In Memoriam

Eloise J.M. Buist JP

August 26th 1922 - December 4th 2011

Funeral : 16.12.11

♬ Cello Concerto in E minor – Elgar ♬

 We join our mother Eloise today not just to say goodbye to a mother, grandmother , great grandmother and a wonderful friend, but also to remember her life and celebrate it. Eloise was not a religious woman and in accordance with her wishes this will not be a religious ceremony, we will remember her long life and the moment of her death and we will provide time for all of you to remember her in your own way.  

Eloise was born on 26th August 1922, the eldest child of Bill and Eloise Millar. Her brother Willie was born three years later. She had an exceptionally happy childhood at Pettycur which became Willie’s home when granny came to live with us at Kingslea in 1961. The house is still owned by Helen, Willie’s wife.

Eloise attended the Park School In Glasgow where she learned a love of English its Grammar and its history, something she continuedto develop throughout her life. Her education there gave her a good base of a number of things that would be important for her later. Deductive reasoning, and logical assessment were strengths and she left with the well rounded character and depth of knowledge that allowed her to stand her ground in most situations, something I think that was, and remains, a firm bedrock of Scotland’s educational ethic. Something that she brought to each of her children too.

This was a time too when her love of music developed and grew, she learned to play the Cello and carried with her the scar of a poorly guided cello spike in her shins. She played the cello and piano whilst Willie played the violin accompanied by their mother. Music was in her soul and later would form a significant part of her life in Manchester with regular trips to the Halle where father often slept his way through the concerts that she enjoyed so much.

Eloise went to St Andrew’s university in September 1939 at the age of 17. So much  happened here. Long before our mother was born, her Mother was one of the first women to achieve an academic recognition from Scotland's oldest university, securing a Lady Literate of the Arts. Mother followed her there to pursue a course which covered English, French, German and Philosophy.

St Andrews had a special place in her heart, a small Scottish town on the east coast, with a strong community and traditions. William wore her gown when he was a student there, it now awaits another generation.

It was here that she met a man with whom love was to blossom and, along with its ups and downs, the marriage lasted 55 years. Mitchell was a physics undergraduate whose home town of Leven was some 10 miles or so from St Andrews and he travelled between by bus. On one such journey he met a middle aged Glaswegian lawyer with whom he struck up conversation. Some weeks later, filled with trepidation, Eloise took him to meet her Glaswegian lawyer father, and of course, here was the man on the bus. History doesn’t quite record the thoughts in all their minds at that moment. We can only speculate.

When he graduated Mitchell was directed by the war office to work in Manchester whilst Eloise went to work in the war office in Whitehall in 1942 whilst living with Mitchell’s Aunt Annie. Mum was not very communicative about this period in her life although we think she was in Logistics responsible for the movement of petrol across the country. She put these skills into practice throughout her marriage by ensuring that Mitchell paid for all her petrol and filled up the car. A not inconsiderable achievement in itself.

It is hard to look back on the London of the early 1940’s and contemplate the impact the war environment must have had on those who lived through it. It was pretty clear that these two young people would marry and so in Caxton Hall, Westminster, they married in 1944 with a short honeymoon in Cambridge. Eloise was 21 and said it was the perfect place to complete her emotional education. Her wedding photos show an apparently disapproving mother , this was not due to distress at the marriage but because she had broken a front tooth on a piece of toast as she ate her breakfast that morning. She spent the day clenching her lips unable to smile which caused merriment whenever the photos were looked at.

After their marriage they soon settled in Manchester, firstly in Northenden, then Heald Green where Eloise was born and Cheadle where Celia and William were born. It was in Cheadle that our parents made many of their long term friends, some of whom are with us today,  We all brought our parents much pride and joy, and we are equally sure much frustration at times too. In  September 1961 the family moved to Kingslea , Wilmslow to a house that we all loved. Eloise made that house a home for her Mother too, and maintained it in perfect order for 34 years. It might seem confusing to some that three Eloise’s lived in the same house, it wasn’t , the only person who called us all Eloise was my father and you could tell by his tone of voice who he was referring to. After Mitchell’s health deteriorated the decision was made to move somewhere smaller and more manageable. It was a sensible decision but one which was extremely difficult to make.

Eloise was immensely proud of her 6 grandchildren and was always interested in their many and varied achievements. She was delighted that two of them studied in her home town at Glasgow University. Much to  her delight Alexander married in the hall that she learned to dance in in Pollokshields. She was unable to attend any of their weddings but toasted them all with a whisky. She has been delighted by their successes and equally proud to be a great grandmother of Duncan and Brodie.

In 1966 Eloise was invited to join the Manchester bench as a Justice of the Peace and from there started a career of which she, and we, are rightfully proud. She took to it like a duck to water, it met so many of the things that she enjoyed, serving others, justice, balance, fairness, and more. She was good at it, and quickly became an important part of the life of Manchester, she was on the Juvenile Panel and was chairman of the Licencing committee  and during her tenure she was part of a decision that caused upset in Manchester’s night life when she and others closed the Hacienda club. She was a keen member of the Board of Visitors at Styal Prison ensuring that the prisoners had the opportunity for an independent voice when they needed it.

It all stopped on her 70th Birthday, not by her wishes but due to age restrictions. In many ways though this allowed her to make Mitchells last few years until his death in 1999 comfortable and very happy, even as he became weak and frail in his last couple of years of life.

At his funeral she said her goodbyes and we would like to do that again for them both in the same way, with the help of one of their favourites, Ella Fitzgerald

♬ Everytime we say goodbye ♬

For many years mum was a member and editor of two correspondence magazines, Rapunzel and Phoenix. Mum joined them in the late 1950’s using Abelard as her pseudonym. This was later to become the name of my father’s and my companies.

She continued her membership from that point onwards until her health prevented her doing so. These magazines enabled her to write regular letters to other correspondents about her life, her opinions , to discuss current issues and to collectively provide support to other members whilst receiving feedback in a round robin manner from the others. Once Mum was no longer able to participate fully Eloise continued the letters to maintain contact. These letters which are all archived will at some point provide us with further insight into her feelings, records of our childhood and her growing confidence in the world of court and social security tribunals which she chaired. In a letter sent to my sister Eloise after her death one member wrote:

I want you to know how much your mother meant to all of us, particularly to those like me who knew her on paper for half a century or more, and who (in my case) knew her personally as well.

As an editor she was firm, humorous and fair.   (That she was efficient as well need not be stressed!) As a friend she was supportive and not afraid to be challenging. I have no knowledge of her as a magistrate, but I know how highly respected she was in that sphere and will continue to be. I knew her as your mother when you, Celia and William were small, and she was the sort of mother I would crave for everyone - if only there had been Eloise Buist clones to bring up the impoverished, inadequate and ill-bred young people she had to cope with professionally. 

Her courage and patience through your father's death, and through your grandmother's later years, were wonderful to witness. And her hospitality was legendary. And above all she was a warm and lovely human being, who has left the world a better place than she found it. We were delighted to have a photograph of her in Phoenix a while ago, as self-respecting as ever, and as attractive in old age as she had been all along. She kept her indomitable spirit to the end - or at least until she needed it no longer and could leave graciously.

Dad’s death was a sadness for us all, and I know that for a while Mum’s life was confused. For so long she’d been his companion and she now had in many ways to start again. She did that in her usual indomitable spirit. She continued to travel and in particular to enjoy the comforts and beauty of cruising the Scottish Isles on her beloved Hebridean Princess where she met and made many friends. She always said it was “her boat first" referring to the two occasions when the Queen and the Princess Royal charted it.

In 2002, at her 80th Birthday (and the picture you have is taken on that day) she demonstrated that her organisational and entertainment skills were still strong. At Kingslea, when Dad was with ICI she developed a reputation for entertainment that really was legendary. It was a skill that never left her, and many times she mingled a mix of family and friends, colleagues from her time on the Manchester Bench and Dad’s business colleagues in ways and with results that others could never emulate. Her 80th was a fabulous affair, brilliant food, great champagne, and long and pleasant conversation. Exhausted and happy I suspect she slept a sound nights sleep but was up as usual the next morning.

For many years Mum was a member of the Caledonian Club in London. On St. Andrews day 2006 the Club opened a new extension and the Queen and Prince Philip attended. I had the honour of escorting my mother to the event and was delighted that the Queen chose to stop and exchange a few words with her. As she started to move on she looked at me and asked Mum if I was "your son?" - On confirmation the Queen said "Very good" to me and moved away.

I also recall in January 2007 she and I spend a highly amusing evening at their annual Burns night supper where she challenged the rules (didn’t she always) that restricted the member’s bar to men only.

Early in 2007 she had tests for what turned out to be atrial fibrillation often a precursor for a stroke. Treatment was to be organised but unfortunately the week before on the 24th Ma she suffered a severe and life changing stroke. Eloise had rung mum who said she was unwell and an ambulance was called when Eloise arrived. She was taken to Wythenshawe  hospital and then nine weeks later to Hazelmere nursing home and later to her final home at Sunrise in Mobberley. During her time in Hazelmere she met Cynthia Brooke and forged a friendship which was based on mutual need and an ability to make each other laugh. They then made the ultimate consumer decision to make the move to Sunrise of Mobberley in February 2010.

These years were not what she would have wanted. She often quoted these lines by Stevie Smith:

I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

 They reflected her sense of a loss of control, for whilst she was a gregarious social woman, she was also intensely private. Some aspects of her life that were just for her, were stripped away, along with a part of her dignity, with the stroke.

Having said that though, those years also included much joy and laughter, they included the birth of her first and second great grandchildren which gave her much pleasure. Whilst she was in the nursing home I visited as often as I could and Celia maintained daily contact via the phone with the occasional visit but it was made so much easier by the hard work and unceasing efforts of my sister Eloise who has washed and ironed, and visited and supported her through all that time whilst concluding her extraordinary career in Teaching. Like all good teachers she had an able assistant in Liz, who provided great back up for her as a visitor and additional washer woman. Without her my Mother would not have had the joy and happiness she had, and whilst at times that was hard to see looking forward we can all see the incredible impact that it did have. Eloise you have done more than anyone could ever ask, You were there when she had her stroke and there when her life ended and pretty much every day in between. I know I speak for mum as well as all the rest of the family, when I say ‘thank you’

Long before her stroke, and with the foresight that Mum always had, reflecting on her life - she scribbled a few words on a small pad of ship’s paper whilst travelling on the Hebridean Princess. Those lines were written with today in mind, for us to read to you. First I’d like to conclude today with a minute or so of quiet contemplation for us each to remember her in our own way. The next words you hear will be hers.

♬ Touch her soft lips and part. ♬

 “As we commit her body to the flames we think of her with the affection for the years she felt for us who are left behind. A clever intelligent woman - not perhaps in the mould of today but way ahead of her generation -  all sorts of faults of course – and fun.”

♬ Nimrod – Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations ♬




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