Sunderland grandma who died from coronavirus leaves legacy with biography she never got to see

A Sunderland great grandma died from coronavirus just weeks before a book about her life was published.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 1:31 pm
Audrey Brunton's story of her life has been released just weeks after her death from Covid-19
Audrey Brunton's story of her life has been released just weeks after her death from Covid-19

Audrey Brunton, 89, of Tunstall, had spent the last year telling her memories of her life in Sunderland, from sheltering from bombs during the war to working at the Empire and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Basil Brush, to her son Ian Mole, 66.

It proved a great experience for the mother and son, with Ian learning things about his mum he never knew before. Audrey, who found out she was going to be a great grandma for the third time whilst in hospital, had read and signed off on a draft of the book, but passed away at Sunderland Royal Hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

She knew early extracts from the book had already been warmly received on Facebook and had seen the front cover, but with book printing halted due to lockdown, Audrey, who is also mum to Graham and Linda, never got to hold the book herself.

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Audrey Brunton with great granddaughter Evie

It’s since been released through ALS and more than 100 copies have already been sold.

Like many families of Covid victims, Ian and the rest of Audrey’s family were unable to be with her in her final hours, but the writer says the book has proved a comfort.

He said: “Mam was weeks away from her 90th and we’d been planning a big party. She had cancer, but was expected to live a couple more years. She’d gone into hospital on March 24 and she expected to come out again. I spoke to her on the phone the day before she died and she sounded very lucid. She’d been living independently and was fit as a fiddle for her age.

“It’s such a shame she never got to see the book. I’d told her that people on Facebook had seen parts and that it was being well received. “But she wasn’t on Facebook, she used to call it ‘that thing you go on on an evening’.”

The book is available through the A Love Supreme shop

Audrey was born and raised in the Wheatsheaf area of Sunderland in the shadow of Wearmouth Colliery and in the book she recalls being a child and sheltering during WWII as bombs rained down on the important industrial area.

In later years, Audrey moved to Elmwood Street near the long-gone Royal Infirmary where she raised her children and improved her home during times of post-war austerity.

Audrey juggled family life with working at the Sunderland Empire and in her 25 years’ service as secretary to the director got to see a host of stars and celebrities, from footballers to Basil Brush, and many of those colourful years feature in the book.

In later years, Audrey moved to the Crosslea Avenue area of Tunstall where she told her stories to Ian from February 2019-February 2020.

Audrey Brunton with her daughter Linda Craig

Speaking about how the book, called That’s All I Can Tell Yer, came about, he said: “I’ve written a lot of books about Sunderland, as well as books on Sunderland memories. A friend had asked me to write about her dad’s memories and when I told my mam, she said ‘why don’t we do one’.

“I live in London, so she would tell me the stories over the phone and I would write them down. I would send her the stories back and she’d read them and add bits. I learnt a lot about her that I never knew before, such as the moment I was born, which we’d never really discussed before, and she recalled things she thought she’d forgotten. It was a very nice exercise.

“We covered as many areas as possible, such as work and shops she used to visit that don’t exist anymore. It’s rather prophetic that it’s called That’s All I Can Tell Yer as that’s what she used to say at the end of every phone call.”

That’s All I Can Tell Yer by Audrey Brunton, as told to Ian Mole, is available from priced £7.50 or on eBay.

Writer Ian Mole

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