Veronica Quirke


I was born Veronica Owens at number 70 Dunston Street in Hebburn on 23 March in the year of our lord 1915. I would have a long life, move to London, live through two world wars, have six children and die quietly in St. Mary’s hospital Paddington at the age of 90. In fact I was born a twin, my brother James Henry died in childhood. We were however a large Catholic family and Tom Willie Alec and John were among my brothers who survived to adult life as did my sisters Nelly, Kitty and Suzy.

My mum, born Elizabeth Veronica Trotter, had two husbands James Owens who was my father and Robert Jameson whom she married having lost her first husband in 1918 near the end of what we then termed the Great War. My father’s parents helped to bring me up and I spent as much time with then as with my own family. Mum was a tough old bird and went to work on the docks doing a man’s job. We would live for many years at 197 Cuthbert Street which was a small house with two main rooms and a scullery downstairs and two other rooms upstairs.

I went to St. Aloysius school in Hebburn and you can see an old photo of me and my classmates. That’s me on the top row third from left. They say I was a good pupil and I stayed there until the age of 16 when I passed my scholarship. I then went to work for Reyrolles in Hebburn. But at the age of 23 I left the North-East and went to London where I would spend most of the rest of my life.

I worked for Dr. Moore in a fashionable part of west London. In 1938, when I was still only 23, I met Andrew Quirke a man of 41 who was still married to, although separated from his wife. He came from Castlemaine in Ireland he had four boys Tom aged 17 Con 16 John 15 and Paddy 14. By 1939 our first child Veronica was born and in this same year another world war broke out. We lived in two places in Ladbroke Grove around that time one being number 187 but we were bombed out and in 1940 we moved to requisitioned property at number 58 Cambridge Gardens W.10. This was to be our neighbourhood where we lived and where I died. John Nodes funeral parlour just opposite Cambridge Gardens would take care of things after my death, which was on 28 April 2005 at 8:15 in the evening.

Our first son Andrew and our second daughter Patsy were born in 58 Cambridge Gardens. In 1944 Andrew was killed when a bomb landed on the hospital in which he was being treated for an ear infection. He was only two years old and I was 29. By 1946 we had found another place to live close by at number 54. Celia was born there in 1947 on 31 May. We lived with our three daughters on the two top floors of 54 Cambridge Gardens and in September 1950 we had our second son James named after my father, however we have always called him by his second name Barry. In 1954 our last child called Michael was born. He was my 6th child and my husband’s 10th. He was about 9 months old when in June 1955 we went to live at 37 Octavia House a stone’s throw from Ladbroke Grove.

While we were in Octavia House, where we lived for 14 years, all sorts of changes took place in our family. Veronica, our daughter, got married and went on to have 5 children. Her first was a boy and she called him Andrew. He now has three children and has bought a house in Brittany. Patsy left home and got married when she was 16. She had two children called Lorraine and Dean and eventually went to live in Essex. Celia our 3rd daughter went to Cardinal Manning girls’ school like her sister Patsy. She had various jobs before she decided to settle down with Tony Smith first in the East End and later in Clacton. Their two children are called Danny and Little Tony. Danny was born on the day after my husband died in February 1969.

My husband who was eighteen years my senior worked at St. Mary Abbot’s hospital for 25 years. In 1962 he retired and died seven years later in his 72nd year; we had been together for over thirty years. Andrew’s death meant that we didn’t have enough money to live on and at the age of not quite fifty-four I had to find work to finish bringing up my last two children. James or Barry if you prefer worked part time in a butcher’s shop for seven years while he was at school and college which helped with the family budget. After five years in the city he moved to France at the age of 26. He became a teacher and in 1980 married Chryse Lawrence. After nearly thirty years in France they seem quite settled. They have two children; William born in 1984 and Tom born in 1987.

So we now have a French aspect to our family and I have been able to visit all sorts of places in France that I had never dreamt of.As I said Michael was a baby when we arrived in Octavia House. He went to Cardinal Manning Boys’ school like his brother and his nephew Andrew. He went on to college and spent his life in the insurance industry. He has three children called Sarah, Laura and a boy called Andrew. He now lives in Hampshire with his wife Michelle. Not long after my husband’s death we moved to 120 Holmefield House in Hazlewood crescent. There were only three of us at home now - myself Barry and Michael.

I remember that day in June 1969 when we moved to what seemed like rather a small flat. However I spent twenty-eight quite happy years years in Holmefield House and then left London completely. I moved to Essex in 1997 and lived in a very nice flat. Patsy and Celia helped to make it seem quite swish as well as homely. I liked Pitsea and had my first phone at the age of 82 but after three years I yearned to return to the Ladbroke Grove area where I had spent so much of my life. I missed the familiar faces and places- they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I especially missed my daughter-in-law Kitty who was a great friend and more like a daughter to me.

So in January 2000, at the age of 85, I returned to the Ladbroke Grove area where I would quite rightly spend the remaining five years of my life. My address was Flat 7 – 70 Tavistock Road a few yards from Portobello Road and right in the middle of all my memories. A life full of memories sometimes hard and sometimes comforting. Fourteen grandchildren about twenty great grandchildren and even some great great grandchildren. I hope I never forgot any birthday or Christmas cards. So 90 years have been summed up in just two short pages but if I hadn’t been born all those years ago where would you be! Don’t worry I’m only pulling your leg! Now it’s up to you.