International Theatre Studio Marbella
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AnnShawThe I.T.S. President and Board are sad to have to tell you of the death of our Vice- President, Ann Shaw. Ann was one of our longest serving members, a regular actor and director of many of our productions.

At the service of celebration of her life on the 27 January 2012 her daughter Carol read an eulogy which you can read below. She will be missed so much by so many of our members.

Eulogy for Ann Shaw

I would like to share with you some of the extraordinary events in my mum’s life. She was quite a private person and many of you may not know any details of her life before she came to Spain in 1985.

She was born in Hope Hospital in Salford, Manchester and lived in Priory Avenue, very close to The Cliff, which was then the training ground of Manchester United and she was made of the same flair, grit and determination for which this team is rightly famous.

One of my mother’s earliest memories was sitting on her father’s shoulders on the terraces of the Stretford End at Old Trafford watching United play: something which remained a lifelong passion.

Sadly, as a young child, she suffered every winter in Manchester with bronchitis and in the winter of 1940 caught double pneumonia. The doctors said that a move to the South Coast was necessary, if she were to survive, for the fresh sea air, so the family moved to Worthing in Sussex in 1941, even though this was during the Second World War.

In 1947 she won a scholarship to Worthing High School, a girls Grammar School and did well at school. However, she left school at 15 and took a short hand, typing and book keeping course. Then she fell head over heels in love with my father and they got married and I was born the following year. It has to be said the marriage was not a great success and they finally parted company when I was about 4 and a half.

This was a very difficult situation for a woman with a young child in the 1950’s and employment opportunities were very limited, so she took live-in housekeeping jobs where she was able to take me with her. Eventually she went for a job as a housekeeper to a man with a teenage daughter whose wife had died. He was the owner of a sawmill and factory selling timber agricultural buildings, garden sheds and garden fencing nationwide.

He fell in love with her and they were married in 1960 and it seemed that it was a fairy tale ending. However, this particular fairy tale castle was built on sand. He had borrowed and mortgaged the business and the property to the hilt and all too soon he was declared bankrupt.

He was admitted to hospital with acute asthma and mum was left to pick up the pieces again and find a way to take care of me.

She had the book-keeping training and she looked for a way to save the company. However, the situation was hopeless and the Official Receiver decided to wind up the business.

She decided to take huge gamble and start a new company in rented premises in an old brewery in a neighbouring town, using some of the existing staff and buying the machinery she needed at the public sale. So Beta Fencing rose from the ashes of the bankrupt company.

She made a great success of it and the company went from strength to strength. In the beginning, she would do almost everything herself, including the book-keeping, the display advertising and slogans, the brochures and estimating for fencing erections after office hours. After tendering for off-cut timber from Portsmouth Dockyard, she would even drive the lorry down and fetch it herself and smile sweetly at the man on the weighbridge, if she came out with the lorry a little over weight. She worked tirelessly but she knew that to make the business secure, she needed to have her own premises.

There had been a private housing development very close to the brewery and a strip of land remained at the end undeveloped. It was known locally as Potter’s Flood and I can remember skating on it when it iced over in the winter.

She managed to buy this piece of land very cheaply in 1965 because they said no one would ever be able to build on it or get planning permission. People locally thought she was mad.

Coincidently, they were building the Horndean bypass, making a huge cutting through the chalk of the South Downs to do so. She managed to persuade the lorry drivers to tip their loads of chalk rubble on our swamp, instead of carrying on up to The Hogs Back near Guildford. They got a shorter journey to tip their loads and more profit and we got tonnes and tonnes of chalk tipped into our swamp. We also dumped all our waste timber, sawdust and even a boat - anything to soak up the water.

Eventually, she got heavy industrial planning permission and built a steel frame timber clad 2 storey sawmill with a floating concrete floor anchored to the steel frame, with piles driven down to a solid base. A road was built all the way through the site from one public road to the other, so the big timber wagons could bring in whole trees as well as 6 and 7 foot larch pit props.

There was a saw doctor’s shop and mechanics workshop at one end and a show garden at the other displaying all the fencing panels and sheds. In this garden was a single storey office building and car park. Underneath all the big saws on the ground floor of the saw mill were big pits designed to catch the sawdust and when we had too much rain they would start to fill with ground water!

Still it did cut down the fire risk!

Well, the buildings didn’t sink and I am sure that my very elegant, feminine mother had significant advantages dealing with the hard boiled, rough, country timber merchants. They were charmed. You could not imagine anyone less likely to be running a sawmill and haggling over the cubic price of timber when out looking at the oak before it was felled.

When I was 10 things had improved enough financially for us to book a Christmas cruise. It was advertised as a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ and certainly made a lasting impact on our lives. The ship was called the ‘Lakonia’ and was bound for the Canary Islands. We were at a tramps ball in the main ballroom one evening, 8 hours sailing away from Madeira when suddenly someone opened the doors and thick black oily smoke came billowing in.

The subsequent few hours were complete chaos. The crew were mostly Greek and the captain locked himself on the bridge, whilst the fire crew were drunk in the bar. Fire hoses didn’t work and whilst we made it to our boat stations, people were trying to get into any lifeboat. The entertainments director took charge and insisted that women and children only should be in the lifeboats. So we did manage to get in and they started to lower the boats.

Unfortunately, the maintenance of this ship left a lot to be desired and the davits for lowering the boats were all stuck up with paint. This meant that they had to hack at them with axes and they were lowered first one end and then the other. The boat before us tipped up so violently that all on board were spilled into the Atlantic.

Eventually we did get safely down and spent 8 hours in the life boat before we were picked up by a British cargo boat.

The first life boat picked up, which was motorised, contained 17 officers and 4 old ladies. 253 people lost their lives.

We had escaped with our lives but my mother had lost everything again. We had only the clothes we stood up in and the compensation was derisory. We still had each other and the home she had bought in 1961 with a local council mortgage but it must have been a terrible blow.

When I was 17, she and my step father separated and she was able to afford the time and money to have a social life for really the first time as an adult. She started to go horse racing, where she made many lifelong friends. Indeed, on the morning my daughter was born, after visiting me, she went off to meet with friends in a box at glorious Goodwood and backed a horse called ‘FlyBaby’, which came in a very long odds winner indeed. So long were the odds that the owner came up and gave her a bottle of champagne and because he couldn’t believe anyone had backed his horse!

Every year for many years she attended Royal Ascot, Goodwood and Cheltenham in a box with friends and was a founding member of the International Snooker League.

This was started by a group of friends in 1975, most of whom were members of the Eccentric Club in London and the ISL was formed to arrange a snooker tournament for friends to meet and compete and party for 10 days every year in a different country.

A committee of friends in each country undertakes to arrange the tournaments in turn. Tournaments have been hosted in the New York Athletic Club, Bermuda, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Chicago, Scotland, London and Ireland, to name only a few. My mother was only a social member but she hosted 2 tournaments here in Spain, almost single-handedly with the help of her great friend the late President Noel Miller-Cheevers.

She learnt to play Kaluki and with her terrific memory became a natural card player, taking on all the men who played seriously and sometimes playing head to head all night, because they didn’t want to stop while losing to a woman!

She was able to have a terrific social life at this time, went to balls at the Dorchester, the 21 Club, the White Elephant on the river, boxing bouts, professional snooker tournaments and knew many of the sportsmen personally but she always went straight back to work. She continued to run the business until 1985 when she sold up and retired to Spain.

She had friends all over the world with whom she kept in touch over decades and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of condolence from so many of them. We have here today, a dear friend who has flown from South Africa to be with us and many others who often for health reasons could not make it but sent their love and sympathy from Chicago, Florida, The Bahamas, England and South Africa.

She was a very special lady, always polite and gracious. I am proud to be her daughter and tell you a little of her life story today. She was a kind and loving mother and grandmother and a great friend to many. She had a tremendous capacity for work and play and never passed judgements on other people. She was passionate, intelligent, loyal, funny and very well read. She loved the theatre and doing the Saturday Times Jumbo cryptic crossword puzzle.

She took great pride in her appearance, even in the sawmill and looked much younger than her years, until her illness started 18 months ago. She was not a vain person but looked on it as a mark of respect to others to be looking her best. Even on the morning of her death she said, “Oh dear. My hair is such a mess!”

I have talked about my mum’s achievements and her extraordinary life, her sense of fun and the friends she has made around the world.

Fred Wallis will talk about her contribution to ITS Theatre Studio here in Spain but I would like to end with a poem written this week by my daughter, who unfortunately cannot be with us today. My mother was such a big part of my children’s lives that really she was like an extra parent to them. They called her Gaag because at the stage of saying Dada and Mama, my daughter couldn’t manage grandma.

This is her tribute:

Oh my Gaag I miss you even though I can't believe
you've gone away and all that's left for us to do is grieve

You won't be there at parties, no more the life and soul
You won't be playing cards and soundly beating one and all.

You'll never tell the story of the day that I was born
the horse called Fly Baby that you backed, for me, and won.

You'll never ask me when I plan to lose more weight again
You'll never laugh because I say it's far too bright in Spain

You'll never hold my hand and sing a silly bedtime song
or tell me that I'm being daft and jolly me along.

And when I'm tired and miserable and feeling all alone
I won't know that you're always there to listen on the phone

I know you've gone ahead of us to that far brighter shore
Where pain and fear and suffering can't touch you any more.

But oh my Gaag I miss you, and I really can't believe
you've gone away and all that's left for us to do is grieve.