I was so hoping to hear back from you. I just said
to Father Superior that I would telephone my elder sister Jean to make
sure that she looked up the web-site.
In 1950 my parents bought a derelict property (not
even running water) with a large amount of ground and over the years
transformed it. I must confess that, when my mother died in 1978, my
father found it hard to keep the place in the same condition as before. My
parents sold part of the land, and on it Mr McInulty built his house. The
drive entrance is slightly further up the hill on the opposite side to
Bury House. Orchard House is the house which is on that corner as School
Lane turns off from High Street. It is reputedly where the ghost from the
Medlicott times appeared, but we were a very normal, lively family, and
the ghost made no appearances during our time of residence! When my father
became ill in the summer of 1997, he was taken to a home down in Sussex
(where my sister lives) and there he arranged the selling of Orchard House
to Mr McInulty, as they had always planned (the McInulty family were very
special to my parents). I think that by now he will have restored Orchard
House in splendid style and it may well be the home of one of his sons
(James, I think). That should place the house for you.
Mr Colin Dexter, the author of the Morse books, was
Head of Classics at Corby Grammar School (my mother was Head of Music and
another Cottingham resident (in the house just beyond what used to the
Buckby's shop on the corner of High Street and Corby Road) was the Head of
History, Mr Michael Yorke. Mr Dexter lived in one of the new houses which
were built from Bury House land, i.e. the bit below the entrance to Bury
House and round the corner into the approach to Middleton. If I call it
'Bury Close', I may well have given it the wrong name. There were several
houses, and another resident was Mr Fosse, the Head of Mathematics at the
There is a little tale which links Mr Dexter, the
Choir and the Llangollen Festival. When the Choir began to take part in
the festival, it was renamed The Welland Valley Ladies' Choir to
acknowledge the ladies who came from other villages and Corby. One year
one of the three pieces which they had to learn was in Latin: "Fac ut
ardeat cor meum". My mother therefore asked Mr Dexter to attend a Choir
Practice in order to teach the ladies how to pronounce the Latin. Bear in
mind that these were ordinary village ladies.
There was one particular passage where the words "ut
sibi" were repeated many times, and at the end of the verse, one lady
exclaimed - and I'll try to produce it phonetically - "Misstuart, I'm got
a "hut sibi" left over!" Mr Dexter was tickled pink. When deafness began
to worry him (he was essentially a classroom man - absolutely brilliant),
he retired from teaching and went to live in Summertown, Oxford, where he
joined the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Syndicate (I think that was
the syndicate). About twelve years ago he was due to come to Marylebone
Library to sign copies of his book, so, as I could not leave the monastery
in the evening, I left a little note for him. A very great man whom I did
my best to emulate as a Classics master myself for nineteen years.
The Cottingham-cum-Middleton Women's Institute Choir
not only sang at music festivals (particularly the annual event at Oundle),
but also gave concerts to local organisations, particularly social clubs
for the elderly. These concerts were a mixture of straight pieces and
entertaining items, together with a few sung solos and my mother playing
the violin (she was a superb player and led the orchestra for my
production of 'The Gondoliers' on Guernsey only a few months before her
death). It seems incredible to me that the elderly gentlemen were, of
course, veterans of The First World War.
Occasionally I took part as a little boy; there was
a popular song called "Seven little girls sitting in the back seat,
a-kissing and a-hugging with Fred". I used to have a cap, scarf and a
driving wheel and sing the verses, while behind me seven of the prettiest
ladies of the choir (in gym slips) used to make a fuss of one of the
elderly gentlemen from the audience, sitting on his knees and singing the
Chorus "Keep your eyes on the driving, keep your hands on the wheel" to
me. Yet another regular item was The World Tour. My mother used to
introduce this supposed Choir Tour (and some of the audience clearly
believed that they had actually gone on a tour), and then began a
selection of songs from different lands which my mother and the
accompanist Mr Rodney Spriggs (who lives in Middleton) had put together.
Each song brought another item from the ladies'
bags; they donned caps for "A little Dutch girl and a little Dutch boy",
they fastened on mantillas and brandished fans for "Lady of Spain", etc. I
remember very clearly my mother saying "And so we came to Turkey. And
there I lost them all for a little while in the harem". The ladies would
all have fastened veils across their faces and, as Rodney played one of
the famous Turkish pieces by Mozart, the ladies' eyes dotted here and
there over the tops of their veils. It brought the house down, although I
am sure that it would be politically incorrect!!!
Mrs 'Midge' (her real name was Vera, but she was
always known as Midge) Claypole and my mother did a very fine double act
with "There's a hole in my bucket". Yet another favourite was a selection
of old songs from The Music Hall days, and there was another, very
cleverly designed 'Seven Ages of Women'. I can picture all the ladies
dressed up, with the songs going from "Twenty Tiny Fingers" to "Little Old
Lady Passing By" with all the stages between courtesy of William
Jane, I am being very naughty to garble on like
this. I am well known for my memory, so all these vignettes are so special
to me. I had a very happy childhood in Cottingham and, living now in
Westminster, realise how I was surrounded by kindness and love, not just
from my family but from so many people in the village. My distinctive
first name would still be known to a few of the older residents, I'm sure.
And one last anecdote on that subject.
There was a village character called Martin who, as
a boy, lad lost a leg in an accident. He used to stop my mother several
times a week and say, "Misstuart, what's your kid's name?" "Morley,
Martin", my mother would answer in her usual kindly manner. "Yeah - it's a
queer name, innit". I still think of Martin when someone says, "That's an
Now I really must stop boring you.
God bless you. I really would love to stay in touch.