MRS SANDERSON - COURTING DAYS

CASSETTE SIDE 5

 

"Those little counters !!..........Mr Austin shouted at you(Winn) to put it down." Dad flew. "Don't you shout at my daughter like that, Bill." (He was another Bill). "She's doing no harm." But he said, "I don't know just where it was?" "What a pity," says dad, "Get your hat and coat on, we're going."

 

Laughter -  that's my dad!

 

And that was that. We never went there again.

 

Wasn't it there where you shuffled your feet or something?

 

Oh, that was when they first got married and they was in furnished rooms. I always had the habit of swinging me legs like this or like that and then swinging it. This time I was swinging it underneath and she said, "Hey! be careful" and there was a noise. "Crikey what's all that under there." She said "Its all the dirty pots waiting to be washed up." I thought, "You lazy lot of buggers you!" LAUGHTER...........So I said, "Bring them out and lets wash 'em up." She said, "Oh, I'll do 'em tomorrow" and her husband said, "Or the day after." This woman had funny ideas of ent........... no I won't say entertaining...........going out to enjoy herself I expect, she used to go the ladies toilet and sit there talking to the woman all morning.. Fancy sitting there........oh the pong of it. She used to be a nurse at the hospital, but even to this day I doubt it. Dad laughed like anything at anything to do with the Austins.

 

What did you do at O'Neill's then mum?

 

I used to wait on. Do the housework. I used to wear a blue uniform in the morning with a blue hat, mop cap, and a black with a white lacy apron in the afternoon, and a bandeau across me head, and white cuffs at the bottom of me sleeves. We used to have...........what was his name? .........Irvin......he was a big musical bloke......Henry Irvin, an actor I think.....when he used to come to see Mr O'Neill.......Mr O'Neill had a big studio in the garden where he used to compose and I used to take him tea down there. And then there was another fellow used to come and see Mrs O'Neill.....I can't remember his name...but he used to come in and he used to take his hat off, put his hat on the hat rack, his umbrella or walking stick in the stand, and he used to stand in front of the mirror on the hat rack. He used to plaster his hair back, touch his cheeks up, put his tie straight, and then he used to tell me his name - as if I didn't know - and then I used to go in and she'd say HELLOOOO.

 

What was the name of that actress. She had a lovely voice and he had a big photo of her on his table. Now his table could be wound so that it was on a slant so that he didn't have to bend over. He sat in the chair and it was in front of him. Anyway, this photo, when Mrs O'Neill used to go in, she always used to turn it round so he couldn't see the face, and I always used to turn it back. What was her name? She may still be living for all I know. And then Thurstin, he writes novels, Ernest Thurstin. Well he'd left his wife, and I don't know whether she was a companion to his wife or what, anyway, 'e come and stopped at our place till he married this woman. This woman had a baby, and he used to phone up about getting a pram and all the baby things.

 

How long did you stay with the O'Neill's?

 

I was there for me 18th or 19th birthday - I don't know whether it was Christmas or me birthday when she gave me that writing case which I've still got. That was to keep me love letters in she said.

 

(Winn still has the case). How old were you when you first went to work for her?

 

I don't whether it was 18 or 19, just before one of those, and I stopped there until I was 21. But I went down to Lewesley, to Yewhurst, Mrs O'Neill's country house that was. We used to go down there every summer. Her mother lived round in the next street, Madame Phillipe, she had a daughter Miss Louise, I don't think she ever married. They evacuated France during the 1914/18 War and they left a lot of property in France. After the war, they got compensation for it. Miss Louise must have had a lot of property as she had a lot of money come through and she had to pay Income Tax. And it worried her. I can't remember whether she had trouble with the Income Tax people but she committed suicide. She bunged the chimney up, she had a gas fire in her bedroom, and she put something all along the bottom of her bedroom door and she gassed herself. She was a nice person too. It was a big shock.

 

5/262      But you never went to work for Madame Phillipe, did you?

 

When they had big house parties, Mrs O'Neill used to ask me if I would go round and help out.

 

Did the O'Neill's do a lot of entertaining?

 

On and off I suppose they did quite a bit of entertaining, a lot more at Christmastime. Christmas day they was always round to Madame Phillipe, her mother, so the day before Christmas she used to have a party at her house. Then after Christmas, not Boxing Day, the cook used to have Christmas Day off, and I used to have Boxing Day.

 

Were Mr O'Neill's parents alive?

 

He had a brother, Henry O'Neill, but I think he must have cut himself off. He never came to the house. No relations of his ever came. I don't know anything about his family.

 

Did he write Mary Rose?

 

Yes, Punchbowl.

 

That was performed in London. Was his name Norman O'Neill? That's right. Born in London 1875 and died there as a result of a street accident in 1934.  Quite true.    Aged nearly 59.  Is that all he was Geoff ?  He carved out a special niche for himself as a theatre conductor and composer. Many of the most artistic dramatic productions in London owed much to his direction and the incidental music provided by him. Adene O'Neill, his wife, was a well known pianist and a descendant of the Ruckers family who were famous, for Harpsichords.  So was it Madame Phillipe Ruckers? Yes she married twice. Louise was a Ruckers, Mrs O'Neill was a Ruckers.

 

She used to sit and practice the piano two hours of a morning easily. We used to have to get the lounge and dining room finished before she went in there and nobody was allowed to go in. Her fingers must have ached. Geoff practising in here makes me think of her. She must have been dead tired. She never went to bed or laid down of an afternoon, she'd be off out. She used to go the School of Music, was a teacher up there. Mr O'Neill was a teacher at the St Paul's School of Music. They was always out during the day. Sometimes they would be in for lunch, sometimes they wouldn't. Mostly of a night they used to come. But she was as mean as mean.

 

Oh, that lady who used to visit was Fay Compton. A nice looking woman. A very nice person too. Whenever she used to come I used to show her down into the studio. "Hello Winnie, how are you?" But the others never used to say anything but "Come to see Mr O'Neill" in a posh voice.

 

Did you always get a present off the Christmas tree when you were working at O'Neill's?

 

Oh they used to give me a present.  And Yvonne and Patrick and his young lady. They used to give me some nice presents. Mostly I suppose it was boxes of chocolates and thing like that from Patrick. Yvonne used to give me handkerchieves, Mr and Mrs O'Neill, sometimes it would be a scarf, pair of gloves, stockings, useful presents. They didn't give me money.  CHUCKLES.  No, as I was just going to say, she was that mean that if Annie used to come up to have a cup of tea with me when it was the cook's afternoon off, (I hadn't been there very long) Mrs O'Neill said I must buy my own tea and sugar if I'm having visitors. And when I told the cook, she said, "Like heck you are. Tell her, Yes, we've got our own tea and sugar." The cook used to make little cakes and sandwiches and hide them away in the bread bin.

 

We didn't have our evening meal until after they had their's, then if there was a roast she used to cut the slices of meat off. That is for you in the kitchen. The cook wasn't allowed, but the cook used to say, "Don't imagine that's going to keep us going." "We do more work in one day than they do in a year." And she used to cut two or three slices off, more so Alice.

 

When we used to watch "Upstairs, Downstairs" on television, was it very much like it.

 

No, nothing like it. They had more staff and it was a bigger house. There was just me and Alice the cook at O'Neill's. She left Mrs O'Neill because we went down into the country and she wouldn't come with us and went to work at Notting Hill, in a Jews house. And they was rich Jews. She phoned up one day and dad was coming on leave, and she said come and have tea on your next half day. We went and she laid on a smashing tea. She took me all over the house, and it was beautiful too. I said, "You're well in here Alice." She said, "Yes, and we want a parlour maid. What about it?" I said, "I don't care for Jews," and I didn't either. Dad says "You're a fool if they pay that money. Look what you live on." But I said "I'm happy where I am." I had to do a lot of work but I was happy.

 

What was the next cook like after Alice?

 

Oh, we had May then. She was a bit moody I suppose, but I got on with her very well. If we had a big party she was always moaning, "Oh I've never done all this work before," so I used to go down to the kitchen and give a hand and do the washing up. Often, Mrs O'Neill used to come down and see if everything was alright and seen me. But she never said anything. One day she did say she appreciated me going down to help the cook and I said "Well you've got to keep them happy." And she laughed and said, "You've got the right idea." She was a good cook.

 

Eric Coates, was that his name.  Yes, Geoff.    Born at Hucknall in Nottinghamshire in 1886. He became known first as a leading viola player and then as a composer of songs, orchestral and other music, usually of the somewhat lighter type. He wrote the London Suite which included the Knightsbridge March, adopted as the signature  tune for "In Town Tonight".

 

So you stayed at O'Neill's until you got married.

 

Yes, she didn't want me to leave. I'd lose all my independence if I got married. I was a foolish girl. And of course she couldn't get anybody. She had two or three girls but they didn't suit her. I think I was three months pregnant with you.

 

What! When you got married to dad?

 

Laughter.........No. Nana come home one day and she said, "Mrs O'Neill hasn't got anybody there. She's gitting into a state 'cos the house is dirty.  Would you like to go up there for a morning, just for mornings."  "It won't hurt me will it?" "No, it won't. Don't do any stretching or anything." So I went up there. Of course I gradually got bigger and bigger and Mr O'Neill said you're eating two much plum cake, Winnie, it's beginning to show. I said, "Yes I'll have to go on a diet soon." When I did show too much I said "I'd better be leaving you Madam." She said, "I've been thinking about it Winnie, it was very nice of you to come back. Don't know what we're going to do though, will you come back after the baby?" Oh I said, "It's up to my husband," and of course I didn't.

 

So you left O'Neill's when you got married. What did you do then?

 

Went down to Gillingham to live. We had two rooms with Auntie Mac. I became pregnant and then dad got a ship and he said did I want to stop down with Auntie Mac or go back to London. I said I would rather go back with Nana. So back I went. And then when you were supposed to have caught scarlet fever, and you was in the fever hospital I went  to Mrs O'Neill again to give her a hand. They put Winn in an isolation ward and kept her in a week and then they said it was just a thrush she had which babies and children got in those days. But the doctor I took her to was Nana Sanderson's doctor. Nana said he was an old drunkard, sometimes he'd be drunk and wouldn't know what he was doing. And while he was examining you his wife came in, also a doctor, and she said, "No, it isn't scarlet fever rash, it's a thrush." He said, "I know what it is," and anyway, as he was treating you she couldn't do anything about it. So I took you to the hospital and the nurse said "I don't think it's scarlet fever, don't worry. Come up tomorrow morning," so I took you some writing books for you to scribble in and some coloured pencils, and she said, "Look, you can see her through the door, but you mustn't go through." You were playing With the other children, you were quite happy. Then, of course, when I went up, they said "Bring her clothes up and take her home." And I said to Nana, "Never again do I go to your doctor. Change him mum, that's why you're not getting any better with that cough."

 

5/520      END OF CASSETTE