Friday, December 10, 2004

Edie Damsell's Story

The Story of my Life

I have been asked many times by my children to write a story of my life. But I guess what they don’t understand is it’s not as easy as telling a story; that I can do.

I was born at Torpoint, Cornwall on the 27th April 1916. My Mother’s name was Minnie Louise Wotton who met my Dad by sheer coincidence. She was just 21 years of age. They courted for five and a half years. During that time my Mother lost both her Mum and Dad.

It was always their wish that she would marry my Dad as they knew he was a good man. Their wishes were granted, they did finally get married, and been told many, many times by my Mother very much in love. Also she told me my Dad was the only man in her life, that I found to be true.

Then came along a family of five, I being the youngest girl. Blessed with a good memory from the age of approximately two, that is how old I was when my Mother brought us to Barnstaple from Newton Abbot to live and start a new life. But it was not to be, among laughter, tears, sadness and tragedies, my Mother answered an advert in a paper of a Regimental Sergeant Major (retired) a good home and children most welcome. She also, I guess, thought it may help to relieve her very sad loss. You see I lost my Dad in the 1914-18 War, I was eighteen months old when he saw me for the last time while on leave. On his return to France to fight the war he was killed. Like many thousands left of grief stricken women; wives, mothers, children sweethearts, with memories of their loved ones and of which many knew life had to go on more so for the children.

Well, as I’ve said, my Mother took up the position of housekeeper only to find things did not turn out for the better. I was just two years old when I started at Bickington School. I remember the names of the two School teachers; a Miss Clay and Mrs. Burgess. I also do know of what the other children were singing in class on my first day, that was Peek a Boo, but I guess I soon settled after I had finished crying.

I remember my Mother putting me on the bus at the entrance of Depford Villas paying for just one penny in old money and for another penny which was for me to buy two chocolate finger biscuits from a little shop opposite the School called Tolleys, Bickington.

Things then started to change; the Major he became an horrible man to we children - one thing stands out in my mind, that horrible man which I will refer to as I go along as, the retired R.M.S.M. he kept a viscous cockerel of whom he knew I was afraid of. After dinner one day he put the leftovers on a willow patterned dinner plate, gave it to me and pushed me out the yard bolting the door behind me. My Mother was only next door to visit a lady, her name was a Mrs. Champion, on hearing my screams my Mother came rushing in to find me on the floor with my face bleeding and scratched. I do remember so clear him being so mad saying I had broken the plate which all was of a willow pattern crockery, and his words put all the children in the cottage homes and marry me. Of course that was the last straw for my Mum, she could not stick any more and, when he had gone out for his usual afternoon walk, my Mother did her walk too with her brood fully knowing she had nowhere to go.

Whilst down the town, she bumped into a woman she had got to know by meeting on Mondays to draw their pensions, she also was a war widow with a family, she never married again either. We started to call her Aunt Marrie and that’s how it always was. It was she who kindly gave us all shelter, I do know the only place there was for me to sleep was in a rocking cradle put up on a recess which I guess was a novelty. The first night I rocked so much I came out over, a stop was soon put to that - blocks were put under the rockers. We remained there for a while.

My two sisters Kathleen and Bessie were then started at the Catholic and Protestant School just around the corner. Soon we were to move into an empty cottage the choice of four, my Mother picked number fifteen, Belle Meadow which is now a car park I’m sorry to say, we were to become one of the neighbours. Before my Mother moved in however, she asked to have the cottage fumigated which was done, the rent was two shillings and sixpence a week with no rates at all. We kids thought we were posh because we had a letter box and door bell, the only one in the street. We had moved in and settled when one day a sanitary inspector named Mr. Tucker apparently he made one and off visits to small cottages around the two to talk if they wished on hygiene may be, I don’t know. I do know he was a friend of the old R.M.S.M. at Depford Villas.

One day when on our street visits he was told a new neighbour had moved in with a lovely little family so he rang on our bell and was very shocked to see my Mother. I always remember his words and I was not even three, “Good grief Mrs. Lewis, what on earth are you doing in this street? Do you realise you have brought your lovely family to live in the slums of Barnstaple? Take them back to Depford Villas where they will breathe clean air”. My Mother said she would be the best judge of that and she remained there for many years.

Things were not always rosy but, as all other places, it had its ups and downs, happiness, gladness, sadness and tragedies. But for a good many years we had each other, my eldest sister first to leave school went into a factory to work which she did not like. Off times my Mother told her of the bad company she kept, she would never listen to my, nor yet take Mum’s advice. When she was eighteen she fell pregnant, she had been warned; she went to S. Olives Home in Exeter where she had a beautiful son with the intentions of someone adopting him, but that was too much for my Mum to hear of and she went to Exeter to see them both. My Mother put it to my Sister that no one was going to have him so she brought him home and brought him up as her own. He was always a brother to us bless him. He did get married, they had three sons and one daughter all of whom are now married except Ann. He was just a smashing chap but things just caught up with him I guess. He had a job which was very hard, doctors had told him to give it up but he felt he had a duty to do and he forced himself to carry on until one day he had a very bad heart attack. Although his work mates and ambulance men on the spot tried very hard, it was no good, we had lost our Cecil, bless him. I must say his own Mother went into service at Middlesex where she stayed for many years until she got married. Another son John and daughter Susan; they too now have grown up with families of their own that was my sister Kathy the eldest, she has since gone on.

My sister Bessie died first although quite young, she left four sons, they too have now grown up with families. I missed that sister very much as we were very close. However, I lost a brother Billie, he was just four, I cannot remember him, I was too young at about six months I’ve been told.

Now, about myself; I was going to school straight from Bickington to Catholic from there Grosvenor Street. I left there at the age of eleven on to Alfred Miller Institute before being taken over a school, it had been used as a cotton factory and before that it was used as a temporary hospital for the wounded 14-18 war.

The hardest days known to me as a child was first I will explain that any war widow in those days drawing a pension really and truly had to watch their step and their movements, there were no warnings in those days - things just happened. One Monday we were at our main Post Office which was then down Cross Street, my Mother passed her book over the counter, then being told her book had to be held pending an enquiry, there was no money, no reason was given there as to why I do remember my Mother was crying. She then went to a office which, again, was down at Cross Street (that office is still there, she had to go up quite a lot of stairs into an office to see this woman whom I shall never forget; she was far from being a nice person, she was if anything, a very hard person I can tell you, I was really afraid of her. She was to do with the Ministry of Pensions. My Mother asked why her money had been stopped, her reply was because she was seen talking to a man or-or-less having an affair which proved to be wrong but, five years on during those very hard years, we really did know what it was to want. My Mother asked how was she to manage then told by this woman her name was Miss Adams to go to a place called the Board of Guardians there to ask questions where to men whose names were Mr. Slocome who was a very feeling hearted man. The other was a Mr. Sykes - he looked a very cruel man with no feelings whatsoever, I did not like him one bit. I did know when my Mum had to see him I hid behind her. This is what one had to do enter into this very dull room with boarded floors, boarded walls, old wooden seats all bare and squeaking doors. One would sit there for hours taking one’s turn - I can hear that poor man now shuffling his poor crippled feet and legs with the aid of crutches up a wooden passage and saying “your turn”. His name was Same; he was an inmate of the workhouse attached to this room. My Mother’s first visit was the one not liked, Mr. Sykes. After taking all details she was told she would be allowed her rent; two shillings and six pence a week, quarter of coal; six pence (which one had to take a sack and get themselves, two penny worth of paraffin and a ticket the value of five shillings for food which was to be spent at one shop the name of Ridge, no luxuries whatsoever he would give you what he thought one had no choice. I remember my Mother saying to that man what was she supposed to do with that for the children she was told she had another choice - she could put we kids in the cottage homes and herself in the workhouse which no way would she do.

She battled on until she started to take in family washing for better off families. All would be washed, ironed and delivered which she would be paid ten shillings at times there would be confinement washing included which was very hard work. There were no washing machines, in the back yard was an iron boiler to get hot water which was got hot my old motor car tyres that I would get from Brindley’s Garage on the Square, cut up small with an old kitchen knife well sharpened on the door step or window sill. That ten shillings helped to relieve the hardship a bit. It was then we kids with our Mum used to look forward to Saturday nights when the shops opened late then, each of us kids would go in different shops - it was fun and a treat as we would get for six pence a big bag of meat bits, a big bag of broken biscuits for a penny, a big bag of cheese bits for two old pennies and bacon bits. If one took a two pound jar you would get it filled up for two old pennies with treacle. Once a week we would have a halfpenny waste packet from Thromby’s sweet shop. Perhaps now and then, depending on funds, we could have a one old penny and go into Dominick’s shop and get a bigger and better waste packet which consisted of leftover sweets and lovely chocolates. I liked that shop; it was always very clean and shiney and always smelt of just chocolates. My Mother would now and again take an odd copper or two up to Frisby’s shoe shop to save by a Mr. Cann who was the manager; it would mount up for such times as one of us would need a pair of shoes. Mine were of black patent ankle strap with a little bit of tin at the front to save where the price of a pair was just one and eleven. That was one old shilling and eleven old pennies.

Another thing was in the cold winter months at the Albert Hall, now known as Queen’s Hall, were put three great big iron boilers, the farmers and butchers would get together and cook the most lovely pea soup for the poor of Barnstaple to be had on Saturdays only. All sorts went in that kitchen from wash hand jugs to clean buckets, anything to get that pea soup. We kids could go in and sit to have a big basin, that’s if you had an old penny, manys a time I had no penny but for two kindly Policemen, one was PC Fry, one named PC Newbury, many times they have given me a penny to go in. Somehow people used to be kind to me and take pity on me, I guess it’s because I always looked so delicate and had such lovely long very fair hair which was my Mother’s pride and joy. It reached down far beyond my knees, I never did have it cut until I was fourteen years of age, just tipped at the bottoms, I will come to that later in the story. I forgot to mention in our treats that I would take a basket of any size to a fruit shop called Smallridge with a penny or two pennies, whichever, and ask for damaged fruit. The basket would get filled up with all sorts, some may have just a tiny brown spot on it. There would be oranges, apples, grapes, pears, bananas and much more but, to us, it was a real luxury. Also as a child once in a while there were two shops I would go to and ask if they had any broken toys. One shop name Banbury the other was Helliers, they got to know me and what I came for, often I got a doll with an eye missing, arm or leg maybe a game minus a couple of disc, then in their place use buttons. I remember once I was given a wooden scooter, the back wheel was missing but I hung on to it until I got a large cotton reel; using a big nail to keep it on, but I got my rides from it although I had to stop many times to put it back on, I did not care - I got a scooter. It was only posh kids that had such things as bikes, scooters and lovely doll’s prams. I’m afraid the only doll’s pram I had was a shoe box pulled along by a bit of string and my skipping ropes were from orange boxes. These are a few more happenings when I was small things I did, things I done. I had my own but if you know what I mean a wooden box, two old pram wheels, two handles that I would take over along the river bank and pick up wood that had been washed up by the tides, it would make lovely fires, off times I would do many trips doing that for neighbours that would give me a penny or half penny well earned.

What I did a lot of was what I liked doing most that was the summers when known then as open top charabangs with holiday day trippers that came here before they took off back, I would sing and dance for them, they did clap and cheer and throw a penny or two. Many is the time I have been called the Charleston kid and I could do it really well, wheel and splits included, also I could sing. I must admit I did get all that talent from my eldest sister; she taught me what she knew. She won many competitions at dances, I wonder often had we been better off to pay for tuition, who knows I may have become a film star or tiller girl.

Now after many years of striving and struggling, things began to look a bit brighter for my Mother and we kids. I will say approximately six long years she had no pension, no book, until the Mother’s years of troubles and heartbreaks became known to two gentlemen. One was a Mr. Turner who himself had been an army man in the 14-18 war, the other was Mr. Pert - he was a painter and decorator. Both men were very brainy, they between them got on to the Government; the big fight was on and won after approximately one year also proving my Mother’s innocence and wrongly accused. She did get back her pension book but never her back pay, that went to the Board of Guardians. She did get a letter and five pounds from the Government for slander, what a lot one may say but, in those days, that was a small fortune - we began to live a little. My Mother tried to repay most of the people that had helped her through her very hard times but they were what one would call good neighbours and real friends, their help was to give my Mother the will to carry on.

Well, like I said further back in my story, I was a very delicate child, I spent quite a lot of time in doctors’ surgeries and drank more bottles of iron medicine that anything else but it never seem to put any colour in my cheeks. It was then suggested I go away into a convalescent home but my Mum being as she was with her little brood, would not hear of me going too far, it had to be where she could visit me which she did. It was once a month on a Friday. The home was called Sydney House at Torrington, later destroyed by fire, approximately twelve miles from here Barnstaple. I was about eight years old then, the place overlooked the common which had lovely walks on which we were taken often winding paths down to the bottom and back, in care of three nurses; their names were Kelly Hobbs and Haynes, I liked Nurse Haynes very much. On one of our walks one day I fainted and fell in some bushes, I was rushed back, put to bed and Dr. Mortimore was called, he was the Home’s doctor. It was him that told me I was a very luck little girl to have fallen in the bush that I did instead of the next plot which was a huge plot of stinging nettles so I got away with a few scratches and a couple of days in bed. One of them days they went on one of their walks the Nurse I liked asked me if I liked darning stockings, I said I would try. She brought me a darning basket of wool and some black stockings to darn, what I do know is there were a lot of laughter when they got back as I had pulled all holes together with white and green wool - well I tried!

The walks we took after I got up one or the other had to hold on to me taking no chances then came May day which always took place in Torrington first Thursday in May in which we boys and girls took part. All clothes were got by the parents of the children at the Home. I remember my Mother bringing mine down and when dressed, told I looked a picture. Mine were of white shoes, white socks, the white dress was lovely; a very fine silver thread running through and a bit white bow of ribbon each side of my curly hair. I was the only girl in the home with long hair; all others was short - I guess it was of quite a lot of trouble in those days with hair problems. Strict orders were given by my Mother that no way any one cut my hair - that order was carried out. I do remember I being taken to the bathroom every day to do my hair making sure it was clean at all times. How could I forget the three nurses took in turn doing it using a hard steel comb. Two were very rough; Nurse Haynes was very gentle and very kind. She was the one that had the pleasure of getting me dressed for the parade. All danced through the streets in pairs, my partner was a teacher called Mrs. Thomas, she was very little. However, all was well and went well until it was time for my Mother to go saying, as usual, I will be done again next month. I suddenly broke down, I did not want my Mother to leave me, words were exchanged between the Matron and my Mother about should I or should I not stay. I guess the Matron was right in one way but I was my Mother’s little girl and how often I’ve thought about this. My things were being packed, me still in my all white, I insisted of all things to remove the white shoes and donn in their place a pair of long legged black boots. I must have reckoned it looked smart. We all said goodbye to make off for the bus parked on the Square. Of all things to remember was as we sat in the bus waiting I had been looking at a little old lady outside, when she suddenly came on to the bus, kiss me and gave me a banana saying “you are a very pretty”. She then got off again, how well I do remember that. Why she did that, no one will ever know, one can only draw their only conclusion.

However, we got back home in the evening. I went back to my school and remained there until I was 14 years old. I left on a Friday and started work on the Monday. It was at a laundry. My Mother and Mrs. Ellis got me that job before I left School. We all worked from 8 o’clock in the mornings until 9 in the night. My first week’s pay was £2-0-3d. My pocket money was 2d all to myself. I felt rich, the rest my Mother fed and clothed me. The girls and women were a lovely crowd to work with, I being the very youngest to work there, I felt often I was spoilt. We had an hour for dinner, one till two. Now my very first dinner hour was the day I told my Mother a lie that I kept secret for many years. My Mother asked if I liked it working there, I told her yes but the Manageress had told me I could not stay there unless I had my hair cut because of the machines. I guess she must have thought the day had come, job having to come first in those days. She then gave me sixpence for Mr. Joy, the barber, to bob my hair. It was not until my Mother came over with me would he do it. She cried and so did him and when I got back to work so did I after I told the forewomen what I had done. She did not speak to me for ages also she slapped me across the ear. Anyway, as time went on Gertie, that’s the woman’s name, we became very fond of each other. I guess she felt a little sorry for me fully knowing part of my childhood, they were a lovely team of workmates. I had many years with them of tears, laughter, joy, adventure etc. etc. I was still small and looked delicate but game for a laugh more or less a little bit of a dare devil. We got up to all sorts of michieviousness but all in good fun. But we had a manageress called Miss Perry, she was a so and so but had her good points. She watched over me like a broody hen when in the factory. Our moments of a laugh or get up to little tricks was when she was in the office which was in sight of one machine. That one was the one we all defended on when she was about to leave and tour the factory. From that end one would give out a very loud hiss hiss which would be passed right down through the factory. The dragon was on her way only to find the angels at work at the double.

Here are just a few things one would get up to all in good fun, as I’ve said the work got done just the same. I may say it was very hot in the factory and in the summer it was hotter still and dare any girl loosen their overall, Miss Perry would tell them off a strip. Now just a short distance was a tiny little shop owned and run by a little man called Dickie Barrow and to go out of that factory one would have to pass that office window. One day a thought came to a few up the top corner, I being very small they shoved me out a window having to pass the office, I could not be seen outside from the inside but all went well down. I went and back I came with five big ice-cream cones which went down well. Mine was paid for all being just one penny each. Should she have missed or asked for me, they would have said I was up to, that’s another name we used for toilets, our prayers being answered many time that she would have disappeared into the office before discovering anything. That being just one thing, this also stands in my mind - I had been working just six months when the fair came to town. Some of the girls wanted to take me there with them. Of course, they had to go and ask my Mother’s permission and promised they would look after me making sure I was home by nine thirty. Time was a must with my Mother. We left work at six thirty that night. I had nine pence to spend which was a lot in those days. The girls, meaning no harm, brought bits and pieces into work with them in the make up line, they done me up to the nines, earrings, the lot. All was well until the manageress saw me - I was expecting her to say how lovely I looked but, instead, she said I looked like a broken down film star, then took me over to a basin and washed all my make-up off. You may guess; I was not too happy about that but I reckon my Mother would not have been either if she had seen me, but she never did know nor yet did the manageress. I would not tell her as I knew she would have sacked the lot. They were a bunch of real friendly people, meant no harm, saw no fear. At my time of writing many have moved on and some have passed on, bless them.

Well, I had a few years there then I thought time I had a change from laundry work and tried my hand at something else which I did my next job was on the wards of North Devon Infirmary, now demolished. In the years of working on all wards I was quite happy until I got moved to the children’s’ ward that I could not take not work wise but I used to come home every day and cry over those dear children. My Mother said I would not stick that and she was right too. Yes, I went back to the laundry again to see many new faces there apart from my dear friend Gertie the supervisor. She was still there from school to retirement. That place has since been demolished. On my going back I had reached the age of eighteen and leaving my childhood days and ways behind, I became more grown up. I met and married what should have been my pride and joy. He gave me what most women would have loved - a nice house in town, a bungalow by the sea, cars, motor bikes, you name it - I had it. But it’s not what I wanted. One might say he had money but no until he started to build up a business from money he got from me. he did well and fast but it was still not what I wanted. I wanted a family like my friends but no way, although he was willing to adopt with the understanding it was to be all girls. However, it was not to be that way. We made on and off visits to three homes for adoption. At one stage we could have had twins; a boy and girl aged two and a half. He was quite prepared to take the girl but not the boy and no way would I have that. It was two or none. As time went on I found I was to have one of my own during that time. I received a letter from the Matron of Dr. Bar ar asking me to take a orphan girl three years old but answered saying I was having one of my own; she did congratulate me. But I’ve thought often had I took her all would have turned out better than it did because it was not until then I was told by him he hated boys and sure enough he did. I was twenty-two years old when I had my first son. I loved him, if he didn’t; he was mine. How anyone could dislike their own child beats me but he proved his hatred by becoming a womaniser that I just could not tolerate, we parted three times during one of those times.

My son became very ill, it was quite a while and a lot of persuasion to get him to go and visit his very sick son but one could see he was not in any way concerned. I feel from then I became to dislike him, he once had the audacity to ask for me to let someone have him and we start on our own again. Being a womaniser, I thought, was enough but on being asked to part with my son, was far too much that I would and could not do. One thing puzzled me for a very long time until I made two appointments; one was a doctor, one to the Vicar. I asked them both if at all possible could they explain to me why he, fully knowing he was a married man, spent so many hours with other women, sometimes it would be as long as a week, always coming back with a lot of lies which along the line I found out for myself that all the excuses he gave me were all lies.

Now the Vicar and the doctor each not knowing I had not visited the other, both gave me the same answer. I was told he respected me too much to be man handled. I thought how stupid of a person that did so much wanted to marry me. I had met both his parents, they were very nice, caring and understanding. Both knew their son better than I did. As they were both invalids they could not attend the wedding. He had planned we go to London on that same day but I had planned different. I insisted we go to his parents’ place first and go on next day. They must have guessed that would happen on our arrival. First I will tell of the lovely little cottage they lived in which was out in the country (Chittlehampton).

It was outside as inside; all white-wash. One would walk in straight from the road to a kitchen. The floor was of stone, scattered here and there with small carpets and old fashioned furniture. There was this large table white demose tablecloth beautifully laden with a ‘Welcome - We love you’ card. Although his Mum was an invalid, her aid was of two chairs but on that table cakes, pastries etc. etc. She cooked herself in a big shiney hob, in fact the whole place and contents shone. No mod cons in those days it was all hard work and done well. Now after tea was had and enjoyed by all, his lordship was missing having gone for several hours, his Mum guessing where he was could not stick it no longer sent his Dad across the road to get him back straight away and she did tick him off good and proper. It was then she said to me I was too good for him and very sorry to say I would regret the day I ever married him - how right she was! But his parents and I remained friends. It was while I was away his Mum because ill asking for me constantly, I never knew this until I returned only to find out that she had died. I was very upset and to me that was as low as anyone could stoop. There was no excuse as he knew where I was, I never forgave him for that. It was the end for me. For quite a while it was just myself and my son; we both moved in with my Mum.

In 1939, June the 10th, I went to Plymouth for a day’s trip with my laundry friends. We all had a good time; it was that evening while in the Long Bar, Union Street, Plymouth, I met a very nice, polite Royal Navy young man. I took to him right away; I guess I felt sorry for he looked so alone and very pale. It crossed my mind he was somebody’s dear son. From there we went into the indoor fun fair near next door to the Long Bar. We were all riding on the Noah’s Ark really enjoying ourselves. After going around a few times I looked down only to see that young man stood there; I beckoned him to come up and join me which he did. It was then he asked me did I live in Plymouth, on telling him no we were on a day’s outing from Barnstaple, approximately seventy-two miles away. Of course it was the end of the day and we got on the coach and made off back home to Barnstaple having enjoyed our day.

Now on the August bank holiday we all took another day’s trip to Plymouth, it being Navy day where many thousands of people flocked to go on all the massive ships and submarines. I must, however, explain that since the April trip to Plymouth, I had tried once more and it being the last time to have another go at keeping my marriage together which I should have known better fully knowing it was never meant to be. However, on our second trip it was meant to be, but by pure accident I met this same young man again; we spent quite a pleasant clean evening together. Towards the end of the night I met a few of the girls saying they had been to the place where we were told the coach would be and it had been moved. Unknowence to we girls, the driver had been told to park somewhere else so a few of us could not be found. I for one had been left behind quite by accident but I had no fears, I was well looked after the next morning. I rang my husband and told him what happened. He told me to stay put, he would motor down and pick me up, there was no need as I had plenty of money on me, I could have come home by taxi. Instead I told him I knew of a lady that had left from Barnstaple and gone to live in Plymouth.

I stayed at her flat for the night but he insisted he still come down at her flat and collect me which he did. On travelling back to Barnstaple very few words passed between us. To me it was very uncomfortable so I decided I would stay at my Mother’s that night. It was then my Mother told me he had the day before gone off to London to see an old flame of his but, on his arrival, was told she had gone off with someone. She would not be back and she did not want to see him again ever - so I reckon he thought his womanising days were over. But I had had enough too so my Mother and I had talked about my intentions; I made up my mind I was not being pushed around any more. My Mother was to have the care of my son whom she was fond, I knew he would not take him as he hated boys so much. So I decided I would go back to Plymouth and make a fresh start.

I soon got a job as supervisor at the Milbay Laundry still staying at my friend’s flat as before. Now I must say I told this lad I had met that I was already a married lady with a son but life was far from smooth and happy. I think he did try to understand, you see the first time we met was June 10th, then we quite accidentally met again August bank holiday Navy week. We met again on those two dates was his first visits ashore until those two dates he had not kept company with any female friends at all. He served fourteen years in the Royal Navy with many narrow scrapes with war years but, thank God, still with us. He did thirty-four years with British Telecom, now retired.

Now in my letter I meant to have said about my Mother on loosing my Dad. How many times she had cried like many of thousands over their loved ones and when I was about thirteen to fifteen I do so remember promising faithfully that one day I would visit my Dad’s grave in France which I did do with the help of the British Legion. I made it in May 1994 but, sadly, my Mother had gone on long before.

Strange it may seem at that time while putting a wreath and a little cross on my Dad’s grave, a Rev. W. Scott was with me and I do remember saying to him that I felt my Mother so very close to me. It was so very real, I broke down and cried and thanked God for me being able to carry out my promise I made to my Mum. The Rev. Scott put his hand on my shoulder and said she knows you’ve done it. I then felt quite proud. Although, like I said, I could not remember my Dad, he was like thousands a very brave man.

Well now back to me at school which my Mum was very firm. I remember once we had a very big fire, it was at the R.O.A.B. Hall. There had been a dance that night, we walked the streets, I ended up with two odd shoes from where I do not know. I still had to go to school. The firemen fought hard to keep the flames back from the underground petrol pumps but luckily the winds changed or else there would have been a terrible explosion. I was approximately eleven years old. I still had to go to school and towards the end of the morning, the teacher must have noticed how very tired I was, she said I could lay my head on the table for a while which was good. Now after all that was salvaged from the fire, there was a few burnt coppers that were overlooked that a couple of our street boys had found. After cleaning them off they took them up to Mr. Cann’s shop and fitted up with a good strong pair of boots each. They were told as they had found the coppers, they could use them sensibly which they did, bless them.

Now I would like to say times have changed in many ways; we were in no way allowed in public houses or caught smoking in the streets unless you were over eighteen. In our young day there were Church Army Sisters that walked the streets and watched every move we made. I remember one evening there were three of us mates, I guess felt a little up to a giggle We only had one penny between us so from a slot machine outside a shop we knew in goes the penny and out comes two cigarettes in a box called Crayales. We then wandered around the town until we scored a light. We got where we thought we would be safe to have a drag on our fags, when puffing away, I saw the two Sisters. I just said “run”, we scattered different ways, one of us was caught. As friends, we always said we would never ever split and because she would not say who the other two were, she was put away for two years. That was many years ago, my how times have changed. Nothing like that now - we had to watch our ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’. If young girls got pregnant, they were sent to certain homes, had their baby which was oft times put up for adoption unless someone they knew would take their baby and bring it up for them. But oft times they would put their freedom first, the babies most nearly always ended up in the workhouse from there into the cottage homes, where life was no way happy. A few of the girls I made friends of a couple of the girls they were made to do so much work before they set off for school.

I remember one very bitter cold morning I was on my way to school, one of those girls was removing ice and snow from the window sill, I noticed her dear hands were bleeding from open chaps on her hands. I felt so sorry as I could not stop to console her, they were not allowed to talk to anyone. Those were sorry days - made to wear big black heavy boots with large nails every so often a lad was ordered to take a load of boots over his shoulder up to the big house for repair but am I glad to say all that was stopped when a kindly matron took over. Then one day she saw this lad she followed him with a porter, after all was sorted out as to where and what she gave orders that the boiler door be opened and all boots burned. I was there to see it all now the big fight was on, she meant business. Light Boots for the boys for school and shoes for Sundays, also light shoes for the girls at all times. The drab striped clothes they were made to wear all vanished, they began to live like human beings, but most had scars they would always remember.

That matron was an angel sent from heaven, she even fought for pocket money for each child according to age. One thing I have never forgotten is of one Eva she was wrongfully accused of stealing three half pence. She was birched up at the big house for that by the head and sent on to school. After she was bleeding and could not sit, one of our kind teachers felt sorry and made her comfortable in letting her lay across the desk. Two days after she said to me one day you will find out who took that money and, sure enough, it was years after the girl who did take it told me herself she had taken it but was too petrified to own up. Although she was not a cottage home kid, sadly both and most of those poor sad souls have gone on, bless them. There are very few of them left, I’ve seen one around but not the strongest. As soon as the lads left school they were sent straight out on the farms where they worked very, very hard. One lad was made to work out in a field, the sun was very strong, when he got home he dropped feeling ill. He was given a tablet and told to stay in bed the next day the farmer reported him not turning up for the work. The master investigated where on he was ordered to get dressed and go to work, that dear lad William was dead next day, very bad sun stroke. I’m glad those days are over, for some they were cold cruel days. I’m glad I was not one of those poor kids but I felt real sorry for them and cried many times and felt so helpless not being able to help any of them. Also to think I could have been one of them, had it not for the fact my dear Mother was determined not to part with her brood. Although, as I have said, she found it very hard and bitter and I feel so very sure she would be very proud of her children, grandchildren, great and great great, also great, great, great grandchildren, had we all been together. I myself have up to now my own family of six.

I feel now I come to a close and not able to continue much more as at times I feel very sad things do no seem the same. I lost a wonderful granddaughter, one in a million, she would have made a wonderful caring mother to her twin babies, a girl and boy. We have asked time and time again, why? But no-one seems to know why. All I know it was one big hurt and very, very cruel.

So I come to a close fully knowing my story will be enjoyed by all who read it. And it is true.

Written by E.F.M. Damsell (copyright)

16th May 2000.

Special thanks to Susie Sullivan who lovingly typed this up (and cried whilst doing so)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My Gran starts her life story on the typewriter for me without making hardly any mistakes Posted by Hello

Gold Posted by Hello

She knows a big arrow helps the postman Posted by Hello

Treasure Posted by Hello

He's got it! Posted by Hello

Brown eyed girl Posted by Hello

I didn't do it! Posted by Hello

Can't stop'm Posted by Hello

Little Bruv - he was ill! Posted by Hello

Party time! Posted by Hello

good-lookin-kids Posted by Hello

her buyes Posted by Hello

Her Family Posted by Hello

Even more to appreciate Posted by Hello

Lots to appreciate Posted by Hello

Hard life - we were all kids once Posted by Hello

Cool Dude, sexy legs Posted by Hello

Cool in Black Posted by Hello

The Seventies and Stevie Shaddick Posted by Hello

What a star Posted by Hello

Not a grey hair! Posted by Hello

Celebrating Charles and Di's Wedding Posted by Hello

What a frock! Posted by Hello

Edie Damsell

I've set up this site; mainly to share Gran's 'life story' - (which only goes up to when she met Bill!) that she typed out in CAPITAL LETTERS on her old typewriter; for me.

My friend Susie typed this into a computer (and cried while reading it) some time ago, .. I never wanted the story to end, but here it is.
I hope that we can use it to start more stories, and everbody in the family, or who ever knew her.

To start things off - I'll post some bits from her funeral service, and party afterwards- which she would have loved to come to. -- Kids playing, Lee showing his Bum, Granfer in a Red Hot Chilli Peppers Hat;

We'll all miss her - but now is time to enjoy and share the memories

Here goes!