Margaret (Burrage) Thorne - Caldecott 1939-1949 - Dorchester
But as I say I went off to Dorchester then with Frances Pott. Frances, like Miss Leila, was a Quaker. She didn't believe in holidays, the only time I ever got any time off to go back to see my parents was when she felt I was a bit 'crabby' and she'd say 'Margaret dear, I think you ought to go away for a few days'. Well, of course, I didn't say No!
We had about twenty boys, ages about 9-10-11 that sort of age. Their parents, very few parents ever came down from London to see them. They probably couldn't afford it actually, and they all came from poorer parts of London. And well, there they were. We used to have someone who was called Miss Nurse, that was her name, and she was also a part-time nurse I think. She used to come in and help put (them)to bed. We had another lady used to come and sit about two evenings a week and darn socks because the Home Office said it was cheaper to employ her than to buy new socks, so then of course there weren't any available anyway.
I always remember when we were told never to paint anything Red because that bought out the worst in people – an aggressive colour. I've never forgotten that because I've never painted anything at home in Red. I've never forgotten that one.
The house was a large, what you'd probably call a villa, a late Victorian villa in a row of similar villas. It was called "Langdon" It was in Prince of Wales Road. We weren't terribly popular at first until people found we were quite harmless and then they started to pop-in and call and said 'Oh! well we didn't know whether we'd liked to come, but now we find you're alright', referring, of course, to Frances Pott and me. And we had very kind neighbours called 'Buckingham' who I had known vaguely in Maidstone and they were very kind to us. But time-off was difficult in the summer period, and sometimes in winter time really, we were allowed to go within eight miles and Weymouth was in, within eight miles so we used to go on the train with packed lunch for about these twenty children and just let them loose on the beach where they used up quite a lot of energy and they were very... well they had boundless energy but they used a lot of it climbing what were all along the beaches, these great steel, sort of scaffolding really which was built for anti-tank barrier, and that kept them going, gave them something to do, and then we'd go home. Frances and I would be absolutely exhausted but the children would never be that. I was there for four years. I now look on it as the worst four years of my life, the least happy four years of my life.
Ivor, who was in the Army of course, and stationed in various places, mostly in Scotland, when he was on leave he would come down to Dorchester, stay in 'The George' and we would, well, probably go walking somewhere because it wasn't easy on transport, but I do remember going somewhere the day the Rhine was crossed because I remember going to this sort of cafe for coffee or something to eat something and they came and announced what had happened.
And of course I went back to Maidstone occasionally for a few days and I always remember being on the train and coming back to Dorchester and there was a soldier on it, with full kit, and he was, he sort of started asking questions and realised that he was on the wrong train. He was on the train to the wrong Dorchester because there is a Dorchester in Oxfordshire, isn't there? And I remember how sorry we were for him, it was pitch black and night time, but he got off at the nearest station and that was that.
At the end of the war, the boys just went home and I remember saying to Frances 'what do you think they are going to think, or remember about these years that we've been with them? after-all they were four years older than when their parents had seen them too.
As I said before, very few parents ever came down. I said 'what do you think they are going to remember?' and she said 'I really don't know, but I can only think it's having a clean tablecloth'.
I suppose by 'having a clean tablecloth' she meant that; but she also meant the sort of standard that I suppose we tried very hard to keep up and, well, I hope we did and I hope with some of them, because some of them will be really old now, I hope with some of them it stayed with them.
But then the war was ended and I went back home for a very very short while, 1945 wasn't it? Frances very kindly gave me some money which she said was a 'Thank you' for putting up with her really I think, she didn't say that of course but that's what it really amounted to.