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Obituary: A tribute to Mandy Allwood, once known as 'Octomum'

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IN 1996 people all over the world knew the story of Mandy Allwood, the expectant mother known as ‘Octomum’, who went on to tragically lose all eight of her babies to miscarriages.

Mandy’s later years, however, were spent living quietly in Stratford, estranged from her family and known by only a few in her local pub, The Yard of Ale. Following her death on 13th December from cancer, aged 56, a tribute has been paid to the memory of Mandy by landlord Mark Beard.

“She’d come in a couple of times a week, no more than that,” said Mark. “She’d sit down and have a couple of glasses of wine and mix with everybody and get involved, then you’d see her later in the week. Her personality was a little bit eccentric, I suppose. She was full of life in here, no doubt about it.

“She had a big laugh; it was very raucous and you could hear it all over the place. But she was as you found her; definitely a very down to earth person. Quite a few regulars would sit and talk to her and she’d chat with Julie and Sam behind the bar. She’d watch the racing with us and seemed to be quite knowledgeable about the horses. In fact her general knowledge was quite good, she’d sit and talk to people about all sorts of things.”

The news in 1996 that she had miscarried all eight babies was followed by an outpouring of grief and support, including in an interview with Oprah Winfrey and lunches with Princess Diana. However, intense media speculation on her decision to see the pregnancy to term also followed, with Mandy incurring a torrent of hate mail. She went on to have three children, but lost custody after a 2007 charge for drink-driving.

Her appearances in the papers weren’t something she often talked about.

“She wouldn’t mention what had happened in her previous life very much,” Mark explained. “If someone asked her, she’d briefly go over it but you got the feeling that she didn’t want to talk about it. The majority of people in here knew what had happened anyway, so they didn’t really talk to her about it, they knew her for who she was and I suppose one or two felt sorry for her.

“I’m reading stories now about drink addiction and depression, and you can sort of understand how that would have affected her. It is sad isn’t it? Her family don’t want anything to do with her, which is obviously a shame. It really seemed as though she’d like to be a mum.”

Framed on the wall of the Yard of Ale is a small canvas painting Mandy made for Mark, with the words ‘Markey Blue’, the nickname she gave him. The walls are also decorated with plaques commemorating regulars that have passed away, and Mark said there will soon be one for Mandy.

“She made that painting for me not long before she died,” he said. “She said it was just as a thank you for making her welcome.”

Mandy’s cremation service took place on Friday (4th February).

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