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38 EVERGREEN Autumn The

38 EVERGREEN Autumn The Forest of Dean is unique. A discrete part of Gloucestershire to the west of the River Severn and east of the River Wye, it was once used for royal hunting. Self-contained and insular it is home to wild boar, deer and other animals and still has a reputation as a close-knit community honed on private coal mines. The mines are nearly all gone now but much of the population retains its sense of independence which Winifred Foley described in breathtaking accuracy. Born Winifred Mason in 1914 in the tiny village of Brierley, she grew up in a large family when poverty A Child in the Forest Winifred Foley was rife in the community and, had it not been for kindly neighbours, and shopkeepers helping out with food and other produce on tick, even fewer would have survived the harsh realities of the Depression. Winifred’s first book, A Child in the Forest (1974), has been compared to Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie based on his childhood in the Cotswold village of Slad across the other side of the River Severn. There are, however, significant differences. Lee was a professional author but Foley, without any thought of her work ever becoming well-known, described everything in great detail,

2017 EVERGREEN 39 Winifred Foley knew this part of Gloucestershire well, just a stone’s throw from her birthplace at Brierley in the Forest of Dean. The view is looking towards Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. ADAM SWAINE some of it raw but natural, honest and honourable. For this fact alone, A Child in the Forest is an outstanding depiction of living hand-to-mouth in the most primitive of conditions. Flush toilets were unheard of and while the privy was technically available to all the family, many of the men used the nearby woods in order to leave the women and children the privilege of “going down the yard” or, if the toilets were communal, “going down the street”. Children were plentiful but money and jobs were not. Most men were miners but the pay was poor and work was not always available. Winifred’s father was self-educated and, when the mine owners sought to reduce wages, he spoke up. It cost him his job but while he was out of work, other miners helped his family with coal and food. Girls went into service as soon as they left school, and Winifred wrote lovingly of a kind lady teacher who treated her to a 14th-birthday party and a trip to the cinema before she left. After that she found work as a maid, firstly in London where she quickly learned how to survive in a different world, then in Stroud and Cheltenham before moving back to London. Each job is described in language which conjures up mesmerising pictorial images and when her father was killed in a mining accident her sadness, sorrow and disbelief comes across graphically. Although by now a married woman, the loss of a man she idolised as a child was a defining moment in her life. She met her cockney husband, Syd, during an anti-Fascist rally in 1936, and together they built a life

Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
Evergreen Autumn 2017 online
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