A Brief Encounter with Marcia BB (Before Bob)
Foreword - This is a particularly emotional story which has been difficult to extract and difficult to write. The writer perhaps should have been a third person as the author has been handicapped at times by emotional involvement. Marcia does have a particularly good and detailed recall for situations, conversations, names, people and places but has difficulty recalling sequences of events, dates and timeline. If you require to delve further, Marcia still has secreted away stories, photographs, documents and particularly letters from the period, mainly from one relationship which will become obvious. The author has not read the letters - yet!. Bob.
If you search for births for a Marcia Elizabeth Beesley on your ‘free birth, marriages and death ‘ website http://www.freebmd.org.uk/ between the years 1939 - 1941 you will discover two Marcia Elizabeth Beesleys both by the same parents, Harry and Eileen (née Banks). The first Marcia was born in September 1939 in Perivale (Brentford District) the second was born in February 1941 in Brackley Northants. If you now search for deaths of Marcia Elizabeth Beesley for the same years you will discover that the first Marcia died on 11th November 1939.
Tragically Marcia (the first) was a ‘cot death’ baby at the age of about 3 months. The trauma for the parents, also their 4 year old son Brian can only be guessed at as it was only Harry that dealt with the funeral which took place at St Mary the Virgin Church in Perivale where she is buried.
The family home at 39 Torrington Gardens Perivale, was, like all others in the country, at risk of being bombed as war had been declared in September 1939 and by the spring of 1940 the Battle of Britain raged in the skies particularly over London and the South East, Perivale getting its fair share of bombs as the Hoover Factory nearby was making components for aircraft, a fact which was known to the Luftwaffe. Europe had been overrun and the fear of Nazi occupation was very real in the minds of all on this side of the Channel. Pieces of aluminium with swastika’s painted on raining down was evidence enough of the fight going on overhead. So, Harry like many others decided to ‘evacuate’ his family to Brackley in Northamptonshire. Brackley and the villages round about was the area where the Beesley family hailed from. Harry was born in Slapton nearby and his brother Richard (Uncle Dick) together with his wife Nellie and their son David lived in Syersham which was where Harry had negotiated a temporary home for his family at the end of 1940 with Eileen pregnant with (our) Marcia.
Marcia Elizabeth Beesley (the second) was born on February 9th 1941 at Park Hospital, Brackley, Northamptonshire. It is understandable that Harry and Eileen for themselves wanted their first Marcia back so gave their second daughter the same name but perhaps didn’t consider what effect that might have on Marcia (the second). It wasn’t until Marcia was a young teenager that she found out, from ‘Auntie’ Betty, that she had a sister. This news perhaps wasn’t a good omen for a future relationship with her mother as many years later her mother nearing death said to Marcia that she would have loved to have Marcia (the first) to take her to Art Galleries, Museums and the Theatre etc. while Marcia (the second) could look after her.
In the next bed to Eileen on the labour ward was ‘Auntie’ Daph (not a relation) but was the beginning of a relationship together with Tom White her husband and their five children which continued for many years into the future. The Whites lived in Rugby where Marcia visited often and spent many happy holidays, discovering her love for horses and learnt to ride.
It turned out that for some reason Auntie Nellie in Syersham was not as welcoming as Harry had hoped, Auntie Nellie in various ways made life particularly difficult for Eileen and Brian. The result was that Eileen refused to continue living in her in-laws house and demanded that Harry find alternative accommodation. The alternative accommodation also turned out to be unacceptable to Eileen as one of the landladies turned out to be a ‘lady of ill repute’, another landlady demanded that Eileen, in her pregnant state, regularly carry the heavy dog up and down stairs to keep the sick landlady company and another who was equally unwelcoming to Brian and his mother.
So, some months after Marcia was born Harry and Eileen decided that life back in Perivale was the better option despite the threat from Hitler and the Luftwaffe.
From an early age Marcia was used to many waifs and strays taken in at No 39 from all parts of the globe also babies and children dumped, sometimes for months on the charitable family, mostly from family but also from friends, neighbours and strangers. Marcia’s natural affinity for babies led her to responsibilities which she very much relished but as a youngster probably would have been better left playing with dolls!
At the age of 5, just as the war was ending, Marcia started school at Perivale Infants a short walk across Bilton Road and into Federal Road. At the age of 8 her parents decided to send her to a slightly whacky boarding school recommended by Adelheid, an Austrian lady who spent a lot of time with the Beesley family and was a refreshing, before her time, holistic influence in the way of health, wellbeing and general outlook on life. She even arranged for a horoscope and star chart to be drawn up for Marcia at the age of 3 by Mrs Wong, which makes interesting reading.
Marcia's new school was known as ElmTrees in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire (probably one of the first Steiner Schools in the UK). The weekly journey, clutching her train ticket and little leather case tightly, to Great Missenden alone on the train was somewhat of a challenge for Marcia but by this time she was developing an independence and confidence (in her words 'I was wild') which many times got her into trouble at this slightly ‘off beat’ school. The headmistress was ‘Willow’ an admirer and previous friend of Isadora Duncan an American dancer who’s unconventional approach to morality; education and dancing probably had some influence on the young Marcia and her school friends. Lessons it seems were optional? which Marcia took advantage of, accidents were common place, like surviving being electrocuted, surviving second degree burns tripping over an electric heater and surviving a fall when trying to sleep suspended in the roller towels in the toilet.
Marcia was always disappointed at weekends as her parents insisted she went home instead of joining in the fun and games with her school friends over the weekend. Unfortunately after a couple of years at Great Missenden Marcia sadly had to leave as Willow it appears preferred not to concern herself with the finances and went bust, the main reason being that many of the whacky parents didn’t pay their bills. The Beesley family finances were also stretched but not so stretched that for a long time they were the only family in the street with a telephone and a car also allowing Marcia to continue with a private education at The Wembley House School for Girls which meant a long hike to Alperton Station and then a bus to school. Many times she used to walk all the way home to save the bus fare in order to buy a sherbet dab and a cough candy, also sometimes skilfully avoiding other hazards along the way. Marcia’s efforts at any academic school work it has to be said were below standard, especially when confronted with figures and knowing your left from your right. Nowadays this is a common condition known as Dyslexia from which she still suffers but back then the label ‘stupid’ or 'lazy' was too easily applied, especially by her mother and many times by Marcia herself.
It was during these years that the Beesley family made many trips to Harry’s old aunt’s cottages in Cornwall. The trip to Trembroath Cottages, Stithians sometimes took 12 hours in the old Austin Seven with many stops for running repairs, refuelling and toileting the dog. Harry being a mechanic by trade never complained or got flustered when the rest of the occupants complained bitterly about the delays. Their holidays in Cornwall especially for Brian and Marcia were, in their words, ‘magical’ as they became very much involved with the daily tasks of getting water from the pump, lighting candles, tickling trout in the stream, collecting milk from the farm down the lane owned by ‘Uncle’ Bert and ‘Aunt’ Mabel also helping with the milking and Marcia feeding the calves using her fingers as teats with her hand immersed in a bucket of milk.
Harry’s work was as a motor mechanic had, amongst his clients back in the 30’s, a guy with a Brough Superior motorcycle called a Mr Thomas E Lawrence who was better known as Lawrence of Arabia. During the mid 50’s Harry’s place of work was at Pinks Motorcycles in Harrow on the Hill and in the harsh winter of 1954 when Marcia was 13 Harry tragically slipped on the ice at work and suffered a severe blow to the head rendering him brain damaged until his death in 1959.
Juggling life with an invalid father the family at No 39 coped – just. Mr Pink his employer continued to allow Harry to do menial tasks but when Eileen asked for a raise for Harry she was told that he was incapable of anything useful. Marcia’s mother worked mostly as a receptionist/clerk at Acton Hospital and probably was an influence on Marcia’s decision to apply for a job with the Church of England Children’s Society and train for the NNEB qualification. The interview was for a place as a student in St Mary’s Children’s Home Sandy Lane Cheam. Marcia and studying were not the greatest bed fellows so she didn’t do at all well at the written entrance exam but with a real passion for the job and a kindly Matron who could spot potential Marcia was offered a 6 month trial period but not starting until she was 16, she was 15 and already had a boyfriend in tow. Little did she know that the boyfriend would turn up unexpectedly 60 years later when re-taking her vows for her 50th wedding anniversary!
It is clear that, even at an early age Marcia was not short of admirers and in the next ten years or so had many relationships one of which led to a short lived engagement which ended abruptly when she discovered that his intentions were less than honourable. Sorting the wheat from the chaff was usually second nature to Marcia but nevertheless wasn’t able to control the inadvisable ‘crush’ on occasions.
So, she applied for a fill in job at The Elizabeth Garratt Anderson Hospital for Women in the Euston Road. Marcia’s job at the hospital, initially, was as a Messenger girl running errands from one department to the other looking after patients and visitor’s needs. Sometimes this would mean accompanying heavily pregnant ladies to the Pathology Department which was located down some stairs along a narrow corridor, through the boiler room and up into an adjacent building. She loved it, especially if she was allowed to come into contact with any babies or young children.
On attaining the ripe old age of 16 she started as a live in trainee nurse at Cheam. The home was a large imposing house built in 1914. The first years training at St Mary’s was demanding, very demanding. Apart from seeing to the children’s needs, which were many and varied, duties included cleaning 60 pairs of shoes daily, scrubbing floors, piles of ironing and night duties. Night duties, sometimes alone, included dealing with armies of cockroaches down in the kitchen when trying to grab a sandwich also dealing with taps on the curtainless, low cilled, insecure windows from inmates loose from the Mental Institution up the road. Cooking skills were also part of the training with Mrs Birchall down in the kitchen; Mrs Birchall a cockney character from Bermondsey was a good teacher of the basics but didn’t stand any nonsense. Marcia always sensitive to the children’s needs often came up with ideas and schemes for making the place more homely, most of which were implemented with the approval from Matron Long. Like allowing the children to have their own clothes, shoes and toys next to their bed rather than fighting for clothes and shoes from a pile every morning. One morning Marcia turned up with 30 orange boxes purloined from the local green grocer and converted them into colourful bedside cabinets complete with shelves and curtains.
Elizabeth Garratt Anderson Hospital For Women Euston Road
St Mary's Children's Home Sandy Lane Cheam Surrey
St Hilda's Childrens Home Beckenham Kent
All this on zero wages except a pittance pocket money allocated weekly during the two years training period. In addition student nurses were required to spend two days a week studying at Croydon Technical College to complete the course.
At the age of 18 in 1959 Marcia’s father died at Park Royal Hospital, his final days were heart breaking for Marcia as he was ‘everything’ to Marcia. He never uttered a cross word and always involved his children in everything and always responding to any request without complaint. Marcia couldn’t attend his funeral being too upset preferring to stay at home preparing things for the mourners. Something she later regretted.
The second years training for Marcia was at St Hilda’s Nursery Beckenham. Here the emphasis was the care of new born and very young babies, again, in another imposing Victorian building. After 2 years Marcia qualified as a Staff Nurse and chose to spend the final year back at St Mary’s this time in charge of students. Nursery Nurses were not encouraged to become ‘too close’ to the children and not to have favourites, however knowing Marcia’s caring nature together with the disturbed backgrounds of many of the children this was bound to happen. Marcia’s and the Beesley family's involvement with two particular children Jimmy and Jenny from St Mary’s was very close and since that time Marcia has always wondered how life treated them as in those days children were often ‘snatched’ from their parents/carers and surroundings never to be seen again. The search for Jimmy and Jenny is on-going.
Marcia with Jimmy and Jenny at St Mary's
Soon after qualifying Marcia applied for a job at Elfin Grove Nursery in Mattock Lane Ealing not because she was unhappy at St Mary’s but because her brother Brian suggested she should be nearer her mother following the death of her father as Brian had decided to leave home. Getting to Elfin Grove meant a hazardous bike ride across the Western Avenue and then a couple of miles through the back streets. Here at Elfin Grove, again dealing with more harrowing situations of children taken from their siblings, Marcia met Pat Matthews (great niece to Sir Stanley Matthews). Marcia and Pat became the greatest of friends but sadly the friendship came to an abrupt end when Pat walked out on her husband and five children many years later. Pat and Marcia during one of their rare trips to the West End one night met a couple of Israeli guys, they both fancied Natanale and maybe he was the trigger which led Pat and Marcia to seek work on a Kibbutz in Israel.
Pat soon decided that Israel was not for her so pulled out of the competition. An alternative route to Israel for Marcia was to search for vacancies in The Nursery World magazine and hope that a family might need a children’s nurse for the trip. Bingo. A family from Putney with four children, twins, aged 5, a toddler aged 3 and a baby were planning to leave for Israel within weeks and needed a Nanny.
Marcia’s mother and Brian weren’t too pleased to say the least at Marcia’s decision to go to Israel, undaunted Marcia just after her 21st Birthday in February 1962 joined the family and after a few short weeks with the family in Putney they all took off from Heathrow and headed for Tel Aviv. However the flight probably in a Boeing 707 encountered severe turbulence over the Alps, the aircraft was struck by lightning and had to make an emergency landing in Rome to check for damage. Needless to say all on board were a touch anxious but after a short while the flight continued on to Tel Aviv.
The family house was in an upmarket area of Tel Aviv called Savyon No 15 Hagderot Street. Marcia’s job with was made somewhat difficult because the mother was always around criticising and insisting that Marcia sleep with the children which meant sleep at times was impossible, however life for Marcia was dominated by her developing relationship with Natanale and his large family who she became very much involved with. Marriage was contemplated but that would mean Marcia having to convert to the Jewish faith which she was agreeable to do but after counselling with her employer (a psychiatrist) also Natanale who was some 10 years older than Marcia, both advised Marcia that she should return home and think carefully before committing. The pressure from Marcia’s mother and Brian were also weighing heavily to return.
Marcia’s time off was spent mostly helping at a riding stables where the elderly owner, a local Arab horse breeder, allowed her to ride fast and loose on the sea shore, he also tried his damndest to get Marcia into the hayloft he even gave her a foal called Andrecus but Marcia was wise to his intentions – so she says. The family also had a German Au Pere back in Putney called Karen, they contacted her to come out to Israel to join the household which greatly pleased Marcia as being some 5 years older than Marcia Karen added a certain nonchalance, bonhomie and fun to the household, Marcia became very fond and respectful of Karen. Karen always called Marcia Hatsyline (Hatsy for short) but Marcia doesn’t know why.
At this point Marcia decided to leave the family (but later regretted the decision) and move into a flat in Tel Aviv organised by Natanale. Pressures from all around to return home and think seriously about continuing the relationship grew so Marcia reluctantly decided to book her ticket home as life was becoming a trifle uncertain and further complicated by Visa restrictions, Marcia was uncomfortable. By the end of 1962 both Marcia and Karen had decided to leave Israel and go home by boat from Haifa to Marseilles and then by train to Paris, from there Karen was to travel to her home in Hamburg and Marcia to London via the Dunkirk – Dover train ferry.
Marcia and Karen said emotional goodbyes to the family and children also to Natanale and his large family and left the port of Haifa on 10th December 1962. The journey across the Mediterranean to Marseilles was horrendous, all the passengers and most of the crew were vomiting except Karen who enjoyed breakfast, dinner and tea every day. On finally reaching Marseilles Marcia spent her last few pounds on shipping her vast blue trunk with brass clasps (now in Julia’s front room) back to London via, she doesn’t remember where, as Karen organised it all.
Marcia with Andrecus Israel 1962
On arrival in Paris Karen discovered her purse had been stolen so Marcia lent Karen her last pennies leaving her with only half a crown (12½p) to survive the night on a draughty Paris railway platform and sustain herself on the long train ride back to Waterloo. Marcia’s brother Brian was on the platform to greet her but walked straight past her as she was unrecognisable weighing only 6 and a half stone. Our Marcia following her hectic, heady time in Israel was in a bit of a turmoil as to the future.
Life back at No 39 for Marcia was a mixture of relief and reluctant acceptance but she resolved to find another job so once more she resorted to The Nursery World. There were plenty of options. A family from Hampton were looking for a live in Nanny for her two young children. Marcia took the job and found herself much more in charge of the children and without too much interference, so much so that their mother complained bitterly when Marcia returned on a Monday morning from her weekends off that the little boy had cried for his Nanny for the whole weekend. At this point Marcia decided to invest in a motor scooter a Triumph Tina passing her test at the first attempt.
Letters between Marcia and Natanale were becoming more frequent, the relationship was obviously strong enough for him to risk a short visit to London to see Marcia, he even purchased a ticket back to Israel for Marcia if she decided to return with him, but he didn’t reveal this - yet. During his visit Marcia took him to meet her mother and Brian but the atmosphere was frosty. Marcia’s mother and Brian were opposed to the relationship, the reasons are not known by the author. Despite the feeling between them Natanale refrained from encouraging Marcia to return to Israel with him but simply said to her on the platform when leaving ‘I have a ticket here for you to come with me’ he showed her the ticket and said goodbye. The pair continued correspondence but both recognised the fact that one of them would have to give up everything if they were to marry.
At this point Marcia was lonely, not only because of the end of her relationship with Natanale but also because although she enjoyed the job and loved the children in Hampton she felt she needed a new challenge with more people around. So, another glance at the Nursery World revealed a vacancy at a children’s day nursery in Brook Green Hammersmith. Marcia and Pat then together rented a flat in Royal Crescent Holland Park Kensington. A great address but not too great if you have to lug a scooter up and down the front stairs every morning and evening but still better than Perivale.
Marcia’s job with the children once again was demanding and at times harrowing, children would sometimes arrive at the nursery at 7.30 in the morning in all states of neglect. Needing to be fed, clothed and cared for, once again Marcia ‘cared’. Also, once again, it has to be said the money was ‘a mere pittance’. Existing on £13 a week was virtually impossible, especially with a scooter so it had to go. So did the flat in Royal Crescent as Pat inconsiderately got herself pregnant and went off to marry Greg.
Marcia by this time had no home to go back to in Perivale as her mother had rented out the house had met and married Frank Quinlan and was living in Finchley. Fate was about to take a turn. By chance Marcia’s mother knew of a young lady seeking to share a flat in London she then told Marcia who was pleased to make up the numbers (to 4) and the four of them rented a flat in Ladbroke Grove.
One of the girls was Jill Taylor, Marcia and Jill hit it off instantly and became great friends, Jill’s laugh could be heard up and down Chesterton Road. Jill’s boyfriend was John who visited regularly, too regularly according to Marcia but nevertheless John was to become part of this story as he had a friend called Bob. On the morning of Saturday 12th March 1966 John and Bob arrived at the girls flat in Bob’s Riley 1.5 having just bought a few items of camping gear for a weekend in North Wales. John introduced Bob to Jill in the kitchen and Jill offered to make a cup of tea, at that moment Marcia popped her head around the door…………
……….who knows what passed between them at that moment? Marcia accepted Bob’s invitation to drop her off at Brian and Sadie’s house, 37 Cleaveland Road Surbiton, as she was delivering a brick truck for her nieces first birthday. She also accepted his invitation to see ‘The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’ at the Odeon Leicester Square the following weekend but whether or not that was an indication of things to come is open to speculation.
A few weeks later Marcia and Jill ‘Escaped to the Country’ to a flat in Twickenham, 195 Richmond Road, opposite Marble Hill Park, their two flat mates had opted out of the foursome. The relationship between Bob and Marcia grew steadily through the summer of ’66 (also remembered for another reason). Marcia had met Bob’s parents at 27 Blundell Lane, Bob had met Marcia’s mother and Frank in Finchley and following a holiday together in what pretended to be a caravan near St Austell in Cornwall along with Bob’s friends Don and Maureen, Marcia decided that ‘this was the one’ but she didn’t tell Bob.
Marcia at this point was still working at the Brook Green Nursery and still somewhat unsure of where things were going but by the beginning of October Bob had also decided that ‘this was the one’ but he didn’t tell Marcia. Together the pair visited what is now Gregory and Co Jewellers in Paved Court Richmond where Bob bought an engagement ring for £25 which Marcia accepted graciously and slipped it on her finger in the shop much to the delight of Bob.
On the morning of Wednesday 12th October 1966 Bob telephoned the Registrar at Epsom Registry Office to book a slot for Saturday 15th for the marriage ceremony but was told that they were fully booked unless they could get there by 8.45am. Bob booked the slot.
The marriage was supposed to be a secret from all except Jill and John who were to be witnesses. Bob for some unknown reason let the cat out of the bag to his parents, something that he would regret to his dying day.
Early in the morning of Saturday 15th October 1966 Bob, Marcia and Bob’s parents climbed into Bob’s Riley 1.5 in Oxshott and drove to Epsom, other attendees were Marcia’s mother Eileen and Frank, Marcia’s brother Brian and Sadie and John and Jill. Following the misty ceremony Bob telephoned The White Lion in Cobham to book a table for the ‘reception’. On the way to the White Lion he stopped in Cobham High Street nipped in to Kirks Estate Agents and put £50 deposit down on a 3 bedroomed semi at 44 Anyards Road, asking price £4,750, he then presented the receipt to Marcia at the reception – Marcia at last had her ‘nest’.
50 years later Bob wrote a story about Marcia - at the end of which he fell in love with his wife – but please don’t tell her.
Saturday 24th April 2021
Dear Reader in Tel Aviv-Yafo,
Marcia would very much like to hear from you if you are a member of the Cohen or Heller family. Particularly if you are Natenale (probably Nathaniel) Cohen. (Ref. 1962).
© 2002-2023 Robert C Jones
Images of old Victorian children's homes temporarily removed.
Might be copyright!