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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen



Working for the gentry

I was home a week or so when Ann Ewen learnt from the Matron that Dr Amy Robinson was needing a maid for about ten weeks when the ninety-nine year lease on their beautiful big home, in about two acres of grounds, would be up, and they would be moving out.

'Ingleside' was the sort of home where I would have loved to work all my working life. Such homes belonged to the gentry, which they were. There were three floors, about eight bedrooms, a dining room, morning room (nursery from an earlier day), butler's pantry, a conservatory full of beautiful scented flowers leading off from the lounge. These were just a few parts of the beautiful house. The big beautiful dining room had a long polished table that would have seated about two-dozen people, with lovely silverware and candelabra centrepieces. It was used only once while I was there; most of the time they used the morning room for meals.

They still had two gardeners, a housekeeper-cook and two maids. One had left to get married. I was replacing the second, who I think had got another job. I expect they knew they'd all be finished in a few weeks time. Dr Amy Robinson, who was due to retire, lived there with her crippled brother whose legs had not grown with his body. He had a manservant whose whole job was to look after him, and was with him all day apart from mealtimes. Even if he was going visiting, he took him then returned for him. They were lovely people and very good to work for.

They gave me many things near the end, but they were still waiting for the alterations to be finished at the house they were moving to. It was a much smaller house, but had to have things done to it to suit the invalid brother. Dr Amy was a spinster. When the time came for us to leave, the cook got a job at a school for deaf children in Newcastle, and Dr Amy said she'd possibly find something for me to do. However, I waited several weeks. I couldn't wait any longer, so when a job came up in the hospital kitchen I applied for it and got it; working with Ann Ewen as assistant cook. She'd taken over the job of the cook who had retired.

I don't think Mam got any financial assistance from Mullarkey after I stopped going down to catch him coming out of work with his pay. I can't remember if I always got something, so she would have had to depend on what we kids could give her. As far as I know, we never saw him after that. When I was home in 1989, Mattie talked about him and said he had helped Mattie to move from one house to another just after the war, and wondered if he had anything to do with all his navy clothes disappearing from one of the cupboards they were shifting things from. He was never able to find out.

Mullarkey died a few years after Mam. Maggie had kept the insurance going that Mam had been paying on Mullarkey; it seemed ironical that when he died without any money, Maggie was made to bury him because of having the insurance; the very one he was never very nice to when she was a child.

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