Beryl Stubbs was born in Leeds on 14th January 1938 and was brought up in the area of Middleton. With a stubborn streak and thick, curly auburn hair - you couldn’t miss her.
She was born into a poor family of 7 children. Her father served time in the Royal Navy, but was most well known for being a painter and decorator, just like his father before him. Her mother, my Nana, did tea leaves for fun, and from this was nurtured a gift in Beryl that Mother Nature had provided her with.
“I didn’t want to chose to be a psychic clairvoyant, it chose me. Being psychic from the early age of seven, at least that’s when I first realised the gift as people call it. Not realising that everyone could not see, hear or know things that I knew, I talked about it thinking everyone was the same. Later on in my teens I learned not to talk of my strange ability to see into the future. So my childhood was strange, often troubled, and mostly secretive". From a real life story written by Beryl.
Mum met my dad, John and married him on 17th August 1957, aged 19, having my brother and sister during their travels home and abroad with the RAF. It wasn’t until they settled in their first and only private home together that she decided to put her talents to use. I was growing up quickly, having been conceived quite by accident! I was always referred to as a 'bonus' being 15 years younger than my sister and 13 years younger than my brother. She’d do charity work, earning money dressed up as a gypsy and reading tea leaves.
I have vivid memories of our town’s annual Victorian Market on May Day, when queues would meander up and down the market place, with people desperate for a sitting with Madam Dawn, as she called herself.
She kept a comments book, and as I write this, I'm flicking through noticing some of the comments from celebrities who were herded to the front of the queue - Una Stubbs and Leslie Crowther to name two. At the end of each charity event, the queues would still be out of the door.
Eventually, she agreed to see people at home: something was beginning that would take over our lives forever.
Every evening, the phone would ring, the doorbell would buzz and in would troop scores of women, and the occasional man, from local factories and businesses, all with stories of the glowing reputation that mum had. My dad was a real grumpy old man; even HE believed in her ability and whilst he would never admit to it, I’m sure he was secretly proud of her reputation.
It used to annoy me immensely as I sat there straining to hear Coronation Street and my other favourite programmes whilst those in the 'waiting room', which doubled as the living room, oohed and aahed over the accuracies they’d been told.
Sittings would take place in the front room, which meant that I wasn’t always able to do my organ practice. One day in the school holidays, mum shouted me from my room to play the organ for one of her ladies. I ran down the stairs preparing to play 'The Dambuster’s March' and there, sat in the front room was Mrs Taylor, my music teacher from school!
Madam Dawn was a great success. She read tea leaves, but also used fortune cards and a crystal ball, as well as photo-scrying. Her main source of wisdom came through psychometry, which involved using a personal article such as a piece of jewellery and reading the vibrations it gave off.
She was a keen oil painter, writer and poet, always hoping that she would write a book one day. When she was younger she aspired to be an actress - perhaps that’s where I get my minstrel antics from?
I’m always being told that I have the gift and should be using it. People always ask if I can do it. Whilst my sister busies herself with healing and mediumship, I feel that it’s something that I would rather receive than give. I have other ways in which I give to society and just like my mum I can never remember that one little word - no.
Mum was a magazine junkie. She bought the lot - Take a Break, Chat, Woman etc. In 1989, the year I left school, she sent in one of her stories, 'I became a clairvoyant', to Woman magazine for their 'It happened to me' feature.
Following a visit from the photographer and a couple of chats with the feature writer on the telephone, we waited for its publication with anticipation. About ten days before the magazine was in circulation we started receiving telephone calls and correspondence containing money, jewellery, photographs and letters. You name it, it landed on our doorstep. When we finally saw the article, we realised that the magazine had printed her full name and address at the end of the article, which was a mixture of her own story and the journalist’s sensationalism.
People were so trusting. The poor postman, a month before Christmas, had to bring special sacks to our house containing hundreds of letters.
I landed myself the job of Madam Dawn’s secretary for the duration of my A level years. She couldn’t fit in regular clients since all her time was taken with answering the telephone and dealing with correspondence. We came up with a solution; there were so many people who needed and wanted help and counsel, that the only way to involve everyone was to have appointments by telephone only - local, national and international enquirers alike. Things were so manic that we had to have another telephone line put in.
Despite the fact that she was such a gifted lady, she never foresaw that my dad would tragically pass to the spirit world on 15th March 1991. The circumstances under which he died were sudden and tragic, but that’s another story. She would never recover enough, from the broken heart she endured, to work again. They had twin beds and none of us wanted to sleep in his bed that night, so she swapped them round. The bed she slept in near the wall for the next 8 years of her life, was his.
She returned a few times to her previous home in Malta with her friend Pat. They were waiting at a bus stop one day and got chatting to another English lady. When Mum said that she was from Derbyshire, the lady told them all about this wonderful clairvoyant who she’d read about, who lived there. Pat spent the entire bus journey kicking my mum under the seat and giving her the 'oh my God!' look. As they left the bus, Mum told the lady that she was in fact the clairvoyant from the article. How on earth did they ever find each other?
You’re probably wondering why I mentioned the bed situation. On 12th March 1999 Mum lost a fairly short but brave battle against cancer, one which she knew that she had to fight, even before the doctors diagnosed her. She had said that she wanted to die before the 15th, and she did, at almost exactly the same time as Dad, on the same Friday in March, 8 years after his passing.
I rushed home from work following the telephone call from my Uncle Alf, who had come over from New Zealand to take care of her. There she was, lying peacefully and free of pain in the bed beside the door. After 8 years of sleeping in Dad’s bed, she took her final breaths in her own - how did she know to do that?
Later that day my brother arrived with my youngest nephew, who grabbed my hand and dragged me up the stairs to enter the room where Granny once lived. Looking at the empty, freshly made beds, he sat on the one nearest the door, the one which he always slept in when he visited. He looked at me and piped up, “Am I sitting on Granny’s legs?” to which I replied, “No Christopher, you’re not".
I still wonder to this day how a 9 year old would have ever have known such a thing.
In writing this story, it was difficult to know what to put in and what to leave out. She left so many stories and poems, and what she called inspirational psychic writing. Until this moment, I’ve never really considered that any of these are anything other than things which belonged to her. Although, I suppose, that they are some of the most treasured family history articles I possess, and I never even realised until now. I still live in the house and although some people think it must be weird, I think that it’s quite normal and is home to me.
It is an honour to be asked to write about such a special person. She was loved by me, though not because of WHAT she was, but WHO she was. A very special lady who was my very best friend.
© Just Mandy 2008
A poem written by Beryl in 1983.
“Everyone is just like me,” I thought when I was young,
Then I found out that they weren’t the same, my psychic life begun,
I knew that I was different from a very early age,
And slowly and doubtfully, I plodded through each stage.
I didn’t even realise my friends were not like me,
I had my psychic powers from the early age of three,
No one could tell how I could see the happenings day by day,
No one could see the things I saw, much to my dismay.
The hauntings and the taunting, and tantalising fear,
I got images, then voices, in my young and tender ear.
The calamities and the traumas I saw in my mind’s eye,
Were real and oh so vivid and I often wondered why
I knew when things would happen in those troubled early years,
When there would be joy around, when there would be tears.
“She’s overwrought,” my folks would say, “she fabricates the lot,”
Like me they didn’t realise the gift that I had got,
The lonely times, the waiting time as I was singled out,
Not knowing till my older years what it was all about.
Then as my teenage years flew by, the spirit overtook,
I sifted and I sorted, through every kind of book,
I married young, my family grew, they slowly grew away,
My fears dispersed as years went by, the gift had come to stay.
A troubled life, a hectic life, this was to be my lot,
Only to make me stronger in the gift that I had got,
I knew that I was different from that very early age
And wearily and lonely, I plodded through each stage.
I searched all through my teenage years wondering if I’d find
Some answer to my torture but I’d left those years behind.
I used my gift to help people through strife and trouble too,
And I’ve found the burden lighter with the good works that I do.
I couldn’t talk to anyone, they wouldn’t understand,
But knew the gift within me, and was guided by The Hand,
I didn’t go and look for it, patiently waited year by year,
And gradually my heart grew strong, I drove out any fear.
I’m nearing up to fifty years, inside though feel quite bright,
As the illness and the heartache I’ve suffered seem quite light,
It was all to make me stronger, and humbler as I listened to The Call,
I’ve found the satisfaction, in the giving of it all.
Am I pleased with myself? People always seem to ask
I’m nothing special I reply, I was chosen for this task.
No I do not think I’m special, only humble I must be,
That Our Father God above us, found an instrument in me.
© Beryl 1983