A damp Thursday 27th November, 2014, saw 26 villagers and friends from all over, meeting in Compton Church after the Rector had offered it as the best place for a gathering to remember Daphne Meller. Latterly in the care of the Old Parsonage, Otterbourne, Daphne had died on the morning of the 20th October, after an eventful life lasting 102 years and 6 months.
Our best bakers had lovingly provided delicious cake and buns, with hot coffee to ward off the chill of a winter that had finally arrived, before we took our seats in the “Old Church” to hear memories of her from those who had known her.
Nancy Emmerson held the occasion together, and our thoughts of Daphne were first focussed by Jenny Walmsley’s impromptu and beautiful reading of the vivid description of her grandmother, from a child’s point of view, which one of her granddaughters had written for the small family funeral she had wanted.
Wimpole, (her family’s nickname for her; even she couldn’t remember who had called her that first) came to live in Cherrycroft in 1975. Adrian Walmsley read out the obituary from the Hampshire Chronicle and filled in for us several of the key contributions she’d made to the village, which live on.
In the mid 1990s, Daphne had received an unexpected cheque from (we think) her Premium Bonds. It was typical of her that she should send it to Jean Millar to start the ball rolling for fundraising for the Parish Hall Centenary celebrations at the turn of the year 1996/97. Later, when we were fundraising for the new pavilion on the Memorial Playing Field, Daphne, by then about 90, responded with a generous donation which is commemorated on the wall of the pavilion’s clubroom.
The daughters of the Doctors’ Robinson from Drove Cottage, Carman’s Lane, Diana and Louise, had come from far away, and described playing with Daphne’s children in their previous home in Bishopstoke, before they then became Compton neighbours for many years. Val Gordon (left) remembered sharing lifts in her car to school with one of her daughters. Someone else had first encountered Daphne on a family holiday in Eastbourne, when, acting as matron, she had soothed the wounds and dried the tears of a small boy, (now in his fifties).
Mary Shaw, (one of the bakers) first knew Daphne’s husband, Dr Harry Meller, when she worked as his nurse in Lyndhurst, and she spoke warmly of his respect and consideration of his staff, unusual in those days. Daphne was cruelly widowed when Harry died of cancer in his fifties.
Others recalled Daphne in her role as sacristan within All Saints’ Church, and there were memories from Mary Hinton and John Harrison (right) of her as a long-serving member of the choir and the Compton and Shawford Singers.
Ideally living just across the road from All Saints school, she served as School Secretary for many years. Jackie Shipster, a one-time member with Daphne of the Fellowship Committee providing monthly tea and coffee in the Church, enthused about the delightful miniature stories that Daphne created for the All Saints children who walked past her pavement window every day, and how the children had celebrated her 90th birthday with loud singing outside the house, and showering it with 90 balloons.
Daphne was keen to celebrate the millennium and initiated another phase of the Kneeler Project and for some time Cherrycroft was the store house for materials, and the meeting place of the embroiderers. Typically self-effacing, she herself did not want her initials to be embroidered!
She was always keen to offer hospitality at Cherrycroft, and a mass trek over the road for welcome refreshment in her home would frequently happen at the end of concerts and special services in the church.
Joy Howe Clark spoke very fondly of her long-lasting friendship with Daphne, which had begun when Joy first moved to the village, and Daphne had made sure she was introduced to all sorts of people and activities.
Several members of the Winchester Wives Fellowship had come to share their memories and paid their respects to one whose active mind and wide interests took her further afield.
Many others, including her close neighbours, Jeny and Tony Cave-Penny, weren’t able to come on the 27th November, so sent fond messages. Memories being shared amongst those of us in the church, filled out the individual friendships of the Daphne that each of us cherished, and made us ever more conscious of a life richly-lived by one who touched the lives of many.
The gathering ended with Nancy’s prayer of thanksgiving for Daphne’s life, and a trust that she will Rest in Peace, before the Rector spoke the fine words by John Donne and gave his Blessing:
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening
into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion,
world without end.
Finally, a recording of the pure summer notes of a blackbird interweaved with a piano, sang out Daphne’s love of her birds, and her home in Compton. We value and honour her.
An abbreviated version of this report by Nancy Emmerson and Jackie Shipster was printed in the January 2015 Parish magazine.