WHEN Mary Mitchell decided to change her name by deed poll it wasn’t hard for her to settle on a new choice.
The mum-of-four from Totley was 54, newly single, and working in a supermarket – and resolved it was time to put some love back into her life.
Her colleagues at Sainsbury’s were already in the habit of saying “Mary, love” as a term of endearment whenever they called her name.
So Mary, a grandmother-of-five, decided ‘Love’ was the perfect choice.
Mary said: “I got divorced and within around five months my ex-husband had married again.
“I decided after that I didn’t want to be called Mitchell any more – so I went to court and I changed my name.
“I thought about changing back to my maiden name, Bussey, but I remembered that at school kids would call me things like ‘bus stop’ or ‘buzzy’.
“So I had to think of a new name to change to, and then I thought about the way lots of people say, ‘Mary, love’ as a term of endearment.
“I thought, ‘Why not make ‘Love’ my name?’.”
Mary didn’t feel sentimental about ditching either of the surnames she’d used all her life – especially since even her maiden name was an invention from before she was born.
Her father was a Sheffielder descended from a long line of city-based Italians and Anglicised his Italian name Buzzeo to the more English-sounding Bussey when he signed up to serve in the British armed forces.
So she practised writing her new name Mary Love and saying it aloud to herself, and concluded: “It seemed to flow on from Mary quite nicely.”
Now 61 and retired, Mary hasn’t regretted her decision for a moment.
She said: “In court for the hearing I was asked why I was changing my surname to Love and I replied, ‘Because I want to put some love back into my life’.
“It’s worked - I’ve got not just my name but I’ve got my children, I’ve got my grandchildren and I’ve got my Jack Russell Ralphie, too.”
Sheffield florist Emma McGeehan, who runs Orchis florist on Abbeydale Road, has spent all weekend immersed in thoughts of love.
“We’ve had a full weekend of Valentine’s Day customers – up to today it’s been only women ordering, though!” she grinned.
“Lots of women buy flowers for their boyfriends, they’re far more organised and sort it out much sooner than the men. But the real romantics are those who buy them on the day and have them sent to their girlfriend’s workplace today.”
Lovers’ long-standing links to Valentine’s Day and roses go back centuries – and there are many tales as to why the red rose has become the flower of love.
Emma said: “There is one story that a Roman man, Valentine, was executed for refusing to give up Christianity. Before he was put to death, on February 14, he cured the jailkeeper’s daughter of blindness and left her a note that read, ‘From your Valentine’, accompanied by a red rose.”
It’s believed the rose was popularised as the Valentine’s Day flower in the 17th century, following a legend it was the favourite of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
And, during the Victorian era, when flowers were used to communicate coy messages to the opposite sex, the red rose symbolised true love.
“There was a whole language in flowers, but it could get complicated, as combinations of different flowers meant many meanings were being conveyed at once,” said Emma.
Over in Coal Aston, meanwhile, there’s one woman for whom Valentine’s Day represents hard slog rather than true love.
Green-fingered Joan Lund, aged 73, has been growing hundreds of varieties of roses in her sprawling flower nursery on the South Yorkshire border for more than 40 years, and her floral enterprise is one of few dedicated rose farms in the region.
Joan, her son Andrew, and his wife Tracy, spend every day tending to more than 4,000 rose bushes and 400 rose ‘standards’ at Handley Rose Nursery.
And for Joan, the Valentine’s Day rush for roses brings back many memories of sleepness nights. “We used to run a florist as well as the nursery and around this time we’d be so busy that my friend and I would work through the night just to get the orders out.”
As a result, Joan said: “I don’t really appreciate roses as a present or a bouquet!”
Instead, she said: “I prefer to see plants growing in the ground. I like heather or silver birch – give me a twig of silver birch and I’d be happy!”
But the red rose, at least, is unambiguous in its meaning, as Emma said: “Nothing says I love you quite like a red rose.”
n Romance rekindled: P10