I was born in July 1936 at the hospital in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in West Wales. My parents were William and Kathleen , who had a dairy farm nearby. I wish I could say that I was exactly what they hoped for, in fact I was a great disappointment. They badly wanted a boy to carry on the farm and be a wonderful horseman like my father. Not only was I the wrong sex, I did not seem to have a proper nose either, just a little hole in the middle of my face. However, they took me home and grew to love me, a very small nose eventually appeared.
The next year my brother arrived with a very large nose. My mother was heard to exclaim to my father ’look what you have done’ this time.
Growing up on a farm was healthy, plenty of space to run around, puppies and kittens to play with and orphan lambs to feed. When I was about 4 years old my brother and I went to a nursery school in Haverfordwest, just for the mornings session. Father used to drop us at the train station at the same time that he was loading churns of milk on to another train, taking the milk to the schools in the Welsh valleys. We were put ‘in charge of the guard’ who would let us out at the next station, Haverfordwest. We would walk ‘hand in hand’ to the cinema where the little school was held. We returned the same way by train. If we were lucky, someone would meet us with a car, tractor or may be a horse and cart. Otherwise we would walk the two miles home, often sleeping in the hedgerow until some one arrived. In those days there was no traffic, Father had the only car in the parish, so it was quite safe. I do not recall much about that little school but much later in life I was reminded that I had promised a fellow pupil that when we grew up, we would live in a tree with an Aga Cooker.
This happy life soon changed. One sunny morning when I was six years old, my mother took me for a very long car journey. We travelled up to the Gower coast to little seaside village called Horton. I got out of the car and ran a little distance from my mother who was looking down at the beautiful sandy beach. When I turned around to ask her if I could go down the steps to play on the sand, she was not there. Instead there was a lady dressed in black heavy robes from head to toe. I had met one these ladies previously. She was a nun of the Ursuline Order, they had been evacuated from their convent in Dover to the mansion house in our village. I had met one of the sisters before, so I was not afraid. The sister explained to me that my mother had gone back home, and that I was going to live with them in this new house, which was a boarding school. She told me kindly that I would go home to the farm for the school holidays.
I spent 6 years at the convent, even moving with them to Dover when the war ended. I was not unhappy, but I was never a fully paid up member of my own family again, I was always ‘a visitor’. I had to learn to be self reliant, often truculent, according to one school report. I now think that this very early departure from home had a big effect on my whole life. I do not blame my parents who thought that this was the best education for me. I could not walk to the nearest village school, it was 4 miles away, I was quite a delicate child having had ‘Whooping cough’ when I was eight weeks old and had been lucky to survive. It was wartime, petrol was rationed, so they could not drive me to school every day. I never found out how my brother got there. I do not think that I ever asked, perhaps I did not want to know and be hurt.
The beach at Horton was used by the Allied Army to practice their landings for D Day, I still remember the large crafts coming in and all the soldiers rushing out on to the beach.
When I became a mother, I realized how difficult it must have been for my mother the day she left me behind at that school, I was so very young. We never ever talked about it.
I remained at that school until I was twelve years old, the last few years at their convent in Dover. I travelled by train, by myself, from Pembrokeshire on the West coast of Wales to the East coast of England, To do this, I had to cross London from Paddington station to Cannon St, station, quite an achievement at nine years of age. I heard the news that the war was over while playing with friends on a tennis court at Dover. I was just 9 years old and hundreds of miles from home.
I stayed at the convent in Dover for the next two years, going back home for the longer of the school holidays, always crossing London to do it. At 11 years of age I passed the entrance examination to a boarding school in Bristol.That will be the next story.