Tributes to ‘wonderful mum’ and blood disease pioneer

Eric and Anne
Eric and Anne

A FORTON fund-raiser, Women’s Institute member and a stalwart of the Second World War, has died at the age of 94.

Born on the November 15, 1921 Edith Violet Birchall, Anne to all who knew her, was born in Cardiff before moving to London at the outbreak of the Second World War and experienced the early days of the blitz.

Edith Violet Birchall, 94.

Edith Violet Birchall, 94.

She moved to Forton after the war and became president of Lancaster WI while her husband Eric, who died in February, was headteacher at Forton Primary School.

Anne then represented the area’s WIs at the annual conference in London where she delivered a speech to the assembled delegates.

She also became a popular character in the village by supporting Eric in his role by entertaining people, attending dinners, taking children on visits and summer holidays and fund raising to boost the school’s funds.

The couple had two sons, Michael and Peter, who was born with a rare blood disorder, which wasn’t known at the time and, if left untreated, would cause irreversible brain damage. At two years old Peter was taken to see a specialist in Birmingham.

She was a wonderful mum, always there when comfort was needed, listening quietly to problems and offering advice when asked

Son

It was at these visits that Peter was finally diagnosed with a very rare blood disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU) and there was only one other child in the UK at the time diagnosed with the same. A special diet was prescribed but it was too late and the brain damage could not be reversed. Anne and Eric then raised thousands of pounds for the condition and although Peter is now in a care home, every child born in the UK is now tested for PKU, thanks to the efforts Anne made in those early years of Peter’s life.

Away from her family Anne volunteered for the RAF. After being offered the position of cook she turned it down as she wanted to work on a front line RAF station. Because of this she was allocated the dangerous job of working in an ammunition factory. She was one of approximately one million women who worked in the munition factories, many died from serious accidents when toxic chemicals exploded or machinery malfunctioned.

Historians have said they played a key part in the war effort and Britain would not have been victorious without those who worked long hours in dark and dangerous conditions to produce the weaponry for our armed forces.

Michael paid tribute to a “wonderful mum”.

He said: “Anne only celebrated her 94th birthday last month but she’s had a wonderful life, devoted to, and in return devoted by a wonderful husband. She was loved by her children and was extremely proud of her four grandchildren.

“She was a wonderful mum, always there when comfort was needed, listening quietly to problems and offering advice when asked.

“She will be missed by all the family and all those who knew her. Anne was a lovely lady who was always smiling, and always kind.”

Anne ended her life living in Scarborough where she continued fund=raising, most notably with a group called the MAJEES.

The group was made up initially of five women and their aim was to raise funds for local causes through garden parties, jumble sales and coffee mornings, and many local causes were beneficiaries to their efforts.

She was also a member of the Village Gift Day Committee which collects money in local villages in support of Scarborough Hospital. With the money raised they bought gifts for the patients.

Michael said: “She was a lovely lady who was always smiling, cherishing Eric until his death February, and has bravely continued to live as positively as ever.”