The family story – part 8– the motherless child

After her mother died, Jane lived with her grandparents, her mother’s father and her father’s mother, until she was seven. She loved them dearly and was very happy there. I don’t know where her father lived – he was away a good deal on business; the late 1920s were a time of high unemployment and you obtained work where you could. It doesn’t seem likely that he stayed with his father-in-law except for the odd night or two, but my mother never mentioned going to visit him, although he was obviously part of her life. It’s the sort of question you don’t think to ask until it’s too late to find out the answer.

Her grandparents were getting old and infirm and could not look after little Jane forever. Her father remarried. In those days, little heed was paid to the feelings of small children, and it seems that there was little attempt to prepare her for her new life. She remembered being pulled away, screaming, from her grandma’s arms. It was not deliberate cruelty; she was dearly loved, but it was believed that ‘a clean break’ was kindest in the long run. She went to live with her father and stepmother in North Bradley.

She ran away. She rode her bicycle all the way back home to Melksham. I’ve just looked at the map; it is a long way for a little girl to cycle, especially on her own. Her grandmother and she hugged each other and cried together, and then she was taken back to her new life.

She was a clever, hard-working child and when she was nine she took the entrance exam for Trowbridge Girls’ High School. The normal age for entrance was eleven and therefore, when she passed the both the exam and the interview with the headmistress and was offered a place, her father was very proud of her. He bought her the latest, most expensive bike as a reward and she used it to cycle to school each day.

It was an excellent school and although she was, by far, the youngest pupil, she loved it there. She was ambitious, academically, and intended to go to university. Home life was not happy and school was her refuge.

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