Parish of Leatherhead - Celia Hamilton 1921-2018
and remembering John and Mary Hamilton


Celebrating the Life of

Celia Beatrice Hamilton

30.10.21 - 11.02.2018

Wednesday 7th March 2018, 4.15 p.m.

Order of Service
Conducted by Reverend Graham Osborne

“Fantasia on Greensleeves”
by Ralph Vaughan Williams


HYMN: Lord of All Hopefulness

2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1
Read by Angus Hamilton

Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from
the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to
himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching
more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to
the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting
away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our
light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal
glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what
is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we
have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built
by human hands.

Andrew Hamilton

Mum was born on 30th October 1921 in Windsor and 96 when she died.

One of the things that she hoped for was to reach a hundred and get a telegram from the Queen. I didn’t have the heart to say that telegrams were no longer in use and as Mum didn’t have a mobile phone, email address, Facebook or Twitter account, I’m not sure how the message would have been delivered!  It was always going to be a close run thing between the two of them as to which one would survive the longest. As Mum had 4½ years’ start over the Queen, the odds were that the Queen would be the winner of that race and so it proved.

Mum was a keen supporter of the Royal Family and the Queen in particular. In fact they shared very similar qualities: commitment to their vows in marriage, to their country and their community, their sense of duty and their sense of humour.

Her father, George Flegg, was born on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and worked there as a young man, before becoming a fireman and ultimately joining the Metropolitan Police, part of the Royal Protection Force, and the reason the Flegg family lived in Windsor when Mum was born.

Mum was the second daughter to George and Beatrice, her mother. Her elder sister, Florence, had been born two years’ earlier. As a little girl, Mum found Florence hard to pronounce, so she named her big sister  Bobbie. Bobbie called Mum, Bay. I still don’t know the reason why, but Bobbie and Bay they remained all their lives. They were the best of friends and great support for each other. I remember them calling each other on Sunday evenings for a catch up, even if it meant going out to find a telephone box with a pocket full of coins.

When George, Mum’s father, retired from the Police Force, the family returned to Gaywood, a suburb of King’s Lynn, and Mum attended the local Gaywood Council School, leaving aged 14 just before Christmas in 1935. The Head Teacher’s remarks on her final school report say, “She has done well and has been most useful as a prefect. Very reliable and painstaking in all she does. Exceedingly neat in bookwork.”

Cast out into the big wide world at 14, the neat bookwork got her a job as an assistant book-keeper at a hardware store in King’s Lynn, passing her exams in book-keeping with credit in 1939.

In the meantime her father had found the ideal retirement job as the gatekeeper to the castle at Castle Rising. The job came with tenancy of a brick and flint cottage by the castle entrance to which the family moved and remained in until Mum’s Mum and then Father died.

It may have looked chocolate box pretty but it was basic inside: no running water with the tap across the road, outside toilet and a coal fired range for cooking and heating, but they were happy.

Mum remained at home working in King’s Lynn during the early years of the war and the family survived pretty well. George was handy with a gun and their rations were supplemented with rabbit and the odd pheasant. Mum always enjoyed game, particularly pheasant, throughout her life.

As the War progressed Mum decided to do her bit for the War effort and enlisted into the WAAF. Again her book-keeping skills got her the role as a pay clerk. Life was not easy living and working in unheated Nissen huts on the Plain of York in winter. She moved to various Air Force bases but the best was the base near Cheltenham and Gloucester.

She made lots of friends in the WAAF, especially Joan Herd and Dorothy Ayrton and remained in touch with them long after the war had ended. Mum joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Association supporting the reunions and reliving those times. Mum liked the environment and atmosphere of the planes and airfields. This remained with her all her life, happy to see Concorde in the sky over Leatherhead. However, she didn’t fly in a plane until 1976 when she came out to visit me for the first time in Greece, where I was working. Needless to say she loved the experience.

Mum was demobbed from the WAAF in February 1947 and her Commanding Officer wrote “Very conscientious and hard working; Corporal Flegg has shown an aptitude for complicated work requiring patience and determination. Strongly recommended for any type of clerical work.” Back in civvies, Mum found work in the accounts department of Bourne and Hollingsworth, an Oxford Street department store. Mum lived in their staff quarters at Warwickshire House on Gower Street, again making friends. I particularly remember Muriel Farmer, who Mum said was amazing at numbers. Mum was no slouch when it came to figure work, so Muriel must have been quite something.

Whilst both were serving in the Metropolitan Police, George Flegg and William John (Jack) Hamilton, my father’s father, became friends, with their families knowing each other all their lives. Mum remembered them all as children roly-polying down the sides of the moat of the castle at Castle Rising.
After the war, Dad returned from his war service with the army in Burma and their relationship blossomed. They married in the Church at Castle Rising on 21st August 1948. My father had by then completed his degree at Balliol College, Oxford, his studies having been interrupted by the war, and took his first job as a classics teacher at Dulwich College. The bonus for the newly-weds was a house on the school estate. They both learned how to play Mahjong and they spent many a happy evening with colleagues and friends. It remains a favourite family game.

My sister, Mary, was born in November 1952 at King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill. As food rationing was still in operation at that time, Mum’s father used to send a dozen fresh eggs a week from Norfolk to Dulwich to improve the diet of both mother and child. The eggs were sent in a wooden box George had made, with internal sections covered with felt to protect the eggs on the journey. Mum continued to use that egg box even up to the time we moved to Leatherhead.

As Dad became more experienced, he moved first to St. Olave’s School in London and then, as Head of the Classics Department, to Liverpool Collegiate School. This meant a house move for Mum with a little girl 2½ years old and another baby on the way. Mum and Dad rented a house in Blundellsands, on the outskirts of Liverpool and on the banks of the Mersey. She wrote a postcard home, shortly after arriving, “It is delightful, rather like Dulwich without the hills and no bombed houses. We are five minutes’ walk from the beach and can see the sea from our top windows. Gradually getting settled.” That is pure Mum, positive.

I was born at home in December 1955 and for a while Mum had a house keeper, Margaret, to help her. I remember Mum saying that she found it quite lonely in Liverpool and, apart from meeting a few other Mums at Mary’s nursery school, she found it hard to make new friends. It was her mother who suggested the Mothers’ Union and Mum became a member on 19th June 1958. It certainly helped and Mum remained a member until her death, almost 60 years. I understand that today there would have been a regular meeting of the Leatherhead branch and that has been deferred to allow members to attend this service. Thank you.

In 1959, Dad was appointed Headmaster of Normanton Grammar School in West Yorkshire. This meant yet another house move to a large school house with open coal fires downstairs, coal-fired range in the kitchen and gas fires upstairs. Ice on the inside of the windows was a regular feature in the severe winters we experienced in the 1960s. Although at first Mum found it difficult being the Headmaster’s wife, a prominent position in a working town, with her gentle and caring nature she soon warmed to the task. Normanton was a mining town, the men were hard, the women harder, but Mum was a constant at home, the breakfast table laid before she went to bed, cooked breakfast for Dad, food ready when we got home, cakes or cherry buns, shortbread or oatcake for tea, muddy rugby kit washed and ready for the next day, unflustered when she had to provide meals at short notice, or formal meals for visiting dignitaries for speech days or special events, singing or whistling as she worked.

In Normanton, church became a central part of our lives: Dad read the lessons, Mum was in the Mother’s Union and on the Parish Council and I sang in the choir and rang the bells. It was at this time Mum was told of an opportunity to become part of the Church as a part time auxiliary and a Hospital Chaplain’s Assistant. As the role required Mum to make hospital visits, she needed to learn to drive, which she did, and passed her test first time at the age of 47. She completed her Church training and started work as a Chaplain’s Assistant at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

In the summer of 1970, the family came south and moved into a house in Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Dad taking up the position of Headmaster at Dorking Grammar School. Mum became the Chaplain’s Assistant at Dorking Hospital, which at that time specialized in hip replacement operations. When Dorking reduced in size, Mum continued her Assistant Chaplain’s role at Epsom General Hospital. Goodness knows over the years how many patients she met with that warm smile, listened to their concerns and fears, gave comfort and support, said prayers and blessings and left them feeling calm and prepared for their pending operation or their recuperation. Even if we had asked (we didn’t) she would never reveal anything of those meetings. It was no doubt part of her training, but also something that both Mum and her sister, Bobbie, learned from their policeman father.

Mum joined Leatherhead branch of The Mothers’ Union and took up country dancing, which she really loved. She joined the congregation at St. Mary and St. Nicholas, Leatherhead, serving on the Parish Council and Deanery Synod. She also attended the services at Leatherhead Hospital, many of which she lead.

It was whilst at Leatherhead that Mum learned of the sudden and premature death of her brother in law, Rex, at 59 and a few years later her beloved sister Bobbie at 66. I know Mum was a huge support to her three nieces, Jill, Ros and Isabel (Inkie), their husbands and families at that difficult time. Mum kept in regular contact with them all, never forgetting birthdays or Christmas.

In June 2007 my sister Mary died as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident and Dad followed a year or so later in November 2008, unable to cope with the loss of his daughter. This was a hard time for Mum, over the years she had been a constant support for them and, along with her patience and tender care, she had seen both of them through their respective issues.

However, for the last 10 years, our family have been able to enjoy Mum’s good humour, her interest in all that we have done, her joy at Jocelyn’s marriage to Matthew, Angus’ sporting and academic achievements and our animals. As for me, it was never a burden to go over and see her at weekends, or at any other time she needed help, take her to an appointment, get her shopping or sort out her pills.

Mum was glad to see me and grateful for whatever I did for her. Mum and I were kindred spirits, making each other laugh and mimicking the various dialects we picked up, especially Yorkshire. She was always happy for a cup of tea and a biscuit, Digestive preferably, a piece of cherry cake or a cherry bun. Inkie, her youngest niece, was also a regular visitor always ready to chat about Bobbie and the rest of her family in Norfolk.

Mum’s wish was that she remain in her home and that was achieved, until her final visit to hospital, by the help, kindness and support she received from her neighbours in Fairfield Road, especially Keith, Arlene and Mackenzie, who lived next door and lately Gill, who lives next door, the doctors and nurses at the Ashlea Medical Practice, Dr. Hagley in particular, the assistance provided by Home Instead, Epsom and their carers Lynda and Annie and last, but by no means least, the church and local community in Leatherhead who like a well-oiled machine scooped Mum up from home, wheeled her up the slope and into church and dropped her back after the service, the members of the Mother’s Union, the leaders of the bible reading groups, the stall holders at the Friday market and the team that provided the lunches at the Parish Hall on the second Sundays of the month. Thank you all.

Since Mum died, I have not met anyone who had a bad word to say about her. Without fail, all have remarked what a wonderful, kind and gracious lady she was. Her inner contentment and her resilience to adversity was astonishing, bouncing back from injuries sustained in a car accident, pneumonia and
infections and proud of her health.  She was not one to dwell on yesterday but to look forward to tomorrow and the future.

I will close now with Mum’s own words, which she wrote when she applied for the training course for her role in the Church:

“Firstly, I think I want to do this work as a thanksgiving and memorial to my parents’ lives. They have been a constant inspiration and guidance in my life;
although I have often been many miles from them, their Christian guidance and training in my early life has always been my mainstay. It is with joy, not sorrow, that I have seen two Christian lives completed, as they should be, in service to others.

Secondly, four years in the WAAF during the war taught me that the only way to survive temptations, hardship and sometimes suffering was to lead a Christian life. So many young people fell away because they just had not got the necessary qualities deeply inside them. It is only when one is thrust into strange circumstances that one knows the value of a sound Christian training.”

Mum closes by saying “It becomes more and more clear to me that women, properly trained to use their natural gifts to the best advantage, could do some very valuable work for the community.”

I think the world is slowly waking up to that last sentence.

Mum’s Christian life here is now complete. I hope the memory of her will remain an inspiration to you.

Read by Jocelyn Hamilton

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

THE PRAYERS including

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever,

HYMN: The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended




“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Andrew and family would like to thank everyone for coming today. After this service you are warmly invited to join the family for refreshments at Woodlands Park Hotel.
If you would like to make a donation in memory of Celia please make cheques payable to “Christian Aid” via L. Hawkins and Sons Ltd, Highlands Rd, Leatherhead KT22 8ND

see also Mary Hamilton

Frank Haslam writes: I well remember Celia and Mary writing in the parish magazine telling us about events in the Gambia, and Celia at meetings of a committee dealing with Missions chaired by Sandy Morris. She was part of our Christian Aid team of collectors. And as sidesman, the pleasure of greeting her, ever quietly smiling, as she was delivered to church by Chris Hodson.

Until very recently I had not 'joined up the dots' on the Hamilton family's interest in The Gambia - John Hamilton's wartime experiences in Africa and Burma were with men from that area. He wrote an invaluable account (War Bush: 81 (West African) Division in Burma 1943-1945, 2001) of the little recognised contribution made by them in Burma, itself a campaign fought by the 'Forgotten Army'.

Sue Roberts and Margaret Jones write: Celia was a member of our Bible Study Group, familiarly known as “the Monday Group”, from the start.
One of us would collect her and take her home afterwards. She always enjoyed riding around Leatherhead, particularly if we were picking up another member or two. She enjoyed the companionship in the Group, and working her way through the New Testament, or the seasonal course we were following. Her comment was always “A very interesting meeting”.
When we think of Celia we always remember her quiet, happy smile. And that is a memory that will remain with us.

If you have photos of Celia or a further remembrance to add, please contact Frank Haslam, the editor of these pages.
page added 18 Mar 18: updated 30 Mar 18

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