Daisy May Hill (Neal)
2 February 1923 - 3 May 2006
Daisy May Neal was born on the 2 February 1923 in Grimes Hill, Wythall, near Birmingham, the third child and only daughter of Arthur Frederick Neal and Lilian Roberts. She was baptised at Wythall Parish Church on 18 March 1923. She had two older and one younger brothers: Cyril Frederick (b1919 - d2008), Reginald William (b1921 - d2005) and Stanley Charles (b1928 - d2005).
Daisy's mother was the younger of two girls whose parents were business people running a wholesale shop, her mother lending a hand after school, and whenever she had the time. That's where she acquired the business acumen that kept her in good stead for the biggest part of her life as she kept shops and cafes and a boardinghouse. Daisy's father was one of 12 children, whose mother was also a keen businesswoman owning a shop, a pub and a canal boat with her husband. They prospered sufficiently to buy a row of houses in Birmingham and later gave them to their children.
Daisy did not know either of her grandfathers, as they died before she was born. She could just remember her grandmothers, who died in their 80s.
Daisy's father joined the Staffordshire Regiment when he was 16 (lying about his age) and went to fight in the Boer War in South Africa. When Daisy was about four years old she lived with her mother and father and two brothers. Reginald was two years older, Cyril was four years older than Daisy. They were living in a house that her father had built (he was a builder and carpenter by trade). The lounge was turned into a shop selling sweets, tobacco and groceries. Daisy's mother looked after the shop and served cups of tea and cakes, her cups of tea being a speciality. She made delicious ice cream, the children helping to turn the handle of the mixer.
She worked very hard from early morning until late at night, with the three children to look after as well. She also served petrol from three petrol pumps, as there was also a garage. Daisy's father employed a Mechanic to do repairs to cars etc.
As Daisy's father was a master builder he built private houses and bungalows whenever he could buy land at a reasonable price. The house and garage was situated at Wythall on the Alcester Road into Birmingham. There was a large field at the rear of the property where the family kept chickens, and there was a lawn and vegetable garden. There was no mains water in those early days, so there was a water pump in the yard, which had to be pumped to draw water from the well. The toilet was outside as there were no bathrooms. The family had to bathe in a tin bath in front of the range fire which had an oven at the side for baking. Lighting was by an oil lamp and candles in the bedrooms.
It was very cold in the winter, and there used to be quite a lot of snow. Daisy's brothers had a long walk to school. Daisy remembers her mother, expecting her younger brother Stanley (she was warned not to have any more children after she nearly died through peritonitis after Daisy was born) when Daisy was five years old. Daisy's mother went to stay with a midwife down the road and Stanley was born soon after. Daisy does not know how her mother coped with the shop, garage and the four children. Cyril would have been nine years old and Reginald seven years old, and so they were able to help in small ways.
The family moved from the shop and garage after seven years. Daisy's parents sold it and they went to live in a rented bungalow at Earlswood Lakes near Birmingham. Daisy remembers it had a long garden at the back and a small pump in the sink in the kitchen that had to be pumped up and down for water. The bungalow was one of several in a cul-de-sac. There was a pathway down to the lakes, Daisy thinks they were reservoirs. Daisy cannot remember how long they lived at Earlswood Lakes. Daisy's father built some houses, Orchard Villas, Alcester Road, at Wythall, so they moved into one of them.
Daisy has no idea how long the family stayed there either, but the next house was in Meriden, near Coventry. Daisy's father found two vacant houses in a small terrace, bought them both and made one into a shop and sold sweets and groceries etc. Meriden was just a village and was at the centre of England. Daisy's parents called the property 'Wayside Cafe', because they served teas and refreshments as well. There was a lovely garden and orchard at the rear. Daisy's father built an extension on to the back of the property to make a proper cafe with tables and chairs. Daisy helped to serve the customers in the shop and cafe. Because they made their own ice cream they were able to have some quite often.
They were very busy on a certain day in the year in the summer called 'Cyclists Sunday' when cyclists from all over England would meet on the village green, where there was a monument. Business was very brisk, if the weather was good, for ice creams and refreshments. By this time, Reginald and Cyril had left school and were helping their father with his building business by doing bricklaying. Daisy's youngest brother Stanley was about six years old at the time, and Daisy would have been about 11.
She cannot remember how long they stayed at Meriden, but Daisy's parents sold the business and moved to a bungalow in Spring Lane, Hockley Heath, near Birmingham. They stayed there for some time and then moved to a house at College Street, Burnham on Sea, Somerset, having liked the area after having stayed there in a caravan on holiday.
It was a large house with five bedrooms and three reception rooms, large kitchen with old-fashioned washing boiler, which was lit to heat the water. It had no garden at the rear but a large backyard. Daisy's mother took in bed and breakfast guests, the property being in a popular seaside location.
The house was reputed to be haunted, it was said one owner put her head in the gas oven. It really was a creepy house. It had a peculiar air about it. Daisy's father built several houses in Burnham and acquired a motor boat. Daisy was educated in a small school on the seafront about five minutes walk away from the house. She remembers playing hockey on the sand. When Daisy was 14 years old, she left school and worked in a milliner's shop nearby, learning to make hats
Daisy's father built four bungalows at Ruishton, a small village near Taunton, Somerset. Her parents sold the guesthouse at Burnham and moved into one of the bungalows. Ruishton had a church, school, shop and pub. Daisy was able to get a job in Chapman's Department Store in Taunton as a shop assistant in the haberdashery department. She first met Fred there in the packing department. She was 16 and Fred was 19. Daisy used to cycle to work the 2 miles from Ruishton to her job in Taunton.
There was an orchard, opposite the bungalow and a farm a few yards up the lane where they used to get their milk measured into their own jug, eggs, cream and butter. Daisy recalls that the summers were lovely, with long weeks of hot sunny weather, where they used to play in the hay when haymaking started in the fields. Ruishton was not far from the village of Creech St Michael. It was a relatively low lying area with a stream running through the middle. When there was torrential rain, the stream would overflow, and there would be floods that almost reached Ruishton. Daisy thinks that the family lived there for a few years until the Second World War started.
Daisy's two older brothers Cyril and Reginald were called up into the army. Daisy was 19 at the time, and rather than go into the forces she went into a radio valve factory at Ilminster, not far from Taunton. A coach used to pick her and fellow workers up at 7 a.m. and they worked long hours. Meanwhile, Daisy's parents moved to Torquay in Devon after selling the bungalow. The new house was like a doll's house, and very high up, approached by numerous steps. It had a wood at the back where they kept several chickens. It was situated in Coombe Lane, St Marychurch, just outside Torquay.
Reginald and Cyril were away in the army overseas and Daisy was not allowed to leave her job in the factory in Ilminster to move with her parents to Torquay, so she had to find lodgings in Taunton. It was a very worrying time as bombs were dropping in many towns and cities. A bomb demolished a row of houses just a few hundred yards from her parents' house, the blast blowing out the glass in their windows and damaging their ceilings. Daisy used to worry about her mother and father and try to get to see them when she could, by train from Taunton to Torquay. There was a blackout, and it was not permitted to show any light. All properties had to have blackout curtains at the windows, blackened material you could not see through. There were no lights anywhere. It was pitch black in the winter and rather frightening with bombs being dropped anywhere.
Stanley was apprenticed to a boat builder in Teignmouth and used to get there by motorbike. He built his first boat when he was 15 years old and his father rented a building for him to build it in. He launched it in Torquay Harbour. It was a sailing boat and Daisy went in it with him. They sailed across to Brixham. Daisy was terrified, she has never been fond of the water and can't swim. It is a good thing the boat didn't capsize, it proved seaworthy.
Daisy eventually got her release from the factory in Ilminster and went home to Torquay where she got a job in a parachute making factory working an electric sewing machine. The family lived in Torquay for several years then moved to Teignmouth to a bungalow to be nearer Stanley's boatbuilding job. Daisy thinks the war was over by then. Daisy got a job in Radfords, a large drapery store in Teignmouth.
Daisy was in touch with Fred during the war. They corresponded by letter as he was still in the army waiting to be demobbed. When he came out of the Army he visited whenever he could. Daisy and Fred were married at St James Church Teignmouth on 5 July 1948. They spent their honeymoon at Polperro in Cornwall.
Daisy and Fred went to live with Fred's mother and sister at Taunton, where she went to work in Chapmans again. Fred was working in the gasworks in Taunton doing shiftwork. They stayed with his mother for two years. Meanwhile, Daisy's mother and father sold the bungalow at Teignmouth and bought a house at Sunnylands Avenue, Southbourne, Bournemouth.
Daisy and Fred moved from Fred's mother's house to live with her parents, Stanley was living there also. Cyril and Reginald had moved away from home earlier. Fred managed to get a job at Wellworthy Engineering in Lymington, Hants, after being out of work for about six weeks. Fred and Daisy stayed with her parents for sometime then moved into a bedsit in Bellevue Road, on the corner of Broadway, Southbourne. Daisy doesn't know how long her parents stayed at Sunnylands Avenue, but they sold the house and went to live in a bungalow at Harting Road, Boscombe East, Bournemouth.
Fred and Daisy had left their bedsit and went to a flat in Walkford, with bedroom, lounge, long kitchen and use of the bathroom. The owners had two large dogs that used to bark every time they went out and came in, frightening Daisy who has never liked dogs. Daisy used to cycle to her parents bungalow on most days. Fred and Daisy didn't stay long at Walkford, and moved to a bedsit in Wentworth Avenue, Southbourne. Fred and Daisy's first child, Kevin was born at the Grove maternity home in Barton on Sea, on the 18 May 1954, and Daisy was taken to Boscombe Hospital, as it was a difficult birth.
Fred and Daisy stayed in the bedsit (Fred cycling to Lymington daily to his job at Wellworthy) until Daisy was expecting their second child. They had to vacate the bedsit as children were not really allowed. The old lady in the small bedsit next door was very kind and she used to look after Kevin and take him out in his pram.
Daisy's parents sold the bungalow at Harting Road and went into lodgings in Foxholes Road, while Arthur built a bungalow at Harbour Road, Southbourne. Fred, Daisy and Kevin moved in with Daisy's parents. They had two bedrooms and a sitting room to themselves, and shared the kitchen and bathroom with Daisy's parents. Helen was born in Boscombe Hospital, on the 22 May 1956. There was a very long back garden to play in, and the beach was a short walk away.
Daisy's father put down a deposit on a bungalow in Beechwood Avenue, New Milton, Hants and Fred, Daisy, Kevin and Helen moved there in October 1958. Their third child, Elizabeth was born there not long after, on 10 April 1959. Kevin was five and Helen was three years old. It was quite a long way from the school at Gore Road, and Daisy used to walk with the children in all weathers. The bungalow was on a new estate and was not far from the New Forest. In those days the forest was not fenced so ponies and cows would come into the gardens before the fences were erected.
Daisy remembers the winter of 1962/63 which was very bad, and the roads were covered in snow and ice for about three weeks. The family lived at Beechwood Avenue for nine years, but the two-bedroom bungalow was too small for two adults and three children, particularly as the children grew older.
In 1960, Daisy's parents sold their bungalow at Southbourne and bought a bungalow in Highridge Crescent, New Milton, which was about 2 miles from Fred and Daisy's bungalow. Daisy and the children used to visit Daisy's parents quite often.
Daisy's father Arthur died there in 1965, and her mother was lost without him. Helen went to live with her grandmother for about nine months, and Daisy's mother then sold the bungalow and went to live at St Dennys in Station Road, New Milton, a warden assisted block of flats for the elderly.
Daisy's mother helped Fred and Daisy to buy a house at Kenilworth Close, New Milton, another new property on an estate, where Daisy was to spend the rest of her life. Daisy's mother died in hospital from a stroke in March 1976 and was buried in the cemetery in New Milton, with her husband Arthur.
Life for Daisy continued fairy uneventfully, bringing up her three children. Her first grandchild, Michael was born in 1978, followed by Melanie in 1983, Lynette in 1985, Hannah in 1986 and Amy in 1989.
Fred and Daisy celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July 1988 with a small party for immediate family, including Daisy's three brothers and their wives.
Always a committed Christian, Daisy initially worshipped at the Evangelical Free Church in New Milton before joining Ashley Baptist Church where she was to become an active member for the rest of her life.
She was part of the Women's Fellowship which met each Tuesday, supporting initiatives such as 'Teddies for Tragedies' which provided teddy bears for orphaned children. Daisy knitted many teddies, and later wooly hats.
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 on the fifth of July, again with a small party arranged by Helen and Elizabeth and attended by Daisy's brothers and their wives.
Daisy died suddenly on 3 May 2006. A service of thanksgiving was held at Ashley Baptist Church on 15 May 2006 attended by family and many friends, followed by a private cremation at Bournemouth Crematorium. Daisy's ashes were later scattered at Great Ballard Lake, a place she visited many times particularly with her grandchildren. In November 2007, a bench was installed with a remembrance plaque, as a lasting memorial to her life.
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