Eileen Roberts' Story


Following the death of my father in 1941, I was sent to Fern House, Dorset, from London as an

18 month old evacuee. I stayed there until I was five years of age, at which time I was required to leave.

I was then cared for by a wonderful family with the name of Bradley, in Tisbury, Wilts.

I stayed with then until 1947, when I returned to my mother and stepfather who were then living in

Harrow, Middx.

I know very little about the first five years of my life in Fern House, and wonder if there is anyone

else who can share their memories of that time and place with me.



Hi Everyone!

Reading about other people's experiences during the war, reminded me of

how different life was for us then. Times were tough, which was only to

be expected, of course. However, I look at what people have today, and

remember what we had back then, and I am amazed at how we survived.

Most of the children I knew were healthy enough, even though food was

rationed. I lived in the country, so I have no idea how life was for

the kids in cities.

There is one event that sticks in my memory, however, and I wonder if

anybody else has similar memories. I must have been about five years

old at the time, with the war not long ended. I was still living as an

evacuee in Tisbury, Wiltshire. Once a week, late in the afternoon, a

local village shop had a consignment of Walls or Lyons ice creams

delivered. This was a real treat for us, because as you will remember

ice cream was something all wartime children were denied. The ice

creams were little round blocks with paper around the edges, which you

removed before placing onto a wafer cone. I remember they cost 3d

each. This amount stays in my head because each week, on the day they

arrived in the shop, and after I arrived home from school, my auntie

left me a three penny bit to buy an ice cream. One week when I arrived

home, the three penny bit was not sitting on the table, as I had expected

it to be, so I took a three penny bit from auntie's purse, believing she

had forgotten to leave one for me. Little did I know at the time that

she couldn't afford to leave the money that week, and did I get into

trouble for stealing! It was a lesson I never forgot.

Talking of rationing, does anyone remember when sweets came off ration,

and how the shops sold out in a few hours? How times have changed!

Eileen Roberts



Hi everyone!

I thought it was time that I tell you about an event that occurred in

my early childhood, as described to me by my mother before she passed

away. For some reason, my mother didn't tell me very much about the

things that had happened to her, so I had to wait until I was in my late

thirties before I was told the following true story. I guess she found

it hard to talk about her saddest moments.

I was 19 months old when my father died, which meant that my mother was

forced to go out to work to provide for us both. Before

the war mum had worked in domestic service and as a nurse, but as we all

now know, the war changed all that and women were encouraged to work

in areas normally occupied by men. That is why my mother ended up

working in a munitions factory. (She used to brag to me about operating

a lathe!)

Apparently, while my mother worked, a neighbor of hers cared for me.

Bombs were dropping over London, and my mother's neighbor became panic

stricken as she did not want the responsibility of anything happening to

me while I was in her care. Because of this, she told my mother that

she would no longer care for me, and suggested that mum make

arrangements for me to be evacuated out of London. Mum took her advice,

and approached the relevant authorities so that arrangements could be

made for my evacuation.

It seems that very little contact was made with my mother by the

authorities about where I would be sent. The only advice she was given

was that she had to arrive at Waterloo Station on a particular date, at

a particular time, and someone would be there to meet her. Mum

dutifully turned up at the appointed time; waited on the platform, and

was met by a woman who introduced herself as being a representative of

the relevant government authority. She then asked my mother if her

child was Eileen, and when my mother answered 'Yes,' the woman

apparently took me from mum's arms, walked away with me, and alighted

the train that was standing at the platform. My mother told me she

didn't know the woman's name, or where I was being taken, and she

watched the train leaving the station without knowing where I had gone.

It was apparently one week before anyone made contact with her to tell

her that I was at Fern House in Dorset. For a whole week mum had no

idea what had happened to me! Can you imagine that?

As a footnote to this story, the woman who looked after me while my

mother worked, continued to live in the same house, but soon after my

departure the house was bombed, and the woman was killed. As they say:

'There but for the grace of God, go I ".





I have enjoyed reading the tales of when some of you arrived in the U.S. 

My arrival in Australia in 1962 was nowhere near as interesting or as exciting.

  At the time when I was selected to migrate to Australia, I was given a choice of

traveling by air or by sea. (I came as a ten-pound migrant, like many others at that time.)

  I chose to travel by air as I was in a hurry to arrive at my destination. 

I wished later that I had taken the opportunity to take the six-week trip by sea, because

the ship went to all sorts of exotic places at the time. 

I traveled to Australia by Qantas airlines, and it took 36 hrs from London to Sydney.

Unlike today's journey which has one stop; we stopped at many different cities.  

I then traveled by train from Sydney to Melbourne, which took another day, with a further

day's traveling from Melbourne to Adelaide.  In that time I had very little sleep, and I

remember almost falling asleep on my feet

while I was trying to find something to do in Melbourne. I don't think

I have every felt so tired.

When I arrived in Sydney I noticed there were lots of members of the press with

photographers waiting to meet the aircraft that I was traveling on. 

I thought, 'Wow, they have got word that I am arriving!'  But alas, I later learnt

they were not there to meet me but the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer)

who had just been on a visit to Europe to drum up interest in migration to Australia.

  I did get interviewed by a journalist from the 'Sydney Morning Herald' though,

and she asked me why I had decided to migrate to Australia.

  I told her my sorry tale that I had been engaged to a person and had intended marrying

him when I arrived in Adelaide, but that the day before I left England

I  received a telegram to say the engagement was off.  The journalist asked why

I wanted to go to Adelaide, because Sydney was a much more interesting place for a single girl

l to live in, and then she was off. 

I never saw the following day's edition of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' so I don't

know whether my tale of woe ever got reported.


The time that I arrived in Adelaide was the beginning of a huge influx of British

migrants to Australia.  Most of them stayed, but some were very unhappy and returned to Britain.

They have had an enormous influence on Adelaide (as well as Australia)

, and when you visit the city and meet the people you can't help but notice this. 

Remembering Adelaide as it was back in the 1960's I think it has benefited enormously from the

influence of migrants from all cultures, especially so far as food is concerned,

as has the rest of the country.  I live in Canberra now, which is another city with a large British influence.

Incidentally, does anyone intend visiting Sydney for the Olympics?  It will be well worth the visit.


Eileen R



Hi everyone!

Here's a change of subject. Can anyone remember how they heard the news

that the war had ended? I was only five at the time, but I distinctly

remember being woken by Auntie with great excitement, and being told

'The war has ended.' I don't remember a great deal more about that

particular situation, but I do recall going into the village later that

morning and seeing several tanks lining the edge of the village square.

(The village of Tisbury is on the Salisbury Downs, near the Salisbury

Plains, which is an area used extensively by the military, so tanks must

have been in the vicinity at the time.) I also remember going up to one

of the tanks, which had soldiers sitting on top, and being pulled up by

one of the soldiers, and feeling very important at the time.

Here's another story that I would like to share with you. The

significance of this event only became apparent to me during the

celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the ending of the second world

war. I have calculated the month that the event took place must have

been May 1945. This was because I had to leave Fern House in Dorset

(the nursery that I had been living in since I was an 18 month old baby)

on reaching the age of five at the end of April 1945, and because the

allies landed in Normandy on 6 June 1945. The event that I am going to

talk about, therefore, must have happened around May of that year.

Early one morning, news spread around the village that there were lots

of American soldiers in a field that the villagers new as 'Camp Field'.

This field was just a short distance from the cottage that I was living

in. With great curiosity, my friends took me to the field to see the

soldiers. I remember very vividly the scene at the time. You must

remember I was just five then, so my awareness of what I saw could have

been exaggerated. However, I know there were very many US soldiers just

sitting on the ground. I also remember they were in uniform, and

chewing gum. My friends and I just wandered up to the soldier, and

although I don't think I said too much, because I was always shy, I do

remember being offered some gum, which I took. The next morning we went

back to the field to see the soldiers again, but to our amazement they

had gone. No-one in the village heard them either arrive or depart,

which happened in the dead of night, as they were exceptionally quiet.

As I mentioned earlier, this event didn't mean much to me until I was

watching a program on television just before the 50th anniversary of D

Day. On hearing that many thousands of US soldiers were deployed

though out Britain, just before the landing in Normandy, and also that

they had moved only at night, to prevent alerting the Germans of the

intention to invade Europe, I immediately remembered the event and

realized its significance. I must admit that on realizing what had

probably happened I felt tremendous sympathy for the soldiers that I had

met, and had spoken to. I also wondered how many of them made it back

home. It was a truly sobering experience for me.




Hi all!

Talking of radios!  I remember the radio we had in Tisbury was operated by battery.

That would have been around 1945/6.  Each week the battery had to be removed and taken to a

shop in the village, where it was exchanged for another battery that was fully charged. 

It was quite cumbersome to carry because it was rather large - it may even have been

as big as a car battery (of course I was little at the time and everything seemed very big to me then!)

I also remember we didn't have electricity at the time, but once we became

connected the radio changed, and we ended up with one that was operated by electricity.

You will probably recall there were three radio stations that we could listen to in those days,

all delivered by the BBC.  I think I am right in recalling they were the Light program

which catered for, as Patrick would say, the less 'posh' or lowbrow listener; the

Home program for the highbrow or 'posh' listener, and the other station which I

think was simply called 'the Third program(correct me if I'm wrong)

which catered for the very highbrow listener.  We nearly always listened to the Light programme.  My

mother, who loved classical music, often listened to the Home program, and I must say that

without realizing it at the time, I developed quite an appreciation for the

great composers and their works.  This has stayed with me even until today, and when my

daughter, who plays the piano and teaches music,  plays certain compositions I am

instantly taken back to those days of listening to the BBC.


When I  returned to my mother, the rules for listening to the radio were very strict. 

I was not allowed to listen to 'Dick Barton, special Agent' because my parents believed very strongly

that my morals would be corrupted if I did (why, I can't imagine?), so I

used to visit my friend's house to listen to the repeats after school - that was

until I got caught! One program we were allowed to listen to,

though, was 'Journey Into Space.'  Does anyone  remember that? 

Each week, we sat huddled around the radio and imagined ourselves hurtling into space

in a rocket.  Little did we realize then that man would eventually walk on the moon!  My

husband, John, has just reminded me of a program that he used to listen to, called 'Biggles'.

  Does anyone else remember listening to that?  He reckoned it was great!

Like you, Jim, I remember Julie Andrews appearing regularly on the Archie Andrews Show. 

I listened to her every week, and was amazed at how high she could reach her voice. 

What about that other wonderful lady, 'The Forces Sweetheart,' Vera Lynn?

  Her popularity continued long after the war had ended.  Also, Gracie Fields,

who was popular right up until her death.

I'll stop now, before I get too carried away!




Gerry Wiseman wrote:


Did any of you guys live under similarly primitive conditions?

Let's talk about it.

Hi everyone!

The house you described, Gerry, sounded just like the house I lived in when I was an evacuee in Tisbury.

We had oil lamps too,

and when they were lit they gave a strange sort of lighting. When I went upstairs to bed I

used a candle to light my way, and I can remember to this day the huge

and funnily shaped shadows that were created.

I also remember we always had supper, which consisted of bread and cheese, and a milk

drink of some kind before going to bed

. A loaf of bread was always put on a bread board which was placed on the table,

and Auntie would cut a slice of bread by standing the loaf on one end,

spreading a thin layer of butter on the other end which was already cut, and then, very carefully, she

would cut the slice from right to left. I have never seen anyone cut bread that way since.

It was most unusual.

Before supper we would often play a game. We had great fun on those evenings, and I

remember splitting my sides with laughter when Auntie was losing,

as she always seemed to make such fun of the situation. I still enjoy those rare occasions when my

present family get together for a similar evening. These days, of course, we are more likely to

play monopoly, or some other game, but those games don't seem to generate

the same sort of thrill for me as the games in Tisbury did; maybe it's because, like many things these days,

we take life too seriously.

We didn't have water connected to the house either, and the loo was at the end of what seemed

to me then, to be a very long path.

It was next to the wash house, which contained a wash copper, and next to that was the

woodshed, which contained a mangle which Auntie used to squeeze the water out of the washing.

A fire was lit under the copper very early on a Monday morning (and I mean early!)

to heat the water and boil the clothes, and Auntie would have all of her washing on the line, which ran the full

length of the path, by the time I got up for school. Provided the day was not wet, she would have

all the ironing done by the time I got home from school.

I honestly don't know how she did it!

Monday evening was always bath night for me, when we used the hot water from the

copper. Of course, in those days pure soap was used to do the washing,

so it didn't affect the skin as a detergent would do today. Auntie always put a small tin

bath in front of the black range stove in the kitchen,

and then proceeded to bring buckets of hot water up from the wash house to fill the bath.

I would then soak in the bath in front of the stove. I loved bath night I can't remember where,

or how, the adults bathed!

Life was so different then, but I don't think that we were any worse off!




When I left London, I was sent to Fern House in Dorset, which was

apparently confiscated by the Government from one of the Dukes (which

one, I cannot recall) and converted into a nursery for evacuees under

the age of five. Children were allowed to stay there until they reached

their fifth birthday, and then they were required to move elsewhere.

>From what I gather, there was very little formal organization involved

in arranging new accommodation for the children, as it was very much a

matter of who was prepared to take them in.

In my case, it seems that my mother had insisted that I go to a Catholic

home. Being in the south west of England, you can imagine what a tall

order that was at the time. I was lucky, however, because I was

fortunate enough to be sent to the home of one of the kindest women that

ever lived - Mrs. Bradley, or as she is better known to me, 'Auntie'.

Because of the lack of organization in finding homes for the children, I

understand it was left to the doctor who attended at Fern House, Dr.

Foley, to arrange for three children, including myself, to be

accommodated. As Dr. Foley lived in Tisbury, he used his influence to

persuade families that he knew to provide homes for us. Because of my

mother's stipulation, he approached Auntie, whom he knew to be a

Catholic, and asked whether she would accept me. At first she refused,

saying she couldn't go through the pain of eventually having to part

with me. Dr. Foley, it seems, kept on asking, and Auntie kept on

refusing. It wasn't until her 14 year old daughter, Alma, said she

would like a little sister that Auntie eventually succumbed. Thus began

the happiest years of my childhood.

My memory of leaving Fern House is very sketchy, but the memory of

waking up the following morning in Auntie's house in Tisbury is very

vivid. I was in a house called 'Lilac Cottage', with no electricity and

no toilet, but this would become to me the happiest place in the

world. I don't remember going to bed, but I do recall the next

morning, after getting up, standing in one of those beautiful porcelain

washbowls, looking out of the small window, while Auntie sponged me

down. This was because I had soiled the bed through being so nervous.

While looking out of the window I saw two girls of my own age playing,

Marion and Beryl. The three of us became the best of friends, and I

kept in touch with them for many years after I left Tisbury. I

was recently told that Marion's mother, Mrs. Blandford, who I believe is

now well into her 90s, was asking about me. When I heard that I was

quite touched.

My departure from Tisbury at the age of 8 1/2 is one of the most painful

memories that I have, and I will not dwell on it. Suffice it to say,

that I kept in touch with Auntie, Uncle and Alma, regularly, and visited

them until I left England in 1962. I haven't been back to Tisbury since

then. I do, however, visit Alma who now lives in Salisbury, each time I

return to the UK, and I try to phone her as often as I can. I last saw

Auntie in 1988, just before her death.

I don't suppose my experience differs very much from those of other

evacuees, but it is just another example of how all our young lives

were disrupted. The good thing is that we managed to survive the war,

growing to adulthood relatively unscathed.

Until the next time,




Gerry Wiseman wrote: Did you dislike your name?

Were you ever teased about it or some physical feature. As a kid were you

ever called "Fatty?" Or "Four eyes"? Or "Skinny"? Or some other equally irritating nickname.

Hi everyone!

I don't recall being called names, as such, but I do remember being bullied by other children.

As a child I was incredibly shy and insecure, and suspect this had something

to do with my early childhood experiences. All I wanted to do was sit quietly at my desk and pretend

I was invisible.

When I left Tisbury and moved to Harrow, I had a 25 min. walk to get to my school.

The school I attended was an all girls school run by nuns, and in order

to get there I had to pass children from one of the other schools in the area. I was required to wear the

mandatory school uniform, which included a beret type hat that had a tassel hanging down the

back - an irresistible temptation for some of the little monsters that I encountered.

Every day I had to run the gauntlet by passing these brats. They would circle

me and taunt me, and always they would grab a hold of the tassel and try to pull the hat from my head.

As I kept the hat on wit ha piece of elastic under my chin, you can imagine how painful it was for me.

Eventually, I kept my hat off until I came into the view of the school,

when I would have to put it back on again.

I cannot remember how long this bullying continued, but I do remember feeling sick every time I

reached the area where the other children were waiting for me.

I don't remember telling anyone about being bullied, because again I was too shy to

talk about it.



Gerry's story about going to the Saturday matinee for 7d reminded me of an

incident that happened to me when I was a child. I was asked by some friends

to go to the 'Saturday morning pictures' at the Odeon in Wealdstone. It cost

6d to get in, and I didn't have any money, so, as I was desperate to go with

them, and as no-one was around for me to ask for money, I did the next best

thing - I searched behind and underneath the cushions on the lounge chairs and

settee, which I always found to be a good source for money. (Did anyone else

do this?) On this occasion I could only find farthings, so I

carefully collected 24 of them, placed them in an envelope, fronted up to the

cashier in the cinema, and dumped the whole lot on the counter in front of

her. She was not amused and told me that while she would accept the

farthings on this occasion, if I ever gave her that amount again she would

not let me in. I remember feeling very unimpressed with her comment and

thought she was being totally unreasonable. After all, it took a lot of

effort on my part to find the money.




Life certainly is a great deal different to the way it was during and after the war years.

As I have mentioned previously, when I first arrived in Tisbury we didn't have electricity -

we used candles and oil lamps;  The wireless was run on a battery, much larger than the ones

we use today;  we had no washing machine, with the weekly wash being done in a copper

(under which a fire was lit) in the washhouse at the end of the garden, and the clothes were put

through a 'mangle' to squeeze out the water;  the milk, which was in large urns, was brought to

the house in a horse-drawn cart (we had to give the milk lady a jug for the milk to be put in); 

the main form of transport was the steam train; and very occasionally a picture film would

be shown in the village hall.

As tough as life was then, and maybe I look back at life through rose-coloured glasses,

I really do believe some food items  tasted better then than they do today.  Bread, for instance,

I am sure the yeast used then, which required at least 24 hrs in which to rise, unlike yeast today,

had an effect on how bread  tasted - to me, it definitely tasted better;  the yolks of eggs were always

much more golden in colour - no battery hens then, only free range hens which ate lots of greens; 

milk seemed to be richer and creamier, as did  butter; and as for sausages -  well -  to this day I

yearn for a good old English pork sausage which you just cannot get here in Australia.

If I thought life was simple during my time in Tisbury, I found it to be even more so when

I arrived in Ireland for the first time in 1957.  The house that I stayed in, which was the house

my stepfather grew up in, was on the main street in Dunmanway, Co. Cork.  On my first morning

there, I was awoken to the clip clop sound of donkeys walking up and down the street, which seemed

to go on endlessly.  Then, it was the main form of transport for the local people, as the twentieth

century seemed to take forever to arrive in that part of the world.  I was fascinated by the slow pace of

life evident then, which today would suit me down to the ground, but I was saddened when in 1993 I

returned to find there were no donkeys left, only cars -the twentieth century seemed finally to have

caught up with Dunmanway. 

Until the next time,




For years I kept buried in my subconscious my early childhood experiences. I did not confront them

until after my mother had passed away,

and for some reason unbeknownst to me, the birth of my first grandchild.  I regret very much the fact

that I did nott alk to my mother more about my early years,

although I now realize this impaired communication was most

likely because of the lack of bonding between mother and daughter - an unfortunate result

of separation.  I am sure, however, that I am not alone in that regard.


While I was incredibly shy, I instinctively thought this was how most children responded. 

Needless to say, as an adult, I have managed to overcome this difficulty,

and have little hesitation now in addressing audiences, in the course of my work.

As an evacuee I found it odd referring to 'auntie and uncle,' when all the children whom I played

with spoke about their 'mummy and daddy.'

  At the time, I was unaware of my father's death, and knew my mother only as a person who

occasionally visited me So far as I was concerned, she was a total stranger.

  I was about nine years old when my mother told me about my father's death. 


Just another upset that had to be dealt with.

I would like to believe my childhood experiences have enabled me to give to my

children those things which I was denied as a child.

Having three gorgeous grandchildren, and not having to concern myself with their upbringing,

I have time to reflect upon those things which were missing from my own childhood. 

I find that I lavish much love and attention upon them, which I

suppose is my way of compensating for the love and attention that I was denied. 

I should add, however, that my foster family lavished much kindness and love upon me.

So far as I am concerned, there is no doubt that my childhood experiences have had a profound

effect upon my adult life, and subsequently upon that of my family.

Until the next time, take care.





Christmas has always been a very special occasion in my family. When I was an evacuee

in Tisbury, Auntie always put me to bed very early on Christmas eve and then woke me

up at about 11.15 Pm to get me dressed. Then in the dead of night we would walk to the

local church to attend Midnight Mass. There were no street lights, and I remember it being

so dark. As a very small child I found it hard to stay awake, but I always enjoyed watching t

he baby Jesus being placed in the crib. The tradition has remained with me for most of my life,

although in the last year or two I have not attended Midnight Mass, choosing instead to attend

the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. When I do go, however, I find it a wonderful way to start

the festivities.

When I left Tisbury and moved back with my mother and stepfather, Mum and an aunt of

mine would spend Christmas eve baking fruit mince pies and shortbread, as well as

lots of different small cakes. The occasion was always very special and jolly, and my

sister and I would fight to lick the mixing bowls. Of course, the Christmas pudding and

Christmas cake would have been made months earlier. I remember one of you

mentioning silver coins being placed in the Christmas pudding - my mother kept some

of those early silver threepences (does anyone remember them?) Because they were

made from silver it was OK to place them in the mixture, but later on when they made

the coins from nickel it wasn't safe to do so, without wrapping them in paper first.


Being Irish, my stepfather and uncle would always go to the local pub while Mum

and my aunt prepared Christmas dinner. Mum was a wonderful cook, and she brought

some of her culinary skills with her from when she was a cook in her young days in

some grand house. I loved those dinners so much that I continued the tradition by

ooking similar meals for my family. Regardless of the temperature (this is Australia!)

we always have a traditional Christmas dinner - the day wouldn't be the same without it,

as Christmas dinner has a special flavour to it. I am sure my girls will continue the

tradition because they too love the Christmas fare that we dish up.

As most families in England did, we always listened to the King's/Queen's speech at

three o'clock on Christmas day. I remember

Mum commenting after the King had spoken how badly, or how improved,

his stutter was. Everyone loved him so much.



Gerry wrote:

Remember all those white boxy prefabs that sprung up seemingly

overnight like so many mushrooms on bombed sites after the war? It

seems to me that they were constructed of asbestos. I think that there

were still plenty of them left in Hackney when I left for a 5 month

trip to the USA in 1956. Does anyone remember anything about them like

what they cost? How long they lasted etc.? Did any of you live in one?


I certainly do, Gerry.  My family was given one in April 1947, and it

was for that reason that I was finally returned to my mother three

months later.  They were built on an LCC housing estate in Harrow

Weald, on land which was confiscated from the Blackwell family of

Crosse & Blackwell fame.  Mum and Dad had the choice of any prefab

they wanted, as they were the first to move into the street.  Our

street was the only one with prefabs, with the remainder of the estate

being built of more solid constructions.


When mum moved in she was thrilled to discover the kitchen was the

most modern you could get at the time, which even included a fridge,

an unattainable commodity for most people.  The prefab consisted of

two bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, and separate toilet and bathroom.  It

was only supposed to last for 10 years, but 20 years later they were

still standing.  They have now been removed, being replaced with a

very ugly block of flats.


We moved out having lived there for 14 years, but by the time we left

you could see daylight through a gap between the bedroom floor and the

wall, so they really were past their used-by date.


I believe the prefabs were made of asbestos sheeting, but as I have

suffered no ill-effects as a result of living in one for a number of

years, I presume I am OK.


It was unfortunate, but I later discovered that some people looked

down on those of us who lived in prefabs.  This was so bad, as far as

I was concerned, that I reached a point in my life when I wouldn't

even admit to living in one.  How my attitude has changed since then. 

I now realize that most of the people who were our neighbours at the

time, were intelligent and well-behaved members of the community. 

Their only problem was that they were unfortunate enough to be made

homeless as a result of the war, and were in desperate need of



My sister told me recently that the happiest years of her life were

when we lived in the prefab, and that she hated it when we moved.  I

wouldn't go so far as to say they were the happiest years of my life,

but they were certainly comfortable.  Mind you, that probably had a

lot to do with the fact that Dad put a lot of effort into making

the prefab a home for us, and spent a lot of time in the garden, which

ended up looking like a cottage garden.  It makes a difference,

doesn't it?

Eileen R


One afternoon, on returning home from school, I found Aunty in tears.  

While holding a letter in her hand she told her daughter, Alma, that my

mother had written to her to say that she would be taking me back.

 Seven years had passed since I last lived with my mother, and now she

had decided she wanted me to be with her again.  I didn't like what I had

heard, and promptly relegated the news to the back of my mind.


I heard nothing more about the matter until just before the dreadful day

of departure, when I heard the children that I played with talking about

me moving to London, and how dirty the city was.  I denied that I would

be leaving, because so far as I was concerned it just wasn't true.  

Then I heard Aunty discussing my departure with another person,

and at that point I decided it must be true, that I did not want to

leave Tisbury, and that nothing was going to make me.  

So, I hatched a plan to run away.



My mother arrived, on her own, and stayed a few days before returning

with me to London.  I don't recall anything being said to me about leaving,

until just before the time came for my departure.  It was then that I decided to

put my plan into action.  I had decided that I would head in the direction of

the home of a family friend.  I had never actually visited her home, mind you,

but I knew which direction the bus went in, and also that she lived in a place

called Fonthill.  On the morning of the day of departure, when no-one was

looking, I made my move, and left.


While walking along the main road in the direction of Fonthill, I met the older

sister of a friend of mine, Diana, with some of her own friends.

 She stopped me and asked where I was going.  

I told her I was not going to London, and that I was running away.  

She left in the opposite direction, and I continued on my way.  

Before going very much further I heard someone calling my name, and when

I turned around I saw Alma running after me, asking me to stop.  

It seems Diana had gone straight to Aunty to tell her what she had seen and heard.

 Alma wanted me to return with her but I refused, and it was only when she

pleaded with me, and told me that Aunty would be very upset with me, that I gave in.

 Heaven only knows what would have happened to me if my plan had not been

discovered, because I had no idea where Fonthill was, or how far away.


The journey to London was a nightmare.  To this day I cannot see a train leaving

an English country railway station without instantly being reminded of the view

I saw when the train pulled away from Tisbury.  I cried all the way to Salisbury,

then all the way to Waterloo, and then all the way to Headstone Lane in Harrow Weald,

on the Bakerloo line.  I continued crying for a full week, and wouldn't leave my

bedroom.  All I did was sit at the window and watch the trains go by, wishing

I was on one of them so that I could return to Tisbury.  

Eventually, my mother lost her patience and told me to stop my crying and to

start getting on with life.  It was years before I felt as though I belonged to

that family, even though my stepfather did everything he could to make me

feel welcomed.  He even bought me a puppy as a welcome home gift,

but as luck would have it the puppy died from distemper soon after I

arrived.  What a bad omen that was!


Years later, Dad told me how difficult I was at the time, and that all I did was

compare everything they had offered me with what I had in Tisbury.

 Nothing, it seems, was good enough for me, with even the radio being i

inferior to the one Aunty owned.  As an adult I can now see what a pain I must

have seemed.  However, I also appreciate that separation from the only family

I had known was a traumatic experience for me as an eight-year old child,

and that a lot of loving and understanding was essential if I was going to

be able to cope.  Maybe my memory is coloured, but I don't remember getting

a great deal of that.




Updated 7/23/01