Shortly after this, the Government decided that all school children should be given the chance to move to a place of safety. Bill, Sandie and Tina, the latest addition to the family, were not yet of school age, so were exempt from evacuation. Sylvia had started work, so she wasn’t eligible either. That left Douglas and me, and Rita and Peter who could be sent away to a safe place.
Because of Dougie’s state of health, Mummy had made me promise that, come what may, I wouldn’t allow the authorities to separate us. When we reached our destination, as yet unknown to us, I was to tell everyone that we must be billeted together so that I could take care of Douglas. It’s only now that I write this that I can fully appreciate what terrible torment my parents must have been going through. Did they know where our destination was to be? They certainly didn’t know into whose care we would be given; this would not be decided until we actually arrived at our destination.
So there we were, the four of us (and a few hundred more) on the train to ‘somewhere in England’. We stayed overnight in a church hall: God knows where. Next day we reached our Yorkshire destination, Grange-over-Sands, a coastal town that I’d never heard of. We were ushered into yet another church hall where the share out of children proceeded.
I stuck to my guns and my promises, and said that ‘My brother and I mustn’t be parted’. Because they were cousins, Rita and Peter also wanted to be together if possible. I knew something was afoot when various WI-type ladies started to go into huddles, looking at us and murmuring amongst themselves.
‘We have these two very nice houses, quite close to each other,’ said one of the ladies, fixing me with a purposeful stare. They only have one spare bedroom each, so it isn’t very convenient to have both a boy and a girl’. I knew what was coming next.
‘If you and your cousin Rita stayed with Mr. & Mrs Quarry, your little brother and his cousin Peter could stay with Mrs. Pickering and Miss Watts’.
I opened my mouth to protest but was carried along on the verbal avalanche.
‘The two houses are so close that you’ll be able to se each other from your windows and call on Douglas every day. I’m sure your mother wouldn’t object to that; it would be very jolly for you all to be so close to each other’.
What chance did a small child of nearly twelve, in a strange place, with no one to back her up, have against all these grown ups? I shyly gave in.
Rita and I got on OK but I felt I’d let both Douglas and Mummy down. Peter and Douglas loved it where they were. They were spoiled and cosseted by the two elderly ladies. Miss Watts was companion to Mrs Pickering and they lived alone in the house at the bottom of ‘The Crag’. Apparently, Mr. Pickering was a permanent patient in a nearby institution.
Mr. And Mrs. Quarry were grey-haired and also elderly. Mr. Quarry had been a banker, but was now retired and lived only for his garden, which was beautiful. Mrs. Quarry was pleasant and kind but somehow didn’t radiate any of the love and affection that I had grown up with; so it wasn’t home, by any means. They had two grown-up children: a son and a daughter. The son was away at university somewhere and the daughter was a nurse. I never saw either of them.
The Quarry’s house reminded me of Aunty Sissie and Uncle George’s home. The curtains and carpeting (we never had carpeting at home) was co-ordinated with the three-piece suite, which was leather. There were highly polished coffee tables and heavy oak bookcases laden with leather-bound books. As well as possessing a bathroom, Mrs quarry had a kitchen that was only used for cooking and a dining room that was only used for eating in, a luxury I hadn’t encountered before.
Rita and I were allowed to sit in Mr Quarry’s study and play with his son’s solitaire. It was one of those large, carved, polished, wooden sets with beautiful, rainbow-coloured marbles.
The food was good and quite plentiful and the Quarry’s did their best to make us feel at home. We grew quite fond of Mr Quarry. He sometimes made up silly, little songs that he would sing to us at bedtimes. One such song went like this:
Come into the garden Maude
And see all our beans and peas
Come into the garden Maude
And see our evacuees
And see our evacuees.
Not exactly brilliant, but it made us giggle, especially as Mrs. Quarry’s name was Maude.
to be continued...