THE EARLY YEARS
Looking back over the years I have many memories -happy and sad - amusing and very serious.
My earliest recollection is when I was seven years old. It was a happy home, if perhaps poor, but I never remember being hungry.
I remember my Dad, William,
William Lester c1937
(click to enlarge)
cutting a piece of cardboard to fit inside my shoe when I had worn a hole in the sole, which tells me now that we were poor. Our bedroom floor was just well-scrubbed floor boards with a piece of matting near the bed. Again this tells me that my parents hadn't much money to spare.
When the weather was really cold in winter, my Mam, Agnes Mary, would put Dad's heavy overcoat on our bed for extra warmth. I remember Dad taking it off the bed very carefully very early in the morning, as he needed it to go to work in. We didn't miss it then as we had become nice and warm through the night.
When I was eight years old my Mam had a baby - another girl Nora - making three of us, all girls. Florence was the eldest, I was the middle one.
I had no idea that my Mam was to have a baby. Dad told me she was going for a holiday, but I now know she went to a maternity home. I was very surprised to come home from school one day to find my Mam nursing a lovely little baby.
We were a Catholic family - going to church regularly as Catholics do. I remember that each Sunday evening during the month of May we two elder girls would be dressed in white to walk in the procession in the streets when fine and inside the church if not, to honour the Virgin Mary, as the month of May was dedicated to her. The children in our street used to stand around outside our house to get a glimpse of us all dressed up, carrying a bunch of flowers to strew in front of the statue of Mary which was being carried on a kind of platform, shoulder high, by four altar boys. At one stage the statue was crowned with a wreath of flowers. I had the honour of performing this task for going to Sunday school and to Mass regularly.
Up to the age of 12 I remember loving parents and a happy home life. We really enjoyed such simple pleasures. Holiday Mondays we went off on foot to the country with food for the day. We would have a mashing of tea and would call at a little cottage to ask if the lady would make us a jug of tea. For this we would pay around 2d. Our nearest village was Glenfield. Here we always called at the pub, for my Mam and Dad did like a drink. This pub had a field at the back where we could eat our sandwiches at dinner time and while my parents rested we would paddle in the running stream at the bottom of the field. This to us children was so exciting. We knew nothing then of a seashore, only by seeing pictures in a book.
At the age of 12 tragedy struck our home when Mam died during one of the many heart attacks she'd had over several years. Much is known today that could have helped her and perhaps saved her life, but it wasn't known then. This was July 2nd 1913. My Mother was 41 years old.
My Mother was well loved in the district and many folk came to 'pay their last respects to her', as it was often said, when friends, etc. came to see her as she lay in the coffin in the front room of our small terraced house. There was no Chapel of Remembrance at the undertakers in those days where one who has died could be left until the funeral day.
Another custom of the Irish (and my Father was Irish - he had many Irish men friends) was to never leave the "body" and go to bed while it was lying in state so two or three Irish men came to be with Dad through the night. This was out of respect for Dad. We children, of course, went to bed.
A month or two after Mam died, my Dad was out of work, and there was no "dole" in those days.
My Dad was given a job at Keyham, out of Leicester, and so he decided to break up our once happy home and my uncle and aunt (who were then living in a smaller house than ours) came to live at my old home (even having our furniture) but my aunt had my younger sister, who was then 4 years old, to live with her and her own child aged 9 named Agnes. My Dad went to see a Catholic nun who was on what we called then "The Board of Guardians". Now it is known as Social Security. This nun lived at Corpus Christi House, a small convent, and arranged for we two elder girls to go to live there until she found a convent where we could be sent to work in the kitchens. I was 12 and my sister Florrie was 15 years old. My sister was sent to Leigh-on-Sea down the south of England. My destination was to be Liverpool.
I lived at Corpus Christi House for several weeks before I was sent to Liverpool to the Augustine Convent, Waterloo, Liverpool. Waterloo is a suburb of Liverpool. I was working on household duties at Corpus Christi House whilst waiting to go.
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