This the second of two posts about my parents. The first tells Dad’s story:
This post tells Mum’s story, predominently in her own words ….
Mum was born in Tonbridge, Kent  in the home of friends of her parents on 14th December 1929. She had an older brother, Bernard, born on 2nd January 1924 in a hospital in London. Her maiden name was Phyllis Rosanna Ellen Norton (Rosanna was her Mother’s Mother’s name and Ellen was her Father’s Mother’s name).
Mum was actually Christened ‘Hosanna’ as the clergyman didn’t hear properly!
Early in her life, Mum lived in Tonbridge – she says that she did not play out as a child, nor go to school until she was 6 years old; her mother didn’t want to part with her. The ‘school-board’ man came to visit to see why she was not there!
Mum’s dad (we called him Garpe) had his own business and was doing reasonably well, but his brother joined him and became a sleeping partner, needing a share in the profits but doing very little. To ease the situation, Garpe returned to being a shipwright in Chatham dockyard and moved his family to Gillingham. The house in Tonbridge was let out and they rented one in Gillingham. Mum thinks that this happened early 1938.
Later in 1938, with the scare of war, she was sent back from Gillingham to Tonbridge to live with her Uncle Syd and family. Mum did not think thatbshe was too unhappy, but her mother (our Nana) was and as a reult Mum went back to Gillingham in 1939. School was an unhappy time for Mum in Gillingham. She says: “I was picked on by head and staff and children.”
In 1939, Mum sat the scholarship and passed. She and her family moved to Plymouth in 1940 as Garpe (misguidedly, as it turned out) thought it would be safer – he transferred to Plymouth dockyard. Mum went to a local primary school, but was transferred to Devonport High School – in a blue summer dress, while everyone else was in a brown uniform!
Early that first term, as far as Mum can remember, Devonport High School was evacuated to Tiverton, but she stayed in Plymouth and went to Plymouth Emergency High School. Before the evacuation, Mum remembered crossing one of the quadrangles and being fired on from an aeroplane. She also remembered a land-mine landing just in front of the school one night.
For a while, mum and her mother slept out of town at Bere Ferrers to avoid the worst bombing, although that didn’t last long. She remembered watching incendiaries being dropped in fields opposite the family home, also hearing explosions when a fort nearby was hit, and, going up a road close by to witness Plymouth on fire from end to end!
In Spring 1945, Mum had some 6 weeks off school with scarlet fever – during that time,she says: “I read a book called ‘Stepping Heavenwards’ and it helped me, as I’d been lacking assurance (I was never sure that I was truly converted).” After that time Mum returned to school in time for School Certificate at Plymouth Emergency High School.
Mum and her family continued living in Higher St. Budeaux during the war and going to St. Budeaux Parish Church and she went to Sunday School there too. Come Summer 1945, the war ended and life returned somewhat to as it had been. Mum returned to Devonport High School; In her own words: “I think mornings only to start with, I went into the 6th Form and was over zealous for the Lord – nevertheless a number of girls came to know Him, both at school and other friends too. Miss Moore, the head at that time, asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn’t mind as long as it was what God wanted! She called another teacher and I had to repeat myself. Later, I presumed they were both Christians.”
Just a bit later, with a new head, Miss Vale, interviewing Nana, she said, ‘I’d be alright when I got rid of the Youth for Christ’ nonsense. Mum says, “I was so thankful it was my mother, who was a Christian and not one of the other girls’ parents, who weren’t Christians.”
Mum organised a group of students who used to meet, before school, in the Physics lab dark room to pray once a week. She had three years in the 6th Form and then went to Stockwell Teacher Training College in Bromley, Kent to train for teaching. At that time is was a 2 year course.
While at college, she was involved with the Christian Union and held responsible positions both in the hostel (1st year) and then in college. During this time, the Christian Union booked General Dobbie to speak, but as he was such an important person, the Principal made it a compulsory lecture for the whole college, so everyone heard his testimony.
In the Summer holiday before the second year’s training it was expected that you’d do some teaching practice. However, if you were to help lead a holiday camp, that would count, so Mum opted to help at a Church Pastoral Aid camp in the South of England.
Following college, Mum started teaching Reception Class in West Park Primary, Plymouth and also took on responsibility for Plymouth National Young Life Campaign and she was baptised (by full immersion) and went to St. Budeaux Baptist to worship. As Garpe was not happy to use public transport on Sundays – the family used to walk to and fro to church. At this time, she was very involved with Open-air work and preaching on the Baptist Lay Preachers plan. Open-air work was Saturday night in the red-light district in Plymouth, while Sunday afternoons they hired p.a. equipment and went to beaches – Kings and Cawsand, etc.
After 18 months teaching, which Mum says she thoroughly enjoyed – sometimes 50+ in class. Mum applied to go nursing 18 months ahead, but live at home (her parents had never wanted Mum to nurse! She applied early so that they would get used to the idea). However, Mum failed the medical!! Although she was later accepted.
Mum says: “All except one person thought I was stepping out of God’s will in going nursing! It was not easy to start with, but again despite a lot of ups and downs, overall I enjoyed it. While nursing, often when I had an evening off, I would phone a friend of ours at the Royal Engineering College near home, and invite any Christians to come round for a time of fellowship (prayer, bible study and refreshments). I’d collect any nurses interested as well. It was at this time that Fred first appeared.”
Mum moved round from different hospitals and wards, for experience, including the Fever hospital, sometimes having to walk several miles to start work at 7.30am! She completed her studies with the Gold Medal and a Nursing Prize. Later, she got the midwifery prize too. In those days for midwifery you did 6 months in different departments in the hospital and then 6 months on the district, working with a midwife and always on call.
Having done S.R.N. and S.C.M. Mum wondered what God would have her do. Mum says: “Church reckoned I was going to the mission field! I applied to go back teaching, but was turned down!! A job opened up to teach at a school for cerebral palsy children and they were thrilled to have me.”
Dad (Fred) appeared back on the scene (some years later now) and during late 58 and early 59, Mum says: “We felt we should marry – hence on 1st August 1959, we married and had Psalm 34:3 ‘Let us exalt his name together’ engraved in our rings as that was what we hoped our marriage would do.”
Mum and Dad set up home in a flat near Altrincham, buying a house in mid-December in Altrincham as well. They had folks staying for Christmas too!! Dad was working for Shell and Mum taught in a primary school at that time. Roger arrived in May 1960. He was born in the local hospital on Sinderland Road, just round the corner; as was Gill some 19 months later, on 27th December 1961.
At this time they worshipped at Devonshire Road Evangelical Church (which was Brethren based).Devonshire Road Evangelical Church in the early 21st Century. The old building which we attended and which abutted the old Ice Rink in Altircham has long gone.
Each Christmas from 1960 on, for 11 years, they had both sets of parents and Fred’s younger sister, Christine, to stay. Mum and Dad thought that they might change the pattern, but then one of them was not well, so the pattern changed anyway.
In January 1965, until the end of that year, Dad went to Bolton each day to study for a teaching certificate. It was 2nd May that year that David was born by Caesarian Section at Wythenshawe Hospital. Mum says: “He didn’t make his own way into the world as he had a broader head than Roger and Gill. Roger and Gill stayed with Fred’s Mum and Dad for the spring of that year.”
Amazingly, having had no income for the year, after Dad had finished at Bolton, Mum and Dad bought their first car – a Reliant 3-wheeler van, which Dad drove on a motor-cycle licence. There was no reverse gear in these Reliant’s and there were a few occasions on holiday in rural areas when some awkward moments occurred when on narrow lanes other drivers expected Dad to reverse out of their way.
Kingston-upon-Hull was Dad’s first teaching post, starting at the beginning of January 1966. We all moved house after Christmas, from Altrincham to Willerby, on the outskirts of Hull, just in time for Dad to start at the college at the beginning of term. This happene,” says Mum, “thanks to me ringing our buyer’s solicitor just before Christmas, as the solicitors were sitting on the papers and we could not move – the Solicitor’s comment to our buyers was ‘That woman rang me up!’ Our buyer was grateful anyway.”
Roger and Gill went to school further down Carr Lane, where we were living. It was in October 1966 that Ian was born at Beverley. He had been elbow and cord presenting, but was delivered breach under anaesthetic. The Doctors reckoned that Mum should not have any more children as she had been through most of the midwife’s textbook! (What would it have been like to have younger siblings after Ian?
While we lived in Hull we worshipped at Walton Street Gospel Hall. Mum was involved with an evangelistic team that visited Hull prison and the mental hospital in Willerby. The picture above shows Walton Street at the approximate location of the Gospel Hall which now seems to have been removed. It stood opposite the fairground where the Nottingham Goose Fair came each year.
It was in 1970 that we moved to Braintree, Essex. Dad had accepted a position as a Senior lecturer at the technical College in Chelmsford. We sold our home in Willerby and the furniture went into store. Dad started his job and looked for a property for us. Meanwhile, with the children, Mum moved in with Nana, in Tonbridge. We found a 5-bedroomed house and eventually moved in, in Braintree.
We applied to the primary school in Braintree, hoping that Roger, Gill and David would be admitted there. Ian was still too young for school. A letter arrived from the school and Mum feared they weren’t able to accept the children, but it was to ask her to teach a class of Junior age children. She didn’t really want to refuse in case it was what God had planned, but she did rather hope that the Education Authority would not accept her!!!
Manor Road Primary School, Braintree Essex. Roger can remember: playing in the playground; teachers names such as Mr West and Mr Broad; being forced by the school bully to suport Arsenal and then discovering that they had won the double.
In September of that year, Roger, Gill, David and Ian all started with Mum at the school. Ian in Reception class! Mum says: “Over all I think we coped until Fred accepted a post in Kings Lynn. That was after a couple of years. His post was for Head of Department – we weren’t sure what we should do as a family. However, we thought if I applied for a job in Kings Lynn and got it then we’d take it that we should all move.”
Mum continues: “Then started a bit of a picnic!?! We couldn’t sell our house (that’s a story in itself). So we bought a towing caravan that would cater for 6 of us and moved to Kings Lynn on a caravan site in Pentney, outside Kings Lynn.”
From Monday to Friday we all lived in the caravan, going back to Braintree for weekends to get the washing done. After a few weeks, a memo came round the schools about a school house, available to rent at Terrington St. Clements. We rented it, taking our caravan with us and moving some furniture up from Braintree – eventually our Braintree house sold and we bought a new four-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kings Lynn, near the new hospital.During this time we worshipped at Seabank Chapel. Dad led the Covenantors and Mum was in the Sunday School. She was Area Secretary for Scripture Union and helped with Crusaders on Fairstead Estate and at Sandringham.Life continued quite busily. Mum and Dad offered for my mother (Nana) to come and live with us after my father died in 1968, but it wasn’t until 1980 that she felt she’d had enough in Tonbridge. We had a Granny flat built and two extra bedrooms over the top – so that all the children had their own bedroom. Mum became a part-time teacher at Pott Row (before that she’d taught at Rosebery Avenue).Rosebery Avenue Primary School. 
After Pott Row, she taught for a while at a private school (where Princess Diana had been a pupil), and at the same time at a special school for ESN children, as the school hours were different.
Mum says: “Fred retired at the end of 1985, I think. I had already retired by then. We wondered what the Lord would have us do. After various opportunities, we left Kings Lynn and moved to rural Oxfordshire to look after 14 bungalows for Datchet Evangelical Fellowship. We had No. 12 and Nana, No. 11. They had been built for retired missionaries and full-time Christian workers.” The family had more-or-less all left home by then.The Red Lion in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the village was dominated by thatched properties.
After about 6 months to a year after arriving in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, the pastor at the little chapel resigned as he had a nervous breakdown. Mum says: “We then led the little church for about 7 years until they appointed a full-time worker. About the same time, Datchet Evangelical Fellowship decided to sell the bungalows and Nana died at the age of 99.”
Mum continues: “What next Lord? … We moved to our little place in Didcot and worshipped at East Hanney Mission. In the meanwhile we were sorting out ready to go to Lusaka, Zambia with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, officially for Fred to be a Town and Travel Manager. I usually helped, but also, we provided meals for missionaries passing through Lusaka and did clinics and radio work when missionaries had gone home for furlough. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Africa.”
Part way through the time, Mum came back through the U.K. to Pakistan, as Gill was expecting their third child and giving birth in the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. They had a 2-bed room and Mum was able to sleep in the bed next to Gill. The surgery was good, but the nursing left a lot to be desired!
After Mum returned to Zambia, she was not well. In looking back, it was due to endeavouring to remove burglar wires and decorate our bungalow. Mum says: “At the time the missionary doctor thought I had a brain tumour. I came to the U.K. for tests, etc. and Fred delights to tell people that the Neurological Hospital in London could find nothing … no brain!! I did join Fred again in Lusaka and we completed our 2 year stint.”
Returning to the UK, Mum and Dad felt that they should look for a town, not to large, where there was a hospital and shopping centre and where they could do something useful. Retford seemed to fit the bill and they were able to help at Book Aid, part-time. They lived in Mattersey Thorpe and worshipped in Bawtry at the Evangelical Church.At this stage Mum and Dad were fairly active, but thought it was time to consider their Home-call (Mum’s words) and after much prayer and thought moved to a bungalow in Auchlochan – a Christian retirement complex, having several buildings catering for different stages of old age, including full care, if necessary. Mum and Dad had one of the bungalows at the right-hand side of the above plan.
Mum says: “We did enjoy it, but one problem was accessibility to hospitals in Glasgow or Edinburgh. So, when I was not well, we felt we should come back to England. From first thinking this to moving in at Royd Court in Mirfield (a Pilgrim Home) it was about 3 months. We sold the bungalow, got rid of loads of books, furniture, etc., bought a two-bedroom flat in a Pilgrim Homes Independent Living Complex! What a blessing – had an excellent doctor across the road who set the ball rolling for me to go to St. James’ Hospital in Leeds for major surgery for removal of a cancerous growth – a Whipples operation. This operation was really successful.”
Mum concludes her own notes by saying that they worshipped at Batley Evangelical Church and have been very blessed and encouraged there. Since Mum wrote those notes a few years ago, she has suffered from womb cancer and most recently from the effects of secondaries from the womb cancer on her lungs.
Once Mum had her diagnosis and had been told that there was little that could be done for her, she began to put her affairs in order and until very recently used the time God left her in ministry within the confines of Royd Court. Mum was greatly looking forward to what she called her ‘home-call’.
As a family, we have seen the love and care that Mum and Dad have experienced in the immediate communities to which they have belonged in the Mirfield area, at Royd Court and at Batley Evangelical Church. And we are grateful to all who have provided care for Mum in these last few months.
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- https://www.jenniferslittleworld.com/2013/10/ladybird-tuesday-people-at-work-nurse.html, accessed on 13th November 2018.
- https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Budeaux, accessed on 13th November 2018.
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