would be leaving, and that day is today.

Goodbye Mum. We all love you very much. God bless.

02
Words by
Adrian Mullish Son

I will try and keep the length of this down, unlike the levoyah where, I believe, I spoke for about forty five minutes. The problem is that Mum had such a long life, there is a lot of material to fit in. Those who were there this morning will have to forgive me for any repetition.

When you lose a parent early in life, as I did, you then spend the next few years waiting for the other parent to die. I waited and waited, year after year, until it eventually became apparent that Mum was never going to die and was probably immortal. She was like the Duracell bunny and just kept going on and on, until the battery pack eventually ran out a few days ago.

A bright girl who really would have liked to be a doctor

Mum was born in 1922 to Joe and Annie Pollock in Stoke Newington. They lived in a ground floor flat where she shared a bedroom with one of her grandmothers. Joined three years later by her younger brother, my Uncle Ivor, she seemed to have had a very happy, if poor, childhood. When she was ten they moved to a larger council flat in Stamford Hill where she spent her teenage years. A bright girl who really would have liked to be a doctor, she had to leave school before her fourteenth birthday, despite her headteacher’s protests to her parents that they were removing his brightest pupil, as it was expected that she would get a job and work. She found work in a manufacturing company in Old Street and put herself through evening classes to develop her skills. Within a few years she could turn her hand to any role within the firm. She had a close and loving family, including cousins that she remained close to all her life.

(For those who are interested, she worked at H J Wallis, 41-45 Old Street, EC1 – of course, Mum never forgot the address.)

I am not going to repeat giving the story of the various stages of her life.

Instead, tonight I just want to mention a few more of her qualities that made her so remarkable that I did not mention this morning. I went through her wonderful optimistic glass half-full outlook, and I spoke about her fantastic memory. Let us move on to some of her other wonderful qualities.

quietly determined

She was incredibly neat, ordered and well organised. In her flat, she knew where every document and every letter was kept. Talya was looking through some of her recipes, I think one for her delicious strudel, and her handwriting is just impeccable, and the freehand layout looks like it was done on a spreadsheet. In fact, I remember her telling me that when the Inland Revenue looked at my Dad’s accounts, they demanded to see the originals as they refused to believe that my Mum’s totally neat and perfect written records could be anything other than fakes.

She smiled a lot and was interested in everyone she met. So many people have told me that they loved talking to her as she could talk about anything and that she made them feel special in the attention she gave them.

She could do almost everything. She could cook, bake, sew, mend, knit, crochet, play bridge, keep accounts, and loved to watch and follow sport, especially tennis and snooker.

She was extremely quietly determined. She would not let things beat her. If it took a day to unscrew the tight top off a jar, that top would come off! I think it was this sense of determination and stubbornness that kept her going so long.

She had a sharp and sometimes wicked sense of humour. She never took anything too seriously and was always ready to pop pomposity. I think she has seen too many of life’s ups and downs to get too worked about many things.

Her family were her life

She would do anything for her family and her friends. Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Her family were her life. She was totally devoted to her grandchildren and their children, Benjamin, Hilary and baby Nathan, Joel and Daniela and baby Imogen, Talya and Joe and bump, and Rafi.

She was very close with certain aunts of mine, it is fair to say some of whom did not have the gentlest of tongues, but she was never one herself for treating anyone without the kindest of thoughts and actions.

In recent years, as she became more elderly, she was physically less able but stayed mentally as alert and vibrant as ever. She always had high expectations for herself. If she was unable to remember the name of a neighbour from when she was twelve, she was worried that she was losing her mind. But she never did. She developed tricks to help her remember unfamiliar names, like imagine for Imogen, her great granddaughter and bras for the braised beef she order from meals-on-wheels. She lived independently until only a few weeks ago, cooking for herself, occasionally setting the fire alarms off as she fried a batch of fishcakes, and requiring only the lightest of family support. I always joked that the only thing I had to do for her was change the lightbulbs as she could no longer stand on chairs. Up until Covid she was busy most days with social clubs, luncheon clubs and JACS.

She passed very peacefully, smiling and content up to the end.

She was proudly Jewish. Although not very religious, her Judaism went through her like the letters in a stick of rock.

My Mum traditionally signalled the end of every phone call with me with the following two words, which I will also use to signal that I have reached the end of what I wanted to say.

God bless.