Pat from Liverpool
Newton Church Room Renovation Project
Memories of my School Days by Pat the Evacuee
To Discover Primroses
The Battle of Britain, celebrated 60 years ago this year 2000, will have vivid memories for many people. To me as 10 year old girl, the months between December 1940 and May 8th 1941 were the most traumatic of my young life. I tried to be brave as other children appeared to be, the boys collecting shrapnel in the streets where I lived, which I think was debris from the guns and bombs. My mother had made a sort of bedroom in the Anderson shelter in our back garden. I must have felt safe in it even though it was lit by candles which could be dowsed whilst my mother peeped out to see if she could see any German planes overhead. I was shaking like a leaf and wished my mother would be good as she was telling me to be. When the landmine was dropped at the back of our house and all the windows were blown in and the doors blown down, my mother, my two little sisters, my brother and I where pulled out from the shelter and taken to another place where we were buddled together like refugees awaiting our plight. Bootle near Liverpool my home town was ablaze, war torn, my parents had agreed with the education department to send us to a place of safety. How do the postmen do their deliveries? I’ve often wondered since. The grown-ups must have been very courageous.
Our letter arrived on the 9th of May, we had to go to the railway station along with all the other children who were being sent away. We were taken to Hereford and arrived in the late afternoon of the 9th of May. I had to take care of my little brother who was seven and my two sisters had to take care of each other, they were 8 and 9 years respectively. My Mum and Dad could only come to terms with this parting if we could promise to look after each other. It was a sort of parting blessing.
Mr. Tom Gwillim was the first person I remember seeing. I don't remember how we got to Newton, but Mr. Gwillim with his bike does stand out in my memory. Two other evacuees Rose and George Leary walked with him and my brother and I from a sort of reception hall, I think it may have been Newton Church Hall. At the cross roads of Newton and St Margarets, I can remember standing in the middle, maybe Mr. Gwillim was talking to another adult We started to walk and not knowing where we were going I looked over my left shoulder and saw a field of daffodils growing wild, I'd never seen the likes of such beauty and to this day, whenever I see daffodils I'm at peace as when I first saw them in the Woodlands field. We were going up to the Fountain Cottage and the Sun Inn. Mrs. Jordan of the Sun Inn only wanted boys so it was decided that Will, my brother, would go with George Leary, and that his sister Rose would go me to Fountain Cottage. Mrs. Williams welcomed us and took us into the kitchen where she then gave us a bowl of water so that we could wash our hands and faces. I whispered to Rose whom I not know to “cry”' perhaps because I couldn't and needed to. Rose promptly cried and she wouldn’t stop for ages after that. When I didn’t want to admit to this naughty thing, I do so now so that readers can better visualise the terror in the hearts of the young. We had just come from the horrible fires and the bombing. I was afraid. I didn’t know where Jo and Kay had got to, but Mr. & Mrs. Williams were very calm and kind. I did feel reassured and by the Sunday afternoon. Mr. Sweeney from Weavers Green brought my little sisters to the Fountain Cottage to help us adjust. Rose and her brother went back to Liverpool after about six weeks. I stayed with Mr. & Mrs. Williams for nine months attending Newton School a few half days a week. I loved every second I was at the Fountain Cottage, and know how extremely lucky I was to be there. Misses Gladys and Margaret Williams had to leave their work at Gloucester and do war work at the ROF factory in Hereford. As a child I did not realise what a problem this must have been for my dear foster parents and their daughter; my life long friends. I went hazel nut collecting with Mrs. Williams, who never missed an opportunity to point out wild flowers and their names. Blackberry picking in the woods was like a beautiful dream, listening to the birds. My memories are as lovely today as though it was all just a few years ago. I went to the Park Farm each day to collect our milk in a jug, and when the raspberries were ripe Mrs. Smith used to encourage me to pick some and put them into a basket for myself. I used to go to the woods near Mrs. Buffton's, with Mr. & Mrs. Williams and fetch wood from the trees for our fire at home in the Fountain Cottage. Mr. Williams would know were the birds nests were and show me the little chicks in the hedgerows.
My education was very substandard due to lack of schooling in Bootle but Mr. & Mrs. Williams soon saw to that, and I have only them to thank for my reading ability today. I only wish we could occasionally put an old head on young shoulders to make sure that our appreciation could be shown. I, like Mary Morley who I remember staying at the Woodlands Cottage with Miss Gladys Watkins, learnt to answer the Mass for the priest who had rode on his motorbike from Hereford so that we evacuees would not miss our Catholic duties. I was taught to read Latin but the English and Math’s were left to Mrs. Williams!
I have written to my late and dear friend Miss Glad Williams for almost 60 years. My six children have grown up knowing Aunty Glad was very special to me and later to them. It was a very sad occasion on the 10th October 2.000, for me to go back to Newton and meet all the people I was at school with, and those born after I went home to Liverpool, who I know of through Glad's letters. It was just as warm and friendly as I’d always known.
This little book is my contribution to the fund raising for the refurbishment of Newton Parish Hall a place like home to me then and now.
For my 70th birthday, I hired a cottage: just off the Abergavenny Road so as to tour Newton & St Margarets. I am so happy that I went back then, because of the sadness that was to happen in October when I would hear of the passing of my very dear and very funny friend Glad, but also to meet all the people I have known when at school in Newton and to have retained knowledge of them though Glad’s letters.
I was able to laugh with Ruth and her sister Joan when I said I went with Mrs. Williams to Gilvach House to see a new baby boy who was born in September 1941; Alan James Watkins, when Ruth replied “Did you see my husband before me?"
In hindsight it was fortunate that I had decided that the only treat I wanted for my big ‘Seven O’ birthday was to look at the primroses growing wild along the bank of the lane by the Fountain Cottage and to try and find the Well where I used to put down a bucket to fetch the water for the kitchen. I had one of my sons with me and a daughter. We could not find the well but I did have my photo taken standing by the pillar box where I used to post the letters Mrs. Williams had taught me to write to my Mum & Dad. Because of my drives about, and recalling my lovely walks in 1941, I was able to go straight to Newton Church for the very homely service for my friend.
Whilst I was evacuated Mrs. Williams showed me how to make floral hand sprays with flowers from her beautiful garden to take with us to two different funerals she was attending. I still enjoy to this day a love of flower arranging coming from, I feel sure, the memory of Mr. & Mrs. Williams’s garden at the Fountain Cottage. It was also very memorable to have met Mr. Bill Jordan again after all these years. He used to take my little brother in 1941 out in the fields with him and let him ride on the horses. He was very kind, and my brother looked up to him as someone special. On this same occasion in May 2000 I also went along to Michaelchurch; school where I saw the records dating from 1920 and there under 1941 were my two sisters names as a couple of the evacuees. The school Inspector had checked that there was room for them at the school. My sisters did not stay long at Michaelchurch, Josephine and Catherine Collins were moved to Newton school to be nearer to me, but they did not have my good fortune and have Mr. & Mrs. Williams for their care, hence they have not such golden memories as I have.
This contribution from ‘Pat the Evacuee’ January 2003