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Rem - M. Clifton

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   Reminiscences - by Mrs Mamie Clifton.  

Notes written by  (Mrs Mamie Clifton nee Fraser) who was born in Accrington (Lancashire) and found when clearing her house on her death in Verwood in 1999. It appears to have been written when she was in her 70's (mid 1970's probably.)

Having read in a daily paper that school children were interviewing pensioners for a school project about life in the days before they were born.  It started me thinking about what my life was like 60 years ago and then thinking further back of the things my own parents told me about their life and still further back about my grandparents and what they told me.

It used to be a source of amusement to me when my son was small; he always seemed to be asking what we did in the olden days.  I would then have been about mid thirties to forty and of course I certainly didn't feel like a relic of the olden days.  But now looking back to my grandparents tales of their early days, it certainly takes one back to my son's idea of the olden days.  I am now in my seventies.

My mother was born in 1880 and my paternal grandmother 1840, those dates are reasonably correct, others I'm not sure about, but it certainly takes one back a considerable length of time.  Oh, the world of difference between our generations, myself, parents, grandparents and my own grandchildren.

 I was 8 years old when my father was recalled to the forces on the outbreak of the 1914 war and I had a younger sister who was then just a baby.  My mother's princely allowance for the three of us was 17/- (85p) per week, she paid 7/- (35p) per week for the rent of our cottage and the other ten shillings - 50 pence today, had to pay for food, coal, light, and clothes if any.

 Still, she was a good manager, she could sew, make clothes for us out of the cheapest remnants, 'make do and mend' was her motto and she was very clever at doing it.  We were never raggy, as so many of my school friends were, always clean and tidy, hair washed and brushed and generally considered at school as the better off children.

My mother was also a good plain cook, she hadn't the money to be other than plain, but buying flour and baking, she could make a nourishing meal out of very little.  A sheep's head from the butchers priced at 2d provided brains cooked and nicely seasoned on toast, was a very nice meal, stew the head after soaking overnight in salt water, take off all the meat with some care and trouble, and it would make potted meat, lovely for tea.  Vegetables and dumplings were added to the stock in which the head had been stewed, made a very filling and nourishing meal.

 I myself left school at 13 years of age, my husband who is a few years older, went to school half time.  That is a half day at school, one week in the mornings, the next week in the afternoons, the alternate half-day was spent at work.  Mornings started at 6am , afternoons ended at 5.30pm .

 I myself did not go half time but stayed at school full time until 13 years.  In those days of course everyone worked on Saturday morning, with luck if you worked hard, you might get away from work at about 12 to 12.30.  I wonder what the youngsters of today would learn in 3 hours of an afternoon working in a factory or foundry from 6am to 12.  Quick dash home and a bite of dinner, probably stew, freshen up a bit because we daren't go to school with dirty hands and face and footwear also had to be clean and polished.  In Lancashire, that usually consisted of clogs, wooden soles with irons nailed on, when the irons wore out, you were sent to the cloggers who put fresh irons on for a few pence whilst you waited, of course as we didn't have a spare pair to change into. 

All this sounds very hard work now that I write it, but we were happy and we learnt.  I remember passing an examination for a scholarship to go to the local grammar school, it wasn't called that in those days, that came later, we used to call it the technical school or 'Tech'.  However I wasn't allowed to go because to take up the scholarship, my mother had to sign a form to say I would stay at school until I was 16 years of age.  My mother said she couldn't afford to do that, most parents looked forward to their children leaving school, those few extra pence made a lot of difference to the family budget.  So, in spite of tears on my part, I started work the day I was 13.

 The teaching in school must have been very good, no time wasted, no frills.  But in spite of so few years being educated, both my husband and myself, by studying at night classes have both managed to enter the professional class, and have been considered middle-class by our contemporaries.  I know I myself have kept things pretty dark about not going to grammar school while not exactly telling untruths about it, I have implied I did have a grammar school education.  Having always been an avid reader, I managed to cover up any lack of formal education.

 In these days of further education colleges, substantial grants, our way of acquiring knowledge seems very sketchy.  But when my own son went to grammar school, I was still able to help with spelling, maths and general knowledge apart from extras such as algebra, Latin and French, the basic education was no bother.

 If our education was short, what of my parents?  My mother used to tell me about when she went to school on Monday mornings each child had to take 3d, and the poor children with parents who had spent up during the weekend had to live on tick for the rest of the week.  Living on tick, those people went to the local corner shops for necessities and the cost was ticked off the list until the following Friday - pay day, which of course left them short of money the following week.  Well, those children going to school without 3d on Monday were caned and sent home for it, no wonder children played truant.  My mother said she never had to miss school, very often the 3d each for herself and her sister on a Monday morning posed a definite sacrifice.

 She and her sister left school at ten years of age and were sent to work in the mill to learn how to weave.  My mother was very small, and at ten years she could not reach across to do the job properly. She told a boy who was working near, he was very kind and made her a platform to stand on to enable her to reach.  That very unhappy boy at that time ran away from home to join the army giving a wrong age in order to be accepted, that same boy some years later became my father.

 He did his spell of duty in Ireland , then spent some time in India, before being draughted to South Africa on the outbreak of the war there. After that he came home, married, but remained on the strength, that is he was there for immediate call up on the outbreak of hostilities in 1914.

He survived the war, was demobbed in 1920 with health very much impaired, so to get something better than a hard labouring job he used his army PT training to get a post as Schools Swimming Instructor. He was used to the ways of boys and young men, and was a great success, as teacher, disciplinarian, and was very much respected. He died in 1952 aged 70 years. My mother lived on for another 20 years. She was almost 91 when she died, and could still correct her grandsons spelling mistakes, and badly spoken grammar.

My knowledge of my grandparents is very incomplete. My paternal grandmother was born in Stronsay in the Orkneys - how she met my grandfather and came to England I never found out. He used to be in the Army, "The Seaforth Highlanders" but when I remember him he had just retired from the Lancashire Constabulary as an Inspector.

 My grandmother used to tell me how her father was very insistent that they could speak (properly) and without accent, and only a true blue Englishman could detect the Scottish accent, to any of her Scottish friends she was very much the grand lady.

She used to tell me about having to walk four miles each morning to school taking their food with them for midday meal, after having porridge for breakfast. If they didn't eat all the porridge up at breakfast time, they had to eat it when they got home, before getting anything else.

 She used to tell me how strict her parents were on Sundays, they were never allowed to play either indoors or out and after going to the Kirk, they were only allowed to read the bible or some other religious work, the Sabbath was for the Lord not young children. She considered we were spoiled and had too much of our own way. I don't know what they would have thought about the children of today.

 Well the good old days - I don't think. I only wish the young people realised how fortunate they are.

 By Mamie Clifton

Born 25th June 1906 and died Sunday the 27th June 1999 at 4:20 pm aged 93.




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