This is the final installment of my great-grandmother’s letter, Recollections of a Victorian Childhood. It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to share these fascinating memories with you. I hope you’ve enjoyed experiencing Alice’s world as much as I have.
All content written by Alice Grant (née Brinkworth), 1887 – 1961.
Our groceries came once a month and with them meat from the butcher from town, fifteen miles away. But in the nearby hamlet we bought eggs, fourpence a dozen; milk, a penny a pint; chickens, sixpence each; ducks, one shilling; and a goose for half a crown. All these were carried home alive where Father killed them and Mother dressed them and the feathers were prepared and baked in the oven.
After all these years I still use a pillow filled by Mother with those feathers. On my journeys in later years this pillow always went with me inside a cushion cover. It has crossed the Atlantic several times, so if I ever found the way hard to my feet I was always sure of a soft spot to lay my head.
We would go down to the beach when fishing boats came in and could buy a whole cod for sixpence. Sometimes we would find the gift of a bucket full of crabs on our doorstep, the lobster men not having a market for crabs.
The accepted rule was that if a visitor had passed nine chimneys you should offer him a meal. This reminds me of another saying of Mother’s – if an unexpected caller came and you only had bread and butter to offer, put a clean white cloth on the table and get out your best china.
It was about this time we saw our first car. There was a clear view of the road for a mile before reaching the village and when it came in sight everyone disappeared, peeping through their windows till it had passed by. They thought it was the devil coming.
Mother used to stand by all the young wives of the crew. She was at all the births and daily bathed the new baby till the mother was about again.
I have always loved stories of pioneers, but it is only now, when drawing in the net of memory, that I realise what a pioneer my mother was in all those lonely places around the coast.
When she died and lay in the house awaiting burial, my father said, “I want you to cover her with the Union Jack. She has earned it.” And so we did.
- Alice ends her letter with the first two stanzas of Crossing the Bar by Tennyson. I have not reproduced the poem, but you can find it in its entirety here.
- Remember, Alice won’t be gone for long! Later in the year I shall publish a second letter about her illegal stay and deportation from the United States.