Woolwich & Districts
Memories of a Childhood Stay in Plumstead
as a 11 year old schoolgirl
does the mention of Plumstead and Purrett Road Junior School,
as it was formerly known in the ’50s, still bring a warm
glow to my heart?
lived on the Downham estate and attended a local school when
my mother announced she was to have a ‘big operation in
hospital’. In 1954, my sister Gillian was placed with
one aunt and my brother Raymond and I were placed with another
for six weeks; Auntie Ciss, short for Cecilia, who lived in
Plumstead. This situation arose soon after we had resettled
after a six months stay in the middle east where my father had
been working. I was filled with excitement and fear. What adventures
might lie ahead and would my mum be all right?
Auntie Ciss. She soon introduced me to the local Public Baths,
which I loved. Huge baths filled with steaming warm water, the
usual medicated soap and clean towels. I could stay for a long
time soaking and relaxing my cares away. Auntie also ushered
me to the outside loo, which I hated.
visited Purrett Road school to brief the staff thoroughly about
my situation. She was a Scot and pronounced, to my young mind,
Purrett as ‘Parrot’. This latter name I latched
onto easily. To integrate smoothly into my new class the teacher,
by way of introduction, encouraged me to tell stories about
my recent travels and visits to market souks and stony, desert
lands. My brother reminded me that we were also taught the descant
to the hymn Crimond which seemed very advanced at the time.
at age 10 with her younger brother Raymond and her older
to my astonishment these exotic places almost paled into insignificance
when I discovered that there was little segregation between
boys and girls. We played together and, most importantly, we
partnered each other in country dancing, apparently with no
embarrassment. This was a welcome revelation. For a short while,
there was to be no more boys and girls sitting either side of
a school hall for an excruciating length of time until the strain
ruptured into girls moving to partner girls with the boys looking
you Michael Box and Master Heinz for partnering me so well and
thank you to my teacher who made my short stay so memorable.
Finally, thank you Auntie Ciss, for the kindness and sensitivity
you showed a worried little girl of 11 years and the generosity
you showed my family until my mum was safely home again.
Cunningham, aged 11.
St. Nicholas' Church in Plumstead where Auntie Ciss's
son Ronnie married. Auntie Ciss (surname Strong) is to
the left of Ronnie and Uncle Charlie to the left of her.
My brother and myself are on the end of the front row
- I am about 13 years old. My sister (16) is directly
behind my brother (11) and my mum is behind her to the
left. My dad is to the right of the bride.