Friday, 31 August 2012

Fatherless the story of an orphan - continuing

The story continues................

The older girls always ran down the corridors as their playroom was opposite the infants’ room.  They would see them slide the last bit of the corridor towards their playroom, which made it very slippery at the end of the corridor.  Many times their mistress would be heard telling them off as this was dangerous, but it continued.  The mistress would blow her whistle when the girls had to line up for their march to the dining room or classes, otherwise prefects in charge of this duty would bang hard on the playroom door and shout for attention, then the infants would see the older girls quietly lead off through the corridor to their classes.  This was scary for the young infants but they were still excited about going up.  There were times when Margo would wonder during her time in the infants what was going on and why she was there, but as time passed she got used to the idea and began to think this was normal and part of growing up.

Now it was time when they were all dressed in their Sunday best and the infants were saying goodbye to the infant’s mistresses as they waited for their relatives to collect them for another holiday.
It must have been about this time when Margo’s younger brother Freddy would be going to Reedham to begin in the infants.

Chapter Three – The First year in the junior girls.
After enjoying a few weeks holiday at home, Margo and Roy were returning to school.  Margo was now with the big girls starting in the juniors.  One mistress who was of medium build with dark hair and wore glasses designated an older girl to introduce Margo and the other girls who went up with her to the rules and to show then round the dormitories.   The Mistress’s name was Miss Norton; she told all the girls they had a number.  Margo’s would be 32 giving the other girls their numbers saying everything would be marked with their number including their clothes and any monies would be kept by the mistress.  The girls followed Kathleen, the older girl up the wide winding wooden stairs.  They reached the first landing and turned right into a very large dormitory where large iron beds with square baskets underneath were lined down both sides of the room with more down the middle.  The beds were made up with white sheets, blankets and warm Red covers.  Dressing gowns and nighties were kept in the baskets underneath.  All the windows had long black blinds due to the blackouts in the war.  At the far end of the dormitory stood a cupboard, which went from the floor to the ceiling.  Kathleen explained that the boxed shelving inside is where the girls would find all their clean clothes as numbered. 

Outside the dormitory was a bedroom and bathroom, this was the junior mistress’s room.  Back on the landing they turned right into a small narrow hallway, which led into a very large round washroom.  All round the sides were small basins, above them were wooden racks where toothbrushes and toothpaste were kept all in number order, underneath hooks for facecloths. 

In the middle of this room stood a tall round rack, above and all around the rack were mirrors, and hanging just below towels  on large hooks.  Just outside the washroom, two sliding doors, this would reveal four toilets, the use of juniors only.

Marjorie, Nora, Agnes, Eileen, Iris, Mary, Paddy and Gillian were some of those who were all now in the juniors with Margo.  They had all been issued their new clothes and been through all rules and regulations that they must abide by now they were in the big girls. Prefects would be looking after them until they are old enough to be given responsibilities themselves.  Margo felt so grown up and happy to be in the juniors, another step towards the last day.    The clothes worn by the girls were rather short cotton blouses which only came a few inches down their chest, a Navy skirt and jumper over the winter, during the summer they were issued with flowered dresses, thought to be made by Miss Munro who you will read about shortly.  Their underclothes, which had to be worn, were a white vest and bodice, white panties worn under navy ones, white cotton socks in the summer and Black stockings in the winter.  Their uniform consisted of a lot of Black and for church services or going out of the school they wore a heavy Black coat and large Panama hat with the school band around the brim.  Shoes consisted of three pairs of black shoes, one pair of lace ups for Sundays, one for days and one pair with a button  were worn as slippers through the school which the girls would  wear after the classes finished, otherwise they were worn over the weekends unless they were going out for walks or attending church.  All kept in the boot room where girls would make sure they were kept clean.

Their hair was cut short and straight to the ears. Every so often a lady came to search their hair for nits, she would comb some awful liquid through their hair – the girls named her “Nitty Nora”.

Miss Munro who I have already mentioned was employed by the orphanage and worked in the tower where she had her workroom.  She made some of the girl’s clothes and also carried out any repairs.  None of the girls were allowed to go up to the tower unless the mistress sent them.  Miss Munro always wore silk black gowns and the girls always felt she wore a wig.  She was a funny lady and ran everywhere, the girls thought she was rather weird, but all liked her and would love to be allowed to go up to her room in the tower and chat.  It was assumed Miss Munro had a room where she lived somewhere up in the tower.  When the girls returned from their holiday their suitcases were stored in the tower.

Once a week the sister from the sanitarium came over to give the girls senna and during the winter a large spoonful of malt.  Every evening the girls were given a half bottle of fresh Milk to drink, many just didn’t like milk, so when the mistress wasn’t looking those who liked milk drank it for them.  Otherwise apart from meal times, if the girls were thirsty they had to get water from the drinking tap in the daily washroom.  Although there were rules when and where girls were allowed round the corridors, they were not allowed to run.

The layout of the girl’s side started from the main hall beginning from matron and her secretary’s office.  From the first corridor down on the left were the junior classrooms (if you remember reading the large windows along the front of the building – those were all the classrooms).  These on the left hand side were for the juniors teaching, the other on the boys side were for the older children, all boys and girls mixed classes.  Teachers came to the school from outside the local area to teach the juniors and the teachers for the older children were taught by two masters namely Mr Akehurst, another teacher (his name escapes me) and the final class by Mr Thomas who also taught music and the choir which attended the London Manor House, but that will come later in the book.  The head master was Mr Fairbairn who had a house in the grounds with his wife.  His office was over on the boy’s side of the school.  Some local children were allowed to attend the orphanage for lessons only.

All the girls had a small square locker in their playroom with just enough room for books, pencils and a few small items.  During the winter when it snowed one pastime was to stand in a line behind each other out on the playground and slide, this was soon stopped by the mistresses as it became dangerous, another was for those girls who had a pair of skates, all held hands and would skate around the playground.  Just imagine how 50 girls or more found various ways of enjoying themselves during their time when they were not having lessons or cleaning the duties they were responsible for.  There were times during the winter when Margo could not join in as she suffered with chilblains on all her fingers, they were very painful and would itch, swell, bleed so badly that the sister would bandage them up, which made it very difficult to do her lessons or even feed herself.  However, eventually the sister decided to give Margo a calcium tablet every day, which in time cured this problem.  She never suffered with this ever again.  The favourite indoor main craze with the girls was film stars, books of the films and the stars which came back with them from holiday times.  Cartwheels, handstands and backbends were another pastime where the girls would become experts and would compete with each other.  They would often see how long they could handstand up the locker or wall and each girl would follow until maybe six or seven of them were all up the wall – how would the first one be feeling by then? but it was fun.

When anyone was naughty the first two punishments were usually no tuck which was given out on Saturdays or to write many lines (I must not…) The girls got good at that as they would write very quickly and scribble most times all the way down I I I I  must must must must not not not not and so on.

Birthdays were never celebrated like today.  Maybe one would receive a cake, which would be shared on their table.

The ambulance or Red Cross, whoever dealt with injuries during the war, had a practise one day.  They decided to use the orphans as patients and it is a memory that some other children locally were used also as patients to deal with a variety of injuries.  Each child had a sign pinned on them with an injury printed on it and in turn the doctors or nurses would bandage them up or place the injury in a splint and with speed get them on a stretcher and into an ambulance.  To the children this session was great fun, but obviously a serious exercise.

The Evacuation
While the war was on the fire bells installed in the corridors would ring very loudly during the night if an air raid was close by.  All the girls would have to put underclothes on, dressing gowns and slippers, collect quickly blankets and stand at the bottom of their beds, while the mistress would check all names making sure everyone were present.  The girls would then be led quietly down the stairs through the corridor to the playroom where the boy’s head master – Mr Joe Bristow would advise if it was safe to go down the meadow to the air raid shelter.  There were many steps to encounter in the dark and a gully running down the side, which caused ankle injuries.  Eventually it was decided children would spend the whole night in the shelter, which had three-tier bunk beds right through.  Margo was given the top bunk and after many a night she would wake with grit in her eye which meant a visit to the sanitarium.   After one bad air raid right above the school, a bomb dropped at the bottom of the village killing the occupants of a cottage and blew out every window in the school.  A decision was therefore made for the children to be sent somewhere safe in Nottingham with relatives consent.  A journey was arranged and families in Aspley, Nottingham took care of two or three children until it was safe to return to the school.  Margo and Freddy stayed with a Mr & Mrs Reville who had two children – Deirdre and Donald.  A happy 11 months was spent in Nottingham.  The orphans joined the local Crane school for their education.

I hope you are enjoying this

Thursday, 30 August 2012

German Pastry

During the early years of my marriage I lived a few doors away from an elderly German lady in her 90's .  She could be quite an ogre but I think she was lonely and after talking to her on my daily walks to school with the children, she started to invite me in for tea and pie!  I helped her with her chores as she had difficulty getting around and she enjoyed showing me how to cook.  One of the recipes I have just for nearly over 35 years now especially at Christmas was her German pastry.  Absolutely delicious for mince pies and apple pies as she suggests.  I still have the little card she wrote the recipe on for me all those years ago which I share with you.

This pastry really does melt in your mouth and I highly recommend it to you

Creations by flutterby

Here is a link to my shop where I sell some of my knitting and crocheting.  I hope you will have a look from time to time.  Here is just a selection of my recent makes which can all be found on folksy

Fatherless - My story as an orphan

I am new to blogging and really don't know where to start but I thought I might include some of the things that I enjoy in future post, maybe link to some of my favourite recipes and knitting patterns but I would particularly like to share some of my mothers life with whoever might take the time to read it.

I was very close to my parents and was devastated when they both passed away in December 2009 and January 2010.  Mum had a particularly hard life with her father passing away after a serious injury at work when she was five years old.  Mum's mother had three small children and decided she did not have the resources to care for them at home so put them in an orphanage for fatherless children.  Mum often talked about her life in the orphanage and my sisters and I encouraged her to write a short book about her young life which she did and although she never published it, it is sold to raise funds for the museum which is still kept for the orphanage that she attended all those years ago.  I intend to put her story on my blog a bit at a time for everybody to read and hope that you enjoy it like my sisters and I did as we grew up.



1939 – 1948



Chapter One      -  The Journey of Infants

Chapter Two     -  Two Years in the Infants

Chapter Three   - The First Year in the Juniors Girls

Chapter Four    -  The Seniors

Chapter Five     -  Looking Back

Chapter Six       - My Employment and my Marriage

Chapter Seven  -  My Thoughts





We all have the need to succeed something personal in our lives.  I have for many years had the desire to write a book and my daughters have encouraged me often to do just that, but the inclination and time had never been there for me.  However, being an avid reader, and in my retirement, I find Catherine Cookson books of such wonderment, especially her “Personal Anthology” “ LET ME MAKE MYSELF PLAIN” which I have now read and encouraged by her life and determination to put all I feel into my book in the hope the reading will be enjoyed by many.

My book covers nine and a half years as an orphan.All the orphans who spent their childhood at Reedham had lost their fathers,some both parents.

I dedicate my book to my husband and our three daughters.

Chapter One – The journey of Infants
Margo was getting on the bus in London travelling to her first employment.  She was very nervous and the conductor in a cheerful voice said to her “Cheer up love, it may never happen,” with a shy smile she gave the money for her daily ticket and sat down.

Looking out of the window Margo wondered what life was going to be like since leaving the orphanage she had spent over 9 years at.  She was now 15 and about to start earning her wages training at a well-known London hotel in the hairdressing department.  The world outside was frightening and very large.  She had been home only at holiday times from the school, a few weeks at a time, and during these times she had been forced with her mother and brothers on many occasions to move from their home to a safer place overnight due to a bomb dropped close by.  At one time they slept on the cold floor of a garage and another time in a pub cellar.

Margo’s mind wandered back to the day in 1939 when war had been declared.  She was 5 and her brother Roy was 10, they were both on a train with their mother who was taking them to an orphanage for safe keeping, unknown to them at the time.  There was an air raid going on and windows were being blown out above the station as their train started its journey.

After about three quarters of an hour they had arrived at their destination and slowly stepping off the train, their mother led them down a slope to the road below.  Turning to their left they could see a large gate beside a cottage.  They were now walking through the gate and began going up a driveway between an avenue of trees.  They could smell a farm; pigs and chickens could be heard.

It was a while before they reached the top of the hill and as the driveway led to the right, glancing to their left, Margo noticed a large meadow and a slope leading to some steps, later to learn led to the girls side.

They had reached the top of the slope; turning left they came out onto a long stoned terrace in front of this very large building – the orphanage.  Not knowing what was going on Margo and Roy walked with their mother towards some very wide stone steps at the centre of the building.  Either side of the steps and along the bottom of the building were large windows with the same above them.  During this long walk the voices of children playing could be heard.

Now they were stepping up the stone steps, through two tall wooden doors into the entrance hall and on the floor an emblem and inside the circle four clasped hands with the words “Charity Makes All One” around the edge.  On the walls a portrait of Andrew Reed the founder and a bust of him later to learn was the man the school was named after.  They walked straight from the room into an inner room, with circular stairs on their right and in front of them two tall doors that appeared to reach the ceiling, these led into the dining hall.  To the left and right they noticed corridors. They had heard a bell ring as they reached the inner room so waited quietly. From a room on their left a lady appeared. She was fairly short, rather on the plump side and dressed in a Navy suit.  She introduced herself as Miss Blake – the matron.  She greeted mother with a smile saying, “welcome to the school and this must be Margo and Roy”. Matron was talking to their mother when a tall boy dressed in grey trousers and a white shirt appeared from the right corridor and smiled at matron, but waited until she had finished talking.  Mother then told Roy he would be staying at the school and she would be visiting him and Margo every month and they would also go home at holiday times.  They were saying goodbye and Roy went away with the tall boy.    Margo began to cry as mother was then saying the same to her, and as matron took hold of her hand shaking hands at the same time with her mother, Margo began to sob as her mother was kissing her goodbye. Matron began to walk away with Margo whose tears were streaming down her face and looking back at her mother she disappeared as they were now walking into a corridor.  They walked down one corridor, turned right into another and whatever matron was saying to her she couldn’t hear as she was sobbing by now.  They eventually reached a small door on the right and as it was being opened, Margo could see boys and girls sitting at small tables eating their dinner.  All this time Margo had been hugging a black doll, her favourite, and as the matron was telling the teacher her name, her doll fell onto the floor, quickly picking it up crying so loudly now the teacher put her arms round her saying “I will look after the doll for you, come and eat some dinner”.  Matron then went out of the room and by now Margo was sobbing for her mother and wasn’t interested in eating any dinner.

Chapter Two – Two years in the Infants.
A short time had passed since that first day.  Margo had at last settle down, still missing her family.  She had made many friends, one in particular named Rosie who was the first to make friends with her and they would play together with the toys always kept in a cupboard of their little room, but Margo had not seen her Black doll since the mistress said she would look after it.  Margo had asked the mistress for her doll and had been told it was safe in her room.  She never saw that doll again.

When new children arrived at the school they were all given a vaccination.  Margo’s arm took a long time to heal as the scab kept breaking down; it had to be kept covered until it began to heal again, in time it completely healed over.

The mistress would bath the children twice a week and dress the girls in pretty dresses during the summer with white ankle socks and black shoes, sometimes a blouse over a pinafore skirt.  In the winter a warm blue jumper and skirt and long white socks.  The boys wore a grey shirt, and trousers and grey socks with black shoes.  All their clothes were marked with their names.  Their hair was kept very short.  When they were taken out for walks they would walk in twos (crocodile style). 

Margo’s brother Roy and other infants brothers and sisters came round to visit every Saturday.  Sometimes Margo would see Roy in the dining hall when they had their meals.

The infant’s teacher was very nice (her name escapes me) The classes were held for about 3 hours during the mornings and afternoons allowing for lunch times.  Margo enjoyed everything they were being taught. The teacher would hang on the classroom wall a black paper with each child’s name on it in white chalk.  Every time the children earned a Gold or Silver star one was put on their paper.  The children loved to see many stars on their named paper. When a drawing was put up on the classroom wall another star appeared on the infant’s paper.  At the end of each term the children were given their paper full of stars to take home at holiday time.

The daily routine in the infants never changed.  Their meal times were spent in the dining hall, sometimes they had their meals at different times to the older children.  Their playtime was spent in their room opposite the big girls playroom where they had a toy cupboard full of books and games.  They also had a large room which looked over the girl’s playground, where the larger toys were kept.
Clothes were sorted by the mistresses for what the infants were to wear each day.  Visiting days were always one Saturday each month when a parent would come and take the children out locally for the day.  Children always looked forward to this day, as they were able to talk to their brothers and sisters.  They were dressed in their Sunday best, which was always a black overcoat and navy hat over their uniform.  They usually came back with a book or a toy and most important sweets, which they didn’t see very often.

The war was going on during this time, so good things were in short supply. Holidays were always exiting times when some of the children went to their parent’s homes for Christmas, Easter and summer holidays when Margo and Roy saw their younger brother. The children would be searching from the classroom windows for their parent and would get excited when seen and would be waiting anxiously for the bell to go for the mistress to call for that girl shouting “see you after the holiday” At Christmas one present Margo always received was a Rupert book which she took great care of and loved to flick the pages quickly to see little Rupert in the top right hand corner of each page running and jumping. To this day Margo has continued to purchase the Rupert books for her daughters when they were young, then her grandchildren, now her great grandchildren. Margo always looked after her books which were shared with her younger brother, but got lost when their little sister arrived in the family home.

It was a sad time when holidays came to an end, they returned to the school and the first night girls cried themselves to sleep. In the mornings it was all over and everyone soon settled down for the new term.  The children who had lost all relatives stayed at the school for their holiday breaks.  It was never known if they went away during holiday times.

It was Easter 1941 and Margo with many other children who had their 7th birthday was being told they would be going up into the juniors the next term.  The girls would stay on the same side of the school with the big girls, the boys lived on the other side of the school.  On their return from the next holiday this is where they would be living.  

More to follow next time.  I hope you enjoy.