6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Sussex Life today click here

Mother Love - Virginia Lewis-Jones and her mother Dame Vera Lynn

15:20 23 February 2010

Mother Love - Virginia Lewis-Jones and her mother Dame Vera Lynn

Mother Love - Virginia Lewis-Jones and her mother Dame Vera Lynn

'Men are what their mothers made them' – so says the old quotation. In celebration of Mother's Day on March 14, Angela Wintle asks three Sussex personalities how their famous mothers shaped them

Virginia Lewis-Jones has often been mistaken for her famous mother, the Ditchling-based veteran singer Dame Vera Lynn. But although she now manages her mothers career, she has taken pains never to walk in her shadow


Last year was a very big year indeed for Dame Vera Lynn. She is well used to the limelight, but on the 70th anniversary of the Second World War she was very big news indeed and she marked the event by producing a best-selling autobiography and chart-busting CD.


But when it came to finding a narrator for the audiobook of her autobiography, her publishers were non-plussed. Who could they find to step into Dame Veras shoes? The answer, of course, had been staring them in the face. If they couldnt have Dame Vera (well, she was 92 after all), then why not the next best thing her daughter, Virginia? Not only did they look alike, but they sounded virtually identical, too!


Everybody comments on it, says Virginia, who lives next door to her mother in Ditchling, East Sussex. In fact, if were together, a lot of people recognise me first because they remember Mummy from when she was younger. Or sometimes they hear my voice and turn round, thinking its her. Id like to be able to say I sing like her, too. But I cant sing a note!
Since her fathers death 11 years ago, Virginia has managed all Dame Veras appointments. We discuss whether she wants to do something and, if she does, I arrange everything, she says.


But cast aside any thoughts that, at 93, Dame Vera is enjoying a cosy retirement. Last year was her busiest ever and Virginia handled all her bookings, working quietly, efficiently and, sometimes, firmly, in the background.


There were one or two occasions when I did have to put my foot down, she says, referring to the unreasonable requests occasionally made by the media. Im like my late father in that respect. He used to manage my mother and if anybody needed telling off then it tended to be him doing it Mummy would just step back. Now its me doing it and I dont suffer fools gladly!


Perhaps its just as well that Virginias no doormat. When your mother is an international singing legend, I imagine it would be all too easy to get trampled underfoot. Virginia nods in agreement. Somebody said to me recently: I bet you didnt think this past year would take over your life. And I gave them a cold stare and said: But it hasnt. I havent allowed it. I have another life with a family, and I have to ensure that I balance everything. I do my own thing.


By normal standards, Virginia had a remarkable childhood. An only child, she grew up in a large family home in Finchley, North London, where she attended a local day school. When her mother was away performing, she was cared for by nannies. And if her mother was away for longer periods, her grandparents moved in to look after her.


We had lots of well-known people to the house, although it was second nature to me because I didnt know anything else, she recalls. On New Years Eve, my parents threw a big party in their music room and guests would include Alma Cogan and Russ Conway big names in their day.
Ive never forgotten the American country and music singer Tex Ritter coming to visit. I asked him whether hed come on his horse and he replied in his broad American accent: No, I left it up the road and got a cab instead!


Virginia has had many jobs, ranging from PA in a fashion house to television researcher on the Michael Parkinson Show. She even enjoyed a guest spot on the 1960s pop-themed panel show, Jukebox Jury. She admits her name may have opened doors, but she has never forgotten Bill Cotton Jnrs invaluable advice. Nepotism, he said, may be the highest form of business. But while it may get you in, if you cant do the job youll be out anyway.


I ask if she and her mother have always been close. When I was growing up, daughters werent as close to their mothers as they are now. These days, theyre more like sisters, and I havent decided whether or not thats a good thing. But the older Mummy and I have got, the closer weve become. And since Daddy died, weve become closer still. Shes a great mum.

0 comments

More from People

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Brighton boy Liam Francis will return to his hometown this March to dance with Rambert on the seminal piece Ghost Dances.

Read more
Friday, February 17, 2017

Ashley Knowles has been bamboozling Guardian cryptic crossword lovers under the pseudonym Boatman since 2008. As his first 50 puzzles are collected in one volume he shares his secrets with Duncan Hall

Read more
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Seaford students sold 250 roses around the College on Valentine’s Day, raising well over £500 for the Boarding House Walled Garden West’s charity of the term, Children with Cancer UK.

Read more
Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Sussex-based charity Canine Partners trains dogs to assist disabled people. Hazel Sillver meets Sally Whitney and her dog Ethan to find out more

Read more
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

In the inter-war period modernism questioned the status quo across art and literature. Dr Hope Wolf, curator of an exhibition focusing on Sussex modernism, speaks to Duncan Hall

Read more
Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

Read more
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

As a new year dawns, we catch up with some of the county’s top educators to find out how they’re equipping the next generation for life beyond the school gates

Read more
Monday, January 30, 2017

Comedian, actor and The News Quiz host Miles Jupp found out he was a son of Sussex in his mid-30s. Now, writes Jenny Mark-Bell, he is returning to the ancestral soil for a gig

Read more
Monday, January 30, 2017

William Nicholson has two lives: Hollywood screenwriter and novelist. This month he publishes the latest in his series of Sussex-set novels. But will it make the journey to the big screen? He spoke to Jenny Mark-Bell

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Local Business Directory

Sussex's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search