‘Extraordinary’ tale of 93-year-old West Hill woman

Margaret Martin (left) helped Diana O'Flynn write the story of her life

Margaret Martin (left) helped Diana O'Flynn write the story of her life - Credit: Archant

Diana publishes her first ever autobiography

The tale of an ‘extraordinary’ 93-year-old who spent her life caring for others has been immortalised in her first ever autobiography.

Diana O’Flynn, of West Hill, shunned her parents’ expectation that she should go to university in favour of setting up a children’s home. Now, her ‘ever-open door’ policy has inspired the title of her newly-published book.

A carer who ‘exhibits remarkable enthusiasm for living each moment to the full’, Diana worked every day of her life until she turned 90, when she moved to her family home in the village.

Friend Margaret Martin helped the widower compile her autobiography.

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She said that to this day, Diana not only volunteers in three separate establishments, but regularly walks a mile to catch the bus, takes Spanish lessons and plays table tennis at The Institute.

Margaret said: “I recognised that Diana had a lovely story to tell so, with gentle persuasion, she agreed to speak to me and I transcribed our conversations. Diana is an excellent raconteur and she has a fantastic sense of humour.”

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She said Diana’s memories stretching over nine decades offer a fascinating insight into social history and described her friend as an ‘extraordinary, ordinary, woman’.

Diana was born in South Wales and was the first of her family not to go to university – choosing instead to do teacher training.

She taught children of the British Forces in Germany after the war, where she met her husband, Paddy.

After they were married, the pair opened their first children’s home in South Wales, moving later to the Lake District – Diana always maintained the policy that no child would be refused.

In later years, she went on to set up a school in Majorca and on return to England, cared for old people in Gloucester, before moving to West Hill.

She now volunteers in Ottery hospital’s Linden ward, in the Brainwave charity shop in Mill Street and with the National Trust.

Reminiscing, Diana said: “I think I initially caused my father to almost have a heart attack when I told him I did not want to go to university but wanted to look after children instead.

“They were a mixed bag, some were privately placed with us if their parents were going away, and we had some placed by the local authorities and a number of cruelty cases. I’m not sure I wanted to look after 40 to 80 children but that just happened because we never turned a child away. We just put up another bed.”

The book, An Ever-Open Door, will be launched in Seasons Tea Rooms on Saturday, June 18, from 10am to 11.30am.

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