My first job was in Slough, just outside of
London, and I was an office junior. I did all the running about, first, and
then I went to night school and learnt typing and shorthand.
How did you find out about your first job?
A friend of the family was the secretary of
the firm and that's how I got the first job, straight from school. Lucky.
What were your hours?
Oh, nine ‘til five, nine ‘til five.
What did you do in your leisure time after
Played tennis. Good time, I suppose.
How did you get to work?
I used to cycle. The office, in those days,
was actually in a little place just north of Slough. Farnham Royal. And it was
in a private house, but then it moved, to the Slough trading estate. That
building is no longer there, now.
Did you enjoy your work?
Yes I did, yes. It was a heating firm.
What were the working conditions? Were they
What did you do for lunchtimes? Did they have
their own canteen?
No, no it wasn't that big in those days. I went home.
When did you start this job?
1949, when I left school, and I was there
And you said you went on to night school,
what did you train in?
I was at night school during those three
That's quite tiring, I should think, with
your day job and then your training at night.
Not really, when you're young. Full of
energy. I left that job after three years.
And then what did you go onto?
I went to New Zealand then.
What inspired you to go to New Zealand?
It was exciting. I wanted to see the world.
[laughs]. And we, we only had to have £10 to arrive there, so it was very good.
Did you have a job in mind before you went
No, no. Although I had an uncle and an aunt
who were living in New Zealand and they nominated me, but it was under the
immigration scheme. So if you didn't have anybody to nominate you, they found
you a job, the government in New Zealand found you a job. But if you had
somebody to nominate you, they could find you a job, so my uncle found me a job
in a law office.
But your uncle was from the UK was he?
Oh, yes. He was from the Orkney Islands.
What was the journey like? How long was that?
Six weeks, on the Captain Cook. It was the
third sailing of the Captain Cook and the captain on the ship was
Captain Cook. But it was very good, we had a very good time. About 900 people
were going to be in the Services in New Zealand, and the rest were women and
children and couples, so there were about 400 other people, I think, if I've
got the numbers right.
Did you stop off anywhere else en route?
We just went straight through. We went
through the Panama Canal, because the Suez Canal was closed by that time.
Was this 19…?
What did you do when you were on board?
Oh, there was all sorts of things. We had
dances. We had pictures on board, on the deck. We had Scottish dancing. We had
all sorts of competitions. We had deck quoits. You made your own fun.
Sorry, what was deck quoits?
Deck quoits. Like, like those rings, you
know, rings, the quoits?
What was the food like? Was the food nice?
Oh, the food was not the best, but it was
alright. It was alright. I never had powdered potatoes before, but I had them
I bet you were relieved when you arrived into
No doubt about that. We arrived in
Did you go on your own?
Were you scared or were you just looking at
Well, I was just looking forward to the
excitement. I don't remember feeling any kind of fear or anything. And we left
from Glasgow, so we had to go up by train to Glasgow to get the boat from
there. So that was quite a trip. But, no, it was a very good trip, I thought.
Some of the later ones were not quite so good. But the boat was in good
condition at that stage as well.
What were your first impressions of New
I felt as if I was on a long holiday. I felt
like that all the time I was there. Very green. Very nice, very easy. Not a big
country, not a lot of people in 1952. I think the population of New Zealand
then was the same as the population of London. They were very laid back, as
Was there anything you missed from back home?
Not really. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
And going to a family was very nice, a family that although I didn't know them,
they were my family and I could, you know, feel that they were family, but I
had never met them before. I think it was easier for me than for a lot of the
immigrants who just had to find digs and board wherever they could get it, you
know, and start up on their own. I was lucky in that respect. I probably
wouldn't, I possibly wouldn't have come if that family hadn't have been there.
Did you notice any cultural differences
between the UK and [New Zealand]?
I noticed a lot of rugby, and I used to love
listening to Winston McCarthy doing all the rugby broadcasts. But no, there
were differences but I was young, and it didn't matter, you know. I got a job
in an office, but unfortunately it turned out to be an accountants' office and
all I was doing all day was typing figures. I didn't want to do that, so I
managed to get another job.
How long did you stay there for then?
I don't know. Not very long. I managed to get
another job which I stayed at for quite a while.
What did you do?
It was in a lawyer's office the next time. So
that was quite alright. And I was in Invercargill which is one of the southern
most parts of New Zealand. So they weren't as…oh what can I say … they were
slower than through the north of New Zealand and everybody seemed to know
everybody else. It was a very nice city.
Did you get any training with your
No, no. I just went to work, that was all.
Sort of learnt on the job, did you?
Well, yes. I just took letters and typed. I
met a friend there, in the lawyer's office, who's still my friend now.
Oh, that's nice. And they're still in New
Zealand, are they?
No, she's in America now.
Were the working conditions in both places,
were they good?
They were good, yes. Oh yes, there was
nothing to complain about at all.
How did you get to work?
Cycled. I wished I had taken my bike with me
to New Zealand, but I thought it would cost too much to transport. But when I
got to New Zealand I found the cost of bikes was exorbitant. So I had to buy
another one anyway. I bought a new bike and went everywhere on it. And
Invercargill is very very flat, with very wide streets, so it's a good place to
What was your average day?
Nine ‘til five.
Did you get a half an hour for dinner break?
Yes, or an hour. Yes, we had a lunch break.
It wasn't hard.
Did they have a canteen?
No, no, we brought our own. In those days,
tomato soup and toast was our favourite in the winter. Or we took our own
sandwiches, and went to the park and ate them. They were only small places.
What, the offices?
Yes. Where I worked.
How many did they employ, roughly, do you
There were only the three, four of us in the
At the lawyer's, was it?
Yes. I don't know, I've forgotten about the
accountants' office. Yes, there were only the three or four of us there, and
the bosses, the two bosses. It was a nice little place to work.
Time In Another Climate
What did you do in your leisure time when you
were in New Zealand?
Used to go out for cycle rides, used to go
and see my friend from the office. And we did a lot of sewing in those days. I
bought a sewing machine, and I wasn't good at sewing but her mother was very
good, so she taught me a lot. Because clothes were so expensive in New Zealand
in those days. If you wanted anything, you made it; you didn't go and buy it.
So I learnt a lot of sewing. I used to make all my own things, then.
Was their fashion different from the UK‘s?
No, they followed the UK really. They were
much the same and, in New Zealand in those days, the UK was much referred to as
home, the old country, by the people who lived there. So it was quite common,
most people made their own things. I used to go to a bible class and we used to
go visiting, and we went to a dance once a week, which was very nice in those
days. You don't have dances like that these days. And if you went in the
country, to a country hall dance, there would be this wonderful supper with
loads of pavlova and all that sort of thing. And that is something you didn't
have in England in those days, at all, because of all the rationing so they
were really beautiful suppers we used to have. Lovely cooks.
Was it different food over there?
No, no. It was all vegetables and butter in
abundance. Well, from New Zealand during the war, they used to send food parcels
over to England to help people. No, there was plenty of food over there. There
was everything. Some things were more expensive, but as the years went by, it's
hard to remember exactly in those years. But as the years went by, New Zealand
got more and more things. They never made cars, there was never a car factory.
They had to import everything. They had to import so much. So things were quite
What was their chocolate like?
Very nice! I don't know whether it was
sweeter or not. Yeah, I think it was a bit sweeter than the British chocolate.
I don't know if it was in those days but Cadbury's had a factory in Australia
and we used to get it from Australia. I think that was that far back, it might
not have been.
How long were you at the lawyer's?
Three years. And then I went to Christchurch,
which was further north, and where they've had that big earthquake now. I went
into another office and I was there for a year, and then I moved up to
Wellington and I was in Wellington for two or three.
Two or three years?
Yes, I was. About two years in Wellington,
and then I got married.
So what were you doing in Christchurch?
In another lawyer's office, yeah. Yes, my
friend and I from Invercargill, we had made up our minds. When you go on an
immigration scheme, you had to stay there for two years to work off your
passage and at the end of the two years, I put a deposit on a return trip to
Britain, and my friend was coming with me as her overseas experience. Young New
Zealanders nearly all do an overseas experience and we were both going together
but then we both met our husbands. So we cancelled that and my husband-to-be
had put a deposit on a trip back to Holland. He was a Dutch immigrant. There
were many Dutch immigrants in New Zealand in those days, and he was going to…he
said he was looking for a Dutch wife. He didn't get one! So we never did make
that trip back.
So how long were you in Wellington, did you
Oh, in Wellington. I got married at the end
of ‘55 and then for about two years, and then we moved. My husband was working
up North in a place called Kawerau. It had a big paper mill, and it was being
built. It was where all the work was. So he was working up there while I was
still in Wellington. They had all the houses built and so all the workmen then
moved into the houses and worked on them and lived in them until they were
finished, and so I was able to go up and we had a house, up in Kawerau, which
is in the middle of the North Island, and the papermill was opening. It was all
coming from England, mainly. And so I went up there with him, and I worked in
another office, a builder's office this time, for a while. By that time – oh,
I've lost track of when it was – 1958? No, 1956-57. We went to Auckland and
bought a little grocery dairy, which we ran. And then we sold that because it
wasn't very lucrative because they were pulling down a lot of houses to make
room for motorways and things, so we thought we'd get out quick. And we moved
back down the island and also, it didn't make enough money for the two of us so
my husband was a painter and decorator, so he went out to work.
Whilst you ran the shop?
And I ran the shop, yeah. So we sold, we got
rid of that, and we went back down the island to a place called Masterton,
which is just outside Wellington. And there our daughter was born, and that was
So going back to the shop, what inspired to
buy the shop?
Um, my husband was very keen on serving the
public. He liked doing it. As a boy – and a young teenager, even – during the war,
he was in Holland, and of course Holland was occupied by the Germans. His
father had a vending cart – he used to sell cheeses and all sorts of things –
and my husband used to go with him, so he enjoyed all that. It was just a pity
that he had to go out to work and couldn't work in the shop because it didn't
make enough money. But I didn't mind working in the shop, I enjoyed it.
How long were you – sorry?
I can't remember, to be honest. 1958, we'd
been in Masterton for two months when [our first daughter] was born, so that
was the beginning of 1958 that we came down to Masterton, and she was born in
the June. We bought an old house and did it all up and then my husband had a
heart attack, so he was off work quite a while. He was still painting, and he
went back to painting, and he had another heart attack, so that was the end of
that work. So we decided to buy another shop, where he could work, just potter
about, and I could work. By that time, the years had gone by, and we had three
children. So we had another shop, for a while.
What did you sell, was it a grocer's?
That was a grocer's as well. A dairy,
milk-bar. Not a milk-bar exactly, just a grocery dairy.
Milk-bars were very popular in those days,
they were everywhere. And little grocery shops were all over the place, there
were no supermarkets. The corner shop was the place.
I don't suppose you had loyalty cards, or
anything like that did you?
Oh, no. We had our regular customers. Oh yes,
they were pretty good. But if they could go to a bigger shop and get specials –
they still had reduced prices on things in various places – if they could do
that, then that was fine. But they used to come to us and buy certain things. I
mean milk was one thing, bread was another thing – cigarettes; they were all
what we called convenience lines in those days. And if they bought those
things, they sometimes bought something else.
What were the hours that you had to put in
with both shops?
Seven o'clock in the morning to sometimes
seven at night. Yes, it was quite hard work but we lived in flats over the top
of the place or at the back of the places so that was alright, we didn't have
far to travel.
When you had your children did you have the
children with you in the shop?
Yes, yes they were there.
Did they help out?
No, no they weren't old enough. By the time
we had to get rid of the shop, they weren't old enough. Yes, that's another
I don't suppose you had much time for leisure
time, did you? With a shop and three children!
No, not really. Well, you know, we just did
it! I used to do a lot of knitting, I was always knitting. And we used to watch
television. Not in the shop… We didn't get television ‘til we left the shop,
that's right. Because I think our television came a bit later, although I did
see the first episode of Coronation Street so we must've got it quite early!
What about with your first shop? Did you have
time for leisure time then before your children came?
The first shop? But we didn't bother very much. We used to go
out on a Sunday, we used to go out, because other days we were open all day so
we couldn't go very far, really.
So when you ran both shops they were
both shut on Sundays, were they? That
was normal was it?
Yes, yes, that was normal really. We went
into the second shop in 1967. I remember it well because New Zealand changed to
decimal currency. So we had a lot of people having trouble with their change
and their money for a while. Fortunately my husband had grown up with decimal
currency so it was not too difficult. But that same year, or very soon after we
went into the shop, the inter-island ferry between the north and south island,
went down off the coast of Wellington. It was called the Wahine – it's a Maori
name for girl, I think – and people were standing on the shore and they could see
the boat going down but they couldn't get out to it because the seas were so
bad. And there were quite a few lives lost then. I think that must have been in
1968. Masterton is 64 miles north of Wellington, but the storm was so bad it
ripped out the trees in our park and it took all the power lines down all
around the shop. We were the only people with gas so we were filling people's
kettles all day long, with hot water. It was quite, quite traumatic. Especially
with the lives being lost.
Were anyone's lives lost with the damage from
the trees falling or anything?
No, no, that was alright. I know it happened
in April, but I can't remember which year. I think it was 1968, it wasn't much
after we went into the shop, anyway. Well, after all this, my husband had
another heart attack in 1969, and he died. So I ran the shop for a little while
but it wasn't a shop that paid… it was just a family business. If you had to
pay wages, it didn't pay its way very well. So I sold the shop and bought a
house and took a trip to England. 1969, 1970.
the business, moving on
That was obviously the first time your
children had seen England?
Yes, that's right.
What did they think of it?
Oh, they thought it was lovely. We had a
lovely trip back.
How long did you stay in the UK?
Six months. Including the trips, because it
took six weeks there and back, because there was no flying in those days,
unless you were a millionaire! It was all boats. We went back on the Greek ship
the Ellinis and came back on the Italian ship the Achille Lauro.
Did you notice any difference between the
cruises, you know, from when you first went out there a decade before?
Oh, yes, it was different because that was
just an immigrant ship. People had paid for this. But when we came back, on the
Achille Lauro, it was a terrible ship. The crew was always going on strike and
not doing things that they should. And every time we came into port, they would
come in late at night so that they didn't have to pay water rates, and then go
out early in the morning. We stopped at Johannesburg, and we could only see
Table Mountain from far off. We just were able to go around the shops very
briefly, back on board and off we went. There was an elderly lady on the ship
who had saved all her money to travel around the world on these ships and she
wasn't seeing a thing on this one. Anyway, we came into New Zealand and they
said that they weren't stopping, they were just landing us, and they took all
our luggage off and just dumped it. I think we got headlines in the paper.
Anyway, a little delegation of paid passengers – because some of them were
immigrants who were on the ship – went down to the purser's office and
complained and said that we had to stay over night because so many people were
travelling to other parts of New Zealand but that when we arrived so late,
there was no transport for them. Some of them were going to the South Island.
So we got our way. In the morning, I had friends in Wellington and they'd come
to meet me, so I was alright. I went and stayed with them and came back in the
morning and met up with some of the people from the boat. One of the chaps got
so angry with a waiter that he hit him on the head with a tray! Because he
wouldn't serve him breakfast. Anyway, I think they all got to their destinations
in the end, but, you know, we had to find our luggage, it was really a
disgraceful outfit. That was my last experience with a boat that I wanted for
I was living there for a while and then I decided I wanted to move on.
From Masterton, yeah. I bought a house in
Timaru in the South Island, and that's where I worked in a children's home for
two or three years.
Working in social care
What were your experiences at the children's
Oh, they were good. There were some sad
cases. There were quite a few Maori children in there, who unfortunately didn't
have much of a life, really, of any good, you know. Social work, and that was all very
interesting. And then, gradually, the children left home. [Our first daughter]
went to university in Dunedin, which is further south from Timaru. [Our second
daughter] went to nursing in Christchurch. And then [our son], eventually, went
to Christchurch as well with a job. So I stayed in Timaru until… This home was
run by the Presbyterian social services and they sold it and they moved to
other premises, so I felt it was time for me to sell up as well. A friend of
mine had just lost her son by drowning, and she asked me to go back to
Masterton, so I decided to move back up there and bought a house.
Were they sort of problem children, did they
cause a lot of trouble, or were they generally good?
They were problems to themselves, rather
than… The ones we had, they didn't get into trouble, as such. But their
families didn't look after them very well. They had nothing in the homes which
would help with their education, and they started a breakfast club, on one of
their estates, actually. Not an estate like the English estates. They called it
the Cameron block. And mostly they were rented houses, estate houses, and
people who lived there… Sometimes the children left home without any breakfast,
so they started a big breakfast club down there and fed the children on their
way to school. It was quite… It wasn't good living, down there. I suppose you
could call it the slums of Masterton, but I think it's improved since those
How long did the children often stay until?
Until they were about 16?
No, not necessarily. Until things were right
back at the house. The idea of the social worker was that the sooner they could
get back with the families, the better. But unfortunately, the families were
not reliable, so the staff would work very hard at getting the children stable,
and having a stable life, and then the social worker would come along and
they'd say ‘oh, I think they're alright to go back to the family', but we knew
they'd be back, because it was the family who was at fault, not the children.
At Christmas and for their birthdays, did
they make a special occasion of it for the children at the home?
Yes, what they did was… We used to have all
the children in one big group and then various staff looking after them. I was
a general… I used to look after the daycare children when the others went to
school. But then they changed that, and they made it families. So each staff
member had about nine children, and they were in charge of them, and that was
their family and they lived like a family. And it worked, it worked very well
really. They went to the local school nearby. Yes, it worked very well. And so
they did make a fuss about birthdays then. But we had so many – because we were
a social welfare home – we had so many clothes given in for the children and if
ever there was a show on or anything, the children always got tickets. They did
everything. They did good things. All they were missing was their family's
love, I suppose.
And they fitted in at school okay? They
didn't get the mickey taken or anything?
Mostly, yes… Well, sometimes. You'd get one
or two that weren't very good at school, or didn't fit in. I don't remember a
great deal of trouble with the school, but some of them weren't very bright at
school, but then they hadn't had the grounding either.
How long were your hours?
Nine o'clock until about three, if I remember
rightly. But it depended, really – they were flexible. If I… if they were busy
or anything. But usually, when they divided them into families, there was no
need for me, because the other staff came back on. Occasionally I'd work later,
if a mother was working later and her child was in my care, then I'd work later
until she came in to pick them up. Because they, the day care, were children
who lived at home as well, mainly. That was an extra, that was an extra.
So what kind of thing did you do, did you
have to teach them the basics?
No, they were children under five. They were
just day-care, and over two.
Did you have to do any reading then, to sort
of start them off?
No, no. We didn't. Well, we just showed them
how to play and that sort of thing. In those days, you didn't need all those
qualifications to work in a children's home. When they sold, when the
Presbyterian services sold this building, and they moved somewhere else with
just the day-care, then the day-care people had to go through exams. But in
those days, it was not so necessary – well, they didn't make it necessary.
So when they started to introduce all the
qualifications, did they also start to introduce the CRBs, the criminal records
Well, I expect they did. I don't know. I
don't think so, actually.
I bet it's quite a recent thing, really,
Yes, it is… I don't think they did, but I'm
So when they were in your charge, were you
allowed to take them out?
You had to stay in the building?
Yes. Oh yes, we were inside, it was a very,
very big building. And it had lots of bedrooms and big grounds. Because they
were all young children.
Did they have a lot of toys donated to the
home as well?
Yes, yes, they had lots of things. If there
was a do on anywhere, you know, with a lot of food, the hotels would bring – if
it was good food – they'd bring it round as well. We often used to have it for
lunch, because we had two cooks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon
and we had a really big kitchen, but we also had a very big dining room as
What was the maximum amount of children that
they could hold, the boarders?
Oh, I'm trying to think. I think it was at
And that was mixed, boys and girls?
Boys and girls.
What was the sort of starting age? For the
actual ones staying over, was that from babies right up to…?
No, no, it was school-children,
school-children. Day-care came later, really. That home had been going for
many, many years. One lady called one day and asked to see one of the men who'd
really supportive this home – he was a lovely man – and wanted his address. Well,
I was in my thirties, I suppose, thirties or forties, and this lady looked
about the same age as me and she had lived in this home, herself, as a child.
She was now in England and she went back on a trip and she thought she'd go and
look this man up, because he was so good to her. So it was a home that had been
going for a long time, and it was run, originally, by one lady, whose name
slips my memory. And she used to take in babies, as well. Later on they stopped
doing that. While I was there it was run by a matron and her husband, who lived
in a little house on the property. 1983, I retired.
How long did you stay on in New Zealand until
you came back to the UK?
I came back to the UK to live in 2004.
What inspired you, what made you come back
Because I wanted to come home, that was all.
We had snow… we had all the seasons alright, the only difference was, the
trees… the native bush doesn't lose its leaves, so most of the greenery stayed
green all year round. It's only the imported trees, I suppose, that lose their
leaves. So nothing, nothing looked like in England in the winter…in Britain,
it's bare, but you don't get that in New Zealand. Everything's always green.
And the lawn always grows. And the weeds always grow.
What made you want to come to Thetford?
Well, it really was the first place we found
near to London, which is what I wanted, with the cheaper houses… It was the
cost that got us here, and I had friends here, so that's why we landed up in