Felicity means “celebration”.
Mum wanted this service to be a celebration of her life. And what a life it was. She packed so much into her 79 years.
I have chatted with Mum at length and sifted through hundreds of family photos from 1941 to date to add clarity to key moments throughout her life. There was plenty to celebrate and remember. Mum was a doer, not an observer, an activist for change for a better life not just for herself, but for us all. She had an indomitable spirit and a passion to make the world a better place.
She was considerate, compassionate, and caring and was a lioness who protected her children. Mum was born on 29 January 1941 in Windsor, England. She was the only child of Cyril William Gill and Phylis Evelyn Gill.
The family had lived in Jersey in the 1920’s and 30’s prior to the occupation. They evacuated to London prior to the occupation of Jersey and her mother Phyllis was pregnant with Mum during the London Blitz. Mum described herself as a war baby. Her earliest memory was of wartime explosions. Whilst heavily pregnant Phylis hid in underground tube stations with others civilians during the bombing raids and Mum’s father Cyril volunteered as a firefighter.
One day Phyllis emerged from the underground station to find their St Mary Abbots Court flat had been directly hit and there was nothing left but a hole and rubble. It was a difficult start in life. Mum like her parents was a fighter and she survived a traumatic pregnancy and was born a week after the destruction of their flat in the Princess Christian Nursing Home in Windsor.
Mum was fiercely ambitious and looked up to her father, Cyril, who achieved fame running for Great Britain in the 1928 Amsterdam Games and won and Olympic bronze medal in the 4×100 meter relay race.
No doubt he also inspired Mum as a talented dancer and musician being an understudy for London West End shows produced by Jack Buchanan. Mum had learnt to play the piano and her elegant white Bechstein baby grand took pride of place in the lounges of houses she lived in for the last 40 years of her life.
By the 1930’s her father Cyril had retired from both racing and the theatre and had become the general manager of the family’s hotel in Jersey, built by Mum’s maternal grandfather Robert Henry Miller in the late 1920’s.
Robert, a Jersey-man, returned to the Island after making his fortune building London properties, and built the 5 star Palace Hotel with 100 bedrooms and the only 50 meter Olympic Swimming Pool in the Island. The gates marked Palace Clos still exist to this day next to Tudor House on Bagatelle Road.
In 1939 Germans commandeered the hotel due to its central location and extensive facilities. When the family returned to Jersey in 1945 (when Mum was 4 years old) the hotel had been blown up – devastatingly just two months before the end of the occupation. Mum might well have become involved in its running had it not been destroyed.