Wendy's life

This blog has been created as a celebration of the life of Wendy Margaret Cronin (born 16 October 1944 and died 10 October 2007). The blog owner (me) is Steve McRobb (aka Macro) - I was Wendy's partner and then husband for almost 30 years. To add comments or a post, you must be an invited friend or family member - email me if you knew Wendy and would like to join.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Wendy's childhood

I recently found this reminiscence about Wendy's childhood on our computer. I don't yet know when she wrote it, or for what purpose, but it is a bit special and I thought it should be shared. I haven't edited it in any way.
Wendy always said she was a happy child. This helps to make it clear just why that was.

Harby Childhood Memories 1944-63
When I was 7, June Kemp and I went to Woody Butcher’s at lunchtime to have her warts charmed away. Woody looked at the warts and gave us tea and bread and butter and we waited and waited for her to say the magic spells and put her pointed hat on. She didn’t and we were late back to school. She hadn’t done anything! The warts disappeared.
Woody and her brother lived in School Lane opposite the Institute. She had an enormous goitre which greatly enhanced her image as the ‘wise woman’. My mum said she could charm warts and help animals to get better. She was a kindly lady who gave me my first houseplant. It died. I obviously didn’t have her powers.
There were two distinct territories in the village – the Top End and the Bottom End. We Bottom End kids were a bit scared of the Top Enders. Once, when we got chased by Top End boys, they stuffed maggots and a dead starling down our backs. I’ve had a horror of dead birds ever since!
In the summer we children would go haymaking at Furmidge’s Farm next to the church. A bottle of Vimto was essential. We would all ride in the big wooden hay waggon behind the tractor and sing on the way to the hayfield. You had to walk back or (if you were lucky and didn’t mind the teasing) you might get a ride on a boy’s bike crossbar.
Miss Buxton would give you a penny if you ran an errand to the post office for her. She was our infant teacher. We liked her very much. I remember her twin sets and pearls and comforting bosom. Looking back I realise what an excellent teacher she was and how much she loved us kids. A penny at the post office would buy two ha’penny chews, a traffic light gob stopper, 4 liquorice laces, a sherbert sucker, or a quarter of ‘rat turds’ (pronounced ‘tods’). I think they are more delicately called ‘liquorice torpedoes’ now.
Mr Lane the headmaster at Harby School in the fifties. He was a truly inspirational teacher and made going to school interesting. We listened to Schools radio, went on nature walks to the canal, worked out the area of the playground. He let me paint the sky green the same as in the print of Van Gogh’s Caravans which hung in the classroom. We had awful mental arithmetic tests in the afternoons and I was caught cheating.
There was a tennis court in the rectory garden and village people were allowed to use it. The tennis balls were kept in a brick hovel but it was guarded by a flock of rectory geese. If you wanted to play you had to risk the wrath of God’s geese.
We’d go scrumping in Bastick’s orchard and Boyer’s orchard (it was a real orchard then). Someone would yell, ‘Blundy’s coming!’ We’d go pelting down the road, hearts thumping, raining apples. P.c. Blundy was a man of swift and summary justice.
There were two Nelly Starbucks in the village. One was my mum, the other lived by the post office and had a Jack Russell terrier.
Opposite my dad’s garage were the blacksmith’s shop and a tiny white cottage on the opposite side of the junction. Miss Kemp lived there. The grassy corner next to her house was known as Parliament Corner because all the old chaps used to congregate there in the evenings and put the world to rights. There was a large, very distinctive stone on that corner. It seems to have disappeared.
When I was 15 or 16 I was seen kissing a boy from Clawson at the bus stop. Someone told the Rector in the post office. The Rector told my mum. Mum said that if I wasn’t careful I would ‘get a reputation’. A ‘reputation’ was dire indeed in Harby in the Fifties and early Sixties.
I was adopted and it wasn’t a secret, though in the Forties and Fifties it was considered rather shameful. No-one in the village, not even the children, ever said anything unkind to me. I was very lucky to grow up in Harby. My mum and dad, Harry and Nelly Starbuck, were wonderful parents.

Wendy Starbuck (now Cronin)


  • At 23 December 2010 at 18:29 , Blogger Macro said...

    Wendy's reminiscences now appear in print in a book "Harby: Village Life in the Vale of Belvoir" compiled by local author Leslie Cram. The book is listed on Amazon here (though not yet available at the time of writing). Or you can get it direct from John Blundy in the village, if you're local yourself.


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