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Mary Dockerty - My Father & his family

page created 16th October 2010, amended/updated Monday, 30 May 2011
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Many thanks to Mary Dockerty
for sharing her memories;
and to the late Helen Barry, the first editor of the 'Welney News'.
page design © Welney Website, 2010
Mary Dockerty wrote the following article in 1998 for edition 5 of the 'Welney News'. Mary was then living in Tipps End:

My Father and his Family - Life at the turn of the Century

"My father, William Kent, was born in 1892. His childhood was spent at Welney Hotel on the Bedford Bank. My Grandmother was the landlady and my grandfather, Henry, was a wildfowier who earned extra money by working on the land. Many people in Welney used the Welney Hotel as a meeting place, especially on a Sunday evening in summer, after Church or Chapel.

My Grandmother was a small, energetic person, with a fierce temper. She carried many pints of beer to thirsty customers who sat chatting on the river bank. All the while my Grandfather sat in the bar enjoying a drink with his pals. They had nine sons and four daughters; most of the boys worked on the land, some as horsemen, and one became a carpenter.

My father followed in his father's and uncle's footsteps and took-up wildfowling. He was an eel and plover catcher and shot wild ducks from a punt gun on the Washes in the winter. My Grandmother did not buy meat or fish from the shops but relied on my Grandfather and her sons to shoot ducks and rabbits and catch plovers in nets, or pike and eels in nets, hives or dead line' .Occasionally the family had to resort to Sparrow Pie, which were caught by children in a net in the garden.

Eel hives, grigs and nets were made by my Grandfather who passed his skill to my Father. Grigs and hives were made of willow which grew in the Washes. Needles and pins for knitting nets were home-made and although the family were not highly educated, like many Fen folk, they were skilled in crafts and survival skills. School days were quite different than they are today. All the family went to the Wiliiam Marshall School - some of the boys rather reluctantly! My Uncle Bob buried his jacket in the garden, hoping it would not be found and that he would not have to go to school the next day. Children could leave school at the age of twelve if they passed the leaving exam but the majority left at fourteen - there was no further education for the masses. Many families like the Kents were quite large so the school was full.

There were several houses between Welney and the Hotel, and further down toward Manea. One of the families had twenty two children. One died, so they had another, bringing the total to twenty three in all. Another fimily had nine children and ran out of names, so they actually called the last two "Ten" and "Eleven".

My Father spent a lot of time with his Uncle Will who lived in a cottage on the Washes, turning right at Suspension Bridge. When the water started to rise the family had to move upstairs and eventually, if the water got too high, they had to move by boat to higher ground in the Village. Uncle Will's wife crossed the Hundred Foot River twice a day to collect provisions and mail from from Mott's farm on the Hundred Foot Bank.

My father and two brothers, Job and Robert (Bob) were in the Great War in France.
My father did not talk about his army life, although he was wounded. He had a tobacco tin and wallet which had holes in them, where the bullet went into his chest and out through his lower back. We do know that at one time he rushed forward during battle to cut some wire, enabling his comrades to get to the safety of the trenches. He was awarded the Mititary Medal for his bravery. He hated corned beef (bully) and rice pudding because this was served every day in the trenches.

His brother Job survived the Great War but died in Northern France in the Flu epidemic, an added sadness for the family thinking War was over and he was returning home."
Related pages on this website
Mary's life as a teenager in the 1950s
Welney Hotel
William Marshall School
Suspension Bridge
Related pages on other websites
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