Frances, the World War 1 baby

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One hundred years ago yesterday World War One was declared – and Frances Clark was born.

Frances, of Northorpe Road, Donington, grew up in the authentic make do and mend age emulated in so many ways today, frequently by people who adopt it as a lifestyle choice rather than out of necessity.

Frances Clark and her daughter Denise Dear. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG240714-114TW

Frances Clark and her daughter Denise Dear. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG240714-114TW

Frances’s early years were spent in Manchester Gardens, now known at Browntoft Lane.

Her mother was a domestic worker for Mr Gleed, a big local landowner, while her father worked as a coachman. Frances remembers the smart livery and the roaring fire her father would have going in the outbuilding allocated to him.

Her parents also had a smallholding where her mother reared a lot of chickens and ducks and kept pigs.

Frances says: “I helped churn the butter and I used to go round selling butter and eggs with my mum on a Thursday afternoon, one bicycle between the two of us.”

Home life was simple, much of it revolving around the Pentecostal Church in Donington held in Dial Hall, which Frances’s older brothers Gordon and Norman helped to build when they worked at Barnsdale & Sons.

Frances was educated in Donington, passing the exam to go to the grammar school in the village, but then didn’t go out to work. She said: “Mother had enough to do at home with the two boys, her husband and me.”

Frances met and married her husband John, known as Jack, in 1938, and has memories of blackouts during the war and of an evacuee, Venise, coming to stay with them.

However, there were no food shortages as her parents still kept their smallholding.

Jack left his job at Barnsdales the butchers to go to war, serving in Egypt and Italy, and it was three months before Frances heard from him again.

They had two children, Jo who is in Doncaster and Denise, who lives close to her mother, and there are four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Frances said: “I never thought I’d live to be 100. After my husband died in 1999 I never thought I would survive so long.

“I rode a bicycle every day until I was 92, until they stopped me at the finish.”

Denise says: “Mum was well-known round the village. She was very involved with the church until last December and they still visit her.”