Wednesday 2 April 2003

We Are But Little Children Weak Introduction


During the early part of 1999, Dorothy Bigwood, who lived at Bishopstrow, suggested I record the memories of Mrs. Freda Barnes. Dorothy's eldest daughter, Julia, is married to Freda's grandson, Stephen. And so it was, that on two afternoons during March 1999, on the 10th and 19th, I went along to Freda Barnes' home at 37 West Parade, Warminster, with my tape-recorder, to hear what Mrs. Barnes could tell me about herself, her early years, her family, her working days in service, the people and places and she had known, the experiences and challenges she had met, and her current life in retirement which included her pride of being not only a mother and grandmother but also a great grandmother.

Julia very kindly came along too, not only to introduce Mrs. Barnes and myself to one another, but to sit in while Freda answered my questions and reminisced about times past. I think, for all three of us, those afternoons were enjoyable and interesting, and the "nitty-gritty" of the conversation that took place now forms the contents of this book. I have, almost without exception, put Freda's words into print exactly as she said them; my only changes being to omit my questions, to remove any repetition, to check dates and the spelling of names, and to arrange the story into some sort of readable order. Occasionally I have added a date or some factual confirmation of what Mrs. Barnes said but this has been kept to a minimum so as not to intrude too much into the story. These additions are printed in square brackets: [ ].

Unfortunately, in September 1999, Mrs. Barnes suffered a fall in her home, and had to be taken first to Westbury Hospital and then to Warminster Hospital. It became apparent that she would not return to her independent way of life at her West Parade abode, and in January 2000 she moved into Sutton Veny House Nursing Home, where, despite great care, love and attention, she passed away on Wednesday 3rd July 2002. She was 92. Her funeral was held at the Parish Church of St. Denys, Warminster, where she had been christened and married. It was her wish that she be interred in the grave of her parents (Alfred and Lucy Rowe) and her husband (Charles Barnes).

When I recorded Mrs. Barnes I quickly realised that she was a very contented lady, even though she was house-bound, arthritic, and was becoming increasingly deaf, having spent the last 17 years of her 89 years (the recording was in 1999) as a widow. She had a determination to retain her independence and to be cheerful with it. Indeed, in the summing up of her life, she said "I try not to be miserable". I can certainly say that she was anything but miserable and was an example to us all. I hope the special qualities of this lovely lady will somehow radiate out from the pages of this book. It was certainly my pleasure to meet her and to spend some time in her company, to ask her questions about her life and to listen and record her recollections. Most of the photographs which accompany the text are copied from Mrs. Barnes' album and were chosen by her to accompany her memoirs. A couple other photographs were kindly loaned by Graham and Maureen Barnes (Freda's son and daughter-in-law). The remaining photographs were taken by myself especially for inclusion in this book.

I would like to thank Dorothy Bigwood for originally suggesting I "interview" Mrs. Barnes, and I would also like to acknowledge the time and assistance given by Julia Barnes. I must also record my appreciation to Graham and Maureen Barnes for their help too. I hope that they, like you, dear readers, will enjoy this book. I have tried to do justice to Freda Barnes' story and I dedicate the words and pictures in this book to her memory.

Danny Howell, April 2003.