JEAN Macpherson was born in November 1938. In 1962, she married a junior Royal Navy officer who later became Vice-Admiral Sir James Weatherall, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic. She died in December 2021 aged 83 years, leaving five children and five granddaughters.

Jean was the most grounded person imaginable. She described life with Jim as, “like being married to a firework” and as the wife of a naval navigator her life revolved around ships and overseas postings from Singapore to Norfolk, Virginia.

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Born in London, Jean remembered evacuation to her grandmother’s cottage near High Wycombe. ‘Granny’ was Norah Runge, Conservative MP for Rotherhithe 1931-1933, a lady who “wasn’t going to move out of her flat in London just because the Germans were having a war”.

Returning from the war, her father Niall Macpherson became an MP and later, peer, Lord Drumalbyn. After boarding school at Bexhill, the ever-practical Jean decided on a three-year domestic science course. Her parents insisted on her first learning French and being presented at court.

Jim met Jean at a Macpherson clan gathering, describing her as a small, red-nailed bombshell.

The attraction was instant, “but I wanted to go to Canada. After eight months, Jim wrote that he was being posted to Singapore, so if I wanted to marry him, I’d better come home. I sent him a telegram, ‘Which church?’”

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In the mid-1960s, looking to live near Portsmouth, they bought a house outside Bishop’s Waltham, starting quite impecuniously: “no furniture, we slept on a pile of newspaper – perfectly comfortable.” Jean’s was a hands-on, country life. The first of many donkeys inspired her longstanding support for the Donkey Sanctuary. There were 27 guinea pigs, a goat, llamas, endless cats and dogs and in Belgium, a lot of Barbary ducks.

Captain Weatherall commanded the frigate Andromeda, attacked - unsuccessfully - during the 1982 Falklands War. Jean was self-effacing about the emotional and practical strengths she needed: “I was doing the ironing, at 11 o’clock at night, as one does, and Mr Nott announced that a ship had been sunk. He didn’t say what sort or which one”. A sleepless night was punctuated by calls from distraught wives as they waited for news. “They hadn’t mentioned his ship, so I presumed Jim was alright”.

The next command, HMS Ark Royal, provided another pithy memory: “The Queen Mother landed on the deck in a helicopter, and we all dressed up in our very best. I had to cut the commissioning cake. I thought it was polite to ask the Queen Mother if she would like to do it. She said, ‘Oh no, certainly not, that’s your job!’”

Perhaps most relished were the 1990s at the Palace of St James, official residence of the Marshall of the Diplomatic Corps. At last, “Jim was there and his office was in the next-door courtyard”. Jim set out to connect the City of London with the ambassadors. Jean trained as a language teacher, to support the ambassadors’ wives to learn English. As Jim’s right-hand woman Jean brought her mischievous sense of fun to the job and the ambassadors would roar with laughter in response.

Lady Weatherall’s strong sense of service included supporting other Naval wives, reading for blind pupils and working for the London International Piano Competition. In Bishop’s Waltham, she was a school governor, minibus and care group driver and supported the Royal British Legion.

The couple enjoyed 17 years in retirement in Bishop’s Waltham before Sir James died in 2018: two lives, well-lived.

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Kimberley Barber