My Family


Sidney (aged 76) suffered a stroke and died at Bath in September 1956, a year after the photograph above left was taken. After a service at Bath Abbey, he was cremated at Amos Vale Crematorium, Bristol.


Three years later Dora moved to 254 Victoria Drive, Eastbourne, Sussex where her son had begun a dental practice. It was here that I recall staying with her one hot summer shortly after she moved. I had just discovered the ‘Doctor’ books by Richard Gordon and I read in the garden as the sun seared down. I was intrigued that her house was at the foot of the Downs where the South Downs Way ended.


Dora (aged 80) died in an Eastbourne nursing home during October 1972.

Sidney Frederick  and
Dora Elsie (nee Dee) Pillow

Dora Elsie Dee was born at 4.15 am on 22 July 1892 at 34 Hawksley Road, Stoke Newington. She was the third daughter of George and Annie Dee, my great grandparents. Dora was christened in August at the parish church of St Mary’s.


Like her sister, Marjorie, Dora trained as pupil teacher at Avery Hill, Eltham. She taught for a while but suffered from a ‘relaxed throat’ which was possibly caused by stress and stopped teaching. She then started work in the Education Departments of (London) County Hall where she undertook clerical and committee work.


In 1925, during an expedition to Heist, (whilst on holiday at Blankenberge, Belgium) a stranger offered to help photograph a statue on the seafront. Two years later, Dora and the stranger (Sidney Frederick Pillow) were married at Stoke Newington on 3 September 1927.

Sidney Pillow was born at Bermondsey, (in Surrey to the south of the Thames) on 5 March 1880. The Pillows were of Huguenot origin (original surname: Pilon) and Sidney’s father was a commercial clerk. In 1901, Sidney was a hired writer in the docks/harbour and subsequently worked in the Admiralty – at one stage having an office that overlooked Horse-guards parade. In 1911, he was living at New Cross and working at the West India Docks. Later,  part of his brief was to complete an inventory of items at the Greenwich naval college.


The couple had one child, a son, Gerald Pillow, who was born in the Croydon area on September 26, 1932.


When World War II began, the family was evacuated to Bath and lived in ‘digs’ at 16 Forester Road, 30 Belvedere and 7 Pulteney Avenue. After the war, the Pillows stayed in Bath and in the mid-1950s were living at 17 Englishcombe Lane. Sidney was not allowed to leave the Admiralty until after the war and so he eventually retired in 1946, aged 66. By this time he was a senior contracts officer who invited and opened tenders for goods and handled blueprints and samples.


Sidney took an interest in Bath’s rich historical heritage and became a guide at Bath Abbey where his family worshipped. He also attended WEA classes and was a member of the Camerton Excavation Club.

The following memories of the Dee family have been kindly provided by Gerald Pillow


Principal Characters:




















My memories of Grandma start in 'Brooklyn', 95 Fairholt Road, Stoke Newington, N.16, long after G.J. Dee had died from 'flu, and before Grandma had fallen down a short flight of stairs, breaking her femur in 1937 or '38. In those days, this would have been treated by her own doctor (Dr Philip Williams), who apparently once paid a visit on horseback, and she was kept in bed, with the leg immobilized between two sandbags. It never did set well, so she remained an invalid -Miss Payne then joined the household as her paid Companion.


I recall a chalk 'egg', left over from the days when they kept chickens, a 'Father Christmas Room' - locked before Christmas, and a large family-gathering round the meal-table. Uncle Jack (the joker of the family) was there, courageously swallowing mouthfuls of flaming Christmas pudding.


Sometime before, there was a tenant in an attic flat known as Miss Collier, and there was a large cellar which I loved to explore, retrieving interesting blocks of wood intended for the fire, but which made excellent toys. As in all houses then, coal was shot down a chute through a hole in the pavement.


Gran, as most families did then, had a maid to help in the house and kitchen. Once, when my mother displeased her at table (there were visitors present), Gran asked Hilda (the maid) to fetch Miss Dora two tea-plates for her elbows! My mother relates that once they had a black-boy called Toto to help, and also kept a collie as well as the occasional cat.


In 1939, after the declaration of war, Marjorie Ryan, Margaret and Ann, and Grandma temporarily moved to Bexhill (17 Woodville Road) to escape the expected bombing of London. After Dad's evacuation to Bath with the Admiralty, Mum (Dora) and I (with one white mouse - to the disgust of A. Marjorie) joined them (8.9.39), staying in the house next-door with a lady who had been in India; in those days, we were not used to the smell of curry! Later, we moved to another flat nearby.


I thought it was wonderful to be with Margaret and Ann so near the sea, we collected coloured stones from the nearby beach, and visited "Uncle Tom's Cabin" for sweets and comics (Tiny Tots, Rainbow, & Sunny Stories!). We played a lot in the cellar of their rented house, which had a slightly musty smell, until this was discouraged by the adults who said it was damp and had rats! Spoil sports!


After giving them all chicken-pox (contracted from Dad's shingles attack a few weeks before), Mum and I moved to Bath to rejoin Dad in new 'digs' he had found at 16 Forester Road (30.10.39), and stayed there a few weeks before moving on to 30 Belvedere. Our first 'digs' in Bath were owned by two spinsters (Agnes and Harriet Nichols), and a few years later, Harriet (now left on her own) agreed to take in Grandma and Miss Payne, both of whom by now, had returned to Stoke Newington as the period of 'phoney war' meant there was little in the way of air raids in London at that time. It was our turn to look after Gran, and it was very exciting for a boy of about 9.


She arrived at our house (7 Pulteney Avenue), packed in a St John's Ambulance (immobile because of her hip), with Miss Payne and her two silver-capped walking-sticks - one of which had tooth-marks on its tip from various children. She slept in our dining-room downstairs; this was prior to our having a Morrison shelter in that room, so it must have been before the three bad air-raids of April 1942 - after which we got the shelter! Miss Nichols then agreed to take them both, and they moved from us to 16 Forester Road by taxi, which had strict instructions not to drive at more than 3 mph!


She and Miss Payne shared a bed-sitting room, and she used to get fully dressed and hobble to a comfortable arm-chair where she spent her days - writing, reading, and knitting sea-boot-stockings. I still remember the oily smell of the huge balls of wool they devoured! Dad bought her a 'Little Maestro' AC/DC wireless set (radio); she had her own commode by the bedside. We used often to visit her on our bikes (there was little or no road-traffic in those days), and she never forgot my Saturday's penny!


She remained there for 3-4 years, then moved down to Portsmouth to be with Auntie Edie and Uncle Charlie. Again, a St John's Ambulance took her; I vaguely remember a figure around £30 being mentioned.


Grandma died in a Portsmouth nursing-home, and I was able to go to the funeral with my parents, in St Mary's Church, Stoke Newington, and to the subsequent burial in Arnos Grove - I don't think it was in Abney Park Cemetery where Grandpa (who I never knew) was buried. I well remember a friend from Stoke Newington singing: It's Good to be Gay on St Nicholas Day at the 'reception' afterwards, which was held in Auntie Gertie's house in their normally cocooned lounge, with several other friends and family present. It's so odd how the meaning of words changes completely when a few years have gone by!


Mainly about Uncle Harold Saunders


After the war was over, Uncle Harold, in his capacity as the future Comptroller of the Patent Office, did a lot of work on restoring the validity of German patents, and on his retirement this was recognised by his being awarded a knighthood. Thereafter, he became Sir Harold, and Auntie Gertie likewise became Lady Saunders! He was asked to attend many dinners & social functions in London, and he was nicknamed 'The Gay Knight' because of the boisterous and rapid dancing that he and Auntie Gertie enjoyed on these occasions.


He was generous and philanthropic, and was associated with his old school, (Bancroft's), in organising financial help for less well-off pupils to enable them to have better opportunities to train for their future life than otherwise they would have had on leaving school. Bancroft's School honoured him by commissioning a bronze bust of him which ultimately stood on a pedestal on the school's main staircase.


For reasons which I am not familiar with, there was said to have been a feud between him and Grandma (Annie Dee). Nevertheless, being a barrister, he was granted Power of Attorney for her while she lived in Bath, and dealt with all her house-sales and bomb-damage repairs which were necessary after the London air-raids. She occasionally became frustrated with him, and said, ‘He never got on with things’!


In addition to the many accomplishments described in Who was Who, he became a Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. He had a B.Sc. degree, and to help his career in the Patent Office, studied law in his own time, ultimately being 'called to the Bar'; that is, he became a barrister. His hand-writing was unbelievable!


Ironically, he died of a ruptured heart whilst in the bathroom. Possibly this was the result of a previous myocardial infarction.


He was a very kind, approachable uncle, who once gave me a lot of embarrassment by thrusting a ten-shilling note into my palm - this was in 1947!


Auntie Gertie - was always the slightly eccentric sister, but she was always a very nice person with no 'airs nor graces'. Whenever we stayed in Winchmore Hill after the war, she insisted on being told when we were about to leave for the walk there which was only a mile or so! If this were not done, there would be a grave risk that we might see the lounge furniture all covered in dust-sheets!


After the war, both her children (Joyce and John) would have been living at home after the finish of their time in the Services. John was quite frail on his return from Burma, and Joyce's mental state, which I understand had been quite alright prior to the war-years, began to deteriorate considerably as time went by. Towards the end of Auntie Gertie's life, she had real problems with Joyce. Auntie Gertie was timid as Joyce was very strong, and as a result became quite a recluse locally - afraid also to seek help in case Joyce might become institutionalised once the nature of the problems became known.


In the years following Uncle Harold's death, Joyce and her mother occupied themselves very successfully in their garden, growing flowers interestingly mingled with vegetables amongst them (lettuces, carrots, etc.). The result was most effective!


It was often smiled at in the family - that a very modest lady like Auntie Gertie should be called upon so often to open fetes and garden-parties in her capacity as Lady Saunders. I can't imagine how Joyce fitted in with all these engagements!


We (Mum, David and I) visited her by car on several occasions from Eastbourne, at her home at 22 Lakeside Road, Palmer's Green, N.22 - see the 'photo of Mum and David taken in Regent Street whilst on the way up to Palmer's Green. Mum really enjoyed these little jaunts, and of course, it was the only way she could get to see her elder sister. We were made most welcome, but things were just slightly odd. Margaret and Ann used to joke about it when we stayed with them. Mum often had letters from Auntie Gertie, keeping her up to date, and the four sisters (the eldest being Auntie Edie) would always exchange 2/6d Postal Orders at Christmas and birthday times.


She survived Joyce by a few years, and I believe died as the result of a neoplasm.


John - like his father went to Bancroft's School, trained to become an actuary, and when war broke out, rose to be a major in the army, serving in Burma in the Royal Artillery. His parents were so proud of him! After the war, he returned to England emaciated and weak - probably the result of some unidentified tropical illness. He had a local girl-friend called Iris, dating probably from the time before he joined-up. I met her once or twice when visiting the family with my parents. After John's death, she remained loyal to Auntie Gertie. I thought she was a little insipid, and she seemed rather clinging.


One Sunday morning in Bath, I spotted over breakfast, a very small paragraph in the Sunday paper which related that the body of Major John Saunders had been recovered from the foot of Beachy Head. Nothing else was said in the paper, but I had to point it out to Mum and Dad.


His room was kept as his memorial, and nothing was ever moved. Rarely was he mentioned after this. Even in his father's entry in Who's Who?, and the more recent Who was Who?, there is reference to a daughter, but John does not receive so much as one word. It seems so strange!


Joyce Saunders apparently had no problems prior to the war, and joined-up in the WAAF. One of her duties was to plot the progress of  planes on bombing-raids over Europe, also fighter-planes' skirmishes; it is possible that she discovered that someone close to her had been shot down, but this is pure conjecture. She became upset after being demobbed, and became worse-and-worse over a number of years, being quite violent at times. Her mother grew afraid of her, yet insisted that Joyce should continue living at home. There were many frightening incidents for Auntie Gertie, and Joyce finally was killed in a fall down the stairs.


This solved many a problem, as Auntie Gertie was becoming most frail, and there were several signs that she was not coping very well with house-work. How Joyce would have fared after her mother had died was an almost unanswerable question, although financially, she had been well catered for.


AUNTIE MARJORIE and UNCLE ARTHUR RYAN appeared to be fairly well-off. They had a detached house, (32 Arlow Road, Winchmore Hill, N 21) with a nice garden, and lawn to the rear; Uncle Arthur had a Lanchester car , with pre-selector gears, which had to be laid-up on blocks during the war, but fortunately was not 'requisitioned' by the Government - a risk in those times. He and Auntie Marjorie played golf nearby.


We often stayed with them after the war was over, and although my parents were wary lest this should be regarded as an 'act of charity', we really enjoyed our stays with them all. Mostly, the visits were at Christmas-time, and we were taken to the London theatres to see such shows as Showboat, Carousel, Lilac Time, and Annie, Get your Gun, also to the Harringay Ice Show. Uncle Arthur had to pay visits to Mount Pleasant each year as Christmas approached, to see how they were coping with the Christmas mail. A chauffeur-driven car would arrive at his home to whisk him off; though this was specially laid on because of the Christmas rush, and not a habitual way of travel! He was Director of the London Postal Region, and on his retirement, received a CBE. Very occasionally, he seemed a trifle aloof, and Mum and Dad were a little in awe of him, because of his position. A hamper would arrive from a shop in Jermyn Street, full of special Christmas 'goodies' which must have cost a mint of money. On reflection, it may have been a present from work colleagues, but it formed part of our Christmas ritual.


Auntie Marjorie came across as happy, light-headed and flippant -she was always my favorite auntie! She often sent nice, long letters to my Mother, albeit with slightly modern spelling (sox, not socks!) which Mum said was probably the result of a blow to one of her temples when she was much younger.


Many years later, Dorothy Woolliams (Jack & Amy Dear's daughter) suggested to me, whilst in the dentist's chair, that my mother and Marjorie had been involved on some kind of feud. This was totally unexpected, and I cannot recall or imagine what it could have been about.


To digress, Marjorie and my mother used to 'gang-up' together, and Mum once recalled an occasion when they taped-up Gertie's mouth with Elastoplast! Auntie Marjorie and my mother are seen together in the delightful photo of the two girls with their parents whilst on holiday in Eastbourne - most likely staying at the old Angles Hotel, just east of the pier. This picture was passed on to me by Dorothy Woolliams in 1992. Mum and Marjorie always enjoyed the other's company as Edie was much older and married by that time, and Gertie was always the older sister who still lived at home.


Margaret and Ann Ryan


I got to know them properly when we spent several weeks close together in Bexhill at the beginning of the war. Later on, after the war, they visited us in Bath, sometimes without their parents, and we had many happy days together - going on country walks, taking picnics and gathering vast bunches of bluebells, primroses and cowslips - and visiting the cattle market in Bath -doing all the things they couldn't do in Winchmore Hill.


A few years later, I took photos which show them out in my little 10' sailing-dinghy ‘Fiona’, which I kept on the river at Saltford (between Bath and Bristol) when I was about 18-21. Another picture shows them at Hampton Rocks, on the outskirts of Bath, having a day out with Leslie, who was evacuated to Bath at the beginning of the war, and who went back to London when he was 13 years old. At this stage, he was in Bath as a 'rep', visiting the area again as part of his job.


Later on, they were married, and as so often happens, we tended to lose touch - although I did play the organ at Margaret and Brians' wedding. I recall playing Handel's B flat Organ Concerto and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor (to quieten the guests down!). Ann married a young doctor. I saw her many years later at her mother's funeral in Bexhill, and she was accompanied by several very large sons! Some while after this, Margaret sadly died after having a massive stroke.


Uncle Arthur and Auntie Marjorie left Winchmore Hill after Arthur's retirement to live in Bexhill near a beautiful golf course. I recall that one of Arthur's brothers also lived there. They bought a house in Cooden Drive (‘Daymer Cottage’, No 226). Arthur bought a second-hand Daimler in which they visited Mum a few times: Mum by now lived in Eastbourne (235 Victoria Drive). Auntie Marjorie had a hip replacement which became badly infected, and this severely crippled her.


She developed diabetes, and died some years later from complications associated with this. There are also two photos of him all 'togged-up', giving the principal speech at the wedding of Jackie Woolliams - the daughter of Vic and Dorothy (nee Dear). This was at St Mary's Church, Willingdon, and the reception was at the Hydro Hotel in Eastbourne. I acted as semi-official photographer, also as organist - an odd combination!


Jackie's brother Mervyn, practices in Bexhill - he is our solicitor, and helped Erica and myself enormously in our recent move. He was a patient of mine (as were Vic and Dorothy) whilst I was practising dentistry in Hailsham, and drew up the final documents when I sold the practice in 1993.


My father died in 1956. When I qualified as a dental-surgeon in December 1958, I moved to Eastbourne. Mum followed a few months later so that she would not have been left on her own in Bath. Until her move, I lived for a few weeks, in a room next-door to Vic and Dorothy in Willingdon. Mum died in a Nursing Home in 1972.


This brings me pretty well up-to-date with events in my mother's family. I do hope that I have not given offence to anyone in my frank narrative!





Home Page


Annie Dee (nee Dear)

(Gran's companion) Laura Payne

Grandma's brother, John Dear

Sidney Frederick Pillow

Dora Elsie Pillow (nee Dee)

Gerald Pillow

Harold Leonard Saunders

Gertrude Florence Saunders (nee Dee)

Joyce Saunders

John Harold Saunders

Arthur Ryan

Marjorie Dee Ryan (nee Dee)

Margaret Dee Gumm (nee Ryan)

Ann Dee Nokes (nee Ryan)

Victor S Woolliams

Dorothy Woolliams (nee Dear)

Jackie Woolliams



Miss Payne

Uncle Jack

My father

My mother


Uncle Harold

Auntie Gertie



Uncle Arthur

Auntie Marjorie