Chapter 8 Back to Marsham
We lost dear mum in nineteen fifty seven. She died from cancer aged sixty four. I was heartbroken. Two years later, I married Jean. A few years after being married, I took my wife Jean and my first born to Marsham to see Queenie and Ted. Later in nineteen sixty four, we heard from Queenie that poor old Ted had died. Some fifteen years later we lost our dear sister Lily, also from cancer and also aged sixty four, poor old Lil. I used to write to Queenie every so often but you know how the years slip by and there would be gaps between letters. Then there would be longer gaps and then there would be none. You know how it is when you have a young family. Over the years, I thought that I would go back again to see Queenie, but by then, the years had flown, then I knew it was too late.
It's only since writing this that my wife Jean and I decided to go back to Marsham to retrace my steps. On arriving at Marsham on that October Saturday afternoon, everything seemed to fit in place. Nothing had changed in all those fifty one years. The village was the same in detail, as though time had stood still. The village school, the reading room where we first stopped during evacuation., the village green, the pub, the post office, the grocers, Mr Buxton's manor house, Mrs. Kidd's bungalow, the beautiful church where I used to attend communion, then lastly our lane. The cow sheds, the dairy and then the only change, Ted and Queenie's little cottage was gone. Only to be replaced by an ugly looking granary. Comparing the lane now to how it was then, with old photographs, everything was in place but for that one exception.
I knew of no living relatives of theirs, there may have been a niece somewhere. So even with all the enquires, we could get no information regarding Queenie and Ted. Jean and I stayed overnight in Norwich, feeling slightly disappointed, when Jean suggested that we should return to Marsham the following day (Sunday) to visit the church. Why didn't we think of that before? On the way I said to Jean that we had better not leave it too late, as the church service is at eleven, she said, "How can you know that after all these years?” As we walked into the church grounds I noticed a Cenotaph at the entrance. There were six names of servicemen killed in the last war that came from Marsham. One name was the boy Chapman, whose push bike I borrowed until he returned home from the RAF. We spoke to an eighty nine year old woman about Queenie but to no avail, and then she said, you had better go into the church now if you want to enquire in there. They start the service at eleven. With that, Jean looked at me and said "Blimey even that hadn't changed.” Seeing as it was about ten to eleven, we decided to try the graveyard but found nothing. As we went out of the old cemetery we noticed a newer one there, it was a gravestone with a joint grave of Queenie and Ted. Queenie had died in nineteen eighty seven at the grand old age of eighty five.
Jean and I went to Aylesham a village about a mile and a half away, which incidentally was still the same, as I remembered it. We bought some flowers and a card for Ted and Queenie's grave. I inscribed on the card:
To Queenie and Ted,
they may have taken away you're little cottage,
but they can never take away my happy memories.
We then placed the card in an envelope and wrote on the front of it: ‘to whoever tends the grave’ hoping that possibly it would be seen by whoever, if anybody, that might have known Queenie and Ted. We then placed the envelope in a see through waterproof wrapper hoping it would survive the winter weather.
During the next few weeks we would on occasions, discuss that week-end with friends and relations and being fairly content about the outcome. Something was to happen that would conclude the final chapter, out of the blue we received a phone call. It was from a woman who called herself Jean; she said that she was the only surviving relative, of Queenie and Ted, known to me. She was a niece in her seventies and after confirming who I was like saying, are you Stanley, she sounded as excited as Jean and I were. Although fifty two years had passed, she said that she still remembered me from one of her few visits to Marsham as a teenager, when she would visit her uncle and aunt Queenie. She went on to say that she still lived in Wroxham, that's near the Norfolk Broads, which is about nine miles from Marsham. She said that on occasions, about three times a year, her son would visit the graveside to tidy the surrounds. On the last occasion he had noticed the card which Jean and I had left and had taken it back to his mother. It was my telephone number, which we had left on the card as an afterthought that made the final link leading to a happy conclusion.
I am concluding this story with a poem that I have written in memory of my brother Fred:
Brother dear, upright so proud whose aspirations and quest for life, extinguished by an act of human folly, we have shed our tears. Your presence will for years, be missed. Rest content dear friend, with the knowledge, that your life though short, brought us Joy and has left its mark, bythe love and warmth that you gave.
Stanley David Keyte 1928-1998
So Stan brings his memories to an end. I grew up during the increasing affluence of the post-war period and so I had little idea of my family’s early deprivations. Apart from the occasional recollections, the past was rarely mentioned and everyone got on with living in the present. The only clue was when Stan once remarked, that the much vaunted pre-war freedom to leave your front door unlocked, was because you had nothing worth stealing! Through these memoirs, I now realise he was echoing the words of his granddad ‘Black Jack’ so history is a living thing.
It heartens me that our family memories are kept alive as all us brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews are regularly in touch. So thank you Uncle Stan, who along with his sister Lily and his brothers Charlie, Joe and Fred (the uncle I would have loved to have met) for leaving us such a terrific legacy. It’s Us’s and Co, as granddad would have said!