Thomé Ariste BOISSARD Guy Peter Bartholomew BOISSARD Margaret Lilian BOISSARD Violet Agatha MELVILLE treeI72.gif


6th May 1914 - 9th May 1999

Life History

6th May 1914

Born in El Salto, Escuintla, Guatemala

9th May 1999

Died in Cambridge, England

p>[img src="images/small/pjg1917.jpg" width="450" height="271" alt="Peg, Jo, Guy and nurses ca 1917" /]

Joan, usually just ‘Jo’, ocasionally ‘Johanna’, was the eldest of three children born to Tomé Ariste BOISSARD and his wife Violet Lilian née Melville, and born I assume in Escuintla, Guatemala. Her father had a finca called Mauricio at a place called Palin in Guatemala where he grew sugar. In the above photo, taken around 1917, Guy is standing by Joan at the front while Peggy is the one being held. They had a nanny who was known as ‘Nenen’ of whom Peggy always spoke very fondly. Her proper name was Roselda, and she is seen here standing on the left. Her husband, Evariste, also had a nick-name; Cucul. Although it seems he spent most of his time in the sugar plantation, he was apparently also a fine cook and on high days and holidays, especially if a fancy tiered cake was required, the cry went up for “Evariste!” from the older generation or “Cucul!” from the younger. Roselda and Evariste had probably been with the family in Mauritius and moved with them to Guatemala.

In the next photo she is seen aged about six with her brother Guy aged about five.

[img src="images/small/joandguy.jpg" width="450" height="669" alt="Jo and Guy" /]

After schooling at Malvern Girls School she studied medicine at London University with a view to becoming a doctor. However, shortly before sitting her finals she became ill and was subsequently disabled with what she always referred to as ‘polio’. Whether this was the case or whether her disorder was a psycho-somatic, hysteric paralysis brought on through blue funk at the thought of sitting finals - as her sister maintained - will presumably never really be known. Nor is it clear that she ever took her finals or qualified as MD. She certainly was not above simple deception in her professional life, as will appear below, which she spent employed by various public health authorities in pathology laboratories; first in South Wales most of her life was spent in Cambridge where she worked for the Public Health Authority. Reluctant to retire, she successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of her employer by making a flagrant and very obvious alteration in biro to her birth certificate. This simple strategem seems to have done the trick as staved off the evil hour by one year.

Throughout her life she formed strong attachments to certain male figures – often unattainable because already married. While this may have been flattering to the egos of those on whom she bestowed her dogged attention, it was undoubtedly disruptive and invasive to the home life of the individuals concerned and deeply resented by other family members, children as well as wives. Two such families that I know of cut Jo dead once the object of her devotion had died.

She spent the bulk of her life living in Fen Ditton, a village on the outskirts of Cambridge where, over the years, she developed a fixation on a dolt of the first water, a virtual moron and natural member of the Tory party and staunch pillar - as he thought - of the local community who, through crass interference and worse advice caused Joan to make a number of serious financial errors. On this man's death, she devoted all her attention to the then vicar who ultimately lined his own pockets by means of guile, deception and lies to the tune of some three hundred thousand pounds - a matter which, when brought to the attention of the church authorities, caused them not the slightest qualm. (It is interesting to compare this attitude with the policy of most home care organizations, which expressly forbid the acceptance of such bequests or gifts. But then ‘churches’ have profited from the gullibility of the faithful for aeons.) This ‘man of God’ was not averse to outright theft. He removed a Boissard heirloom known as ‘the Admiral's sword’, about which I know nothing. Being covetous of naval memorabilia he stole it and only restored it to its rightful owner, to whom it was bequeathed, when challenged outright by the beneficiary's wife.

In case, dear reader, you think there is some special pleading here from a nephew who feels himself to have been deprived of a legacy, let me say this. Being pig-headed and obstinate, my aunt showed an admirable determination to die in her own home. Unfortunately she began to lose her marbles and took to phoning the emergency services because she could not find her teeth or the remote control for the TV or some other life-threatening crisis beset her. There was a real danger of her being forcibly removed to a home. For some bizarre reason it fell to me to sort her out and look after her interests. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that I did so with “due diligence”, in spite of knowing that her intentions in her will were effectively to give me nothing. I knew all along that there was nothing in it for me. What enraged me then, and still does, was that Jo had made it quite clear that she would give her house to anyone who said they wanted to live in it. She asked me, among others, but as I did not want to live in it I said as much. When, several years later, she asked the vicar, and he said “oh! yes please”, the deed was done with the connivance of The Dolt and her house, Kingsbury, Fen Ditton, bequeathed to the vicar. Nor did I ever imagine that had she not handed what amounted to a quarter of her estate to the vicar it, or the prceeds therefrom, might have come to me; it was always clear that everything would pass to Guy's only surviving son.

She discussed with me the future of her home as she was dying and was convinced that the vicar intended to live there. She told me how he had said it would be so nice to be able to retire in the village and such a grand place for his wretched, bloody grandchildren etc. I told her she was wrong. It was too late to do anything like change the will. Even before the grant of probate was made, the vicar was showing prospective purchasers round the place. He never lived in it for a single day and never intended to. Rant over - more or less.

She bore the Boissard hall-mark of being intolerant, judgemental and opinionated, regarding anyone with opinions differing from those she held as a fool or or, as in my case, both. [How convenient to be able to copy and paste Boissard characteristics!] If I associate her with the use of one characteristic word, it would be her applying to others the epithet of “imbecile.” Jo could be open-handed but expected the distribution of largesse to buy something - usually fawning loyalty and an unwillingness to disagree. She could have been very, very much more generous. She died worth about a million pounds out of which she gave a mere two hundred and fifty - that's pounds, not thousands! £250 to Heather, the person who had loyally cleaned and cooked for her for some twenty years, and who had latterly cleaned her, and cared for her, and whose husband (who got not a penny) had carried her down stairs in his arms when it was necessary to move her bedroom to the ground floor. It was the unstinting loyalty of this person that enabled Jo to live out the last of her days at home, and who, for example, scraped Jo off the floor when she had fallen and soiled herself. While this drama was playing out the vicar and his wife happened to call but as soon as they saw what was required in the way of christian charity they turned tail and left! And their reward? a property worth three hundred thousand pounds. But then, they're only christians.

Jo had been a keen bell ringer, and until middle age travelled about visiting various bell towers to ring. She also had hand bells at home which were occasionally produced and whoever was present expected to master the art in seconds. For most of the time I can remember her, she walked with a stick until I suppose the 1970s when she came to rely increasingly on a wheel-chair. She continued to drive till she was over 70, enabling her to visit the two cottages she owned in Norfolk (where she also led a Miller of Dee existence) and pursue her hobby of bird watching. She is buried in the Cemetery in Ditton Lane, on the outskirts of Cambridge where the commuters roar past oblivious on their rat run.

I could write more, but I lack the objectivity to do anything but bitch about her. Deeds speaking louder than words I will say this in my own defence; that the only people who rolled up their sleeves and sorted out the mess of her final few months were myself and Heather. Of the two of us, Heather far outperformed me and “bears the gree”. The principal beneficiary of her will couldn’t be bothered to turn up until it was time to cash in his inheritance, and the other main beneficiary, the vicar, kept well away until the coast was clear for him to show prospective purchasers the spoils. All in all, I didn't see eye to eye with Jo, but she probably deserved better than that.