Hazel Florence Gallagher (née de Courcy) 22nd October 1922 - 8th January 2005
Although, born in Cornwall, Hazel was from Irish stock. Her parents lived, met and married in the picturesque seaside town of Dunmore East, County Waterford, Ireland.
Her father, Thomas de Courcy was a cycle and motorcycle mechanic and his father, Thomas, was a Boot maker. The de Courcy’s are purportedly descended from the Anglo-Norman nobleman, John de Courcy who came to Ireland in about 1177 AD. Since the early 1700s many of Hazel’s de Courcy ancestors were appointed as Freemen of the city of Waterford.
Hazel’s mother, Florence Robins, was the daughter of the Dunmore East coastguard station commander, Charles Richard Robins, who attended the sinking of the SS Lusitania by the Germans during the first world in 1915. The coastguard station and living quarters were situated only a few hundred yeards from Thomas de Courcy's home.
With the political unrest leading up to Ireland's independance in 1922, Hazel’s Grandfather’s job as a coastguard in Ireland came to an end, so her parents followed him to England. Hazel was born on 22nd October 1922 in a tiny village called Minnions near Liskeard in Cornwall on the moors. She was the third girl of five sisters and also had one brother, Rixie. When Hazel was 7, the family moved to Cheddar into a two-bedroom stone cottage at the bottom of the Lippiatt. The cottage was next door to Gough's Garage where her father worked as a mechanic.
Hazel grew into a stunningly beautiful teenager who enjoyed dancing, and she would go to the Country Dances at her school. After school she worked part-time in the Caveman Gift Shop in Cheddar, selling souvenirs to tourists. Later, during the war years, she worked at Axbridge Ordnance depot as a store keeper.
Her closest friend in Cheddar was Betty Gilchrist. They spent a lot of time at each other houses and would often go to dances together.
Her husband, Alfred, describes the young Hazel as quiet and affectionate but, much livelier after a few drinks!
The Courting of Hazel
During the war in 1942, Alfred Gallagher was a Quarter Master Sergeant making regular visits to the Ordnance Depot in Axbridge, to collect Army supplies. As Hazel was a store-keeper at the Depot and was responsible for packing and handing over the bags, they would meet regularly…..and this beautiful store-keeper did not escape Alfred’s notice.
However, the shy Alfred took six months to pluck up the courage to ask this girl from Cheddar the question: “Do you know Cheddar?”. Eventually, they arranged to meet in Weston Super Mare, where they had tea in a Café. Alfred cycled the 20 miles from Markham Camp near Portishead, while Hazel took the bus from Cheddar. However, for safety, Hazel would take along her close friend and chaperone, Betty Gilchrist. Sometimes they went to the Tea Dances in the Winter Gardens, but as Alfred couldn’t dance, Hazel danced with Betty. Eventually, Hazel and Alfred started going to the cinema, without Betty.
Hazel’s father, Thomas de Courcy, holding her baby David in Cheddar
Hazel & Alfred's wedding 1946
Hazel in her teens in Cheddar Gorge
Betty Gilchrist & Hazel at the Roman Baths in Bath, c1942
Hazel in Tidworth with her two sons
Hazel’s mother, Florence (née Robins) de Courcy, sitting on her grandson's motorbike
outside her cottage in the Lippiatt, 1965
Hazel with her four young children in Bristol
Alfred & Hazel on Alfreds 90th birthday
This is an extract of a eulogy
for Hazel Gallagher,
by David Gallagher,
14th January 2005
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Hazel’s mother wouldn’t let her cook in their tiny kitchen but family friends, Victor and Violet Painter, were happy to let her come and cook Sunday lunch for them. This is probably where she developed her great cooking skills. To show their appreciation, the Painters used to take Hazel and Alfred out to their favourite pub in Rodney Stoke. One time Hazel got rather drunk on whisky and Alfred had to carry her home. Shortly after that incident they got engaged.
Hazel had an evening job manning the switchboard for the local fire service so, Alfred was able to talk to her by making free emergency calls. However,
the authorities were not too happy about this. Finally, they resorted to telephoning each other from telephone boxes, Alfred in Pill near Portishead and Hazel at one of the two phone boxes in Cheddar.
Hazel the Mother
Hazel and Alfred were married in 1946 and the following year they moved into married quarters at the Army camp in Tidworth, Hampshire, which was where their first two sons were born. The family then moved to Belmont Road, Bristol in 1952 when Alfred was demobbed from the army, and the family quorum was subsequently completed with the addition of a daughter and another son.
Hazel may have been mother to four children, but she was also unofficial foster-mother to numerous others. Hazel was always ready to feed and take care of her childrens' numerous friends that would accompany them back from school and, in later years, even find a bed for those that wanted to stay overnight.
Hazel loved children, and for many years she worked at Sefton Park Junior School as a dinner lady. She also loved dogs, having grown up with them, and so she always had a pet dog around the house.
Hazel the Grandmother
Hazel and Alfred moved to a smaller house in Portishead in 1980 as the nest was now empty. Hazel was devoted to her six grandchildren and always looked forward to their visits. In her later years, Hazel became foster mother to hundreds of teddy bears, possibly as an additional outlet for her unlimited love and affection.
Hazel enjoyed music, particularly that of Jim Reeves, Al Martino, Englebert Humperdinck, Andy Williams, Claus Wunderlich, and Russ Conway. She would sometimes sing along to records with her neighbour and friend Milly Sloper, both at the tops of their voices. She would also dance with Alfred to the music of Jim Reeves in the front room at Belmont Road.
Some abiding memories are: a never ending pot of tea, enormous Sunday roast dinners, the best cauliflower-cheese in the world, no hungry child turned away, curfew extensions, permission to get my first motorbike, and warm hugs and loving smiles.
Hazel has touched so many lives, and she will live forever in our hearts, beloved wife, mother, grand-mother, sister and friend.
Hazel with Milly Sloper, her neighbour, friend
& singing partner, outside 51 Belmont Road