Lilly Zan obituary

Publié le par The Guardian - Jane Reid

The Guardianpublished 04/02/2013 at 11:39 GMT by Jane Reid

Naw Lilly Zan, who has died aged 89, was one of the last of a group of nannies from the mostly Christian Karen minority who left Burma with British families and settled in the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s, before the generals came to power.

Lilly Zan
Lilly was born in the Irrawaddy Delta to a comfortably off farming family. In 1942 she started to train as a nurse in Rangoon, but in the last days of the second world war a fighter aircraft strafed a group of nurses walking down a road and she was badly wounded. When she recovered, the British authorities pronounced her training under the Japanese worthless: she must start again. She refused and began working for a distinguished Karen doctor as a dispenser – another career cut short when the Karens rebelled against the Burmese government in 1948 and the doctor and his dependents were thrown into Insein jail. Later in life, Lilly would never eat dhal, because it was all they were given in prison.

After that, the only job she could get was as a nanny to a foreign family. In 1961, returning to London from the British embassy in Rangoon with three children under four, we brought Lilly with us – initially for a year or two – and, for one reason after another, she never went back. For 50 years and in various countries she was a peaceful and powerful member of our family, and later a mentor to a succession of young people who lived in our London house whenever my husband and I were posted abroad.

She always wore Burmese dress – it was part of her uncompromising integrity. She cooked to perfection including her own delicious ice-cream, and "poor man's dinner", an epicurean rice concoction of whatever was to be found in the fridge. She did the pools. She loved Jim Reeves and Cliff Richard and television shows ranging from The Forsyte Saga to Blind Date and The Generation Game. Her English was all her own, fluent but full of odd phrases, which we all understood. One of these – "Are you chewing a worm?", used if she thought you were sulking – deserves wide use.

To the very end she never lost her sense of humour, natural dignity and sweetness. "May the good God bless you all" became a kind of mantra, endearing her to all who looked after her.

Publié dans Avis de décès

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