We are saddened to report that Audrey Wheatley who was a former secretary of the Bude Canal Society and chairman of BCHS, passed away on 10 April 2022.
She was born on 18 April 1926 in East Dulwich, London. Her mother had been brought up in Holsworthy, North Devon until her marriage to a Londoner, so her ties with this area of Devon and North Cornwall were strong and the family spent many holidays over the years there.
At the outbreak of war in 1939 Audrey was evacuated with her school to Surrey but returned to London after 2 years to finish her schooling and ‘do her bit’ for the war effort by joining the Civil Defence as a messenger during the Flying Bomb and V2 rocket raids. She trained as a teacher in 1944 and took up teaching after the war, first in Middlesex and then in Croydon where she met her future husband Lawrence, another teacher.
They married in April 1949 and lived in a small 2nd floor flat in Lambeth, where their two children, Philip and Teresa, were born and from which Lawrence cycled daily to and from his Croydon school for work. Five years later the family moved to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire where they remained for more than 33 years.
All this time the ties with Holsworthy and Bude were unbroken, most holidays, both Easter and summer, being spent at Audrey’s mother’s retreat in Widemouth where the next generation in turn got to know and love the area. Throughout the Hertfordshire years Audrey, who was an accomplished amateur soprano, continued her choral singing, joining choirs and consorts in her own town and St Albans.
After her younger child, Teresa, had begun school Audrey returned to teaching on a supply basis but after two years took a permanent but part-time post in which she remained for the next 27 years, retiring eventually in 1987 at the age of 61. Lawrence had retired four years earlier and they made the decision soon after to move to Bude.
Audrey was also an enthusiast about anything to do with canals, and the Bude Canal in particular. In 1990 she helped in the foundation of the Bude Canal Society of which she was the secretary for the first six years of its existence, and in her latter years she was the society’s Chairman (she would never have used the term ‘Chairperson”!). Her enthusiasm for canals has rubbed off on several of her family who have discovered that a Narrowboat holiday is a brilliant way to keep children and dogs alike occupied! Her husband, Lawrence, who died in 2014, was editor of The Tub Boat for 13 years until 2009.
I met Audrey for the first time in December 1992 when I joined the committee of the Bude Canal Society, and she was the secretary. A kind and forthright person, she loved her family, the Bude Canal and Bude in equal measure and clearly saw the wide benefits of a rejuvenated canal. Over the following years I called at her home Tregea many times – a homely and friendly place. On one occasion several years later, I called to deliver her copy of The Tub Boat proudly wearing a new baseball cap to protect my head from the sun. Audrey said, “What have you got on your head?”. When I told her she replied, “Do you know how ridiculous you look?”. We then had a conversation about something else before I went on my way. There was no malice just a forthright comment which does not seem to be permitted these days. I still wear baseball caps and my hair is now even thinner on top.
The society was represented at her funeral by myself and Mike & Betty Moore. It was good to share our memories of Audrey with the family. Bude Canal lost a true friend and champion when Audrey passed away. Rest in peace.
Chris Jewell (from information supplied by Philip Wheatley)