Tricycling to school

The equinox brought a sharp change in the weather. Warm days worthy of high summer disappeared to be replaced by cool autumn temperatures, chill winds and sharp bursts of rain.

The change in the seasons came in a matter of hours and a north-westerly wind prompted my mother to recall the closing days of September 1942.

Five years old in May of that year, she had started at Long Sutton Primary School. In 1942, she was the second of four children born to my grandparents (three more would be born between 1944 and 1948).

The possibilities of there being time to spend with children were very restricted, the war effort consumed almost every waking moment. My grandfather worked on the farm and did road work for Langport Rural District Council in the day time; at night, he was out on Home Guard duty. My grandmother looked after the children, kept the house, and spent whatever time that was spare tending hens and helping with farm work. My grandparents had no time to spare to take their children to school.

Long Sutton Primary School was two miles from the family farm at Pibsbury. Brenda, my mother’s older sister, had been born in 1935 and had completed two years at the school. Brenda had a bicycle to make the journey. My mother was given a tricycle. “It had big wheels, but it was still hard work for a five year old to cycle to school.”

In 1944, the two elder sisters were joined on the journey by the third of the children who had been born in 1939. My mother was given a bicycle to ride and Shirley, the five year old new pupil, was given the tricycle. “We would get to Tengore and Shirley would refuse to go any further. We would stop and call her to come with us and she simply refused. She would go back to the farm and hide in the hay.”

Tengore was barely half a mile from the farm and there was virtually no traffic on the road. It is difficult to imagine that my grandparents were not immediately aware of the return of their daughter. They lived in the farm cottage on one side of the farm gate, my great grandparents and Stanley, my grand uncle, lived in the farm house. One of the five adults would quickly have spotted a five year old girl on a Tricycle.

The solution was that my grandmother cycled to school with the three girls, encouraging Shirley on the way.

More than seventy-five years after Shirley started school, it seems a different world in which a five year old rode a tricycle for two miles along a main road.

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