Hundreds of people have paid tribute to a real-life Eleanor Rigby – a well spoken educated homeless woman who read the broadsheets and never accepted money.
Eleanor Bolton, 73, was a popular ‘bag lady’ who spoke with an accent “which would make an Oxford don proud”.
She was a familiar face in Oxford and was affectionately known as the Botley Bag Lady, for the many plastic bags which she would carry out with her.
Despite generous offers of food, drink or cash, Eleanor would always refuse help but made many friends and always remembered the names of people’s dogs.
She had a degree in Maths, and could often be seen with a copy of the Telegraph, catching up on world news and doing Sudoku at a bus stop.
An inquest opening at Oxford Coroner’s Court heard that human remains were found in a metal hut in grassland off Botley Road on June 27 and later identified as Eleanor.
Hundreds of local people have paid tribute to her.
Recalling the pensioner, Eve Hoare said: “Eleanor always remembered our names and our dogs as well.
“If she saw us on the other side of the Botley road, she would cross over – disregarding the traffic.
“She read the Telegraph and did Sudoku puzzles.
“I wished I had been able to take a photo of her, sitting at the bus stop amidst her bags, legs crossed elegantly, reading a quality newspaper.”
Eleanor was born in 1945, in Bloxham, Oxon, to parents George and Louie Bolton who worked at a boarding school in the village.
The married couple met the Queen Mother when she visited the school for it’s centenary in 1960.
Mr Bolton, who died in 1991, was a mathematics teacher and housemaster until his retirement in1967 while Mrs Bolton was the village’s first ‘land girl’ during the Second World War.
Both were buried in the cemetery there after their deaths in 1991, and it is possible that Eleanor’s remains could be interred there.
Villager Roger Stein, who knew Eleanor when she was a young girl, said: “I knew her a little bit when she was quite young.
“We used to see her around the village. She just took off on her own, I don’t quite know when she decided to do it or why.
“I don’t think they were ever fully estranged but we didn’t see her again in the village.
“It may not be true but I heard a story that she was sat in the chapel at the age of three and looked up to see the hymn numbers and said ‘daddy all those can be divided by three’.
“It shows how intelligent she was.”
Illustrator Rebbeca (corr) Morse was inspired to draw the Botley Bag Lady after their many encounters.
She added: “Eleanor told me she was the only child of a Lay Preacher, she married a wonderful man, she was an academic, with a Maths degree.
“Life became too much so she decided to leave mainstream society behind.
“Eleanor loved and lost, she then told me ‘I am free, my mind is clear and I don’t have any worries.’
“I asked if I could draw her, I took her photograph and made a small card for the Christmas 2011.
“I am an Illustrator and I feel I have to write and draw her as she was.
“Eleanor was beautiful, eloquent and spoke with a beautiful society accent an Oxford Don would be proud of.
“I can’t stress enough how humble I am at knowing her and how sad I am that she has died.”
And Charlotte White said she was “beautifully spoken and so gentle.”
She added: “I once offered her half of my sandwich as I stood and waited for a bus, to which she declined.
“Instead she produced a banana skin from her pocket and ate it enthusiastically, telling me all the health benefits you can get from the peel and then wished me a good day.”
A mass was held on Tuesday morning at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Botley in dedicated to Eleanor.