Helena Dagleish nee Chapman (29 January 1904 - 11 April 2004)

Eulogy written and read by Teresa Ulyatt

19th April 2004


Mam was a lady strong in her faith.  She was also a very determined and strong willed person, but also very private on certain aspects of her life.  As most of you know Mam was born 100 years ago.  She was the youngest of 14 children only 6 of whom lived to adulthood – 4 girls and 2 boys and Mam being a meticulous record keeper had a list of all her brothers and sisters, their full names and the age of their deaths.  The boys who died in their infancy were aged between 12 days and 3 years.  Mam’s father died when she was 5 and when her mother died when Mam was 15 she went to live with her eldest sister, Kathleen.  Mam was a woman before her time.  At 16 in 1920 whilst working as a shorthand typist down Humber Street she was sent to France to learn the language.  Mind you she thought it was time to return to England after 6 months when the wife of the family she was staying with complained to her husband that he had taken Ella to the top of the Eiffel Tower but had never taken her.  One of the stories she told us about whilst working at the fruit merchants was witnessing the explosion and crash into the Humber of the R38 Airship in the 1920s.  Everyone in the area watching the spectacle was covered in soot from the burning wreckage.  When they returned into their offices they found all equipment and papers blackened.  I never knew that her real fluency of French came from her stay in France for about 2 years in her late 20s when trying a vocation with the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary in Sainte Foy lčs Lyon, but she found her true vocation when she married Dad in January 1936, a widower with 4 young children.  They went on to have five children.  Winifred, our youngest sister, died at the age of one in 1947.


Mam told us when she first got married she couldn’t boil an egg, but she must have learned quickly because she always managed to have substantial meals ready for us on time.  We never had to wait for our meals.   Mind you she’s certainly kept Dad waiting long enough for her to join him – 31 years is a long wait.  The war years were difficult.  Dad was a ship’s plater and therefore worked long and hard hours at the docks in east Hull repairing war damaged ships.  Mam stayed with him all the time.  In 1941 She calmly gave birth to Kathleen on the settee whilst bombs were dropping all around her – the midwife was in a panic.  When we were blasted out of Brindley Street (we were thankfully in our shelter at the time) we moved around.  At one time we lived in a holiday home near Flamborough.  Dad cycled to Bridlington each day, went by train to Paragon Station then cycled on to the docks on Hedon Road – that was hard.  We weren’t even safe there – a spare bomb was dropped in the field we had our home in following a raid over Hull docks.  Some of us were eventually evacuated.  Mam was a wiz with figures. She worked as a book-keeper until she was 70 and I have never seen a person add up so quickly – faster than on a calculator.   When we were small Mam worked from home as a book-keeper.  Do you remember going down Dock side to collect the account books after school each evening.  She never stopped working on the accounts until the books balanced to the last half-penny.  I wonder what she would have been like with a computer – I’ve a feeling she would have been a wiz at that too.  Mam showed us the value and management of money. She was an excellent manager in that respect.  We’ve even found lists of gas and electricity bills she had kept from the year dot.  Mam was always running.  In fact when she was walking we could never keep up with her.  She ran to the door when there was a knock as she didn’t like to keep people waiting.  She never wanted to put people out.  She was always worried that she was bothering people.  In fact that was why unknowingly to her family she applied and was accepted into St Catherine’s 25 years ago.  “I didn’t want to be a bother to anybody” she used to say.  Mam always had time for her neighbours wherever she lived.  In fact past neighbours from many years ago were at her 100 birthday celebrations.  Some are also here today.  She shared our air-raid shelter with neighbours who didn’t have one (it became very full).   Mam was always mothering lonely souls – if there was any young person having to live away from home our house was always an open door to them.  The one thing Mam did not master was driving.  Dad decided it would be useful if she learned to drive and one day put her in the driving seat.  It was a terrifying experience for the passengers as Mam tried to negotiate the winding, but thankfully empty, road from Withernsea.  She never attempted to get behind a steering wheel again.


When Dad had his first stroke in 1966 he had to stop driving. On the day of his second and fatal stroke in 1973 Mam and Dad were at my house for the day.  He seemed bright and cheerful.  He and Mam were laughing recalling how people had tried to stop them from marrying saying the marriage would never last.  Half an hour later he had a stroke and never spoke again.  In St Catherine’s Mam felt comfortable with that way of life.  This could have something to do with her life in France.  She joined in fully with the life there and her great joy was to be able to go to Mass each day.  Mind you she still continued with her organising.  She was always in the laundry and loved the afternoons playing whist.  Her forté was organising the hair appointments.  She prepared the room for the travelling hairdresser and went round the ladies making their appointments.  She even organised the purchase and payment of a professional hair drier.  These are fairly expensive so she persuaded several residents to club together to buy one.  In fact we have just found the list of contributors and the amount they each paid among her papers.  Now that’s organisation.  Whilst in St Catherine’s she still travelled a great deal.  She regularly visited her daughter, Kathleen, down south.  Went to France to visit her son and South Africa twice to see her sister Winnie (a Sister of Nazareth) - the second time in her mid-eighties.  Eventually she became more infirm until she could only venture out in a wheelchair.  Mam loved St Catherine’s and all the people who worked there.  They were so kind to her and nothing was too much trouble for them. 


The family wish to thank Sr Brendan and her staff.  They are a wonderful group of carers and as you can see Mam living until she was 100 is a sure sign of being well looked after.  Thank you Sr Brendan and staff from the bottom of our hearts for giving Mam such loving care.






100th birthday, Jan 2004, with her children

l to r: Josie, Ralph, Mary, Teresa, Margaret, Paul,

seated: Kathleen, Helena

90th birthday, Jan 1994




Northern cemetery, Chanterlands Ave



Take a look at Helena’s certificate from the Pope on reaching 100


Back to Helena Chapman family tree