CATHOLIC BOURNEMOUTH MUSICIAN DIES IN SOUTHAMPTON AGED 103

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Olive Rosenørn-Lanng, known to all her family and friends as ‘Wizzy’ died in St Basil’s, Southampton on 10 January after just three months’ discomfort. At noon she asked for some water, sipped it, sighed, smiled and closed her tired eyes.

She made a mark on all who knew her throughout her long life.  Even at 102, she became famous for her remarks on ‘The General’ (BBC1 Television weekday series produced by Topical television live from The Southampton General Hospital) when she described the X-ray of her pelvis as looking like the photograph of a dog.  Quite prepared to have a hip replacement, following the successful operation performed at Southampton General Hospital on her devoted 63 year-old son, Oliver, she endured a direct injection of steroid and anaesthetic into the socket joint that resulted in immediate pain relief.  She repeated the exercise six months later.  In December 1998, the programme showed her at her sprightly 102nd birthday party, brightly entertaining her family and friends; and completing her daily crossword.

 By the age of 16, Olive Agnes was able to play all of Chopin’s piano works and retained and improved her piano-playing skills well into her seventies. She was also renowned for the purity of tone of her singing voice and was in great demand up to the age of 85 as a soloist at church and social events; giving all her fees to Mencap. Someone at her last engagement remarked ‘Not a wobble within earshot’.  She retained a youthful timbre and rich warm melodic tone across her wide soprano range. On the eve of her death she sang César Frank’s Panis Angelicus, word and note perfect.

Wizzy was the mother to three sons, grandmother to five boys, and great grandmother to eight children.  She was widowed in 1962.  Her husband, Albert, was born in Paris, the son of Viggo, the European Manager of The Great Northern Telegraph Company, and responsible for opening up the telephone network between Scandinavia to France and then England;  finally he was instrumental in organising the links across the Atlantic.

Albert was educated at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, Paris and New York.  He sang opera in America, under the name of Giovanni di Lungo, learning his faultless technique and superb tone as the pupil of Enrico Caruso, Alfreda Salmaggi and Titta Ruffo, all famous exponents of Bel Canto.  Albert, an exceptionally quick master of a score,  followed a successful career in England between the wars, performing in many operas, (as principal tenor at the British National Opera Company),  and in musical comedies, concerts and recitals.  He was one of the first tenors to sing for the BBC at their newly opened Savoy Hill radio studios and acted in silent movies, singing in a number of early talking pictures.

Olive and Albert spoke and sang in fifteen languages between them and, after 1945, they taught singing and breath control techniques in Bournemouth, where their charity concerts and soirées were greatly patronised.  They had a host of successful pupils.  Their linguistic skills had earlier helped them organise aid and entertainment programmes for the French and Belgian Dunkirk survivors and the other foreign refugees flooding into Britain; later it was the turn of the Americans and Canadians before D-Day to enjoy their hospitality and charity.

Olive Agnes was a tireless worker for the Catholic Church, a member of the Corpus Christi choir in Boscombe for 45 years, for which she was awarded a Diocesan Medal, a catechist, and member of the Union of Catholic Mothers, and the Catholic Women’s Guild. She was an able sculptress, painter and poet.      

All her three brothers were wartime serving commissioned officers, the youngest being Rear Admiral Sir Matthew Slattery, onetime Chairman of Short Brothers and BOAC.

Her husband volunteered for The Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1915 and, in 1939, became an inspector of munitions in Southampton where he served throughout the war, auto-cycling through the blacked-out New Forest every day in all weathers unconcerned by the enemy action overhead.  He continued to teach singing well into his seventies.

Wizzy’s three sons also served in the armed forces: Michael completed a 37 year commissioned career in the RAF in 1986; Matthew served in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry in Cyprus and Germany; and Oliver was commissioned in the Devonshire Regiment, later seconded to the Jamaica Regiment where he acted as an assistant ADC and was appointed the Regimental Training Officer.

Oliver worked in the 60s for the fledgling Associated Rediffusion Television Company as their spokesman and parliamentary liaison officer and then for ITN. He then spent over ten years working in Switzerland for HH the Aga Khan, setting up for him the Costa Smeralda resort development and his Alisarda Airline in Sardinia.  Oliver then directed his own company specialising as an international tourism and golf resort expert advising a number of  Government Tourist Boards, national airlines, international hotel chains and major golf resort developers world-wide. 

The Vigil for the Funeral Rites for Olive Agnes took place at St Edmund’s in The Avenue, Southampton on Friday 11 February at 1630 when her body was welcomed into the Church and blessed.  Her Requiem was at 1030 the following morning, Saturday 12.  A choir of 40 singers drawn from members of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, the Southampton Choral Society and the choirs of St Joseph’s and St Edmund’s churches sang a programme of Sacred Music and participated in the plainchant Mass of the Dead, Mozart’s Laudate Dominum (soloist Margaret Burdett), César Frank’s Panis Angelicus (soloist Margaret Burdett) and The Angel’s Lament from Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (soloist Kaarina Manzur).

Her body lay in the Lady Chapel of St Edmund’s church until Monday when her coffin was carried out of the church by her sons and grandsons to participate in a cremation service was held at Bassett Green on Monday 14 February at 0900.  Her ashes were buried by her family privately in Bournemouth East Cemetery in the family grave on the following Wednesday following a short service in Corpus Christi Church Boscombe led by Father Michael Beattie SJ, and attended by Father Thomas Smalley SJ.

Contributions are invited for the Funeral Flower Fund, St Edmund’s Presbytery, 14 Rockstone Place, Southampton SO15 2EQ; or donations to Mencap.

For more information contact Oliver Rosenørn-Lanng, 11 Wyatt House, Southampton SOP15 6QJ.

Phone: 023 80 220 900


Text published in Daily Telegraph Death announcements column 2nd February 2000.

ROSENØRN-LANNG, --- Olive Agnes Mary (Wizzy) née Slattery.

Aged a remarkable 103. Beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great aunt, great-great-aunt, godmother, cousin and greatly missed friend. Quietly at noon on 10 January at St Basil’s, Southampton.

Vigil 1630 Friday 11 February. Requiem 1030 Saturday 12 at St Edmund’s Church, The Avenue, Southampton. Cremation at Bassett Green Road, Southampton 0900 Monday 14 February.

Contributions are invited to be sent to Funeral Flower Fund, St Edmund’s Presbytery, 14 Rockstone Place, Southampton SO15 2EQ; or donations to Mencap.