‘Inspirational grandma lived with wisdom, fairness and a dry, infectious laugh’

My Grandma lived a tough life with pragmatism, love, a lot of laughs – and an overriding sense of fairness.

Like many women born before WW1 she was not brought up to expect her work to be paid.

The eldest of eight children, she was only 14 when her mother was taken into a mental health institution, where she died, cloaked in the secret shame of the time.

A child herself, Grandma was expected to – and did – bring up her brothers and sisters while her father was at work.

Later she met my fun, unconventional Grandpa, married and had two girls with him. She worked alongside him in his businesses and supported his decision – as a pacifist – to join up in WW2 as an ambulance driver.

While he was in North Africa she kept the business going, effectively as a single mum, and still ‘mother hen’ to her younger brothers.

Politically ahead of her time, she passed on to her own children that sense of fairness, to think for themselves. But it came at immense cost to herself.

This was in apartheid South Africa, and neither daughter felt they could stay under that regime.

Both left for the UK.

Grandma stayed on, even after Grandpa’s death, employing a leading local ANC member when many white neighbours did not, pushing for more more supplies for schools – and only rarely seeing her daughters, their families, and us.

I’m sorry she died before I could tell her what an inspiration she has been to me; the way she found her path with wisdom, fairness – and a nice dry, infectious laugh.