Veterans’ farewell for our letter writer Lilian
06 December, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
A service for Lilian Reeve
FAMILY, friends and war veterans paid their respects to a 97-year-old who passed away on Remembrance Sunday.
The funeral for Lilian Reeve, who lived just off Upper Street, was held on Friday with scores of mourners packed into St Andrew’s Church, in Barnsbury.
Flag bearers representing the Islington Veterans association and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAFs) escorted her coffin.
Ms Reeve served in the WAAFs during the Second World War and in the years after she maintained strong links with veteran groups and never missed a Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph.
She attended Thornhill Primary School and spent her childhood with her brothers Albert, Edward and Harold before starting work as a seamstress at 14.
Reverend Michael Learmouth said: “Lilian worked with many young people in the local community running Red Cross groups, scouts and guides. She enjoyed singing in the church choir and was a member of Barnsbury Singers.
“Her many hobbies included embroidery, knitting, crochet and tapestry work. She loved to travel and was a keen photographer. She was a keen letter writer. She enjoyed visiting friends in Australia and regarded them as family.”
Amanda Relph, who met Ms Reeve at Barnsbury Singers, stood up to read a poem but decided to read out one of Ms Reeve’s letters instead.
It read: “On the March 9 I have to have some operations to remove a few more cancer growths, a few on my face and tummy, so they tell me. I am certainly getting my money’s worth (from the NHS). I hope I don’t fall off the ladder later as I have to change my curtains. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I have to give Gary a ring, the Labour councillor who keeps an eye on me, he’s very good. Eyes closed, time for another cup of tea before I get my papers.”
St Mary’s ward councillor Gary Poole, who met Ms Reeve about a decade ago as he door-knocked for the Labour Party, also spoke. “Lilian had a wonderfully sharp and active mind and a zest for life,” he said. “Lilian brought out the best in all of us. It is no surprise at all that she had so many people who were only glad to help out if she was ever in need. Not that Lilian would ever describe herself as in need. She was firmly independent and amazingly resourceful and resilient.”
Ms Reeve was a regular letter writer to the Tribune with one letter leading to an effort to find someone to help her attend a Remembrance Sunday service.
Cllr Poole added: “Lilian had an indomitable spirit, which was never more in evidence than in her prodigious letter writing. Lillian would speak truth unto power as the saying goes. She wrote to numerous prime ministers and she wrote to the Scottish people warning them about nationalism.”