Doreen Dobson

 

I was born into an established mixed farming family in North Cornwall; the youngest of three, my brothers and I were educated at a local village school - a 2 and a half mile walk - unless raining! There were two schools close by, C.E. and Local Authority, friendly rivalry existed, the C.E. were nicknamed ‘church rats’ whilst we were ‘chapel mice’! Our education was completed at the Grammar School - 8 miles away.

On leaving school we lived and worked at home, my brothers joining the outdoor staff, myself mostly in the house.

We had a large Friesian dairy herd, sheep, pigs, the usual cereal crops and we also grew potatoes for Smiths Crisps. At various busy times we had German prisoners of war and also Italian. At harvest time the housemaids and I took baskets of food and drinks to the fields. Occasionally I was needed to help with milking and sterilising the machines or harvesting in the fields which I really enjoyed. Sometimes in the lambing season we had to bring weak lambs indoors, lay them on a blanket in the plate warming oven of a large AGA stove ( with the door ajar!) and feed them from a bottle.

My mother started a farmhouse holiday business - full board - in 1930 continuing until after the war with many holiday visitors returning year after year and becoming life long friends.

During the war we had evacuees from Portsmouth, Birmingham and Plymouth.

At one time the Army Camp in the area commandeered our farm for manoeuvres against the Home Guard, disrupting our lives indoors as well as the farming routine as the headquarters were based in our house!

Social life was somewhat restricted, but the Young Farmers Club provided interest in increasing our farming knowledge and with meeting other Y F C throughout the county, competitions etc. local dances and Hunt Balls were part of our social scene. We were also members of our Chapel Choir and an extended family choir. Horse riding was another pursuit, my father trained and stabled riding horses. I started on a Shetland pony at 5 years old, learnt to ride bare back with my brothers and quickly remount when I fell off! I was not allowed to join the hunting fraternity with my brothers.

In 1951 I married, having met my husband when he came from North Yorkshire to our circuit as a pre– collegiate. Our friendship was forged by having similar backgrounds in farming, Methodism and musical interests. In due course we had 3 children, Rachel, Richard and Deborah.

Our circuits were Plymouth, South Leeds, Bradford Mission, Blackburn Queens Hall, London and Warrington.

In the early years I was looking after my children and husband, fitting in church meetings when convenient. It was at Queens Hall when we came in 1961 that I was able to become more involved with social and church life.

1969 saw us moving to London, Eric having been invited as Superintendent of the South London Mission, comprising 6 churches and a convalescent home on the South Coast, each having their own staff.

Meanwhile, I was stuck in Streatham, miles away, in our home. However it was not long before, due to a staff retirement, that my help was requested for the other office at the Head quarters in Bermondsey. I learned how to operate the telephone switchboard, and on the clerical side, be involved in the National Appeal Fund which was sent out twice yearly. In an emergency situation I was landed - or pushed ! with supervising the catering for the daily luncheon for 60 pensioners who lived locally and also for the staff dining room. I was mightily relieved when a new cook was appointed.

After 8 years we moved to Warrington, living and working in a new complex built on the site of a former rather grand church in the centre. It was a very active centre with daily luncheon club, play group, youth work, women’s meetings, Guild etc. I started a Mums & Toddlers group to complement the excellent playgroup and a badminton session for shop assistants after work. My principal commitment  came with setting up and overseeing The Coffee House we opened on the ground level adjacent to the street and park. The staffing was by a rota of volunteer helpers drawn from the local community and church - a very worthwhile venture and well supported by the public. It was during this period that I reluctantly agreed to become vice– president, then president for the Methodist Liverpool Women’s Network Committee concerning home and overseas commitments.

The highlights were six exchange pastorates to Canada & USA, one  exchange to Georgia resulting in our receiving an invitation to the inauguration of President Carter in 1977, also visits to Nepal where Rachel and Finlay were working on behalf on the Methodist Church.

Since retiring in 1988 I have made many trips to France to visit Deborah and her family.

I moved to Mellor in 2002 following Eric’s death to be near family. I appreciate St Mary’s Church and enjoy living in a village with all the beauty of the Ribble Valley nearby. I learned to swim when I was almost 79 years old and with a knowledgeable neighbour I am discovering the many scenic rambles in the area.  

 

  Doreen Dobson

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