Nella Graham – (CSWIG1)
CUMBRIA SPEAKS ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
13 WEST STREET
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
©2017 Cumbria Speaks Oral History Project
Respondent: Nella Graham
Date of birth: 01/07/1923
Date of Interview: 07/04/2017
Interviewer: Isanna Curwen
MAIN CONTENTS OF TRANSCRIPT
- Childhood in Italy
- Going against the family to marry Tommy in Italy during the WW2.
- Travelling to the UK as a war bride at the end of the war (1947).
- First impressions and adapting to life in Wigton – poverty with in-laws.
- Early Wigton years: Tommy finding work at British Rayophane, couple moving to Higham Hall. Nella does work for Mrs Carr.
- Missing Italy: family and friends. Isolation. Making friends in Wigton.
- Having children; disabled child and caring for him at home. Raising boys.
- Outings and leisure time; the car, the trips out to Mungrisdale and Caldbeck.
- Driving to Italy with the family on visits.
- Losing Tommy and travelling with son Alan after Tommy’s death. Alan killed in Africa.
- Relationship with children now.
IC Hello Nella.
IC Could you please tell me your name and your date of birth please?
NG Yeah, Nella Graham, one seven, twenty two…twenty three.
IC Ok and where were you…?
NG That’s my age, yeh.
IC Ah yeah so you’re …94.
NG In Italy, yeh.
IC And what, what did your family do?
NG My family, my dad was a business man…coughs. he was what you call a merchant. Because where I lived it was all flat land and where I lived, it was cultivated of course, so my dad had his agents to buy everything that was grown locally to export it to Austria, and Germany, which there’s a lot of woods but not a lot of cultivations, know and the hill and the fell and such. So, unfortunately, when I was 3, my mum died, because in them days they didn’t know that appendicitis is so dangerous if you don’t operate right away, so, by the time they got the doctor which it was three miles away and got an ambulance, she died in the ambulance going to hospital and I was 3. So, my dad had to stop his, his merchandises and try to look after- because I had a nanny- I had a nanny always in my, in my life, you know, until I was 17. She lived in, you know, it was a person that…she did, she did all she did. And so she was in charge of…in…in me and of me and my sister, which she was two years older, eh? So we lived at home quite nicely. My dad remarried after four year, you know, and the step-mum was alright and I got on fine with her, because I’ve always been the quietest; my sister’s been a bit rebellious, she always has been, so there was a bit of friction there, you know, and I would just trying to placate everybody, you know, because I do anything for peace, you know. So we got on fine, and er, and then of course when the Germans come over to Italy, you had to work for them. Everybody.
IC So, when was that?
NG In, in, what year was that when the war broke out? You know, when Germany invaded Italy and, er, unfortunately where I was living, I was in…in three miles of three great big airports which the American bombers used to come every day, every night. So for months we had to go and sleep in the shelters, the big proper shelters they dug, er, dug, out of my pub come restaurant, they dug our bowling green and made a zig zag to go when the bombs came, you see.
IC Where in Italy was this?
NG Air, air shelter eh? Would it be forty five, yeh,
IC And where in Italy was this?
NG North of Italy, very north of Italy, between Venice and Austria, you know. But er, even though I lived in a quiet village there…but there was a lot tourist coming and going, and stop in our restaurant for something to eat and whatever. That’s why I had to learn the German and I could speak it as good as I speak English now, you know, yeh, so…
IC So how old were you when you were…during that period? Do you remember how…were you a young adult or…
NG Eh, 17, 18, yeh, yeh. But we were very strict brought up, you know, Victorian, you know, because with losing the mam, of course the dad, always very, very protective, you know. Yeh, because I always remember as a little girl, I was always following him, pulling his trousers, you know, and they and they used to say, any travellers that came for him to sample the wines or whatever, you know, and they used to say, ‘And how’s your little one?’ I always remember, you know, and I must have been just about 4, eh? Used to say, ‘Oh don’t mention it, she’s costing, she costs me her weight in gold,’ he used to say, and I always remember that speech, you know. I thought I wonder what he means by that, and then as I grew up I thought; now I know what he means, he mean that I always taken more care than my eldest sister because she was a strong as a horse my eldest sister, you know, never ill or nothing, cheeky (laughs) and rebellious, yeh. So, but however, so, when we…when the Americans started coming and bombing, eh, it was taken it out of me so much because I always been a delicate child you know, so, my dad thought, very clever, with his connection of course, he thought if I send Nella to Treviso, Treviso was the old border next door, but he was it was, er, proclaim, er, hospital city, because in all the fields and in all the building there were great big red crosses painted like that, you know, to make sure that they could see it from the air, so that they wouldn’t be bombed. So, I was sad because one of my cousins had the restaurant in there, so, I lived with them. Very sheltered family, you know, in a private quarters because I was never let down in the pub, you know, because it was full of Germans, eh? Erm, so, I lived in a private quarters with them and I went to work, (coughs) because everybody had to work for them. Some girls, they put them making roads, an that, you know. So, it was with my dad acquaintances, er, I was working, a…a dental assistant. They had a lot of beautiful villas which they were for the Italian officers because it had always been an army place, you know, eh? So I worked for them till four O’clock. Every morning seven days a week and then I went immediately to my cousin’s hotel and lived in the private quarters upstairs. I never went downstairs, you know. You…I barely mixed with them because at that time, an Italian girl, the locals found that she was mixing with the Germans, because they were bit despise there, you know. They just shaved their head so that everybody would know, yeh, yeh, um mm. Some of my friends, the local ones, they weren’t clever enough to know that, you know. Oh, they had their heads shaved so that everybody would know that she’s she been mixing with the Germans, you know.
IC Was it a fright… frightening time?
NG Oh, it was frightening time, yes, yeh. As I say, so my dad he thought well we, we, we all gonna be killed here so she might as well, one of us, escape to the hospital, er, city. So I went there, you know, and er, as I say, my best work to do… dad made sure that they didn’t give me any rough work because I wasn’t used, you know, I had five staff at home, eh? So, er, as I say, I just lived in the private quarters and worked till four O’clock. But it was, er, it wasn’t a rough work, dental assistant, and I mean, I wasn’t even assistant I was just washing up, sterilize all the instruments because they’re all on a big tray, you know. And they use to come in there, with all kinds of wounds, you know, from Monte Casino and all them places, eh? Terrible, terrible states; terrible states. But there was one bloke, that the…he was, he was in…it wasn’t much wrong much with him, and er, he kept saying, er, I wish, I wish I’d some pair of trousers and a shirt, so that he would escape. With being right next to Austria, he could walk it, you know. Er, I mean…
IC A German?
IC A German?
NG Yeah. He said he wish he could walk home over. I said, oh, I can give you a pair of trousers and a shirt belonging my dad, you know. I said that’s no trouble, so he did escape, yeh, he escaped, yeh, yeh, he escaped. Because they used to send them to Belson, you know, that concentration camp, eh?
IC So, where did this man come from?
IC That escaped? Do you remember what nationality he was?
NG I think it must have been a German, but what was he doing in Italy, you know? Oh, he, maybe, he was a German, but when he knew that the Germans were losing, they were losing the battle really, so he wanted to escape, er, and go back home in his own part of the country, er, and he was a normal person, eh? So…
IC And so how did, did the British army come?
NG Oh, the British army came, and then of course, er, my brother in law was a big hero because he was up in the mountains for all during the war, helping the British. The British used to come and drom…drop the parcels to keep them alive, so when it, when the war finish, he was a hero. He come back in the local…he was a hero and very shortly after the that, he got married, naturally, because they were courting, you know, even though they never seen during the year, you know. So but er, it was, oh, he was a hero when he come back in the village, you know, and er, and my dad thought well, eh, he’s gonna marry my daughter, and er, he, he took a contract on a beautiful modern coffe, what they…coffe in Italy, the pub cum coffe, cum whatever, you know. So my dad set him up. He thought he would set him up in a good business, so, that, eh, they was settled, you know. So, and…and among that lot when they took…when they took over this luxurious modern café, you know, and they won the great big, the…were…it were a big…it was a long, long walk and with all, underneath, you know, yeh. So it was lovely and eh, so, I th… and he thought, they thought, well, no good putting any stranger behind the till, so I send Nella. I thought; oh, great. From being kept down like that, you know, I thought, oh great, I’ll have a little bit of life for meself now, eh? So I went and eh, and I got a lovely circle of friends, you know, and er, every Sunday we used to go skiing in winter and er, trips in the summertime, a bus-full you know; youngsters. We had a hell of a time, really, really good time, you know. And then of course that’s where I met Tommy. He used to come and drink, you see, with all the English lads, you know. And er…
IC Was he in the army?
NG Yeh, of course, yeh, yeh, he’d been in the army, and eh, he stopped in there for 2 year. We were courting for 2 year, like, I didn’t just marry, met him today and married tomorrow, you know. And nobody would believe us, of course, eh? Oh, I was disowned by my family. My family didn’t want to know me. Of all the lads that I could pick; had a bank manager was after me. There was a one that had the marble works, one was the son of a judge, you know, and in Italy then, there was lot of little matchmaking, you know. The parents for the girls, they were trying to match them up when they were young, you know. Oh, that would suit Nella, you know. But Nella wasn’t going to have it, she wasn’t going to have it, I didn’t want to know. And er…I met…
IC Do you…Do you remember…?
NG …And always friends mind, always good friends still, and left them good friends because I was…just tell, well, you’re lovely to be with, to go with, but I don’t love you. I would tell them right away, you know, I was quite open with them. I mean I wasn’t just pretending you know. So, as I say, er, Tom…I met Tommy.
IC And what did you like about Tommy?
NG Because he was, er, he was…Italian men, they’re all cheats for a start off. Very very very. Doesn’t matter if they’re poor or rich or whatever, they always er, hidden a little mistress, you know, somewhere, and er, and even if the wife knew, there’s, er everything shut up, you know, or else money could buy everything, eh? Mmm hum. But er, I thought, no, I’m not gonna have any on them, you know. So my family disown me, they didn’t want to know me.
IC How did that feel?
NG Oh, I feel…I felt terrible, but I had a really good friend, one friend of mine, bless her. And er, I still got some things that she left me; little tiny cherubs in my bedroom. And, and she, she was the one that, eh, she stuck up for me, you know. And, er, it was funny because I’ve hear of, of, of Tommy living in the north of England, you know, so I’ve asked this girlfriend, Lucia – her husband was a very clever man, because he was an architect, but he was well read up on all foreign countries and everything, and I says, will you ask, will you ask Geoffrey, what is about Wigton? I knew it was Wigton in England, but it might be Timbuktu (laughs) you know. So, however, they found out that er, Wigton was a very sparsely, er, like, years and years ago we’re talking about, eh, more or less they’re all shepherds and they live on the, er, they’re all crofters, and er, and most of them live on the sheeps that they have on the fells, you know. They rear them from lambs, and grow them and sell they and buy some more, whatever. So that was the information, that my dad got. That er, but er, as regards through the bank, regards said the family, they never had any trouble in the family and there was six, six lads and a daugh.. and a girl, yeh, and they said, they’re a very working family and they don’t own the house because er, my dad asked him, you know, erm. They don’t own their house and they all work, what I say for the big landlord, which it was true like, you know, all the family had to work for Carrs at Redhall which was the big landowner in Wigton, known by everybody, eh? So, er, as I say, everybody had to work for them. But er, Tommy promised my dad that he would…that if he could, he would never send me out to work, because I never had to had to work for nobody, you know, I was a spoil child really, if you put it that way. Yeh. So. That’s where I met Tommy. Because when I went, and er, and behind the till at my sister’s and my brother in law’s café cum pub cum whatever; bowling green and everything. A lovely place a little place always remind me – when you go to Carlisle, there’s a little pub on the left hand side and it has the bowling green with the little wall round, exactly the same premises, oh, what a sweet memories, you know. So.
IC And can you describe the wedding, the wedding. Was the wedding in Italy?
NG Oh, the wedding. My sister wedding there was 90 people.
IC Your sister’s wedding?
NG My sister’s wedding, and mine there was 7. Oh, they didn’t want to know. No no, no, no no. Oh, no.
IC How did that feel?
NG Oh, I felt a bit broken hearted, but I must have thought a lot of Tommy, to be able to go through it, you know. (Laughs) I thought, well, I’m not going marry somebody just for what they’ve got. If I marry anybody I marry because I love them, you know. And, and it was the same, because Tommy was a lovely man, nobody had a wrong word about Tommy; the loveliest man you could meet, you know. Sweet, and er, maybe a bit on the cold side, the typical English gentleman, you know, but er, I gave him a lot of sweetness, myself, you know what I mean? You try to be nice and sweet to them and they come eventually your way, you know? So that’s what I did, yeh. So, but anyways, eh, as I say, my family didn’t want to know, but eventually when they met him…but you see, at them times, lot Italian girls went with er, with an English lad and they left them pregnant and maybe they had a wife in England, and all…so, dad was, my dad biggest worry. It was…and the climate, of course. Oh he thought, Nella never survive the climate with being so delicate child, you know, all my life. But, however, as I say, I must have brave really, to leave what I left at home, you know. An er, as I say, my sister wedding, 90 and there was 7 at mine, eh.
IC And it, was the wedding in Italy?
NG In Venice.
IC In Venice?
NG I got married in Venice, as I say there was 7 of us. Me and Tommy, best man, my sister and my brother in law did come eventually. But er, very very snooty.
NG Tommy thought, oh, I’ll book them into a nice hotel, you know. And when we told them and my my…my dad said, oh no we’re not going there, he said the ones that owns the station hotel is my best friend and he said he’ll be offended if I let you go and stop somewhere else when his friend had this lovely hotel, you know. So, even that wasn’t right. Tommy tried to do his best, you know. No, no he said, we…no no, no no, we we’re not stopping there, you know, we got…we already got provided and that. That was er, a rebound, you know? It wasn’t nice like, eh? I thought, god, what am I gonna for to…just to be…make them feel that I’m good, you know, good. You know I mean, good eh? Well that, that was it. Eh? They didn’t want to know. Now…
NG …But however, after we got married, oh, we got invited at home. Oh, life of luxury, eh? The maid come in the morning with a tray in the bedroom with the trolley you know, and everything, and I say…waited on hand and foot. And my step-mum thought the world of Tommy. She said she couldn’t of married a best man, you know. She really took to him, you know, and she said, eh, I’m happy for Nella, you know that er, she’s got a good man because eh, dad was terrible worried about me going, you know, coming to England. What would I find? And…and how true. He was right. Oh my god. My god. So however, they bundle all the gir…Italian brides coming along Germany, pick a lot of Germans up; brides, and somebody was in charge, of course, (22.05) and they, we arrived in London and they put in er, hostel. All lot of them. There were all separate little, like, they were cubicle, but nice, you know. But each one, we were all foreign brides. Italians and Germans.
NG No, Italian and English, sorry.
IC How long after you were married…did Tommy go and you stay? Would was there a long time?
IC When…after you were married?
NG Oh, after we were married, during our honeymoon were, were invited home.
IC To England? Oh no, yes, yes,
NG In Venice.
NG In Venice, Yeh.
IC And then Tommy left for England and then you followed?
NG Tommy was gonna leave, oh. What was I gonna say? You could hardly buy anything then, but my sister went to Florence, and my dad, and they went to somebody that dad, dad connections again. They bought a full roll of white crushed velvet and made…the idea of my sister was, I’ll, I’ll get it to the dressmaker, she can make Nella the long wedding gown and the cape because it was February. Very cold, you know? And er, but however, Tommy got word to say he got to leave in 6 months, eh? So how would I find somebody right away, you know? In Italy, them…them dressmakers were booked constantly to make things because there wasn’t many things off the pegs then, you know. So, er, but however, I didn’t get married in a white, I just got married with a little costume and my fur coat, of course, that my dad bought. My dad bought me as a wedding present. He took me and my sister to Florence and he got me what they call a lookalan, (fur coat is pelliccia) I still got it and its perfect. Perfect. Perfect that coat is still perfect. But nobody wears them now, plus if you wear them you maybe get stone, eh? Yeh, there’s a lot against animals, eh? So, it’s in my, actually wrapped up, it’s a brand new and er, under my bed. And er, (coughs) of course, after we were married, I just come across a photograph, er, I can…we lived in married quarters, you know, because er, naturally I wanted to be with Tommy wherever he was, you know, so we got in with a lovely Italian family, and er, was treated like family, you know, and er, we had our own little private quarters and I was happy *as a slaw, very, very happy. Yeh…yeh. But er, I was a bit, disappointed with my wedding, you know, as I say, my sister and her husband did come, but er, little bit, very, very coldish, you know.
IC Did your father go?
IC Your dad.
NG Yeh, oh yeh, he came, yeh. As I say, he wouldn’t even go what we booked him…didn’t he, he wanted to go by…to his friend, eh?
IC When did you come to England?
NG Er. Forty-seven.
IC And how was that? The journey?
NG Oh. Tell us about it. As I said, they gathered all the brides, put us in this hostel and they…during the night, they was to come and collect you, you know. So they come and shouted the names half of the night, the other half they went out got drunk and they didn’t give a damn about nowt. The Germans, yeh. Some the German girls they just went, got drunk and come back singing and carrying on, kept us waken, you know. But however, I listened and er, nobody came and shouted my name, you know, I thought, oh my god, what have I…it clicked on me then, I thought what have I done? Tommy should have been here and come and collect me, you know. Oh my god, I was broken-hearted, you know. But however, as it happened, I, I didn’t find out that, but I thought, oh, what have I done, you know, I maybe go there, he’s maybe married or, or what…you know. I didn’t know what I was coming to, eh? So, but however, er, they put us all on a separate trains, each one of us, you know, to be safe. And I was fine until Preston, so I could talk Italian to the rest, you know. When I was left on my own I must have been exhausted because the worry and er, have I done right or have I done wrong and I upset my family and all that. It was on me, you know, and I thought oh god, what have I done? But however, as I said, nobody come and collect us. But then I found out afterwards that the police had gone with…to Tommy and they said to him, you stop in in Wigton, we make sure that your wife is on the right train, and the train stops at Carlisle, so she won’t get lost, you know. So I must have been fair exhausted because the one that they give us…in charge of us; the brides, eh, the one that was in charge, she came and er, and I was fine as I said, where I could talk to her till Preston. And then I thought, oh, what am I gonna…where I am going now? Where is Wigton? you know, and I thought, how are…how are I to know? But I must, must have been really exhausted because I fell asleep…I fell sound asleep and the next thing, I…er, big big voice; Carlisle next stop. Next stop to er, Scotland, you know. The last stop, the last stop to Scotland. An I thought oh, that’s me. I left…I have to shake myself and wake up, you know. So I wake up and sitting up he said…was an army lad, English lad, and er, so he took my great big case, and my fur coat on my arm, cos I was only allowed 70 kilos, you see, so I had to carry my fur coat, eh? Er, and he helped us out, and of course Tommy and his family was there to wait for us, you know, and it was fine, you know. Erm, and I thought, oh now I wonder where we going. And it was Sunday morning, Sunday morning and I thought, I enquire what…what place Wigton was to this clever man, you know, and er, he said that they they’re all little crofters and they live on the sheep and whatever. I thought, oh my god what have I done eh? to myself? What have I done now? I realise then I maybe make a big mistake of my life. I thought, never mind, I got Tommy. (Laughs) Oh that was it, I got Tommy. So, eventually, as I said, I fell asleep and I heard Carlisle, last stop before Scotland, so I got myself kind of pulled together, and this army lad got my great big case down and I had my fur coat in my arms and when I got off, Tommy was there and him and his father and his sister, and er…he…they were a big family, you know, Tommy’s family. So they were all waiting for me, so I was happy then, eh, but I thought, oh my god what if there’s nobody here, what am I doing, you know. So that was that eh? And then of course then, they took me; that was Sunday morning, and I thought, eh, what a quiet place. There isn’t a soul in this spot, you know, I was used…we all use…my life with the hustle and bustle, you know, but however, first person I saw, it was somebody from Brindlefield, in…well-known in Wigton, eh, the roughest part of it, eh, and she was all dressed in black, she had a little pixie hat and clogs on. Well, I never seen clogs in my life. I thought, I thought, what has she got her feet, that body? And clonk, clonk, clonk as she walked, you know. I thought, I, I, I wonder how many folk wears them instead of shoes, you know? She was the only one like. She was noted in Wigton for being eh…a little bit, should say, do-lally, you know, now…bit simple, eh? An I thought, oh god, what have I come to (laughs). Oh man. So I arrived and I say…when, when they took me eventually to where my husband was working, it wasn’t their own house, of course, and er, my, my mother in law was the roughest person and unkind you could ever met, you know. Because I always remember after a few months, I said to Tommy, I wonder if we can buy any pasta so we could cook in? I lost half a stone in six months; I couldn’t eat the English food, you know. Well they were making crow pie and things like that. Well, who would eat crow pie?
IC Crow as in the birds?
NG Yeh, make a pie with it. Who could eat that? I couldn’t, and they weren’t gonna…nobody was gonna make me eating what I didn’t want, you know, so as a result as I’ve say, I lost half a stone in six months, eh? But that didn’t bother me, like, because I’m always been well built, eh? And er, so I thought, now then, so we went to this farmhouse, eh, and I never forget…oh god. When I got in I said, can you show me where the bathroom is, you know? So my sister in law got hold of my hand and took me outside. Bucket toilet. I nearly died. I nearly died. And what more, where this bucket toilet was, you know, the seat about that high, eh, and then the bucket in there, and there was spiders about, and l’ve a phobia about spiders, really phobia, you know? I see spider, and, even now, it get my…the back of my head, my hair up, you know? and er, I thought, oh god, ohhh, let me out of here, you know, let me out of here. So during the day when there was nobody there, and this is the honest gospel, the garden was a bit high up. It was the farmer’s and then the garden was kinda of risen and it had a great big, er, bushy hedge, you know, green hedge, you know. So when nobody was there I used to go and have a wee in the back of there, just a wee, you know, rather than go in that toilet eh? Oh god, but I lived three months in there, eh? Yeh.
IC Whose house was that? Was it with the, with the mother in law and father?
NG Yeh, yeh, because all the family worked for this big landlord, Carrs of Redhall and all the family had to work for them. So, as I say, oh my god (34.42) and I thought what have I come to, you know, when I ask for the bathroom and they took me outside, outside toilet with a bucket, I thought…and I never told them at home. I never, never told them anything because I knew, because they would, they would say well…she…we warned her and we didn’t want her…she…we didn’t know what she would find. I know that though the bank got to know that they honest family, none of them had ever been in trouble, but as far as financially, they were as poor as a church mice, you know. So, but however, as I said I lived in three months, and then the boss that, er, my husband was working for had converted Highmoor Mansion in all small flats. And they were beautiful, because all my flat, it was great big windows, oh, three and a half yards each curtain. They was so big rooms because there was the…it was the original mansion, but converted into flat you see, and mine was the best because I have the pictures of it. And they’re all in, in then, in the front and you look right up the fells, cos there wasn’t any building then, they built villages all way up now, you know. But then you could just look right over the, the green and the fells and that, eh? Absolutely beautiful. Yeh.
IC And did you, how, how did you get on with Tommy’s family?
NG Oh, Tommy’s family? I got on fine, well I tried to get on fine with them all, you know. Yeh, I thought, well, hopefully I’ll get a place of my own, and I’m not a person for to pick arguments with anybody. I would have done anything for peace, you know. So, as I say, I lived in three months, and then we got our own little flat, and I was as happy as *cloa then, you know. Yeh. But er, my mother in law used to go out to work and clean for the pers…people that owned the house you see, so she was sort of tied up eh? Er, but er, I remember her boss coming to my flat when I moved in, you know. And I can picture a proper lady, you know, who really snooty eh? I can remember…picture her in the doorway of my flat and she looked around, you know and er, she was eyes everywhere to see, you know, because, she was gonna try to make me go and work for her as well you see. So she would want to know what sort of wife I was, eh? So, she come and she said, er, oh I felt all nice to meet you, you know, and I said, er, I said my mother in law told me that er, you needed some help, I said, er, what kind of help would you want, like? And I said, because, I said, I like to keep my own home clean, but I said; I never work for any…anybody, you know, never. And she said, oh, I would just like you to… to clean all my silver and, you know, a full day cleaning for silver. She give me the money, as much Tommy got for a week; in them days five or six pounds, it was a lot money – talking about 60 year ago, you know. She treated me well, you know, and she said, er, oh, she said I’m very very happy for Tommy because, she said, I can see…she said, he couldn’t have picked a better wife whatever he got one from, you know. An er, I said they were all very kind and kind and that. And my neighbours were lovely because they knew that I was a foreigner there; nobody belonging to me. I couldn’t speak English. You know, and er, they’re all being very very kind and…and helped us in the way they could, you know.
IC And was that the same for all of people in Wigton? Did everybody look after you? How…
NG Yeh, yeh
NG I never, never had enemy in Wigton, they all seemed to love me and then eventually I got visitors. Everybody loved to come to see us, you know, and er, I say…like you, they wanted to know all bits of things, you know. Well I’ve nothing to hide, you know. So…
IC And you had children?
IC You had children?
NG Not for four year, I’ve no children for four year, but er, er, I wanted to go out to work, you know, a lot of girls used to work at the factoyr then, so I said, well, my husband got a job at the factory.
NG Innovia, yeh. Well, it was before that, British Rayophane they called it, they call that.
NG And er, his salary of course, doubled right away. ohh, I thought we won…we won the lottery, yeh. From scrimping and. You know…make the money go – to all his double salary, oh, I thought oh, this is great, you know, and er, as I say, all my neighbours, they’re all been very very kind to me, you know. They saying because er, they knew I was a foreigner and I couldn’t speak a word of English. And er, one particularly which her husband is still friend of mine, she died a year or two ago, June Rudd. Er, she had been very ill and she was convalescing for, oh, months and months and months. And, er, so she came in every day and taught me a bit English, you know, which it was a big help to talk to somebody, you know and instead of just listening, try to put two words together sort of thing, eh?
IC How did it, how did you miss Italy. How did you…Did you miss Italy?
NG Oh, of course, naturally, yeh. Oh, I thought if I could have walked it, eh? I would have gone back. And if I told my dad my situation he would have just come and grabbed us and drag us back home, you know. He wouldn’t want me to live like that in poverty and struggling eh? He would not. You know, so I never let on. I said oh, I said they’re all grand with me, they’re all nice. You know. All his family are lovely and, I didn’t explain any situations at all. I daren’t. You know, because…
IC Did you miss, how did you feel being in…in England…growing up in Italy…after growing up in Italy?
NG Oh, I miss all my luxury at home, you know, because er, as I say, we had to watch our pennies you know, and er, and er, as I say, he wouldn’t let me go out to work, because I say, I said, we had no children, why can’t I come and work at Rayophane, you know, there’s lot of girls work there. And I always remember Tommy saying it to me, Nella, you wouldn’t last a day in there. You’d be sitting in a corner and crying. I said, what for, I said everybody can work, you know. I said surely they can find something, you can find something – not even a heavy work if you know what I mean – that would suit me, eh? Oh no way, wouldn’t have, no, no, he said. I promise your dad if I could I would never send you out to work because you never have. And he said, er, hope to god I never have to…to to be in the position to say, well, you got to go out to work, you know. So, I didn’t.
NG So when I stopped at home for four years with no children I just did lot of embroidery, sewing and er, I, I had a…Tommy got me little dog so I could take it for a walk. A little small terrier, you know? I loved that little dog. They call it Whiskey, yeh. And er, and I say my neighbours, they were ever so kind because they knew I was lonely, you know, very very lonely. They told me afterwards, like. They would never interfere and come and ask questions or anything, but they…they families round about, they were all very very kind and that’s…that’s what I say. I love England, you know. Even though I come a long way and worry about different things, but the saying I been very happy in England, yeh, very very happy, yeh.
IC And you said that when you first came, a lady, er, woman came round to check on the wives.
NG Yeh, yeh I was…she couldn’t…I couldn’t speak English, she couldn’t speak Italian so we communicated in German. Because during the war, when the German invaded Italy, my dad took me to a shap called tutiton for 6 months. A quick tuition to be able to deal with all the customer, to ask them what they wanted in my own home, you know, even though I could be just behind the till, but if the waitress, we had the brave waitress a cleaner, my nanny, er and the gardener and five staff in my own home, so, er, if it was necessary would help anty on them you know?
IC So who was the woman that came to visit you, the German?
NG From Keswick. She was from Keswick.
IC And was she in an organization?
IC Do you remember..?
NG She must have been because I remember, and…I forgot, I just forgot her name. But she came and she said, er, I have more Italian ladies to see. Oh yes, she said, some Italian and some Germans, and she said, er, I’ve got the round, you know, er, that I must see them all if they’re treated right. Yeh, which it was good, like, eh? because maybe somebody wasn’t treated them right or spiteful or whatever, you know. Mm mm. So that, that, now you got it all in a nutshell. (45.40)
IC And, and are you ok to..for me to.. Id like to ask you about your…your children and how it was to live in Wigton. But would you like me to do that another day?
NG In Wigton?
IC When you had children, and then how you lived in Wigton.
IC I could, like to ask you about that,
IC But we can do that another day, Nella, if you…if you’d like a break.
NG No no, no, that’s fine.
NG That fine, yeh.
IC So, I’d like to ask about when you…your children, your…when you made a family?
NG Yeh. Well, I didn’t have a family for four year, then I had Dennis and then I had Alan, which he died in Africa, just a couple a year ago, the 34 (age?) er and and then I had er, a handicapped one; Roland, which I kept him at home for 12 months, 12 year. 12 year, I look after him at home. And er, er, I’ve had er, very very hard, two toddlers and the handicapped child to look after and my husband being on shifts. Er, oh, I was worn to a thread, like, yes. Because I look after them all, you know, properly, and er, I was never out anywhere for pleasure or anywhere because the handicapped one needed 24 hours attention, you know. He couldn’t walk, and he couldn’t talk. But strange enough, the solicitor…could afford that case, he could have brought the hospital up, because he was, er, 11 pound baby and I should have had a caesarian instead of waiting the long birth. Why he…he was born handicapped, there was no such in my relations and Tommy’s relations, no one was handicapped born, you know. Eh? They said afterwards, my solicitor said I could have made a case of that because when he was 11 pound baby, I couldn’t deliver it so they should give me an er, caesarian instead of cut me down below which they had to cut me when with the first one, you know, and er, they said I was…I was…he said you could have thousands compensation. But I said never mind, I said I’ve lost him, so, you know, I’m not gonna sort of er, profit out of his death, you know. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, no, so, that was that. But however, as I say, I looked after him at home for 12 year. And then I started for a respite to send him to Dovenby. They would take him to Dovenby, and it was a beautiful hospital that, brand new. Luxury, absolute luxury; curtains carpets and everything. Erm, we used to go visit every Sunday, and Stephen can remember, you know, me crying every time we left, sort of thing, you know, to leave him eh?. But er, I knew that he needed medical care more than ordinary care, you know. I thought he’s safer there because the doctors. They were all on call, you know.
IC And Stephen was the youngest? So you had four boys?
NG Yeh, yeh, four boys, I think if I had six it would have been all boys, so I give up.
IC And, do…while you looked after the children…
IC Tommy worked at the at the factory.
NG Yeh, yeh.
IC And then did you…on the weekend, did you do anything together as a family?
NG Well we, yeh, because we were the only people at Highmoor, when we lived at Highmoor, with a car. Such a car, if you can call it a car, because it was raining it was spitting in sometimes and driving down the avenue – which it wasn’t tar macadam, you couldn’t see inside for dust; the road, you know. But it was a car, you know, and it kind of…even just going out, out in the country because we couldn’t afford to go for tea or coffee or anywhere, but we used to build a little fire with bricks, you know, and put the kettle on in the middle and er, I thought that was fascinating for all of us, and I would put the sandwiches up before I went so that we wouldn’t spend any money when we were away, you know.
IC You would drive and then stop?
NG Drive, stop somewhere lovely in the country, eh, Caldbeck way, you know, wherever, or Mungrisedale or wherever, eh?
IC Mungrisedale’s beautiful.
NG Oh beautiful Mungrisedale, yes, I lovely sweet memories of Mungrisdale, yeh.
IC Can you remember a day, a day you…you went?
NG Oh yes. yes, I can remember every minute of it, yeh. Nobody can knock your memories out, you know. No. no I lie in bed many many hours and think about things gone by, you know. Yeh.
IC And when you retried, so when Tommy retired…
IC All the children had left home except for Roland?
NG Yeh, yeh, yeh.
IC And did you have more time to…
NG Oh yes, oh, we went to Italy, yeh. We went to Italy by car every year, yeh. Drove there and back, yeh. And we make it…because we better off then. Mind, we made it our journey…part of the holiday because we, we would drive off to Dover, stop overnight and then cross, cross to France, stop in the same place and everywhere they welcome us and treat us like a family because we were sort of regular and they, they treat us like a family, yeh.
IC And did you start going to Italy when the children…when the children were small?
NG Yeh, oh yes, yeh, by car, mind, yeh.
IC With, with all four children?
NG Yeh, because, er, my husband loved to drive. Put him in a car and, and say, er, you take …think we should go to Italy, right, maps out, you know. We get the maps out, still got all the routes, you know, where, where exactly which way to go. Yeh.
IC And was it nice to go to Italy, for you?
NG Oh yeh, yeh. Oh, well imagine the welcome when I got there. Oh, yeh yeh. Everybody, oh Nella’s back, oh Nella’s come to see us again and yeh yeh. I miss my husband after that because I couldn’t go to Italy – last time, I…twice. I went my son the one that was killed in Africa you know, he took us twice and er, well, he would take me everywhere, you know, that ‘un. He was a born traveller that one. He’s been in eighteen countries. Yeh. He even went on the trans-Siberian railway through journey in Russia and outer Mongolia, yeh. He was a born traveller that one, yeh. And if he’d been alive, even now, my life would be much different. I would have more, little bit more variety, you know. Like concern about my health and an home and he wouldn’t crush me, you know, but he would have taken me everywhere, you know. Cos when I lost Tommy…just come and picked us up and took us to Kenya, just like that. He said pack up, he said and you come to Kenya for a good few months.
IC When, when did you lose Tommy?
NG Er, Oh, I forgot now, what year he died, Tommy. It will be, what, 25 year? yeh. Yeh. Yeh, but thank god, I been blessed with good children, even now, Dennis and Stephen they’re brilliant, you know. I see them both every morning and every night. Every…they all always come, yeh, yeh. And they never leave me short of anything, you know, Er, say mum, I brought you this that and t’other, you know, and sometimes I say, here now, have a treat, put that in your pocket, you spending all the money on me. And as I say, they bring us grapes and fruit and if they see anything unusual…they very very kind to me, you know, which, thank god, yeh. It’s now that you need it, eh, when you’re old? And er, and I know for the fact that if I don’t feel well, I can always ring Dennis and he’s on five minute walk, you know, and he’s here, he’s here, just like that. And never never complains. I’ve known him, I’ve said to him…but just lately, I been bothered with kind of my stomach not properly settle, I been sick often and I hate being sick because I think I’m gonnna die, you know, and er, he’ll come and lie on there and he say, well, he say mam don’t go to bed just now, lie on there and I’ll stop till you nearly drop asleep, you know. So, even last night I said to him, er, I’m nice and settled now Dennis, I said, you go home darling, because you’re a good getter up in the morning and he likes to go to bed in a decent time, you know. I said my blanket is on, I said I’ll be going to bed, I said don’t to worry I’m going to bed, and er, as I say, he just lied on there and he wouldn’t leave us because he knew that I…that my stomach wasn’t just right, you know. So that’s kindness isn’t it?
NG I mean I don’t want flowers an don’t want chocolates and that, I don’t want anything, just, just the kindness of them. And they are kind. Yeh.
IC So if you were to say what’d different between Wigton when you first came…
IC And Wigton now.
NG Yeh, well what’s the difference, I don’t know, really. Say Wigton when I came you more or less knew everybody. You knew a lot of people, you know, especially with me…with being a foreigner. They all wanted to meet em and made them welcome in my own home, you know and er, and as I say everybody’s been ever so kind, so, the difference now, I don’t know. Maybe the younger generation, er, they like to have more time for entertainment and things, you know. Yeh.
IC What’s your best thinking about…what’s the best thing about Wigton for you, your…
IC Yeh, or life here?
NG Oh, I love this…this part of the country, yeh, yeh. Even though I say my friends, they’re all they’re all crofters and live just among sheep, you know, but er, I, I love Wigton, though, yeh. And when I came, you more or less knew everybody. But now a lot of people they come from the south, they come to this part of the country because it’s beautiful, isn’t it…
IC Like me…
NG Yeh yeh. It is a beautiful part of the country
IC It is.
NG We don’t appreciate it but it is. I mean round the lakes, it’s a treat, isn’t it?
Everybody always likes to come to the lake distr…visit
NG Oh, yeh yeh, of course, yeh.
IC It’s been fantastic talking to you about your life.
IC Yeh, fantastic.
NG Really lovely
IC Has it been good for you?
NG You’ve got it on tape?
IC Yes I have. I’m going to stop the machine now.
NG Yeh, ok darling.
IC Thank you Nella.
NG Oh you’re welcome, you’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Yeh.