The article below is the one read at the funeral service for my Mother Joyce Mullins (nee Crabb) who passed away 24th September 2015 and was buried in Sydling St Nicholas on the 8th October 2015
Tribute to Joyce Mullins
read by Mary Davys
Joyce would always greet people with a beaming smile and a twinkle in her blue eyes. She loved company, and with that in mind, Alan and the girls would like to thank you all for coming to celebrate her life. The many cards and wishes they have received have been a comfort and are a tribute to this well-loved woman.
We all know Joyce in different ways and have our own special memories. Here are a few you may not know.
Joyce Crabb was born on 5th May 1929 in South View Farm house, next door to the Greyhound, here in Sydling. She was the youngest daughter of James and Nellie Crabb and had one sibling, her sister Irene.
Her father James was a farmer and carrier, renting South View Farm from Winchester College and running the regular bus service from Sydling to Dorchester.
Joyce grew up in the village, attending the local school and she passed her eleven plus to attend the Girls Grammar school in Dorchester, known locally as the “Green School” after the uniform colour. This left her with a lifelong aversion to green clothes. Getting to school each day involved cycling the three and a half miles from the village down to Grimstone to catch the Dorchester train, followed by a mile walk from Dorchester station. Many adventures and misadventures occurred during this time. On one occasion she and her best friend May Gifford, walked along the narrow ledge on the outside of the Grimstone viaduct, probably 30 feet above the road, just because they didn’t want to be out done by the local boys.
Joyce enjoyed school and worked hard, gaining the qualifications needed to go to Teacher training college. She headed off to Brighton with her trunk on the train from Dorchester. Brighton was very different to Sydling, but she always loved the sea and the opportunity to spend time there was very special. Joyce was always good fun and made many firm friends who kept in contact with her over the years. Adventures continued, including being in London on VJ day, which was apparently a “Wild Night”.
Returning to Sydling, a qualified teacher, Joyce got a position in the village school, which she had attended not so many years before.
While cycling back to Sydling one evening from Grimstone, it was suggested she hang onto the hand of a passenger on Jack Bungay’s motorcycle. This resulted in lots of bruises and cuts and a finger which was permanently bent. She went to school the next day wrapped up in a large number of bandages, much to the amusement of her pupils
Joyce’s father James died in 1951, but they kept the farm on, with Nellie, Rene and Joyce working it. Joyce would milk the cows in the morning, before heading off for a full days teaching. Her salary helped to cover the rent on the farm.
In 1952, she started going out with a younger man, Alan, who lived up at Marrs Cross. They first met when he knocked on the door job hunting a few years before. For much of their courtship Alan was in the army, but they went to the “old time” dances and Young Farmers events whenever he was on leave.
Finally in 1955 with Alan out of the army, they married here in Sydling Church on the May 30th. Joyce carrying a bouquet containing roses and the Lily of the valley she adored.
The papers reports of the marriage included headlines, such as “School Teacher weds”, Boys club leader weds, WI Secretary weds. Joyce always epitomised the saying “need something done, ask a busy person”. Poor Alan did not get many mentions in the papers, and even the wedding cars forgot to collect him, having both raced to pick up Joyce.
After a honeymoon in Torquay, Alan and Joyce started married life, living in some of the rooms in South View. A couple of years later however Winchester college became keen to release the farm to new tenants, so the Mullins’s and Crabbs were grudgingly offered another house, a former pub. “Hit or Miss”, so called as sometime the local Hunt stopped there and sometimes they didn’t, was in a state and lifting floorboards created wafts of stale beer to float up into the air.
When Nellie died in February of 1962 it was time to move on. Towards the end of the year Joyce was offered a post in Ilminster, so the search was on to find a house they could afford which would suit Alan, Joyce and Rene and provide growing space for any new arrivals plus the dog, two cats and 70 chicken, some things don’t change. They finally settled on an Edwardian villa in need of significant work, which became Joyce and Alan’s home for fifty two years, Glenwood House.
In 1970 I joined the staff of Ilminster first school. Joyce was deputy head there; she was a great support to me and to the other staff. She was responsible for the reception class and they adored her. She was a brilliant teacher, although I only taught with Joyce for less than one year we always remained friends. That was Joyce, once you knew her you made a friend for life.
Sadly Joyce and Alan lost a baby boy in 1959 but Jane arrived in 1964 and Jeannette in 1970. Joyce always made sure the girls had everything they needed, while ensuring they did not get everything they wanted. So for example no Pony for Jane, but weekly riding lessons instead.
Glenwood was always busy, there were few weekends which did not either have someone coming or the family would be out visiting. People coming to Glenwood knew there would be plenty of food and a warm welcome to all, one young boy describing the food to his Grandmother said “Aunty Joyce’s table groaned. The home-made scotch eggs were delicious and lime cream whip, Somerset apple cake and baked Alaska were specialities.
Then of course there were the parties. Parties could be held for many reasons and one of the infamous ones was the garage warming party. Much merriment was had and it was discovered it was very difficult to play Table Tennis with a stone. Many guests leaving in the small hours, also discovered that partying on the edge of the Somerset levels means if the floods are up it can be difficult to get home.
After many happy years teaching in Ilminster, Joyce was appointed head at Kingsbury Primary school. She made many friends both on the Staff and among the parents. Headship in those days was an almost full time teaching job, with only one afternoon a week for administration. This was not enough and each evening Joyce would sit with one basket of Children’s work to mark and another of “paperwork” to process. Despite that she always made time to read a story to Jane and Jeannette at bedtime, even once they were both quite capable of reading to themselves.
Summer holidays were full of activities, the girls going to Guide camp or the family heading off to Cornwall, North Wales or somewhere else. Joyce even came to Switzerland with the guides, and Jane remembers her trying to encourage very sleepy guides, who had been on the bus for 36 hours, to walk up the hill to the Chalet.
The years passed by and when Jane married Stephen in 1986, Joyce and Alan gained their first son-in-law. Jane often laughs that they really adopted Stephen as a son.
Joyce retired in ‘91 just as Jeannette finished University. Not one to sit around, she re-joined the WI, volunteered at the Playgroup and helped found the Parrett Talk. This village magazine proved popular and she remained on the committee until very recently, chasing down sponsors and helping with proof reading. She joined patchwork and crafting clubs, planning her new social life with the same precision she had used to plan lessons over the previous forty years, though she never did finish the macramé lampshade in the loft. One of Joyce’s useful phrases was “Can you put that in the Loft?”, normally uttered when visitors where expected.
When Jeannette married Nick in 1999 they gained another much loved son-in-law. In 2005, Joyce got her best present ever when Jeannette and Nick presented her with her twin grandsons, Harry and Jacob. Joyce would say “such good boys”, “such wonderful boys”. She loved listening to them read and seeing what they achieved.
Over the years her physical health declined with arthritis of the spine and other problems making it difficult for her to get around, but she battled on, determined never to miss out on anything interesting. “Do you want to go to… ?” Was almost always followed by “Yes please”.
Joyce enjoyed visiting new places. So in 2011, Jane, Stephen, Alan and Joyce, at the age of 82, all set off on a cruise to Ireland. It turned out to be the first of many. Stephen and Alan became masters at manoeuvring her wheelchair around ships … though her grandsons never passed up the chance to give Grandma a hair raising ride.
Joyce was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She is missed.