If you’ve never seen a character. ‘ere’s one. Mrs Rosewarne.Now long gone to the Tin Mine in the sky – Lilla Miller, alias Mrs.Rosewarne once in the 1990s welcomed me into her lovely flat exclaiming that her tea is the cheapest in the town. Her naturally warm ability to tell local stories has made her the most sought after amateur lady comedian in Cornwall, and she still does many charity events and dinner appearances. In fact she’s very popular indeed with the funeral directors’ dinners: “They’ve all got their eye on me. On the way to Chapel one Sunday, local funeral director, Colin Mathews stopped an’ offered me a lift but I said I don’t want to ride with you yet!”
Lilla Miller was born of Cornish parents in Park Road, Camborne, with the family on her mother’s side being traced back to Bishop Trelawny. She belonged to a drama group from the time she left Miss. Thomas’ Private School in Trelowarren Street, Camborne, and was still a member when she started work for Holmans, where she worked for forty-two years. It was whilst she was in the Holman’s drama group that Mrs. Rosewarne was created. “Another girl, Beryl Birchell and I got together and wrote a duologue. She was Mrs. Penrose and I was Mrs. Rosewarne. That’s how she was born. When Beryl moved away I just carried on doing the act as Mrs Rosewarne at Women’s Institute meetings and it’s grown from that.” As Lilla was a member of the Rosewarne W.I., and her home overlooked the Holman family residence in Rosewarne, Camborne, it was an obvious name to choose. “I’m not very venturesome,” says Lilla, as I worked all my life with one firm and lived in one house.” But she did actually summon up the courage to leave Park Road in 1991, and now lives in her delightful flat overlooking the main street of Camborne. When she was packing to move she looked out of the window and saw loads of people gathered in the road. She thought there must have been an accident so when the door bell rang she automatically thought it was someone to use her phone for the ambulance. Instead the person on the doorstep called her out and in her front garden that was filled with her friends and neighbours presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a clock. “‘Tis that WI bit extra that makes the difference you knaw,” Lilla says emotionally. I asked Lilla if she ever works from a script. “I tends to size ’em up when I get there, and tell ‘en a few new ones if I’ve bin there before.” The wardrobe, however is always the same; worn old shoes, flowery print dress, bear-skin coat – she calls it bearskin because of all the bare patches – and topped off with the familiar straw hat with battered roses. The material is inspired by Lilla’s old grandmother and her generation. In those days everyone knew everyone else’s business; they tended to be a bit nosey, and so a lot of her stories are about the neighbours.
Mrs. Rosewarne never does more than fifteen to twenty minutes without a break as she would hate to be like the old preacher. “We used to have a local preacher ‘an this particular Sunday ‘e was some long-winded. I thought ‘e was never gonna stop. Well this ‘ticular Sunday ‘e was preachin”bout the prophets. ‘Ventually ‘e began t’slow up a bit an’ ‘e said, ‘Now we come to Isaiah. Now where shall I put Isaiah?’ Just then this li’l man at the back jumped up an’ said, ‘Put ‘en in my seat ’cause I’m goin’ home to ‘ave some dinner.’ ” I did manage eventually to drag myself away from Mrs. Rosewarne, the gossip with a heart of gold, and I shall be looking out for her new cassette tape in the series of ‘Mrs. Rosewarne Entertains’ with great anticipation. It’s characters like “Mrs. Rosewarne” that make many of us proud to be Cornish,
On a more personal note the lovely Lilla once opened one of the first
ever Cornish craft fayres that I had started. She waxed lyrical about Cornwall
and the Cornish before saying to her amusement “I declare this fayre over” she collapsed with fits of laughter
Thank you to Susan Gillespie for allowing us to use the wonderful painting of Lilla. You can find her excellent work at www.susangillespiefineart.com