Rev.Margaret C Wheeler

Mum & Dad

Mum and Dad were married June 23 1942. Their life together was one of amazing miracles. We thank God for all His blessings!

Rev Peg in her glory

Dad Died Feb 24 1980. Shortly after Mum was Ordained to the Anclican Priesthood.

Mum's name sign

Now how many of our mothers have a name sign like that. Mum worked very hard for so long and finally had the sign and position to show for it all

Was it because of that first baby, who died, that they called me Margaret? A name that soon became Peg. That baby had been the first, and had been born at the end of the first year of marriage, to Don and Maud Pheysey. A marriage, at the end of World War one. A tiny round, house in the little village of Whitly was their home and the incompetence of the Doctor of the day was directly responsible for the loss of that first baby. Failing to listen to the patient was as much a problem then as now. So an appendix ruptured, a baby was born infected and died.

Pat followed a year later in 1921 then me Peg in 1922 Pauline in 1924; we were close in many ways and became known as the " three sweet peas', a name I doubt was very accurate. There are a few things to tell about those early days. One story, at Hollingshead, Aunty Marge's house,with me sitting on Mummy's lap and Aunty Lal saying "Maud does she ever stop talking" The other is related, school came early, rules were less rigid and I was always ready to go where Pat went, so I was at school at three and a half. Came a holiday and Miss Watkins the "babies" teacher, saying, I'm glad of a holiday, a rest from Peg’s voice.

We did not live in Whitley for long, when I was less than a year we moved to Ombersley the village where the Pheysey girls lived for the rest of their English life. There we lived in Shrubbery House, a large square brick house, part of the Sandy's estate, later I will write more of this house. It is easy to shut my eyes and see the gate into the orchard, part of the farm next door that always felt like part of home. Sunshine lived there and Butler, Pat gave her the name by accident when she first saw her. A wonderful name for a special lady!

By village standards a big house, five bedrooms upstairs and eventually a kind of makeshift bathroom space. Always a toilet with a incredible water tank high up on the wall with a long chain to pull and a tank out on the roof for rainwater. And what if it forgot to rain? Well that’s what girls are good at! Pumping water from the underground supply tank up to the roof.

No water in the house but a pump out in the yard on an outside sink to give us fresh, very cold water; and a large tank and big barrel to catch and keep rainwater. Washing was done in a cold back kitchen with a built in boiler that had a fire under it. I hope Daddy carried those very heavy pails when we were little. We needed nine of them to fill the boiler.

The house had a large garden to the side, with a big garden of vegetables, and flowerbeds for Mum, with a big lawn, which was ours to play on with an area of shrubs on one side good for hiding and bits of petals for confetti. When you get tired of it all you go and hide in the orchard, and climb a tree and keep very quiet. One of the earliest memories belongs in that garden, a hot afternoon and Mum grabbing my arm, pushing the pram with Pauline in it and yelling at Pat to run. She had stirred up a swarm of bees that were all around us. I still remember only the sense of panic and never kept a fear of bees, was able to look after them during the war when Daddy was away. Would have had bees in Canada! Les said “NO”.

Ours was a quiet home, Daddy worked for Grandpa Pheysey in Stourport, the business was agricultural machinery and supplies, and Daddy was the able engineer, salesman, repair person and general gofer on the road much of the time. Pheysey's was a much, respected firm, but that respect was no more help to the family or it's employees during the depression of the thirties than it was to many people. My memories are not of shortages though I have since come to know about them.

The big influences on my life were the school the church and the Girl Guide movement. As Pat and I have talked in later life we know that, that quiet home stood us in great good position to live the very busy sometimes struggling lives we have had and helped us cope with the vast changes we have seen and been part of. Do any young children value the lessons of youth until they need them? What seems important is the ability to recall that, sense of strength and endurance, which has come from a secure childhood.

School! I have mentioned that three was not an unusual age to go to school I'm sure three little girls were tiring and so that early start was almost certainly a blessing to Mum. Miss Watkins was the baby’s teacher and my memories are good ones, we had sand trays, about the size of small cookie trays to learn letters in .I think they would save a lot of the waste of paper in kindergarten today. Letters, taught early, parents who read non-stop, newspapers an important part of life, it's no wonder that I do not remember a time when I could not read.

Lessons were fun but more fun was being out with other kids, running down the hill after school often shoes in hand, and finding things to be good at. By six or seven there was a new joy, Brownies. Pat was to be a brownie in what must have been an early pack. Well! With six year old methods and I expect a bit of foot stamping I too must be a brownie. Joy joy joy meetings and outings and hiking and badges to earn. Who today would be encouraging the child of seven to get up and light the fire and make the tea, but it was part of the homemaker badge and Dad said that Pat and I should take turns on a regular basis. From that comes a story. It introduces sister Elizabeth who was born when I was nearly 8; Mum was not well for some time and one night I woke to hear the baby crying, and glancing at the time got up to get a bottle. Lit the fire heated the bottle and took it up to the baby, only one problem it was not 6.5 am it was 1.30 am and

Dad was not amused.

More about the new baby, there seemed to be some extended time when Mum was sick, I know that I was doing all kinds of things at home one week while Mum was in bed. Sunshine came over to watch over things but I loved all the responsibility. At the end of that time Daddy gave me a little stainless steel flashlight WOW I was so proud. The flashlight got used for reading in bed under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping.

We had an awed pair girl for a time before Elizabeth was born, not long, I think she came from Germany or France but I only remember one night waking up to hear a lot of noise and commotion and somehow being afraid. We never saw her again, and the next day we were taken to Aunt Marge's we were there I think two weeks and when we came home were shown a new sister. By the way she didn't stay Elizabeth too long, by the time she was two, Daddy went of to a trade show and came back with the definitive gift for the little girl who called herself Biffybuff. A nameplate of her very own from the British Industries Fair B.I.F. and Bif she remained until the last few years.

It's only in the last 20 years or so that I have come to see how much names can direct or even control us, more of this later; we certainly were Don Pheysey's daughters. And that meant some restrictions on times, behaviors, friends and who we could bring home. One time I decided that others had birthday parties and I would have one, so I took others home after school for my fifth birthday party. Mum made me send them home, but did let me have a proper party later that year or next.

Brownies was freedom and so in some senses was Church, of course only Sunday school at first, it was held in an old building near the church a two room old house. Was it the official meeting rooms of the parish? What was Sunday school like? it was sitting in a circle or row and having the teacher read a bible story and ask questions. It was sticking pictures in papers and later preparing picture cards for missions. Sunday school did not mean, no church, we went to church with the teacher, and sat in the gallery where we could look down on Mummy and Daddy sitting in their pew. As we got older we sometimes dropped bits of paper down, always of course by accident. What a church! To go back after forty years was to see it's problems, straight rows of very high sided box pews; a pulpit so high up and totally separated from the congregation that one wondered how any kind of community or empathy happened between Priest and People. Yet in 1927 to 1946 it seemed a good place to me I never felt that sense of boredom and drabness so many young people talk about. The years have proved that closeness which has always been a part of me. Somehow faith and \or worship call me always.

There had been a church in Ombersley since at least the 12th century and probably from the 9th. The remains of the 12th century building are still in the churchyard as is the mausoleum of the Sandy's family. The present building is a large Gothic style edifice made to hold at least 875 people. The most interesting feature to to-days visitors is its "horse box" pews. When I was little it was impossible to see anything over the top and of course one must never never climb on the seat. So it is easy to understand why we liked to sit in the gallery with the Sunday school. Before I left England in 1946, I was in church with my son Peter who was not quite two, as I was praying he climbed on the seat and pulled on the beard of the man behind, who just happened to be the warden. Thanks Pete!.

The gallery was around three sides with the organ taking up the short end gallery. It was a big organ with many pipes and a blower that had to be pumped by hand. The organist, Tom Styles’ was also the headmaster of the school. Up there, with his back to the congregation and the choir and sanctuary his mirrors showed him all that was happening. Woe to the little choir boy who fooled around, or the grade school kid who misbehaved, Monday found that person called up for reprimand. Not fair you say? Very fair Tommy Styles’ loved every kid in that village and cared that they grew up straight. Now few people care whether children grow up straight or not, "it's not my responsibility" is today’s worst disease. You will note that choir was men and boys only, when I returned in 1989 the gallery was closed off the organ was down near the sanctuary and the choir was small group of older men women and one or two children.

The minister of the church when I was little was a Rev. White who had three girls, they used to stand at the gates of the rectory and call us names as we went to school; I expect that they went to private school. Their names were Faith Hope and Joy that is all I remember of them. The, Rev.Gillingham came later and always seemed to be a friend. At the time we probably were somewhat in awe of him, he was still in Ombersley to prepare us for Confirmation and to marry Les and I.

Something of confirmation lessons lingers in my mind even now, they were serious and were attended by almost all the boys and girls of 13 to 17 who, were not already "done". Pat was to be confirmed, so of course, must I. All the lessons were by the Rector, except the last one. When boys and girls were split up and the Rectors wife talked to us, the girls, about purity I think though I don't think I had a clue at the time. We spent a lot of time in, groups of boys and girls but it was not until 15 or 16 that I, at least, got interested in a boy. Of much more interest was the comment by Mrs. Gillingham that on Easter Sunday morning when we went at Eight o'clock for our first Communion the sun would be streaming in the East window and we would sense the presence of the Holy Spirit; it was snowing that day!!

School, what was it in 1926 to1933 when I was in Ombersley church school, a school originally endowed by the church and still at that time the Rector came in every week to talk to us to hear us repeat collects and psalms etc. There were basics to learn. Because Mr. Styles was a person involved in life there was gardening, as we grew older. Much talk of current affairs in our history and geography lesson. The First World War and the British Legion were also topics that Daddy and Tommy Styles shared interest in. I have grown up with, “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old “ etc. as part of my life. We said it often and it was lettered in gold on the wall

What did we learn of academics, the very basics, and they have been useful ever since. The parents who beg for an education solid in basic rote learning are not wrong, the value of such learning is probably the training of the mind to remember and to be able to have a constant ability to express ideas and thoughts. Those basics were the key to the exams for Secondary School At that time the Worcester school was a fee paying school but there were a few free places given by the county and city and a few scholarships to be won I sat the exam and won a place.

High school was a joy for me though I see now I was often a a loner No other girls from our village attended at that time Pat and Pauline both went to the Vocational school and learned office skills etc. There were however a few boys who went to the grammar school and so of course they became friends {boy friends?} Remember we were only 11 or 12 but certainly over the years there was pairing off and wonderful group walks and adventures on weekends.

What did we learn in high school, I suspect it was a good all round academic education of the day, Latin, French, math, geometry algebra, science, history, geography, English, cookery, art and of course religion. Unlike today’s schools we stayed in the classroom and the teachers came to us. Only some of the sciences had their own labs. There was of course a music room, library and large gym. Outdoors were tennis courts and for girls schools rounders and netball. Boys played cricket and we all played field hockey. The boys of course also played football [American soccer]. Learning was a very serious thing and there were no free times etc. There were some very good things, at least for me, library was well stocked, and there were good hot lunches with time spent on nutrition information after school programs in mission projects and school plays etc. No school buses so local buss services. It was 5 miles or more yet sometimes we could walk home if we wanted to stay late [During the war we sometimes went to a show, not often, then we had to walk, no buses after dark. High school was five years long, with two more years leading to university entrance. A path taken by very few girls in the mid thirties. I am sure it never occurred to me or to the family that I might do such things. Only as my own family grew up did I come to know that it could well have been for me! More of that later. While I was at high school Pat went to the commercial school, a two year course in shorthand, typing etc Pauline also went there later A job was found for Pat up in Yorkshire at a little village of Collingwood where she was first a helper then the cook. They were good people and she was ok there.

When I finished Secondary school in 1938 I also was sent to a job in Yorkshire not far from Pat. When I look back I wonder? I think that Mrs. Gillingham, the vicar’s wife, through her connections found the jobs. Mine turned out to be too much for me at the time. Two children and a baby due, I, was not trained and it really was a job for a trained Nanny. So I only stayed the month and got another job as house help to a young couple. It is one of the first times I have come to realize that the Spirit of God was alive and well in my life. What Joy I found there. A couple of well educated people [both were Oxford Scholars] He taught history and archeology at Leeds university. She was also a gourmet cook, and the house was full of books When the lady discovered that I liked to read and learn she gave me access to anything I wanted to read and was ready to talk about it as she worked in the kitchen. She truly believed that education was for everyone as much as they were able, and I soaked up that message, it has lasted all my life.

That autumn Grandma Ellis, Mum’s mother died she was only 58 and today that seems too young. As I now understand things, she almost certainly had Thalassemia minor as some of us still do and also had other medical problems. I wept to be so far away and remembered when we used to visit as kids Pauline was the one who sometimes stayed there as I sometimes stayed with Granny Pheysey.

I saw Pat on some of my half days off. I got one afternoon a week off and alternate Sundays. I could walk from Boston Spa the little village where I was to the little town of Collingwood where Pat was. Sometimes I took a bus into York, a half-hour ride. There were stores to look at and little restaurants to buy a cup of tea and cake. I received 10 shillings a week and all my keep. The only real thing I bought was a little portable radio. Oh how I loved it. It was a five-week purchase. I learned there of other ways of believing and there were people who did not worship. The church in Boston Spa was very beautiful though small and was always full of glorious flower displays. Mrs.Hebditch herself was what was known as high church which meant lots of colourful liturgy and a priest wearing various robes on different Sundays New to me, I had no idea what it was all about. Mr. Hebditch did not believe in all that “stuff” there were long discussions. One of the things I came to know was that it was possible to have disagreements without falling out, and that minds can be changed with reasoned talk.

The baby was born while I was there and I learned from that time that having a baby was not a sickness. The local doctor was a friend and the mother-to-be went riding horseback with him the day before the baby was born. These kinds of lessons became so valuable when I began to have children.

The war began while I was there and soon there were soldiers everywhere. Even before that I had ventured into social contacts. Time off was one afternoon a week and alternate Sunday afternoons. I made friends with another maid, went home with her and met her brother, who walked me home with a kiss thrown in. Not very impressive!! With the war came soldiers, who liked to walk in such a quiet village and expected that kiss. I soon found out that I wasn’t really interested. The sheltered childhood was a wonderful safety factor.

To that first wartime Christmas belongs the loneliest time I remember. I had been able to go and see Pat in Collingwood. I had walked home in the last of the daylight. Not on duty, I had gone to bed quite early and lay there listening to Gracie Fields singing for the troops and others I wept as she sang feeling totally alone, and even today can still weep at the memory.

I was not to be alone there too long. Daddy was in France with the troops. He was in the R.E.M.E. as he was an engineer. He had belonged to a territorial group formed not too long before the war by an old friend. As Dad was already 50 by then he could have claimed age and stayed home but like most of those men the idea of male comrades was just the thing. Mum was called on to go work in the Worcester hospital as a Red Cross trained nurse, to replace those who had gone with the forces. That left Elizabeth and an evacuee at home, both aged 9 so mum needed me home to keep house. Pat by then had joined the land army and Pauline was finished school and working in the Pheysey office in Stourport.

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