Skip Navigation To Main content

Born: May Hutchinson 1921 Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

"Ma winchen daysIt was a little market town surrounded by pits. They used to have a market every week, a lot of the towns down there had open air markets. We didn't stay there very long, so we kind a moved around a bit. We moved to Maultby in Yorkshire. My father was in WW1 for four years. He was wounded twice, and when he healed up they sent him back again. He had a weesmall short temper, but that was because he had red hair. While we lived at Maultby, I was 3 at the time, we picked blue bells in the wood, and I fell and ripped my arm on a nail. Archie and now Mrs May BarkerI still have the scar. I had three brothers all older than me, 13, 11 and 7 before I was born. They said I was spoiled. There was an explosion in the pit at Maultby during that time, maybe 1924. My father should have been working on that shift but he wasn't, I don't know why. A number of miners were killed. That is the reason we left Maultby. We went back to Sutton in Ashfield. He worked in the pit there for a while, then he got a job in Tibshelf near Alfreton. The houses there were not too bad. There was no running water and the toilets were in the yard, but you did have an upstairs. We had a big coal fire in the range. My mum used heat the beds with the shelves from the range. Mum would bake bread twice a week. We always had good food, and we grew most of our vegetables. We had lino on the floor, no carpets but we made rag rugs. You used to go to the pawn shop to buy rags, then wash and dye them to make rugs. My dad was good at making them. We did the washing in a dolly tub, a big copper round zinc bowl with a fire under it. It was in the scullery at the back. All the water was carried in from a tap outside the door.

I started school at Tibshelf. I didn't do well at school. I had a bit of a stammer and I was left handed, but the teacher made me use my right hand. If I used my left hand I got a bit of a wallop. But that wasn't the worst. I could not read properly. The letters used to jump about. I think they call it dyslexia now. When I put my finger on the word though I could read. My stammer went away when my reading improved. My grades were not too bad, I managed to stay near the top of the class.

Nurses one and all

From there we went to Holme Wood near Chesterfield when I was about seven. We were there for the rest of our time. Our house had water inside, and a bathroom, but they were still awfyvery cold. We had little gas lights coming out the wall. We played hopscotch and skipping. I still remember the rhymes. In they days we had dolls in prams. I had one till I was 14. I had a china doll called Rose, and a black doll that my mother crocheted a suit for. I liked my black doll the best.

Archie, Brenda and me stepping outI was nearly 15 when I left school, and I went to work in a shop in Nottingham. I used to travel everyday by train from Heath Village. The shop was called Griffith & Spalding. I was learning to be a tailoress. I was awfy weevery small and I didn't start to grow till I was about 15, and I had to answer the phone and I could not reach it. I had to stand on this box. It was the posh women who used to phone up about their coats to see if they were ready. I was there four years and then the war came. I didn't finish my apprenticeship, but they gave me my certificate anyway. My mum did not want me to go into the army so I decided to go into the hospitals. Because I did not have secondary education I had to sit an exam. I started at Chesterfield Royal. I was a skivvy the first two years, dusting, making beds etc. Everything was a bit primitive because we were so short of things because of the war. There were about five or six wards with 300 beds. The maternity unit was at the side. We did medical, surgical, and we had an eye ward. There were always casualties anyway before the war, because of the mining area. After D-Day the wards really started filling up with soldiers. The men were brought over from France and landed on the south coast. The major operations were done at Basingstoke. The more they moved up the country the less serious they were. We were the third post, although they were quite ill, and they still needed long-term recovery. That is where I met my husband. I nursed him for two months. He had a badly wounded leg. The tissues were all shattered and destroyed, and the bone was broken. He was immobilised for two months. The romance started when he moved out of hospital. Oh, they were too strict in those days for any of that. Archie, Brenda and me on holidayThe soldiers were given a bright blue suit to wear during their convalescing. They used to get into places free like the pictures. We were married on 1st September 1945 at Heath Church. We went toBlackpool for our honeymoon. I still have Archie's medical records. He got a pension but they tried to take it off him after 6 months. The British Legion helped to get his pension back. Archie was demobbed in February and we came up to Dalkeith. Archie was born in Dalkeith. Before we were married we used to come on the night train to stay with his mother, she lived in Woodburn Road. We stayed with a Mr Strathern at 5 Woodburn Road a block up. Archie's granny stayed in the house below. Brenda our daughter was born when we were living there. We stayed there three years, and then moved to the top of Woodburn Avenue, where Dorothy was born. Archie was a driver for the coal board. He always used to say he built that hill. He was talking about the hill between Easthouses and Mayfield, were he dumped all the red out of the pit. He then drove for Ferranti's for the rest of his days. He didn't have very good health, he came out of the war with an ulcer.

I am thankful for a great life.I started back nursing at Westfield Park, Eskbank an older people's home in the late fifties, early sixties. There was a male matron, Mr. Cameron, which was unusual. His wife was the house keeper. I was the nurse in charge. We had a lot of bed ridden patients, about ten, and some who were able to walk. It is now Highbank Residential Home.

I remember we used to go to Portobello in the train from Eskbank station. Portobello was a bit rough, but very busy. We used to walk a lot. There are a lot of footpaths around here. Our first car was a Ford, black of course. We went camping up North and it rained every day. When the girls got bigger we started going abroad. Later on we had a caravan and travelled all over Britain. We took it to Sweden as well. We got the ferry at Newcastle to Gothenburg.

I think I have had a great life, a very happy one, but the last five years have not been so good since my husband passed away. We were 55 years married. It has been dreadful and lonely. I talk to the chair and I swear at his photo for leaving me.



Back to top

information for screen reader users or keyboard users.To return to navigation please press F5 key

Adapted by Iain Tait