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Woman hears dead nan’s voice from bench for first time in 15 years

A mum heard her beloved grandma’s voice for the first time in 15 years – after sitting on a bench to wait for her daughter.

Sarah Weald was extremely close to grandparent Muriel Lee, who died 15 years ago with no home video recording ever being made of her.

Believing Muriel’s voice to be lost forever, Sarah was shocked when she sat down on a bench with a speaker she had been walking past on her way to work for years.

Waiting for her daughter, she pressed the button and heard her grandma Muriel describing her childhood in a 45 second interview.

After making the heart-warming discovery, she has since been able to get hold of the full 45 minute recording and now feels “close” to Muriel again.

Sarah, 45 from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “It was a real shock to hear nan’s voice again, but it was so lovely.

“I walk past the bench on the way to work every day and I knew that it talked, but I had no idea what the voices were saying. I had often wondered about it.

“It was only when I had a few minutes to spare before meeting my daughter that I sat down and pressed the button.

“It said the first recording was from Muriel Lee and I thought ‘Oh My God’.

“I still couldn’t believe it would be her, but then it gave her address and she spoke and I knew it was her. It was a special moment.

“I’ve been back to the bench several times to listen to her talking. It’s fantastic to hear her speak again. It gives me a lovely, warm feeling.”

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Muriel, who lived in Chelmsford her entire life, was interviewed by Chelmsford archives in 1996 about her experience of growing up in the city.

In the recording she told the female interviewer about the street games she used to play as a child and a carnival she would organise with her friends.

In later life she played an important role in bringing up Sarah and her two siblings, Simon and Sue. They were extremely close as a family.

She passed away in 2002, six years after being recorded. Sarah had no idea Muriel had been interviewed, and does not know what made her do it.

Sarah, who works for a mortgage broker firm, said: “My nan was incredibly important to us. We spent about half our childhood with her, and we were really close.

“She was a wonderful lady from a different time, and she used to talk a lot about her childhood.

“She would tell us stories about living through the war and not having much. She and my grandad weren’t materialistic at all. The thought of owning a car would never have crossed their minds. They used to cycle everywhere.

“Nan would offer us bread and drippings to eat. Of course I thought that was horrible, but she grew up in a much simpler time when people didn’t want for much. For her it was normal.

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“In the recording she talked about having a street carnival to raise money, but instead of giving it to charity they spent it raiding the corner shop for sweets. It’s funny to think of.

“I have no idea why she did the interview. I have researched more about it since, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what would have made her say yes.

“She was a very proud woman and lived in Chelmsford all her life, so that might have been part of it.”

The recording was especially significant for Sarah as the family have no other recordings of Muriel. It was the first time she had heard her voice in 15 years.

She has since been given the full 45 minute interview by the Essex Record Office and her siblings and her children, aged 16 and 12, have listened to it.

She said: “I made my children listen to it to make them realise how lucky they are.

“Obviously I want them to have more of a connection to my nan, but I also wanted them to know how different growing up was back then and how little people had.

“My nan talks about how excited she and her sister were to get a doll for Christmas one year.

“My daughter remembers her so it was nice for her to hear her voice again too.

“I look at that bench very differently now every time I walk past. It’s great to know my nan is so close.”

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