MARY Morgan from Stratford-upon-Avon has reached a historic milestone in her life when she recently celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at Stratford Town Hall and Stratford Bentley Nursing Home where she now resides.
Mary was born in Tysoe on 8th November 1918 at ‘Kirklands’ a small farm her parents rented from Warwickshire County Council.
She went to the village school until she was 14 years-old and then started work at the village shop but didn’t like weighing sugar from a sack into 2lb bags.
Her second job was as a house parlourmaid for the Brinkleys at Harbury Leys which lasted three three years before she came to Stratford to work as a parlourmaid for the Hon. Alister Erskin, cousin to Fordham Flower but after two years of not enjoying the cycle ride up to Cadle Pool (The Ridgeway), Mary moved into town to work for Walter Joseph on Tiddington Road.
Mary met her future husband, Cecil Lee, at a dance at the Drill Hall and got married on 2th July 1940 in Tysoe Church. Cecil, along will all his family, had worked at Kendalls (chemical manufacturer for the brewing industry) but was now in the fire service so it was a uniform wedding with his brother Eric, who was in the RAF, as best man.
Cecil was in the blitz at Coventry and also Avonmouth, Bristol and after the war in 1947 he started a haulage business with a small van moving builders’ materials and even taking hens in sacks to the local market.
Later he bought a larger van and went into house removals, school dinners and theatre props. Cecil died on 25th January 1960 but had been running the haulage business for nearly a year by that time while he was taken ill.
Mary had the help of a man (part-time) for four shillings per hour but once the school meals contract ended, Mary started delivering for local shops such as J C Smiths (now Debenhams) which included parcels and furniture, Hunter Smallpage & Peels furniture and carpets, Timothy Whites furniture and cleaning materials.
The haulage work that Mary most enjoyed involved furniture sales for Baileys, John Morgan and Barnard & Dobson.
“With the help of a man I would clear out houses, take saleable items to the sale and rubbish to the tip. Many is the time we tipped marble-topped washstands and wardrobes with glass doors – things that are valuable and sought after today. One house clearance was where an old lady had died of malnutrition. She had saved boxes of string, dusters, tablecloths, bed linen and underwear. When we took down the iron bedstead the wallpaper fell from ceiling to floor and the coal in the cellar had turned back to wood. With some removals everything was just as the people had got out of bed but the fastest ones were for the Polish people who passed everything from one to another and all I had to do was just stack things in the van. Not easy as I liked to look at the furniture first and decide how to pack it but as I charged by the hour they wanted the job done as cheap as possible.
Some removals were not easy as the staircases in some houses were not straight so we had to take the windows out and use a ladder. At one small village cottage the double-bed base wouldn’t go up the stairs and the windows were too small, so the owner took a sharp knife and cut it in half. Six months later I moved the gentleman to a larger house with a good, straight staircase,” Mary once said.
At Christmas time Mary delivered bicycles for Halfords, as they were presents for children and had to put them in outhouses or at a neighbours until the special day arrived.
For about ten years Mary did a grocery round for Liptons two days a week. Some days there were over a hundred boxes and her work was undertaken in all weathers, all year round but the worst weather she experienced was frost when the back of the van would slide around and she found it difficult to stand up.
Before the roads were built at Stoneleigh the mud had been churned up until it was like a thick batter pudding mixture so the van had to be pulled on and off the roads by tractor.
Mary married again on 3rd March 1961 to Derrick Morgan, who had driven the van sometimes while she was learning to drive.
“Derrick worked at Fox’s, the printers and it was a good thing he didn’t leave there in order to help me as he had a coronary so was unable to lift. However, for the years prior to his coronary he would always be willing to help in the evenings and on Saturdays when my son, Norman, would assist him while I did some housework and cooking,” she said.
And it was Derrick who introduced her to bowling. He had bowled for FlSSC (NFU) and Snitterfield and as a couple they joined Avon Bowling Club as they were the only local club to have lady members.
“I won the club championship the first year, then went on to win the Warwickshire two-wood singles twice and play for Warwickshire. I also bowled for the police, FISSC and Stratford Town and have won over 50 trophies,” Mary said proudly.