Margaret Hackett (nee Pass) on growing up in Whittington in the Inter-War Years
We began by talking about the confusion around their being ‘two Pass families’ in the village; Margaret commented that Cicely Pass [Hennis Pass’s daughter] was a bridesmaid at her mum and dad’s wedding. She added that a picture of the wedding hung over the bed when she was a child. [They married at St Giles Church, Whittington on April 4th 1903] However, she said that she was always told they were separate families.
[Editor's note: Research has proven that they are different branches of the same family whose common ancestor is Benjamin Pass (1781 -1846). Margaret’s Grandfather Edward Pass was in fact Hennis A. Pass’s first cousin.]
WHAT IS YOUR FULL NAME? - Margaret Priscilla Hackett (my maiden name was Pass)
WHEN WERE YOU BORN? - December 5th 1912 at No. 1 The Green, Whittington.
WHO WERE YOUR PARENTS? - Adolphus (Jack) Pass and Priscilla Ketteridge.
- My [great] Aunt Annie Pass and my Aunt Sarah lived in the Hollycote Villas on Main Street. My [great] Aunt Annie was quite wealthy, she’d been a Lady’s Maid and was left money by the family she had worked for. It was with this money that Hollycot Villas were built. She loved to hear about the school and what we’d been up to. She used to always give me a biscuit, of course that was a luxury in my life, a biscuit. She had a nice house, I remember she had four wax ladies, they were absolutely beautifully made cream coloured figurines, I often wonder what happened to them. It was my Aunt Annie who also taught me how to sew.
- All I can remember about my Grandad [Edward Pass] is that he was a biggish man and he lived with my Aunt Sarah, I suppose he moved in with her after his wife [Ann] died. She was dying in the Hollycot Villas while my mother was in labour with me at No. 1 The Green, so I never knew my Grandma. I can remember my Grandad sitting in the armchair by the fireplace at my Aunt Sarah’s, and he always wore a hat. He was Estate Bricklayer at Freeford in his working life. My brother Edward was named after him.
- My dad was a small, handsome man, he always had a curl of hair coming down onto his forehead, he was a very hard worker. He used to sweep people’s chimneys when we were kids, [to supplement his income] ; he was the village lamplighter and of course he was a gardener at [Whittington Old Hall and, later] the Barracks. He walked there and back twice a day because he always had his lunch at No 1 The Green.
- My dad used to read to us kids a lot in the parlour, we used to sit on the sofa and he used to sit across by the fireplace, I seem to remember him reading Jane Eyre to us. He was quite a literate man and he had lovely handwriting.
- My mother was born in Suffolk and went to Beacon Place in Lichfield with the Seckham family. Then when they moved to Whittington Old Hall she met my father and he used to pick her flowers I believe. My mother always looked after us children well, she worked hard, cooked, cleaned and used the dolly, she was a loving mother.
- My Dad used to have a greenhouse at the Hollycot Villas, he had a big camellia tree. He grew cucumbers and tomatoes.
- My earliest memory is being scared to death at the end of the First World War in 1918. The soldiers from the military hospital came down from the barracks with an effigy of the Kaiser. They all wore blue uniforms, not khaki. I remember watching them burn this effigy outside our house and I was terrified!
- Another thing I can remember was our school teacher, Mrs Swain, who used to live at the Peel Arms and she used to come down to the village on a float and horse on Saturday on her way to Lichfield. One day she picked us up outside Pass’ Row, but a horse and cart came racing up Main Street after the horse became startled and knocked into us, throwing me onto the floor, which ruined my lovely embroidered pinafore. I think I would only be about 6 or 7. [circa 1918-1920]
- Every night my Dad used to start coughing to indicate to my mother that he wanted sixpence to go across to the Bell for “two halves”. [Jack never drank pints]
- Hilda left home and went into service with the Dyott family before we’d grown up. And later of course, Rose and I went to Freeford Hall as well.
- I met Arthur when he was a butcher at the London Central Meat Company [at the top of Market Street] and I used to go there with our Hilda who lived in Beacon Street. Anyway, at the Bower one year I was with a girl called Clara Bradbury (who used to live opposite us in the house with the petrol pump outside.) and we met Arthur and his friend Reg Davis (who also worked in the butchers shop). So we knocked around with them at the Bower, as young people do, and they walked us home to Whittington. After that we started seeing each other and I used to go to his house in Gaia Lane.
- Arthur was ‘second man’ at Lichfield when I met him, but then he got the job as relief manager, going all round the area filling in as manager, when other men were on holiday or ill and then eventually he got the managers job in Burton, which was in Station Street in those days. After that we got married.
- We married at St Giles Church in Whittington in 1934. I made my own wedding dress, the bridesmaids dresses [May Pass and Cicely Carter], my mothers dress and the page boy’s [David Swift, Rose‘s son].
- After my sister, Hilda got married to Bernard Aston, she left the Dyott’s and became a housewife, as women did in those days. During the Second World War she worked in a factory making ammunition up Beacon Street. Her husband was in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war and used to put out the fires in Birmingham, which took a lot of bombs.
- After I lost Arthur, I often used to go to Hilda’s for the weekend, and one weekend when I got there, (I always used to go through the back way), the back kitchen window was wide open, and I shouted through, “What you doin’ with the window open?” and there she was lying on the floor, well I can tell you I’ve never been so scared in all my life. She hadn’t been ill, she had a heart attack and died that morning. [12 Sep 1987]
- Despite the fact that my Mum and Dad had eight children, they only had seven grandchildren - their first would have been David Swift who was our Rose and Joe Swift’s only child. Our May had two children, Gary and Priscilla [with Maurice Beaken]. Our Bill [and Doris] had Valerie and Sid and Olive had John, Andrew and Kevin.
- During the War, Arthur worked for the Signal Corps in Burma. He contracted malaria, I was worried sick, I used to go 3 months without hearing from him. He used to have the chance to come home on leave, but he refused because he thought that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to bring himself go back there. [His experiences in the Far East left him with a lifelong hate of the Japanese, he wouldn’t even have a Japanese made TV in the house.]
- I spent most of the war checking soldiers uniforms in a factory. They initially wanted me to work in a munitions factory, but I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to do something I was suited to.
Margaret died suddenly on 18th March 2005, the last 17 years of her life were spent on her own in the house in Winshall, Burton that she rented for 42 years. Auntie Margaret as her family called her, had a very old-fashioned, respectful way with people, she always called her neighbours of over 40 years “Mr and Mrs Haywood”, never using their Christian names. She never minced her words, she was always straight down the line with people. But underneath this sometimes staid surface she was a very warm hearted, loving person, especially with her family. She never forgot a birthday and would always send a card with a handwritten letter inside. Unfortunately, for the last three years of her life she was unable to read or write because her eyesight was so bad. Those last years were undoubtedly not the happiest of her life, she would very often say that she was lonely, a situation that was brought about by not having any children of her own. But she knew that her family were there for her, she would speak twice a day to her sister May on the phone and see her regularly. Her nieces and nephews were all a part of her life. She also used to visit her family in Whittington occasionally, when the weather was nice. We had arranged to bring her over for the day during Easter, which she said she was looking forward to shortly before she died. She was cremated in Burton on 30th March 2005 and her ashes were scattered in the same spot as her husband Arthur’s had been seventeen years earlier.
© 2016 Whittington History Society