Barbara Durrant

Moving around the country

By Barbara Durrant

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Barbara Durrant' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Barbara Durrant' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

A Scottish custom

My grandfather was a doctor, a locum. He went to Falkirk to a practice, and married there. They came back to Harrogate and then moved to Keighley. They used to have a pony and trap. They say my grandma never went beyond her garden gate in 16 years. My mum's mum got measles and went deaf at a young age. I remember having to shout to be heard. My mother's father died when he was 43. I don't remember him at all. I remember my two grandmothers. They didn't really know each other. I didn't know my great grandparents. I was probably closest to my mum's mum. I did know my aunts though. They never married and use to tell us all the stories about the family. On Sundays, my aunts made me learn a psalm at their house. I quite enjoyed it actually. When my father died, no woman could go to his funeral. This was a Scottish custom.

Pie and peas

I was born in Keighley, near Skipton in Yorkshire. Growing up, there was my mum, sister (elder), younger brother, and my step dad. My mother married three times eventually. I have a book tracing my family back to Kent in the 1550s. My father died in 1931 when I was 6 of influenza and pneumonia. It was a hard time as they had a young son at the time. My sister is older, and still misses him, although I hardly remember him. My stepfather had one of the first milk bars in the country. I've got a photo. It sold ice creams, milkshakes and coffee, and was so popular that he used to open till 2am. People used to be queuing, and I had to push the door to stop them from getting in. All the girls used to come in every day from a nearby factory and have the same lunch, pie and peas.

My mother made me sit at the table and chew my fish till it was like string and I ate it. I hated fish. I loved Shepherd's pie, trifles and knickerbocker glories. My step dad used to make them for the milk bar. I was allowed one occasionally. We all had to stay at the table till we were finished our meal. My mum used to split us up if we were naughty, and say, "you sit there, and you sit over there".

Fever hospital

I have some memories of my dad. I went into fever hospital and I took my teddy bear, and my dad said, "you won't be able to bring it back home with you" (because of the infection). When I came out, they came to get me in a taxi and my dad brought me a new teddy bear. My mum put a poultice on me once, and it was so hot that I got blisters and it burnt me. I had to go to hospital.

Dried bread

I used to be a boarder at school, then a day girl. We stayed at school for lunch. I was the smallest girl in the school, so I sat at the end of the table. When we played outside at break time, they used to put bits of dried bread on plates for us to eat. I went to boarding school age 8 in 1935 till I was 11. I left school at 16. It was called Crossley and Porter and was a mixed school. I remember getting lines at school for getting into trouble. You were supposed to write each line one after the other, but I used to write I, I, I, then the next word all down the page.

After school, I remember visits to London to see shows and shops and the Harrods food hall to look at all the food. We went to London when we got engaged in 1947 to see Oklahoma. I was a flibbertigibbet and did some modelling including events at the Albert Hall, I had long blonde locks then.

A move to the countryside

I stayed in Eastbourne for one year. I lived in Southfields Road when I got married. The house was pulled down and a new one built. Then my husband got a job in Lewes, so we lived near Cooksbridge, this was a move out to the countryside. We had a bucket, and grew the finest nettles in the area! We were there for 6 years, renting the cottage. It was an estate cottage, and the owner converted it whilst we were there, new bathroom, kitchen etc. When we got there, there was an earthen floor in the kitchen. He put an Aga in which was wonderful. They put a new staircase in, so we only had a ladder to go upstairs. The first bath we had there was my husband's old army bath, made of canvas on stilts. I remember sitting in it. It never collapsed! You had to sit cross legged in it.

Death watch beetle knocking at night

The cottage had very low ceilings and oak beams. You could hear the death watch beetle knocking at night. In the inglenook the birds used to nest. This was near Lewes, in Cooksbridge, opposite the Post Office. The kitchen had two walk in cupboards. There was grass coming in through the bricks in the kitchen floor. There was an old well outside, but it was covered over, as someone had found a rat in it. There was an old bread oven in the kitchen, and whitewashed walls.

We kept geese and chickens. One day it rained and the little goslings which didn't have feathers, looked like they'd drowned. I put them in the bottom tray of the Aga to revive them and it worked. The original goose was sent down by my mother by train. It was called Jimmy until it laid an egg, then it was called Jemima!

Ghana to Guildford

We went to Ghana for four years building houses. It was really colourful, lorries going past with biblical sayings written on them. Then my husband got a job in Guildford, so we came back for three years. Then we bought a business in Eastbourne and came back here. My son was born in 1952, and then I had my next son in '64. They get on very well, both schooled in Eastbourne. We moved then from Denton Road to on the seafront, Southcliffe Avenue, off King Edward's Parade.

Another move... to France

When my husband retired, he wanted to go and live in France, so we did, to near Lyons for nearly 10 years. Before we left I took O' level French. My sister lived in Arundel first. My mother came to live in Lushington Road when she married again. Neither of my sons are married. My husband died in 1994 of cancer. I had to come back from France, selling the house. The French people were very good to us though. Now I live in Eastbourne again!

This page was added by Susan Morrison on 31/12/2007.

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