M2/6.D Doris Violet May, was the third child of Percy and Ada Florence May and she was born on 22nd October 1904 in Cuddington (Worcester Park), England. Her Mother died two months before Doris' fifth birthday, when the family were leaving Belgium and on their way home to England. Her father arranged for the four children to be cared for by a 'granny' called Mrs. Flyn for a year or two, then they were under other foster care for about three years and, finally, spent seven years with Mr. And Mrs. Wheeler. Like her sister, Girlie and her two brothers, she attended the London County Council School.
Doris wrote of, and seemed to remember, the time with Mrs. Wheeler better than Girlie did and this may have been because, as Girlie claimed, Mrs Wheeler preferred Victor and Doris to herself and Jack. Girlie aged six when she lost her mother would have remembered her and missed her more, too, I expect, so would have resented any 'replacement' more deeply. But by all accounts Mrs. Wheeler was not a very motherly or sympathetic character and it must have been difficult for her to cope with four foster children and even more difficult for the children. Doris wrote: "Before Ma and Pa went to England in 1920, there had been trouble between them and Mrs. Wheeler, whereupon Mrs. Wheeler packed us all off to our Grandmother. (By then, Pa had stopped sending the money to Mrs. Wheeler for our maintenance)."
In June 1920, Percy and Mabel May fetched Girlie and Doris from England where they were staying with their Grandmother Caroline Amelia May and took them back to Livingstone where they all resided in a part of or next to the Cold Storage Building. Soon after they arrived in Livingstone Girlie was employed in the Custom's Department and Doris by a firm of solicitors. In 1923 all the family went to England and had a holiday at Shoreham- on-Sea. Then in 1926, when Girlie, Percy and Mabel visited UK again, Winnie, Dolly and Doris stayed behind in the care of Mrs Boyd.
We have some photos of the house in Livingstone, which was of a typical colonial style, where they lived during some of the years spent in that town.
Doris recalls: 'We had some good times in Livingstone and when we went to the Armistice Day dances at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a special train was run to take us there and return to Livingstone at 4 o'clock in the morning.'
Doris was married on 5th September 1928 in Livingstone to William Herbert Owen. He was born on 28th November 1895 in Peckham, London and he was the son of Herbert Owen and Alice Owen nee How. (Herbert Owen was a director of Lamson Paragon, a well-known printing company producing office stationary, with an office in Holborn. He and his wife lived in South End). Tom Owen was a railwayman and he and Doris lived in Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia for some years and then moved to Bulawayo. In about 1947 Tom and Doris visited Cape Town and, while there, he consulted a doctor who diagnosed cancer of the throat. He died on 26th February 1950 in Bulawayo. Doris Owen died 50 years later, on 7th February 2000, also in Bulawayo. So, she lived on her own for many years at No: 9, Helyn House, on the corner of Grey Street and 15th. Avenue in Bulawayo. [Grey Street was later renamed Robert Magabe Way and by the time Doris died she was the only white person living in this apartment block]. In 1988 Doris had her car stolen and this made a considerable impact on her life as, thereafter, she had to rely on public transport and when she became too frail to mount the step into the bus, she resorted to walking the mile or so into town when necessary.
Desia Wood wrote: 'Aunt Doris was happily married to Uncle Billy but had many lonely years after his death. She was a strong, brave person despite her frail appearance. I think she was extremely nervous of living alone at the beginning but became accustomed to a solitary existence - made more difficult by her deafness. She worked in an office most of her life, reluctantly retiring in her 70's but continuing to work from home. Her favourite activities were socialising at Masonic functions, playing bridge and knitting (1st class knitting!) Her brain was sharp and if we played scrabble she usually ended up scanning everyone's letters to improve their score. Time spent at her flat was always enjoyable as she made one feels so welcome and comfortable. We often discussed our family and caught up on news. Her standards were high and difficult to emulate. Even at 80 she was still starching her sheets and wearing hat and gloves to town. She would not allow herself to hold the banisters when using the 2 flights of stairs to her flat.
I used to joke that my house received special attention prior to her visits. Like you, Ruth, Mum and Aunt Doris maintained well-ordered home and produced delicious meals. My standards are not so high especially when I'm in creative mode! If one recalls the man living in the bush but always dressing for dinner - Aunt Doris would have been his wife. She loved going out to dinner wearing full-length evening dress and our family used to enjoy eating out together on special occasions. One evening the Masons held a 1920's party. Aunt Doris (in her 70's) wore a dress from that date (which she still possessed) plus headband and bangle (above the elbow). Apparently a neighbour's daughter saw her going out and said; 'Come and look at Mrs Owen, she's gone all HIPPY!' After Uncle Billy died Aunt Doris worked for George Rudland. When he closed his office, Dad found a job for Aunt Doris on the Railways - Derrick says she was highly regarded in the office for the standard of work and ability to correct mistakes.
My Mother was very kind to Aunt Doris. I remember Mum sitting at the 'phone listening as Aunt Doris talked (one could not hold a proper conversation as Aunt D. was unable to hear) for over an hour whilst Mum's favourite programme was on T.V.
Doris and Tom Owen had three children:
c.1. Richard William Owen, born 17.4.1931 in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia. He married on 8.9.1962 in Bulawayo, Jacqueline D. Bedford (called Dee) nee White. There was no issue of this marriage, but Dee had two children by her first marriage, a boy and a girl (called Johnny and Twink).
c.2. Arthur Derek Owen, who was born 26.1.1935 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. He was married in Durban, Natal, to Margaret Jean Corbett, who was born on 5.2.1940 in Ammersfoort , Transvaal and they had two children:
(i) Diana June Owen, (born 20.1.1966, Durban) and
(ii) Craig William Owen, (born 26.2.1967, Durban).
c.3. Joan Doris Owen, who was born 29.3.1933 in Bulawayo. She married John Bramley Gillingham, who was born 27.9.1934 in Chichester, Sussex. He was the son of Wesley John Gillingham (born 1904 and died 1974) and Bertha Jane Gillingham nee Bramley. (His mother remarried in 1976 and lived in Hailsham, Sussex). John Gillingham was a senior Member of the South African Institute of Organisation and Methods. He was employed by the Rhodesian Government 'as a Principal Inspector, at the Assistant secretary level'. He died on 4.3.1979 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia and was cremated. They had one child:
c.1.Jennifer Gillingham (born 17.8.1967 in Bulawayo).
She married (1st) Paul Nobes and they had three children: (i) a girl, Kim; (ii) Chantelle and (iii) Graham. Sadly Chantelle died as a baby. Jenny and Paul divorced and Jenny re-partnered with Karl Wright. She then had another daughter, Megan.
Desia wrote in January, 2002:
'Dick and Derek were educated at Bishops School in Cape Town. Uncle Billy [Tom?] and Auntie Doris paid for them to have violin lessons there and only discovered Derek had not been attending these lessons when they asked him to play the violin for them. Derek was always full of mischief as a young boy but has certainly made a success of his life. ...he had to have a heart bypass operation a couple of years ago. He started work as a farm assistant. Then became a Representative and finally ran his own business in Johannesburg. Derek's daughter, Diana, is an accountant, divorced, with one daughter, and living in Los Angeles. Craig, his son, is a Professional Photographer and has taken official photographs of Mandela so I gather he must be good.
Both Dick and Joan played the piano extremely well. Joan did some music teaching and Dick's instructor told Aunt Doris that he should be a concert pianist. Dick worked for Barclays Bank in Bulawayo and in Johannesburg.
Joan went to St. Peter's School, Bulawayo. She completed a Commercial course after leaving school and has worked efficiently for most of her life. Like Auntie Doris she is an expert knitter. Unfortunately she is diabetic and not too well.