Ethel George, a remarkable woman who was a walking archive of Norwich history

She was described by family and friends as a most unique and selfless woman who dictated a book telling the story of a Norwich long past.

She was described by family and friends as a most unique and selfless woman who dictated a book telling the story of a Norwich long past.

The funeral of Ethel Eva George, from Ryrie Court, off South Park Avenue, took place this week, with relatives from as far away as Puerto Rico and America attending to pay tribute, telling tales of her selflessness and sunny outlook on life.

Mrs George, who passed away on January 2, aged 97, died before the opening of an exhibition in the Bridewell Museum in Bridewell Alley where visitors can see pictures of her and listen to audio recordings of her reminiscences.

In 2005, when 91, she spent hours with a hands-free microphone fitted around her neck, recalling her childhood for the benefit of writers and historians Carole and Michael Blackwell.

The pair wrote Mrs George's memoirs of a Norwich childhood, from 1914-1934. The book, pictured below, on sale at Jarrolds, is titled The Seventeenth Child, on account of her being the seventeenth and last child of her big family. She lived in Norwich all her life.

It tells the story of a large family growing up in a three bedroom house in depression-era Britain and paints a picture of a very different Norwich, where yard fights, poverty, bartering, illness and routine domestic violence were commonplace.

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But the book also champions our city, the care and affection that was shown and how people coped by all chipping in together.

And no one was more suited to passing comment on helping others, than Mrs George.

Her funeral was a celebration, as people told tale after tale of how they were helped by the woman who survived two wars, and often spent her lunch breaks cleaning a disabled lady's house or helping a blind person with their shopping.

On one occasion Mrs George heard a little girl crying and looked outside to see a father shoving his daughter down the road. She rushed out to confront the man and, despite not being the biggest woman, demanded to know what he was doing.

It turned out the girl had been sent to the shop and had lost half a crown. Times were hard, and the father was furious. Mrs George's daughter, Pamela Villarini, remembers seeing her go back into the house and come out again to the man, who then left, no longer angry with the girl.

It wasn't until some years later Mrs George revealed that she had slipped half a crown of her own money into the man's hand to spare the child, even though she herself was as hard up. The daughter of the woman who was that little girl attended Mrs George's funeral.

'She was a person who took nothing for herself, she loved everyone and everyone loved her,' said Mrs Villarini. 'She had the imagination of a child she could still remember all her life.'

Granddaughter Katie Kankanamge, a 26-year-old nurse from Costessey, said: 'She loved her family, she was happy and she wanted everyone else to be happy.

'She wasn't materialistic, but glamorous, she had so many earrings and necklaces, never a day would go by when she wasn't sparkly. Even if she wore a plain pair of shoes she would jazz them up with a brooch.'

Such was her desire to see others happy, she even bought a young man who was low on cash, Damien Mitchell from Norwich, an engagement ring so that he could ask his love to marry him in the proper fashion. She grew up near Barrack Street, between the vast Pockthorpe Brewery and the old Cavalry Barracks, one of the poorest areas of the city.

She started work at Batson and Webster's Boot and Shoe Operatives, where she became forewoman, and other factories.

Every year she and her husband Albert would travel to Potters Holiday Camp at Hopton on Sea, where she was so well known for her singing that the evening's entertainment would fit her into the schedule.

The writers of The Seventeenth Child were drawn to Mrs George because, as they said in the book's preface, she was a 'vivacious 91-year-old lady with remarkably fresh memories of her childhood in Norwich'.

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