Memories of rural Lancashire childhood inspired Anne's new book

Growing up in Pilling provided a memorable and happy childhood for Anne Curwen. She tells Fiona Finch why she has now written a book about that childhood and how it has helped boost a cancer charity's funds.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 4:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 3:34 pm
Anne and twin brother Andrew
Anne and twin brother Andrew

Anne Curwen writes about a lost time.

She recalls her early days in a Lancashire village and realises today’s youngsters have a totally different experience of childhood.

Taking her mind back to the 1940s and 50s she said: “I lived on a small farm so it was about going wandering in the fields and across the marshland.”

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Anne pictured far right, with her siblings and parents

Reflecting on those days and aware that, outside of the Wyre district many people have never even heard of Pilling, the former nurse put pen to paper.

The result “Moss, Sand & Mud Pies. My childhood in Pilling” is on sale now, priced £5.00.

Anne said: “I started my jottings probably about a year ago but not with the intentions of getting it printed. I have been so surprised by the success.”

Pilling is located near Garstang and Knott End and Anne writes: “I can say I have always been well rooted in the peaty soil and sand of this lovely part of the world, on the south side of Morecambe Bay.”

Anne signing copies of her new book

She wrote: “Children at that time had more freedom, there was very little traffic on the roads and we all had a bicycle from a very early age. Families were larger and there would be older brothers or sisters or aunts and uncles to help with child care.”

She loved going to the shore, but the landscape had always to be treated with respect, for the sea was a potential enemy.

Anne,76, (pictured above right) whose home is now in Wheel Lane, Pilling, recalled in her book how: “Rivulets on the shore flowed out into Morecambe Bay and the tide flowed in across the marsh. When the tide was in we swam in the rivulet and when the tide was out we paddled in the dubs (deep puddles that formed on the marsh). I remember the fine grass and Pinks (flowers) that covered the marsh...We would run and jump over the dubs and search for crabs. We were well aware of the dangers as we grew older but on one occasion the tide crept up behind us and began to cover the marsh. We realised what was happening just in time and leapt over the streams that had swollen in front of us and ran for our lives.”

She attended St John’s C. of E. school in Pilling before moving up to St Thomas’s in Lancaster. She said: “It was traumatic because we were the first to go to secondary school in Lancaster.

Anne and brothers Ben and Andrew in Pilling

“Before that all the village children stayed on at school in the village. It was quite a journey because then we couldn’t go down the shore because of high tides. It was before the sea wall was built. We had to go all round Winmarleigh picking people up on the bus.”

Anne was born in June 1942, along with twin brother Andrew. Other recollection from their early years include the time a travelling cirucs came to Pilling and set up its tent: “I clearly remember the lions. I can only say it was awful. Metal grilles were brought into the ring and fastened together...Then the lions entered through a small tunnel and men with guns started walking round the outside of this makeshift cage. The lion tamer had a whip in one hand and a chair in the other. He goaded the lions as they roared, to sit on round seats. We went home terrified and disgusted by this dangerous and cruel spectacle.”

Anne’s book has been a labour of love - but the commuity work she has done for her beloved Pilling has stood her in good stead, especially when designing the book’s front cover.

She said: “I took the photo of the church and mill and designed the covers on the computer. I do posters and flyers for the Memorial Hall Committee and for the Methodist church and have done a lot of design work for Pilling Jubilee Silver Band publicity, learning how to do it as I went along. I have been called the poster person of Pilling which made me laugh.”

Anne's father Bill (William) Jenkinson

She continued: “Pilling has changed a lot. When I was young there were big families - there were a lot of children. It was mainly farming. Nowadays more people live here and commute to work in other places. It’s an older population. Younger people can’t afford now to stay in Pilling because of the cost of housing.”

However she says community spirit is still strong and cites the ongoing work to create a new village hall and attract younger families with some affordable housing.

She said: “The old memorial hall built after the first world war was made of wood. It’s been demolished and some land has been purchased and money’s being raised now to build a new community village hall. There is a lot of work going on ... The field purchased by Pilling Parish Council now has two football pitches and a trip trail plus a children’s play area. Hundreds of trees have been planted and this year they are concentrating on a wild flower area.Funding for the new hall has been secured from the Lottery fund but more is needed. They are hoping to begin the build this year.”

She continued: “Pilling has a good community spirit and more families are moving here because of the affordable houses that have been built. So although there are not as many young people as there where when I was a child I think things are looking good for the future.”

Anne added: “I think the thing what the book highlights more than anything is the simplicity of life in the 40s and 50s when there were less material things and life revolved more around village activities, especially without today’s technology.

After sales of her book exceeded her expectations Anne has donated £200 to the Macmillan Cancer Suppport charity.

She explained: “I was thinking a lot about my dad who was quite influential in my childhood. He was a brilliant dad and he died of cancer at a time when there was very little support for people with it.”

William (Bill) Jenkinson died in 1979, aged 60 and his photograph along with other family photos can be found in the book.

• Copies are available from Anne on 01253 790346 or from Pilling Pottery.