Wilmslow - Styal Cottage Homes - Memories - Fiona Hall

This page has memories and pictures contributed by Fiona Hall:

My name is Fiona Hall and I have many memories of Styal. My parents Bill and Jean Doherty were houseparents there for quite a few years and I lived there also. My parents left when they made them into family group homes, the boys in their care wept and blamed them for leaving. They had at different periods the reception home, the nursery and finally 15 boys who were like family. They loved Styal and the boys and although some homes were strict theirs wasn't, my parents tried to make it like a real home. The boys were allowed pets and were allowed into my parents private sitting room to watch TV which they bought in time for the Coronation.

Boys & (2nd row from front) staff; in the 1940's or 1950's

My parents never stopped loving those boys and still to this day wonder what became of them. They were not allowed to try and contact the boys but during the late fifties, early 60's some showed up from time to time, those that had located our whereabouts. We came to Australia in 1963. Sadly my uncle who lived next door but one in England refused to give one caller our address in Australia, this angered and upset my parents as the boys were family and welcome anytime.

My family had been involved in childrens work for many years. My Great Aunt Emily Irwin was the matron of several homes and her sister Hannah Baker her deputy. They gave Mum her start at Cambrian Street schools. Great Aunt Rae was at Styal for many years all were dearly loved. Aunt Rae took a frail sickly child home to live with her Mother and family he is still with us at the great age of 88, my dear Uncle Reg, my Godfather, my Fathers close friend, a brother to him really. The Aunts Em and Hannah had two sisters in care with them who eventually went and worked with them, one married one of Aunt Rae's old boys the other became my Aunt when she married Dad's brother. Uncle Reg never mentioned Styal and my Uncle's wife never mentioned it either although she will talk about her working with children.

The Superintenden't House; again in the 40's or 50's

When the Aunts suggested my parents go to Styal they were not well accepted by the Superintendent and matron who considered them too young, this was an older childless couple, rather stiff. Later there was a new superintendent and matron, younger people with a family and they got along very well. My Father was not long out of the forces where he had been for 6 years, he was a very fit ex Royal Marine Commando and a good sportsman. Mum was a very gentle Scottish Country girl who never did learn how to harden her heart. Dad would play soccer and cricket with the boys, they got up quite a good little soccer team, he taught some to box. Mum could not have any more children of her own and she wanted a large family, she got them!!!!

At first they had the nursery 12 babies under 5, my goodness how did they do it? They loved it, Mum said when they all had an upset tummy at the same time was a bit hard, they were all lined up on their potties in a row and they ran from one to the other.

Then they had the reception home, heart breaking, It was Mum's job to clean the dirty heads if they had lice. She would sit up all night and pick out the nits sooner than shave heads which is what the other housemothers did prior to painting their heads with something. Mum could not shave a little girls head. She became a little paranoid about lice and was always checking me but I never got any.

One little family had a very sick Mum, the father didn't return from the war. When their Mother went into hospital they went into care, this happened repeatedly but unless the children were placed with my parents the Mother would get out of hospital and take them back. My Mother put the little family all in one bedroom this made her very unpopular with the old matron but Mum ignored her, the children needed each other.

Then they got the boys and that is how they stayed.

The boys had a dog who was often in one of the beds with them!! and at different times they had rabbits, hampsters and hens. They were supposed to look after their pets and like any kids they were a little careless with the rabbits and hampsters. I can recall the hampster cages being empty and the little creatures being loose somewhere in the house!!

Punishment had to be meted out for smoking and that was to wash the kitchen wall, one boy was caught so often he would say " OK Mum, I know wash the wall" but he would be talking so much to Mum while he did it he never really got much done.

There was once a competition for the loveliest garden, the boys were keen to try. Mum went out one morning and the garden was flourishing, such beautiful flowers, she wondered how they had grown there so fast but didn't have to wonder long, she heard on the grapevine that the church garden was suddenly missing some flowers ha ha.

One Saturday morning there was an early morning surprise visit made by the Chairman of the Children's Committee. The boys were still in bed having a sleep in, the dog was running around and there were coats on the floor where they had been dumped the night before. Mum was worried that this would not go down well. The Chairman said it was the only home he had visited that was like a real home.

My parents have so many memories both happy and sad. When they were closing the homes my parents didn't want to go on. They loved their boys and if they had gone on to a family group home they probably would have no choice in which children they had but even if they had a choice how could they pick 8 out of 15? They left England and went to Scotland back to where Mum and I were born.

Boys at Camp (proably in Wales) in the 1950's

Another Picture Taken at Camp (proably in Wales) in the 1950s

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