A Knight’s Tale (25: A Papal Honour)

Auntie Gwen had become my godmother in 1942.

24 years later she was to perform the same service for my eldest son, Michael.

It is a common phenomenon that some distant members of families only meet at weddings and funerals. I had last met my cousin Maureen at the funeral of her father, my Uncle Derrick. Marcus Derrick Knight had been the executor of Ellen Beatrice Gwendoline, who, like him had been given a string of Christian names listed in the order in which their parents thought they flowed best, the first not necessarily being the one by which they were known.

When Maureen had been clearing out her parents’ bungalow she had discovered various memorabilia of Gwen. Having thought I was the person who should have them, she brought them to my brother Chris’s funeral on 31st October, and handed them over. There were various framed certificates, photographs, a eulogy, and a medal.

The bronze coloured medallion records her length of employment at the Association for the Propagation of the Faith.

Auntie Gwen eulogy

This service is described in the APF newsletter framed by Gwen herself with the addition of an in memoriam card that must have been inserted by her brother. My godmother, born in 1904, would have looked, when I was born in 1942, as she does in the memorial card. I remember her more as in the later photograph illustrating the magazine article. What that piece does not describe is Gwen’s transport to and from Wimbledon Station from her homes, first at 18 South Park Road, then 9 Latimer Road. This was a sturdy upright bicycle on which she travelled everywhere, even into old age.

Without a typewriter in the days before computers my mother supplemented the family income by addressing by hand the envelopes for monthly letters to A.P.F. Subscribers. These were delivered by my aunt and collected when done.

The cross mentioned by Canon Mark Swaby must be the gold papal medal that Uncle Derrick had given me after Gwen’s death in 1986. It was almost certainly stolen in a burglary at Newark in the early 1990s.

Auntie Gwen

The Gwen I could not possibly have remembered was photographed around 1908. The delicately tinted print bears the stamp of Britannia’s Ltd, 8 Emery Lane, Boston, and was framed by F.J.Salisbury of 64 Upper Tooting Road, London, SW17. This gem from the early years of photography would grace our walls even if we were unable to identify the subject.


  1. Lovely memories. I love collecting memorabilia. I did have some prized ones which I lost when I moved from India. The relatives I left my most precious things with “lost” them! I was too far away in Chile to ask, find out, look for them. The “common phenomenon” of family getting together at funerals and weddings is the same with us. Especially me as I’ve lived far from the rest of the family for most part of my adult life.

  2. It is a grand picture Derrick.

    Your post made me think about Godparents and how in modern times how vows and responsibility has become rather meaningless.

  3. lovely medallion for her great service! what a wonderful and dedicated person she was and such a charming photo of her as a little girl!

  4. Write the names in pencil between each – loose – photograph. Write your name in your photo albums. and make sure everybody you remember is identified. In Paris I just saw too many old family albums or photographs sold at old books markets or book stalls along the Seine.
    1942? Compliments. My eldest brother is from ’41.
    All well?

      1. Smug is the name of the game. Would youcare to share some of your memorabilia on WP? Bon Dimanche. What will it be? Fleurie? Moulin-à-Vent? Gamay de Touraine? ?

      1. Very difficult when there are little records of the family history. Fortunately my parents had more or less labeled most of the pictures. But for some, I’m the last one to know. So I’ve done an inventory to share with cousins.

        1. Well done. My youngest sister, contemporary with a cousin whose parents meant a lot to me even before they were married, has asked for information that now only I can give.

          1. Good that you still have the memories. I pass everything I can to my cousins in France, the UK, South Africa. We have cousins in Canada and Down Under, but I don’t know how to reach them. One post did get me a surprised mail from a distant – unknown – cousin in Canada. Cheers

  5. I’m very happy that someone like you was chosen to be the caregiver to Gwen’s memorabilia. Such a wonderful person deserves to be remembered.

  6. She looks in quite modern dress in that 1908 childhood photo. Such a cute child and what wonderful hair. So auntie Gwen another of your female ancestors not to have married. An accident of life, or testament to a free spirit, or a sign she was also a woman of independent means? Wonderful that you were so close to her.

    1. Thank you so much, Gwen. She certainly wasn’t of independent means – paid a minimal rent and was paid very little by the A.P.F. In a way, although not a nun, she gave her life to the Church.

  7. What lovely photos! What a special connection between Aunt Gwen, you, and Michael. This gets me teary-eyed.
    How wonderful to know your Aunt Gwen’s life/history! She was an asset to you and to the world! Thank you for sharing her with us! I feel honored! 🙂

  8. It is such a heartwarming post, and even more endearing photo which is indeed a gem. Considering it was 1908, the exposure and acuity of the image is unbelievable. Your closing remark says it all.

    I am glad you were rightly restored the memorabilia whose saviour you have now become.

  9. So lovely to hear all about your auntie Gwen… so good of you to give a tribute to her life on your blog… I’m sure she’d be thrilled!? She certainly was very dedicated to her beliefs, which is a rarity today. People change their mind like the wind in what holds their interest and don’t intend on staying in the same job more than a few years either. As a result, nobody seems to know what they are doing any more. It would be nice to see more of that dedicated state of mind return. Also fascinating to see her childhood portrait… so pretty!!? I often wonder when I see a photo of a child… ‘who did they become?’

  10. What a wonderful woman your Auntie Gwen was. All the images of her show what a loving caring woman she was. I do apologise for not commenting often on your posts, Derrick.

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