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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


The market garden

The Fagans

Mrs Fagan had two daughters who lived in South Shields. There was a married one, who was a widow and had four handsome sons. George the eldest also worked at the gardens. He was nineteen when I started working there. Two sons, Jack and Charles, went to sea, and they used to come over to see their grandmother when they were home. The youngest boy, Sydney, was a little bit younger than me, and came over most weekends and school holidays. He used to like to spend a lot of time with me and go the messages with me. Later, when I was working in the house, he was always around, talking to me when I was busy. The boys were really called Purvis: their mother had been widowed twice. The other daughter was a spinster and lived with her sister after she was widowed, for she seemed to find it warmer over there than at the gardens.

In my second year there, Mr Fagan married the daughter of a detective from Whitley Bay. She was a bit of a snob. When she came, I was given a fulltime job in the house. She and the old lady didn't get on too well together and the old lady went to live in South Shields beside her two daughters. The following year, after they were married, they had twins, a boy and a girl; John and Joan. From then on I was never sure what time I was going to finish, for as well as work I had to help with the babies, feeding them and taking them out, and often I stayed until they were settled for the night. When they were about six or seven months, I was laid up with a sprained ankle, so for about three weeks, I could not go to work and she had to get the help of another girl. When I was ready to go back, she said to me, "You're never going to better yourself here: why not try for something else where you may better yourself?"

I then got a job in Kirton Gardens; about twenty minutes walk from home, working for a Mrs Wood. Her husband owned a tailor's business in North Shields, but was at that time a very sick man dying with cancer. Their married daughter, husband and child lived with them: their name was Bradbury. Bobby, their three-year old boy was just beautiful and very bright. Mrs Bradbury was about my height, maybe a little bigger, and very nice and easy to get on with. The mother could be short tempered at times, but I think a lot had to do with the worry of her husband's illness. He died while I was there working for them. I was with them about two years before they moved away to live in Wallsend. While with them Mrs Bradbury gave me the opportunity of having the clothes she was finished with. This was instead of letting them go to a second-hand clothes dealer who came calling every so often to see if she had any to sell, and gave her very little for a bagful. She never asked very much for them from our Maggie and me and I got some lovely dresses and always felt well dressed after that.

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