Mauny Wood - a life filled with love, music and caring
PUBLISHED: 07:30 21 April 2018
Irish eyes were smiling whenever Mauny Wood walked into a room. She was the entertainer/ musician/ writer/ nurse/ artist/ charity worker/ antique dealer from Ireland who captured the hearts of the people of Norfolk and Suffolk. Derek James pays tribute to an extraordinary woman.
There has been no-one else quite like her in these parts and, if you ever met her or were entertained by Mauny Wood, you will know exactly when I mean. She was a ray of sunshine whatever the weather.
Born in 1922, she lived an amazing life before dying last month. People of all ages and from all walks of life loved her so much.
Dear Mauny had an army of fans and followers and we were the lucky ones when she married art teacher and Eastern Daily Press/Evening News art critic Hamilton (Bones) Wood and moved to Norwich.
They lived in, in what to begin with, a near-derelict home in Gurney Court on Magdalen Street where they raised six children: Jane, Clare, Marley, Penny, Richard and Sean. Sadly Richard died in 1990.
How the children loved their wonderful mum. So much fun and laughter to be had with Mauny around but they had to share her with so many others as her fame spread. So many people wanted a slice of this hard-working and talented woman.
Mauny was a fantastic singer, accordion player and mouth-organist who put on shows across Norfolk and Suffolk and even in her later years would perform with friends, calling themselves The Zimmer Follies.
She was also a great story-teller with her and wonderful sense of mischief and Irish humour she could relay dozens of anecdotes.
Son Sean said: “Her songs consisted primarily of Irish folk songs and her singing voice could silence a rowdy pub into almost reverential attention.
“Once a local farmer
requested she sang a song and promised her a live pig in return. She sang the song and was duly rewarded with the pig. It took up temporary residence in our bathroom and was given to a friend who went on to set up a pig farm,” added Sean.
She also had a keen interest in antiques and was well known in the local trade trawling second-hand shops and running her own stall in Quayside antique centre.
Born in Carrigadrohid, County Cork, in southern Ireland, she was the daughter of the village blacksmith. The blacksmith’s forge was a central part of local life. As a young girl she thought nothing of cycling a 30-mile round trip to collect a bag of nails.
She moved to England to take up nursing in London at the time of the wartime bombing blitz. At one time she was nursing German PoWs and showed her enormous compassion for them despite the circumstances.
Away from work Mauny indulged her passion for dancing, attending concerts with the American and Canadian troops.
“She was in London on VE Day and was attempting to catch a tube train,” Sean added. “The carriages were too crowded but she spotted an American soldier riding on the train buffers, he invited her to join him. So my mother rode through London underground on the buffers of a train with a total stranger. She said she looked quite a sight when she got off, covered in soot and grime.”
While in London she met Hamilton Wood. They married and moved to Norwich.
“The house at the time was in near dereliction and had no heating or running water. She managed to feed and clothe us with none of the usual kitchen appliances. She was famous for her home cooking, bread making and home brewing.
“There was never a shortage of homemade food all produced while she sang her Irish folk songs, filling the entire household with music and the smell of fresh bread,” he added.
One night a would-be burglar was attempting to steal a bike from the shed. He was so captivated by her singing he stopped to listen to her. She spotted him and instead of calling the police, asked him in for a cup of hot chocolate and he became a family friend.
Mauny later married former Norwich City architect David Percival and moved to Cathedral Close.
She resumed her nursing career when the children grew up and trained as a psychiatric nurse, becoming a ward sister at St Andrew’s Hospital, Thorpe, and a passionate advocate for her patients.
“She had little time for pomposity, institutionalisation, or hierarchy and gave the hospital managers plenty of challenges to their authority,” said Sean.
“My mother maintained her energy, wit, humour and intelligence to the end of her life. She did have moments of personal tragedy but bore these with dignity and did not succumb to these times of sadness.
“She maintained her passion for music and storytelling to the end and remained eternally curious about life and its challenges,” added her son.
And he said: “She was aware she was terminally ill and when I asked her whether she feared death she replied with typical bravery and humour ‘No - I’m looking forward to the journey, I just hope it’s not too hot when I get there!’”
There are plans for a celebration of her life so watch this space for the details.
With special thanks to Sean, Penny and Jane.