With International Women’s Day yesterday and Mothering Sunday tomorrow, I want to tell you about my female role model, my mum whose birthday would also have been tomorrow.

She’s been gone 20 years now, but I think about her every day. If she was still alive, she’d be 100 tomorrow - you see I was an unexpected arrival when she was 40!

Like many of her generation she grew up in abject poverty in the 1920s and lived in the area called the Mount in Ipswich by St Mary at the Elms church.

Many years ago, I found her christening record in the church, she lived in Curriers Lane.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark's mumMark's mum (Image: Mark Murphy)

Her mum died of Leukaemia not long after she was born but my granddad remarried and as there wasn’t much to do in those days had several more children.    

They were a very poor family; grandad was a carpenter, but he had loads of mouths to feed.

Mum used to say they went to school with holes in their shoes and would roam around the dock area looking for wood and lumps of coal to burn on the fire.

At a tender age and looking after many of her siblings, she was becoming a strong woman - she had to be to survive. When the war years arrived, she enlisted like so many others of her generation to do her bit for King and country.

She joined the ATS and rose to the rank of sergeant, something she was incredibly proud of and so she should be.

She told me about the times she saw our late Queen who was also in the ATS doing her bit too.

I can remember a few years before she died wheeling her out in her wheelchair to see the ATS emblem which had been recreated in flowers at the Arboretum in Christchurch Park.

She loved it, and got out of her chair and saluted it;  a lovely moment.

After the war she married my father, and they ended up living in Wells Street in Ipswich.

It was a slum area close to where Suffolk New College is today.

They moved into a tiny council house but only had the upstairs as they had to share it with an elderly lady, and basically had to wait until she passed away to have the whole property.

Soon after my big brother was born, and as I’ve mentioned before mum was a victim of domestic abuse, suffice to say it was a tough time for them both, but her strength saw them through. She had a great work ethic, she had to for them to survive.

She had multiple jobs from working in factories to cleaning offices and people’s homes.

Eventually they moved onto the Priory Heath council estate still in Ipswich and that’s where she lived for the rest of her life.  

She carried on cleaning jobs, worked in Peter's fish and chip shop and made things like tea cosies to sell. Then along I came as a big surprise in 1964, when she was 40.

She not only had a newborn to look after but my grandad too and she was holding down several jobs. She had become the matriarch of the family, helping out whenever she could, supporting her siblings and being there to counsel them when they were in need.

She still experienced domestic abuse but she had to remain strong for me, her young child. Despite that I had a happy childhood. She scrimped and saved so I could go on school trips and when Christmas came, somehow, she managed to find the money to buy me things like Action Man and a Chopper bike.

When I passed the 11 plus, she somehow managed to buy me all the clothes and things I needed to go to Northgate grammar school. I not only needed a blazer and satchel but all the sports kit from cricket whites to rugby boots.  

How she managed I do not know, but she did. On my first day at Grammar school, I was so nervous she walked me to the bus stop, got on the bus with me and saw me through the gates. She had come out without any money and had to walk several miles home.

As I grew older, she was always there for me, encouraging me to be the best I could. She instilled a strong work ethic in me and showed me that the world didn’t owe me anything. I had to go and grab it by the horns and work hard to get on in life.     

Looking back now I can’t help but think, how did she do it? I can tell you how, by hard work and determination,that’s how. She was a grafter from a generation that knew the importance of hard work, she scrimped and saved, made meals that stretched for days, unpicked old woollen clothes to knit new ones and always did it with a smile.

That’s my International Women’s Day role model, that’s who I’ll be thinking about on Mothering Sunday too, my mum, Grace Constance Murphy nee Adams and I miss her every day.