Sunday, November 13, 2011


daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, wife, artist & rebel
EILEEN BARNES
1931 - 2011



Eileen departed from life in the night of May 29th, 2011.

Her daughter and granddaughter were already in bed and the lights were low. Eileen rests her cigarette in the ashtray. She stands up from her chair next to the sliding glass doors of their cottage. She hesitates slightly under the intense pain in her legs. Eileen needed to drink something other then wine to digest her many painkillers.

When Eileen reached the kitchen, leaning on her crutch and moving with baby steps, Death took her from the shadows. On the mantelpiece, the cigarette burned peacefully in the ashtray coupled with half a glass of wine. Eileen was granted 80 years of life and an immediate decease, sans wine, sans song...

Omar 1048 - 1131 
The poem above occurred apt to me and I think Eileen would have agreed. Before we die, let us sing and enjoy, so our spirit will be sans End...


The poem is derived from one of Eileen´s remaining possessions in life: a leather-bound pocket-sized book of poetry by Omar Khayyam. A unique treasure, soft to touch and worn with age.

The inside cover is signed E.D. Banks, April 7th 1925, which would indicate that it once belonged to Bill´s biological mother, Edith Banks. The circumstance surrounding the book otherwise, is a mystery.



RUBAIYAT of OMAR KHAYYAM, Fitzgerald translation

Eileen Barnes Biography (abridged!)


St. Ives, Cornwall, England, 2011
Eileen spent two summers catering to tourists on the remote and beautiful shores of St.Ives, Cornwall. It didn't matter if she was young and ambitious, there were tables to clear and floors to sweep!

It is here, in the quaint fishermen village, that Eileen met Bill. A place where many artists had found solace after the damage of WWII on the rest of England. 

Bill and Eileen were married in a heartbeat and she was bold enough to move to South Africa, far away from her British upbringing.

Eileen let go off her ambitions to became an artist with the Rambert Ballet Company, she had an opportunity to travel with the London dancers as a seamstress. Instead, she was about to do something unheard of, something completely different: she was about to follow her love to foreign lands.

As for Bill, he was going home to Johannesburg with a new bride and babe. His heart triumphed, he was about to embark on his path to success as an acclaimed artist.

Living alongside Bill was certainly not an easy task for Eileen. Their marriage was rocky at best as Bill's career took precedence. Eileen's role was to be the wife and mother, although I'm sure she felt reminded that she was an immigrant above all.

What I know of Eileen is that she fought for emancipation and feminism; she wasn't afraid to smoke cigarettes at the dining table (when it was not tolerated by the host she accidentally broke a crystal glass!) and she never considered herself a South African, even after living in the country some 60 odd years.

We will really miss that argumentative, opinionated, stubborn personality. Her life may not have been an easy one, but her courage, Cockney humour and stoic strength was undeniable!

Eileen, circa 1981, home in Johannesburg, South Africa

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