Frances Mildred Swann


Mildred Swann, who died on 27th January 1986, was nearly seventy five when she came to live in Gedling, but she put down deep roots here, and made many friends to mourn her passing and cherish her memory.

She greatly appreciated belonging to such an historic community, with its mention in Domesday Book and its early church registers as well as its beautiful and ancient church in which she loved to worship. She served it first as a member, and then as secretary, of the Parochial Church Council, as well as in countless other ways, and contributed to it with great generosity. As a daughter of a vicarage she knew the problems and how best to surmount them. Her own passionate love of history, founded on deep and great knowledge, responded to this environment, and led to the writing and publication of 'The Story of Gedling'. She lived to see it go into a second edition: part of its success may be due to the skilful way in which she put our village story into a wider regional and national setting, and part to her racy narrative style.

However, Miss Swann certainly did not live in and for the past. She not only kept up to date in the present, but looked ahead to the future. When the environment was threatened by the danger of developments which she considered detrimental to the interests of Gedling people, she led the opposition. This applied not only to the road which yet may bisect the community, but also to the possibility of building on the Rectory Field (now officially, but only officially, known as Willow Park). her love of the past, of the countryside, of trees, of animals and of young people - and, one must add, of a good fight in a good cause - were all united in defence of what she felt was precious and indeed essential to Gedling's beauty and well-being. She defended the field not only from the planners and developers, but also from the vandalism and bad behaviour of the young, whom she kept in strict order when they used, or in her opinion misused it. But they knew that at bottom she was utterly on their side: they respected and admired as well as feared her, and some of them still come and inquire after her, even bringing their own children. She had a genius for getting through to teenagers of every generation: her work over the years was always with young people, in her father's Sunday School, in the Girl Guide movement, especially with Rangers, and in her work as a schoolmistress, which she took up professionally when over fifty and continued till over seventy. As a teacher she was brilliant.

She loved all living things. Deeply caring of animals and never without a dog, she also had a rapport with plants and was a skilled and green-fingered gardener. Many people would stop to look over her fence and admire her delphiniums, and indeed her whole herbaceous border. The wilder countryside, and especially the moors and dales of her beloved Derbyshire, were her delight: and when she took up painting, soon after coming to Gedling, her most striking productions were derbyshire landscapes.

She had a deep love not only of the countryside, but also of her country, a true because not uncritical patriotism, and an admiration for the royal family, especially for King George VI. Above all she had a love of life. As one of her friends wrote on hearing of her passing, 'her enthusiasm and zest for living put many younger people to shame. Those sparkling eyes and that lively manner seemed to defy the years, and no-one who met her would ever forget that forceful personality.' She was a lover of fun, and a most individual and irrepressible sense of humour, which expressed itself in ways that some people found disconcerting, but which often linked laughter to fundmental truths. her Christian faith was sure and strong, and helped her through the deep waters of weakness and suffering in her final years. We may be confident that 'all the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.'

Letty L. Lewenz