Memories and Anecdotes
Tales and stories of people and events past from local raconteurs and researched material

   

Dorothy Hill was the daughter of Fred and May Saunders who lived in Brook House, Glasbury-on-Wye. May ran a Drapers shop in the front room and Fred was the Salmon gillie for the Maesllwch Estate. They later moved to 1, St Cynidr's villas for their final retirement.
Dorothy was born in 1923 and lived to be 90 years of age. She lived in Glasbury until her marriage in 1943 and visited the village regularly until the death of her parents.
She wrote this article in 2011, aged 88
.

Some reminiscences from Dorothy Hill (nee Saunders) of growing up in Glasbury:

The river runs through most of my childhood. From this distance the days were always warm and sunny. We children played in the warm water, fishing for minnows, paddling, or learning to swim. Cows and sheep grazed the meadows along the river banks, but there was plenty of space for noisy running-about games. We also seemed to have a great many picnics.

Our house (Brook House) was of a field's width away from the river. In the winter after snow and rain the river sometimes overflowed. One morning I woke to see tree branches and hedges floating down what had been the road . That day the milkman came - but in a boat. Another time my father came to collect me from school and carried me home on his shoulders because of deep snow.

School (Coed-y-Boleyn) was almost 2 miles across the river and then uphill, a long walk for five-year-olds. Our playground was open common with trees and bracken. We made dens with the bracken and played a game called "English French" (not English German). Some of the trees had roots almost above ground, they made rows of seats for our pretend Theatre. We made up plays based on nursery rhymes and "performed" to an audience of younger children. The school had three classrooms: as five-year-olds we were issued with slates to write our letters and numbers and graduated to pencil and paper when our attempts were legible. Each room had a fireplace with a nursery-type guard. In winter we gathered round at lunchtime and toasted sandwiches brought from home at the glowing coal fire. I don't remember what we had to drink. There were three teachers and about 70 pupils (I guess). At 10+ we sat the scholarship and if successful went on to County School -- a journey of 27 miles by bus for me -- (longer for some). In winter, piled up in the back of the bus were shovels and sacks in case of snow. During spring and summer holidays a group of 6 to 8 boys and girls would meet at our home and cycle about 6 miles to the foot of a nearby mountain, leave our bikes at a farm and climb to the summit and over into a valley with a ruined chapel or monastery in a different county. We felt like explorers in a foreign country. We carried food but knocked on farmhouse doors requesting a drink of water and were always welcomed.

War was declared on September 3, 1939. I was in Birmingham doing a pre-nursing course -- at 16 I was too young to be a probationer as trainee nurses were called. Among the group with me were four girls from the UK and five German Jews who had been sent to England by their parents to escape the Nazis. Meeting and living with these refugees made a great impression on me. I had been feeling homesick, but these girls had no idea where their parents were -- at home or imprisoned. Every day we waited together for the letters -- mine arrived, but they had nothing. When I had a weekend pass my parents encouraged me to bring one of these girls with me. Over the years we kept in touch, even though I left after a year and went back home and had a job in the local council office. There, I was responsible for alterations to Ration Books. Meat, cheese, sugar and butter were rationed. People with diabetes exchanged their sugar ration for (I think) meat or cheese. And vegetarians gave up their meat coupon for extra cheese.

Many village people then kept one or two pigs and friends and neighbours would donate pig swill to them. In return the pig owner gave the people bacon and pork to augment their rations. The pig owner had to apply for a licence to have their pig slaughtered and I was in charge of issuing these and keeping a record of the date, as each owner was restricted to one pig per year. (At least that's what I think was the rule).

When the blitz started on London we were in a Safety Zone and one evening we as a family were gathered in the living room/kitchen when there was a loud knocking at the front door. I was sent to answer it among mumbles of "who can that be at this time of night?". On the step was a strange woman carrying a child, another at her side. They had driven from Kent having been bombed the night before. They were ushered into the warm kitchen, while my sister and I were sent up to make up extra beds. It was the first time I realised what war really meant. They stayed with us for some weeks and then found a cottage to rent nearby.

In 1942 my school friend, who worked in a local bank and I joined the WRAF. We applied to be trained as weather observers. To be accepted in that branch of the service we had to sit an exam in maths, English, and geography. We were sent to London (Russell Square) where we were taught how to observe the clouds, wind directions and speed, read barometric pressure and to encode this information and send by teleprinter to the group headquarters every hour day and night. Then receive the same information for every RAF station and ships on the western approaches and transfer all these onto a weather map.