Friday 4th December, 1959

Leonard to the family, once again on the reverse of Timetable 179, Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bormingham, Stourbridge Junction, Kidderminster, Bewdley, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Wellington:

Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for your letter received on Tuesday and you should have had Mum’s the same morning. I see by date above it is five years ago today you were married. Congratulations to you both and very best wishes for the future. It’s also five years off the payments for house and although very little difference as yet in your pay packet it is that much further towards the place being your own. That was a splendid effort of Susan’s and the drawing shews she can put her ideas on paper. Noted they both keep you on your toes. They used to say “Boys will be boys” but we must alter it to “Girls will be girls”. Good job the hand bell was used in Sunday School as presumably she was not allowed to bring it home. Yes we heard from Geoff that you had called on them having lost your way when out in car shopping. They were pleased to see you and said “How the girls have grown.” Stella was apparently away working in Watford (query in Marks and Spencers). Geoff made his usual annual visit to Ireland last week* but crossed over one night and recrossed the next – cut the trip by two days this time. I also see British Railways dispensing with their Christmas [illegible] cards this year – about time too.

Thanks for information re your Parcels effort at Paddington – the electronic computer will save hours of calculating work by the sound of it. So manning has gone to Euston – query whether he would be an applicant to get back on WR when suitable sideways vacancy occurs. Don’t think I’m a Job’s comforter but things like this happen all too frequently. Note your remarks re garage and I agree the arrangement of the door on garage at Whittlesea is an ideal one but must obviously cost more*. I believe Don & Geoff fixed it between them but it’s a job I should not like to tackle.

Yes we heard Bill Harper had finished and am wondering how he will pass the time as he has no known hobby and no garden on house – he lives in Brislington not so very far away from the Newmans who we visit two or three times a year.

I nopte re: apples and will pick out some nice ones from the Bramley Seedlings [sic] and Jersey Beauty – the former are the best cookers and can be used from November onwards whilst the Jersey beauty is eater and cooker but must be kept for a while as at the moment they are very hard. Should keep until February or March in good keeping season but you must keep your eye on them as season not so good. Weather here has been pretty bad but not so foggy as in your area.

We went to Weston on Tuesday and although we came away again about 7.0 p.m. had to run through blankets of fog for most of journey.

Apart from sawing wood up for logs and chopping for firewood have not done very much out of door work since I last wrote because of wet state of ground. The pond filled with water overnight but soon returned to normal level (top of deep part) when it stopped raining – have not yet been able to mend leak although have had a couple of goes at it. House next door still empty and garden now looking like a piece of waste ground. I notice the broad beans Cornish put in for me on Nov 5th are breaking through the soil and about 25% of my spring cabbage plants look as if they may recover in due course. There is still a lot of white fly about in spite of frost and torrential rain and greenstuff generally is going to be scarce later on. We are using cabbage which normally would not be cut until towards end of January.

Am glad to say Mum is much better although still troubled with a cough – these appear to be very common at present – she will write to June in reply to her letter later. I’m still getting on alright but as mentioned above have not done any serious gardening yet – fortunately the weather would have stopped me in any case.

Shall be looking forward to seeing you next week and you must let us know time due Yatton or Clevedon.

No more now – all the best once more and lots of kisses for Susan & Carol.

Dad & Mum

*’Whittlesea’ was the name of the house in which Emily lived before she began her peripatetic lifestyle (see ‘The Mother Problem’). It was in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital premises at Wonford in Exeter but I have been unable to establish whether or not it’s still in existence. The derivation of the name is an interesting one; it was named for the town in Victoria, Australia, where Emily’s sister-in-law Mary ended up living. Mary is an interesting character whom we’ll be meeting in more detail at a later stage. At any rate, it sounds as if a segmented sliding garage door may be what Don and Geoff installed on the premises, and what Alec was craving. When he did get one, many years later, he decided it was more trouble than it was worth.


Monday 9th November, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Thank you for your letters, sorry for the delay in sending my reply. Glad to bear that the kitchen is complete at last and that Landlord and Landlady both getting on very well. Assume Devonia will now be classified as one of the Stately Homes of England and that you will now charge admittance to the populace on Sundays. With the new view of the lawn it must, be very posh. I expect you will want to start rearranging the bushes etc to improve the view. Should go steady on the work though although you may feel better each day. Should not think there can be much wrong with driving the car doubt whether that can impose much of a strain. By now you will have had the Dr.s report, and shall be interested to hear it.

We are getting out of the mess of alterations to kitchen, fence and shed. I have finished the kitchen all but the shouting. It is all filled in and painted and waiting the gas people to come and move the stove so that I can start on the other end. Doug and I re-aligned the shed and fence last weekend so that can keep children one side and the car the other. The shed has been cut back to half its length and has to function like that for the time being. We now have a fence which runs from the front of shed for about two feet in the direction of the Benns and then turns 90 degrees and runs to the edge of the coal bunker that is nearest to the Grays. A high door links the coal bunker to the house.

We went to Ealing in the car on Saturday, it was not a very good day the fog was patchy. The steering is a bit loose but have mended the trafficators.

Racked off the plum wine yesterday. It tastes super. There is a warmth about it that is striking. Have about ten pints of apple which is going on very nicely. You have a good opportunity to make some more yourself until able to resume heavy gardening.

Susan again went to Sunday School this week but you cant get much out of her. She enjoyed Bonfire night as she was allowed to see the big Bonfire in the field and went next door to share Janets sparklers etc. As I was working late I was unable to be home that night before she went to bed but we had our small display the next night and Christine and Janet came and shared Susan’s fireworks. Carol continues to make good progress. June put her back into Susans room a couple of nights ago and she seemed to have no objections. I have to work nights again next week and probably the week after but they do not come round very often so cant complain.

They still have not filled the Assistant D.O.S. job at Paddington. The equivalent job in the Birmingham District was filled by the S.M. Wolverhampton whose job Don* is reputed to have applied for. It has poured with rain all day to-day but we can still do with the water I suppose. Pulled up the Dahlias yesterday and for the moment have put them in the shed. Shall have to dry them off and keep indoors away from frost. Well hope you are both keeping fit. More next time. Love from us all.

(not signed)

*If the reference is to Donald Atkins, Leonard’s brother – which seems likely – this is very surprising; he was getting towards the end of his time with the railway and the upheaval of moving from Somerset to Wolverhampton would have been formidable. Whatever the truth of this rumour, anyway, Don stayed where he was at Athelney and was probably a great deal happier for it.

Sunday 26th July, 1959

Alec to his uncle:

Dear Uncle Don

Just a line on the old machine to wish you many happy returns of the day from all of us at this end. Glad you were both able to come to Clevedon for the Christening which went off very well. I was suitably impressed with the Vicar who is quite an improvement on his predecessor. (De mortuis non nisi bonam) or something which sounds very like it.

Carol still cannot make those first definite steps on her own although she walks well now with assistance. There were ructions a few minutes ago when Susan was having her hair washed. I could hear sounds of altercation in the Bathroom which was apparently due to soap in the eyes.

Still no rain in these parts but forecast for later to—day promises light rain with risk of heavy thunder rain. Dahlias and Gladioli growing well in garden but little else making much progress. I have not grown Dahlias before and these were put in as plants (not tubers). At the moment the largest is about 3/4″ across at the base of the stem, some going I think.

Massive slaughter of slugs during the last couple of days. On Friday night I noticed there were several on the lawn so I liberally sprinkled “Abol” Slug and Snail Powder down and in the morning I had to remove 103 slug corpses. This left a bit of a mess on the lawn so I washed away all trace of powder and covered up the sites of the heaps with ashes. Despite the reduction in the strength due to the water, this morning I found a further 36 dead slugs on lawn. The trouble here is that fresh reinforcements come in from the adjacent field so that the slug population in 1he garden always remains too high.

We left Clevedon with instructions (and the wherewithal) to buy a swing for the girls which we have since done. The thing is now sitting at the end of the lawn and is getting good use.

June and her cousin are going to the Prince of Wales to – night to see the Television Programme compèred by Bruce Forsyth. Glad to be out of that one.

Well that’s all for now, how can you type with one child on each side having a go at the keys? This machine is like a magnet.

Love from us all,

Sunday 21 June, 1959

Alec to his uncle and aunt

Dear Don and Joan

Regret your last inadvertently destroyed since reading but will endeavour to answer the main points. Yes definitely we would like you to stand as God parents in spite of advancing years, It was always our intention to ask you in view of the fact that you were geographically barred from Susan’s. We have moved the mountain to Mahomet and are also arranging for Pauline to come down for the week end to act as a Godmother. June of course will make the third. The difficulty of providing young Godparents from my side of the family is that there are no young people who would be qualified for the job. I should not worry two hoots about it if I were you because we would like you to attend (if convenient of course) whether as a participant or as a spectator.

Again yes, the typewriter is my own, purchased second hand a few weeks ago. It is a portable. Olivetti ( Lettera 22 ) I confirm that July 12th at 3-30pm., is the date and time of Christening service. Sorry to sound a bit disjointed but am putting these things down as I think of them.

I hope that you have been having this good weather your end. It has been really enjoyable and the only time I have regretted it was when carrying cans of water for the garden. My gosh does it need rain. Apart from a few spindly weeds nothing appears to have moved in the last month. I understand that most of the farmers round the outskirts of London have got all their hay in already. I expect it is the same your way.

The roads are pretty well jammed with cars at week ends. It is quite some way to the coast from here and I should not like to do much driving under those conditions. Next door neighbour has gone off to Broadstairs in Kent for weeks holiday. He motored down but does it in easy stages.

Both children doing well. We all went to Chessington to day to see June’s cousin and small son (8 months). Journey took from 9-30am to 11-45am and had to start back at 3-30pm. Two changes and about four escalators to negotiate. Not a trip to be taken regularly. Shall have to pack up now or shall need cats eyes, hope to see you with more news soon.

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Just the usual line to let you know the events of the past week. Still no rain and continuing sunshine. Doug and family to Broadstairs yesterday for one week. From the look of it the weather will continue fine for them for a while yet. I hope we don’t use up all the good weather before we get down to Clevedon. Glad to hear that paths as good as completed but sorry to learn that you found it very tiring, I expect the ready mix took the worst out of it though. Susan was invited out to tea by a neighbour last Friday and gave away all our secrets as usual, and asked for a boiled egg for her tea. Carol got four teeth all at once, no wonder she complained about it. We all went over to cousin Joan’s at Chessington to-day (what a jaunt) – left here 9.30 a.m., arrived South Ruislip station 9.45 a.m. Susan to Ladies – missed a Central Line train and had to wait for the next – arrived about 9.55 a.m. Arrived Waterloo via Tottenham Crt Rd, at 10.50 a.m. and caught the 11.5 a.m. arrived Chessington at 11.35. At the house at 11.50 a.m. Of course we had to start back at 3.30 p.m. and repeat the dose. Oh for a car, could have been there and back in an hour. The girls were quite good on the trains. On the Southern we travelled 2nd, on privs but had compartment to ourselves each way. Good thing too Susan used her pot at Vauxhall, did not fancy carrying loaded pot out of train at Chessington so slung contents out of window. (Non corridor stock). Two of Geoff’s Dahlias have now come up making four in all including the two which already had shoots on them. No sign of the rest but have watered them well and not given up hope. Have planted out French Marigolds, seed of which I bought when you were up. The seedlings were about 1.25 inches long. They flopped at first but soon recovered and about 95% have taken and grown on well. Clematis now on the point of flowering and there are a great number of flower buds. Am going to bud a few roses next month. The briar stock I have will be just the thing to provide a vigorous base and I must select a good bud from one of the better roses. The big rose which we all thought was dead was severely pruned about a week ago and I see that there are quite a few leaf buds forming so all is not yet lost. The apples are getting bigger and now are attracting the attention of Madam who keeps on saying that she must not touch them but I see one or two about on the ground where they could not have fallen. Must give her the benefit of the doubt though as they do fall at this time of year. Third lot of Mesembry, doing well. They are about in fourth leaf and very sturdy, I think the first two lots must have been killed by leaving them out in the rain. Still one or two buds on the Syringa. Quiet last week with Barnes away but very busy, did not get as much done as intended. Wilkinson has been appointed Development Assistant to Divisional Traffic Manager B’gham and Cecil Moore has got Staff Assistant to Ditto at Cardiff. It is rumoured that John Allen (Chief Clerk Paddington D.O.S.O.) has got Staff Assistant to District Traffic Manager Bristol. It is also stated on good authority that neither Baynton-Hughes nor Barnes have got anything. Shall have to persuade them to apply for other jobs. Wilkinson job may not be advertised if it disappears under the new set up. Shall await events with renewed interest. Must point out that although we looked could not find a letter for Susan with your last, Thank you both for your letters, Dad need not worry if he cannot compete with typewriter, it does not have to run into several chapters. Clock gained about 10 minutes last week, shall make a small adjustment when winding. Well shall close now and until next week.


P.S. Thank you for making the arrangements with the Vicar, and note that all as planned. At the moment of going to press, Pauline will be coming down for the week end. Probably having Monday morning off to travel back.

Sunday 14 June 1959

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Herewith letter in answer to both of yours and items in June’s Birthday letter. We are all well and hope you are. It has been very fine here these last few days and have made the most of the sunshine. Looking forward to our visit, please say if all arrangements now confirmed.

Office Barnes now on leave will return on 29th June, shall not have very much of him before go on leave myself. More than a strong rumour that L.W.I. has got Hammond’s job no doubt Geoff has same info. Yes I know all about new S.M. Clevedon. If you remember, I told you. Re L.W.I., a probable candidate for his job is G.E.R.P. Quite a number of high powered vacancies brewing up so await the future with interest (not personal).

Children Had some trouble with Carol yesterday, she has cut another tooth and she let the road know about it. The pantomime started at about 6.0 p.m. and she was still howling at 11.30 at which time I nursed her off to sleep. She was awake at 2.30 again and June had her in with her while I went in Susan’s room. All was then quiet until 5.45 a.m. To-day she has not been herself but this evening seemed much more normal although we did have about twenty minutes of ructions before she dropped off. At the moment all is quiet. Susan has been the same as usual, very good and very naughty. She pulled all the blossom off the Double Orange you brought up some time ago, and she persists in digging in the wrong places. I took her for a walk this afternoon soon after dinner and we went to the park. She tried all the swings, roundabouts and see-saw and was quite tired when we got home.

Garden Since you were up have completed the path to the bottom of the garden. I dug out all the loose top soil from the part to be cemented and transferred it elsewhere, the filled in the vacant space with all the old rubble and brickbats I could find. When this was completed, I took all the best of the broken paving stones and used them for the two outside edges of the path and put cement down the middle. (Carol now awake and bawling.) After two days this had hardened into quite a good path. Have taken out all the Spring stuff from the front and removed all the London Pride. This has left a big hole as you may imagine but I transferred about eight barrows of top soil from the back levelled the bed up and planted Scabious down the middle. So far have not put anything else in. Have had to carry bags of water all over the place as still no rain. Your Dahlias making good progress but those from Geoff that we planted have not yet hit the surface. (Four weeks) The pinks have been quite a good show but they are a bit thin on the ground. The rose hedge is magnificent but all petals dropping now. Carol tried to eat one for her elevenses. Geoff’s mesembryanthemums are now sturdy plants and we await the first flowers. My third lot seem to be more of a success than the first two tries but still only about 1/2 inch tall in the box. Cut all the lawns to-day but the earth is badly cracked. (Carol quiet again.) Susan rolled the top lawn this morning. Rolling pin tied on behind tricycle. Planted out a number of asters outside dining room and a couple of Perennial Daisies the rest are in pots waiting to go out in the front. Note you have been busy shall expect to see results when we arrive.

Wine Note the Elderflower and hope it is a success. I have not made any for some time but have been watching the price of fruit. All the items seem to be listed at 1/6, Gooseberries, Apples, Strawberries, although doubt whether the latter are at the pound rate. Some of the Grapes too are at 1/6. Have finished your Elderberry and have some in more bottles. I shall have to have a sort out before long.

General Very sorry to hear that Mother had fallen down, it is usually quite a shake up when you don’t expect it. Hope all effects now over. You have probably heard from June that Susan has damaged our T.V. She amused herself by banging rolling pin along the top. The woodwork is quite dented on the top forward edge and will take a French Polisher to put right. It is not too terrible in appearance if you do not know it is there but will not have it done yet awhile in case we get further trouble. June liked her new blouse and looks quite smart in it. Have not seen our Vicar about Christening and have no intention of making any sort of contact with him over our arrangements. Have you heard from Don and Joan in this connection. They mentioned that they would be willing to come and stand as Godparents but pointed out that they were getting on a little and the job was that for a young person. Have not replied to this as take it as acceptance. Donald Campbell and Bluebird at the Lido yesterday. Some crowd there by all accounts. Clock still gaining as a result of my alterations but have again lengthened the pendulum a shade and hope for improved timekeeping. Well that is all for the present except to wish you all the best until next time.

Love, Alec

NB: Posting dates got away from me briefly due to a holiday and an unexpectedly heavy workload, plus having the PC completely decoked and having to find everything again afterwards. Normal service has now been resumed!

Sunday 31st May, 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad.

Just a letter to tell you arrived back safely and Mum’s letter since received. We agree that the best date to come down will be on Thursday July 9th for the ceremony to be performed on Sunday July 12th, Perhaps you will be good enough to fix it up with the Vicar. We have asked Don and Joan but as yet have not heard from them. I expect they are waiting to hear the date. This week-end, I have fitted glass to the frame brought from Clevedon and have built staging immediately below the windows to hold seed boxes and pots. This will now hold eight seed boxes in a row and with the other shelf on the other side of the shed I can now house about sixteen boxes at once. Have patched the roof by inserting below the tarred felt the old lino we took up from our bedroom. A couple of roses have come out but the others are not far behind now. One of the Pinks is out, it is a pink one, and Allwoodi. with a ringed centre. No sign of any of the Dahlias Geoff gave me but I expect they will be through any day now. The Spirea you brought up and the two we transplanted are all alive but the latter suffered a severe check. Mother’s Dahlias are healthy but not growing very fast I expect they need some genuine rain. We have Eileen with us for this week-end and Susan of course has been quite excited. I am afraid Carol played up a bit to-day but as she did not get a sleep this morning I expect that was the cause. Grandma’s clock gaining now since I shortened the swing of the pendulum. If I release it a half turn I shall be about right. Carol not walking or even standing on her own yet apart from holding on to a chair or something. She is now walking along by hoisting herself onto hands and feet and going along with arched back. Have not replied to Don yet but must do so to-day or he will be wondering what has happened. There does not seem to be anything to beat the National Savings Certs for simplicity so will plump for that although I see today’s paper warns of a possible reduction in the rate of interest. It seems that Pauline* quite likes the idea of coming down to Clevedon for the week-end that the Christening is held and returning on the Monday morning. Have nearly drunk all the Elderberry Wine. You will have to make some more when the elderberries are next available, I don’t suppose there will be any about at this end. I have not made any more since I saw you last but have been accumulating empty bottles, I have so many now that I shall have to take the board up again and put some out of sight under the floor. Our neighbours just returned from a week’s holiday at the Isle of Wight. They say it is very nice there and nearly all of them are very sunburned. Well hope you are still as well as when I saw you last and not overdoing the gardening. Will close for now.


*June’s younger sister, at this time working in the shoe department of Peter Jones in Sloane Square and living in Battersea.

Dear Don and Joan

Thanks for circular letter of 25th May. Having ascertained that GWR Savings Bank however attractive is a “no go”, we are faced with the problem of finding an investment that is reasonably safe, reasonably simple in its operation ( from the point of view of the person making the investment,- presumably the Trustee) and having a reasonable rate of interest. The National Savings Certificates would seem to meet these requirements except in regard to simplicity of operation as when the period of the issue expires it will then be necessary to reinvest in the next or subsequent issues. From my point of view this method of investment is satisfactory but I am prepared to accept the decision of the Trustee as he has to carry the can back if things go awry. Nothing much to report from gardening front this end. Everything retarded by lack of rain. Grass which was in good condition early in year has withered already and there are many bare patches and cracks about 2 inches across. Have done a number of “Hatchet Carpentry” jobs lately and you may be interested to know that the spare window frame left over after Clevedon shed was built has this week been incorporated in the South Ruislip shed and glass fitted**. I have practically completely rebuilt shed since arriving here. No new timber has been used. There was quite a lot of poor quality second hand wood on hand when we got here but most of it was only suitable for the fire. However I was able to sort out enough to use. Apart from raising the level of one lawn about 9 inches to the level of the path thereby making the whole garden level, I have no major works to carry out now.

Susan and Carol still thriving, latter almost at walking stage. We have heard from Clevedon that Vicar is prepared to perform ceremony at Parish Church and we are going to ask him for Sunday 12th July.

Perhaps you will let us know if this date is convenient please. Grandma’s clock working well but gaining slightly, I hope to make the necessary adjustment this week-end when winding. Well hope you are both keeping as well as may be expected.


**One may ask how a window-frame (with or without glass) was transported from Clevedon to Ruislip. Two options occur: 1) it went by train as with all other parcels – entrusted to someone who passed it on to someone else etc. etc. etc. and then presumably brought home by Alec on the Tube, but I think this is unlikely. 2) Geoff – or someone else with a car – was able to deliver it. Other candidates are a) Peter, June’s brother – he was at the time working for a removal firm and may have been in the West Country on business; b) Doug Gray and c) Eric Benn, the other neighbour, who was employed by the BBC and ended up moving to Weston-super-Mare. This is the sort of extremely trivial question to which I would very much like to have an answer.

Monday 25th May, 1959

From Don. Emily had died at Heavitree on 16 March – presumably at Fort Villa – and Don was clearly acting as her executor.


Monday 24th May, 1959 [sic]

Dear All,

A copy of this letter has gone to ‘Devonia’*, Headstone Lane** and Queen’s Walk***. It replies to Geoff’s letter, no date but postmarked 10/5/59 and two ex Leon – one dated 9/5/59 and the other 22/2/59.

Nothing has been decided to date regarding the investments ( in trust ) for Rebecca, Sara, Susan and Carol. The best effort forthcoming so far is National Savings Certificates which would be registered under the Holders Card Nos. already advised.

The certificates, if and when purchased, would be the 10th issue and held for 7 years when every 15/- would be worth £1 – not bad for a start – the snag being that a reinvestment would then have to be found by the trustee – the best available at the time – either say a 11th issue Trustee Savings Bank. If the trustee made a bad investment he would have to make good the loss. Now the point you all appear to emphasise is put the money in GWR Savings Bank @ 4.5% until they are 21. Good show, but tell me please under what rule a separate trustee account may be so opened for the persons concerned when as each becomes 21 the book may be given her on the day. You will appreciate, no-one, except the trustee may have access thereto during the intervening years. However. assuming such accounts may be opened, these would have to be closed by the trustee if either father passed away and the widow remarried outside British Railways. I hate to touch upon such a morbid subject but life is so uncertain apart from the age factor that some of us may not be around to see all the legacies paid out. If your replies on the GWR Savings Bank are negative ones have you any other ideas please on how the various sums may be invested to give the best return during the waiting period and at the same time protect the trustee from any loss. The question is on the table.

Headstone Lane: I note Geoff bought 500 bricks and hopes to brick edge some flower borders. Unless a low wall is required I prefer whole sleepers. Much quicker and a good one lasts about 15 years. Also not subject to frost eating bricks away.

Clevedon: Thanks for news re: S/M****s at Yatton and Highbridge. Both having a pretty rough time. Always someone worse than yourself. (I expect you know the Chinese story – the beggar grumbling because he had no boots until he met a man who had no feet.) However I should like to know how both are getting on now if not back to work yet. Am not too bad myself. Am please to say all your onions have taken root here. A lot of my similar ones keep throwing seed heads. Glad you and Geoff were able to have a look together at some of Mother’s treasures – also very pleased you were able to satisfactorily sort them out between you and that Alec came into the picture. Talking about pictures, the one I would like to have had was an oval one showing trees in a glade. It had no frame or glass. Strange no-one can say where it went. Like the jewellery must take it as read I suppose. No more for now.


*i.e. Leonard and Eva **i.e. Geoff and Stella ***i.e. Alec and June ****Station Masters

Sunday 24th May, 1959

And here we go with the major part of the archive – ten years’ worth of letters, written sixty years ago!

So, when we last saw Alec he was nearly 21 and living in lodgings with a Mrs Stone in Hanwell. Fifteen years have passed since then, at some point during which he moved from Hanwell to Ealing to lodge with a Miss Eda Baker. (Mrs Stone may have ceased having lodgers when her husband came home after the war.) Miss Baker started life with seven brothers; one of them died in the Great War and one of them – Frank – had lost an eye in a childhood accident and was ineligible for military service. It also ruled him out of employment with the GWR, which was the course his five surviving brothers took.

Alec married Frank Baker’s elder daughter, June (Eda’s niece), in December 1954, and they bought a house in Ruislip and had two children. Now read on!


Sunday 24th May, 1959

Dear Don and Joan

Just a letter to thank you very much for Susan’s present duly received and appreciated. As you may know Dad and Mum came down for the week and they were present for her Birthday. We invited the two little girls from either side and of course Carol was there. She had a very good time as the weather was fine and they were all able to go out on the lawn. I am afraid that when bedtime came she was reluctant to go but as she was very tired the ructions did not last long. The following day ( Sunday ) we all went to Headstone Lane and she had a fine game with the girls there. I asked Sara if she would like to have Carol to live with them. She did not think much of the idea but said she would like to have Susan. On Tuesday we went to West Drayton to see the other Grandma and Grandad so have had quite a number of outings as a result of car and driver being available.* To-day I removed the whole of one side of shed and rebuilt to accommodate two windows. Had the assistance of next door neighbour this morning and this afternoon he took June and the girls out to a picnic tea in Kenton Park in his car. It was very hot work as sun shining strongly and the bitter wind of yesterday has gone. I hope Don’s Bronchitis is easier and that he is better condition than when we last met. We have asked Dad to contact Vicar of Clevedon with a view to getting Carol Baptised at Parish Church there when we are down there early in July. If Vicar agrees to do the job ( which is by no means certain apparently) we shall go down that week-end that he nominates. You were unable to come to Susan’s Christening because of the distance but if you can, we would like you both to come to Carol’s and stand as God-Parents. Well back to work to-morrow, got to do enough to keep the Governor’s pension going I suppose. Hope to hear from you through Clevedon that subject to date etc., being convenient, that we shall all see you in July.


*The car belonged to our very accommodating neighbour, Doug Gray, who seems to have chauffeured us around a considerable amount at this time.

The Mother Problem – part ten

Geoff to his brothers again:

Paddington, Wednesday

Dear All

Many thanks for Leon’s letter letter [sic] to have returning the vacancy lists – another enclosed for his perusal.*

If Mother will only realise our efforts are for her benefit as much as everyone else’s I am sure she will thank us and not condemn us for what we are doing. Quite apart from all else the very fact that she will not have to be pulled around every so often (particularly in the winter) surely is a great blessing. Secondly the daily avoidance of stairs which are a nightmare to her and us will help her immensely and thirdly not having to go to and from a cold bedroom at night and morning shivering for the cold will save her much anxiety – to say nothing of numerous other advantages. Mother’s permanent comfort and independence with proper spiritual and medical care is the aim – the cost is our headache and not hers. Last time she came to London and more especially when she returned she had an awful journey and it was terrible even to witness it, let alone having to cope. So Mother is going to Lyng on Sunday and I hope to be one of her first visitors to Exeter to make sure everything is as it should be. I have in mind Sat. Nov. 22nd subject to tieing up [sic] with Don.

Was interested in Leon’s note to Mr Phillips and his reply. Should say he is a different sort to the rest and it is already clear Edwards intends stirring the mud. Heard John Saunders is a strong candidate for Exeter – fairly senior too. Also rumoured the Plymouth Chief Clerk’s job is likely to be readvertised under the new organisation – a different title with the same salary – but that suggests neither Collins nor Beer will get it.

No more now.

Love G&S

*Work vacancy lists, no doubt. It seems as if Geoff’s view has prevailed at last, and Emily is on her way to Fort Villa at the end of November. I have yet to confirm this, but she most certainly died at Heavitree in the March of the following year – a few weeks after her 87th birthday.

The Mother Problem – part nine

Geoff to his brothers:

Paddington, Thursday

Dear All

Leon’s letter safely to hand and I can only say when someone has tried very hard to find the right solution to all our problems it was very discouraging. Let us face facts – when we were small boys we were told “Mother knows best” and “It’s sometimes necessary to be cruel to be kind”. Surely now Mother is beyond the stage of control she should have confidence in her sons to know what is best for her. It is very clear the present moving around cannot continue and it is beyond the human endurance of any one of us to stay permanently at one place. Last time Mother came to London she was very will and when she returned I thought she was going to pack up before we reached Paddington. We cannot hope that it would be any better on another occasion and it is wrong – definitely wrong for her to be moved about in this manner quite apart from anything else. To have been able to find a spot in a Christian house where she is well known and near old friends which she could not hope to see again otherwise; also to have regular visits from us all including the little girls and away from all upsets and arguments surely Mother is something you should thank God for and not be ungrateful. No one wants you gone and no one thinks you’ve lived too long but you must help others to help you and I do hope you will see it in this light.

No more today.

Love G&S

It’s impossible not to feel desperately sorry for Geoff, who is doing his best in impossible circumstances – torn, as it would seem, between the demands of his wife and those of his brothers, and with Emily the unwitting cause of all the discord.