11 February 2012

Posted by DMC on 13 February 2012 in Diary |

I want to dedicate this entry to my dear mother-in-law without any other trivia, personal or otherwise. I never knew either of my grandmothers, so Sprig as she was known to her friends, or Mums to my generation of the family, was the nearest thing I had to the real thing. She was always kind and loving towards me and I grew very fond of her.

Her funeral, a cremation, arranged by her two daughters, Alice Cato and Victoria Grand,and, as regular readers will know, was held in Cornwall, where she had been living with my sister and brother-in-law in her own granny flat-The Granary.

The Memorial Service (as I call it) to celebrate her life was given on Friday 10th of February. Of course,, to my sadness, I was not able to attend either service and therefore must rely on the snippets of information given to me by my family and what I could glean from the Service Sheet.

The front of the service sheet was set out as follows:

Service of Remembrance and

Thanksgiving for the Life of

Marjorie ‘Sprig’ Nanny-Wynn


The Church of St Cadfan, Tywyn

Friday, dated February, 2012

at 3.00 p.m.

Service conducted by Reverend Neil .Fairlamb

Organist: Gwenda Graham

( NB.’ Sprig’ ,.is the diminutive for sprigorn. A pet name given to her by her father, which means the smallest or youngest of the brood.. It is also an Irish word for a pixie who lives under a stone.)


The Order of Service Music and Prayers were selected by the two surviving daughters, Alice and Victoria)

The MUSIC ON ENTRY was Ave Verum the Corpus – Mozart

This was followed the WELCOME & BIDDING PRAYER and the opening HYMN

 Love divine, all loves excelling


Psalm 23

               Read by Chloe Volz (nee Cato) (Granddaughter)

Philippians 4:4-9

Read by William Garton Jones (Grandson)

Poem by Dylan Thomas

Read by France’s Grand ‘s Grandson)

These readings were followed by the HYMN

The day thou gavest, Lord is ended

Then followed the ADDRESSES

The first was given by Miles Wynn Cato (Grandson)


It is an honour to have been asked to make this address and I am very conscious of both the responsibility and the challenge of trying to encapsulate my grandmother’s long and full life in a few short minutes. My first encounter with her was in 1964 when I was a baby in South Africa. My parents had been involved in a bad car accident in which my mother had broken both her arms leaving her unable to hold me. Granny dropped everything and flew out to spend several weeks looking after me. Although of course I have no memory of her at that time, it was a characteristically selfless act. I last saw her in the autumn. As Kimberly and I were leaving Lower Amble Farm in Cornwall, where Granny spent the last years of her life so happily, she was sitting up in bed with a broad smile on her face. I am sure she knew that her life was drawing to an end, indeed I believe she was quite ready for it to do so but she exuded that air of profound peace and acceptance which can only come from having lived one of those all too rare lives in which the emphasis is on giving rather than taking.

Granny was born into a family deeply effected by war. Her father was an officer in the army and had been wounded in the first World War and her mother had turned to Christian Science in response to the losses she had suffered during that time. The philosophy of Christian Science is essentially that of living life through a lens of spirituality and with a profound consciousness of  God’s love. Although Granny was not strictly a Christian Scientist herself she loved God and revered the church and a fundamentally Christian approach was evident in her relationships with her family and friends throughout her life. As a mother and a grandmother her presence was one of dignity and reliability but also of gentleness, warmth and a very subtle humour. Her husband, my grandfather, was also born into a family profoundly effected by war. His father, who raised and commanded troops from here in Tywyn, had been severely wounded by a sniper in the Boer War and spent the rest of his adult life confined to a wheelchair and in pain.

My grandparents were married in 1936 and lived initially near Granny’s family in Sussex before moving to Merioneth permanently in the mid-1950’s. Of course, as newlyweds war was looming once again and, in common with so many of her generation, Granny was faced with the challenge of bringing up her children alone while her husband was abroad fighting. She also faced the challenge of finding her place in rural Wales, a very different world to the genteel Sussex of her childhood. After a brief spell living here in Tywyn followed by a couple of years at Cefn Camberth by the quarry at Tonfanau the young family moved into Llanfendigaid. It was in this period that the they were fortunate enough to establish a solid relationship with the Davies family, one which is still going strong after over fifty years. Stella Davies, ‘Bore da’ as she was known at Llanfendigaid, went on to work for my grandparents for many years and her daughters Olwen Roberts and Rosemary Lloyd Jones, as well as their husbands Arthur and Lemmy, have been a huge support to the family over all that time and my grandmother was extremely fond of them all.

It is easy to forget in this changed world that when my grandparents moved into Llanfendigaid it was just the rump of what only a generation before had been one of the most extensive landed estates in Merioneth, and that the Nanney-Wynn and Kirkby families had been a major presence in this county for hundreds of years. While their role was greatly diminished by the break up and sale of almost the entire estate, for an Englishwoman to take her place in such deeply rooted family at this time undoubtedly required considerable strength of character and self-confidence. Granny succeeded admirably in fulfilling this role in the most dignified way. While pomposity and snobbery were utterly alien to her, she was always respectful of the dynastic symbolism that Llanfendigaid took on for many members of the extended family once the other parts of the estates had been sold. She always recognised how fortunate she was to live in such a beautiful and historic place but it was first and foremost her home and somewhere she loved.

Granny was a countrywoman through and through. As a girl she was passionate about hunting and her love of animals remained with her throughout her life. Perhaps her greatest and most enduring enthusiasm was for gardening and the gardens at Llanfendigaid flourished under her care. It was entirely natural to her to make her home a place of warmth, welcome and hospitality in the best Welsh tradition, much to the benefit of her numerous grandchildren. On a wider stage, she and my grandfather were deeply conscious of the family’s historically good relationship with their tenants and they always had the highest regard for the Roberts family who farmed, and still farm, Llanfendigaid, as well as a deep respect for the very considerable challenges facing all livestock farmers in north Wales. Their dealings with Mair and Dafydd Roberts were always informed by a strong sense of duty, as well as a sincere friendship, and nothing would have been more important to them than for this relationship to continue in the same honourable vein.

Thirty years ago Granny faced her greatest test when tragedy struck and she lost her husband and eldest daughter Mary in quick succession. Her dignity shone through in the hardest of circumstances, undoubtedly bolstered by her strong Christian faith. With very little interest in spending money on herself she directed her resources generously and, amongst other things, gave considerable financial support to the fabric of St Mary’s church in Rhoslefain. This place, where her husband and many other members of the family are buried, and where she will be interred later this afternoon, meant a great deal to her and she was always grateful to know that it was so well looked after by the churchwarden Olwen Roberts together with her husband Arthur who continues, even following the great blow of its closure, to maintain the churchyard so well.

In the dark days following her double bereavement, Granny moved to Aberdyfi and another stage of her life began. Living in a village within walking distance of shops, and with beautiful views over the Dyfi estuary and the sea, turned out to be a very positive move for her. She made some wonderful and supportive new friends – none more so than her neighbour in Penhelig Terrace, Myra Haylar, who showed her such kindness over many years. In my grandfather’s absence, other friendships took on a new importance to her such as that of her trustee Rosemary Hobbs who was a regular and always welcome visitor to Penhelig. Granny’s widowhood was a long one but there were many happy times, particularly the travels she undertook with her daughters which are remembered as times of fun and during which her natural interests in many different things were given new life. This period was also one in which she developed her relationships with the various charities she supported such as the Girl Guides and the NSPCC. With so many of her family having been in the army it was only natural for her to be drawn to the British Legion and she had the honour to serve as President of the Women’s Branch of the Legion in Merioneth – a fact which it is gratifying to see acknowledged by the Legions’ presence here today.

Latterly came Granny’s final move, to Cornwall to live with her youngest daughter Victoria and her husband Laurence. It is hard to imagine that anyone could have been better cared for or loved in their last years and indeed those of you who know my aunt, and also my mother, will know that Granny’s ethos of selflessness and service to others was undoubtedly passed onto her own children.

How can I sum my grandmother Sprig up? She was full of love – for her family, for her many friends, for her Queen and for her country. She was a deeply traditional woman but one who was never afraid to voice her own opinions and hold own beliefs. She was a woman of high principles – a stranger to greed, to selfishness, to pomposity and to vulgarity. Her behaviour was always rooted in humility, fairness, decency and respect. The outcome of living such a life is plain to see amongst the many of us gathered here to remember her today – a sincere respect and indeed love for a woman whom we were all fortunate to have known.

I would like to conclude my address by reciting a few words I have written about Granny in Welsh. One of the blessings of having Sprig as a grandmother was that she always took such an interest in her numerous grandchildrens’ multifarious activities. In the graveyard here at St Cadfan’s is a tombstone erected in 1774 to a harpist called Hugh Ellis who had been drowned in the Dysinni. On it is inscribed some verses composed by his patron William Nanney Wynn. Although these are in English Nanney Wynn was described by contemporaries as having a radical understanding of his mother tongue. However, in common with many landed families in Wales our command of the language declined dramatically the 19thc. My grandfather was an enthusiastic Welsh learner and I have been attempting to follow his example, albeit slowly and fitfully in London where good lessons are surprisingly hard to find. Granny always encouraged me and I know she would have wanted me to have swallowed my pride and risk practising here today a little of what I have learned.

(Miles concluded his address, much to the delight of the Welsh present, with the following which he had written and translated and delivered in Welsh)

Cafodd hi ei geni yn Lloegr, ond daeth ei chalon i Gymru yn fuan

Cafodd hi ei chroesawu gan eneidiau’r rhai aeth o’r blaen

Darganfu hi hedd rhwng y caeau ac y mynyddoedd

A roedd hi’n caru y mor mawr wrth ei drws

Cofiwch y fenyw hon gyda’r ei wyneb siriol

Cofiwch y fenyw hon gyda ei ysbryd da a chryf

Bu farw hi yn Lloegr, ond bydd ei chalon ym Meirionydd am byth,

bydd ei chalon ym Merioionydd am byth…..

She was born in England but her heart soon came to Wales

She was welcomed the spirits of those who had gone before

She found peace among the fields and the mountains

And she loved the great sea at her door

Remember this woman with her smiling face

Remember this woman with her spirit good and strong

She died in England but her heart will forever be in Merioneth,

her heart will forever be in Merioneth.


The second address was given by Victoria ground (Great Granddaughter)

The ADDRESSES were followed by PRAYERS

Then the HYMN

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer

Followed by the BLESSING


God be in my head

On the back page of the Service Sheet was a poem written ‘my lovely’


There is a part of you, a part of me

As calm, as distant as that summer sea;

A part as lonely as that once-shared beach

A place so loved, became a part of each.

Those endless hills, mist-ridden, open-free;

That perfect flower, that unforgotten tree. 

Evening skies through gentle crowds of pine

These, forever, part of your soul and mine

Alice Cato


One of the highlights of the service was a solo by Mair Roberts, wife of Dafydd Roberts, a former tenant of the Llanfendigaid estate. The congregation were highly privileged to hear Mair, who has a beautiful voice and who has been a winner on a number of occasions at various Eisteddfods.

I gather that the vicar, the Reverend Neil Fairlamb said some very nice things about Sprig and recounted how they met..

Finally, this invitation was included on the back of the service sheet


Members of the family wish to express their gratitude for your attendance at this service, and invite you to join them at Llanfendigaid (the family home) for tea


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