With four full-page obituaries and others in the USA, Iona Opie would have been surprised but proud of the recognition.
The Times described her as a ‘folklorist renowned for her work on nursery rhymes and children’s games’, The Daily Telegraph as ‘half of a husband-and-wife team who collected and investigated the lore and language of childhood’, The Guardian as a ‘folklorist and expert on children’s rhymes, riddles, traditions and street culture’, and The Independent as ‘the world’s leading authority on child lore and nursery rhymes, Iona Opie combined a grace of spirit with a capacity for the toil of fact-grubbing research that knew few equals’.
I knew her as my mother, and the work that my parents slaved over was all simply part of family life, accepted within the routine of growing up. But my mum also had culinary triumphs, such as the amazing birthday cake creations in the shape of the moon or a postage stamp.
And there were the tragedies, such as the time when the cooker failed to heat the chicken and guests were expected. The situation was saved by the grocer across the road who, after closing time, produced a whole chicken in a can.
It was only later that I fully appreciated what my parents had achieved, for instance, when the Sunday Times produced a world list of ‘1,000 Makers of the Twentieth Century’ … and both my parents were amongst them.
There are many reasons why the Museum of Brands exists. For me, one of the most important is because the childhood items on display, from toys to sweet treats, act as a trigger to revive treasured memories.
This in turn helps us remember and then, hopefully, pass to the next generation those personal family tales that are part of our family history.
By Robert Opie
Discover the fascinating history of consumer culture from Victorian times to the present day at the Museum of Brands.