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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Still chance of treats for wartime Kirkby children

IN Saturday’s Love Memories we turned the clock back to the dark days of war when schoolgirl Mahala Menzies left behind the nightly air raids on Bristol to sample country life in Kirkby and as a pupil at Ulverston Grammar School.

We didn’t have space to carry all her recollections so they conclude today with a look at some wartime treats.

These details emerged after researcher Roger Rushton made an appeal to evacuees on the Memories Page last September and persuaded Miss Menzies, now 82 and living in London, to share her story. She writes:

During my time in Kirkby there was one shop opposite The Commercial pub, run by the formidable Miss Curwen.

Her one-armed brother drove a delivery van round the village which stopped at Burlington House, and we would buy Goosnas’ meat pies and cakes.

At the end of the Christmas term there would be a dance in the hall. Everyone had to take something for tea/supper.

These items would be taken down to the dining room to be sorted by the kitchen staff, divided among the cake plates and placed on the tables at tea time.

Of course one hoped one would get one’s own sandwiches, and those mixed platters didn’t look too appetising – usually thick sliced bread with a choice largely of meat paste, fish paste, perhaps sardine or (rarely) spam, egg (if one came from a farm) and jam: remember we were tightly rationed.

To drink, there was orangeade.

The father of my form-mate and friend, Mary Postlethwaite, who lived just along the road, still was able to run a car, and he would drive over the moor to bring us home, stopping at Ulverston’s “milk bar” (I think we called it) on the square, to drink a hot orangeade.

We could not have come home on our own in the dark, going by train to Barrow and on to Kirkby, followed by a 20-minute walk along the lower road, first to my home, Burlington House, owned by the slate quarry, and then on to the row of cottages where Mary lived.

Mr and Mrs Geddes – the quarry manager – also lived in part of the Burlington House set-up; also Mr Robinson, who worked in the quarry, his wife, daughter and sister-in-law.

I don’t know about him, but he was always in rough working clothes and spent hours in their large garden, which stretched to the road.

Where the road reached the main road between Grizebeck and Kirkby, one could see the old farmhouse up in the field across the road. I think it was medieval.

One day I had to go and report that one of their sheep in the field behind our house kept falling over, because it had a disease.

Another time, as I was cycling back from a ride out, I saw a sheep in that same field drop its lamb. As my knowledge of birth was nil, my mother said my face was green when I got home and told her!

A very nice teacher who produced the school plays persuaded me to take part in three showings of The Rose and the Ring, wearing one of my mother’s outfits which she had made herself for some opera she had been in. (I think it was Die Fledermaus with the Carl Rosa opera company).

The teacher was thrilled – worth all the extra train travel and fares! Mum came. I don’t really know what she thought.

We were also visited by a ballet company and a Shakespeare company including Dame Sybil Thorndike, who knew my Ma.

Also an actress called Nancy Price gave a reading on stage, I think accompanied by a small dog.

The ballet became my great love, but I realised I was not built for it myself.

For a while I took piano lessons at home from organist Mr Raby of Broughton, whose son Ken was also at Ulverston Grammar School and at lunch time would tinker about on the hall piano surrounded by his pals (classic items, not pop or swing).

Another older boy – perhaps a prefect – was Paul Rimmer, who became a clergyman in Oxford.

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