Miss Welfare

Freda Mary Welfare: 1905-2005

Freda was born in Robertsbridge in 1905 where her father was landlord of “The New Eight Bells”. In 1912 her father died and the family split up. Her mother and two brothers went to Reading where there were family members, by Freda came to live with a favourite aunt and uncle in Ferry Road. The uncle had a tobacconist shop in Landgate.

Freda went to the local Primary School and then for one year to Rye Grammar School. In 1918 she won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital School for Girls at Hertford.

From 1923-25 she rejoined her family and attended Reading University Teacher Training College. At the age of 20 she returned to Rye to her aunt and uncle whose own children had died young. For some reason she was ineligible for teaching in Sussex and so had teaching jobs in Primary Schools in Ashford and Lydd. She would have lodgings there in the week and then at weekend cycle to and from Rye – quite a feat!

With many others she had to leave Rye during the war, doing supply teaching work in Reading. In the prewar years 1925-40 she worshipped regularly at St. Mary’s. She was a Sunday School teacher with many pupils remembering her with gratitude – including John Bannister, himself later a headmaster and priest, telling her 90th Birthday celebrations that he remembered being a not completely ideal pupil.

Also from those years – about 1930 – comes a favourite story of hers. After a wedding at the church of one of the sons of Lady Maud Warrender to the daughter of Vicar, Canon Fowler, she was invited to take a lift in a rather splendid car to the reception at Leasam. It was only during the short ride up there that she discovered the man who made this kind offer was none other than Rudyard Kipling who then autographed her order of service.

Back in Rye after the war ended 60 years ago, she taught at Rye County Primary School just behind her aunt’s house – her uncle had died in 1940. The school mush later moved to the Freda Gardham site in New Toad and she finally retired in 1970 at the age of 65. Except it wasn’t final for she was brought back from retirement for five more years at Tilling Green School. That makes a total of 50 years teaching!

Miss Ashby, her head for many years, speaks for many generations of her pupils when she expressed her profound admiration for Freda and her teaching, Never raising her voice, yet keeping control. Generous and interested in others. Helping with her piano playing, Keen on sport, playing badminton until she was 70 and also tennis.

Her aunt died in 1973 and the house in Ferry Road became hers. At St. Mary’s she was a most faithful and regular member. She gave up her Sunday School teaching, but continued to help with flower arranging and brass cleaning – the lectern, almost as bag as she was, was her pride and joy.

Sadly her friends, though younger, died before her -people such as Rose Tiltman, Beryl Rixon and John Bannister. She enjoyed her long wa lks round Rye and the countryside. Being so light and small she had adventures which for other people would have been mishaps. There was the time when she fell down the steps leading from the cemetery and ended up in a bramble bush, much of the consternation of a watching farmer. But she bounced back and relished telling the story.

In her 90s she was on the phone to the son of her first cousin in Jersey when, in a storm, lightening struck the telephone pole across the road, blew the set out of her hand and completely disabled her phone and electricity for some days. Her friends were understandably concerned but she thought it was quite an experience and not to be fussed about.

In the summer of 2001 because she was so light she was blown over by a strong wind as she walked behind her house. The time came for her to go into Whitegates Retirement Home in Westfield. Although she longed to come home, she was well looked after with friends visiting and the local Vicar, Evan France, calling regularly.

100 years of life has somehow a completeness and fullness to it. We do join in mourning her loss with her faithful niece Gill and her family and Freda’s friends. But above all we give thanks and rejoice for her great contribution to so many pupils in her teaching her in Rye, for her liveliness and sense of thankfulness and generosity to others.

Taken from Rev. Martin Sheppard’s address at her funeral on Wednesday 2nd November 2005.Miss1

Also enclosed one of mywife , Geradines (nee Miles) school reports written by Miss Welfare . Those were the days when teachers could concentrate on teaching and not have to spend hours filling in “several pages of A4” with information about each pupil. The resulting report was perfectly well understood and acted upon by both parents and pupils alike!

John Breeds

From “Rye’s Own “ December 2005

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