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a picture of my aunt Irene in march 2008
young irene palfree smiling in a tree

My favourite photo of young Irene Palfree

Since I heard from my sister of the death of Irene, I have been remembering her with fondness. [Obituary notice]

The photographs I have of her are few. Some from her childhood days remind me, even though I was not yet alive then, of her sense of fun and cheeky wit.

Most of my memories of Auntie Irene Brazier (née Palfree) are from the 1950s and 1960s, before I left England to study in Canada and eventually stay in North America. Since then, I have tried to visit her, at least for a cup of tea and chat, on each trip to England. Clearly taking photographs was far from mind during those visits.

Born on the 14th February 1922, she was the little sister, and only sibling, of my father, Eric (Herbert Eric), who was born on the 3rd September 1913. In photographs on this page you will also see her big brother, her mother Dora (née Benson) and father Thomas Herbert Palfree (III), grandparents George and Sarah Benson, and a few other relatives.

Three month old baby Irene is shown below in the arms of her grandma Benson, who is sitting in a canopied lawn chair in the grounds of "Oak Lodge" with dog "Jimmy" at her feet.

baby irene with her grandma Sarah (Lucy) Benson

Baby Irene with her grandma Sarah (Lucy) Benson

young irene on window ledge with dog

Young Irene on window ledge

In the picture to the right, her companion must be Jimmy again. The dog's name is written on the back of the 1922 photo to the left—twice, in different handwriting, so I think Jimmy was an important family member in those years.

young irene with grandma Sarah and grandpa george benson at oak lodge

Young Irene with grandma and grandpa Benson

Here is a photograph of George and Sarah Benson ("Lucy", née Newsome) having tea in the garden at "Oak Lodge" with Irene stealing the focus.

I never knew "Oak Lodge" in Keyworth. From the way my father spoke of it, although he seldom talked about his young life, it must have been a mostly happy place for their childhood. When our new (1952) house was named "Cherry Lodge", I am sure he was making the connection with memories of "Oak Lodge".

young irene on bicycle supported by brother eric (my father)

Young Irene with her big brother Eric

Although my father did not talk much about his young life, Irene's sense of humour, combined with a sustained sense of sibling duty to tease her brother, ensured that my sister and I would hear a few choice anecdotes.

Apparently, when out walking, it was not a good idea to walk too closely behind Eric. His appreciation of neatness would lead him to stop suddenly, without warning, to pull up sagging socks and properly align them.

Not surprisingly, during and after the war, it was natural for the women of a family to develop strong cooperative relationships. Irene, I have heard, was there to help my mother, Helena (née White) with her babies. My sister, Rosemary, was born in the autumn of 1942, and I emerged at the beginning of 1946.

The next two photographs, apparently from the same day, and possibly taken by my father, since he is not in either picture, may have been my first visit to grandpa Palfree's home. Of course, I have no memory of it. But it is proof that auntie Irene was in my life from the start.

I am the baby held by my mother with my grandma and grandpa palfree and my sister in front and Irene in the rear

Palfree family photo 1946 (was Captain Eric the photographer?)

I think that these two family group photographs were at "The Studio" in Kinoulton, so called because it was formerly where Uncle Arthur Lowe, my great grandfather's brother-in-law, lived and worked.

In the first, Irene is behind my mother, who is holding me. Grandpa and grandma are on either side, and my sister, looking unbelievably sweet, is in the front.

The second (below) must have been taken on the same day just outside the house.

an outdoor photo of the 1946 group with me as baby
Uncle Arthur Brazier chatting and smoking in 1985

Oddly, I do not have any photograph with both Irene and her husband, Uncle Arthur Brazier. But here is a shot of him cropped from a photograph taken in 1985 at "Cherry Lodge".

Irene was quite delighted that I would more often turn to Uncle Arthur for help fixing broken toys than expect my father's help—more ammunition for teasing her brother. His defence, "well I am the thinker...", was not very effective.

When I was about eight, we moved from West-Bridgford to Tollerton, and lived just a few streets away from Auntie Irene and Uncle Arthur. I would just drop in to visit from time to time, and always got a friendly welcome. Naturally, I also got my share of good-natured teasing. In 1964 I started studying at London University, unaware that I would not be seeing them very often from then on. By the end of 1969 I was in Canada.

I am on skegness beach with auntie irene and her son (my cousine) paul about 1950

Outdoor family photo 1946 (was my father the photographer?)

I have good memories of our families getting together on occasions when I was young. The seaside photograph was from a trip we had together before we moved to live near them in Tollerton. It was most likely a 1950 trip.

This picture of Irene with her son, Paul, and me was cropped from a larger photo which includes also grandma White, my mother and father, Rosemary and our first dachshund, Jäger. We were on the beach at Skegness, one of the nearest seaside resorts for short holidays.

Who took the photograph? I expect it was Uncle Arthur, but was grandpa White with us? He was an avid photographer. I need Rosemary's help with an answer.

I was digging canals and making sand-castles with one hand on that holiday having tripped a few days before in a race across a friend's back yard and fractured my left humerus. I tended to do that sort of thing just before holidays. So I had a simple sling for a simple fracture, but am clearly happy to be near my Auntie Irene.

Irene with me and Ian Clarke on a happy wedding day in march 2008

Irene with me and Ian Clarke, March 2008, at the wedding of Jacqueline and Richard

The last time I saw Irene was in 2008. The happy time was when we flew to England for my niece's wedding in March. Rosemary's daughter Jackie married long-time friend Richard Mullins. In the photograph above Irene is with me and Ian Clarke, my grandma White's sister's son.

Irene will be missed. It will be most poignant when next I am in England knowing that she is no longer there to visit.


  • The second time I was in England in 2008 was for my mother's funeral in April.
  • Uncle Arthur Brazier died in August 2007.
Helena Topsy Palfree

Helena Topsy Palfree 1915-2008

Uncle Arthur Brazier chatting and gesturing in 1985

Arthur Sydney Brazier