Obituaries Lesley Robertson 1931 -2016
On behalf of Les’s family I would like to thank you all for being here today as we remember and give thanks for the life of Les. I would like especially to mention those of her friends and family who are too frail or too far away to be here today. I am sure that their thoughts and prayers will be with us and Les today. Les I suspect would be bemused by today as her instructions were to keep things simple and not make a fuss. This was so typical of her, she was so much more interested in everyone else and not in herself. I think she would have had a chuckle seeing me standing here in a suit, I am not sure that she had ever seen me in my finery.
Les was a very special person in our family, and I know that I speak for my cousins today. She not only was an aunt, but a friend ,a surrogate mother and a granny combined. She was the glue that kept us all together, she knew all the Rorkes and Robertsons and more importantly kept in touch with them and as a result kept us up to date as to who was doing what.
Les was born in Bulawayo in September 1931 the second of four girls who were collectively known as the “Robbie Girls”. She was educated in Luanshya and Bulawayo and after school she entered the nursing profession. She trained in Bulawayo and then moved to Nairobi and then on to the UK. She was very good at what she did and rose through the ranks to become Regional Nursing Officer where she was responsible for the planning, implementation and running of the new Liverpool Royal Infirmary . This mega hospital was built and entailed the closure of seven other hospitals and their amalgamation into one. Last week the Catholic Bishop of Liverpool phoned and after offering his condolences told us how highly thought of Les was. I quote ” she was full of integrity and was greatly respected” and ” I thoroughly enjoyed working with her”. He will be holding a memorial service for Les in the hospital chapel in September. Les and Bishop Tom were instrumental in the establishment of the chapel as part of the hospital.
In the mid 1980s Les moved to Saudi Arabia and then on to El Ain and her final working years were in Nairobi before retiring to the Cape.
Les loved to travel and every year she would spend two weeks in some exotic place and then a month over Christmas with her family in Africa . Les went to Turkey, China, Malaysia, Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan, Egypt, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand just to mention a few. And boy did she take photos, boxes and boxes of them. Les is the reason why my family are so camera shy. Every time you looked up there was a lens pointing at you. When I was younger on the farm, we had to clean up, change our clothes, brush our hair and put shoes on for Les’s annual photo for her rogues gallery. Although Les spent most of her working life abroad she considered Africa her home. She loved Kenya, on safari with her special friends there, Zimbabwe where she grew up and had a myriad of relatives and the Cape where she had holidayed as a girl, where her parents had retired and where Zeta lived. Les was proud to be South African having renounced her British citizenship. It was always a good way to wind her up by telling her I was an ABSA supporter,” Anyone But South Africa.”
My earliest memory of Les was of this glamorous, fashionable, jet setting bearer of gifts my more interesting than my mother or aunts. Near to our birthdays and Christmas we would eagerly wait for that card and parcel with that distinctive tell tale writing in blue fountain pen. They always arrived on time and were chosen with great care, the latest ‘ in thing’ in the UK, be it a yoyo or T shirts or whatever. In sanctions affected backward Rhodesia we were trendy thanks to Les.
Les made very close friends all over the world and was a great correspondent. She must have spent a fortune on phone bills in her life time. She loved having her friends to stay and show them her special places. She was wonderful with my children when they stayed with her. Les like all the Robertsons liked to entertain. Entertain meant mountains of food. The fun was in the planning, procurement and preparation. Some of her offerings were legendary, her fruit cakes and tipsy tarts were notorious for the amount of alcohol in them. You didn’t want to be breathalysed after eating her pudding. Like her sisters she had an obsession with ‘padkos’, you never went anywhere without huge supplies. My children went to watch cricket at Newlands with a whole roast chicken.
Les had a great sense of humour. When she was in her forties I started calling her my geriatric aunt, which she loved. Sadly in time this became true. Jacquie and I were fortunate enough to spend a week with her here in Cape Town in March and it was very special to us. Les was tired, worried about losing her independence and starting to lose her love of life. Whilst we will all really miss her we are glad that she never truly lost her independence, or suffered the indignity of ill health and decline.
On the wall in Les’s office we found this quote which I think really summed up her life.
” She has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and love much, who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of little children. Who has filled her niche and accomplished her task and has left the world better than she found it.” As her friend Ted said to me in June ” That Lesley, she’s a damn fine woman”.
I would like to conclude by thanking Basil, Martin, Shireen and especially Michelle for the love and care they gave Les for so many years. Thank you.
Delivered by Noel Kent at her Memorial Service in the Chapel at RLUBHT.
Obituaries Lesley Robertson 1931 -2016