In 1997 Webster’s son Keith died at the age of 72, and in March of 1998 Anne’s dear little Yorkie Bonnie had to be put to sleep, aged 15. Anne was very lonely without her and although she vowed that she could never have another dog because she was too old, eventually she did take on Toby, another Yorkie.
Extract from my book Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth:
I phoned Anne on 3 August 2003. By this time her carer was coming in three times a day. Anne could still joke, “Once in the morning to see I am still alive, next at lunchtime, and then at 6pm to see I’m having supper and set for the night.”
We spoke of the days in Johannesburg when I was young – and she much younger – when everything had been happy and carefree. She could not believe that I was nearly sixty as she always thought of me as a young woman. It was forty years since I had first started playing for Webster when she went away on the trip with Leslie Green.
She had not seen Babs for over a year and did not know if she was alive or dead. We decided that it was a pity that things had worked out so badly with Babs, as it could have been a very happy arrangement.
She remarked, “That’s life – or should I say – death?” I told her that she still sounded wonderful, not like an old person at all, with her beautiful speaking voice and her alert mind. I said that I would phone again in a few months. We said, “God bless you,” to one another, and her last words to me were, “Take care, darling.”
Five days after that phone call Anne had another dreadful fall. She was taken to the Llewellyn Ward at Llandudno Hospital, where Dudley Holmes found her in September. She was pleased to see Dudley, but he was deeply shocked at the change in her physical appearance. Dudley spoke to Sally Rayner, who told him that Anne could never return to the bungalow and that they were looking round to find a suitable frail care home for her. Although she would probably never be able to write to us again, we vowed that we would write to her regularly as long as she lived.
On 27 September I wrote a letter to Anne and enclosed a cutting about Kathleen Ferrier on the fiftieth anniversary of her death, and sent it care of Sally Rayner. On the morning of the 13 October there was a message from Sally to tell me that Anne was unlikely to last for more than a day or two.
I phoned Sally immediately and she told me that she was going in to sit with her that morning. Later that day Sally phoned again to let me know that Anne had died peacefully. She had sat with her, and later in the morning had been joined by Anne’s great-nephew, Michael, Jinnie’s son, from Liverpool. They remained with her, holding her hand until she passed away peacefully at 1.30 pm.
Sally had taken my letter in that morning to read out bits of interest to her – about Kathleen Ferrier, the records my actor friend Bill Curry had given me, and Love’s Philosophy, the song she had sung at her Wigmore Hall recital all those years ago. Sally said that some parts of the letter made her smile, although she had not opened her eyes for a long time.
Anne’s funeral took place on 21 October at 2.00 pm. The organist played We’ll Gather Lilacs at the beginning and their recording of Now is the Hour was played at the end of the service as the coffin disappeared behind the curtain. One of Sally’s friends, Stanley, a member of the Rhos on Sea Savoyards, sang their signature tune, Only a Rose, during the service.
About forty people, including Webster’s grandson, Nicholas Webster Booth, and the Meals on Wheels ladies, attended the service on a rainy afternoon. Most of the people present had some firm connection with Anne, although there were a few curious “hangers-on”. Forty people did not seem a large number considering who she was and how many friends she had made over the years.
A week or so later I was surprised to hear from Anne’s solicitors in Rhos on Sea that she had left me a legacy in her Will.
There were obituaries for Anne in papers all over the world, but I was saddened that little notice was paid to her death in South Africa, where she and Webster had lived and worked for twenty-two years. Errol sent an e-mail to the Afrikaans newspaper Die Beeld to inform them of Anne’s death but the paper made no mention of it.
I contacted the actress and broadcaster, Clare Marshall at Radio Today to let her know that Anne had died. She was the only broadcaster in South Africa to pay a fitting tribute to Anne on the radio. Later I sent her copies of a number of their CDs and she continued to play them frequently on her Sunday morning programme, Morning Star. Sadly, Radio Today has changed direction and Clare’s programme is no longer featured on that station.
Ironically, Anne’s friend Babs, who was two years older than her, had died two weeks before Anne, leaving all her money – nearly £1,000,000 – to various charities.
I had known, admired and loved Anne and Webster, and had been deeply influenced by them for forty-three years, and Anne’s death was the end of an era for me. But I am left with a few sad, but many happy memories of them, some of which I have shared in this personal memoir. If they had never been able to sing a note, I would have loved them for their warm, generous and kind hearts, and as long as I live they will never be forgotten.
Jean Collen 6 June 2019