THERE were two long-term men in my mother’s life. The first was Burly Lyall, with whom she had two girls and a boy. He lived with us from time to time but I never liked him much as he could be a bit abrasive.
He came from Northwich and had a wife and child there; he was estranged from his wife, but not actually divorced. He would appear at odd times as he was a long distance lorry driver. I was quite young at the time – my half-sister Shirley was born when I was eight – and he would come and stay, disappear for days on end and then come back again. Mother had Peter and June quite quickly after that, and I think it was always assumed that Burly would settle down with her. But he never took steps to divorce his wife and in the end my mother had enough and threw him out.
I feel more unkindly towards him now than I did then. At the time, I think I felt a bit sorry for him when she got rid, probably because he was the only man in our lives; important as Jack was to me, his visits were ad hoc. There may even have been the odd occasion when Burly showed me and the other kids something vaguely resembling paternal kindness, but he wasn’t around regularly enough to be considered a dad, although Peter always referred to him as such.
Later, after Burly died, my mother took up with George Butt, who worked nights in the newspaper industry. I think this was more of a platonic friendship, but he did look after her in later years. They lived together – sort of. He would work nights and sleep during the day then go back to work in the evening, as they would print overnight. I knew very little about him, apart from the fact that he’d occasionally turn up if I was working a local theatre or club and ask to borrow money, but he was good to her, as far as I knew.
MY mother died in 1971. She was found one morning by George, who had come back from work. She was usually up and would make his breakfast and things, and then he would go to bed for four or five hours, or however long he slept during the day. I think the cause of death was that old one, pneumonia. She was fifty-four.