May Walden was the second youngest of the eight children, born in Birmingham on 30 May 1894 (hence her name?) to Henry Walden & Clara Howes. In the 1911 census May is described as a clerk working in Jewellery, Birmingham; she gave her birth place as Rotton Park (located within 1km of the Jewellery Quarter; at its peak in the early 1900s the Jewellery Quarter employed over 30,000 people).

May Walden married Hubert Wilson Lemon (b. 06 Sep 1884) in 1914. Hubert's parents were Heath Lemon & Eliza Barber. In the 1911 census Hubert, aged 26 and single, was listed at his parents address - the record states Lady Woon, but most probably Ladywood, also near the Jewellery District. He is then described as a clerk, Carpet Cleaning Co. His birthplace was stated to be Warwick, Birmingham. Heath, whose birth place was Aylesbury, worked as an officer of customs and excise. In the 1901 census the family lived at 1 Handsworth New Road; in addition to Hubert, there were two other sons Edgar (aged 22), Bernard (aged 13), a daughter Florence (aged 23) and a nephew Albert (aged 19).

Hubert next shows up in the 1912 electoral registers, Rotton Park Ward, living with in his father on the third floor of a furnished flat at 264 Gillott Rd, earning 7/6 per week.

In the 1920 electoral register and the 1921 Kelly's Directory of Birmingham Hubert is listed at 217 Selly Oak Rd, Kings Norton, the address where May's sister Annie gave when she married in 1918, and that her mother Clara Walden gave when she travelled to New York in 1922 to visit her daughter Annie and grand-daughter Sheila.

When WWI broke out, Hubert became a conscientious objector. The following item appeared in a report by Cyril Pearce (2014: War Resisters in Britain, 1914-1918: an introduction to the British Online Archives edition. Last updated: 30 September 2014). It relates to one of the organisations that were formed to support conscientious objectors, the Union of Democratic Control (UDC):

... The UDC's campaigning pamphlets were important statements of its policy and helped sustain the criticism of the war and to establish its Manifesto as a basis for the construction of a lasting peace. Its monthly journal, The UDC, reinforced its pamphlets campaigns by including articles written by its leading members which were both policy statements and commentaries on the war.

Beyond all that, it had a local presence in the form of more than a hundred branches spread across the country and a monthly journal which reported their activities. It was The UDC which by reporting on branch activity helped sustain a sense of the UDC as not simply an elite metropolitan organisation. For example, The UDC issue for December 1916, carried the following report of its Birmingham branch's activities in November.

Birmingham: The following meetings have been addressed by our speakers during November: Sparkhill Women's Co-operative Guild, by Rev. Morgan Whiteman; Handsworth Women's Co-operative Guild by Councillor Harrison Barrow; Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners by Mr J. E. Southall; Operative Bricklayers' Society by Mr E. W. Hampton; No.10 branch N.U.R. by Mr W. Milner; Bournville Women's Co-operative Guild, by Rev. Morgan Whiteman; Railway Clerks' Association by Councillor J. W. Kneeshaw; Bristol Street Adult School Class XIV by Councillor Harrison Barrow. Owing to the exigencies of the Military Service Act, our Organiser, Mr Fred Longden is no longer with us, but is awaiting sentence of Court Martial. Our Treasurer has also left to take up alternative service offered him by the Tribunal. Please address all communications to the Secretary, Hubert W. Lemon at 69, Mostyn Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.

According to their grandson Rob, May and Hubert were part of a sort of Arts and Crafts-inspired Brummie Bloomsbury. May was certainly a model for a mural Corporation Street, Birmingham in March 1914 by Joseph Southall:

May Walden as model May, second woman from the right; courtesy of © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Rob also passed on a family legend, namely that May and Hubert were in the first play ever broadcast by the BBC. Daily broadcasting by the BBC began in Marconi's London studio, 2LO, in the Strand, on 14 Nov 1922. We have not placed May and Hubert in London until 1933 ; from at least then until 1939 they lived at 68 Lansdowne Rd, Kensington (see aslo the electoral registers of 1934, 1935, 1937 and 1938). In the 1939 England and Wales Register Hubert was described as a Depatmental manager of gramaphone machines, so possibly being in the industry does suggest he may have been involved in early radio broadcasts. In that register he was also described as AR [Air Raid] Warden at Hay...

May and Hubert drifted apart over time, and by the end of the war Hubert was on his own: from 1945 to 1949 he is listed at 28 Queen Anne’s Grove; in 1946 his son Peter was also registered there. In 1956 he lived at 167 Dalling Rd Barons Court. He passed away in 1961 at Maidenhead in Berkshire.

From 1945 to 1955 a May Lemon is registered at 32 Addison Gardens, Kensington, although we can't be sure this is Hubert's wife. May migrated to Australia, arriving in Fremantle on 30 Jun 1954 on board the Otranto (person #736), giving her sister Annie's address (Deerdene, Stafford St, Double Bay, Sydney) as her destination. Annie was the author's grandmother; her grandchildren recall meeting May off the Otranto, and being wonderstruck at the gifts she pulled out of her luggage - a fez (a red cone shaped hat with tassles, typically worn by Muslims, which she presumably picked up on one of the ports of call), a Mr Potato Head set (although the noses and ears and glasses were stuck into real potatoes in those days).

May and Hubert had 3 children:

01. Ralph Peter (b. 24 Dec 1917 in Birmingham, d. 1992)

02. Michael F H (b. 07 Mar 1919 in Kings Norton, Worcestershire, d. ?)

03. Donald Christopher (b. 29 Sep 1920 in Kings Norton, Worcestershire, d. 28 Nov 2009 in Truro, Cornwall)

Lemon boys

May (and Hubert, back left) and the three boys are shown in a photo taken in about 1924 in the Channel Islands. The writing on the photo on the left was done by May's sister Annie; she has clearly identified the boys as Peter, Mickey and Donald.

May in NY



A wonderful obituary of Don Lemon, written by his son Rob, appeared in The Guardian on Mon 4 Jan 2010:

My father, Don Lemon, who has died aged 89, worked in catering all his life, from chef at the Savoy hotel, through the war in the Royal Navy, to Africa and then into the airline business. Although he was a socialist, he remained immensely proud of having cooked for the King, at the 1937 banquet for the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Born in Kings Norton, near Birmingham, he grew up there, and in King's Lynn, Norfolk, and west London. He went to school at St Peter's, Hammersmith, until the age of 13, then trained as a chef at Westminster technical institute. He said he had chosen this career because his mother could not cook. In 1937, he graduated as top student, and got a job in the kitchens of the Savoy. By 1939 he was a chef de partie.

He enlisted in the navy in 1940. As chief cook and gunner, he served on HMS Begonia, a Flower-class corvette, and on convoys across the Atlantic and to Russia; on the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, sending off their Swordfish to hunt for the Bismarck and delivering Spitfires to Malta; and on HMS Glory, an escort carrier that was part of the British Pacific fleet. He survived kamikaze attack, saw the Japanese surrender, finally got demobbed in 1946 and went back to the Savoy.

In 1947, on the eve of Princess Elizabeth's marriage to the Duke of Edinburgh, he joined the strike by 1,300 catering staff in the Savoy group of hotels, which included Claridge's, the Berkeley and Simpson's in the Strand, where royalty from all over the world were staying. (A Metropolitan police file on alleged brutality against the strikers remains closed until 2024.) Don left the Savoy and found a new position as head chef at Moor Hall hotel near Bexhill, East Sussex.

He courted Patricia Goodwin with dances at the Hammersmith Palais and Alexandra Palace. At the local swimming baths he also impressed her with his award-winning diving. Watching Dad do a swallow dive from the top board was breathtaking. They married in 1950, and he went to Africa as head of catering on Nigerian railways. In 1953 he was deputy manager of the airport hotel in Kano, northern Nigeria. In those days, planes could only fly across the featureless Sahara using astral navigation, and would arrive at dawn in Kano to refuel and take on food supplied by his hotel, before heading on to Johannesburg.

In 1955 Don returned to Britain and became a catering inspector for British European Airways. He ended his career as their chief catering superintendent overseas, responsible for all aspects of catering provision. He retired in 1978. Two years later he fulfilled his dream of moving to a cottage in Cornwall.

He was a great storyteller, wonderful with children, an unbeatable Scrabble player, and just plain good company. In his final year he became confused, but my sister Susan ensured that he received the best possible care. Right to the end, he was still the charming raconteur, with a twinkle in his eye.

He is survived by Patricia, my sisters Carolyn and Susan, my brother Peter and me, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


May The photo on the right is of May taken in Sydney, NSW in the 1950s.

Once in Sydney May became a housekeeper - for a long time to an interesting gay man who lived in Kings Cross, Sydney's red light district, and to a family who lived in Vaucluse, one of the harbour-side eastern suburbs of Sydney. On one Boxing Day visit to May we recall sitting on her back verandah watching the ocean yachts racing down the harbour to Sydney heads on their way to Hobart in Tasmania. Don's wife Pat believes that May was involved with the Baptist Church, and was an organiser for Billy Graham's 1959 Crusade Tour. May died in Sydney in 1967. Her mother's name was recorded (incorrectly) as Clare.