Securing our history for the future

Violet March (7 Jan 1927 - 12 July 2017)

Violet (Vi) attended school in Akely and had a happy childhood with her brother and sister. They and their mother Jessie and father Amos Whitehall lived at 1 Church Hill, Akely, Buckingham. Her first job was in the boy’s school in Stowe in a caring role. She continued to care for people all her life, her motto being, ‘Do unto others as you wish to be done by’.

She cycled to work, which is how Vi met the man she fell in love with, Francis Robert March, when he was stationed at Silverstone air base in the Royal Air Force. ‘Bob’ came from Bawdrip in Somerset. During their courtship Vi travelled to Somerset many times and was introduced to the March clan! She travelled down by train which stopped at the village hall. She loved Bawdrip and made it her home. The church there became the core of her belief in God.

Living in Bawdrip

In 1945 Vi and Bob March started their married life at Bradney Lane where they rented a room for a penny a week, then moved to the centre of the village to Mrs Baker’s. As the family grew they moved to Woolavington Corner, then Southview Drive. The old farmhouse in New Road, known then as Brices was shared with Nan and Grandpa. This was the real village country home with chickens, three vicious cockerels, Suzie and Corgi the dogs, Jim, Sooty and Tiddles the cats, a pigeon loft, a pool table in the barn, a swing in the big apple tree, a vegetable plot, a large workshop and a huge garden where memories were made. The last move they made together was to Orchard View, still in the village that she loved.

Vi and Bob had eleven children. They all had their role to play within the family, from helping with the washing and the mangle on a Monday, scraping home grown potatoes and slicing runner beans from the garden, fetching the coal and chopping up sticks for the fire, baking cakes and apple pies and, for some of the boys, ringing the bells at the church on Sundays.

This church was a big part of family life. Bob was the church warden and Sunday services were a must for all of them. On special occasions the children ·would help decorate the church with wildflowers picked from the hedgerows or Pen Woods. The children were christened there and many of them were also married there.

As the wife of the church warden, it was Vi’s duty to welcome any new vicar to the village and on one occasion she recalled the story of when Mr Jukes, the new parish vicar, arrived in a horse and cart on a cold and frosty morning – she went to the vicarage to light the fire to warm the house for their arrival. During her time in Bawdrip she had a few jobs including dinner lady and playground supervisor at Bawdrip infant’s school. Vi was only 53 years old when sadly Bob died. Vi continued caring for the family in the way she had always done and May in 1996 Vi made the move to the bungalow in Puriton, where she spent the remainder of her years with regular visits from her sixteen grandchildren and twenty-one great grandchildren.

Favourite moments of childhood in Bawdrip

Crossing your name off the list as you came in at night. Last one in locks the door. (The door key was about a foot long.)

Not being allowed to cur fingernails on Sunday.

Chasing the old year out with a newspaper.

Making sure chat you ALWAYS went out the same door you came in from.

We’d get three pence on a Friday from Mum and sixpence from Dad on Saturday. We’d spend it at Mrs Baker’s – the village shop – on liquorice lambs’ tails.

Summer Sunday evening walks after evensong along the riverbank picking bluebells and cowslips. Ending up at the Knowle Inn beer garden for a bottle of pop with a straw and a packet of plain crisps with a blue salt sachet.

Mum never swore, but if she got annoyed or cross she would say; ‘Oh fish hooks’.

When collecting the eggs you had to take a brush to ward off the cockerels.

One day the gypsies came looking for rubbish and dad said, ‘You can have them cockerels’ and off they went in a hessian sack.

In the summer getting rides back to the farm sat on top of the hay bales after a day of hay making.

Mum would say Thank you’ to the speaking dock.

When living at Brices, next door there was a cider house, Des (8 at the time) was led astray and had too much to drink , mum wasn’t too happy.

The record number of people for dinner at Orchard View was nineteen, the table started in the bay window in the front room, past the fire and into the kitchen and dinner was never served cold.

Derek used to race pigeons; he was always on the lookout for the cat who liked a pigeon supper.

We used to make dens in hedgerows, using fertiliser bags to keep the floor dry and hide from mum and dad when it was bedtime.

We all (and l mean all wore Clark’s shoes. At Christmas we’d anxiously wait for the parcel from Aunty Ivy and Uncle Norman for our hand knitted cardigans and jumpers.

At Bridgwater Fair time, life was all about earning enough money to enjoy the Fair by picking blackberries, (some would attempt to fill the baskets with water to make them weigh more when you sold them to Mrs Dickenson!). Nan wasn’t afraid to throw a bowl of water over anyone who wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.