Goodbye Rose Bird - A Tribute

Rose Lilian Dove was born, the youngest of 7 children, in 1922 in Bermondsey.

Rose’s mother died just before her 2nd birthday and her father died before she was 4. Rose had no memory of either of them.

Rose’s mother’s sister, Auntie Polly, with no children of her own, took responsibility for the family saying they would only go into care over her dead body.

With 2 teenage girls as well as 4 smaller children that was no mean undertaking for someone with no experience of bringing up children.

In growing up, Rose and her sister Flo used to madden their elder sisters, Edie and Elsie, by borrowing the clothes they cherished bought out of their own wages.

Auntie Polly was a formidable woman and in some respects Rose lived in awe and sometimes fear of her. But she was determined to give the best opportunity to the children that she could, and as part of that, arranged for Rose to have piano lessons.

The piano lessons ended abruptly when Auntie Polly discovered Rose had spent the lesson money on some shoes she fancied.  There was no second chance with Auntie Polly.

But Rose was good enough to, somewhat tentatively, play the hymn tunes at a war time house church that her sister Elsie went to.

Amongst the possessions found in Rose’s house 65 yrs later was a booklet given to her by the lady who ran the meetings.

Rose Dove became Rose Bird in 1946 when she married Fred.  He had recently been de-mobbed from the Royal Marines with whom he had participated in the Normandy D-Day landings.

She loved to tell of the near disasters of the wedding.

For those living in this present day it is hard to imagine the difficulties of an immediate post-war wedding. Her wedding dress was adapted from her sister-in-law, Lil’s. And after collecting the wedding cake Rose trembled all the way home on the tram, fearing she would be arrested for having things in it not allowed through rationing!

On the wedding day itself Rose found that a wedding car hadn’t been booked and she was stuck in the house. But she steadfastly refused to walk through the streets in her wedding dress. 

Fortunately the florist took pity on her and Rose and her bridesmaids arrived at the wedding in the back of the florists van. 

This was just as well because Fred had already expressed his intention to go to the Den if she was any later, as Millwall were playing at home.

Some of you may be puzzled over this having seen a photograph of Rose and Fred getting into a car after the wedding. Theirs was not the only wedding at the church that day so when the next bride arrived her car was ‘borrowed‘ to take them to the reception.

Fred and Rose set up home in a basement flat opposite New Cross station and lived there until the 1960’s when they moved to a flat on the third floor of Box Tree House, on Gosterwood Street, then newly built.

As well as avidly following Millwall they were regular attenders of New Cross speedway.

Rose was unable to have any children of her own but helped assisting with Fred’s brother Alfie’s family. She also went each week to her sister Edie who herself had a sizeable family. So Rose came to be loved by more children than she could possibly have had herself.

Life changed dramatically in 1990 when her beloved Fred died after a very short illness. In going though her papers Rose’s family have been tremendously moved to read poem after poem she had copied out to express her grief.

Rose appeared to have lived so much in Fred’s shadow that most of the family could not imagine her long outliving him. Yet the Rose who continued to climb 42 stairs to her flat, though she had passed the age of 90, revealed her true strength of character.

After Fred’s death Rose made for herself a new life with the support of family and friends.

She became involved in a church at the end of the road she was baptised in 1991.

She travelled to Spain with her new friend Lizzie, and to Canada, Western America and Majorca with her brother Ern and her nephew Roger. 

Sadly Roger died only 9 days before Rose and we recognise that the family will be grieving for him at this time too.

Rose was invited to go to a local school to tell the children of her childhood and she had loved this. An experience that was recently repeated in the Bear church, where she had made another cluster of good friends.

Rose kept all the children’s thank-you letters and pictures, some of which you can see later. Along with scores of photos of Rose, among which, there is barely one where she has not got a beaming smile, even when caught unaware.

A highlight in Rose’s life was an invitation to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace with DAGE. The family would like to specifically mention and thank Harry at Dage for all his help. 

And Barbara who Rose developed a lovely friendship with.  Together they would meet at the bus-stop to see what bus would come and then decide a destination for their shopping excursion. Was it to be Welling, Chislehurst, Bromley, Orpington or just Lewisham, all decided on a whim.?

No more will Barbara phone Rose to arrange to meet at the bus-stop, for where Rose is now, is not the result of a last minute choice, as she has gone to be with Jesus her Saviour - a decision made long ago and not on the whim of the moment.