Eileen Mary Baylis
|Father||Robert William Baylis (1897-1944)|
|Mother||Hilda Mary Pickett (1896-1987)|
Eileen emigrated from England to Australia in 1964.
Eileen Mary Harrison
by her granddaughter, Rev. Suzie Ray.
Of all her many qualities, one that stands out for me is her incredible persistence and perseverance. They say you can't keep a good woman down. Well Eileen was a perfect example of that saying. When life presented challenges, she "just got on with it".
She demonstrated this in the very moment of her birth. You see, when Eileen was born at home, on 12 June 1923, the midwife thought she was stillborn. She put Eileen under the bed and focused her attention instead on Eileen's mother.
The doctor then arrived, feeling somewhat guilty that he'd finished his game of golf before coming, only to discover the birth hadn't gone as planned.
He asked to see the body and exclaimed that she wasn't dead – yet! That heart of hers was beating. He spent 45 minutes intensively getting Eileen breathing and keeping her going. He then called for the priest, not expecting her to live for more than a short while. Thus Eileen was also baptised at home at only 1 day old.
She sure proved them wrong – you couldn't keep this good woman down!
During Eileen's childhood she struggled with various sicknesses. She didn't seem to have a very strong constitution. Still, there was nothing to be done. She "just got on with it". The way she describes it, she hit her 20s, shook off the ill health, and was strong as an ox through most of the rest of her adult life!
Eileen's father spent much of her childhood working in India, and her mother too went on some of these trips, so Eileen spent many years in boarding school, and many school holidays with her grandparents. At boarding school she recalled competitions in music, gymnastics and – deportment. They had a bath twice a week, and their hair was washed once a month.
Eileen persisted and persevered through every challenge, becoming Vice Captain of her house.
It was probably from Eileen's grandparents that she first learned her love of gardening. She recalls their large and well-tended garden and how well they lived in retirement, in part because of the amount of food they grew there. When her parents were in India she stayed with her grandparents in the holidays, and when her parents were in England she visited her grandparents every week. The habit of growing one's own food stayed with Eileen life long.
The delight of fresh food ran deep in Eileen – whilst at boarding school, on a student's birthday they could choose a group of friends for a special afternoon tea that included cake. For her 14th birthday Eileen asked for strawberries and cream instead of a cake! They must have been good strawberries because she never forgot that birthday. Her great-grandchildren today still have fond memories of picking blackberries from Eileen's garden, so the love of fresh berries has also been passed on.
Throughout her life, Eileen kept fit and active through gardening, not just in her own garden but in particular also in Jill's beautiful garden, at the entrance to her home and business in Margate. While Kellie and Perry were young, she would look after them regularly as well, growing both flowers and grandchildren!
Eileen's persistence, perseverance and adventurous spirit were also nurtured in her post-school years. Her secretarial studies were at Queens College. She proudly said that "Queen's College was the first institution in the world to award academic qualifications to women. Based on the principles of its founder in the 1840s, it had a non-competitive spirit yet produced confident and open-minded young women". Eileen proudly maintained her membership to the "Old Queens" association.
In 1942 many children in England were returning from their initial countryside evacuations and Eileen was asked to start a Girl Guide company in her area. She had been a Guide for a short while in her school years, and felt a bit ill-equipped, but of course got down to the job with skill and dedication. The 27th Ilford Guides was founded, and with it the beginning of a lifetime of commitment to the Guides movement.
War shaped Eileen's formative years. Her father had suffered terrible injury in WW1, and had had his face substantially reconstructed in France. Eileen in upper high school was evacuated to the countryside, away from the bombing. She then moved on to secretarial studies. Her 21st birthday is remembered as the day the first doodle bug missile, the V1, fell. Although Eileen remembers that these were nothing compared to the 2nd generation of these missiles that came some months later, landing without warning and leaving massive craters.
During the war, while working for a bank, Eileen worked in a vault deep underground, sometimes while the bombings happened overhead. When above ground there were air raid shelters, gas masks, blacked-out living and ration cards. As part of Eileen's Girl Guides role she had undertaken a lot of First Aid training. Her conscripted War Work was to spend evening shifts with the Light Rescue Teams after bombing raids. Not all her friends survived, as more than just buildings were lost to the bombs. This war time lifestyle is one most of her descendants are blessed to never have known.
As a young adult Eileen and a friend had the opportunity to go on a bicycling holiday for a week. The war was on, and so street signs had been removed and maps were hard to come by, but neither lack daunted their adventurous spirit. On one occasion the fog was so thick she decided to follow a bus on her bicycle, as its lights gave her more sense of direction. The fog got so thick, and the windscreen so dirty from the smog, that the bus driver couldn't tell where the curb was any more. He asked Eileen to ride in front of the bus, to show HIM the way – and she did! That plucky and tenacious spirit shone through again. As always, she got on with what needing doing, without a moment's hesitation.
Eileen can't remember learning to knit – it's a skill she literally had had for as long as she could remember! Her knitting was a huge practical help in the war years and rationing years. Clothing was rationed but that wasn't going to stop Eileen. She got her hands on crochet cotton and knitting silk and wool and set to work. She later made dresses out of discarded wartime parachutes.
Just a few years ago I was in Tasmania with my children to visit Eileen. We were in a cafe, enjoying a cup of tea, when my youngest piped up with an interesting question. She said "Nanny, what is your favourite thing to do?" My ears pricked up. I was curious to know the answer. She was living at Hawthorn Village by this stage, so her leisure pursuits were more limited than they had been. What was her favourite thing to do nowadays? Would it be jigsaw puzzles? Knitting? Reading? Scrabble? Her answer has stuck with me ever since. She replied: "My favourite thing to do is making warm clothes for children". You can't keep a good woman down.
Eileen was also musical, enjoying singing, playing the piano, and having had some lessons on her father's violin. She fondly remembered singing in a by-audition choir in her young adulthood, singing greats such as Messiah, Elijah and The Creation. She used her musical gift in churches, too, for many years of her life.
Eileen married in 1947 and they had 4 children, all born in England: Brian, Gwen, Sheila and Jill. For the last 10 years in England they lived on a small farm in the Lakes District. Eileen spent 12 months mostly alone on the farm with the children while her husband was away at College, upgrading his qualifications. There was no electricity and no running water to the house. It was incredibly hard work but it put food on the table and a roof over their head. There were many challenges: from a breed of sheep that turned out to be fence-jumpers, to a bull that make quite a dint in her forehead, but through it all she persevered.
I find it moving to reflect that in the Bible reading Eileen chose for today we heard: where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.
In 1964 an opportunity came to relocate to Australia for a better life, and in January of 1964 Eileen and her family arrived here in Tasmania. When her eldest daughter, Gwen, joined Guides it didn't take long for Eileen to be asked to become a District Commissioner, which she did and maintained continuous service in Guides for many decades.
My first job after university was working for a bank. I recall Eileen telling me somewhat wistfully that she had worked for a bank after finishing school, but that in the 1940s it just wasn't permitted for a married woman to work for a bank, so she had had to leave upon marrying. She had also wished she had the opportunity for a profession that used her brain, ideally something mathematical. She was pleased to see changing times bringing greater choices for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Since Eileen couldn't pursue a professional career she did what was open to women of her generation – she put those excellent skills, those skills and capacities that could have made for a fine banking career – into a life of voluntary service. Eileen served so many different community groups, include Girl Guides, National Council of Women and Tasmanian Association of Superannuants (who both granted her life membership for her service), Legacy and Legacy Widows, Kingborough Women's Club, the Society of Growing Australian Plants, the Taroona ex-servicemen's club, using those First Aid skills again with St John's Ambulance, Sunday School teaching and playing the organ and piano in churches, being a guide at the historic Penitentiary in Campbell St, supporting charities including the City Mission and the Heart Foundation and more. She was Secretary of the Continuing Congregational Association for 28 years, and was recently presented with her Certificate of Thanks for 60 years of adult membership and service to Girl Guides. She applied herself with such dedication and generosity that she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Taking my daughters on a tour of the Cascade Female Factory was very poignant for me: both as an important part of Australian history, and also knowing that my Grandmother had, through the National Council of Women, been one of those persistent and persevering women of today who recognised that history as one needing to be preserved and shared with future generations.
Eileen's perseverance, persistence and sense of adventure continued into her older age. In 2005 the recently-widowed Eileen decided her adventurous streak was not to be daunted and set off on her own to visit son Brian in Sydney, then by train through Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin, a tour of Kakadu and off to Cairns. There she went snorkeling for the first time ever at age 82. Yes, you couldn't tell Eileen to slow down in older age! From facing her fear of heights by flying in a light plane over Stanley Chasm in Central Australia, to riding a horse in her late 80s, to taking weekly classes at the University of the Third Age to keep her mind active, and being on many, many voluntary committees, she made the most of the opportunities of later life.
Eileen's trips were not just about places and experiences, but also about people. She maintained friendships over many, many decades through written letters and visits when possible. She visited children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other extended family in places like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. To make her last trip to the UK possible, in 2009, she travelled with daughter Sheila to see many friends and family one last time and research family history.
After a stroke in her 90s landed her in hospital she was given the option of accepting her new limitations or going to rehab. There was no doubt in her mind – off to rehab it was. She was determined that she would walk out of there. I remember visiting with her as she worked out in the gym as one of the physios came over and said she'd worked really hard this session. Was it time to stop? "No", she said, she'd do three more sets of exercises before she stopped. And she did.
Then later on, once she was unable to walk safely on her own, she took opportunities to take herself around in her wheelchair to still join friends, meet people and get out and about. At each new stage, she never let limitations get the better of her but persevered, persisted, and looked for the best.
A key source of Eileen's perseverance, and generosity, was her Christian faith. She was a long time member of the Richmond Congregational Church, and in more recent years Margate One-Way Church and Bay Church Blackman's Bay. I'll never forget talking with Nanny after one of her mini-strokes, when things weren't looking too great. (She rallied completely, as she so often did! It took more than a stroke or two to keep Eileen down!). On this occasion, as we weren't sure yet how her recovery would pan out, she told me this. She told me to pray for "health or heaven". Health or heaven.
Death was not a fear for her. She knew her destiny. For 96 years she made the most of her health, and then it was time for heaven.
But Eileen's legacy lives on. She was in many ways an entrepreneur, forging ahead to start new things, whether a Guide Group, a Guild, a farming business, a productive garden. And in her descendants that entrepreneurial gift lives on. She had this incredible perseverance and persistence, and in some of the hardships and challenges faced by different descendants we see that "just get on with it" spirit live on.
She kept her mind active, even when society in her generation told her that her mind was not needed. Her love of puzzles, word games, mathematics and problem solving lives on. She loved her garden, and this lives on right through children, grandchildren and even keen gardeners in her great-grandchildren. And her volunteer work leaves a legacy that will also last for generations.
Truly, you can't keep a good woman down. Gone, but not forgotten. She has entered her heavenly rest. Eileen – Nanny – we miss you, we love you, we give thanks for you.
Excerpts from 'My Life' by Eileen Mary Harrison (nee Baylis)
I was born on 12 June 1923 at 46 Dalkeith Road, Ilford, Essex. The midwife thought I was stillborn and put me under the bed and saw to my mother. When the doctor arrived knowing he should have come when called instead of finishing his game of golf, he took 45 minutes to make sure I was breathing. I was baptised the next day as it was thought I would not live and in those days only baptised people could be buried in the consecrated part of cemeteries.
My father’s name was Robert Baylis. He had a brother Edward and a sister Kathy. Their parents were Annie Sackett and Edward Baylis. He was born at 6 Wellesley Road, Ilford and joined the army at 17 ¾ and spent his 18th birthday in France. Kathy did not marry nor have children. She, apparently was asked to be married but said, 'my job in life is to look after my parents' and she did. Edward married a lady named Dorothy and they had 2 sons Derek and Paul. Paul died young but I stayed in contact with Derek and his wife Pat throughout his life and stayed with him on frequent trips. He worked for the British government abroad with many years spent living in Africa. They also had 3 sons and lived on acreage in Norfolk in 1980 where they bred goats.
During the war, in France, my father was helping to unload a lorry down a ramp when it slipped, knocked him down and a wheel ran over his face. Luckily somebody threw a bucket of water over his face whilst thinking he was dead and to their surprise he blinked. A French plastic surgeon reconstructed his face and he eventually was sent to a military hospital in Norfolk. After being discharged he became a major in the local army cadets and it was through getting printing done for the cadets by my grandfather Pickett that he met my mother. After marrying they lived at 46 Dalkeith Road, Ilford which is where Margaret and I were born. We moved to 26 The Crescent, Ilford in 1929.
Grandfather Edward Baylis had his leg amputated by Lord Lister, the first surgeon to use antiseptics in surgery. It must have been before 1912 as Lord Lister died that year!! Edward died in 1937 at the age of 72.
Grandmother Annie Baylis (nee Sackett) was 'reared' in the East End of London as that was where her father was a Congregational minister. She played the American organ for the Beefeater Church services. She had Disseminated Sclerosis (now called Multiple Sclerosis) from the 1930s or even earlier and was eventually bed-ridden. When older she also had Tic Douloureux and died in 1956 at the age of 88.
Early School Days
At 5 I attended Cleveland Road Primary School. In 1929 I moved to Highlands School where it was a mile walk to school for a 9 am start, home for dinner at noon, then return for 2 pm start and leave at 4 pm. At 8 boys and girls were separated and I stayed there until I went to boarding school at 10. We had homework and I can remember English, arithmetic, geography and history. I can remember sometime during that period a re-enactment of Queen Boadicea’s visit to Epping Forest.
My father later joined the firm of C & E Morton as an insurance clerk and impressed Charles Morton so much that he was trained so that he could open up the firm’s first office in India. He was there from 1929–1937. The first stint was for three years but each year after that he had two months each summer in England. Mum went with him in September 1933 but returned about May 1934 instead of waiting for him to come home in July. She did the same the following year. In 1937 he was promoted to Export Manager and was due to be promoted to Director when he died in 1944 aged 47.
The quickest way to get to and from India still took my father about 3 weeks. He caught a ferry, as a walking passenger, from Dover to Calais then a train to Marseilles and then went by P & O steamer to Bombay, India. The boat trip was then only 2 weeks instead of months from England. He did not work in Bombay so had to then go by train to Cawnpore (now called Kanpur) in the first few years then later to Calcutta.
My father went to India when I was six years old. He returned three years later. Then he went on annual tours, being away for 10 months and home for 2 months. We had 2 weeks holiday in East Runton village, Norfolk each time he came home, staying with a crab fisherman’s family. A treat each holiday was to see the concert party on the pier one night in Cromer. Each family had a beach hut with deck chairs. We played cricket on the sand and built sandcastles. One year it was so cold and windy we dug a big hole to put the deck chairs in.
On Empire Day, May 24th, Queen Victoria’s birthday was celebrated and we all took food from home that originally came from some other part of the Empire. We also wore a common daisy to represent one whole made up of different groups. I know we had a holiday at Felixstowe before I was six and one with Grandma and Grandpa Pickett at Woolacambe in Devon.
I went to boarding school in 1933 aged 10; Margaret went too and she was aged 7. Life at boarding school was very different. There were about 60 in the whole school and we had four classes. Sports every day or a walk; we played hockey and netball in the winter and tennis in the summer. Guides on a Monday instead of sports were started in September 1934. We also had dancing one evening a week and singing for one half hour one afternoon with a visiting teacher. Saturday evening we had some kind of entertainment, in the Spring term January – Easter each house put on an entertainment one Saturday. The houses were St George, St Andrew and St Patrick. I was in St George and in September 1938 was made Vice-Captain of the house. We had competitions for a house music cup, gymnastics cup and deportment cup. We had a bath twice a week and a hairdresser came once a month to wash and dry our hair.
We were up at 7.30 am, breakfast at 8 am, school prayers and announcements, then lessons until morning break at 11 am. Dinner was at 1 pm, sports 2-3, then tea at 4.30 pm, bread, butter and jam or bread, butter and cake twice a week. Between tea and supper was prep time (homework). Junior supper was 6.30 pm, seniors at 7 pm. It could be baked potatoes in their jackets, sardines on toast etc. Evening prayers were 6.45 pm. In my last year I sometimes played piano for that, the first student to do so. Juniors were in bed by 7.30, middle range by 8.30 and seniors by 9 pm.
I remember that when it was your birthday you could invite another 11 girls to share your afternoon tea with and the food served was your choice plus a birthday cake. One birthday, maybe my 14th , I remember requesting strawberries and cream instead of the cake.
At the end of the Christmas term we had a dance and everyone brought a dress for that. In 1938 I played a waltz, first pupil to do so. After a time we extended the school orchestra and that was when I had my father’s violin and learnt a little. Those actually learning violin had the tune and the rest of us just easy things to give it more harmony.
Grandpa Pickett retired to The Nook, Stoney Hills, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex in 1922. The bungalow had a large garden and he had hens and grew a lot of vegetables. I can only remember one door in and that was off the verandah outside of which was a well which provided the water needed. Sometime in the 1930s he had 'Cranbrook', Maldon Road, Burnham-on-Crouch built. Again he grew a lot of vegetables and had a lawn at the back where we played clock golf. In my teens I learnt to ride Grandpa’s bicycle on the drive. They both rode bicycles. When Margaret and I spent our school holidays there when both parents were in India we used to rummy and old maid in the evenings. After breakfast we read a chapter from the Bible or a Psalm after which Grandpa or Grandma said a prayer.
Toys and Games
When Daddy was in India and we were at home, we visited Grandma and Grandpa Baylis every Wednesday, but after he came home for good it was every Saturday. Auntie Kathie spoilt us. I can remember watching the men play bowls over the back fence. She gave us a sugar cube each with a drop of eucalyptus oil on it.
When I was five I was given a Meccano set and eventually had the second set. When older I enjoyed making things and Margaret had a farm set and we had bricks and had quite a few ideas of how to combine these. When older, jigsaws were the craze. We had a pram and a special doll each that only went out in the pram. I cannot remember playing with her. Also hoops which we bowled with the aid of a stick along the pavement and in the park. We played ludo, snakes and ladders, snap, happy families and draughts. I cannot remember when I learnt to knit and I know I made a small purse in cross-stitch or tent stitch before going to boarding school. I think we had sewing at school.
I know we went to Felixstowe before I was 6, Woollacombe with Grandma and Grandpa in 1929, 1930 or 1931, Cromer in 1932 and East Runton in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937. 1938 Bude, 1939 St Agnes. In 1944 my friend Barbara and I joined Grandma B and Auntie Kathie at Latchington. One day we cycled to Burnham-on-Crouch and I washed Grandma P who was permanently in bed having had a stroke. Later that year we all had a week at Claction.
In 1945 Barbara and I Youth Hostelled in East Anglia for one week. In 1946 Barbara and I took a train to Amersham and Youth Hostelled for one week, had Sunday at Bunbury and went as far as Ross-on-Wye before returning. 1947 was two weeks in Scarborough and Llandudno for our honeymoon. In 1948 we were at Aberystwyth and climbed Cader Idris. In 1949 we Youth Hostelled at weekends and walked in the Yorkshire Dales on the Sunday, Patterdale in September and Morecambe. 1950 was Ilford, 1951 and 1952 Lake District, 1953 Llandudno, 1954 Isle of Anglesey.
Mothering Sunday was the middle of Lent, the Sunday before Palm Sunday, I think. Everybody wore a white flower, spring flowers were usually out.
Easter egg 3-4” tall – just one.
May Day 1st May – dancing around the Maypole
Empire Day 24th May – Queen Victoria’s birthday – wore daisies.
Guy Fawkes fireworks, Katherine wheels attached to Lattice outside the back door, squibs and sparklers.
All Hallow E'en – ducking for apples.
Christmas Day in our stocking we found 1 or 2 fruit, small or of chocolate, maybe small pack of crayons, no more than 5 or 6 things; all small and would cost no more than 5d each. Stirring the Christmas pudding.
When I was old enough it was my job to turn the mangle on wash days. We cleaned our own bedrooms and I remember polishing the floor of the dining room after Mum had put on the polish.
The War Years
My war started in 1938. School term started in September and a few days later we had the Munich crisis. As our boarding school was only a road, bandstand and promenade away from the sea on the west side of Ramsgate it was decided to prepare us as far away as possible for immediate evacuation if agreement with Hitler was not reached. Consequently a lot of our exercise books were packed and we had just paper to write our answers on. As you know the Munich Pact was signed on 29 September 1938, so we went back to normal schooling.
Our summer holiday in 1939 was spent on a farm at St Agnes, Cornwall and before leaving St Agnes my father arranged for my sister and myself to return to the farm if necessary before term started, which we did. Mother took us down to the farm and returned to London the next day which was the day before school children were evacuated. At the farm I remember returning after the church service and hearing Neville Chamberlain saying we were at war. I knew something of the horrors that would ensue as my father’s face had to be reconstructed during World War 1 by a French plastic surgeon. On reaching England he thought he was much improved, but got a shock when his mother fainted when visiting him in hospital for the first time.
The school was evacuated to Tunbridge Wells in Kent at the beginning of the war and in that term I started to learn shorthand and typing. After Christmas 1939 I started at Queen’s College, Harley Street, London and learnt shorthand, typing, letter writing to everybody from the King down, book keeping, English, French, economics, where important cities and towns were around the world. Until the Battle of Britain life was pretty tranquil. In our house in Essex we had an Anderson air-raid shelter in the back garden. The soil dug out to put the shelter in was placed on the top and sides. My mother dreaded the sirens going off after I was asleep as I was such a deep sleeper and heard nothing and I was difficult to wake up. The Germans, to help themselves, sent planes at night to drop incendiary bombs, then when the fires were burning they came over in planes with ordinary bombs to blow up buildings. When in a shelter we heard the thud of a bomb we tried to assess how far away it was. I knitted a few pairs of socks to go inside waterproof boots; they were knitted in unwashed wool so that the lanolin was still in them. They were more waterproof that way. Eventually we had a Morrison table shelter which was in the dining room. We also had gas-masks, black out curtains and hoods over car lights so light only shone onto the ground. Because of the bombing I did not go for the third term at Queens College that year, but continued with the typing and shorthand at a local school, then finished the Secretarial course after Christmas. We had quite an influx of students that term; Mary Churchill amongst them. We always knew when Sir Winston was going to make a speech in Parliament because Mary was absent so that she could sit in the gallery and hear her father’s speech.
The first doodle bug missile, the V1, fell on my 21st birthday, but they were nothing compared to the V2. The first V2 fell on 8 September 1944 in Chiswick. As they flew at 4,000 m.p.h. the first thing that anybody knew was the explosion as they made a big crater. We had 177 days of them arriving and sometimes 6 rockets a day. I got that information from the TV program on Friday 25th May about Churchill's bodyguard.
About November 1939 my father was put on a no salt diet because of blood pressure. The whole family had to eat the same food because, due to rationing my mother could not make two different menus. I remember one cold day queuing up at the butchers and although well wrapped up got a chill in my stomach. Potato rationing started after the war was over in 1947. The only other thing I can remember about rationing was the powdered eggs. Expectant mothers and babies had cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice. Jam coupons could be exchanged for sugar for jam making.
Working in the Bank
I was given no choice about where I worked. My father decided everything for me. I was not consulted. He arranged everything. My first 3 months in the Bank in 1941 were spent in their school evacuated to Tewkesbury. I was in the Drawing Office. The aim was to get our shorthand speed up to 150 taking down the Leader in the Times daily paper. All of us were used to 120 with business type letters and the language was completely different. Quite a few of us failed and we went to learn the machines that typed the ledgers and statements. I did that for a number of years then was sent to Stockside to type the Stock Certificates and take my turn on the post and delivering things to other banks with two males as escorts. During the heavy bombing in London the machines we worked on were situated in the sub-vault that is three floors below. Whilst working the rationing didn't worry me much as we had a cooked meal at lunchtime and when working late over the year's end until about 12 am on December 31st, dinner was roast chicken one year, duck another and goose another.
I worked at the Bank of England from the age of 18 to 24 years. I started on 104 pounds per year which increased to over 300 pounds per year during the war because we had a big increase in inflation.
In 1942 Dad came home after a deacons meeting and said I would run a Girl Guide company. Apparently at the meeting it was decided that so many children who had been evacuated had returned home, the church should once again run the Girls' Life Brigade and the Scouts. As there was nobody to run the Girls' Life Brigade and as I had been a Guide he volunteered my help without discussing it with me. My friend Barbara agreed to be my Lieutenant. We had Cadet meetings Tuesday and the Guide meetings Thursdays. The District Commissioner ran the first meeting.
In 1943 I got the notice for war work in the evenings and joined the Light Rescue Teams. I already had my first aid and home nursing certificates, plus child health nursing and had done the 40 hour hospital training. The extra training was all the pressure points for if the patient was awkwardly trapped.
I remember the night my father died. I was on duty at the Bank and my sister phoned after we had gone to bed asking for me to return home at once. It was about 11 pm. One of the men came with me to Liverpool St station and finding no train to Ilford, but one to Leytonstone I took that and walked at least four miles home with no worry about safety.
Holidaying on Rationing
Soon after starting work I bought a bicycle for £7, no gears. My friend and I spent two summers Youth Hostelling for a week. On this cycling holiday maps were difficult to get and directions were removed. As we didn’t take ration cards because we were in a different hostel each night they must have been able to get rations somehow. I remember one foggy night, a real pea-souper, riding behind a bus. Because the bus' headlights were screened to shine down, the driver could not see where the curb was on a very wide opening to the left, and he asked me to go first. In the foggy weather a windscreen is more hindrance as the sooty smuts cling to it and, of course, I had nothing to hinder my vision.
Life still went on. Sir Henry Wood still had the Promenade Concerts and had started to use the Albert Hall. I remember queuing two years running for the last prom and I had been to one or two others during the season. Somebody in Ilford started a choral society to which anybody already in a church choir could join. After about a year it was entry by audition only. I can remember singing the Messiah, Elijah and the Creation with well known soloists of the time. For light work we did Hiawather’s wedding and Merry England with our soloists.
Although clothes were rationed, hats weren't and we could get crochet cotton and knitting silk. There was a thicker one than this and I had a top made out of it until quite recently.
In 1947 after the war was over, potatoes were rationed and by that time silk parachutes could be obtained. I made quite a few dresses for my trousseau and I used the smaller cotton parachutes that had been made for food drops etc into dusters and pudding cloths.
How I met Arthur
The war being over we could have evening meetings and evening services; no black-out restrictions. In September 1945 a Beetle Drive was organised in the church hall. Arthur had already met Rev. Harry Sellars whose mother went to the Congregational Church in Blackburn that Arthur attended and suggested he contact him. Harry asked Arthur to come to the Beetle Drive where he could introduce him to some of the younger members. He not only came to the Drive, but to the service the next day and from then on walked home or nearly so with me before returning to Woolwich Barracks.
In 1946 he was transferred to the Medical Corps in Northern Ireland. We corresponded until he was posted to Millwall Military Hospital in London. I visited Blackburn in December to meet his mother, Emily, John, Paul and Roy.
Our engagement was peculiar. I have no recollection of him actually proposing. It seemed to be understood that we would get married someday. Because I worked for the Bank of England I was able to get a pre-war ring at pre-war prices, so we went together to buy one for seven pounds. Before he found the courage to ask Mum for permission I was in quarantine for polio.
Arthur was demobbed early in 1947 and worked in London before going to Manchester University in September 1947 to do a chemistry degree. We were married 20th December 1947. After we married we lived in rooms in Manchester and then Urmston where we shared a kitchen with a family. This family moved to the Isle of Man so we moved again and shared with a spinster who expected me to do all the housework before I went to work each morning. In August 1948 we moved to Blackburn to live with Arthur's mother. I worked in an office doing shorthand typing. Arthur was already on a scholarship to return to study to complete his Bachelor of Science degree. Brian was born in March 1950. I had to "mind my P's and Q's" whilst living with Arthur’s mother. When Brian became awkward I took him for a walk because she thought that "if boys cried they got a hernia". She didn’t really interact with him and also didn’t really agree with the way he was being brought up. Even after three years of sharing a home, the relationship was quite formal.
After Arthur graduated in 1951 he got a job with Evans Medical in Speke so we moved to Urmston, a suburb of Liverpool, having bought a house. Gwyneth was born at home in January 1952. Arthur was asked to go to Burma for three years to work, but he refused the offer after hearing from the person that he was taking over from, that there would be no job for him on returning. He knew that his life at Evans was doomed and that they would soon find a reason for dismissing him. Hence our reason for buying the farm.
Grassgarth Farm 1954–1963
There was no running water or electricity, although it was promised for 18 months after our arrival, but the authorities changed their minds. Instead of doing it as requested, they decided to do a whole area at once and our area was one of the last to be done.
I was too busy to be lonely. It was a good learning experience. It proved I could manage on my own when Arthur was away at College for a year. And I learnt to be silent about Arthur’s absence to our neighbours for my own safety.
I remember snow drifts against stone walls, sheep putting their backs to the snow whereas cattle face it. So when the animals reach a wall the snow piles up on the opposite side of the wall to the cattle, but the sheep are covered by it. Dry stone walling. The house was built of stone walling.
We had a lot of hens; some were in a big shed and a few in two moveable pens which were moved every day. We had saddleback pigs, but gave these up after a time and started sheep. I learnt to milk a cow. Lucy was very tame. Our first bull was a Galloway who died suddenly, the second was a white shorthorn and short sighted. One day I was trying to catch him and he lifted his head and caught my forehead above my nose. I had a mark there for some time. The first lot of sheep were good at jumping walls, so we changed them to a quieter breed.
Early in 1957 Arthur got a permanent job with Glaxo and travelled to work each day. Sheila was born in March 1958 and Jill in October 1959. Brian, Gwyneth and Sheila all went to Cartmel School. They caught a taxi, with other farm children, at the end of the driveway. I did not get my driver’s licence till I was pregnant with Sheila. On going for my licence the local policeman said to me "you can drive can't you" as he had seen me on occasion driving in the village. I said "yes" even though I had mostly only driven a tractor, so he just gave me my licence.
Whilst living on the farm my mother came to visit us twice. The first time was when I travelled to Wales for a course in farming (cooking related) in 1959. I was pregnant with Jill at the time. The second time was on the birth of Jill so she could look after Sheila in my absence. I was already 2 weeks overdue with Jill so they sent me to a hospital in Barrow-in Furnace where she was induced. Sheila was born 2 days early in a maternity home in Ulverston. Both Sheila and Brian were due on the 17th March. Sheila was christened in Blackburn but Jill was not christened.
There was only one other time I remember leaving the farm for a night and this was for my grandfather Pickett’s funeral. Arthur took me to the train station but didn’t have cash on him and the railway could not accept a cheque. The teller, knowing the reason for my travel, paid the cash for us and we gave him the cheque. I remember it was an overnight train and I that I was pregnant with Jill at the time. After the funeral I came back on the next overnight train as this was the cheapest way to travel at the time.
Margaret and Donald came to Brian's christening in Ilford in 1950, then I did not see them again till Grandfather Pickett's funeral. We stayed with them in Upminster in September 1963 then again over the next Christmas and stayed till around the 2nd of January when we boarded the boat (Iberia). The day before we sailed my mother accompanied Arthur when he took some of our luggage to the boat. We had not seen Aunty Gladys and Uncle Will for many years (except at Grandfather Pickett's funeral) till we visited with them in 1975.
Emily, John, Roy & Paul visited at least twice. One time they came to get our old car because we had, by then, got Grandfather Pickett's car. I cannot remember how we got his car from Essex to us. Another time we had a family photo taken.
The only time any of the children saw a doctor was to get their Small Pox injections in 1963. When I had to go to the doctor, throughout my pregnancies, Arthur drove me and we all went. The doctor was in either Cark or Flookburgh, I can’t remember which.
In 1962 the British Government wanted more teachers for Technical Colleges so offered a scholarship to anybody over the age of 26 who had a few years in related work. Arthur took up this study and whilst still at college the Australian Government also required teachers in this line. It had become obvious to Arthur and me that Brian was getting away from the family by being away at Boarding School. As we wanted to keep the family together we decided that Arthur would have to look for a job where we could all be together. This seemed to be the job we were looking for. Arthur applied to every state for information. Tasmania was the only state that offered both a job and a house. Other states required you to come to Australia and have an interview before you were offered a job.
We were originally due to emigrate in October 1963 but as Emily's husband (John) had suddenly died in September, Arthur wanted to be closer to ensure she was going to be OK. In the last few months we were at the farm we had to eat at least 100 chickens. We had a big sale of the cattle, sheep and implements in the autumn. The electricity was connected in the late autumn of 1963 which also pumped water into a tank in the barn then was siphoned into the house. We then built our own septic tank. The farm itself sold quite easily. The new owners lived in Low Barrow and bought it so they could convert the barn into a house and studio for artists. The farm house was rented to the postman’s son and his wife.
When we left the farm we all went in our car (but I don’t remember how we all fitted in) to the train station. I stayed at the station with the girls and luggage whilst Arthur and Brian took the car to an empty block of land somewhere and left it. They then joined us at the station. It was sometime later before Arthur posted the keys to the local police station so they could not find him and charge him.
Most of our belongings had been packed into tea chests – the only restriction was on the weight of each chest and the size of the chest. Arthur’s books had to be split between two chests because of the weight limitation. I had to leave behind my knitting machine because it was too big to fit in any of the chests. I used to do the ribbing by hand and then do the rest on the machine because it was so much quicker with the six of us to knit for. I had packed our tea chests very tight so when they (customs?) opened one to look through and re-pack they could not fit in one of my jugs so it was left behind.
When we got on board the boat we discovered that we were in two cabins. Myself and the girls were in one whilst Arthur and Brian were sharing with four other men in another. We asked everyone if we could be together as a family and it was agreed, which made the trip a lot easier for me. It took a while to find where everything was on the boat but "we just got on with it".
We arrived in Launceston on Australia Day, January 26, 1964. We spent a night in a hotel. The next day we chose furniture and other necessities from an Education Department store and settled into a house on Brooks High School grounds. We bought a Kombi van. Over the next months we went to sales and bought necessary furniture. Our own goods eventually arrived so we could send the Education Department's stuff back. Weekends were spent exploring the countryside. During the winter I could not wash the clothes before 11 am as the water pipe for the laundry was outside the house and it froze overnight.
One of my first challenges in Australia was to learn new customs such as men not shaking hands with women. Also there were new words to learn; gumboots instead of Wellingtons, raincoat instead of Mack (for Mackintosh), and sandshoes for plimsolls. There were also new idioms to learn such as 'bring a plate'. I found the green of the eucalypt trees to be very depressing. I was used to seeing the bright green of evergreen trees such as fir and cedar, and I missed the bare form of the deciduous tree.
Gwyneth joined a Guide Company and Brian the Scouts as he had been a Scout at Lancaster Grammar School. I asked if Gwyneth could be enrolled with my badge and it was not long before I was asked if I would be a District Commissioner for Mowbray. After discussing what was involved, I agreed. The rest is history.
I didn't have time to be homesick at all after arriving in Tasmania, I just kept myself busy. Whilst in Launceston I played tennis which was a good way to meet more people. If Arthur was not around I had to drive the Kombi which I hated. Jill and I walked to the shops most days so I did not need to do a big shop.
At the beginning of 1965 Arthur started a new job in Hobart so we moved to the outskirts of Kingston. As Jill was starting school Arthur suggested I get a part-time job. So I spent nearly five years as secretary to the Executive Officer of the Students Union at the University of Tasmania. I worked from 9 am – 2 pm and occasional evenings when I took minutes of meetings. I caught the bus home that Sheila and Jill caught after school in Kingston. After that I worked full-time as State Secretary to the Girl Guides Association of Tasmania.
Soon after moving to Kingston, Arthur met Ian Edwards the local Pharmacist who encouraged us to join St Johns Ambulance as volunteers.
We enjoyed exploring Tasmania in our holidays and long weekends. Some favourite places were Boat Harbour, Bicheno, Mt. Field and later camping at Dover, Coles Bay and Trumpeter Bay, Bruny Island then staying in Guide houses in Roches Beach (Orana), St Helens and Myuna.
We attended the Methodist Church at Kingston Beach for many years as there was no local Congregational church but when they joined with the Congregational and Presbyterian churches to become the Uniting Church we sought out a way to stay Congregationalist. We found the Continuing Congregationalist Churches Association which had small but active churches at Prospect, Richmond and Cradoc. Prospect closed in the late 1970s, Cradoc (which we attended once a month) closed in the early 2000’s and Richmond (which I attended till it closed) eventually closed in March 2016 which was 40 years beyond the amalgamation of the other churches.
I returned to England in December 1970 to see Mum, then again with Arthur, Sheila and Jill in 1975. I think I continued visiting Mum every four years until she died in 1987. In the meantime, Arthur had various things to attend to overseas and he also wanted to visit the parts of Italy he had seen when in the Army. The places that stick out the most are Oberammergau, Greece, Orkney and Shetland.
I have always had a liking for gardening so when we moved to Bonnet Hill in 1971 we joined the Society for Growing Australian Plants. We learnt a lot about the best local plants that needed less manual watering.
Whilst working for the Guides I became the delegate for National Council of Women and remain a member but not very active at present.
When I retired in 1983 I discovered the Kingborough Women's Club at Kingston Beach and have been a member ever since, attending weekly sewing and scrabble groups as well as one off excursions and lunches. This is probably when I started cross stitch. I am finishing my last one at the moment (October 2016) because it is getting too hard. Around this time I read an advertisement for guides for the Penitentiary in Campbell St and I thought why not? I really enjoyed this role and learnt a lot myself. Working with Adult Literacy started the same as the penitentiary – interest from an advertisement for volunteers.
I can't say that I have had a 'best holiday' but my favourite holiday place would have to be the Greek Islands because of the history. I found them diverse, interesting, relaxing and of course, nice weather.
There are two places I would have loved to have visited but didn't. The first is the Rhine River in Germany where the cruise ships go – I did get to Hungary instead for which I am really thankful as it was a bonus trip for us whilst Arthur attended a conference. The other place I didn’t get to was Canada.
My favourite pieces of music are The Messiah and Abide with Me and hymn would be O Jesus I have promised, whilst the piano piece I choose to play is Chopin.
My food of choice is salmon and colour is blue. When I was little I always wore green as it was the only colour that did not clash with my hair but as an adult I chose blue or black. These colours no longer suit me so I now wear lighter colours.
Each week I look forward to the everyday outings/activities on my calendar as they make me get up and get going but love one off events also because they are different, can be a challenge to get there and I enjoy learning new things so they make me think.
—Source: Sheila Phythian (Eileen's daughter.)
Other Memories of Mum
by Sheila Phythian
Mum didn’t say it in her story, but the reason she was able to play piano for school occasions was that she had attained grade 8 on piano. When I visited England with her in 2009 Brian Sackett very kindly chauffeured us around Thanet. On one occasion we visited the building where the boarding school had been and Mum talked about where her dorm had been. The building was originally built as a summer holiday place for Queen Victoria and several of the queen’s beloved dogs are buried in the grounds.
We visited with several of her friends on that trip, one of whom had been friends with Mum since Mum was 5 and Janet was 6. Their mothers also had been friends. At that time their friendship had lasted 79 years. Through our various moves and those Janet had made with her husband who was a Church Minister they had kept in touch with letter writing. Mum had quite a few friendships she kept up with by writing letters. She always seemed to have an aerogram on the go.
Mum was strong about girls being given every opportunity, so all of her daughters were taught not only to cook and sew and garden, but also to use tools. As a teenager at home I regularly used Dad’s hammer, saw, pliers, drill etc to build things. I was also able to use an axe, chainsaw, sledge hammer and wedges to split firewood and a lawn mower and brush cutter to keep our five acre property tidy. We were also encouraged to make the most of the educational opportunities given to us. Dad, too, played a part in this, making sure I knew how to check and top up the oil and water in the car and that I was competent to change a tyre if it was flat.
In retirement neither Mum nor Dad slowed down. My children started being born about three years into their retirement, but I had to ring and ask ‘Which days are you both going to be home this week?’ to visit with them. Often it would be just one day out of the five. Mum had finished working for the Girl Guides in 1983 when she turned sixty, but she continued to do volunteer work for them through Trefoil Guild, Camp Management Committee and cataloguing and collating archives. Just two months before she died she received her badge and certificate for 60 years of service with the Girl Guide movement.
This service to the community was a hallmark of Mum and Dad’s life and one they passed on to their children. I well remember on our many camping trips stopping for lunch at a picnic ground along the way and being told by Dad, 'Let‘s leave this place cleaner when we leave than it is now. I want you to pick up all the rubbish you can find while your mother gets lunch ready.
In his 50s Dad studied for and passed a Law degree. He then went on to do Masters of Veteran Law. He used this knowledge in his work with Legacy. (Legacy was started at the end of World War 1 by a group of returned soldiers who took their mateship seriously and wanted to help the widows and children of their fallen comrades. It continues strongly to this day.) He devoted so much time and effort to it that he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for Service to the Community shortly before his death in 2004. Mum in turn was also awarded an Order of Australia Medal for Service to the Community for her work with the Girl Guides and The National Council of Women. She received this in 2006.
Mum and Dad had moved out of their five acre block of land in January 2004 and for the first time in 50 years lived in suburbia with neighbours just a few metres away. Thus when Dad died some eight months later Mum was quite able to manage on her own and, in fact, took the opportunity given by not needing to care for Dad any more to study at the University of the third age. She found the stimulus of learning new things and of interacting with other like-minded people to be very enjoyable and challenging.
Mum was always a knitter. She could never sit down in front of the TV without some knitting or other needlework project to work on at the same time. In her later years she kept herself busy knitting clothes for babies and children, some her own grandchildren and great grandchildren, but more often items were donated to groups like Red Cross, Salvation Army or City Mission.
When Mum was 88 she finally decided that it was time to hand in her driver’s license. As she lived in a place where the bus service was infrequent she moved to a unit where the bus service was much better. She became very adept at travelling by bus, even in the later years when she needed a wheelchair friendly bus to get around with her walking frame. At the age of 93 she moved into an aged home having had too many falls to be considered safe to live on her own any longer. Even there she joined the gardening group and the knitting group and joined in with as many activities as possible.
Notes & Citations
- "England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index" (Ancestry image), "Sep qtr 1923. Baylis, Eileen M. Mother: Pickett. Romford. 4a:908."
- Email from Sheila Phythian to Chris Sackett, 23 July 2007.
- Email from Sheila Phythian to Sackett mailing list, Jan 2020.
- "England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index" (Ancestry transcript), "Dec qtr 1947. Baylis, Eileen M. Spouse: Harrison. Ilford. 5a:979."
"Dec qtr 1947. Harrison, Arthur. Spouse: Baylis. Ilford. 5a:979."
|Sackett line||10th great-granddaughter of Thomas Sackett the elder of St Peter in Thanet|
|Charts||Descendants of Benjamin Sackett|
|Last Edited||10 Feb 2022|