Elizabeth Lucia Irwin

20 July 1942 – 9 March 2001

 

A Eulogy

By

David Eason Irwin

 

My Sister Elizabeth is very special to me. As children we behaved as children did before the invention of television. But as adults we had great times together. Our family was very close and in the parlance of today we were probably as dysfunctional as anyone else but we didn’t go running around shouting about it and complaining about our lot in life. Being brought up during the Second World War made us realize that we could not expect to have anything we wanted. We had great benefits living in the country and in later life this stood us in good stead.

 

Elizabeth was someone who recognized that everyone cannot be Prime Minister and she lived her life accordingly. She was quite prepared to react with others and did not seek glory that she hadn’t earned. This is a great characteristic in today’s society and I love her very much for it.

 

In July 1984, Elizabeth became truly part of Alcoholics Anonymous. She had been in and out of the program for six years – unable to grasp the fact that you have to stop drinking to remain sober. I have been a member of AA since October 1983 and I hope that I have had some effect on the lives of others to help them to become sober – this is after all the premise of AA – one alcoholic helping another to rid ourselves of John Barleycorn. I know of two people in my life who are sober today as a result of my sobriety, one of them being my dear sister Elizabeth.

 

During the spring of 1984, Elizabeth came to visit me in Toronto after I had been sober for about six months and I believe that she was inspired enough with my sobriety to become sober herself. She had great help from our dear mother Anna who became a staunch supporter of Alanon on the English South Coast centered on Eastbourne.

 

Alcoholics Anonymous from that moment on became the guiding influence in Elizabeth’s life and the things that she achieved as a result are legion. Her own sobriety was a shining example to many both here in the British Isles, in Toronto, in Fort Lauderdale and the many places she visited in her sobriety. Her efforts in founding the annual AA Spring Convention on the Isle of Wight will be a legacy that lives on long after today.

 

Elizabeth Lucia Irwin was born on July the 20th, 1942 at Hutton Rudby in Yorkshire and was the second child of Arthur Irwin of Belfast, Northern Ireland and Mary Lucia Anna Irwin, nee Stirke, of Heselton in Wensleydale, Yorkshire.

 

 

 

 

Her younger brother, Michael Edward Irwin, was born in 1945 and Elizabeth and her two brothers enjoyed an idyllic existence in the Yorkshire countryside. In 1950 the family moved to Marske By Sea on the northeast Yorkshire coast as Dad wished to be closer to his work for ICI.

 

In 1953 Dad took a job with the Ministry of Defense in South London and the family moved to Mottingham. Elizabeth attended Babington House School for Girls in Eltham and was active in the Girls Sea Cadets. While brother David did his National Service from 1960 to 1962, the rest of the family went to Pakistan where Dad was seconded to do work for the Pakistan government. They lived at Wah in West Pakistan and had many adventures. Elizabeth always described this Pakistan experience as “an emancipation”.

In 1966 Elizabeth immigrated to Canada where she spent most of her time in Toronto and Barrie. By 1979 there was nothing to keep her in Canada and she returned home to Eastbourne where, in the meantime, Mum and Dad had moved on Dad’s retirement from the government.

 

Elizabeth’s working career was centered on the telephone and she was quite content to be a telephonist most of her working life resisting all attempts by her superiors to promote her. Starting in the Regent Palace Hotel in Central London then Bell Canada and finally the General Post Office, which became British Telecom. Towards the end of her career with British Telecom, Elizabeth was asked to take a position at Ryde on the Isle Of Wight. This was exactly what Elizabeth wanted and she made arrangements to purchase a small chalet in Gurnard where she was extremely happy. The Island has lost one of its most devoted residents. On Mum’s death, Elizabeth was left Mum’s apartment in Eastbourne so Elizabeth spent the last few years commuting, as the whim took her, between Eastbourne and the Isle Of Wight.

 

Briefly on her return from Canada and after her retirement from British Telecom in the mid 90’s, Elizabeth joined Consultus, a company that provided companions on a short-term basis for ladies living alone. This work was enjoyed by Elizabeth and she continued with it until the final illness prevented her from doing so.

 

In the dim distant past of Elizabeth’s life someone sent her a postcard with a picture of a hen on it. This incident lead to a passionate hobby of collecting hens and chickens in all shapes and sizes and media. There are a few chickens in the flat here in Eastbourne but her chalet on the Isle Of Wight in Gurnard is filled with many many hens and chickens. Elizabeth liked to travel and she and Mum had gone to many places in Europe and Britain. One of their favourite spots was Iceland which they visited a few times. In 1999 Elizabeth had a dog sledding holiday on Baffin Island in the Canadian north which she thoroughly enjoyed.

 

At the end of her life Elizabeth developed inoperable cancer and her quality of life was sharply reduced. She passed peacefully at 8:30 a.m. on Friday the 9th of March 2001. Elizabeth was predeceased by her Mother, Mary Lucia Anna Irwin, aged 83 in November, 1996; her Brother, Michael Edward Irwin, aged 53 in December, 1997; and her Father, Arthur Irwin, aged 91 in April, 2000. Elizabeth is survived by her Brother, David Eason Irwin, aged 61.

 

 

 

Elizabeth and I have gone through a stormy passage in the last few years with Mum, Mike and Dad's deaths following in quick succession. There are still relatives in England of course, but I'm now the last of the Five Happy Folk who made up the Irwin Family. As a Family we had our ups and downs but as a Family we were strong and I shall be forever grateful to have been a part of it, especially the last seventeen years since Elizabeth and I both became part of the great institution of Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

Thank you Mum, Dad, Elizabeth and Michael.

 

 

David Eason Irwin – March 9th, 2001

 

 


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