Raypits life years ago

Myrtle Doe's story

by Peter Cottis

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This story was written by Myrtle Anne Doe and submitted by Peter Cottis. Myrtle was also known as Aunt Mart (ie Peter's aunt). The narrative is written by Peter to reflect the speaking style of Myrtle and is deliberately non-grammatical. Peter explains better than we can in the second comment below. (RDCA Admin).

CHAPTER ONE - A Few Tales of Our Raypits Life of Years Gone By. 

This is one of the latest tales in the war years. Two brothers were in the army, and the other in the navy, my sister Wink was staying for a while with us from her Devon home. She was an inspector of shells for the guns. Our older brother Jim wrote to say he was coming home on leave and bringing his pal to show him around Canewdon & Southend. 

Our mum had died at 42 years of age, so I kept house for us, I was 15 and a half years old then.  The thing was we needed another bed, and they were kept over in a barn, which we crossed over a ditch, by plank to get there.  Wink my sister was helping, we went and got it and was crossing over the bridge; everything was Ok until Wink reached the other side, her being in front with me at rear, and turning on to the path the bed didn't want to bend, knocking me into the ditch up to my neck.  The thing was I had changed into my best outfit after a bath, all spruced up, I did feel a fool.  I didn't laugh then but caused some merriment later. 

The first time I had a taste of water was when I was under two years old I’ve been told.  Wink, Bert, and Nard were playing round the house, our mum was ill in bed; Nard was a year older than me, Wink suddenly missed me and said to Nard: where’s Myrtle:  'that’s me! "in the water" he said very calm and collected, it was the same ditch as the other mishap happened.  The panic set in, mother rushed out and pulled me out after going down a third time, anyway, I survived to prove it I'm writing this.  The third time I was much older, but not very brave, I was crossing the (same one with the bed episode) bridge, in I went and so suddenly, and clung to two posts sticking out the water, screaming for my life not attempting to move, father was over the barn working and heard the commotion and raced over and pulled me out.  You would think that I would have learnt to swim by now but no never.  Wink and Bert used to take me to the seawall and make me jump the rills, so I can imagine I used to scream, so that’s my story of why I can't swim, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.  After all that, one would imagine that I would hate the water.  I expect I would be frightened out on the sea, but when I was eight I spent hours rowing up and down the fleet of water in front of Raypits house where we lived, it was such a treat for me all on my own.  I went with father fishing in the sea in a small rowing boat, he used to bait a hoop net and drop it over the side of the boat catching quite a lot of dabs, a flat fish, it was dangerous now I think about it, it was good though.  We would put them on strings, large going down to small, I used to hate the smell; I don’t enjoy fish now perhaps that’s why.  Pop used to sell them around the village.  Father was used to the river years before he had been a ferryman from Creeksea over to the other side, which is also named Creeksea, it can be a tough river quite strong currents.  We enjoyed Lower Raypits skating on the fleet when frozen over in winter.  Huge bonfires and fireworks on Nov 5th. 

I had plenty of dolls and a room to myself for a while which was my schoolroom.  I always wanted to be a schoolteacher, I would cut little books for writing and each doll would have one and half a pencil.  I also had a cane and sorry to say I used it on the fingers and none were left, one baby doll escaped, her name was Heather.  Pop won her at a fate in Canewdon.  Pop dressed up as Charlie’s Aunt and one year Gandhi.  I remember going in a race when five years old and my shoe fell off.  I stopped to pick it up and Herbert Cottis, a Farmer in Canewdon, grabbed my hand and ran with me, coming in last. 

While working at Lower Raypits, Pop had in Mr. Steel’s employment over the years one or two workers to help on the farm, haymaking and ditching no combines and diggers those times ditches were dug out by hand. 

Mr. Francis Peter’s Grandfather his mum’s father worked with me for a while fencing down Cannon Hooks next to the sea wall.  The grass was long and dry, he got out his matches and said I wonder if that grass will burn on the wall and lit it, very soon he was rushing about to find his sack to beat it out, he was so frightened it would have burned round to the next farm.  We had a good laugh over it after.  He liked to do a war dance and recite his song “Hey hey out of the way I’m a great old stager.

Another incident while at Raypits, Bert was working on the farm, then about sixteen or seventeen years old, he went to feed the working horses with some hay with a pitchfork. He put it in the hay and up popped a tramp, Bert was so taken aback, he said, "All right mate I’m a going" and ran, with that, the tramp got up and left. 

My sister and I were thistle cutting; it was a job that had to be done, in our young days 4d an hour when I first started work.  Wink was staying with us for a while with her two children, Anne and Colin.  Anne's age was about two and a half years old & Colin nine months, Colin was in his pram all was quiet, so Wink went to the pram and Anne had nearly smothered him with his pillow over his face, but was soon ok. Quite a fright though. 

Another day quite a disaster for Grandpop's binoculars.  He always left them on the windowsill, so he could see if anyone was coming down to the house, his Boss, no doubt.  We saw they were missing he was out, so we got the rake and up they came.  We knew what to expect as we had raked that ditch many a time. 

We cleaned them up and no one was any the wiser about what happened.  I'm afraid Anne was the culprit, throwing cups and cutlery in.  I have a spoon found by Burt when the ditch dried up; it looks as though it's been in water for over 50 years.  I'm keeping that as a memento to show her one of these days.  One smiles now but at the time it could have been very serious so near with ditch and pond all round the house. 

When I was sixteen, I used to take the carthorse and harrow all the fields not much plowed in those days.  It was tough for me trying to harness the horse, as I was too short I would put the collar in the manger they're no lightweight I used to stand in the manger.   As soon as you put the cooler on the neck, it had to be turned round, quite a feat.  Later on, there was horse raking the hay into long lines.  Then came a small case tractor, which I did the disking with.  Not such fun as the horse.  We had our own cow to milk, when Pop was away I used to milk it, plenty of milk and cream those days. 

As a young child, sheep were down Raypits and lambing time was a busy time, getting hurdles ready with thatching and little pens ready for mother and babes.  Three or more times at night father would take his lantern and inspect if things were ok.  Many nights I would go over with him, most lambs were born in the daytime but a few at night might need help, sometimes wearing coats from dead lambs so that the sheep would take to them, she would let it feed then as if it was her own. 

Sheep dipping was always exciting; a policeman always had to be in attendance to see it was carried out.  Cutting of lamb’s tails was always a sad time cruel to me, but very quick.  They used to "make tail pie, old Rose Hymas was a keen one for them, no doubt we tried everything rook, sparrows, moorhens, rabbits. I remember when I made a huge rabbit pie, Doll Button was going to have some she used to like my pastry, but not this time, what a disappointment to raise the lid of the pastry I had used a plastic egg cup instead of china, not many cooking disasters but that was revolting.  I can still remember a little about a supper dish during the war, Wink and I cooked it she found the recipe.  Bread spread with dripping sliced onions covered in milk and baked vile all I can remember. 

Things were tough, kids wouldn't survive these days driven everywhere, we walked to school cold, winters were cold.  I missed a lot of schooling in winter months, summer months were great.  Of course, we had to find our own amusement.  Wink would keep me up till about 3 o’clock in the morning, listening to the radio, mother would call down "send that girl to bed".  We cooked on the black leaded stove; Pop used to black lead it.  Candles were used all over the house, just one lamp on the table, going to bed we would take our own candlestick, its a wonder we weren't all burnt up, but no fires.  Coal was provided by the farmer Alec Steel.  Our washing has to be boiled in a copper fired by wood and coal.  The toilet was bottom of garden frightful place at night, so lonely and quiet.  Only newspaper cuttings no toilet rolls those days.  Father emptied it when full in a hole in the garden; I had that to do when he was in hospital, I would have to be hard pushed to do it now.

Brother Jim made us frightened, he was brought up with his Granny Bridge, and used to come down Raypits any time and peer in windows scaring me out of my wits.  I still scream if people look in the window.  He used to come down late nights and pile brooms, sticks, boards, anything he could find and lean it up against the door, so when Pop opened the door everything fell in.  He liked his jokes; it's a wonder Pop survived.  He was better at Christmas with his sack of presents one each for all.  I can remember one present for me; transfers, butterflies, and birds & flowers.  Mother had a handbag, blue that's all I remember.  Times were hard; money didn't come easily those days, a stocking with small presents in, nuts, orange, a few sweets.  A huge tree always left up for Nard's birthday 8th Jan. 

When Nard and I were nearly home from school, across a footpath he spotted a hole in the ground, he said I wonder what’s in it and started poking a stick in it, I ran home I thought bees would be mad, one came out and Nard ran as fast as he could.  I can’t remember him doing that again.  We had two dogs I remember Tats an old English sheepdog and Nellie a mongrel.  Family used to say to Tats, Myrtle is coming home from school, and send him off.  He would come right in the fields to meet me, a lovely old dog, we would play hide and seek with him, he would find us wherever we hid, he was sixteen when he toppled off the bridge and drowned, maybe a heart attack he was feeble then.  Poor Nellie died under mother’s bed after she died, we think she pined for her, she was her baby. 

I left school at thirteen and a half years old, going to Rochford senior school by bus. It was great, not long enough but school was closed when war broke out.  I’m seventy years old now and only my sister and I are left from our Cottis family that I’ve written about.  I'm enjoying the quiet life now after 30 years work for my late guv, Mr. Ling mostly working with chickens, now I feed the squirrels, great tits, blue tits, spotted woodpeckers, lovely to see so many.  The blue tits & sparrows peck on the side window asking for food. 

I pray one day the hunt will be stopped forever as I have had some nasty experiences about them.  Also, I hope the badger baiters will lose a limb or two there's no need for cruelty.  When they dig foxes out of their holes, and then let the fox go into the hounds, don’t believe them when they say they don’t do these things, also block holes so they can only enter one way, we've seen a fox covered in blood and a Jack Russell put in a pipe with it then the brick taken away, and fox and dog both covered in blood, with the hunt chasing after the fox again so exhausted.  The reason I witnessed this was because I was going out to deliver eggs and we couldn't get by for dogs and horses right by the side of Gore Road.  We also had our retirement spoilt by a farmer wanting a rubbish dump right in front of our home.  We all need money but when it spoils others lives!  It can be thought out better.  Not a grab for thousands. 

CHAPTER TWO - But Things Can Be Mastered If The Mind Wills It 

When the Second World War started, Mother and Father thought I would be better staying with Wink 'my sister' down Devon I stayed with her family for 6 months.  A very bad air battle over Canewdon I missed.  Our house was about a mile to our nearest neighbour and main road across fields, the other way up to Lambourne Road was deep cart tracks no way for cars to get down.  Pop used to take the horse and cart into Rochford also mother used to walk pushing a pram it was a good five miles there, that’s before I knew about it. It was a lonely place but when you’re brought up in a place like, it comes natural to us all. 

The post lady Mrs. Wallaker used to walk from the road, leaving her cycle there.  We would walk or run to meet her keeping a lookout, sometimes she would say don’t meet me tomorrow as I shall have an inspector with me, seeing how far, and timing me.  Our Dr. Emery was very good, walking all the way to see us, Raypits must have seemed a very long trip sometimes, never complained about it, I would carry his case up to the road many a time, he didn't always charge for his visits, times were hard and he knew wages were 10/- a week.  Mrs. Fance lived on the road, corner house, and she would let mother see Dr. Emery at her house, as she had to have treatment every few months.  It saved him going down to our house so often.  Our drinking water was fetched by horse and cart in two milk churns from Lambourne Hall, Mr. H Cottis's.  A huge tank was used for washing and all-purpose work, full of rainwater just outside front door.  As years went on, holes in the tracks were filled in with stones, and hogging, much better road now cars go down.  I was 9 months old when family moved from house next to village pond Canewdon, to Raypits. 

The first part of war, we spent most nights sitting in our air raid shelter, plenty of shrapnel flying about.  Uncle Knocker was living with us at the time, and he would give us a running commentary of the bombers going over to bomb London, and guns firing, the searchlights were picking them out. 

I was nearly sixteen when courting Cliff my hubby now, and was being escorted from his mum’s home to mine.  We were halfway, and in the distance, this huge ball of fire and roaring sound was getting very near, we said a Doodle Bug!  That’s what they were called.  We rushed and hid behind a haystack I was frightened it would hit the haystack and burn us up, it looked very grim, then down it went a few hundred yards away setting off two landmines at the wash, bottom of Lion House.  I hope not to have that experience again. 

Another time I was cycling up to Canewdon up Thorn Pool fields, why it's called that I haven't found the answer yet, and overhead planes were firing, I thought at me, so I jumped off cycle and leaped into ditch, all brambles.  It was said they were making a mistake and shooting at our own planes, anyway I carried on afterwards with badly torn silk stockings. 

One day a rocket went down in the river terrific thud like sound in between Lands End and Cannon Hooks.  Every night a light seemed to be flashing over the other side of the river from a big house we shall never know if it was to help the Germans guiding them up the river to London. 

A Spitfire came down on a field at Raypits and afterwards was always called Spitfire Field; by the way, the pilot parachuted to safety.  Of course, the farm at Lower Raypits was sold, Mr. Brown bought it, and sold some to nature reserve so I expect the spitfire field is not known as that now.  Some army officers during the war called in at our house I can't remember all but our Pop was talking to them and about billets somewhere they said there is an awful smell there yes Pop says ” it does pong really stinks” you can imagine all of us, they were talking posh, but Pop soon changed the dialect, we didn't laugh then but since called for a laugh or two.

After our mother died during the war I was cook and bottle washer for family, three brothers were in the forces so there was quite a lot to do when they came home on leave.  My middle brother married and brought his first wife as she had leave the same time as him down to Raypits.  Brother Nard didn't get much home leave as he was in the navy although Kath his first wife came to see us now and then. 

It was tough going not much money and rations were limited, but things can be mastered if the mind wills it. We collected wood from seawall saltings and coal was given from Mr. Alec Steel, father’s employer.

I was 18 years old when we moved from Lower Raypits to Lambourne Mead they had just been built so we were first to move in.  It was out of this world to have hot and cold water, indoor toilet and the bath was seeing and believing, such a difference in life all this luxury.

I worked for a Mrs and Major Carey for a while everyday 9 till 5 Mrs. Carey was away so I asked the Col as he called himself if it would be ok to have Sundays off, he didn't take to friendly to that so I left.  I then worked on the market garden at Cottis's with the gang mostly with Ivy Whitwell, Cliff’s dad, and Mr. Harvey.  There were several others at times, Cliffs mum, Lil Holland, Dorothy Mead, Mrs. Cooper, Old Rose, times later Terry Thorn a good friend moved in next door at Lambourne Mead she died quite young after I moved.  Arthur Thorn her husband still lives same house, but now on his own, he is 80 years old. 

Our Pop decided or Mrs. Cook did, to get married and she had her old dad to house, so I moved down to Cliff's mums at East Lambourne Hall, now called "Wades" again. 

We married 1951 and lived next door to Cliffs Mum & Dad, Clive was born 1953 so didn't' work until he was five years old. 

I did housework at Mrs. Anne Ling’s, then they wanted me grading eggs, the grader when I started only took one egg a time, over the years I had a better grader, put them on as fast as possible then fill trays.  The chicken man left, so I took over the cleaning, feeding, and grading for orders.  The surplus was packed on trolleys for the egg merchant to take away once a week.  I worked 6 o’clock until 5.0, Sat & Sun half day. 

Peter was employed when his chickens went bankrupt, so my Guv set him on taking, cleaning, and feeding, I collected eggs and graded five thousand, and more sometimes had to be sorted & graded every day.  I worked on the farm nearly 30 years being made redundant when Mr. Ling was ill and couldn't cope anymore.  Peter worked near to Shoebury more or less gardening after he left. 

Cliff was made redundant same time from Parks, Council.  I was lost; no one to talk to life seemed cut off. 

When Cliffs Mum died, we moved up to Takely a few yards up from East Lambourne Hall.  We lived in a caravan in the grounds, as only two bedrooms in bungalow, not enough room for us three, Clive spent a year in bungalow but it was ten years we slept in caravan cooking and looking after Cliff's dad, he lived a good age just missing his 90th birthday.  We moved in after he died and at time of writing were still here.

This page was added by Peter Cottis on 06/10/2018.
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Sorry Bob, I inadvertently left 1995 off the end of Aunt Mart’s story.

I must admit I struggled over wear (we are) etc as my purpose was to write it as Aunt Mart (Myrtle) spoke/wrote.  She wouldn’t say we are happy she would say wear happy or she wouldn’t say at the rear she would say at rear.  I read and reread until I was happy that it read as she spoke even if it was grammatically skewed.  I always regret that I didn’t record her speaking.  The only way I can put it is that she spoke Canewdon English. 

I wrote it in two Chapters the second being “But Things Can Be Mastered If The Mind Wills It”. This starts at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Let me know if you still have any queries.

By Peter Cottis
On 08/10/2018

Great story Peter,

I might break it into the two obvious parts -  will ask my partner to have a look.

Just struck me would be interesting to know when it was written.

We moved in after he died and at time of writing wear (we are?) still here.

Leave it to us to correct any such obvious typos.

Also Aunt Mart and Myrtle are obviously the same person and your aunt - we might add that snippet to the intro and anything else you might want to add to put things in context.

For the moment I'll leave it published as a single article and correct typos etc. Then either leave it as it is or split it in two.

By Bob Stephen
On 08/10/2018
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