Peter Elson speaks to PAMELA BROWN, chief executive of the Athenaeum Club
THERE was a remark which sums up Pamela Brown’s attitude to life, uttered by her two sons when they were teenagers. “Why,” they complained, “can’t we have a normal mum?”
And then groping for a suitable role model, added, “like a vicar’s wife?”
It was never to be. As a force of nature who does things her way, being a “normal” mum was never on the agenda.
Neither does she hang round waiting for others to do what needs to be done when she has boundless energy (even at the age of 70) and organising skills to call upon.
She recalls being up on a ladder at home, busy repainting the outside bedroom window sills when she dropped her paint pot and it splattered on the paving below.
“I called for help, but they were all glued to the TV watching the rugby. They clearly thought I could just get on with it.”
She is powering on, not only as chief executive of Liverpool Athenaeum Club (and helping it to adjust to the cold reality of the 21st century), but also as a voluntary co-organiser and advisor of the Battle of the Atlantic 70th anniversary commemoration event.
This reprises her roles for the 50th and 60th anniversaries, which like them, will be held in Liverpool and the Mersey waterfront.
This is rooted in her deep involvement in what this country stands for and concern for the people who have safeguarded its values, especially through Liverpool and the sea.
The maritime interest comes from embracing the life of her late husband John, a Liverpool pilot, who as a teenage schoolboy carried her books home from school.
Married aged 23, in 1964, she said: “The whole of our lives were dictated by the tide and the 24 hour clock. John was also kept busy as a European pilot service representative.
This led to her voluntary roles helping to plan the Merseyside Maritime Museum and its Friends organisation (since disbanded), the River Festival and Liverpool Cruise Terminal, aided by other such local grande dames as Judith Feather and Paula Ridley.
She also helped to set up the Friends of the Sea local charity to help seafarers and is a director of the preserved tug Brocklebank. For her activities she was awarded the MBE and two weeks ago received the Maritime Medal.
“Why was I asked in 1978 to sit on the museum steering committee? Probably because I was a know-all busy-body and John thought this would keep me occupied and out of the way,” she chortled with her familiar frankness.
Battle of the Atlantic 70 is the last official event marking the conflict as it is felt that the veterans are now becoming too few in number or are too infirm for it to continue.
Rejoicing in her nicknames of “Boadicea and “the Battle Axe of the Atlantic”, it is said that admirals with faces etched by decades of salt spray and sea battles, tremble at the thought of incurring Mrs Brown’s displeasure.
No wonder the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty suggested it was “appropriate” to hold the Battle of the Atlantic 70 in Liverpool.