Joan Gertrude Botteley 1924-2011

I went to my aunt’s funeral last week…  and on the one hand it was a very sad occaision but on the other it was good to see my other aunts, uncles and cousins.

The image above I love of her!  She was in Trafalgar Square when this was taken and this pigeon just landed on her hand – a wonderfully caught moment.

My uncle Gerald (Joan’s brother) gave the tribute and I was so touched by it that I wanted to share it with you as my aunt was an amazing woman.  Many things I didn’t know about her and I am sure if she was a young woman now with greater opportunities she would have been formidable!

I am very proud and blessed to part of such a lovely family.



by Joan’s brother Gerald Botteley

Joan was the eldest of a family of 5 children and was born during quite affluent times to very musical parents. Later this changed as her father, a violin teacher, was badly affected by the depression and in the space of a few days it went from fifty pupils a week to just two and by then the family had grown. These were austere times indeed and probably laid the foundation for her lifelong affiliations to the Labour party, seeing and experiencing as she did, the effects of dire poverty at first hand.

However, it soon became apparent that Joan was no ordinary child, as even while still in her pram she could carry on a very adult conversation, astounding anyone who happened to stop by to smile at her. Also at that young age she became an avid reader and remained so all her life.

Joan was an extremely talented pianist and by the age of nine she could play from memory several Beethoven sonatas. She was also gifted academically with and IQ way above average and won an all expenses paid scholarship, on of the only two offered each year, to King Edwards High School for Girls where she excelled. Sadly around this time she afflicted with a medical condition that needed medication to be kept under control for the rest of her life, but being Joan, she didn’t allow this to stop her in her quest for fulfilment. During the war for instance, she was accepted into the ATS and worked in radar attached to a group known as Acc acc Beer beer where her main job was deciphering data which resulted in the positioning of anti aircraft guns in the south of England to the greatest possible effect, which did much to help to protect the country during those dark days. Despite everything, humorous moments abounded her truck drivers mate ‘The Mind Boogles’.

On the first occasion she recalls, Joan, a small lady, having tried unsuccessfully to gain entry into the cab of a huge Volvo F10, but then was eventually hoisted into place with a shoulder under her bottom much to everyone watching in amusement, then off they went. Stopping at a truck-stop on the way which was an entirely new experience for her being surrounded, as they were, by burley, heavily tattooed drivers washing down gallons of tea from half pint mugs. Amazingly Joan, for all her genteel ways, soon got into the swing of things and in no time was quaffing it down with the best of them remarking that this was the first time she had ever dined in the middle of a mobile art gallery. On another cold, windy and blustery occasion they were delivering a massive earth mover on a trailer to Sheerness docks in Kent. Arriving in the dead of night to find no signs of life. However, with small thanks to a highly disinterested watchman its destination was located, and after a quick lesson in the art of what was needed, Joan drenched to the skin, torch in hand was directing unloading operations with what can only be described as more by good luck than judgement when it came to the two of them ever surviving the operations.

With the mission, at last safely accomplished, Sandra jokingly asked an extremely wet, tired ad bedraggled drivers mate if she fancied a regular job. Joan said nothing, but possibly feeling that she had done more than enough towards helping the war effort for one day, celebrated her achievement by sleeping for most of the way home! Interestingly during the war, she was for a time seconded by the army to Dundee University where she completed a course in higher mathematics with distinction.

As a child she was painfully thin and her siblings all called her ‘Bones’, but years later her sister Margaret’s young daughter, being unable to perhaps to pronounce the word ‘Bones’, called her ‘BooBoo’, and so it was that forever. Afterwards she became known in family circles as ‘BooBoo’. After the war she applied for, and accepted onto a teachers training course, and was then granted with honours and went on to become a school teacher. It was here she found her true vocation. A job at which she was truley inspirational and enriching young lives by her expertise, encouragement and dedication. Ever wishing to expand her knowledge she joined a Ladies Freemasonry Lodge, making many friends and ultimately becoming a senior member of the craft contributing greatly to the ceremonies of the many degrees into which she was initiated by her knowledge of ritual and of course her involvement in Masonry, but nonetheless kept in touch with several brethren right until the end.

She for a while played the violin and was heavily involved in many educational committees and related organisations chairing many of them, and did her sterling work as a very active member of the NUT. Eventually being made an honorary member in recognition of her commitment. She had a keen eye for detail and her knitting needle work and embroidery were superb, as evidenced by the Queen’s visit to Birmingham some years ago to distribute Maundy money. When her Majesty knelt upon a kneeler that Joan had embroidered, it having been chosen by the committee set up for the purpose, as being the one most worthy of the occasion. Afterwards it was sent to London to form part of an exhibition of fine ecclesiastical embroidery.

Yes, she did indeed lead a full and active life and though she was not one to suffer fools gladly, would always go out of her way to help those with learning difficulties. Even on one occasion teaching herself to knit left handed so that she could show a left handed pupil how it was done. This being part of a strongly compassionate side to her nature that was at its best when she felt needed, as during the final days of her sister Margaret’s life when her nephew, Peter, recalls she was a tower strength to both her and the family, also caring and patient, he adds “in truth a loving sister”. She enjoyed going to concerts. Hardly missed a Times crossword, even winning the weekly prize on one occasion and loved travelling the world, particularly as a passenger on one of the great ocean going liners with her friend Val.

She never married, as the one great love of her life felt unable to commit himself and this at the time devastated her, to the extent that even many years later she had occasional moods of sadness during which she would come across as a very private person. Towards the end of Joan’s life she went almost completely blind and deaf, but faced up to these problems with the characteristics of bravery and fortitude, being ever hopeful that she would recover. But as we know, it was not to be.

To say that she was unique would be an understatement of her, for she was immensely talented and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved her.



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