- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Betty Rickerby nee Burgess
- Location of story:
- Welshampton, Shropshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 July 2005
Betty with other evacuees and farmer's son. Oswestry Advertiser 3rd January 1940
1939 and England was at war. My name is Betty and I was seven years old, and with many other children, I was evacuated. I remember getting on the train at West Derby Station, Liverpool. The station is not there anymore. I had a label pinned to my coat and carried a brown paper bag. When the train stopped we all got off at a place called Welshampton. At the time, I thought it was a little sleepy village.
All the children where taken to the schoolhouse. I think the school was facing the church. I remember a lot of people coming and picking out the children they liked. After a long time, there were just three children left, two sisters and myself who were older than me. There was no one left to give us a home so the vicar and his wife took us in.
They were called Mr and Mrs Goodwin; they had two daughters called Joyce and Wendy, and a son Michael.
My first night at the vicarage was wonderful; I had a bed all to myself. The bedroom overlooked a big garden as big as a field. We soon found out that every vegetable we ate had been grown in the garden. Every night Joyce would read us a bedtime story. I don't think anyone had ever read me a story at bedtime. My gran would sing me a song but to have a book read was something else. The first story Joyce read was called Black Beauty. Wendy used to have a horse in the stable at the bottom of the garden. At first, I thought that Black Beauty was her horse.
Joyce Goodwin ran the Brownies in the church; she soon had us fitted out with Brownie uniforms. I remember when we had a church fete, we would gather the lavender from the garden and put it in little satin pockets, the women would sew them all around in fancy stitches.
There was a cook who lived in at the vicarage and a maid who came in daily. Now Mr Goodwin being a vicar knew that our parents would like us to go to mass. I remember he would take us into Ellesmere to our church on a Sunday, before he did his own service, then someone would bring us back to the vicarage. The village children had their lessons in the morning and the evacuees in the afternoon. Reading writing and arithmetic was all we were taught.
I spent many happy days there with the Goodwin family. Sadly, Mrs Goodwin became ill and we were to be moved. I remember crying I thought I would have to go home and may be killed in the bombing. I was lucky a Mr and Mrs Thomas took me in. Their farm was called Oakley farm and it was facing the vicarage. They had grown up daughters and a son called Harold, about a year or two older than me. I was so happy there. I remember playing hide and seek and climbed the top of the haystack and fell off. I had sprained my ankle, but Mrs Thomas looked after me as if I were her own child. I was at the farm for about a year when my father brought me home. I was very unhappy for a long time. I did write to Mrs Thomas but then time went on and soon I had forgotten all about Welshampton.
The next time I went to Welshampton, it was 1945. I was fourteen and just left school. My mother said I could take a friend. I got my train ticket and soon I was going back. It had been five years. As the train pulled up at the station, all my happy memories came flooding back. I rushed out of the station and down the lane to the farm. I don't know why I didn't go to the Vicarage - perhaps the Goodwins had left. I must have surprised Mrs Thomas - she didn't know I was coming. Anyway, she made us some tea and we chatted for a while. Then her son Harold came in. I didn't recognize him. I felt very embarrassed. We were both so grown up. Once we had played and talked to each other for hours, now we never spoke, we just stared at each other.
Soon Mrs Thomas was telling me it was time I was getting my train home. I said goodbye and kissed her, I never saw her again. I didn't see her daughters - perhaps they didn't live there anymore. Harold walked us back to the station; we were going over old times. He asked had I seen any of the other evacuees that went home. I told him we had moved house because of the bombing and everyone I knew had moved away. He told me the village was having a coach trip to New Brighton in three weeks.
New Brighton was Liverpool seaside - it was just like Blackpool. I arranged to meet him there. Soon the day arrived and my friend and I took the ferry to New Brighton. We found out where the coach park was. We didn't have to wait long till the coach with a big sign on the window saying Welshampton pulled in. We spent the day with Harold and some of his friends. We had a wonderful day but soon the day was ended and it was time to go home. We all promised to keep in touch but never did.
The next time I went to Welshampton, was in 1986 this time I went by car. I was 55 years old. My husband took me there with my youngest daughter. By now, I had married and had six grown up children. But something was always calling me back to Welshampton. This time everything looked so small. My first stop was the vicarage. I remember a man sitting on a large lawnmower and going up and down the field. I ran over to him and asked him if he was the vicar, he assured me he wasn't, but was kind enough to let me tell him I once lived in his house. I told him that big field he was mowing was once a lovely garden. I tried to tell him of all the things that grew there and the lay out of the garden. Once I found a dead bird in the garden, I was so upset. Mr Goodwin found me a cardboard box and we buried the bird in the garden, and had a proper funeral for it. Then the man called his wife who was very interested in me and asked me to describe the vicarage and how it looked when I lived there. I went into the kitchen. I was saddened to see the old fire range gone and everything was so modern. As I wandered through the vicarage, everything was so small. The big castle I used to live in was now gone. I had dreamt it would still be the same. I went over to the farm; I was disappointed, that also had changed. I don't think it was a farm anymore. It looked as if it
had been made into two houses. I knocked on each of the front doors but never got an answer. I strolled around for a while but everything was different, so we decided to leave. Driving down the small lanes, we came to a stream and stopped. There was a small van, and a man selling plants from it at the side of the stream. We bought some plants and I told the man I was once evacuated here a long time ago. He smiled and wished us a safe journey home. I left Welshampton with all my childhood dreams in tatters.
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