Tributes paid to Bromley music teacher Irene Chubb, who avoided bombs in the '40s and escaped drowning in the '80s
PUBLISHED: 18:00 28 November 2013
A popular music teacher who dodged bombs during the war and narrowly avoided drowning after the Jupiter cruise ship sank in 1988 has died of cancer.
Irene Chubb, who couldn’t swim, spent 45 minutes clinging to her husband Colin in freezing water for dear life after the ill-fated vessel went down in the Mediterranean 25 years ago.
She had been aboard with 391 of her pupils from Cator Park Girls School in Beckenham.
Thanks to her efforts ensuring they were safely evacuated from the boat, no one from the school perished.
This week family and friends paid tribute to “lively” and “very caring” Irene, 87, whose funeral last week saw crowds pack themselves into Beckenham Crematorium Chapel.
“Everyone thought we were twins,” said Mavis, “as we did everything together.”
Born in 1926, Irene lived in Camberwell with her parents Alf and Bessie Savage, and went to Mary Datchelor Girls’ School in Camberwell Grove.
She got her love of music from her family – her parents and uncle even formed a choir at Peckham Rye Tabernacle Church in Nigel Road, Peckham.
Before war broke out, Irene studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music until she and Mavis were evacuated to Weston-super-Mare.
But VE Day didn’t mean they could return home – because their house had been hit by a bomb.
Irene met Colin, the love of her life, while working in Bishopsgate. Finally, after completing a three-year course at Stockwell College, she became a part-time teacher at Catford County School.
Friend Mary Fortune, of Kings Hall Road, in Beckenham, said: “Renie was a tremendous friend.
“When she was in her prime, she was lively, had a big career and was a very caring person.”
She became head of music at Rock Hills Girls School in Penge in the 1970s, creating not only the Bromley Youth Band, but also one of the first school steel bands in the country.
After Rock Hills closed, Irene began teaching music at Cator Park Girls School in Beckenham in 1988.
It was that job that led her aboard the Jupiter.
The ship was supposed to take Irene and the 391 students across the Mediterranean – but it was hit by a freighter 15 minutes after leaving the port of Piraeus.
Irene, finding herself once again involved in an evacuation, was among the last adults to leave the ship.
Later, she was made secretary of the Bromley Schools’ Music Association, co-ordinating musical activities for primary and secondary schools, a post she held until her death last month from breast cancer – five years after doctors gave her three months to live.
Mavis, 80, said: “She did so well to last that long.
“We were really close – in the last years of her life she was my eyes and I was her ears.”
Even after retirement, Mrs Chubb continued to play at school shows – and, at 70, founded the Beckhem Elm Road branch of the Women’s Institute.
About 150 people turned up for her funeral on November 22, with as many as 30 standing in the aisles of St George’s Beckenham Crematorium Chapel.
David Sage, Irene’s cousin, said: “I was close to both Renie and Mavis.
“What was nice was she always remembered everyone’s birthdays – she was a very kind lady.”