Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Three Days in Beaumaris - The Final Chapter of our Trip to England and Wales

After the Old Blues left us on Tuesday, September 4th, RVPainter and I stayed on in Beaumaris until Saturday the 8th. Over those three days, we enjoyed our accomodations at the lovely Churchbank Bed & Breakfast; we wandered around the town (it's small, but very charming as you'll see); visited the castle and the Old Gaol; sat on the pier, drank mochas and ate treats from the Castle Bakery; shopped for gifts; and just generally enjoyed ourselves. We hoped that, before we left, we would learn the name of the woman Mom lived with in Beaumaris - all the mysteries had been solved except this one. Did we? Read to the end to find out ....

Beaumaris Castle - a castle with a moat even! Right there in the middle of town. Very cool!

Our Inn - straight across - the white building.

St.Mary's Church, right across from our Inn
When Mom was in Beaumaris, on Sundays, all the students from her school put on their uniforms and marched through town like a parade to attend services at St. Mary's Church. When I booked our accomodations, I didn't know the church would be right across the street!

The streets of Beaumaris:

Along the Menai Strait - In her essay ( a few posts back) My mother described jumping in the cold water early in the
morning, and the view of the mountains across the way:


The house where Mom lived: 4 Green Edge - it's the one with the white door.

On our first full day in Beaumaris, we got word that Jackie from the town council office thought she had found information for us about the woman with whom Mom had lived. The town kept records of deaths by address, and there was one that seemed like it might fit the bill. Jackie gave us the location of the woman's grave in the town cemetery, and we went to take a look. But the grave listed the names of children, and we knew the woman that Mom lived with had been a spinster. It didn't fit.

On our last evening there, we strolled once more past 4 Green Edge. Lawrence Roberts, who lives at 3 Green Edge, was outside, staining a bench. We'd met Lawrence and his wife Mildred (the lady in the gray pansuit in the previous post) at the luncheon with the Old Blues. Lawrence is a former mayor of Beaumaris, and that day he'd pledged to see what he could learn for us.

When he saw us walking by, Lawrence called out, "OH! I thought you were gone! I have information for you."

 He gave us the name Alice Ridsdale, a spinster who had lived with her maid, Harriet Jones at number 4 Green Edge. In fact, Alice was Lawrence's godmother, though I had the sense he didn't remember her. This fit perfectly with my mother's description of having lived with "an old lady and her maid."

Lawrence and Mildred gave us a tour of their lovely house at #3 - #4 would have been exactly the same except in mirror-image. This gave me a sense of the home Mom had described and I looked through the third floor bedroom windows at the views of the Menai Strait that she would have opened her eyes to each morning with delight.

So, yes, the questions were answered! All the mysteries solved! Our trip to England and Wales was perfect in every way - including the beautiful sunshine we brought them - our friends there say it has rained incessantly ever since we left! But most importantly, we got to see dear old friends and make dear new ones. We were so cared for all along the way, and it was a lovely feeling. Sometimes we feel so much like we are out there on our own, taking care of things, so when suddenly we are being taken care of, it is both a surprise and a delight.

I'll close with one more view of the Menai Strait on a sunny day in Wales:

Sunday, September 23, 2012


On September 4, 1939, my 14-year-old mother stood on the train platform at Liverpool Lime Street Station with her entire school, awaiting their evacuation to Beaumaris, Wales.

On September 4, 2012, RVPainter and I joined a group of "Old Blues"at the Liverpool Blue Coat School to commemorate and recreate, in our way, that evacuation.

The Old Blues begin to gather in the boardroom at the Liverpool Blue Coat School. That's our new, dear friend-for-life, Stan Livinston on the right.

Matthew and Olivia, two current students at the Blue Coat School dressed in the traditional school uniforms. My mother would have had to wear this. I said to the kids, "I bet you're glad you don't have to wear those uniforms to school now!" Olivia said, "They're very itchy!" and Matthew added, "And they're hot too!"

A new school flag was being dedicated that morning, so we joined in the flag raising ceremony outside.

A vintage bus picked us up outside the school - re-creating the first part of the evacuation, in which students were taken by tram to Lime Street Station.

Stan gathers us for departure. I forget why we are laughing and clapping!

Now we've transferred onto a luxury - and I mean LUXURY bus - to take us from Pier Head in Liverpool to Beaumaris. The original evacuation was by train, but because some of our travelers were elderly, it was best to avoid the hassle of having to change trains and possibly miss connections. Left to right: Keith, an Old Blue wo also taught at the school for many years; Richard, current President of the Old Blues, and Stan, current Treasurer.

Upon arrival in Beamaris, we went to the David Huges Community Center for a luncheon provided by the town council. We were joined in Beaumaris by more Old Blues who live in the area.

The Mayor welcomed us  - he is short so he stood on a chair. Check out all the bling he's wearing!
I met Jackie, from the town council office. She was the first person to make the connection for us between Beaumaris and the Blue Coat School.

They put out a nice spread for us! Look at the women sitting on the right side. The tall lady in the gray pantsuit is named Mildred, and she and her husband will factor into our story later.

After lunch, a short service and dedication of a plaque commemorating the evacuation and the friendship between the town and the school.

The travelers gather for a photo - in the background is Beaumaris Castle. To my left as you look is Margaret, an evacuee who shared many stories with us during the bus ride. She ran away from the school when she learned that her younger brother was ill. She was not expelled, but was put in solitary confinement for two weeks.

And now, just those Old Blues who were evacuees.

We went our separate ways for a few hours so that each person could remember Beaumaris in his or her own way. Here, we have met up again in the square outside the White Lion Pub. On the right is Ernie Foulder, a delightful and entertaining man. Sadly, we learned that he died 9 days later - suddenly, while walking on a beach near his home, he simply collapsed and died. He was 72.

That's Ray Livinston on the left, Stan Livingston (brothers) and Keith. Old Blues, all.

At around 6p.m., the bus arrived to take them all back to Liverpool. RVPainter and I were staying on through the end of the week, and we were terribly sad to be saying goodbye! At that moment, we wished we could hop on the bus with them and listen to more of their stories all the way back to Liverpool.
I can honestly say that I have rarely been treated with such kindness - such open and welcome arms, as by these Old Blues. What delightful people they are, and so much fun! Each one survived the strict regime of the school, and has managed to develop a healthy perspective for the experience. Their ability to recall and retell their stories with compassion for (most) of their teachers and for themselves, and their wonderful senses of humor, are a tribute to the human spirit. I was so sad to say goodbye to them. I will love these people forever and will always cherish the special time we spent together.

RVPainter and I stayed on in Beaumaris for three more days. I'll wrap up with pictures and the final pieces of the story next.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Part III of Our Trip to England and Wales: Liverpool

From Bath, we took the train to Liverpool. We had to change trains in Birmingham, which wasn't difficult - just a bit stressful. We arrived at Liverpool Lime Street Station, which is the station from which my mom was evacuated with her school at the start of World War II. The main purpose of our time in Liverpool was to visit her boarding school and then to go, with a group of school alumni to Beaumaris, Wales. Beaumaris is where the school evacuated to and where the children lived with local families.

So, here we have arrived at Liverpool Lime Street Station:

We took a cab to our hotel, which was nicely located near Albert Dock, on the waterfront at the Mersey River. I remember Mom talking about the Mersey River, and my impression was that it was a dirty river. Well, it is a muddy river, but it's not polluted like it was back then when Liverpool was a major shipping and receiving center. Later, one of our companions told us an old joke about the Mersey: "If you fall in, you'll die of poisoning before you have a chance to drown!"

In any case, the river doesn't smell, and Albert Dock has been turned into a very nice tourist spot with restaurants, shops and museums.

On Monday morning, we went right over to the Liverpool Blue Coat School. When Mom attended, it was known as "The Liverpool Blue Coat School for Orphans and Fatherless Children."
We were greeted by Tony Salmon, Secretary of the Old Blues, an alumni group that helps former students and their families. Tony was the one who first confirmed that Mom had been a student there. We were joined by Richard Morris, current Old Blues President, and Stan Livingston, current Treasurer. The three of them gave us a very thorough tour of the school. They shared stories from their time there. Richard and Stan were boarders there about 10 years later than my mom, but it seems the regime was no less structured or strict.

Richard, Tony and Stan at the doors to the Blue Coat School

The entrance to the school, showing the clock tower. It was through these doors that students first entered the school ... and seldom went outside afterward. Of course, the clock tower just screams "CLIMB ME!" and many of the boys at the school managed to, despite all the discipline and watchful eyes.
The intimidating entrance to the school - the door opens above the second panel - so an adult would need to duck. It's sized for the kids! And the words above the panel read, "MIND YOUR HEAD"

This hallway is much unchanged except for the blue doors. This would be what kids first saw upon entering the school.

The chapel

Note the knobs on the railing to prevent the kids from sliding down

This building was the girls' dormitory. It was sold off and is no longer part of the school! So we couldn't go through there. But I've seen a photo - the dormitory was one long, wide corridor with just beds lining each side.

RVPainter and me, with the chapel in the background.

The next day, we joined the "Old Blues" for our own "Evacuation" to Beaumaris - 73 years to the day after the original one. Stayed tuned for pictures from that part of our adventure.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Part II of Our Trip to England and Wales: Two Days in Bath

From London, we took the train to Bath, where my friend Deirdre lives with her husband Nigel and their three beautiful children, Orla, Lorcan and Ronan. Nigel picked us up at the station and delivered us to our hotel:

The MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel
Another view of the hotel
Then we went straight to Deirdre and Nigel's house, because I haven't seen Deirdre in more than 15 years! She and I met at UNUM in Portland, Maine - she was a 20-year-old college intern from Limerick, Ireland, and I was a 35-year-old intern - having just finished graduate school and hoping to get a job with the company.  We worked all summer in a department called "Corporate Strategic Planning," - which was like a "think tank" - in other words, a collosal waste of the company's money!! Our jobs were to research our competitors and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly, my study was on Paul Revere Company, an insurance company in Massachusetts. Later, UNUM ended up acquiring Paul Revere in a merger. I'm sure my report had something to do with it. ;)

Our office was in downtown Portland, so Deirdre and I would take long walkabouts around the Old Port at lunchtime. I mean, Loooooonnnnnnggggg walkabouts. Eventually, I got a job in another part of UNUM, and Deirdre went back to Ireland, and then on to law school. But we have stayed in touch throughout all these years!

This is Deirdre - she is very, very pretty :) and a very faithful friend :)

On our first full day, RVPainter and I showed ourselves all around Bath. Once again, we brought blue skies to Britain..

We went to the Roman Baths:

And Bath Abbey ...

And around town...

That night, Nigel, Deirdre, RVPainter and I went out for a grown-ups only dinner in a local pub. The next day, the whole family took us out for what Orla later called our Beautiful Yummy Day:

First, Stonehenge ...

Orla, Lorcan, Deirdre and me

Nigel and Ronan

Dick is perplexed by Stonehenge and determined to figure it out
Then we went to Stourhead House, which is one of the National Trust properties. It was such a beautiful place!

There are acres and acres of land, with meandering paths and ponds with bridges...

And a magical Owl Tree...

And secret grottoes...

 And buildings like ones in ancient Greece - this one has statues inside ...

And afterward, we had ice cream! Then we went back to their house, where Orla and Lorcan dressed up in all their costumes for us. Orla was right - it really was a Beautiful Yummy Day!

The next day, we had to leave for Liverpool, and Deirdre, Orla and Lorcan came to see us off - in fact they road the train to Bristol Temple Meads with us. 

Then we sadly said goodbye and continued on our way - next stop - Liverpool!