The Funeral of Rosemary Worsfold

09 December 2009

'Jerusalem' as from Brassed Off, CD (Jones, 1997, Track 10).


Just to say that the gown I am wearing is an example of the creativity and work of the one whom we remember today.

We are here to mark the passing and celebrate the life of Rosemary Worsfold, born on March 31 1924 and who died on November 27 2009, daughter of Charles and Dorothie Cartledge, and mother, grandmother and great-grandmother herself.

We sing 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' - Note: also in Brassed Off, CD (Jones, 1997, Track 16).


Let us have a moment of prayer of a kind Rosemary would have hopefully approved.

About the explosive hydrogen and helium at the origins of our cosmos, that in its unevenness cohered into stars and made the carbon from which all life comes, and displayed in all its fractal beauty, for which we are but one part, providing a thinking and speaking intelligence: let us remember that such cultured intelligence is packaged in very short lives for each one of us to make our own contribution, known perhaps only to a few, but always of unending potential. Like the flapping of the proverbial butterfly's wings that can be the final cause of a future weather system, what we do can spread, and grow, and spread and grow throughout the flexibility of our natural and thinking world. And what our mother, and grandmother, and great grandmother, did was good, sacrificially good, and ultimately good, for ask anyone who knew her, even briefly, and they can only respond with words of praise and appreciation. We know that biological life, like all evolved life, is faulty: its connections go wrong, and in its transience life falters as it decays, but what it can achieve was there in abundance in Rosemary, and for which we can only give thanks. Amen.

Now Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion singing 'The Prayer' from Sogno, CD (Bocelli, 2002, Track 2).


Our mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Rosemary Worsfold, was a sacrificial woman, who looked after the welfare of others before herself.

She combined the ordinary rationalist and the measured romanticist; in other words she made clear decisions for the benefit of others, and she had a deep love of beauty in people, nature, and in the expression of these. To understand her romanticism, think perhaps of the quality of classical music, but then as presented, say, by Richard Baker on BBC Radio Four's These You Have Loved. She loved the ordinary, as expounded by the likes of Alan Bennett and Joyce Grenfell. In other words, she was never highbrow but she knew what was right, believed it and she was clear thinking. She was an infants teacher who presented herself properly, and was focused on rearing all her children. She loved art, art that was crafted and popular, and she produced her own. She had a keen sense of place as well - particularly Hull and East Yorkshire, and going to New Holland was always an affordable substitute for Hull and East Yorkshire.

She had a keen sense of who and what mattered to her, and therefore of reciprocal justice for us and them, which could be at quite a cost to herself. She had a few, close friends, a number of whom went to live abroad, and then, of course, there was her family. When her husband, Roy Worsfold, died in June 2002, leaving his own biases, resentments and memories, she made that next month her own responsive adjustments for the sake of what she understood as reciprocal justice throughout the family.

There was her faith too. There is no doubt that the theological bedrock of rationality and romanticism in the Unitarian approach matched her own, particularly as it was presented over the years by the Reverend Ernest Penn in Hull. I took her there, into my own religious and social life, after the separation from her husband, because she was at a loss. She made this religious association her own.

Her rationality produced a strong surface presented to the world. I lived with my mother a long time, perhaps too long for my own sense of independence. I was also her friend, and saw the relationship as mutual, but I am open to criticism. And I often puzzled about my mother and her self-presentation, for example when she showed no direct outward sign of grief regarding the death of her sister in 2003. I think there was a price to pay for that, paid for by me and my own wife, because this misplaced self-control came when her dementia was beginning and as her personality was changing.

When she separated from my father I detected a released, deep down, snappiness towards him, and a frustration in general with her lot. In other words, she knew she did things for others, and she wondered what she received in return. As her dementia began, this is perhaps what we all saw emerge.

Dementia means that the person we know dies several times. It began with Rosemary earlier than we knew. As early as 2002 my mother went on obsessively about the squeaky bathroom floor or about holiday details, and such behaviour involved noted changes of mood. Transient Ischaemic Attacks or mini-strokes are often unnoticed, but each time they switch off a little bit of the brain. Behaviour alters as the brain adjusts, and the rationality that was so important for my mother became skewed. Her sequencing regarding planning meals, the days of the week, television schedules and money became impossible. At her last art classes starting in September 2004, the tutor said to me something was missing: a creative spark was lost. She had moments where she was lost in a supermarket, and was disorientated in the bathroom. She was angry with Elena and me after she had fallen out of bed while we were returning from Tuberous Sclerosis tests in Cambridge in September 2004, after which she was checked over, and despite preparations her Saturday food had been - chocolate. Deliberately passive Elena became her persistent target by that year, and I was constantly managing my mother. Yet in March 2006 she could still replace the car I had written off, and she enjoyed the whole buying experience, but go to October 2006 and we had obsessive behaviour about a locked front door, about where I was in the morning, her banging on the bathroom door with me inside, refusal to eat after saying she would, nor recognising a recipe that she'd eaten many times - and that was in one day. I was very pained when a holiday in which she had fallen, for which I facilitated her hospital stay in Cumbria and recovery after, and then took her back to Cumbria when mobile enough, was later declared as me being selfish. So I became my mother's target, the social services asking me how I ever coped, and then she was taken to live in Clowne, and then soon her daughter and granddaughter discovered variations of what Elena and I had experienced. Such is dementia.

This is not like a second childhood. A new day for a child is an expansion; for someone with dementia, the next day diminishes. Language continues but logic becomes twisted and frustrated. And yet, I want to say that dementia is still a form of life. There is: still communication, still a relationship and presence, still a comfort.

It was a privilege to be present as Rosemary made her last breath. She had perception of our presence, and no doubt comfort. On the Sunday immediately after, she was remembered within the Unitarian service and by a short speech by Marie Penn at the end. And, most peculiarly, the service included a reading of the poem attributed to Phyllis McCormack, Crabbit Old Woman, her apparent legacy to the world. It is too long to read it all, but I finish with her last four verses:

But inside this old carcass,
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years...
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes nurses,
Open and see...
Not a "Crabbit Old Woman,"
Look closer... see "Me".

Now our mother, grandmother and great grandmother is free at last of dementia, free to be beyond, but we remember the long life, the closeness, her service, her sacrifice, her justice and love, even when behind the agony. Amen.

So now it is also my privilege to make The Committal.

From fire we came, and to fire we may go, and so will that body that held and was Rosemary. We can say, with comfort and strength, that however she may be dispersed back into this universe that cradles us all, she will have been, and will be, a force for good and an example of life ever expanding. So we commit the body of Rosemary to the fire and light from whence all life originally came. Ashes go to ashes, dust becomes dust. Into this universe she has been, and into this universe she disperses, and let us say thank you and goodbye. Amen.

'Honest Decent Human Beings', Brassed Off (Jones, 1997, Track 18).


Alexander, C. F. (1848), 'All Things Bright And Beautiful', Hymns for Little Children, Hymn, Composed Markree Castle, Sligo, Ireland, Tunes: Monk, Royal Oak, Gerald, Greystone, with refrain.

Bocelli, A. (2002), Sogno, CD, Polydor.

Jones, T., Grimethope Colliery Brass Band, (1995), Brassed Off, CD, UK: BMG Classics/ USA: RCA Victor (1997).

McCormack, P. (attributed) (1960s?), 'Crabbit Old Woman', first appearing untitled and unattributed in Searle, C. (ed.) (1973), Elders, London: Reality Press.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful