On the 22nd January 2019 Ponders End said goodbye to one its Heritage Heroes Maureen Cairns. I had the privilege of meeting Maureen October 2014 at the opening of the Two Brewers memorial on the corner of South Street and Ponders End High Street. I met Maureen with other elders who attended, they told me stories of Ponders End life that painted a colourful, interesting and intriguing view and made me want to know more.
I promised to find funding to begin working on a project that would capture their stories of that time and in December 2015 ‘The Untold and Forgotten Heritage of Ponders End from 1935-1950’ heritage project began.
Over the life of the project I got know Maureen quite well. Born on Napier Road, she lived with her Mother and Father at her Grandmothers house. Which was known as the house where you could buy sweets and as a kid you could imagine her house was very popular.
Maureen used to say to me:
“no-one will be interested in my old stories”, I assured her “they would”, here are some of them:
“Things such as a women being pregnant were never mentioned and when they got bigger they would never go out during the day only after dark. The only way you knew a child had been born was when all the adults were standing around looking at this new baby who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Maureen explains further “I wondered about being born and was curious about what time of day I was born and asked my Auntie one day if she could tell me. My Auntie said that all she remembers was my parents turning up one day at her mum’s house and said they were staying overnight, the next morning I appeared”.
Maureen remembers, “There was a butchers on the corner of Queensway and the High Street. The butcher sold horsemeat which, people usually bought for their dog. I remember my mum use to say “why is she in the queue she doesn’t have a dog but that’s how things were”.
“I lived on Napier Rd and our Anderson Shelter had +bunk beds that kept 4 people but our neighbour helped my dad to make it an 8-bed. The shelter was about 4ft deep only went 4ft into the ground. I also remember a bomb destroying 2 houses in Curzon Rd very near to where we lived”.
Maureen says “Rhubarb was popular and I remember a funny story because there were still horses and carts around. People would pick up the horse manure from the street to help their rhubarb grow, people use to say “I put horse manure on my rhubarb”, the reply would be “I prefer custard on mine”.
Maureen tells the story of the owner of a dress shop called Gates, who was known as ‘Flogates’. It was said that to sell dresses she would hold the back of a dress in, if it was to big for the lady trying it and say “that fits you perfectly madam’
One of the most beautiful things Maureen said to me was after we had delivered one of our Ponders End heritage Workshops in Alma Promary School (which she attended as a child) she said “it was so nice to meet all those lovely kids if it wasn’t for this project I would never have met all them from a different culture, thank you Colin”.
I think from a profound perspective Maureen’s journey on our project highlighted a few important things about community and how working intergenerationally across cultures can benefit us all.
Thanks Maureen and goodbye its been a real treasure of the heart knowing you.