Securing our history for the future

Jocelyn Pearl Collinson 25 September 1922 - 20 November 2020

 Jocelyn Pearl Collinson was born 25 September 1922 in the little cottage called ‘Sunny View’ right next door to the church in the village of Bawdrip. She was the eldest of three girls, Pearl, as she became known, Glad and Hazel. She was named after her father’s Major in the first World War, and the pearl was because she was so tiny at only 5lbs.

Bawdrip was very much Pearl’s heart and soul, as was the church. She saw very little reason or desire to travel much further afield other than the Church Choir annual outing.  She had a particularly typical village upbringing of the time, winning first prize in the bonny baby competition in Puriton aged 7, falling in a stinking ditch and having to have all her hair cut off, and helping to break in Shetland ponies for Nancy, daughter of the then Vicar of Bawdrip, Reverend Cass. Being small, she was just the right size for this task.

Pearl left school at aged 14 and worked in a wicker factory in Bridgwater but this was very hard on the hands.  At just fifteen her father got her a job caring for the invalid mother of Mr Farrance who owned the garage at Knowle, Bawdrip. The hours were long and chores hard which resulted in Pearl having a breakdown from exhaustion. She was confined to bed under doctor’s orders for eleven months while she recovered.

World War 2 broke out when she was just seventeen. She joined the Bawdrip Nursing Division which was run by St John’s Ambulance. She thoroughly enjoyed this and passed exams including in midwifery. During an inspection at Taunton Castle, she was introduced to Lady Louis Mountbatten. She felt very honoured to attend.

At seventeen and a half, Pearl had to register for war work, and this started her time at the Royal Ordinance Factory at Puriton working for the Land Army. Pearl was never happier than being outside working with animals and on the land. In her words she was ‘The Tom Boy’ of the family. It was here that she made friends with Joan Collinson, whose brother John was away serving in the army, and she asked Pearl to write to him – a pen pal later who became her husband on 24 November 1945 in Bawdrip.

Pearl had stories from the war years. Doing fire duty with Mrs. Parsons she heard the drone of planes which they thought were British but as they came over, they were so low they could see the swastikas. The sky was dark with planes – it was when they bombed Bristol. Also, the time she was sat on a gate when bombs were dropped on Taunton Road in Bridgwater and the blast blew her off.

Pearl and John started married life squeezed into the Sunny View cottage along with existing family members. Their first child Derek was born there in 1947. A year later they got a council house in East Side Lane where they remained for twenty-seven years and had Heather and Stuart.

They settled into family life, Pearl doing little part time jobs such as cleaning for Mr and Mrs Shaw in the village. She helped on the school bus for twenty-one years and became a familiar face to the families and children of the village. She was a regular on the cake stall at the village fetes.

In 1975 John, Pearl with Stuart moved to South View where John and Pearl stayed for another twenty-one years before retiring to their bungalow on New Road in 1997. Sadly in 1999 John passed away. The family increased with six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. The grandchildren remember her always willing to join in football, fishing or walking to Penn Woods.

In 2008 Pearl made the monumental decision to fly for me first time aged 86 – a long haul to New Zealand to visit her grandson Dale Collinson and his wife Rochelle. She thoroughly enjoyed it and loved me spectacular scenery.

The Church featured greatly in Pearl’s upbringing. She attended Sunday school from the age of four and joined the Church Choir when she was eight. Pearl also cleaned the brasses and washed the altar linen. In later years she became Churchwarden which she did until she was seventy years old.

Following the passing of her son-in-law Pearl moved in with her daughter Heather in Edington but she always remained friends with Bawdrip and loved passing on her knowledge of its history.

Polden Post Feb 2021

 Pearl Collinson RIP (Link Feb 2021)

The funeral of Pearl Collinson was held in Bawdrip church at the end of 2020. The very moving service was led by the Rev. Will Lane and due to the restrictions, the numbers had to be limited to 30 in the church. Pearl’s multigenerational family filled the main body of the church but there was room for friends from the village and beyond. The contributions by various family members to the service were appreciated by all. We heard many stories of Pearl, of how she had always lived in Bawdrip and seemed, at one time or another, to have lived in most parts of the village. She helped at the school for many years, looked after the village goats during the war and was a very well-known figure in the village. Indeed, she was the fount of much information and knowledge about Bawdrip and especially the church (including where the church gates had been buried).

She was churchwarden for many years and in her ‘retirement’ always kept the churchwardens in line with a smile and helpful comment. After she left the village (in her late eighties) to live with her daughter she still came to evensong and was very particular about sitting in her pew with her kneeler. She and her family also attended the Remembrance Day services when she could. She will be greatly missed by her family and all who knew her.