|Birth: ||Dec. 31, 1909|
|Death: ||Sep. 3, 1983|
My aunt was the eldest of originally four children: two girls and two boys. However, one brother, called John, died from croup aged 2 years. Both her parents were from middle class families. Her father worked for his own father's well-known and respected family funeral business in Bristol as a skilful coffin maker. Her mother, who had lost her father at 18 years of age, was first a teacher and then a dressmaker. Due to Phyllis' grandfather paying low wages (though he resided in expensive houses himself) there was never much money in the home she grew up in. In fact, she could have been born many years earlier since her parents had married in 1897, twelve years before her actual birth. But her mother had a minor problem -- possibly of the womb -- for which she eventualy sought the assistance of a doctor.
Her first school was Hotwells Dowry National and then finally Merrywood High. She was an average pupil but loved education and teaching which she inherited from her mother. Because as a child she was tall and very slim her mother nicknamed her "long shanks". Most tragically, her mother was involved in a road accident as a pedestrian on December 17, 1923 and died, still in a coma, on December 19th aged just 44. This was the end of her youthful ambitions and of the loving homelife she had formerly known. Bitterly, she had to start work at 14 years of age and this was as a shop assistant serving bacon.
Soon her father re-married and was taking in lodgers, and it was one of these lodgers, John Watts, whom she became very fond of when she was 15. Although he was eighteen years her senior and a veteran from World War One he was a very decent and lively gentleman and promised an escape from her unhappy homelife. For economy they married at Christmas, 1930. On November 3, 1932 she gave birth to her only child, a boy, Roy Gordan. Her husband changed jobs from a van driver for a fish merchant to a chauffeur but the salary for both jobs was modest. In June 1938 they moved from a flat in Clifton to a house at 16 Charlton Road, Westbury-on-Trym where she would live for the rest of her life. By nature they were both somewhat spendthrifts and though she later worked too they were often short of money.
During the war, John worked at a subsidiary branch of an important aeroplane manufacturer sited at Filton, Bristol, whilst she undertook the simple task of checking recycled nuts and bolts for type and size in a nearby cricket hut along with other young wives for the war effort. She later recalled this period as the happiest of her life. At that time the area was still quite rural and experienced very little danger from bombing, though many incendiary devices fell there. On September 25, 1940 she witnessed the mass air raid on Filton from her garden underground air raid shelter.
In the immediate years after the war, John worked for an engineering company in Southmead Road which he cycled to and would stop his bike to wave from a distant road she could see from their bedroom. And she took a part-time job to help with their expenditure. Her husband had contracted rheumatic fever whilst laying injuried on a battle field duing the First World War and this had left his heart weakened. At about 1 am on the night of June 12, 1949 he died suddenly from a heart attack. She was left widowed at 39 and almost penniless. Thus Phyllis had a need to change her original part-time employment as a wages clerk at the National Dock Labour Board, Hotwells to full time and remained there until she retired.
Her son, who she wanted very much to be a teacher, had to first serve two years National Service in the army and spent time during the early 1950s at barracks situated at Catterick, England and later, Graz, Austria. She found life lonely except for her husband's dog, Olaf. She took solace by indulging in sweets which made her become overweight. Then her son returned and they lived together until his marriage in August, 1961.
As a young child, at the request of my aunt and because I was sorry for her dog, I would play with Olaf in the school summer holidays while she was at work as he was shut in her kitchen all day during the week. Olaf died suddenly from cancer aged 14 in 1962. This particularly upset me as the dog, a fairly large white and brown mongrel with a spaniel appearance, was so very grateful to be given freedom and with eyes glistening with tears would put both paws on my shoulders and lick my face. I have always fondly remembered him.
Her father died on November 15, 1962 aged 83 from a stroke. The following year her wish for grandchildren was realized when her first grandson, Roger, was born on November 17, 1963. Then, on September 29, 1968 her second grandson, Stephen, was born.
Phyllis retired in 1969. Her pastimes became cooking, knitting, decorating and belonging to the Henbury Townswomen's Guild of which she became chairman. She was excellent at all of these activities. Her cooking was traditionally English and superb. And her own favourite indulgences were turkish delight in a box without a chocolate coating, homemade strawberry trifle, jelly and pots of tea.
It was at that time when I had just finished school and was home that I would daily visit her. She only lived in the next house to my own. We became close friends and she gave me the impression from her shared confidences that she regarded me as another son. She was very generous to me at Christmas which was always her favourite time of the year. I undertook many jobs for her from kindness and fondness.
It was very apparent to me she had two deep loves: her mother and her late husband. There had been two offers of marriage but she would not consider them. She was sentimental and kept possessions of her husband such as a pipe and a razor for about 30 years. In fact on one occasion when she was on the top of a tall ladder by her garden shed she very nearly fell and thought she might be seriously injuried or killed but when she saw a shaft of light on her husband's old pipe through the window of the shed all fear left her and she felt very much uplifted and was able to stop herself falling.
Alas, at 69 years of age she developed severe arthritis, first in one hip and then the other. Very sadly this was the beginning of the end for her. After two hip replacement operations and too many prescribed medications she succumbed to senility. Her disposition changed from kindness to malice and her sister (my mother) and I stopped speaking to her. Her son and brother took advantage of her impaired circumstances for their selfish financial schemes so we isolated ourselves from them. She collapsed and died in her kitchen on her arrival home from a holiday in Weston-Super-Mare at 6:05 pm September 3, 1983 from a heart attack. She was 73.
Always very much a lady and highly sensitive to any criticism, she was surprisingly gifted practically and socially interesting in a superior manner. To me she was the perfect aunt and I always remember her as she had been before her last illness. I miss her greatly.
George Frederick Wood (1879 - 1962)
Kate Sanders Wood (1879 - 1923)
Harold Sydney Watts (1893 - 1949)*
Phyllis Kate Wood Watts (1909 - 1983)
Frances Alice Wood Purnell (1914 - 2012)*
Canford Cemetery and Crematorium
Bristol Unitary Authority
Maintained by: MPM77
Originally Created by: Timothy Purnell
Record added: Aug 26, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 41161576