LOVE AND MARRIAGE.
In one's later teens the hormones begin to surge and the mating urge
begins to intrude on the former priorities of a single-sex school. Any
exploration of this, in my own case had to be carried out clandestinely and
with an element of defiance of parents who seemed to regard boy-girl
friendships as playing with fire and leading almost inevitably to sin and
hell. Well I remember being "warned off" the tentative advances of a young
lady with the unlikely name of Olive Shirt, the daughter of a Church family
who had their own bakery business in the town. Olive's mother had suffered
some sort of nervous breakdown so, it was inferred, there was insanity in
the family - at least that is the impression I was given, with much heat! In
retrospect, had our acquaintance blossomed, Olive might have been called
'Olive Green' which would have been a pity.
Further incursions into the world of 'sex, love and marriage' thus had,
thereafter, to be pursued with much deceit and clandestine meetings. This
built up within me feelings of mixed resentment and guilt. With great
embarrassment I recall one date I had with a certain Pat Stevenson, a
student of domestic science - a skill which might have proved useful in
later life! We went together to a performance of Shaw's 'You never can Tell'
at the students' union at Birmingham, but I was unable to see her home for
fear of being much later home than expected and having to face the
inevitable parental wrath. How pathetic!
The occasional lunch-time 'date' with Jean Granger of Hagley was
possible. We went to concerts or played records at the Barber Institute at
Edgbaston. Jean's people were pillars of the Hagley Free Church at which my
father often conducted services, and so were 'within the pale'. Furthermore
they were, comparatively, rather 'up market'. Jean was studying for her
B.Mus. and I have always been grateful to her for introducing me to some
gems of classical music. In particular she lent me a record of Barber's
Adagio which has since been a favourite.
Many years later I was astonished to learn from my brother that our
parents had indicated in his presence that they would have liked Jean and I
to 'get together'. They certainly gave me no inkling of this, and by this
time I was convinced that they considered girls as agents of Satan whose
sole purpose was to lure their innocent son from the true path of
Much later, when Mavis and I were actually engaged, I arrived home one
night a little later than expected and was told that if Mavis was the 'sort
of girl who kept me out that late' I had better 'think very carefully
whether she was the sort of girl for me'. The fact that it was I who had
kept her out late did not seem to have occurred to them. Such a studied
insult to Mavis was one of the many occasions when I realised that harmony
with my parents' attitudes was becoming impossible. Such unthinking cruelty
is difficult to forgive.
I am still not sure in what degree of sin they considered my own
conception to have taken place - probably a lapsus tubi on a hot bank
holiday in Aberystwyth! This may account for my affinity with Welsh culture.
About 1941 Police Inspector J. J. Hollyhead, then stationed at Worcester,
and who in the normal course of events would have been expected to retire,
was, because of the war, promoted and sent to Stourbridge as Superintendent.
With him came his wife and two daughters who began to come to the Church
where my family were regular attenders and where I was in the choir. The
younger daughter, Mavis, also joined the choir, and it is there that we met.
At that time there was considerable pressure on young people to make
commitments. There were the normal hormonal urges, and the peer-group
pressures which for the young men meant that if you hadn't 'got a girl' you
were either a wimp or a queer, and were treated accordingly.
At that time also there was also the threat of imminent invasion and the
blitz, which whilst it had not then affected our area very much, it had
caused us to live with the feeling that it might be our turn next, we might
not be here tomorrow, so let's make the best of today.
After the usual preliminaries, Mavis and I made a secret commitment to
each other before I left University. Our official engagement was announced
in April 1944.
By then I had joined, at the direction of the government, the "Woodall-Duckham
Vertical Retort and Oven Construction Company Limited", each of us knowing
that the work would take me all over the country and that opportunities of
each other's company would be limited for an indefinite period. I did make a
tentative offer of release to Mavis as I felt it might be asking a great
deal of her to face such an unknown future, but she felt that she could
In September 1945 I was sent from Poole, where I was working at the time,
It was my first incursion into Scotland, and after sitting up all night
in a train with no refreshment car - sleepers were only for Colonel and
above in those days - I felt as if I had arrived at the North Pole. For the
first six weeks or so I felt desolated. Whereas I had very good digs,
Aberdeen was too far from home to take a short week-end leave - in six
months I only got home once, at Christmas - and this, combined with an
ignorance of Scottish culture and the 'Doric', left me for once, very
homesick. This could not be compensated by the sort of companionship one got
from work colleagues and drinking companions.
I have often wondered since whether Mavis and I should have broken our
commitment in 1943 and thereby avoided subjecting her to a life which must
have been unusual and at times frustrating.
Soon, so far from feeling isolated, I began to feel part of the Aberdeen
social scene to a greater extent than anywhere else I had hitherto been. It
was a vastly wider world than the limited social life I had experienced in
Stourbridge. In some weeks it even became difficult to find a 'free'
evening. Nostalgia for Aberdeen has haunted me ever since.
Ironically, during my one leave from Aberdeen during that six months, at
Christmas 1945, I was severely chastised by parents for "allowing Mavis to
keep me out after 10.p.m." - I was then 22 !
Mavis and I were married in March 1947 when, having noted the example of
a respected senior colleague whose wife "travelled" with him, we decided to
give it a go.
On March 15th. 1947 we were married at the Congregational Church at
Stourbridge on one of the coldest days of the year, by Revd. Dafydd Arafnah
Thomas, one of the few Congregationalist Ministers whom I held in great
respect. Our reception was held at a small café in the upper High Street in
Stourbridge. My Father, having signified his intention of not coming if wine
was to be served, we had to do without the champagne. As he was not the
host, this was not only inexcusably rude, but an application of the worst
sort of emotional blackmail in which he had considerable expertise. I have
long wished that I had had the guts at the time to tell him............!
Mavis being the daughter of the Superintendent of Police, we had a police
car and driver as far as Stourbridge Junction station, from where, by way of
Birmingham, we travelled to Exeter for the first night of our honeymoon at
The Royal Court Hotel in the cathedral close. Next day we caught a train to
Ilfracombe where we had the rest of a fortnight at a boarding house run by a
On our return, I was posted to Liverpool, with work at Ellesmere Port. We
took lodgings at Garston with an elderly couple, Mr. & Mrs Ince. My
colleague and mentor, Maurice Wadsworth and his wife Alice had previously
stayed there. It was there that Mavis attempted her first cake, cooked in an
oven with no thermostat. The result was a little 'carbonised', but like the
best of wines, her culinary skills improved with age!
Between 1947 and 1950 we had a varied life, moving about every two or
three months - Poole, Yarmouth, Liverpool, Lincoln, Grimsby, London,
Bradford, Stockport etc. and including two periods of some months in
Denmark. For one of these periods abroad we had to part for a while.
In the autumn of 1948 I was directed to go to Glasgow. It had been the
custom of the company to send a senior technician to Glasgow in the autumn
of each year to supervise the period of commissioning of plant in Scotland
where we then had 37 works with our trademark. This was to be taken in turns
by my contemporary, Harold Perks and myself. For the 1948-9 season, Mavis
and I lodged in Carmyle (Not far from the "Auchenshuggle Car" terminus!)
After another spell in England I was sent back to Glasgow in late 1950,
and early in 1951 I was offered the supervision of the Scottish Area as a
permanency. This led to what was work-wise and Church-wise a very happy and
indeed momentous ten years in Scotland, but that makes another lengthy
story. The firm bought a house in Thornliebank which we rented, provided a
large company car, and paid me, amongst other things of course, to drive
through Glencoe or down to Kintyre on a fine May morning. It was, however, a
peculiar life as I was away from home a great deal, sometimes for the whole
of a week.
Once we had settled in Thornliebank, Mavis and I gave thought to a
family, and in 1952 Rod was born, and Jennifer in 1955.
In 1960 our time in Scotland came to an end and we moved to Kent. We took
out our inevitable mortgage and bought a house in the nice village of
Bearsted. My work at the Isle of Grain, however, was something of a
nightmare, involving very long hours, which meant limited time at home. This
was followed by a period of commuting to our London office, leaving home at
6.30.a.m and returning at 7.p.m. if lucky.
About this time, Mavis began to remark that I spent very little time with
the family. I had already, in 1958, turned down an offer of becoming my
firm's representative in New Zealand because Mavis did not want to move so
far from her family. The subsequent Isle of Grain job meant surrendering a
great deal of the sort of independence I had enjoyed in Scotland and I
became an 'underling' again.
In 1963 it was becoming apparent that the prospects for the expertise
which I had acquired over 20 years might be coming to an end. About this
time I felt a call to the Priesthood of the Church in which we had become
closely involved, and part (and I stress the 'part') of this call was that I
thought it might be a way which I was being offered of 'spending more time
with the family' whilst doing a worth-while job.
In 1966 I was ordained and we moved to Minchinhampton. Once again, 'being
nearer to the family', particularly that part of it resident at Queenhill,
had something, but not everything, to do with this move.
Mavis proved to be an excellent 'Vicar's Wife'. She had an easy and
attractive way with people, and her varied experiences with the Post Office
and our many moves made her a very easy conversationalist. She had become an
accomplished housekeeper, caterer, hostess and indeed a valued companion.
The change from being an engineer's wife to a Parson's wife she took in her
stride and she was at ease at all the levels of society in which we were
expected to mingle.
In 1968 we moved to Hardwicke, just south of Gloucester. At that time
also Mavis began to show signs of the thyroid deficiency for which she was
later under daily medication.
So, in 1997 we came to our Golden Wedding when the 'happy couple' put on
a show for the benefit of the family, but it was kept at low key.
Later that year, Mavis was admitted to hospital and unexpectedly died a
fortnight after admission.
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004