Fred.W.W. Harman DuringField Research it was Kitty & Doug I first met at
Horam. Then Yvonne &Ron @ Hove .Also there I met Ella who lived with them to the end of her Days.
THE LIFE STORY
OF A ORDINARY PERSON.
To most people I suppose in the small village of Rotherfield in the county of Sussex the 18th March 1893 was
day not unlike the rest but for my mother Mary Harman
(nee Benson) it was a red letter day.
At last after a string of six boys she had produced a little girl. In spite of the fact that it meant
another mouth to feed it seemed to bring her some happiness for she wrote to her eldest daughter [Ella's older sister was
Louise Marie] "you have a lovely little sister with a round face and very fair hair".
I was the ninth child - one had died at birth and a small brother [Frank Robert] had died at six years
long before I was born. 'Would it be the last' - I am sure my mother had wondered but six years later another girl was born
into the family [Christine Helen]
So I had two sisters - one was the eldest and one the youngest - of the family. Above me were five brothers
coming down in steps of about two years or less. I grew up with very little contact with my sisters. My eldest sister was
working away from home as a nanny to a private family and she came home only once a year for a short holiday. My younger sister
was delicate and in her early childhood was subject to fits so did not lead a very active life. My daily companions were therefore
my brothers and in consequence I grew up to be rather a tomboy. I played all their games and their friends were my friends.
As I grew up I always preferred boy friends to girl friends. I thought boys were much more reliable and above board. Girls
I thought were rather deceitful, jealous and catty. Later in life I had many girl and woman friends and proved that my early
conclusions were not always correct.
My mother was a Yorkshire woman [Mary Benson was born in Aldborough, Yorkshire and her father & mother
were Francis & Hannah Benson]. How she came to the south I never discovered.. I knew very little about her family as she
died when I was sixteen. I knew only that she came from a very good background. I remember my mother telling me of a visit
she once paid with her mother to a relative who lived in a large house surrounded by park land in which there were deer. Her
people were I believe small farmers but we never met any of them except for one of her sisters who also lived in the south.
Later many of her family emigrated either to Canada or Australia. Her family name was Benson.
Several years later when I was in my teens an advertisement in the national press came to my notice. A
firm of solicitors were trying to trace the heirs of a Colonel Robert Benson from Yorkshire who had died intestate leaving a fortune
of over eighty thousand pounds. Mention was also made of three brothers who were also dead. I had in my possession a funeral
card of one of these brothers. I made tentative enquiries and was told all claims must be made through a solicitor. There
would be many claimants with a greater right so I pursued the matter no further. There were also stories of wealth on my mother's
maternal side - large sums of money which had been taken out of the country. These stories were too vague to be believed and
certainly no money ever came our way.
My mother was a lady in every sense of the word -
small and gentle in speech and manner and never lost her temper or her charm. In contrast my father John was a strict disciplinarian
and of uncertain temper. He ruled the house with a
rod of iron and we children were rather scared of him. My mother Mary too was completely dominated by him but nevertheless
she always remained a buffer between our father and us. Looking back I feel he was always fair-minded in his dealings with
family and the outside world and he was a terrific worker. No doubt strict discipline was needed with five growing boys not
to mention a tomboy daughter in the family and I am sure it never did us any harm.
Having established my family tree as far as possible
I will now describe my birthplace and childhood home. Rotherfield was a small but pretty village. Its tall spired church stood
in the centre and was a landmark for miles around. There was, a cluster of houses a few shops and a village school. The villa
stood on a hill and was surrounded by sloping farmland. Almost a mile from the villa was another hill aptly called Cottage
Hill with a few cottages built closely together and a Public House called the Brewers Arms which has long since disappeared.
In one of the best houses lived my grandfather John and grandmother Rhoda and adjoining it was the house
where I was born. As cottages went in those days it would have been considered fairly comfortable. It comprised three bedrooms,
a parlour kitchen and scullery, the two latter having uneven brick floors. My grandfather John owned most of the adjacent
farmland and, in addition, hired other local farms for his sons. In the distance was Crowborough Beacon standing 800 feet
above sea level we were slightly less than that but we commanded a glorious view in every direction. We grew up to love the
open country and fresh air and spent most of our life out of doors. Large families were the usual thing at this time and with
plenty of land for cultivation every family had to be as self sufficient as possible. My father was a great gardener and after
he had finished his day's work he would spend the rest of the daylight hours in tending his garden. He worked for a local
builder and often had a long walk to and from his work. He worked five and a half days from seven in the morning until or' . On Saturday afternoons after working until he would load up his heavy wooden barrow
with his tools and go off to his allotment almost a mile away.
Whilst my brothers were playing their football or cricket matches I helped my father on his allotment.
I grew up with my father's love of growing things which I still have. Today although it is now confined to a window-box. I
planted the potatoes at strict spacing after the rows had been drawn out. Later on in the year I picked them up as my father
unearthed the crop, and I gathered peas, beans and sprouts, and hoed and weeded and usually brought home a bunch of flowers
for my mother mixed with the lovely green feathery sprays from the asparagus bed. My father loved flowers and always found
room to grow some. In the late afternoon with the barrow loaded we made our way home. We were seldom without vegetables. If
the crop was good we had a store of potatoes under the stairs.
In our home garden we had several fruit trees, apple and plum trees, also gooseberries and currants
both black and red. Next to our garden was my grandfather's orchard and I have never since seen such lovely plums as the large
juicy purple ones which grew there. We children were always searching in the grass for any fallen ones and were not above
shaking the branches with a prop when my grandfather John was having his nap.
Meat was too expensive to buy very often so most families
kept a pig or two in a pigsty at the bottom of the garden, and a few chickens. By killing a pig and laying in some store for
some provision was made for the hard times when my father was frozen out for as much as 8 weeks at a
time with no money coming into the house. Pig-killing was a great event in our lives. We children rushed home from school
to take part. All the men from the neighbouring houses joined in to help. After having its throat cut the pig was hung up
for bleeding after which it was scrubbed and scraped in a large wooden tub of very hot water. The next day the woman were
all busy with the joints of meat as the men cut the pig up. Some meat was salted for future use, some prepared for smoking,
sausages were made and lard for cooking. Scraps were very popular - these were small lumps of fat baked crisp in the oven.
Each of the neighbours was given a joint in return for his help and for a time at least we enjoyed good food.
I think with horror of a pig-killing now but as children
it meant to us a feast. In general, we only had meat two or three times a week and never more than half an egg when the chicken
were laying. Growing children are always hungry.
Every morning before going to school it was my job
to collect the milk for ourselves and for my grandmother from the farm across the road. This milk went nowhere in our large
family so we had to rely on skimmed milk. Each evening after school I went to a farm a quarter of a mile away to collect a
large can of skimmed milk. This provided the younger members of the family with basins of bread and milk and also large rice
puddings. This was varied by basins of soup with vegetables.
In order to help the family budget my mother Mary worked in the kitchen of a large house nearby. In
addition to the few shillings she earned the cook gave her large lumps of dripping and scraps left over. We ate a great deal
of bread and dripping liberally sprinkled with salt and in the winter my mother brought home large cans of soup - given to
the "deserving poor".
Our butter was delivered by a young man from a local farm in a large flat basket carried on his arm.
It was golden yellow and done up in decorated half pound pats. Each pat was covered by a clean white cloth to enable the butter
to be handled without being touched by hand. As far as I can remember we had one pound of butter weekly but our main source
of fat was dripping and pig's lard.
There was a great deal of poverty among large families around the turn of the century. We were fortunate
for we never went without food because my mother and father worked so hard. We had plenty of vegetables, meat when available,
dripping on our bread, fruit from our garden, and milk from nearby farms. Attached to my grandfather's house was a large bake-house
with a brick built oven and a large copper for washing. Once a week my mother had a baking day. The flour and chicken food
were brought each week from Cross-in-Hand Mill by horse and cart. It came in large sacks. Most of our bread was homemade.
Early in the morning the oven would be packed with faggot wood and lighted. When the bricks at the bottom of the oven were
white hot the embers were raked to the back and sides and the oven was ready. In would go the cottage loaves, cake, jam, pies,
and flead cakes. The latter were made from flead from the pig mixed with flour and beaten with the rolling pin on the kitchen
table folded and re-folded many times. I have not seen flead cakes for many years but they were light flaky and delicious.
The thought of the jam pies makes my mouth water even now. The pastry was so light and homemade jam oozed from the ends. As
payment for collecting my grandmother Rhoda's milk I received one penny and a jam pie or flead cake. My grandmother was a
wonderful cook and her flead cakes were renowned. When cooked the bread, cakes etc. were drawn out of the oven on a large
long-handled slice and put in a warm place to cool. During the week our cooking was done on a tall barred grate with a side
oven. A large iron kettle was always kept on the top of the stove for hot water and saucepans were also boiled on the top.
Our water was drawn from a well which served many
houses but later on we had one tap for cold water at the side of the sink. The reservoir was built on our hill and the flow
was not sufficient to have our tap over the sink. Grandfather John hired a stretch of woodland each year for cutting. He paid
men to cut the wood, made up faggots with the finer wood and cut up the thicker wood to be sold as bats. He sold wood to many
of the villagers us included. Our faggot stack usually comprised one hundred faggots and fifty or one hundred bats and this
lasted us for one year. To earn the money to buy our wood and also our winter boots we had to go hop-picking when I was quite
small. There was a hop garden on many grandfather's farm but this was later grubbed and the nearest hop garden to us was a
good three miles away.
By this time my older brothers were working. My eldest brother [John Francis] had run away to sea joining
the Royal Marines. The second one was an apprentice carpenter [Arthur Henry] to the local builder where my father worked and
the next one [Ernest Edward] was a groom to a lady who rode a high dogcart. Included in his 'uniform was a tall hat surmounted
by a cockade of which he was very proud. I do not really know the significance of this cockade but I think it meant the lady's
husband had served in some special government service. This left only my two younger brothers [Cecil & Leonard] and myself
to go hop picking.
We started away from home early enough in the morning to reach the hop field by which was calling on time.
We were used to walking it being our only means of getting around, but on top of the long walk, we had a very tiring day's
work ahead of us. We knew quite clearly that we had to earn enough money to buy our winter clothes and boots as well as the
wood for heating and cooking. Many of the young children enjoyed the hop picking as a holiday playing in the sun but for us
it was a serious. Business. My mother came along later in the day bringing the food and drink and with my small sister Christine
in a pushchair. Working all day among the hops made us very hungry and how we enjoyed our bread and cheese, dripping bread
and fruit pies. For drink we had a large can of cold tea and sometimes we were able to get a little fresh water from the farm.
It was very tiring work picking hops all day lifting the heavy poles and the bins. We children picked our hops in wooden boxes
or in umbrellas opened and stuck into the ground. We could not shirk for the evidence of our labours was there to be seen.
At the end of the day we had another long walk before us and when we got home we were all very tired My mother had to prepare
a meal for the family whilst the boys and I did our chores such as fetching the milk, feeding the chickens, and chopping up
the wood for the next day. All we were fit for after a scrub up and a meal was to fall into bed and blessed sleep. Somehow
we thrived on it.
The lovely early morning walks with glittering
cobwebs on every branch; the hard day's work; our enjoyment of eating in the open air and at the end of the five or six weeks
picking we looked as if we had been on a summer holiday. At any rate it was the only holiday we had and our reward came when
on a red letter day we went into Tunbridge Wells to spend some of our hard earned cash on boots
It was most important that we should have strong winter boots to stand up to the walking on rough country
roads. We had black lace-tip boots worn with long black stockings. The boys had hob nails in the soles of their boots but
the girls' boots were lighter and for Sundays the girls had button-up boots.
I remember a large button hook which always hung on
the chimney-breast. My mother made most of our clothes including our tam-o-shanters, gloves and scarves. My brothers usually
wore sailor suits with a wide collar and every little girl wore a pinafore over her frockI remember the winters being in much
more severe than they seem to be now with snow drifted in the lanes up to the tops of the hedges and high banks. In contrast
we seemed to have real summers with much more sunshine and long warm evenings. After doing our chores all the children on
the hill would gather together to play games which seemed to follow a calendar sequence.
At Easter everyone produced a bag of marbles and play went on at home and at school for several weeks
- then suddenly one day the marbles disappeared and tops took their place. These were followed by hoops, skipping ropes and
hop-scotch. All our free hours were spent out-of-doors until at dusk the bats began to fly and we were called in to bed.
The men spent their time either in their gardens or in the public-houses which were open all day. My
father seldom went to the pub for even if he had the inclination - which he had not - he could not afford to do so. He was
not a teetotaller and if he needed a drink after a hot evening a work in the garden my mother would fetch him a drink in a
jug from the side-door of the nearby pub. Most cottages could offer you a drink if you paid them a visit but it would be homemade
wine. It was usually very potent and not to be drunk indiscriminately. When we were young we collected dandelions and cowslips
as well as elder blossom for wine making.
I look back on my schooldays as very happy ones although I am sure I was as eager to leave as most children
are. As a family we were considered to be quite bright at lessons and all of us reached the seventh standard by the time we
left which was the ultimate. We were under strict discipline at school and any misdeeds were punished by caning. I feel quite
convinced that a little more use of the cane in the present day schools would be beneficial to both pupils and teachers.
My brothers would occasionally play truant to go swimming in a pool in the woods. One morning as the
school bell rang I saw two of them slipping away in a sly guilty manner and I knew what they were up to. In the evening I
told my mother what I had seen but unfortunately I was overheard by my father. In consequence the boys received a hiding.
My brothers and their friends showed me exactly what they thought of an informer and I never again repeated my mistake.
Before I left school I was given the lucky
opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do. One of the infants teachers fell ill and I was sent in to help look
after the small children and keep them occupied. It had always been my ambition to become a teacher and I had spent many hours
with a long stick in my hand and a blackboard and chalk teaching the flowers on the wallpaper as my class of children. I knew
however that my dream could not come true because as soon as I left school I should be expected to earn my living in domestic
service When I left school at fourteen I went to work in the house of our local rector. There were three small boys. The two
eldest were under the charge of a governess who gave them lessons and I was responsible for the youngest who was about four.
It was here quite unexpectedly that something happened which changed the whole course of my life. The governess was a Scottish
woman who had been educated at Ayr university. She found out that I had always wanted to teach small children and she gave me what I should
not have got from any other source - encouragement. She made enquiries and was told that at fifteen I could take an entrance
exam to get me a place in a teachers' training school in Lewes which would give me four years training from the age of sixteen.
She lent all the books I needed on Maths, English, History and Geography which were the four subjects
I had to take. Each evening after the boys had been put to bed and I had finished all my duties I settled down with my books.
I drew maps, filled in rivers towns and industries, learned dates of kings and queens who ruled, with maths problems, and
english grammar. The governess helped me over many difficulties but above all encouraged me to continue against all odds.
I was not sure that my parents would be in a position to allow me to take up the scholarship even if
I gained one. It would mean that I would be dependent on them for another four years. I had only been earning £10 a year but
that kept me in clothes and I had my keep so was more or less independent of my family. While training I would be given a
free travelling ticket by train, but I would have to bear the expense of some of my books.
However none of my family expected me to pass the examination so were not anticipating any trouble.
To everyone's surprise not least my own I was informed by the education committee that I had been successful in gaining a
free place and my father was so pleased and proud that he gave me permission to accept it. I was the first person in my village
to try for a secondary education and it was not well received in some quarters.
One gentleman - a school manager remarked "that these
working class children should not be encouraged to rise above their station". There existed at this time a great deal of class
distinction. There was the working class, the middle class and the gentry. The lower class were expected to become the servants
of the rich. A girl would be paid a very low wage to work all the hours of the day, with one afternoon off each week. She
would be completely subservient to her employer’s whims and wishes. As children when meeting any of the local gentry
the boys would be expected to doff their caps and the girls to curtsey. This feudal system was not broken down until after
the First World War when common danger had been shared. I look back on the next four years as some of the happiest of my life
but it was far from easy at first. I do not know what my feelings were before joining my new school. There was probably excitement
at beginning a new life but there must have been much apprehension about the girls I would have to mix with and the standards
I would come up against.
I shall never forget my first day as a new student. There were eight new girls of my own age but most
of them were relatives of school masters and in some way had been able to continue their education without a break. To my
horror I was the only girl in the school with my hair put up. When I had started work at the rectory it had been suggested
that I pin up my hair to command more respect from my charges. For two years I had been growing up now I had to become aschoolgirl
I felt so embarrassed I wanted to drop through the floor. To make matters worse on the day following
my arrival at the school one of the seniors stood up at the dinner table and read out a poem to the new juniors. Each newcomer
was given a whole verse but I was given special treatment. I was the oddity who wore her hair in a bun. It caused a great
deal of amusement throughout the school but it left me coldly furious.
My mother Mary soon saw that something was wrong and when I confided in her she agreed I must conform
with the other girls. For the next week or so I went through our village with my hair tucked into my coat so that no-one would
notice. The incident was soon forgotten.
I soon found that my Maths were not up to standard and in several other ways I was sadly lacking but undaunted
I was determined to catch up. In addition to the uphill struggle with my school studies, I found the long journeys very grim
for the first year. Our house was about three miles from the railway station so it meant starting out at
each morning and not getting home in the evening until . In the winter this entailed a morning and
evening walk in the dark. In spite of long stretches of country road where there were no buses and sometimes pitch darkness,
I never remember being really afraid. Country people were more or less used to the dark and frightening incidents seldom or
never occurred. The journey home was uphill all the way and with a heavy satchel of books it was a very tiring one.
During the day we had no means of getting
even a hot drink. We had our lunch on long trestle tables covered with a white cloth. We were provided with thick white plates
and a tumbler for cold water. If we cared to bring an egg and wrote our name on it the caretaker would boil it for us. I remember
I always added 'hard boiled' as I hated runny eggs. Everyone brought sandwiches and by lunch time mine were very few. I. was so hungry that I had
eaten most of them in the mid-morning break. By the time I arrived home I was starving. After a meal I had to do my homework,
which could take anything up to three hours. There was very little time for relaxation even at weekendsAbout this: time my
mother Mary died [Mary died 1st February 1910 on a Tuesday and buried on the 5th]
and this affected me for several months. However I knew that I must persevere with my studies in order to keep up to satisfactory
standard. At the end of the first two years we had to take a preliminary exam and, if we failed we were simply thrown out.
I didn't want this to happen to me and after passing the exam I went one step forward and became a pupil teacher or a student
teacher as they are now called.
I now had to spend the first two days of the week at my local school and the other three days at the centre.
I had chosen to teach juniors and started with the seven to eight year olds. I loved my teaching days and was very happy with
the children and my headmaster. My wages for my teaching were £10 per year. At the end of the fourth year I took my final
exams and became a qualified teacher. I was well repaid for all my hard work when I successfully passed in all my subjects
and was put in the honours list. I could have gone on to a teachers training college for two years with a small grant from
education committee but had I done so I would still have been partly dependent on my family.
My father John and I had disagreed over my friendship for a particular boy and as I thought I was now
of an age to choose my own friends I decided to look for a job so that I could live my own life. I found too that the grant
would have to be repaid during the next year or two and realised that this would be a drain on my very meagre salary. On a
very hot day I went for my first interview at a village school near Lewes. A friend had lent me a bicycle for the journey
and it was a most uncomfortable ride the saddle was too high and it was uphill most of the way so I did most of the journey
standing on the pedals. When I arrived at the school my face was red and shining and my hair wind-blown - to put it mildly.
I had no time to cool off so I went boldly into the lion's den. To my great dismay I was asked to take a seat in front of
the top class until I was sent for. There was tittering all round the class and even the young master had a grin on his face.
Later on when I worked with him he reminded me of the sight I looked when I should have been trying to impress. However I
got the job and stayed there for two and a half years. It was a testing job for I had to teach in the same room as another
teacher and her class but I was very happy there.
I had many friends and enjoyed my weekend rambles over the downs. My monthly cheque was for about four
pounds ten shillings and I paid twelve shillings a week for my lodgings. I could not go home more than once a month and my
clothes had to last for a long time. With the school staff I played tennis in the playground and I belonged to the Stoolball
club. We had socials and dances in the village hall and I started to do quite a lot of singing particularly the old ballads
such as "The River of Years”, "My Rosary" and "My Hero" from the Chocolate Soldier. Life seemed very pleasant.
For my second job I went back to my home. School where I had done my early training. I was able to live
at home and I knew everyone in the village. At first this presented problems. As I had grown up in the village and had been
a pupil at the school I was taken very much for granted and given less respect than I thought was due to me. However this
soon passed when it was realised that I could do my job and that the children and I got on well together.
My headmaster was Welsh and a fiend for work.
We were never expected to sit down during the day's classes. My children at this time were eight to nine year olds and I found
that one had to walk around all the time to keep their interest from flagging. Without boasting in any way I knew I was a
good teacher - my pupils progressed satisfactorily. My headmaster was satisfied and on two occasions I was complimented by
visiting inspectors. I stayed with my Welsh headmaster until I was married. In 1914 the First World War broke out. I could
vaguely remember the South African War. One special day stands out in my memory - the day when Mafeking was relieved. First, tall
flags appeared in the streets and my brothers tied a small union jack to a pole and stuck it in the front garden. The church
bells were ringing and everyone was in a joyous mood singing "Goodbye Dolly I Must Leave You" as they had never sung it before.
The war now facing us was an entirely different problem.
My eldest brother [John Francis] was a naval reserve so he and a fellow worker in the post office were
the first men to leave the village. They joined their ships on the Sunday. Before war was actually declared, everyone said
they would be back home in less than six months. Shortly afterwards three of my brothers accepted the invitation "Your Country
Needs You" and joined the Royal Flying Corps [Ernest and Leonard] the other brother [Cecil] was rejected for health reasons.
Meanwhile a cousin of mine [George Harman son of Samuel & Edith Harman who Ella was to marry] who had
been serving with the army in Egypt and India for seven years had been sent with his regiment the 7th Dragoon Guards straight
to France. When they arrived the Cavalry were invaluable in covering the army retreat as the Germans pushed through Belgium and France. When the pattern of the
war changed and trench warfare was introduced the cavalry had to give up their horses and fight with the infantry.
I married my cousin on the 6th of December 1916 in Rotherfield parish church Saint Denys:
the church where I had been christened and confirmed and where my father had sung in the choir for over fifty years. Throughout
my childhood I had with my brothers attended Sunday School and church regularly and what I learned then I have never forgotten.
I was still teaching in the local school and after ten days my husband returned to France and I continued with my
teaching duties. After several months my husband was sent home to take an infantry course in North Wales and when he passed out he was commissioned
to the Northumberland Fusiliers. On the day that he joined his new regiment our son was born and in two weeks my husband George
was once more back in France.
Conditions at home were not good. All food was rationed and we were issued with ration books to obtain
our small supply of fat meat sugar etc. A very poor kind of margarine was the main fat supply but my family and I augmented
this with a little butter made from the cream from the milk shaken up in a preserving jar. Saccharin's took the place of sugar
and we could always get a rabbit to help out the small meat ration.
After four months of living in and out of the front line my husband was badly wounded. I was informed by
the War Office that he was seriously wounded and three days later that he had to lose his left arm. This was done as an emergency
operation at the casualty clearing station and later he was sent to a French hospital where he remained for several weeks.
Before being sent to a hospital in London. There shortly after arriving he had a second amputation.
When he was fit to leave hospital he came
home to recuperate and in due time was fitted with a marvellous artificial limb at Roehampton. For a short time he returned
to army duties training recruits on Salisbury Plain. But he was not happy in this kind of life so he resigned his commission
and decided to start life afresh as a civilian. After the war finished things were far from easy. With all the men returning
from the services work was very scarce and no-one wanted to employ a disabled ex-soldier. Although my husband was a proficient
horseman - he had been in charge of the riding stables in India, had boxed for his squadron
and had won awards in fencing and other sports none of these were a passport to a job.
We were still living with my family father and eldest sister Louise who had cared for my father John
since the death of my mother Mary and our problem was to try to get a home of our own. Even at this time the housing problem
was very acute and after a great deal of thought and discussion it was decided that my father and my husband would pool their
resources and take over a public house hoping thereby to get a fair living.
Eventually we went to live in an inn in a small village in Kent. It consisted of a few
houses, the church, one shop and the inn. The village was very old and quite unspoilt with genuine timbered houses and was
visited during the summer by hundreds of sightseers. The two men looked after the licensed business and my two sisters and
I had to cope with the catering and letting side of the business.
We little knew what we were up against. Although it was a lovely old house the services were absolutely
primitive. There was no gas or electricity - the owner would not allow any modernisation. All the water had to be pumped up
twice daily from a well and the cooking had to be done on a large old-fashioned range in a very dark corner of the huge kitchen.
The kitchen had a brick floor and a sandstone sink and standing in the centre was a large heavy wooden table. All hot water
had to be heated on the stove over which hung a lamp kept alight all day. The whole house was lighted by oil lamps hanging
from ceilings or from walls in the long passages. Each morning these lamps had to be trimmed and re-filled.
My eldest sister Louise was responsible for the cooking and my young sister Christine and I looked after
the bedrooms and letting as well as the teas. I also had two small children George & Yvonne to care for.
Every weekend throughout the summer we had many visitors for lunch and tea but at holiday times we were
overwhelmed. At such times we could serve twenty or more lunches and anything up to one hundred and fifty teas. Lunches were
served in a large room which had been built on called the reception room. But, if fine weather, tea was served at small tables
on the lawn or in the tea room.
In order to cope with all this extra work at holiday weekends we had to persuade willing relatives to
help us out. One of my sisters-in-law was a splendid cook and she was the main stay in the kitchen. My brothers carved joints,
made pots of tea and served soft drinks. We gave them aprons and they did endless washing up and kept the fires stoked up.
Every Sunday as the church bells rang for evening service we were just getting our second wind to start on a table full of
dirty crockery. To ensure a supply of hot water for the washing up we heated up the copper.
It was not all hard work however - we did have some
fun. My young sister Christine and I went to the weekly dance and played in the Stoolball team. We had a pony and governess
cart and sometimes found time to take the children for a drive. There were no buses to our village and the nearest station
was over three miles away so a great many of our visitors came on bicycle or on foot. Not many people could afford a car.
After three years of hard work against almost impossible odds we left the Castle Inn at Chiddingstone and moved to Tonbridge
where we shared a fairly large house. This was a temporary arrangement as we were on the look out for two adjoining cottages
near a school. After a while we found what we wanted with a school in the next street. My husband still had no regular work
so when the opportunity came for me to help in the school I jumped at the chance. At first I went for only short periods as
my younger daughter was not very old, but later I worked full time. I stayed at this school for five years. It was one of
the best schools in the county and I learned a great deal while working there and enjoyed it very much. By this time my two
older children were at schoolbut the youngest Jeanne was not yet of school age.
At the end of five years my husband was offered work with one of my brothers who was a builder. We decided
to sell our house and build a double dwelling house on the outskirts of our old home village. We found a good site on a main
road with a large plot of land attached. While the house was being built we lived temporarily in an empty farmhouse for one
pound a week rent. It was in a very lonely position a long way from the nearest village Rotherfield - and surrounded by fields
and woods. My children had a long walk to school and after they had gone I scarcely saw anyone all day. This - except the
postman. The postman was a very jolly fellow who walked endless miles each day delivering the mail. When there was a letter
for us it meant an extra mile for him but he was always cheerful and never complained. When one thinks of the kind of postal
service we get in this enlightened age it all seems pretty ludicrous.
Some of my brothers who were living in the neighbourhood would visit us during the weekends for a rabbit
hunt. Armed with nets sacks and ferrets they would end a good mornings hunt with two or three dozen rabbits to sell. Rabbits
meant cheap meat for many families and could be bought for nine pence or one shilling.
In spring, the woods and banks were covered with primroses and violets and were a joy to behold. I have
been that way many times in recent years and the wild flowers seem to have disappeared through road widening for the increased
traffic and the slaughter of trees and in the woods.
We spent a full twelve months in this house seeing lambs born in the fields and the birds building their
nests in the trees and hedges. By then our new house was ready. We were now living on a main road with a good bus service
which was extremely useful as our son George was attending technical school and our elder Yvonne daughter the CountySchool at Tunbridge Wells. For
two years we spent every available moment making our new garden and lawns. It had previously been a wheat field with lots
of docks and thistles and as anyone would know who had faced these problems these weeds were very difficult to eradicate.
We planted large herbaceous borders, rose beds and many flowering trees and shrubs. We also had a large kitchen garden and
an orchard not to mention fairly large lawn space. The soil was clay so it all meant very hard work but when fully cultivated
it was a very profitable garden.
After we had lived there for a few years my father
died and this left us with added garden to maintain - he had lived next door to us with my elder sister Louis My husband was
working in the building trade but was often without work during the winter. When he was given the opportunity to make an application
for the job of postmaster in the local post office we considered it chance worth taking. He was the chosen applicant so we
had to let our house and move into the premises occupied by the former postmaster. In fact we had to buy the property and
all the post office fittings.
To find the money we had to sell a bungalow which we had built. It realised the sum of six hundred and
fifty pounds - it would be worth three to four thousand pounds now, as it had half an acre of land
[Editor's note by Ella’s daughter Yvonne.
The last two paragraphs are not absolutely correct.
When my mother moved from Kingsbury Farm to the house on the main road - Sheriffs Hill, Argos Hill, Rotherfield
she went back to teaching at SussexRoadGirlsSchool at Tonbridge. I used to go with her on the bus every
day and attend this school because in Kent children were allowed to take the scholarship at ten
years of age whereas in East Sussex they had to be eleven. Although I passed the exam I was not given the scholarship as I resided in Sussex. I then went to MayfieldSchool and passed the exam again
a year later. I do not know when my mother gave up travelling to Tonbridge to teach.
I think that my mother was confusing Rotherfield post office
with the post office she later went to at Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells when referring to buying the property and selling
the bungalow - Silver Haze, Argos Hill. The plans for the bungalow were not drawn up until September 1934 so it could not
have been sold until we were living at The Oaks, Argos Hill where we went after leaving Rotherfield post office.]
This new job was one of the greatest challenges of my life and a complete change in outlook. My husband
was the official postmaster but it was on my shoulders that the main responsibility rested as attached to the office was a
telephone exchange with over two hundred subscribers. I knew nothing whatever about post office or exchange work. After the
transfer of the business I had my first concentrated lesson on the switchboard by the travelling supervisor. That same evening
with all the cheap rate long distance calls coming in I had to cope alone. The next day I was drilled in counter work and
finally given my first lesson in keeping complicated accounts. Fortunately we had managed to retain the services of the late
postmaster's sister so by rotating duties I managed to pick up the threads.
A head office official kept an eye on my work for a week.
My husband being disabled was unable to help
with office or telephone duties but he was in charge of the postmen and delivery services. Every morning he had to get up
at to receive the mail which had come by road from Tunbridge Wells. With the postmen he helped to sort the
mail and see them off on their delivery rounds. All the mail posted in the area had to be collected and brought to the office
to be date-stamped and then sealed in bags for dispatch by train or mail van. My son who was living at home helped with the
exchange during the day and delivered all the telegrams received over the phone for residents in a wide area It was a very
busy life for everyone. I loved the office work but hated the exchange. A telephone exchange never closes down which means
that someone has to be in attendance twenty-four hours each day for three hundred and sixty five days in the year. After working
all day when the office was closed and the accounts done I had to go straight on to the switchboard to face several hours
- nerve racking hours - of wrestling with subscribers and long distance calls. I was never free to go to bed until
and even then could not rely on a night's rest. I had a night bell over my bed and at any moment it could scream a warning
that I was wanted on the switchboard. I simply cat-napped and was out of bed and into my slippers and a thick coat in a flash.
It might be an emergency call for a doctor or a nurse or some police business. With the latter I could be kept up for an hour
or more before I could clear the line and get back to bed. Then there were also the early morning callers before you had time
to open your eyes. I was never free and felt like a prisoner in my own home. To me telephone exchange work in a small exchange
was the world’s worst job. Things are different now - day operators are provided and one is not expected to work day
and night. By the end of two and a half years I was a nervous wreck and we moved back to take over my sister's house - she
had gone away to live with a friend.
This was next door to Sheriffs Ghyll where we had lived before moving to the post office and the house
was called The Oaks. It took me a good year to get over this work experience but I never regretted it for I learned a great
deal which was invaluable to me later on.
I had many teacher friends and one of them mentioned one day that there was an infant mistress vacancy
at MayfieldSchool a short bus journey from my home. I applied and got the post. My class numbered
about forty-five from the age of five to seven. For such things as reading and numbers they had to be split up into four groups
which meant overall supervision but individual attention.
I had to be teacher-cum-second mother. When the five year olds came on their first day - some full of
excitement at the prospect of some new adventure - others white and tear-stained at leaving their mother I had to try to gain
their confidence and make them happy and interested so that they would be ready to come the next day and the next. Every child
was an individual and needed individual handling.
I remember one small boy called Robin. He was aptly named for he had a pert bird-like expression and
a round rosy face. He was very intelligent but bone-lazy and always had to be pressurised to achieve anything. Exactly the
reverse was Peter - very small and undeveloped - who came from a foster home. He simply could not learn to read or do numbers
but in spite of this he had a very clever hand. Give him a blackboard and some coloured chalks and he would draw a wonderful
picture of some special incident in his life, full of colour and meaning.
I taught all my small boys and girls to knit plain and purl with large wooden needles and coloured cotton
or string. Little Peter was the best boy knitter. I found that many of the more backward children excelled when acting or
miming a story or when dancing rhythmically to their nursery rhymes. Throughout my teaching I found that every child was good
at something even if it was only in keeping the classroom and cupboards neat and tidy. I felt there was a niche in life which
they would fill happily and completely.
I still meet grown ups who speak of the happy days they spent as my school pupils. It makes me realise
that my teaching days were very rewarding ones. I stayed at this school for three years and it was my last teaching post.
Most of my working life fell into a pattern three
or four years of coping with a full time job and running my home and looking after my family. Then I would have to rest for
a short time to pick up my health and strength before committing myself to the next It was not long after I had finished my
teaching that we were plunged into a Second World War. On the first day after war was declared we sealed our windows against
gas attack as that was what we had been led to believe would happen. The days went by however and nothing happened so we tore
off the strips and breathed more freely. I went to first aid classes and helped to man an air raid post but I felt this was
not sufficient. We were in the front line of battle and when the daylight bombing started we were in for a thrilling and exciting
The idea of the enemy in the first place was to destroy our airfields and demolish our air force completely
leaving the way clear for an invasion of our coast - so the Battle of Britain started. Most of the fighter airfields were
in the south-east and as we were a little way inland we were in the interception area. As the bombers came in low over the
coast with fighter escorts they were met by our fighter squadrons from Biggin Hill in Kent. Many times every day we
saw terrific air battles overhead. We saw planes fall from the skies in flames on many occasions and found live and spent
shells in our garden. One day after a very noisy battle overhead we saw two parachutes floating gracefully down with a man
swinging on the end of each of them. No idea whether they were our own or from the enemy.
One Sunday as we were about to sit down to our dinner we heard the screeching of planes flying very
low round and round. In spite of danger we rushed out to see what was happening. Just beyond our garden a huge bomber was
coming down. It had been badly shot up and a torn parachute was streaming from its tail. As soon as it touched the ground
it burst into flames and the live ammunition exploded. It was a terrible sight. The planes flying round and round were the
Polish Squadron doing a victory roll over their victim. A few days later just as my daughter got off the bus from school we
heard a bomber come down a short distance away. I had been watching a fierce battle going on overhead. One could always distinguish
the bombers which looked like huge black flow flies with smaller flies - the fighters of both sides - buzzing around them.
We rushed out to see where the bomber had fallen and as we ran up the road we saw coming over very low three other badly damaged
enemy bombers. We ducked under a hedge. But there were car and people on the road in full view who could so easily have been
machine gunned. No doubt the Germans were too busy with their own life and death problems for they all came down before reaching
These incidents show how careless we had grown
in our attitude towards the war and acceptance of death. During the Battle of Britain the German air force took a terrific
beating from our small force of fighter pilots and planes. Not until later did we realise how nearly we had been defeated.
The enemy realised that day bombing was much too costly in men and planes so they changed their tactics and started night
bombing. This to us was a much more sinister attack. During the daylight bombing we could see what was happening but at night
dangers loomed larger and out of all proportion. As soon as it was dusk the enemy came in and went over us at regular intervals
all night. Their target was London and as they passed over us they dropped flares and incendiary bombs. All around - near and in the distance
- were fires but somehow little damage seemed to be done. Our greatest danger was when the enemy planes returned often with
some bombs intact. These were dropped indiscriminately as they were chased back by our fighters and the countryside was littered
with bomb craters and many burnt out farms and houses. Over to the north was an angry glow in the sky reflected from the many
fires in London.
For a time we all slept downstairs as we felt safer on the ground floor. Each evening when the bombing
started I would take my little dog called Lucky and shut myself in 'the cupboard under the' stairs where the thudding of the
falling bombs sounded less. One night we were all woken up by theroar of several bombers coming over low. We actually heard
the swish of the bombs as they fell and we automatically dived under our beds. We were shaken but relieved when the sound
died away in the distance. The next morning in the field opposite to us we saw several large craters in a row where a stick
of bombs had been dropped fortunately doing no damage. Here, I might add, after the war many people found that they had considerable
bomb damage - ceilings fell down and walls cracked due to bomb concussion.
My son Douglas had joined the army in the Royal Signal Corps and my husband had volunteered to work
with the Naafi. My two daughters were doing useful work one as a post office telephonist and the other worked in a bank. This
left me free to take a job which in fact I had to do due to government law for women as I was under the 59 age limit. I did
not want to go back to teaching at this stage, 56, I once more turned my attention to work in a post office. I answered an
advertisement for a post office clerk one who can take full charge and do accounts the office was a very busy sub-office in
a nearby town Tunbridge Wells.
The official sub-postmaster was doing full time civil defence duties and wanted a suitable person to
deputise with the help of one young assistant. At the following interview I agreed to take on the job provided I was given
a month under supervision as a refresher. The counter work presented no great difficulty. But the accounts were much more
complicated than those in my previous small office. I felt confident however that I would be able to cope after a month's
probationary period. In fact I had to make a decision before that. After a head office check it was found that things were
not very satisfactory and I was asked to take over charge straight away. This I consented to do with the help of head office
if I got into any difficulty.
I had a very long day leaving home by to reach the office by 8.30 and not finishing
my duties till . The buses at this time in the evening were often crowded and I was left standing for another half hour.
When I finally arrived home there was the family meal to get and many household chores to do. I enjoyed the office work immensely
meeting all kinds of people and making many friends but the long hours of standing coupled with the tiring journeys gradually
sapped my strength until one morning when I got up for another day's work I collapsed.
Once again I was ordered to restAfter a few months
another job in the post office came my way. A post mistress was wanted for another sub-office in the same town but this time
there was very good accommodation attached to the office.. For several days I weighed up the advantages and disadvantages
of the situation. In the first place it would mean moving house again and with my husband away this would be a formidable
task. Again I had to consider whether my health would stand up to a very responsible job but I argued that as I would be living
adjacent to my work I would have no tiring journeys to cope with. My daughters were working in the town so things would be
far easier for them if we lived there.
After seeing the house and office I decided to take the job if it was offered to me - which eventually
it was. I fell in love with the house. It was very old and had a warm lived in atmosphere. It was situated on a ridge overlooking
the town and within easy reach of the common and the country. I did no expect to have much spare time to walk in the country
but there was the smell of space and fresh air. The house consisted of four storeys with two large rooms on each level. Running
up through the centre was a spiral stairs and I chose my bedroom on the top floor. I could look over the surrounding countryside
for miles and never felt constricted. The office was combined with a small stationery business in a busy area near to many
war ministries which meant a lot of business.
My staff consisted, of one full time assistant, one part time and a young girl learner. They all had to
be paid by me out of my salary. I also had to pay rent for the property and the upkeep of my home. My husband was not able
to contribute much towards the family budget as he was paid so little by the NAAFI. I worked in the office from
till apart for an hour for lunch - and then I would have a meal prior to doing my accounts. This could take
a long or short time depending on the accuracy of the day's work. With four people handling the business over the counter
errors could occur but as I knew everything that had happened all day this did not usually present any great difficulties.
At the end of the week I had to present a weekly balance sheet to head office and all dockets had to
be dispatched duly completed to their various departments. This took several hours but I never went to bed on Saturday evening
until all accounts were completed to ensure a free day on Sunday from all business connections.
My daughters took their full share in running the home. We each did our special chores each day before
work and everyone was responsible for her own room.
On Sunday mornings we did the laundry and
during the week a nearby neighbour cooked me a mid-day meal and my daughters had tea waiting by the time
arrived. We all worked very hard but things went smoothly and everything got done. On Wednesday evenings we all went out to
the local theatre to see a play. It was our only outing of the week. On Sunday afternoons we were glad to relax and rest.
By this time the war had entered a new phase. The Germans were now using V bombs. I remember the day when we heard whispers
and rumours of UFO's being dropped. Days later we found that this meant ‘unidentified flying object's’. The bombs
were sent from sites just across the channel and came in on certain 'lanes'. The south-east of England was in the direct line
of fire. The bombs gave out an unmistakable buzz. which could be heard as they approached. The danger period was when the
buzz stopped and immediately the bomb fell to the ground and it was time to take cover. We sheltered behind the counter or
any other barrier because flying glass could be a real danger. As soon as the explosion occurred a huge cloud of smoke arose
and we thanked god that we had escaped once again. At night the bombs came in continuously and we watched the flaring monsters
come across the sky and up the Medway valley. The flack from the anti-aircraft guns was like a wonderful firework display.
At time the guns were more frightening than the bombs for bits of shrapnel were flying all over the place. One night I heard
something whiz through the open top of my window and slither across the floor. Next morning I found a large piece of shrapnel.
At first the guns, were rather useless but later they became very efficient and brought down large numbers of bombs before
they got far inland.
About a year before the end of the war I had to see a specialist in Harley Street as I was becoming very
ill. In a week I was a patient in the RoyalFreeHospital in London. I had been having treatment
for thyroid trouble for some time but when I came to the hospital it was found that I was on the verge of pernicious anaemia.
The object of my hospitalisation was to have an operation for the thyroid trouble but this could not be dealt with until my
anaemic condition had been dealt with. This was done by blood transfusions. I have never ceased to thank the unknown blood
donor for it gave me new life. I improved so rapidly that in another week I was able to have my operation.
During this time London was still being bombed
very heavily and in consequence patients were being discharged from hospital at the earliest possible moment - often before
they were fit. The next evening after my operation when I was practically helpless there was a bad raid. We could hear masonry
falling amidst the infernal noise of bombs and guns and found next morning that the out-patients wing had been hit. It was
a terrifying experience but we were lucky. Ten days later my daughters came to fetch me home with the doctor's warning that
I must have complete rest for at least another month. My counter clerk who was about nineteen was engaged to a young naval
man. The day after I arrived home she came to tell me that her fiancé was having leave in two weeks and she wished to spend
it with him. I understood fully; how she felt but I could not see how I could take up work in so short a time. I appealed
to, but got no help from, my head office as they were very short-staffed themselves and could spare no-one. I knew that my
young clerk would take the time off with or without my consent. Her fiancé had persuaded her that munitions work would be
much more rewarding financially so she was not at all bothered about losing her job with me. I knew that I would have to be
back at my job behind the counter in two week's time. I purchased an office chair so that I could sit at the counter and transact
business. My doctor was horrified and warned me of dire consequences if I carried out my plan but nevertheless in two weeks
time I was back at work.
I kept my young girl learner by my side and she did all the heavy date-stamping and moving around whilst
I conducted the business. Every morning at first my doctor came into the office on some pretext or other to see how I was
doing. I would grin at him and he would shake his head at me and each day I felt more able to cope it did me no harm and I
safely overcame a rather tricky period.
D-day stands out and is one of the most memorable of my life. For months I had been receiving secret documents
informing me of the measures I would have to take should an invasion take place by the Germans who were facing us just across
the channel. Due to the tremendous beating they had taken by our air force over this country and also over Europe their invasion plans had
been postponed. A great surge of hope had been growing amongst the British people that soon we would be in a position to land
forces on the enemy occupied coasts of Belgium or France. On this particular day
there was a tremendous feeling of excitement in the air as well as uncertain foreboding of what could be taking place. Living
in the south-east we were very near to these events and although everything was kept a deadly secret we could not help feeling
that great and significant things were taking place. We were accustomed to planes continually flying overhead, but, on that
day there seemed more activity than ever. The same thought was in everyone' s mind "would our troops be successful or would
they be driven back into the sea". Gradually tiny scraps of news came through which seemed to suggest that things were going
well. When at last official announcements were made over the radio - although guarded - they gave reason for joy and thankfulness.
Our troops had landed on enemy beaches and were pushing forward. The relief was tremendous and although we knew this was only
the beginning we felt that it was the beginning of the end.
In the weeks that, followed we saw the Germans inexorably
kept on the run and thanksgiving services were held all over the country for our deliverance from the bombing and invasion.
I felt that the time had now come when I could quietly retire to a less exacting life. Soon my family would be returning and
my children would be living in homes of their own. I needed a long rest and although I continued to live in the house for
sometime I retired from the office and business. We looked around and finally bought a bungalow in the country and settled
down to private life again.
Although I was very glad of the rest and quiet
of the country I sometimes missed the hum of business life and meeting people who were both customers .and friends. Once again
a large garden provided the outlet for surplus energy and the pride of achievement. As my husband was not yet of pension age
and was away at work all day I did most of the gardening. The soil was mainly clay and gardening was quite hard work but we
had scope for growing vegetables and flowers. I have always found that gardens are mainly for working in and not for sitting
in as those people who have never had a large garden mistakenly believe. In fact an over large garden can become a complete
bugbear to an ageing couple. Nevertheless one is always richly rewarded each season when one sees the borders in full bloom
- the rockery in full bloom or the abundance of fresh vegetables throughout the year. A small orchard gave us apples and pears
and there were gooseberries and currants for jam and preserves. For ten years we lived in this particular house - ten uneventful
years - but ten years when we became gradually older and less able to cope with the very hard work. Once again, we had to
consider our position and we decided we must look for a new home with a much smaller garden. Both my husband and I would have
hated to see the garden becoming neglected so we decided to get out while we could pass it on in good order to someone else.
The bungalow too was of timber construction and we felt we wanted something more permanent. We found a buyer and through the
advice and kindness of a friend we acquired a six roomed house for a very reasonable sum. The house was well built with large
rooms but it needed re-decorating and modernising throughout. We heard of a scheme whereby one could apply for a grant for
certain improvements to the local council. We therefore made an application for a grant towards the cost of installing a hot
water system and a bath. After inspecting the property and finding it structurally sound the council granted us half the cost
of the work entailed on condition that we fulfilled certain conditions such as redecorating the house putting in two or three
air-bricks and a few other small details. After my son had taken out all the gas-pipes, and wired the house for electricity
my husband and I started to do the decorating. We stripped the paper from the walls and then gave the whole house three coat
of distemper and the woodwork three coats of paint. Our object was to get four rooms ready for occupation before we moved
in. This so that we would be in residence when the builders came to install the hot water system and bath. We picked out our
colour schemes and worked from early morning till evening. When the four rooms were ready we moved in. In the midst of the
moving I was suddenly taken ill and all our work had to be suspended for six weeks until I was fit again. Christmas had quietly
passed and now with the improving weather we were ready to have the builders in to finish the house completely. We had new
stoves put in a bath and a large airing cupboard and it was one of the warmest houses we had ever occupied. For eight years
we were very happy in this house and during this time both my husband and I became eligible for retirement pension. It was
during this time that I took up a new hobby. I had become friendly with a lady who was a real artist. She had attended art
schools from an early age and painted in oils and water-colours. When I was a student I had to get passes in drawing but I
had never tried to paint. Under my friend's tuition I was willing and in fact eager to try. Immediately it became a thrilling
and challenging pastime. I shall never be a real artist, but painting has given me many hours of pleasure and recreation and
I shall probably go on doing it until I can no longer hold a brush. Water colour painting was my first choice and I particularly
liked painting flowers. During one whole year I collected and painted over one hundred Sussex wild flowers and still
find something new occasionally to add to my collection. I had always enjoyed wild flowers and collected them from my early
childhood and I knew the names of most of them. With friends we made a party of five and when we had graduated to outdoor
sketching we went out one day a week to local beauty spots with our paints easels stools sketching material and picnic lunch.
A friend' s husband joined us and he took us in his car so we were able to rove quite far a-field looking for possible subjects.
We were a very happy enthusiastic party and frankly criticised each other’s efforts. All this had to come to an end
temporarily when my husband, became very ill with kidney trouble. He was ill for several months and I knew he would never
get better. Early one morning I found him lying dead on the floor. [George died on the 29th August 1963.
Age 76] The shock remained with me for a long time and I found it impossible to stay alone in the house. After eight happy
years I sold the house and then lived for two years with my younger daughter and her children in a large house we had bought
between us. It was large enough for us to live as separate units. Again there was a large garden which had been badly neglected
and which needed a great deal of hard work. Throughout my life I have left behind me a string of beautiful gardens for someone
else to enjoy making the world a little more beautiful than I have found it. After two years I sold most of my home and moved
in with my son having one large room. I now have no garden but I have two window boxes which I keep filled with flowers winter
and summer. From my windows I can view the beauty of my neighbour’s gardens and some of them are very lovely. The sun
shines in my windows every afternoon when it shines at all - and I have complete independence. My health is very good and
I can enjoy the many village activities. The public library provides me with good books - the television with good entertainment
and the means to keep my mind active and alert and the village clubs have given me the opportunities to make many friends.
There is always work to do for the activities I am most interested in - knitting and sewing to do for myself -and friends
and time to rest and relax when I feel I need it. At the present time only two brothers and myself are left of our family
and many of my greatest friends have passed on but I shall continue to live life to the full so long as my health permits.
[Ella first lived with her daughter Jeanne nee Harman & her husband William Hearne, and in the paragraph above she was
living with George & his wife Kitty Harman near HoramDuring recent years I have had some marvellous holidays a very wonderful
two weeks in Austria with a very dear friend my first visit abroad. The next two years I spent several weeks in Cornwall which I grew to love very
much and this year, 1969, I spent a wonderful fortnight in June amidst the mountains and lakes in the lake district with my
elder daughter and her husband. Having a car we were able to visit most of the beautiful lakes and farms and walk for hours
on the fells. Looking back at my collection of colour films gives me enormous pleasure and memories of the best holidays of
my life. I may not be able to go so far a-field again but nothing can take away the wonderful times I have had.
Looking back over the last three quarters of a century I see enormous change in every facet of life.
Some are for the better but some I feel are far from improvements. During my lifetime I have lived from the time of the horse
drawn carriage before the age of the motor car to the unbelievable age of space travel when one can sit at home and see men
walking on the moon. I may still live to see other fantastic things happening - perhaps people living on the moon or in communities
below the sea. Nothing now seems impossible in today's wonderful world. Our young generation have been brought up in a highly
technical and scientific world and take all that it involves in their stride. They have very enquiring minds and are given
tremendous opportunities to satisfy their urge for knowledge. We hear a good deal about the age gap. Young people are inclined
to forget that although the older generation are not so clever as they are, they have one great asset - experience - which
one gains from long years of living. One cannot live through two world wars without having learned a very great deal - often
very dearly. We have made many mistakes and have tried to rectify them. Only time will tell whether our young people can build
a better world.
Violence does not seem to be the answer to the present problems and unfortunately this is all too prevalent
today. ‘Permissive society’ is a phrase we hear too often. To me it means lack of discipline in the homes in schools
and colleges. To me it means licence not freedom. The influence of home life seems to be less and the sanctity of marriage
gravely threatened. Life is becoming a rat race in which the strongest and most vicious survive. Most of our young people
are very fine young men and women. They are deep thinkers and hard, workers and show themselves willing to sacrifice a great
deal for the cause of peace and to help the underprivileged people in the world. There is just a hard core of militants who
look for trouble in every situation but who have nothing constructive to offer. To my mind they are allowed to get away with
far too much evil by the authorities who seem to bend over backwards in order to give them freedom of expression. Work to
them is a dirty word only to be tolerated under duress. They drift on to drug taking because they want to opt out of any responsibilities
and cannot or will not face up to the reality of life. Is it any wonder that we see placards displayed saying the end of the
world is near. It certainly makes one think.
The standard of living is much higher than
ever before. No longer does one see poor and ragged children. Living in a welfare state everyone is assured of a living above
starvation level. The old people are paid reasonable pensions and families are paid family allowances. Additional grants are
given in particularly hard circumstances. The greatest blot on the social services is the lack of care for many old people
who can no longer look after themselves. Many more homes and hospitals are needed to deal with this problem. Sex seems to
have reared its ugly head with a vengeance. Free 'love' is tolerated and accepted. Thousands of illegitimate children are
born each year and one only has to be interested in children's homes to realise the tragedy which follows. Many of our delinquent
children are a dire.I can now look back on a very happy childhood and an early life during the days of less pressure and quieter
living. They were also times of hard work and long hours not much leisure and very few luxuries. Today I am enjoying life
to the full - exciting things are happening every day life is full of interest and one lives, in far greater comfort. The
high speed of life often leaves us older people way behind but we can enjoy the reflected glory of those who can keep up the
pace and who sometimes linger a little to give us a kindly thought and make us feel we are not forgotten all together. My
life has of course been a mixture of good times and bad times. I have memories of times which I treasure with pride such as
the Battle of Britain days when our air pilot heroes fought and died against great odds to save us from near defeat and the
dark days when our small ships rescued our armies from the Dunkirk beaches to fight again and to conquer a ruthless
enemy. It was at such times that the British bulldog spirit shone at its brightest. Winston Churchill said ‘these are
our finest hours’. I see many problems looming large on the not too distant horizon. These include the problem of world
population explosion (now being countered in some measure by family planning) - the coloured problem - the pollution of our
land water and air - the increase of traffic on our already congested roads. Will our technologists, scientists and higher
educationists be able to deal with these problems many of which they have created. Many miracles will happen in the years
to come and one can only hope and pray that among them will be condemnation by world agreement of all wars among nations -
the distribution of food supplies so that everyone has enough to eat - the control of scientists before they get too clever
and destroy themselves and mankind.
Of one thing I am certain. I would prefer to have lived in my slow-moving less noisy sometimes very
uncertain old world than in the fast moving exciting unbearably noisy and dangerous new world ahead. Are the younger generation
rightly equipped to deal with it? I believe they are.