Interview by Margaret Cooper in 2000 for the “Oxton Now & Then” publication.
Mollie Bramble, widow, lives at Lilac Cottage, Forest Road, Oxton. Gardener and poet.
“[I came to Oxton when I] first got married, moved in [to] Quince cottage. I thought the houses were very small, I couldn’t swing a cat round. There was only the fire, and I’d been used to a gas stove all my life, and of course things wouldn’t always go according to plan. It was quite a modern grate, but it were very temperamental, you didn’t know whether you were going to get your meat cooked. It usually finished up in the saucepan on the fire, of course all my lovely bright saucepans were black. We’d been used to having one big room and a medium sort of kitchen and the rooms were so small I felt rather claustrophobic”.
“I was born on the site where Coghills Court [in Southwell] is built now. I went to Trinity School but not until we’d moved to Oxton Road, one of them council houses on Oxton Road were being built, it’s called Sunbury Cottage now. When I was eleven and a half we moved round to Norwood. My dad took grandfather’s place as head gardener at Starkey’s in 1930 when Caudwell’s Mill changed [from coal] to electricity. He was thirty one at the time and he worked ‘til he was eighty”
“[I went to] the National school on Nottingham Road, [Southwell], lovely old Victorian school. Pity it ever closed, really. It was a good school, we had some good teachers. [I left school at 14 and] I did the milk round ‘til I was about fifteen. Then Miss Dowse wanted an apprentice so I left the milk round (it was a job to get somebody to work twice a day, seven days a week on the milk round). I started off at eight shillings a week, a pound of butter and a quart of milk a day, and that was quite good in those days and when I went to Miss Dowse’s I earned twelve and six a week. You know, it really was different, I mean we used to weigh nails and sell ladders and buckets and everything to do with hardware; there was an upholstery shop upstairs and it was a really interesting, exciting place to work”.
“When I was eighteen I’d all the exams and such like to be a nurse. I was going to Leicester Royal Infirmary, then realised that I shouldn’t have the bus fare to come home once a month. [When] Bill [husband to be] came home on leave, he says, ‘don’t leave home if you’re not forced to do’, so I went to Ransome & Marles in Newark in the assembly line putting loader bearings and ball bearings together.
“I wrote to him [Bill] all during the Italian Campaign and I’ve still got his letters now and of course I had one or two more boyfriends besides. I’d met him when I was on the milk rounds. He was from Oxton, he lived here in this house. I got married on July 13th 1946. I was 21”
“Bill was at Nix’s, he was a joiner and they’d managed to get him home early from Italy ‘cos the war was over you see, [and] his father was dying of cancer. He died four months after we got married. I helped to look after him, it wasn’t an easy start, no, but I’ve always had a leaning looking after people, you know. Same as my dad he was the one who looked after us when we were ill, never my mother. Mother would wash, clean and cook but she was no nurse, my dad was the nurse”
“At Nix’s there was an awful shortage of wood, they’d used up nearly all the stocks and the imports weren’t coming in but [Bill] did manage to get another job, joinering at Southwell, Then they started running out of wood, and he said ‘well we can’t go on like this’, sometimes he worked three days a week, sometimes it was only two, and he biked to Southwell from Oxton every day and if there was no timber there was no work, so he went to the pit, and signed up at Calverton pit. I didn’t want him to go there at the pit but, you know, he’d got to have a job, we’d got a baby [Stephanie]. Well his brother was there and it was quite good wages and you got the concessionary coal. We’d got a little cottage down the road, the one next to Tom Whitelock’s, the little shop, and we were quite, quite happy and content. He used to bike to Calverton pit every day [until we moved to a flat there in1953]”.
“Then Bill broke his arm down the pit and it wouldn’t mend. They told him he wouldn’t work down the pit any more. Well I knew there was a cottage on Little Lane [Calverton] empty, it belonged to Tom Nix. We couldn’t afford the rent of the flat, you see, I think it was about twenty four and six a week, well while we were on the Social Club as they used to call it, we only got about two pounds something and it wasn’t enough so I said to Bill ‘I’m going to see Tom Nix and see if we can have that little cottage’ which we did, and we had eleven years there”.
“Every time Bill’s mother wasn’t very well she used to come to us. She says ‘I don’t think I can carry on much longer on my own’, ‘cos she used to have bronchial asthma every year. She lived here [Lilac Cottage], she bought this in 1948, so we got our heads together and decided we should build another bedroom and another room. [We went to live with her in 1965]. We didn’t know how it was going to work out but sometimes it was all right and some times it wasn’t but we managed. I’m quite tolerant, I mean she could be nasty tempered but I used to go out in the garden, and go and have a bonfire or something like that to get rid of all my anger like that”.
“So we came back to Oxton and I was very lonely to start with.. All the people that we palled up with before had more or less grown up, they’d all gone to work, there was nobody to visit. Then I found out I was having Matthew and I didn’t know whether that was going to be worse, everybody was very angry with me, I felt like a sixteen year old that had got her herself into trouble.[He was born] in 1967, two years after we came back and twenty years all but six days after Stephanie, it was quite a talking point! It was a blessing in disguise: he overcrowded us a bit. We managed, much better than Granny Bramble did with all her hoards in the little two bedroomed cottage [1 The Brambles]”.
“Oxton was quite a good place to live because you could more or less buy nearly everything that you wanted. You could get your shoes mended, you could order a new bike if you wanted it. You could buy shoes and slippers, sanitary towels, aspirins, you name it, at the Whitelocks. Connie Whitelock would have it, or she would get it and of course it was the same this end of the village with Mrs Berridge. You’d go and buy a pair of socks or a pound of butter, nearly, nearly anything that you wanted for every day needs. If you wanted a posh frock you either went to Southwell or you went to Nottingham by bus or if you’d got a car you went by car. I think we had our first little Ford Popular in I think it was summer 1948 time, you know, it was, it was a nice little car, we enjoyed it.”
“Occasionally we used to go to Chapel ‘cos Bill’s mother was a Wesleyan and his father was Church of England and of course he had his pick. He’s got Sunday school trousers from both places and I’ve still got them now. It always seemed to be a happier place at Chapel, the singing was, you know”.
“Bill’s mother worked [at the Hall] for a bit. She used to go and polish and dust, stair cases and such like when Mrs Holehouse was the house keeper. Suzanne was the French cook and she was quite a character. I’ve heard Bill’s mother say when she went out to her dance or anything like that she wouldn’t put a dress on like we did, she used to get a load of safety pins and pin material round her and, but she always looked beautiful when she went out, ‘cos she were French, she was different. I mean if you were foreign in those days it covered a multitude of sins”.
“My Bill was a little bit Victorian he didn’t believe in women going out to work, but I’d always got plenty to do and I always liked gardening, so I always came and helped with the garden before we came back, and more or less took over”.
“I was in the W.I. for twenty five years and I think I did grow out of it because probably I am quite content at home either to garden, to read, like poetry or do what I want to do. If I want I watch television or if I don’t, I switch it off and get my books out. I like people and I like to enjoy a good conversation now and again but I don’t depend on people”.
“[The campaign to save the village school] started up because I thought it was my duty being the eldest mother, and nobody else seemed as if they were going to shout for it. Mrs Goodyear, after we’d shouted for the school, she says, ‘we want somebody like you on the Parish Council’. ‘Well’ I says, ‘I don’t know about that’, and of course I got my form and got two sponsors. I thought, ‘well I’ll not fit in with these’ but I actually did fit in because if I’d got anything to say I said it, I didn’t bottle it up, you know. [I was on the Parish Council] for eight years. I didn’t mind joining in things, it was a change from getting your hands mucky in the garden”.
“I’ve never been shy so that’s never been one of my problems, but I have heard say it’s a lonely place to live [in Oxton]”.
“I’ve always liked poetry, I liked poetry at school, but I didn’t start writing it until about 1975. There’s all sorts of things triggers it off and I can’t wait to write it down, I’ve got to write it down straight away and as soon as I’ve written it I couldn’t recite it without reading it. I used to carry a note pad and a pen round with me every where I went and if anything came I wrote it down, course a lot of it was trivial and now I sit and I think and I try to write quality not quantity. The only one that I’ve wrote to order was the Peace Poem [for the V.E celebrations], the one [hanging] in Church. .I was asked to write about the end of the war, and I said ‘well it’s a long while ago, I don’t know’, I says ‘I’ll think about it’, and it came, all together. I should think I wrote that poem in about half an hour, and you know it all sort of came back, and then when I knew it was for that leaflet about the V.E. Day, I was amazed”.
It’s fifty years since Second World War
Peace was declared, we’re fighting no more.
Young lads gave their lives so we could be free
And we celebrated a great victory.
Street parties, bunting and flags galore,
Came out from our attics at end of War.
The lights went on in London town
All the barbed wire and defences came down.
Now we can sleep safely in our bed
But we are still rationed for our daily bread
Another ten years before we are adequately fed,
And our country is still well in the red.
A war to end all wars indeed
If only men would learn a different creed
Listen to God and control their greed
Live for one another and create a better breed.
Suez and Northern Ireland too,
The Falkland Islands took quite a few
The desert of Iraq was a chore
And the Bosnian dispute is turning to war.
When will it end in every nation
Sit down and talk in friendly relation
Not until then, and we learn to trust,
Will mankind be free and all weapons are bust.
Mollie Bramble. 1995.