In Loving Memory of
My Darling Maureen
May 24th 1941 - March 27th 2007
She was the love of my life
and had a gift from God...
She could listen!
Maureen took the pain and suffering from children, their parents, fellow teachers,
family, friends, fans and even strangers. She listened, counselled, gave hope, love
and understanding until she could take no more and God has now taken her to rest.
But, knowing my darling Maureen she is already counselling Elvis in her wonderful,
new, Blue Suede Heaven…RIP my love!
Maureen’s Funeral & Memorial Service
Thursday April 5th 2007
Maureen’s Life Story
Maureen was born on May 24th 1941 in the village of Halmerend in Staffordshire to Mary and Frederick George Weatherhead. She was born in the home of her Aunt Emmie and Uncle Jack. Her great aunt, who was the midwife for the village delivered Maureen. Soon after her birth Maureen was taken to her parent’s home in London at 137, Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise.
Her sister Pat was born on February 3rd 1940 and stayed in Halmerend, being brought up by her aunt and uncle, believing them to be her parents. After the War Maureen and Pat had to adjust to the fact they each had a sister and for Pat, even new parents.
Education and Teaching
Pat and Maureen both attended Chamberlayne Road Infants School, Maureen from 1945-1948 then Harvest Road Junior School until 1952. Both sisters passed the 11+ and went to the local Girl’s Grammar School, Brondesbury and Kilburn High School. Maureen achieved 5 ‘O’ Levels then started ‘A’ Level Courses but left school in 1957 to work for Brent Libraries for two years at Salusbury Road.
Maureen always wanted to become a teacher and from 1959-1962 studied at the Maria Grey College, Twickenham. She specialised in teaching primary school children and chose Mathematics as her major subject of study. All her teaching life Maureen taught at Harlesden Primary School, from 1962 until 1990 when she took early retirement through ill health. To the children she was “Mrs Bird”.
Maureen was a perfectionist in everything she did and she wanted to develop new teaching programmes so took secondment from teaching to do a Diploma Course in Counselling and Psychology at the University of Keele 1977-1978. After completing her Diploma she became a revolutionary in Education and developed Britain’s first ‘Nurture Unit’ in a school. Maureen believed if you gave children love, showed kindness but with a firm hand and provided security even the most disruptive child could be calmed, relax and return to normal classes and the mainstream. Her ‘Nurture Unit’ was filled with giant teddy bears, soft toys, games, jigsaws, reading and colouring books, worktables and chairs but most of all it was filled with Maureen’s LOVE. Children who could not cope and were disrupting classes where sent to Mrs. Bird not as a punishment but for love and understanding. She never raised her voice. In fact, if she was angry she lowered her voice and a whole class of children would be quiet once Maureen came into a classroom, even though all hell was breaking loose with another teacher. One look of disdain from Maureen was enough to turn any naughty child to stone. She used that look frequently on me. In her unique ‘Nurture Unit’ disruptive children would meet normal children busily working who were given a special reward for good work and that was to spend some time with Mrs Bird.
Maureen was the ‘Nanny McFee’ of British Education; only she had permanent beauty in her face and her heart and that rare gift to be able to listen. She took the pain and suffering from ‘her’ children. She gave them pride and self-belief a feeling of being loved, needed and wanted. She counselled not only the children, but, also their parents and often visited children in their homes. She counselled the teachers and after a hard day herself, she took onboard the problems of other teachers, especially young teachers who were finding it difficult to cope.
Her ‘Nurture Unit’ thrived and relieved pressure on other teachers who could not cope with difficult pupils. The other children in the class could concentrate more and not have their work interrupted. It was a win-win situation for the whole school and the school soon became a showcase not only for the borough but for the country, as well. Maureen took great pride in her achievements at Harlesden Primary and loved the school. In return everyone at the school loved Maureen, teaching staff, kitchen staff, caretaker and most of all the children.
Maureen’s perfectionism shined in school sport. When Maureen took over the girls’ sports they won all of the championships. The netball team won the Brent League every year for at least seven years, even though Harlesden Primary was one of the smallest schools in the borough. The school has produced some great sportsmen and it was based on Maureen’s simple philosophy of teamwork and practise. One of the current teachers at Harlesden told me how difficult it was to get into Mrs Bird’s netball team. Members of the netball team wore immaculate uniforms with pleated skirts and sashes. This also gave them a psychological edge because the opposition were overawed by their presence wearing such perfect uniforms. For some crazy reason the London Borough of Brent banned competitive sport. Perhaps there were too many complaints that Harlesden swept the board at everything and won too easily.
Sadly, some excellent head teachers left during Maureen’s reign and a new head was appointed in the late 1980’s who had little experience and showed little interest in the school. After all those years of building one of the finest primary schools in the country, Maureen saw the gradual destruction of all her work because it lacked leadership of a good head and most of all love. In 1990 she became so ill she took early retirement. But, she continued in education and did voluntary work in local schools counselling children and teachers whenever she could, until we moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire in 1999.
Maureen’s life outside teaching
It is hard to imagine Maureen being brought up as an only child during the War. There were the constant visits to the air raid shelters, hearing the bombs dropping nearby as a very frightened, little girl and then in 1945 it is all over and you find you have a new sister. Maureen had a threat to her security; she no longer was the only apple of her parent’s eye, there was competition from another sibling, her sister Pat. Meanwhile Pat believed her aunt and uncle in Staffordshire were her parents and suddenly she is taken away from them to be brought up by some strangers, her real parents, in NW London. So many families were badly affected by the war after being split up and evacuated.
But, Maureen and Pat soon learned to live together and developed a loving sister relationship. Every summer they would spend three weeks in Halmerend, Staffs with Uncle Jack and Auntie Emmie. When Maureen was younger she used to cry to go home because she missed her dad. She was a daddy’s girl and had great affection for her father all her life. He was ill with serious chest infections for many years and was badly treated in hospitals so Maureen developed a phobia for hospitals. Her father died in 1971 and she was totally devastated and always talked about him to me.
In later years she would love to go to Staffordshire and her aunt and uncle were like surrogate parents. Village life was very secure and there was a wide network of family in the region and most of the women lived long lives, one aunt made it to beyond 100 years of age and got her telegram from the Queen. She said a tot of whisky a day was the key to her long life.
Maureen was a pretty girl and attracted boys from the boy’s school. She knew David Sutch who went to Boy’s Grammar School who was better known in later years as ‘Screaming Lord Sutch’. Later we would become close friends of David. Maureen dated Cliff Richard before he became famous, just one date, that was enough. She did voluntary work at a youth club in Harlesden where she met Tony Bird and they got married in 1967. They moved into Rivington Court on Longstone Avenue in 1967 where she lived for the next 34 years. She had a very unhappy marriage and in 1971 separated and got divorced in 1975, final papers came through October 9th. By unique coincidence her birth date and divorce date were exactly the same as Priscilla Presley. Since Elvis was to dominate the rest of her life this coincidence is amazing.
Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher…
The only decent thing Margaret Thatcher ever did was to bring my darling Maureen and I together. I taught at Willesden High School and in 1973 marched with the Brent Teachers Association demonstrating against Thatcher’s plan to stop children having free school milk. This was when Thatcher was Minister for Education, years before she became Prime Minister. As teachers marched we shouted “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher” over and over again. At the end of demonstration refreshments were provided in the “Dust Club” in Harlesden, a Working Men’s Club for dustmen.
There was a very pretty girl serving rolls and teas who had a wicked sense of humour and glint in her eye. I flirted with her and she told me her name was Maureen and taught at Harlesden Primary. I chatted her up, what seemed almost like forever, until she gave me her telephone number. It was not easy getting that number but I phoned her later and we went on a date to a restaurant in Belsize Park. That night was the beginning of a 34 years relationship of love, friendship, caring, togetherness… There were so many good times but also some bad times caused by some nasty people in our lives. But the bad times just further cemented our love and I had the strength to always guard and protect her. She was my rock, my confidant, my advisor, my best friend and love of my life. She was always there for me and me for her.
I lived in Edgware at the time and as our love blossomed I would get calls at 10pm or 11pm to come over to be with her at her flat in Harlesden, as she was lonely. I then bought a house in Wembley with a friend. Maureen and I would alternate between her staying in my house and me staying at her flat until 1977 when Elvis Presley died and I first started ‘Elvisly Yours’. Elvis Presley was to dominate our next 30 years together and take us on a wonderful journey through life and travel the world. By now I was a teacher at Northolt High School teaching ‘A Level’ Economics and Sociology half the timetable and the rest working with remedial and difficult students. My head was just like Mrs Thatcher and although I loved teaching all my efforts in the school to be creative and imaginative were thwarted by Mrs Brown so I decided to leave teaching and start an Elvis business in June 1978. I sold my house and moved in permanently with Maureen to Rivington Court where we had so many happy years together. When you went shopping with Maureen in Harlesden it could take three hours. Just to walk 100 yards could take one hour because old pupils, who were now parents, would stop her in the street and chat, introduce their children or granny would be there too. Over 28 years she taught generations of families. Harlesden may be one of the poorest boroughs in the country financially but it is one of the richest in community spirit, love and friendship. Maureen loved Harlesden and Harlesden loved Maureen although she was mugged once outside our flats and that devastated her.
Maureen supported me financially for the first two years after starting Elvisly Yours. I was making busts of Elvis in our garage, and then added more Elvis products to our range until in 1979 we could afford a small warehouse in a railway arch in Kentish Town. After a massive order from a German company we moved to a real office and warehouse in the City and business boomed from 1980. I bought her a brand new Fiesta car for Christmas 1980 and hid clues throughout the flat until she got to the garage and found the bright yellow Fiesta, but it was not an automatic and she changed it for automatic Metro.
We made our first trip to Memphis in late December 1980 to visit Graceland and buy Elvis souvenirs to ship back to England and sell through Elvisly Yours. We arrived at Graceland at about 10pm and one souvenir shop was open. While I was busy checking the Elvis products the storeowner whispered to Maureen she thought the other guy in the store had a gun and was going to rob her so could Maureen stay near her for protection? The lady had called the police and soon a police car drove up, policemen ran into the store, guns out ready to fire, but the guy realised something was up and disappeared…Welcome to Memphis!!! I was completely oblivious to this whole episode, busily lost, looking at Elvis magazines, souvenirs and records. Maureen spent the next few days sitting in our rented car.
Every October we would raise money to take a handicapped fan to Graceland, all costs and expenses were paid for the boy and a relative. Maureen would go on those trips if they fell during school holidays. Also, Maureen would accompany me on many business trips around the world and we took wonderful holidays. We always loved San Francisco where we have many dear friends and often visited there, on to Vegas and then Memphis. We have family in Canada, in Toronto and Winnipeg and they were such fond memories. Many people still do not lock their homes or cars in Winnipeg and there are no freeways in the city.
The years went by and as I did Elvis promotions around the world Maureen would help me but always stayed in the background. Every August we were in Memphis for Elvis Week from 1982-1992 and after I was sued by Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc and lost a lawsuit in US Federal Court we could not sell souvenirs of the King. We sold souvenirs of the King from a hotel room at Days Inn in Memphis. We always took along English tea bags. It was the only place you could get a decent cup of English tea in Memphis and Jonathan Ross, filming “Viva Elvis” often popped in for a cuppa.
We went to Russia to launch “Presleystroika” in 1991 and open the first Western Supermarket in 1992. The supermarket was opened in St Petersburg by the seventh deputy mayor, a small time bureaucrat whose name was Vladimir Putin. Russians were not nice people to do business with. We met some nasty characters and had serious business problems there. Conversely, in 1995 we organised an Elvis Museum in Japan at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo. We travelled Business Class, stayed in a 5-star hotel and our Museum attracted 18,000 people in six days, even the brother of the ‘Elvis loving’ Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi.
Maureen’s favourite holiday was when we went to “Monkey World” in Dorset and I took her every birthday and usually once or twice more each year. We religiously watched the TV shows about Monkey World and when we made the pilgrimage we knew the names of all the chimps and Orang-utans. Even when she was ill she still loved Monkey World. There were trips all over the country and to Sweden, Israel, France, Belgium and Holland, a mixture of business and pleasure. She loved to travel and our plans were to retire in the next few years and travel the world.
Sadly, Maureen could not have children of her own but instead had thousands of children she loved and counselled over 28 years in teaching. She also saw my family mushroom. Maureen just had her mum, dad and sister. I come from a family of eight children, then there were seventeen nephews and nieces, now 27 great nephews and nieces and another due any day now. They all loved Auntie Maureen. They sensed warmth, kindness and love in her that made them feel very special. She found my family very daunting at first but got used to the hustle and bustle.
The greatest thrill in her life in the last few years was the wedding of Audley and Raychel Harrison in Jamaica at the Half Moon Bay Hotel. It was wonderful and she said she finally was at the homeland of most of her Harlesden children. I had complained to the managing director about the hotel booking procedures because I was having so much trouble booking. Having only paid for a double room we were given a five room suite on the beach with a four poster bed and its own sun lounge veranda…Maureen was in heaven!
Maureen’s mother remarried in December 1974 to Ernest Morris in Halmerend and spent many happy years in Silverdale, Staffordshire and we often visited them. Her mother Mary died in November 1994. Ern was a good, kind caring man who died last year having never been ill until the last three weeks of his life and had never missed a days work at the colliery in 49 years. It was so funny meeting Ern for the first time as if her mother had to have our blessing for her and her boyfriend to marry, both of them in their sixties.
Sadly, Maureen was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2000. It devastated her and she had two operations, to remove the lump and her lymph glands and took radio therapy. She then got thrombosis in October 2001 and took Warfarin for the next six months. In June 2005 she was declared cancer free. I neglected business during this five year battle to care for her. But, in March 2006 she got thrombosis again. Even though she went to the Hospital or GP Surgery almost every week for a year for blood tests not one doctor examined her. Maureen distrusted all hospitals and most doctors, except our wonderful Harlesden Dr Israni. Three doctors over the past year said she was anorexic and severely depressed when she told them she could not eat. When we saw doctor no.4 she immediately examined Maureen’s stomach and found a large lump. After tests, scans and blood transfusions Maureen was finally told on March 21st cancer had spread through her body and in just days she died at the Watford Peace Hospice on March 27th 1.20 am, as I kissed her hand. My birthday was March 28th.
Our two families, Elvis Presley, Tottenham Hotspurs, Queen, Meatloaf, murder mysteries, FBI Files, Lord of the Rings, Animal Planet, children of any age, colour or race, Shopping with the Monday Club, Robert Ludlam, Stephen King, Dennis Wheatley, the Da Vinci Code, Indian and Chinese food, travelling, staying in 5 star hotels, crumpets, English countryside, toast and marmalade, full English breakfast, smoking, vodka, TV’s ‘My Hero’, Dame Edna, Steve Irwin, the film ‘Patch Adams’, Monkey World, San Francisco, reading, watching TV, Harlesden Primary School and me…She is survived by me and her darling sister Pat who helped me nurse her until the end and neice Celia, nephew Alex and their children.
We never married. We did not need a piece of paper as we loved each other and our devotion lasted 34 years. I did propose last year but we only told our sister-in-law Trudi as Maureen wanted a very small wedding, just a few people in Vegas when she got better, it was not to be!
In Memory of My Darling Maureen, “Mrs Bird”
Elvisly Yours has a sponsored charity called the “Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre” and instead of bouquets or wreaths we have asked people to bring or send one rose and donate to this wonderful charity who were so kind to Maureen and help cancer victims and relatives.
http://www.justgiving.com/in_memory_of_maureen (by credit card)
Send cheques (payable to LJMC) to Elvisly Yours, 233 Baker St, London NW1 6XE
My Darling Maureen
Also known by thousands of children she loved and touched as Mrs. Bird
May 24th 1941 – March 27th 2007
My sister had many gifts. She loved to cook, was a very good dressmaker and needlewoman and very artistic – her gift-wrapping was a work of art. She once painted on the wall of the youth club a mural of a matador that she had copied from a small print. I was amazed at her talent but she was always quietly modest about her abilities. She was always interested in the Arts and read books by the thousands. She was a very determined person, a caring friend and sister, a great confident, a still place in the turmoil of life, a force to be reckoned with. She was my sister and I loved her dearly,