Janie van Oosterom, who had lived in Leigh with her family in the 1950s, has revisited Leigh from New Zealand. She and her two brothers, Richard and William, arrived to live at “Redroof” (now “Windfalls”) in the Penshurst Road in 1954 with their parents, Wim and Joan.
All three children went to the village school and remember “Miss Knock” (she was actually Mrs Knock, the mother of John) and “Mrs Nash” (actually Miss Nash) with great regard. Janie remembers having very bad earache and lying with her head in Mrs Knock’s lap. She also remembers the school dinners being served by “Mrs Dinner Healy” and “Mrs Dinner Ingram”.
The gypsies used to camp in the Penshurst Woods opposite Cinder Hill each year and this excited both alarm and interest for Janie. They had two or three caravans, with huge Clydesdale horses. They wore layers of old clothes and made wooden clothes pegs. Janie’s passion, however, was to go up on the railway’s embankment and collect train numbers – an unusual pursuit for a girl in those days. She also used to pick wild primroses and bluebells and sell them outside the front gate. “I used to do rather well”.
The village fetes in the 1950’s had a huge array of stalls and produce and lots of races for children – egg and spoon races, sack races, three legged races – and there were very elaborate fancy dress competitions. The Harvest Day – with vegetables taken along from her father’s garden – was also another annual highlight.
In that period, the Fleur was the pub for the cricket team and Wim, Janie’s father, had his own glass there.
Joan was much involved with the WI. Janie, now Mrs Bryan Bassett, and her mother, Joan, would be interested to hear from anyone who remembers them from the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Parish Magazine Article: Feb 2004: by Chris Rowley