Marion Dollow

Marion Dollow

08 February 1935
11 February 2024
Words by
Stuart Dollow Son

This is on behalf of Monty, Bernie, Graham’s and my family.

Whenever anyone mentions Mum to me, the words that you always hear are kind and giving. Mum was the most generous of souls, always wanting to do things for others. Like most Jewish mothers, food was her focus, always making sure everyone had enough. To the extent that no one was allowed to leave the house without something for the journey or something to take home with them.

I remember whenever we were going on holiday as children, we would leave home very early in the morning and drive through deserted London streets to a channel port with our smoked salmon sandwiches packed for the journey, to eat before we boarded the ferry. Even now I associate going away on holiday with individual packages carefully wrapped in tin foil, prepared the night before. That, plus bags of food packed in the footwells of the car for two weeks away made me believe for years that food was not readily available abroad.

never knowingly undercatered

Her preparedness was amazing, she was prepared for every eventuality. Unexpected visitors could easily be catered for from the chest freezer in the garage that was stocked with enough food to survive a nuclear war. Every visitor was welcomed with the news that the kettle had just boiled. A health warning that the water for the tea was always scalding should have been included as well, as she always held the kettle button down to be sure it had boiled properly.

At family events, Mum always had a great spread of food. The grandchildren described it as her regular spread, with starters of melon and tomato soup, salmon en croute as fresh as the freezer could provide, with over-boiled vegetables, and copious desserts including things like jelly, Swedish Glace and chocolate, all as far as the eye could see.

Mum was never knowingly undercatered. Second or third portions were always offered and if you paused even for a nanosecond it was too late. Her well practised swift serving action was universally followed by “It’s only light ….”.

Although Mum catered generously, she was perhaps not the greatest cook. I know Graham will share my memories of Mum’s weekly liver casseroles. These are the memories that stay with you, however hard I have tried to suppress them, and fish fingers will never be the same after she made them once for Josh. Don’t ask.

to see a tree that wasn’t in a park was quite a rare occurrence

Her levels of catering may have come from her upbringing during the war, being born in the East End. Living in the East End when war broke out, the family were rapidly evacuated to the countryside. This week I found a letter detailing her evacuation experiences, where she says,

“I was four and a half years old and I can remember saying goodbye to my father. With my mother, two sisters and two brothers, Bernie only being four weeks old, we were whisked away to some safe destination in the country on 3 September 1939.”

She adds, “I had never seen so many trees. Before then, to see a tree that wasn’t in a park was quite a rare occurrence.”

They initially lived in a cottage in a village but later moved to a barn that was next to the cow shed. All sleeping together, top to toe in the barn.

She also tells of a time that her father came to see them with an enormous bag of chocolate bars. He had emptied all of the slot machines at every railway station. It is only now that I finally understand why the fridge in Kenton was always full of chocolate bars, and why Mum decided to ration herself to only eating chocolate at the weekends. Obviously, her preparedness stretched to the next expected evacuation.

The clacking of the typewriter was often heard at home

Mum’s career was as a secretary and in office administration. She was rightly proud of her ‘one hundred and twenty words a minute’ and would regularly type things for friends and family. The clacking of the typewriter was often heard at home. She worked for many years at several companies during her working life, including the Furniture Timber and Allied Trades’ Union. I remember her saying that her dad would be very proud that she worked for a union as it would have been a cause close to his heart. She was always an organised employee, on time and of course, well prepared.

Her preparedness across her life was quite remarkable and pretty predictable, if at times infuriating. She would plan well in advance for birthdays and anniversaries. Turning up on the doorstep unannounced with cards, flowers and of course something sweet to eat. This was always prefaced with ‘we were in the area’ or ‘we were just passing’. Even though Mum and Dad lived in Kenton, and we lived in Chorleywood, we were never quite able to work out where she was meant to be going, to be ‘just passing’.

The sweet treats were invariably generous quantities of something the recipient had mentioned in conversation at some point that they quite liked. The result was that vast amounts would be provided at every opportunity, with the regular explanation, “Well, there was a buy one get one free offer on!”.

This was her way of showing her generosity and her love for the family. She especially loved being with the grandchildren. She was always interested in everything they did and would happily chat on the phone at any time.

The grandchildren used to count how many ‘buh bye, buh bye, buh byes’ they had at the end of every call. She always loved it when the children were running around the house, even if Dad was somewhat exhausted by it all. Esme tells me she used to try to trick her by setting off the kitchen timer, as it sounded exactly like the front doorbell, so she would have to go and check the front door each time, but even under such provocation she could never complain or get angry at her grandchildren.

I guess she always put the kettle on when the buzzer went off,just in case…

you just can’t take the East End out of the girl

And of course, if ever anyone in the family ever needed anything, she was always the most generous, being the first to volunteer Dad to help.

Mum was devoted to Dad, as he was to her, they had a long and happy marriage although not without the odd inevitable argument. What Mum lacked in stature, she more than made up for in steely determination and a rarely used, but pretty fiery temper. It just goes to show that you can take the girl out of the East End, but you just can’t take the East End out of the girl. But that was all part of Mum’s personality.

In her later years her Alzheimer’s robbed her and us, of much of this, the personality that made her our Mum and Nana. She was still in there though, making herself seen occasionally (I guess she was ‘just passing’) to show us her humour and warmth. Even as late as last year on Dad’s ninetieth birthday, I asked her if she would like another piece of cake. She gave me a cheeky smile and somewhat indignantly said, “Well I did ask for piece of lemon cake a while ago and haven’t had it yet”.

We will remember her as she was before the Alzheimer’s however, and it is these memories, especially those from from the grandchildren, that are so typical of our Mum, their Nana. When they shared their memories with me, they made me laugh with how Mum used to busy herself, making sure everyone had enough, and how it used to frustrate the hell out of us. It also made me cry at what we have lost, not just this week but over the last few years of her life.

together again

Mum’s devotion to Dad, even when she was incapacitated with dementia was clear. When he became ill just a few weeks ago and we brought him home for the last time, she smiled when she saw him back in the bed next to her. We know how happy he was to be with her, and she felt the same. It is so sad that she has gone so soon after Dad, and we are sure she knew something was missing in her life. We take some comfort by knowing she would only have wanted to be with him as soon as she could, so that they could be together again at peace.