Born May 26th, 1905
Margaret Barker wrote me from her ‘care home’ as the British call them in North Yorkshire, UK. She sent a typed letter with a handwritten signature. She was 103 at the time that she responded to my letter.
Below is a picture of Margaret and her son on her 100th birthday. And below with her daughter in law at age 99. Isn’t she lovely?
Thank you for your letter and interest in your busy life. I will try and tell you as well as I can about mine. I was born in a small village called Armley near Leeds in West Yorkshire and went to school there, Chris Church School it was called, until I was 13 years old. During that time we had the terrible Great War 1914-1918 where my dear father was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Mons Star for his part in the battle at Thiepval in Northern France. I mourn and remember him all these years after and have been twice to see his grave near Le Treport in Northern France.
I left school at 13 and worked in a Woollen and Worsted Mill in Leeds for 48 hours a week until I was 18 and then trained as a manicurist and hairdresser working at Bristis Bembergs silk mill in Doncaster in South Yorkshire, manicuring girls fingernails and hands until the Second World War broke out. So much happened during that time as we lived near an RAF [Royal Air Force] aerodrome and caught some of the bomb attacks and by this time I was married and had my little boy. We all had to pitch in and help civilians included and my husband was in the Royal Navy patrolling the North Atlantic. We protected ourselves by digging air raid shelters in the back gardens. I remember how frightened my little boy was when we had the air raids. My work during the war was with the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), pretty hectic for a woman, but we turned our hands to anything and I was the dristibuter of petrol for our section, liquid gold we called it.
My husband stayed in the Navy and I did my first love, sewing and dressmaking, while my son, Gerald grew up and entered the Royal Navy after the war ended eventually becoming a Chief Petty Officer, married a lovely girl, and went to serve in Cornwall and Malta. I lived in Doncaster until 2001 when I came to Normanby House where I am very happy and somewhat amazed that anyone could be interested in me to write this letter. I hope it is of interest to you and I too loved knitting and reading, history mostly. I also dressed dolls in different costumes, that was my favourite pastime.
What seems to be an ordinary life becomes extraordinary as she lived long enough to share her individual role in history. Its one thing to learn about World War II in text books but hearing the first hand account of someone who lived it is quite remarkable. At 103 years old she has quite the clear memory of what it was to be a daughter, wife, mother, and member of society.
There may be no ‘secret’ here but I feel enriched just getting the opportunity to hear about her life!