My Mum and me.

“The love between a mother and daughter exists in a special place…where “always” always lasts and “forever” never goes away.” ~ Laurel Atherson.

The closeness of the relationship I had with my mother goes beyond words; it extends into the depths of feelings, emotions, and unconditional love, the likes of which I didn’t think could ever be repeated until I had children of my own.

When I gave birth to my first child, a son, I told my mother, “Now I understand how you feel about me”. I corrected that statement when my daughter was born, telling her “Now I really know how you feel about me!” The bond between a mother and daughter cannot be explained in words, only in feelings.

It’s been eighteen years since I last saw my mother, but she never really left me; she can’t. There’s an invisible golden thread that holds us together, for all eternity. A thread that can never be broken…

My mother was pure love … an indescribable love … a forever love.

Annie Mansfield, born Bredbury, Cheshire, England.

June 5, 1921 ~ August 30, 1993.

Annie on the left, with a school friend, 1933.

Annie was confused as a child, constantly wondering who all the men were in her house. Of course, she knew one of the men, her father, Walter Mansfield, but as for the others, she wasn’t sure. She knew them by name, and they would visit her home often. It wasn’t until she grew older that she understood the structure of the family she had been born into …

Annie was the eldest daughter born to Walter Mansfield and Edith Lillian Statham Potts Mansfield. Her younger sister, Edith, came along three years later.

Her father had previously been married to Martha Shaw and they had eight children. Martha passed away in 1915, and by the time Walter had married Edith, and Annie was born, Walter still had five surviving adult sons.

Annie on the right, with her friend, Lily, who remained a lifelong friend, taken 1935.

Her mother, Edith, had been married to John Lowe Potts, who had also passed away in 1915, leaving Edith with two young sons and a young daughter. With another two teenage boys in the house, it was little wonder that Annie felt surrounded by men. Annie adored her big sister Lily Potts (the only girl) and always had an understanding that Lily was her sister.

During the first ten years of Annie’s life, she vividly recalled the days she spent with her mother. She often reminisced about their regular trips to Yorkshire to visit family, and her carefree days playing on the Yorkshire Moors. She had no clue who the people were she visited in Yorkshire, all she knew was she was loved and safe when she was with her mother.

With the Mottershead family, 1942.

Her brothers lived nearby to her home and Annie remembered visiting her brother, Walter Mansfield, to collect newly killed chickens, which she carried home and was expected to prepare for cooking. In her older years, she would shudder at the recollection of plucking chickens!

She also vividly recalled the day she was christened, being dressed up in her “Sunday Best” and walking to the local St. Mark’s Church in Bredbury, situated next door to the school she attended, where her christening took place.

Annie is on the left, with her father and younger sister, Edith.

She had a particularly close relationship with one of her brothers, Bill Potts, a son from her mother’s first marriage. Bill joined the army and spent much of his time in India and he later moved from Cheshire to live in the south of England. During Bill’s travels, however, he and Annie constantly stayed in touch with one another.

When Annie’s mother took ill, she knew something was terribly wrong. There came a time when she was forbidden to go upstairs to spend time with her mother and was delighted one day when one of her brothers told her that he would take her upstairs to see her “Mam”, as she called her.

Annie, August 1943.

She hadn’t bargained on the sight of her mother, laying still and cold in the bed, and even though at ten years of age she did not understand the concept of death, she felt petrified. Annie later recalled the terror she felt and realised that she had run downstairs, even though she didn’t feel her feet hit the stairs, such was her freight.

Unfortunately, that was the day that Annie’s idyllic childhood ended. Whether through grief, or another emotion unknown to Annie, her father would often leave her alone at night, coming home in a state of drunken stupor, which he would have no recollection of the next day. Annie had also become cook and housekeeper for her father.

At age fourteen, Annie was invited by a friend, Harold Barton, to go to the local Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, on November 5, 1935, where they would eat treacle toffee, see the fireworks and keep warm by the huge bonfire. Harold introduced Annie to his cousin, Sam Mottershead, who had come from Manchester for the night. Sam and Annie were inseparable, from that night on.

On Sam’s bike, 1951. Annie never had a licence to drive.

Another huge blow hit Annie when two years later, she lost her beloved sister, Lily Potts, through complications of diabetes. Sam also had become great friends with Lily, and the two took her loss very hard.

By this time, living with her father had become unbearable for Annie. She told Sam of her misery and he questioned her in disbelief, as he had great respect for Annie’s father. Annie asked Sam to stay with her at home one night until her father arrived, to witness what she knew would happen.

True to form, her father arrived home, and in his drunken state, found no kind words for Annie, who apparently reminded him of her mother.

Annie and her daughter Annette, 1942.

Sam told Annie she should speak to his mother about boarding at their house. She remained living with the Mottershead family until after she and Sam were married, in 1939.

In 1941, with Sam in the army and overseas fighting during the Second World War and their first child on the way, Annie moved home to be with her ageing father.

Annie and Sam’s firstborn child, Annette Mottershead, was born on 16th February 1942, in the same room and bed in which Annie herself had been born twenty years earlier. The midwife had been called but didn’t arrive in time. Annette was born with only Annie’s seventeen-year-old sister Edith present at the birth.

The family in 1946.

Annette became a big sister when Christine was born in April 1945, during the same year Sam was discharged from the army. Sam had spent so much time away that when he finally came home for good, Annette didn’t realise that he was her daddy. When Annie told Annette to kiss Daddy goodnight, she followed her usual routine, which was for her to climb up onto a chair to kiss the photo of Daddy on the sideboard.

In June 1946, Annie and Sam’s third daughter, Vivien, arrived and in 1951, the family of five immigrated to Sydney, Australia.

Christine’s wedding dress and Joanne’s flower girl dress were both made by Annie.

When they arrived in Australia, one of the first purchases Annie made was a Pfaff sewing machine. She had been taught how to sew by her Auntie Lily, a sister of her mothers, and she made all the clothes for her three daughters using the sewing machine. When the girls were married, Annie made wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses and flower girl dresses, along with doing all of the catering for the weddings.

When Annie and Sam’s fourth daughter Joanne came along, Annie continued the tradition of sewing beautiful clothes for her to wear. As Joanne also showed an interest in learning to sew, Annie patiently spent hours teaching Joanne everything she knew about sewing, (between multiple cups of tea!) on her trusty Pfaff sewing machine.

A new dress for Joanne.

To this day, Joanne still has her mother’s one and only sewing machine bought in 1951.

After all the girls had left home and Sam and Annie had moved to the far north coast of New South Wales, Annie found more time to pursue her other interests, cake decorating and crochet.

Annie insisted she was a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Her family, however, knew Annie to be capable of any task she set her mind to. Annie underestimated her own abilities profusely!

Annie and Sam celebrated fifty years of marriage in 1989, with Golden Wedding Anniversary celebrations at the home of their daughter, Vivien. 

After the death of her own mother, while still a child herself, Annie lived what some people would regard as a hard life, but she never gave up pursuing her dreams. Her strength of character saw her conquer the most trying of times, as she continued to care for her family with love, strength and compassion when others might have given up the fight. Annie was the driving force in keeping her family happy and close, the one who everyone turned to if they needed a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen to their woes. Annie always had time for those she loved ~ always.

At the christening of granddaughter Emma, 1993.

Annie left us on Monday, August 30, 1993, but the family traditions she created during her lifetime have remained. Sam said the memory of his wife lived on, every time he looked into the eyes of one of their daughters.

Sam and Annie, 1962

“My mum is a never-ending song in my heart, of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.” ~ Graycie Harmon.