Rosemary Verena Quinnell

27 - 9 - 1924
28 - 8 - 2011

Rosemary died at Bristol's Frenchay hospital on the evening of Sunday, 28 August 2011. She was 86.
Born on 27 September 1924, Rosemary was one of 11 children of Reginald Morsehead Glencross, a King's Counsel, and Eucharis May Glencross (nee Shuttleworth) of London. Like many of her sisters she was sent to St Anthony's School in Sherborne, Dorset. She later remarked: "The girls in our family were considered very substandard compared with the boys, and I never could understand why."
Her exposure to a different side of life began during teacher training in Durham, probably around 1943, when she was shocked to see children whose families could not afford shoes for them.
In 1945 she married Norman (1925-2008), then in the RAF, later to become a noted field archaeologist.
They lived in the West Country and had Paul (1946-2006), Dominic (1960-) and Justin (1962-).

In the early 1960s she had her first experience of activism, pioneering the playgroup movement in the West Country. After much lobbying of other mothers and tussling with county bureaucracy, she established a playgroup in Portishead, Somerset, only to find herself abandoned by middle-class friends when she insisted the facility be open to children from less well-off neighbourhoods (they changed their minds when the benefits of the facility to children and busy mothers became apparent).
In 1966, Norman left the family. This was a time when divorce was relatively rare (the couple divorced after the law was liberalized in 1969) and single-parent families frowned upon. Successfully bringing up three children alone, Rosemary later said, gave her a huge sense of self-confidence and social awareness.
By the early 1970s, they had moved to Bristol, and she had become active in the women's liberation movement, helping out with the second UK Women's Liberation Conference, held in the city in 1973, going on demonstrations and taking part in such activities as pregnancy testing for young women, then considered controversial. "Some of the women were very bossy and quite scary," she later wrote, "but we never burned our bras."
It was also at this time that she helped set up Gingerbread, a single-parent support organization that is now a major NGO and lobbying group.
She considered the 1970s the most fulfilling time of her life.
With her sons all having left home, the 1980s and 90s were a well-earned time for herself, though she remained an active member of the Liberal Democrats.
Among the places she travelled to were the USA, Australia, Russia, Western Europe, Italy, Czechoslovakia, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Singapore and the Philippines - often to visit her many siblings and nephews and nieces.
The early roots of Rosemary's feminism became clearer in 1996, when she revealed a secret she had kept for over half a century: in 1944, as a young teacher, she had become pregnant - an almost unheard-of scandal then, especially in the eyes of her strict Catholic and Edwardian mother.
She was bundled off to an elderly aunt in Cornwall (who taught her to skin moles) until the time came to deliver the baby in a private clinic run by nuns.
One of the greatest regrets of her life was giving in to pressure to give up the baby girl for adoption.
It transpired that she had continued to use the name Verena in paperwork - everyone called her Rosemary - in the hope it might one day help her daughter find her, as it did.
Unlike the three boys at that time, the newly reunited daughter, Madeleine Poole of Plymouth, had children, one of whom herself was already a mother.
Overnight, Rosemary became a grandmother and great-grandmother.

 

Her health first began to decline in the mid-2000s, but she remained physically and mentally active up to 2011 despite the distress of losing Paul in late 2006.
She was rejuvinated by the arrival of Louis and Rosa who instantly became an integral part of her later life, referring to Louis as 'The only man in her life'.
Right up to this time, for decades, young people - especially women - were drawn to and trusted her for often-robust advice ("I don't know why women get married"). She regularly attended the gym and the swimming pool and astounded the more squeamish Dominic and Justin by submitting to injections directly into the eyeball to counter the effects of macular degeneration.
She was one of 100 octogenarians who contributed to the 2010 book 8000 Years of Wisdom (Accent Press).
During mid-2011 her condition deteriorated following a stroke and subsequently encephalitis, and she died peacefully on 28 August. As well as one sister remaining of the original 11 siblings, she leaves two sons, one daughter, 6 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and many nephews and nieces who have many happy and inspiring memories of her.
To give an idea how times and attitudes have changed: in the 1940s, when Rosemary gave her baby up for adoption, single mothers from poorer backgrounds were still entering the work house.
Rosemary Quinnell lived, and was part of, a historic transformation.
 



Our granny………..
put sweets and treats in our magic boxes when we went round to see her…
sent us lots of postcards, not just for birthdays
took her teeth out to make us laugh
played hockey with her walking-stick
loved us hiding in the curtains
had lots of pictures of us in her house
read us Struwwelpeter,
showed us Google Earth
it was ok to stick your tongue out at granny, she didn't mind, she did it too!
just being together was what we did
We're going to miss our granny

love from Louis and Rosa

Last Wishes

Is there any last wish, or words unsaid you wish to say now?

"Don't get me started"
(From her funeral-planning checklist).

Memoirs