Darby L

  1917 -
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It Has Been A Rough Year

I am adding this additional chapter to my introduction, because after I initially wrote the introduction, it was very difficult to come back to it and try to make sense of all that I have experienced through the various stages of my life and the trials that I have endured or overcome.  I wish ...


The Birth of Charles Leonard Wiggins

The story has already been written for awhile on my blog "From the heart of Praise, Prayer and Perseverance. 0; Here is a link to that posting, Below are the pictures of the blessed event.   http://fromthehea rt-dotwigg.blogsp ot.com/2008/03/an other-2-prayer-re quest-answered.ht ml


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Darby's Story > Chapters > The Pre-War Years

"Grandma Dring, A Baby Boy and A Declaration of War" 


Date Range: 03/22/1937 To 09/03/1939   Comments: 0   Views: 3,957
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Before we knew it Xmas had arrived and it was so good. The local university came and sang carols and everyone went to a dance in the hall. Well nearly everyone.

The Uni rugger team were in dire trouble because when they won a big game they came and kidnapped four nurses from their work. This left patients without help and caused so much trauma. Those boys were in serious trouble.

Nearly the end of March and at last I can leave hospital and have daily dressings. Before my doctor discharged me he came with a man he introduced as a false limb expert. The man had pictures of false legs and explained how well they worked. Dr Morton tried to talk me into having my leg amputated even after all he had done because my foot and ankle were still twisted out of shape.

I remember their faces when I said “God gave me two good feet to walk on, I am not a sinner and he will not take that away from me.”

They didn’t say another word. Just left and the next thing I was told I could leave and stay with Ciss in Gotham, going in for the daily dressings.

For a while the dressings were fish oil and I found cats and dogs followed me as I hobbled along. I must have smelled horrible.

In May I was allowed to go back to London and home. We still had not told anyone we were married and I went to my home and Ted to his. Ted had a week off work and we went away for a week. Ted was doing my dressings each day but we enjoyed ourselves.

One morning, having slept in the car borrowed from Ted’s friend, Frances, we decided to wash in the river that we had parked next to. I washed keeping an eye on a group of cows slowly making their way to the water. Ted walked into the water up to his knees laughing and saying he wished it was deep enough to swim. He stood with his back to the cows and suddenly one charged and he was flat on his face with the cow mooing at him. I chased it off and Ted came dripping to the car.

He changed his clothes and we hung the wet ones out of the windows to dry.   

We went on to Mount Snowdon. Somehow we climbed halfway up and found an old cottage that gave us a night’s bed. The elderly couple wanted to know if we knew their son. His name was Di Jones. We couldn’t say what a daft thing to ask. They were such a kind pair.

The toilet was the most primitive. A small stream ran through a cave and one stood astride the water or squatted over it. I tell you it needed practice not to fall in. Oddly there was no smell or residue. The water was quick enough to keep all clear. Must have been down the mountain somewhere. Someone was lucky.

We climbed to the top, had a cup of tea and then because the fare on a tiny train was too dear we walked back down. On the way up the old Jones man told us he would show us a short cut to the top. He did. We had to cross a narrow ledge with a drop of 200 ft on either side. We eventually crossed on hands and knees, not daring to look down. I decided mountaineering was not for me.

We arrived back home and were astonished that nothing was said about our holiday together. Ted decided it was time to tell his parents we were married. What a furore. Mother rushed to the solicitor and he said it was legal. Mother then wanted it annulled but was told we had lived together too long and anyway we had to consent to any legal action. After tears and spiteful rage Mother calmed down but insisted we have a church wedding. For peace and quiet we agreed and were married at a little church near their home. Jack Thraves was best man but when I arrived at the church Ted wasn’t there. Jack had forgotten to pick him up. I had to go round the houses twice while Jack rushed back. The wedding was beautiful. A white princess line dress with a veil from the Frazer family which was old and very fine. Leggett is part of the Frazer clan. I had a chief bridesmaid, Christine, dressed in pale pink and two little girls to hold the train. My bouquet was Asian lilies and orchids. Chris had Asian lilies and the small girls coloured daisies. They all three had coloured daisy hair wreaths.

Grandma Dring was the act of the day. She would never drink liquor of any kind. Added to that she had not walked without a stick and a helping hand for a long time. There was a small barrel, Royal Doulton with GINGER BEER printed across it, sitting on the bar and when asked what she would drink she said “ginger beer please.” What they didn’t know was that Uncle Fred had put bottles of Gin, Whiskey and Brandy all in together in the barrel to liven up the party. It did that.

Grandma actually danced. We couldn’t believe it. No walking stick or helping hand and actually asked for more ginger beer.

“It was so nice and it helped her rheumatics.” I’ll say.                            
Ted and I left later on and spent the night at his friend Frances’s house leaving next day for Bristol where we were going to live.
Bristol because Ted had taken a job with a dentist there. He thought being away from his parents would make life easier.

Before our wedding day I went down to Bristol to look for a flat. Of course I had to sleep the night so Ted asked his landlady if I could stay there. At first she said there wasn’t any room but after a while she said there was one room if it would do. Ted jumped at the chance and when I arrived we found the room was the best in the house which confused us. However we were happy to be in the same house although  Ted’s room was a flight above where mine was. A man in the room opposite to mine cut his finger and when I offered a bandaid stepped into my room to let me apply it. He was so taken by the room he decided he would ask to be changed to it.

All was well and bedtime arrived. Because there were all men lodgers Ted insisted I locked the bedroom door when he kissed me goodnight and left. I turned the key and he tried the door to make sure it was locked. Quickly I got into my nightdress and slid into bed. Just as I was dozing off I saw the door open. It was a shock but suddenly everything was icy cold and I couldn’t move. An old man walked past the foot of the bed to an armchair by the fireplace. He knocked out his pipe and blew the ash away. Then he stood up and walked back across the room and out of the door. As soon as he left the icy cold vanished and I found I could move again. All this had taken place in the dark so I hastily put on the light and sat up. I sat up all the rest of the night with the light on. Was I scared. In the morning Ted came down and walked in. He wanted to know where I had been because the door was unlocked. When I told him what had happened and knowing I was receptive of out of this world happenings, he was quite upset. The man from across the way who decided he liked the room, asked what was the matter. Ted told him and he said he would ask the landlady about it. Down for breakfast he tackled her and asked for an explanation. At first she just laughed it off until he said he would like to move in there. Then she told the story of her father refusing to move from the house where he had lived with his wife and she was born. The move was to be to this house so that she could earn a living taking in lodgers. It was a much bigger house. Father refused to move and so she had called an ambulance and had him restrained and moved willy-nilly. He had sworn he would haunt her and eventually he died in the bed I had slept in. Sure enough he walked that landing and visited that bedroom every so often. She did not expect him to worry me as she thought only she herself could see him. That was why she could never let that room. I was pleased to go home that day. Ghosts I could do without. We had found a flat however and that was where we were going after the wedding night. 

The flat was in an old but solid house. It was a garden flat and I remember a row of lilac trees bordered the garden. Such memories in that flat.

My real married life began there.


The first evening Ted decided to open a window that looked out on a sideway. It was a sash window and he opened it high up and then leant on the sill to see what was outside. The sash cords snapped and the window came down with a bang trapping both hands. I had never heard such swearing and bad words so I ran in fright. Ted calling for help made me return to lift the window. His poor hands were swelling and blue. He sat with them in cold water and after a while they recovered but were sore and stiff for days.

A few days later I was standing under the lilac trees when a spider dropped down. I saw it on the edge of my dress front and then it disappeared. I am so scared of spiders even now. Then I just threw all my clothes off and stood screaming. Ted thank goodness was at home and rushed out thinking I was attacked at least.

He bundled me up in a dress and pushed me inside. I explained about the spider but he was more concerned about the people in the upstairs flat seeing me starkers. We never did find the spider.

By this time I knew I was pregnant. We were both delighted and chose names. June for a girl and Brian for a boy. We didn’t tell anyone until later.

I committed a cardinal sin at this time. The house was old and had wooden covering over the electric wires. It had rained for days and the washing needed drying so I drove a large nail high up through the wooden covering and another opposite on the wall and strung a rope between them. The washing was drying beautifully. When Ted came home he went as white as a sheet and pulled me away from the room. After phoning the electric people he explained that I could have been electrocuted.

When we looked under the cover the nail had divided the two wires right through the middle. I was so lucky. Taught me a lesson to respect electricity.

 The flat upstairs was occupied by a man, his wife and dear little Christopher Robin. A child from the devil but mother’s pet. Father decided to build a pergola in the garden and had dear Christopher with him. The little brat climbed up a small ladder and sat on the top. Father, with a bald head, bent down near him and he brought a hammer down on the bald patch as hard as he could. When father smacked him mother rushed out saying it was his own fault leaving his tools around.

Blood was flowing freely and Ted sent for an ambulance for him.

It was nearing Christmas now and after a lot of trouble with the baby because I limped so badly; it kept throwing the poor soul sideways and after turning and turning I still had an upside down baby. The decision was made to induce the birth. I will never forget it. From six in the evening to six the following evening, when they decided to use instruments. By this time I was exhausted and not with it. Then I heard a baby cry and the pain stopped. Something was put over my face and it was the last I knew until the next morning.

Ted came in and told me we had a son but was shocked that I had not seen him. He left the room and I could hear him laying down the law at someone. He came back and said the baby had damage from the birth but it was only superficial.

I was frightened he would be deformed but when he was brought to us he had big bruises either side of his head and cuts on his face. There were also big bruises on his little body but no internal damage. The sister declared he was great for a seven month baby and being so big. He was seven and a half pounds at birth.

I was allowed out of bed after five days but as soon as my feet were on the ground the milk dried up and the baby was put on the bottle. After ten days, in those days it was considered normal, I went home taking my darling Brian with me.

Life became a round of baby needs and husband care. I don’t know which was the biggest worry.

The vicar came to the door one day and asked had I been to church to be blessed for the delivery of my baby. I’m afraid I goggled at him as religion was not my strong point. He kindly arranged for the christening however and said he would bless me before the ceremony.

Came the day and I was as nervous as a kitten. I had never been blessed before, but it was just a jumble of words and was over very quickly. Thenthe christening. Of course I was so confused by now that when the vicar asked me to spell the baby’s name I spelt it with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘i’. So his name was Bryan not Brian. Well it was only a little mistake.

We had Aunt Vi, Mother and Father Leggett and some friends of Ted. The only upset was when Ted’s mother dropped the dinner service and smashed most of it. She shushed me and said she would buy me another but of course she didn’t.

A week later Ted and I were returning rather late from shopping in town because we had treated ourselves to tea and scones, a rare treat. To our amazement my mother was sitting on the edge of the road outside our gate with a case and a wardrobe. We were greeted with “I’ve been sitting here for over an hour. Where have you been?”

Before an argument could develop I gathered her up with her case and marched into our flat, leaving Ted to manage the wardrobe, much to his bad temper. It was difficult on his own. My mother then explained that she had given up her flat and had decided to live with us. Our flat was two bedroomed but Bryan was in one and we had the other. Of course Bryan had to sleep in our room leaving the other for my mother. She explained the wardrobe as the only lockable place to keep her private papers and money. We thought she was nuts but anything for a quiet life.

Ted was very good about her invasion until she took to slopping around in his slippers. The backs were trodden down and I had to ask her not to wear them. She stormed out and it was evening when she returned. She informed us that she was going away for a while. Ted then told her that we were moving to a house out of town. He gave her the address and told her that as there were three bedrooms her things would be left in one.

We moved out to the country to a bungalow with an acre of garden. I was delighted and soon had everything sorted out.

There had not been a word from my mother and she had only told us she was visiting a friend so we waited for word that she was returning. Three weeks later at midnight when we were all asleep a tapping on our window awoke us to a white blob at the window. It seemed to be grinning at us and gave me such a fright. Ted however jumped out of bed saying “It’s that damn mother of yours.”

He let her in and she thought it a joke that she had scared us. I hastily pushed Ted back to bed and gave my mother a quick introduction to her room. Ted was furious and I was too busy talking him around to find out how she arrived at that time of night. We never did find out.

Next morning there was silence in the house but by evening Ted had recovered. 

Money was very scarce at that time and when a firm contacted me  and asked me to help with their stock valuation I asked my mother who was living with us if she would look after Bryan  for me. She said yes if we paid her. As I was earning a very good wage I agreed. The job was for four weeks and as I had just found I was pregnant again it suited me and gave us a little more money.

At the end of the four weeks the firm asked me to stay on permanently. Of course it wasn’t possible.

Then came a shock.

My mother insisted Ted pay her contribution stamps for the four weeks. When I said it was too much she said we had hired her and as employers we had to pay or be reported to the government office. Ted paid for the stamps and the next day she went out in the morning without saying even goodbye. She returned in the evening and with glee told us she had joined the army. We were stunned. She told us not to call her or write to her as she had stated she was a widow ten years younger than in reality and my age would give her away. The next morning she packed and left after telling us that her wardrobe still held all her papers and things. That sat in the bedroom in state.

On September the third war with Germany had been declared and I think not much enquiring went on about truth. Anyway about two months later mother appeared with stripes on her arm. A sergeant cook no less. She spent the day with us and returned to barracks. My dearest little daughter was born before we saw her again.

Now a life of wartime and its terrible times started.

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