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My Days – Chapter One

Prologue

My mother, Kathleen Brown, encouraged by a neighbour, sat down in the early 2000s and began to write her life story. For someone who left school at fourteen-years old, and who rarely read a book or newspaper, this is an amazing chronicle. She did, however, always enjoy conversation, story-telling and letter-writing. This shines through in this memoir.

Her account of her childhood and young womanhood is a real insight into the life of someone brought up in rural Lincolnshire in the first part of the twentieth century. Especially poignant are her thoughts and feelings as she looks back on those and later years.

What you are about to read is all in mum’s own words. Nothing has been changed or added, apart from section headings and photographs.  Enjoy the journey.

David Brown (son)

 

Introduction

Kathleen Brown. Born 28th May 1915 at Withern near Mablethorpe. I’m just writing this book for my only living son and his wife, Pam. They are a wonderful pair. I don’t know what I’d have done if I hadn’t had them after my dearest Bert passed away on 18th September 1997.

We had known each other since 1932. I was only 16 then, and Bert 19. A long time, eh? I was in private service at South Ormsby Hall, near Louth, and Bert was gardener and handyman at the Old Rectory. Bert used to drive Mrs Ward, the rector’s wife, all over in the car when Rev Ward went to Scotland grouse-shooting. They had big shoots at the Hall and Bert was Rev Ward’s gunman. Bert loved it. They went shooting a lot together.

We loved those days – us maids, I mean. There were big lunch parties, and the men used to have lunch downstairs in the big room.  The cook, Mrs Smalley, made rabbit pies and apple pies for the men. They were good times, but hard work. Sometimes, nearly 20 stayed at night for dinner. There were proper staff though. We had some wonderful times, and Mrs Massingberd-Mundy was a lovely lady to work for. It was a good life if you got on with the right people, which I did.

Before I went there, I was with another lady and gent at Market Stainton Hall. They were very nice and had a lovely daughter who used to go fox-hunting. The hounds used to meet at the Hall and us maids used to serve drinks to them outside. At night, the daughter, Lydia, used to come into our sitting room and tell us all about the day. It was great. I liked being there very much. It was near home. I used to bike home on my days off. Lydia’s mum wasn’t well, though, and she was always on at the maids so they didn’t stay for long. The work got too hard for me as I was doing other people’s work as well as my own. That was why I left and went to South Ormsby Hall.

It was thirteen miles from home. I was very lonely until I met Bert. My sister Grace worked at Skendleby Hall near Spilsby. I used to bike there on my half-day off; about six miles. It was lonely on my own. I met Bert at our Christmas Party at the Hall, which Mrs Massingberd-Mundy, the lady, used to give us every year. Bert had a motorbike so we used to go all over. He took me home, thirteen miles away. Sometimes in the summer we push-biked. I enjoyed the country. I used to go in the afternoon, and Bert would bike-ride home with me at night.

That’s a little glimpse of how I started out in life. Now, I’ll go back to the beginning.

 

My Early Days

My mother was born in Dublin. She had one sister with a little girl and boy*. That is all I know about her family as I never met them. My father was born in Grimoldby near Cockerington. His father and mother were farmers. He had two brothers. They all went in to farming when they grew up, except dad to start with.

My father married and lived in Mablethorpe. He had four daughters. His wife and a little boy died in childbirth. My mum was working at a hotel in Mablethorpe and that’s where she met my dad. My dad at that time was driving horses and carriages, taking people for rides along the beach, and fetching them from the station to their boarding houses.

Mum went as housekeeper to him, then married and looked after his four girls. Mum had a boarding house in Mablethorpe for a while. Nora**, Grace and Sid were born at Mablethorpe. They left when Dad went to farm a smallholding at Withern, and that’s where I was born.

We left there when I was two-years old and went to Welton le Wold near Louth. Dad got a job as a groom on the farm of a Mr Marshall. I remember going across the road to his saddle-room, as they called it, and watching dad polishing the next day’s horse harnesses. Dad used to take us for rides. It was great out there.

* Kath’s mother was actually born in Calcutta, not Dublin, to Irish parents (ref. 1911 census). She had six brothers and a sister.

** Nora (or ‘Norah’) was actually born in Nottingham, before her mother was married – father unknown.

Images above:

Left – My mum and dad: George Edward Brown and Bridget Anne O’Sullivan

Right – George Scott and my eldest half-sister, Zora

 

My half-sister, Emily, was cook at the farmer’s house. It was right at the top of a hill. Dad’s four girls were Zora, Dorothy, Evelyn and Emily. Zora had a little girl with a soldier, and Mum brought her up. They called her Eileen. She and I were like twins. When she was five, her mum married and fetched Eileen to live with them. I cried and cried, and she did too. She married a sailor, George Scott, and he was away at sea most of the time. They had five more children and lived in Stamford. When he came home on leave, they used to all come home to mum. We were older then and had a lovely time. We loved George. He was so smart in his uniform. Friends in the village used to put some of them up. We all had a great time.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Louth Flood. It must have been in 1918 or 1919***. We were still living at Welton le Wold at the farm, and I was very young, the youngest of four. We lived at the bottom of a hill going into the village and were flooded out. It came up the stairs, and we were in the bedroom for days. The farmhands from the farmhouse where our sister Emily worked used to put food through the bedroom window. The people used boats to go shopping and suchlike in the village.

It took months to put things right. A lot of our furniture, chairs and things were found at the bottom of the garden the next day, and there was thick mud in the house.

After everything had gone back to normal, dad fell out of his cart and was kicked by the horse. He broke his leg and hurt his insides. He was in Louth Hospital for weeks and never really worked for ages. We had to leave Welton le Wold because it was a tied house; if you couldn’t work, you couldn’t live there.

We moved to a place called Stenigot near Louth. Mum had to take in two farmhands so that we could have the house; she got paid to look after them. It was called Moses Yard, a lovely big house. Us kids loved it. It was full of haystacks and barns. The two chaps who lived with us were great. They gave us some lovely times. There was another cottage joining our house. They had two girls about Grace and Sid’s age. We all got on fine.

I started school there, five-years old. Two miles to walk. The day I started, Grace and Sid went down with measles. I had to go with the two girls and some others and was frightened. It was cold and wet, but we had to go. I had a little bag round my back for my school-lunch. We took an Oxo. The teacher used to have a big kettle boiling on a big coke stove and made us all a cup of Oxo. By, it was good. There were no school meals in those days.

*** The Louth Flood actually occurred in May 1920

 

Images above:

Left – at school (I’m fourth from left)

Right – my half sisters, Evelyn, Dorothy and Emily

We went to school in a little village called Goulceby. As we got older, we loved walking to school, boys and girls. The boys would go in the fields and cut turnips, and we would sit on the roadside and eat them on our way home. In the summer, there was a lovely stream in a field. We used to paddle there then get into trouble for being late home. They were great days though. When Dad got a lot better, he walked with two sticks and would come a little way to meet us. They were lovely days.

As dad improved, they thought of moving again. Dad got money for not being able to work and breaking his leg at the other farm at Welton le Wold, so mum and dad bought a small farm at Donington on Bain near Louth. We children just hated leaving Stenigot and changing school as we had made great friends and loved the big house.