I was born on the third day of the third month 1914 in the lovely forest of Dean, a beautiful part of Gloucestershire in England, steeped in history from Roman times and kings came to hunt deer. At Speech house in the centre of the forest of Dean it is said that Charles the Second and Nell Gwyn stayed there, and it is rumoured that he planted the holly trees that abound around the area.
While just a baby we went to live in a small town called Mitcheldean, still in the forest of Dean. My memories there took me back to the soldiers home on leave walking down the street singing, “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and “Goodbye Dolly I must leave you”, and such songs, while lying in bed. How I did enjoy listening to them. By now we were 3 in the family: a sister 10 days less a year younger than I and by the time I was 3 we had a brother. My mother used to take us for walks and in the seasons pick the different herbs: tormentil, St.John’s Wort and elderblossom all to be dried in the sun to be used when we had colds, etc.
In 1918 when the ‘flu was so rampant everywhere, we did not escape. The doctor gave us up. My mother asked if she gave us whiskey and elderblossom to drink did he think it would help. The doctor said, “You can try, I can do no more.” Now Mother had an uncle that had a lady friend who kept the White Horse Hotel although whiskey was rationed he was able to get a small bottle each day which he brought and gave us. Mother put the elderblossom in a saucepan covered with water and brought to the boil and gave us this tea with a little of the whiskey added, this was very good in making one perspire. My father was upstairs on the point of death. Friends came and sat with him at night so my Mother could get some rest as she also had the ‘flu. Friends came and took my brother to stay with them, he was lucky to escape it. My sister and I lost our hair and had to learn to walk and talk again. When I started school at the age of 5 I was bald and wore a cap of ribbon which my mother made.
When in 1921 the miners went on strike, my Father decided to move and we moved to Herefordshire to a small holding called Baynhams in the parish of Yatton where we went to Sunday School and were in the Church choirs. From Baynhams we had 3 miles to walk to school, more or less. The distance depended on whether or not we stayed on the road. Houses were few and far between.
We went to school at Much Marcle, another place steeped in History. In the Churchyard there is a large yew tree. The centre has rotted away and a seat has been put in the tree in a semi-circle. So clearly I remember one day we had nothing at home to make lunch to take to school, but Mother went out and caught a rabbit and made a stew of it and at midday she had told us to meet her at the yew tree, where she brought the stew and we sat in the tree and enjoyed a good dinner.
At school girls were taught to sew, first by hand, later by sewing machine, darning and knitting. On the last day of school when we broke up for the summer holidays the school put on a Sports Day, where all our handicraft was on display and prizes were given to the best work. It was then that I started to take interest in the history of the people and places and how they survived the difficult times, when a patch was honourable but a hole a disgrace. No matter how poor, never go out without first cleaning your shoes till you could see your face in them, and never go out with your apron on. As a child I did not think too much of shoe cleaning, but as we lived down in the fields 2 miles off the road amongst the red clay and each night we had to clean and polish our shoes ready for school next day.
In the spring we picked daffodils into pillowcases and in the evening we put them up into bunches of 52 in a bunch and a few green leaves in the center, 13 bunches to the dozen then in the mornings a truck would come to a place on the roadside already arranged to buy the daffodils. With the money we earned we bought our summer clothes.
In the fall we picked blackberries and they were collected by truck the same way. Each basket was weighed and we got so much a pound for them, also a few times we went hop picking, which was fun. In the winter my Mother made rag hooked rugs. One of my jobs was to cut up the better parts of old clothing into strips about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide. As I became adept at hooking the rugs, we were given one to do on our own.
When I was 12 I left school through ill health and never did get back to school again, and at that time we sold our small holding and went back to the Forest of Dean, to Wigpool Common. In a book I read this article about it:
“Wigpool Common has everything, provided you do not look for shops or roads. This high plateau is full of interest for the botanist, geologist, and the tramp, whether your inclination is to search for tiny plants in rock crevices and Quad [?] holes, or whether the eyes and fancy roves to the malverns, the black mountains and the Cotswalds, you will find satisfaction.”
Gold was found on the common and in the surrounding area but the ore was of poor quality, so work did not continue. In the Forest of Dean it is custom that those who live on the commons or around them could let their animals wander where they will. It was quite usual to see geese, sheep, pigs, etc. wander across the roads looking for greener pastures. When cars came more frequent it made many a motorist angry while they waited for a flock of sheep to pass over the road, or one lone goose.
We had sheep on Wigpool Common which I herded and seeing the wool that was left in the copse set me thinking of the waste. I gathered it and kept it till having enough to make a cushion then I would wash it, this is when I got to wishful thinking how much I’d like to spin it and make yarn for knitting, never for a moment thinking I ever would. When reading a magazine I saw that the white fluff from the blossoms of thistles were good for making quilts, now that is in the Depression years and around the common were lots of thistle so I took paper bags and filled and made a quilt. Catching it here and there to stop the filling lumping all in one heap. I believe one would call it a tied quilt which lasted for many years and was very warm.
At this time I learned to crochet and embroider. After my marriage my embroidery led me into other crafts. I had made various types of embroidered tablecloths also I had crocheted lace around one large cloth. One Sunday a friend brought her aunt to visit me and asked if I would show her my tablecloths, which I did. When seeing them she asked if I would sell them. She wanted 3 – two embroidered and the crochet one. At that time I was very interested in weaving and although I did not want to part with the tablecloths, I decided I would well and with the money get a 28-inch table loom, I asked the price for the tablecloths, which would cover the cost of the loom.