Chailey Heritage School Old Scholars Association
Margaret Davis - In Memoriam
Margaret Davis - Edited Eulogy Hello, everyone. I am Margaret Davis's twin brother Ted. Some of you will remember her as she had attended reunions for more years than me. Her funeral was in mid-April and I thought you might like to hear part of what I had to say during the Eulogy by telling you about our early life until we were in our mid-teens. I was going to say our early life 'together', but as you will hear, very little time was actually spent together. What you hear may have some relevance to your own lives. We were born on the last day of December, 1930, at High Cross, Rotherfield. I was the first to be born, at 10.20 p.m. and Margaret 20 minutes later. At the age of two, the family moved to a cottage adjoining a working oast house, at Naylor's Farm, Mayfield. This was a small dairy farm with very few cows. It is not until we were about four years old that I recall life at all, other than being pushed in a twin pushchair and having a cat called Whitey. However we did enjoy the setting and remember us going hop picking with mum and sitting in the large trestle bins enjoying the delicious hop smell. We also enjoyed dipping our fingers in the large treacle barrel and nibbling the cow cake. This somewhat idyllic life came to an abrupt end when we were six years old because we were both found to have contracted TB, most likely from the unpasteurised milk of the time. Thus we both found ourselves sent to different branches of Chailey Heritage. Margaret spent the next three years there, confined to bed, and outside in all weathers the whole time. My story at this time is not relevant here, but it meant that we did not meet again at home with our parents and half-brother, Herb, until we were nearly ten, I being the first one to go home several months before my twin. We attended the local school in Mayfield, being driven there daily by a Mr. Napper, who had an ironmonger's shop in the village. 1940 was an exciting time for us both, not only getting to know each other again, but also because of the many dogfights we witnessed, the falling of parachutes and roof-hopping spitfires. Sadly, this life was abruptly cut short when mum, who, unknown to us, had been very ill with bowel cancer and had had a big operation sometime previously, died. For the next several months the two of us were lodged with various relatives, followed by a couple who boarded refugees, at Five Ashes. We next found us and our father living with a woman and her daughter in Tunbridge Wells. Margaret attended the nearby girl's school whilst I attended King Charles' School near the Pantiles. Our father made us attend King Charles' Church, where I was already a choirboy, and would grill us every Sunday on what the sermon was all about. This existence lasted until for some reason we two were suddenly lodged with an engine driver named Stone and his wife at Rusthall for a few months. One day, during our stay with them, we were told that we were going to go and live with our father at Wallington, Surrey. So one Saturday we were driven to Wallington station where we were due to be met by someone if not himself, However no-one showed up, so our driver and Mr.Stone went to the house where he was living and asked the woman who opened the door where he was. She replied that he was attending his daughter's funeral. Strange we thought, when his daughter was sitting with me in the car! This was the last time I saw our father, although Margaret did years later, but on reflection regretted doing so. Then one Friday, as we were setting off for school, the Stones told us to tell our respective teachers that we would not be returning there again. Thus, the next day we found ourselves being driven again, this time to the Poor Law Institution, the previous Workhouse, at Milton Regis near Sittingbourne and, in my opinion, just dumped there. You can imagine how frightening this was for both of us. Following preliminaries we were then sent to separate boys' and girls' homes nearby. Margaret, very soon after arrival, ran away with another girl and got as far as Faversham before being picked up and returned by the police. Boys and girls had to attend the Institution's chapel every Sunday but were seated on opposite sides and not permitted to glance at or speak to each other. This existence continued for about two years. Meanwhile, my boys' home was eventually closed down and I was moved to Hadlow Place, Hadlow, so I could not then even get a glimpse of my sister. Meanwhile we both learned of the death of our half-brother Herb, who was a glider pilot. He had survived Arnhem only to be killed during the crossing of the Rhine. One day in 1945,1 was asked would I like to see my sister again. Hence, I was driven to County Hall, Maidstone where we did meet and were introduced to a couple from Minster near Ramsgate who wanted to adopt two children. (Years later I learned they were intending seven or eight year olds, not fourteens as we were by now, but KCC had no others to offer.). First we spent a weekend with them and some months later went to live with them permanently and decided to take their name, not wishing to retain ours following our father's deserting us. Whilst I attended school in Ramsgate, Margaret helped out at home and learned many cookery skills from our foster mother. She also had some singing and piano lessons from a local piano teacher. I was always doing things wrong, mainly through lack of guidance, and eventually left home and became a merchant seaman. Margaret, in turn, went off to train as a nursery nurse, and eventually meeting and marrying Harold and raising Anne and Kevin. So that's the end of our little time spent together as youngsters. Conclusion I concluded these tributes to my sister by mentioning that about five years ago she suffered a massive stroke and a collapse of her spine. She has spent the last four years in a local care home lying helpless and needing everything done for her, suffering the many indignities a person in that position has to undergo. So she suffered a lot as a child and in her twilight years, but she is at peace now, in the care of Our Lord. Ted Hartwell Tidemills 1936-1937 then elsewhere. Aged 85 (2016) Ted’s fascinating autobiography “This Is My Life” is on sale at £5 (including p&p) and is obtainable from our Treasurer.
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