Contact Us

If you are connected to this family, do please contact us...

Email The Family

If you know of a family member, email them a link.


Memories Page Two

Torre Abbey

Torre Abbey
Home Helps

Maurice and Lillian had a cleaner in the small 1930's house crammed with family during the war and then another cleaner in the bigger house, Dorothy.......... she was a pupil with Lilian at Torre School. Later she was seduced by a gang of Public School boys on the common near Broadsands. She ended up with four children all by different fathers living in a thatched cottage on Penny Hill near the slaughter house. There was a smell of poverty in the cottage, mother and grandmother were not snobs and we children were brought up to treat everyone equally so Thalia went to play with Jackie the eldest daughter and visit her grandparents in their bare beer smelling terraced house in Torre. They made rag rugs together and played in the local graveyard. It was good to see how others lived.
Lillian and Gertrude took this woman to heart and treated her as an equal. She was a big lady and Gertrude gave her a pair of Maurice's shoes much to his surprise.
Later Dorothy ...... became a prison officer
For many years Mrs Lewington was the home help, she died not so long ago, she went on holiday with the family to Cornwall. she stayed on in the house whilst Gertrude was still alive, giving Lilian the freedom to go out and socialise during the day.


Mrs Lewington and Joy

Mrs Lewington and Joy


Maurice and Lilian had an interest in their town and issues, they were quite high minded and principled. Lilian was always very proud that Torquay town council made its own ice
cream, and later when the gas works came down just this side of Preston she
was proud that it was made into a public garden not sold to developers. She
also loved the gardens that locals left to the town .... in Babbacombe,.....Thatcher rock peninsula...... there are others , she was qiute passionate about the things she believed to be
good. Maurice was always appalled at the local corruption and knew a lot about it as
it was often planned in his changing rooms at the shop with the local councillors/ criminals sharing it all with him thinking he would approve of the land deals the backhanders, the town silver stored by an alderman and sold off during the war for personal gain.
Wish I could remember in detail the struggles he had with corrupt bosses in the aircraft industry during the war.he said he was prosecuted during the war as a Communist trouble maker. There must be court records in Bristol and Trowbridge.
Dudley took us round Plymouth to see all the new council houses built by the city after the war. He was full of civic pride as the city treasurer. Gertrude was quite ungracious saying they could have been less regimented and more imaginative.
Lilian was passionate about the NHS, Maurice a tendency later in life when it became desparate to use the private sector she was disgusted at this, even though they really did not believe in doctors.
Maurice campaigned against irradiated food and other public issues writing to his MP and MEP. Just before he died he made a donation to the hospice and there was a letter from his solicitor saying how much he would miss him and their long discussions about putting the world to rights.
They loved the moors. Thalia went to lectures with them on the history, botany etc of Dartmoor.


As children we all had music and dancing lessons Thalia to grade 4 in piano and in ballet up to the stage where going on points was next. She did not think those hard toed shoes were good for feet, perhaps that was Gerrude and Lilian talking.our parents continued the practice from their young days of singing round the piano... we had two pianos in the house and the piano tuner came several times a year.... one was a birds eye maple in the front room ...the other a more modest up right mahognay in the breakfast room

We had a long bobbin hand Singer sewing machine decorated with the gold scrolls etc...this was serviced at least once a year.we used to make our own well as Miss Fox making some for us when she was not busy with alterations at the shop.Dad ordered us three girls specially made very expensive navy school coats made by Moss Bros..... we skinny girls found these heavy posh warm coats set us apart from other children..


As well as our Xmas parties. We use to have fire work parties on
November 5th . Dad used to host this for the family and neighbours.
Big attractive boxes of fireworks were bought over the previous week..
excitment built up...It was quite an occasion. One neighbour used to
make ginger parkin cake and we made toffee. The garage was cleared and
chairs borrowed . Pets were locked up. It mostly took place out side the
garage on the drive. The summer house was the store place and nerve
centre and great care was taken with safety. It was an exciting
evening, a few dramas when a lit fire work did not go off and with
trepidation at arms length it was relit! everyone held their breath.
There were loud bangs, with catherine wheels, spectacular rockets,
Roman Candles and other glowing spitting colourful fireworks. The only
fire works we were allowed to handle were the sparklers. with warnings
about being careful as they were hot. It usually lasted most of the
evening an occasion enjoyed by adults and children together. The
fireworks were quite big complex and expensive the local school boys
used to collect the used cases of the expensive fireworks and take them
to school to boast about next day.
There was also a Municipal Display in July over the Inner Harbour. At
dusk we went down to Dad' s Shop and made our way out the back up some
steep overgrown steps. Sitting among the large round furry leaves with
pink spikes of flowers. We had a wonderful view wrapped up warm and late
to bed.....Thalia

My mother and grandmother used to look after people. My mother looked after two tramps in Devon when I was a child . One I think lived near Ipplepen in a copse in the corner of a field . The other lived at the top of Haldon Hill under one of a group a sweet chestnut trees. They had made themselves shelters out of orange boxes and found materials. |She just kept a regular eye on them taking us children with her . I don't remember our father coming with us .She also made our house home from home for the viciously racially abused Pakistani , indian and tuereaq officers in training at The Royal Naval college Dartmouth.We were school girls at the time and went to dances at the college. We were disturbed by their racist treatment but a bit out of our depths with these slightly older men from such different cultures. I had much soul searching at this early age about was I racist or was it their women oppressing culture I found disturbing.They had impeccable manners and great charm. When we were out with them around the town we were abused for being in their company... Thalia


John Watson told Janice & Alastair that when he was courting Pansy they used to go out with Maurice Lilian, Dudley and Thora to the Grand Hotel for tea. Maurice was very particular about being served in bone china teapots and cups, when the Hotel changed because of economies in the war he refused to take afternoon tea there again. Also when Irving Slome came down to visit Thalia he refused point blank to use the Public Lavatories along the front. He used to sit the ladies in the foyer of either the Grand, Palm Court or Palace Hotels and use their cloakroom facilities for a wash and brush up.



The Pram

The Pram
Before we had a car we used to take local walks around the streets with the pram. We knew every garden and every house,styles, colours,numbers names etc
Some times to an old south facing limestone quarry full of wild full of houses!! and thro nearby Chapel Hill woods to the old chapel high on a limestone cliff looking out over treetops to the sea beyond Torquay.It had a rough stone floor of natural rock and a few deeply cut windows in the thick walls. We went with mother, Gertrude and Miss Bennett the retired Nanny of Charles Laughton. It was a mixed woodland with ever green oaks.It was an adventure. Now I think its run down and people are afraid to walk there.
On the walks around the roads we always stopped at a small gate to the boys playing fields near Audley Park School entrance. This field was full of large tents which housed German and Italian Prisoners of war...I must have been four years old and Susie was in the push chair with me holding on.
Another memory shared - mother told me about the suspicion and hostile reaction in Torquay to the Spanish who came over during the Civil War. They were different, short and swarthy with dark eyes. Presumably they were trying to raise support for the Republican side.
In Pembroke a Spanish Count sat out the Civil War living in Tenby Haouse in the main street Pembroke and at Orielton House a country estate for seven years. Thalia


I have just remembered more about mother and Gertrude. they certainly prevented
me/us from being prejudiced about "creepie crawlies". the bhuddist hindu
jain influence??? It was evidenced in two memories. I remember those two
describing how "big" Thalia at Mansands was taught not to panic about
wasps by putting jam on her fore arm and quietly watching the wasps eat
it looking at the colours and shape of the wasps etc and being told
being calm can prevent stings. I still get very distessed when people
panic and scream about Creepie Crawlies or even use the term. Thalia


Elisabeth Goodge is mentionerd in the book - 'Singled Out'. She lived near us in Torquay . We were Angels in a play put on by her in a local church. I well remember the lewd remarks of the local boys about us scantily deressed angels. There is a photo on Spen's disc I think. She wrote a book Gentian Hill which may be the story of the Chapel.
That book made me realise more than ever much of the love we recieved was from that generation of Spinsters as school teachers .We were more than pupils we were the children they never had!
We had piano lessons from two sisters the Clements sisters who lived down the road towards Audley Park school. They lived in a very fusty cluttered house with their parents. As they got older one dyed her hair yellowish and the other reddish. They both committed suicide. Around us there were many of that generation of Surplus women. I remember the cat lady lived in a house as big as ours with about 15 cats. We never spoke to her.
That generation of single teachers at Torquay Girls Grammar School devoted their lives to us pupils in a way married women could not as they did not have the time or energy!
There was another single woman who was an important person in our lives Rose
Hannah Bennett who had been the Nanny of Charles Laughton.She gave me lots of souvieners of all her travels with the Laughton Family. She was a great support to mother and we children enjoyed her visits. She went on the local walks with us during the war to Chapel Hill and spent many happy times having tea in our garden. She lived in poverty at the top of
a big old house, (minimal furniture no carpets) on Teignmouth Road near little Ideen. She shared with her bearded brother.I have a photo of her too walking with us by the harbour. Mother took an interest in her until her death in an old peoples home. Thalia

shopgrp Shop staff with Miss Fox
seated on the right
coats Wearing our winter coats
dresses Us in our dresses

When Spencer was a baby we had a caravan holiday in Cornwall. Grandmother came with us and we took my large wooden dolls cot for baby Spen to sleep in.

Maurice told me he used to go for an evening swim at Meadfoot...and once he
ended up on the wooden swimming platform off the beach with Olive Shapley who worked for the BBC including Womans Hour...she said her son had been to one of the best public schools. she said she was not happy how he had "ended up" ...
Olive of the grocers family?
I have found a photo of us as a family having tea at Dartmouth Naval College. We girls used to go to dances there,very romantic being rowed across the Dart in the moonlight by smart cadets in their uniforms being met by parents on the other side.. we used to go up the river in picket boats with the cadets to Dittisham on Sundays, after tea...our home became home from home for some of the cadets from Pakistan India and Africa...they were home sick and suffered from racism at the college...

Maurice also campaigned against flouride in the water supply.
In his last weeks he was quite cross that his piano player in his band,
a great smoker and boozer Although in poor health was going to out live
him. His healthy life style had let him down.


May 1997

We climbed the helter-skelter hill
On flinted paths and heathered ways
Beneath the trees, a measured pace,
A slow-unfolding summer's day.
True the silence save such sounds,
As nature had its mind to stir,
Upon a true expectant air.

There dank and dappled woodland ways,
Yield full sunlight's bashful glare,
Between the drift of billowed skies,
To sear the gorse upon breezeless heights.
From bloom to thorn to cracking pod,
Those faint reports launched out upon the nutty air.

Then on a roll-down meadow shorn,
And tumbling sheer to meet a wooded valley floor,
A level bank of grass, and there,
We sat and talked and watched the birds glide by,
As soaring far below they'd cry,
Above that summer's full-clad trees.

Maurice Bird


Dudley took Maurice's family around Plymouth to see all the new council houses built by the
city after the war. He was full of civic pride as the City Treasurer. Gertrude was quite ungracious saying they could have been less regimented and more imaginative.

Both parents shared memories of horses with Thalia - Maurice described the local gentry with their carriages and men in livery ..he used to watch them sweep down their drive and out of their gates of the local big house Lillian described going to see the horses which belonged to the local hotel on her way to school every day and feeding them apple cores and crusts. She
told Thalia how shocked she was one morning when she arrived to see brand new cars and the horses being shot...
Memories and more memories...they not only lived through the changes from herbs to drugs but horses to cars ...Lillian also remembered the roofless farm houses and cottages in Lustleigh in the 1930's. Now all done up and desirable residences.

Whilst Maurice was in the Hospice for six weeks he shared things with us how he resented being put in the shop by his father and was glad to take a reserved occupation doing his own thing making aircraft for seven years. He did this to get into a reserved occupation so as not to go to war. he was quite dismissive of Norman and the others who did not manage to escape the war.He described how Mr Butler his manager ripped him off but he did not mind....
He described his digs in Bristol in a small terraced house with a woman who cooked a stew/soup with water, bones and over cooked vegetables and how Ted rescued him and later living in a small manor house in Trowbridge with grounds and a small chapel full of hens, stained glass window, the coloured light falling on the freshly laid eggs in the straw.There was the base of a gasometer which was full of water, frogs, newts etc a magic place where we had a wonderful time with Ted's three girls Sue, Jenny and Alice . I remember the big old kitchen.and some big old trees. They were very close friends the two families....

Book mother read before the birth

Book mother read before the birth
The 1950 's were a difficult time at our house Pop Bird died, Gertie died, Lynne born and
Dad went on the road selling suits. Pop Childs died too in the 1950's
I remember Dad going off in the black Wosley with suits hanging in the back
of the car...I thought so few suits to sell ...he was away regularly for a
long period. he said the shop was not doing well so he had to go away ..
Why did he take to the road because of the illegitimate baby?
Mother must have been lonely.gmb gone, dad off for long spells. There was
the home help and me ...mother confided in me a lot but not the full story.
I was working that out for myself. I remember her struggles with breast
feeding she really wanted to do it and took supplements to help her...
When Lynne was born GMB was sent with Jul and Spen....May be Sue too?
to stay with Thora. a mid wife delivered Lynne....Vina And I were
sitting in the garden as mother gave birth. so obviously the time Gertie
was in the Home was between mid April and Sept when she died...I dont
think it was all that long and she did spend some time in bed at 81
Teignmouth Rd...That was when I was putting her pills in the potty.....
mother with the new baby etc .....what a stressful time it must have
been at our house. It's like putting together a jigsaw. One of them told me Gertie burst into tears when the tel message about Lynne's arrival came and I left for college in 1956
..Thora must have known... I was being a pain too at this time
all the arguments about getting an education and wanting to go to Art
School ....But also very caring to mother and Baby Lynne. It's is so
interesting looking back ...with all the experiences we've had since,
Spencer, with the arrival of the new baby I think , was left to fend for
himself more than he would have been and the others too.

I became more aware about mother's state after Lynne was born. She was
very worried about being able to breast feed Lynne. She had several
books by the bed and some special drink to help with her milk supply. I
read the books and sat and talked with her as she fed Lynne. This seemed
to calm her.She was without Gertrude,( her illness and then her death ) no mother to share her life with so I became her confidiante and used
to fetch and carry for her all the things a baby needs when mum is
pinned down with feeding.
As a sixteen year old I was concerned about her mental state, she seemed
very stressed for too stressed for the late arrival of an unexpected
inconvienent baby which would stop her getting on with her
life....which was how she put it to me..I was convinced there was more
to it! She was always making hints seemed to be on the edge of sharing some
thing more with me. We got very close.... I read in one of the books
that stress was one of the obstacles to successful breast feeding.
I was so glad to have been so closely involved in bringing up my baby
sister. It gave me great confidience when I had my own children.