Lewes mourns the death of its ‘Queen’

Maud Welfare SUS-151229-102438001
Maud Welfare SUS-151229-102438001

A Lewes woman affectionately known as Queen Elizabeth I by the town’s bonfire community has died aged 96.

Maud Welfare was born in Lewes in 1919 in North Street, near what was then known as Tiger Bay Alley. She attended Pells School, where she met her husband, Ronald Welfare.

When she left school at the age of 13, she went into service working at The Gallops in Ditching. She married Ron when they were 19 years old – just as WWII started.

She did not see much of Ron in those five years of the war, as he was sent off to fight for his country. At one point in the war, he was bombed on a ship called the Lancastria while being evacuated from France and was one of the lucky ones who survived.

He was sent out to North Africa and served under General Montgomery as a desert rat. On his return after the war, Ron went back home to Maud and his small son, who by now was five years old. He went back to work in The Phoenix Foundry.

The pair proudly had eight more children and Maud looked after many more for other families.

When it was Ron and Maud’s 40th wedding anniversary, they renewed their vows with all the trimmings, including their daughters surprising Maud as her bridesmaids.

On their 60th wedding anniversary, they went back to church again for a blessing. The couple had more than 60 years of married life before Ron passed away.

Maud was well known in Lewes as Queen Elizabeth I for many years, as she had the red hair and fiery temper of the Queen and was well loved by the bonfire boys and girls. She was sometimes affectionately known as ‘Mad Maud’.

She was a bonfire girl from a very young age and most of her children and grandchildren have followed in her footsteps, even to this day.

During the past few years, Maud had to give up walking on bonfire night as she could not manage School Hill. She did go in a wheel chair one year, but never again – she was too proud. Instead, she stood outside her house in Western Road, dressed in her Elizabeth I dress, cheering all the bonfire boys and girls as they passed by on bonfire night.

Maud remained a proud Lewesian, wife , mother of nine children – seven surviving – grandmother of 17 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and one great, great grandchild and a bonfire girl until the end.

There will be a service at St Ann’s Church, Western Road, Lewes on Wednesday, January 6, at 12.30pm. All family, friends, bonfire boys and girls – in strips if you wish – are welcome to attend the service, which will be followed by a private cremation.

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