Georgie Welander’s Memoirs: “So Human”

So Human
So Human

Louisa Georgina Downes Panter (1889-1979) was known in the family as Georgie Welander. She married Karl (‘Sven’) Welander and had five children.

In the 1970s she wrote her memoirs named ‘ So Human’ which were typed up by her daughter Molly Welander. This is a scanned and OCR’d copy so some mistakes may remain – please point them out if you spot any.


“I arrive”

[27 May 1889]

“Well, Mrs. Panter”, you have another bonny girl; nice company for my little friend Bessie”, so said the old family doctor, a cheerful Irishman called McCarthy. He prepared to leave after the arrival at the Vicarage of the second daughter and fourth child. I later found had two brothers, George and Richard, who were seven and eight years, and my sister who was five when I joined the very happy family.

Later in life I heard this story about Dr. McCarthy. He went to visit a young couple whom my father had married three or four months before. She was a gamekeeper’s daughter, who was utterly innocent and charming and had lived in the country all her life. The doctor found that she was worried because her husband was ill. He soon discovered that he was only drunk. Having brought the girl into the world, the doctor decided to teach the young man a lesson.

He plastered him all over and told the girl to keep him quiet, give him nothing to eat or drink, and he would call early in the morning. He gave that young man such a talking-to and told him that he had got one of the sweetest girls as a wife, and if he ever got drunk again, he would thrash him! He never did and they lived happily and raised a family.

When I was quite small I remember being taken to Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop’s wife, Lady Handle Davidson, had been taught as a child by the same governess as my mother and they had kept up the friendship. The Archbishop took me on his lap, ordered strawberries and sugar, and waited to see how many I could eat! Then he kissed me and gave me his blessing. I was then handed over to Lady Davidson‘s maid to he looked after while my father and mother chatted to them.

My father was the vicar of a large mining parish in Shropshire, and my mother his helper, running a Mission Church and taking many meetings. Our kitchen was run by someone we all loved, called Owen. Owen, with Edith the parlour maid, Ada the betweenmaid, and our nanny made up the staff; with Charles, gardener and general helper, as my father had two cows.

Charles was sent by an uncle from Buckinghamshire. I was in the kitchen when father brought him in and said to Owen, a five-foot tiny widow “Here is Charles. I know you will give him tea and make him feel at home,” which she did. She was 35 and Charles 17, but six months later they were married, and moved into a house by the church, and Charles became the verger.

My sister and I were asked to tea one Saturday. I was about six and Monica about three. [1895] We were thrilled. We enjoyed our tea and then played games. Father was to fetch us at six o’clock. Charles had put a bottle in the oven, while Owen dressed us ready to go home. Suddenly there was a bang and a smell, and a brown liquid ran from the oven. Father said “So you like your beer warm, Charles! I thought you told me you were a temperance man?” Both he and Owen looked very confused as we sa1d “Goodbye.”

I remember the next cook coming. We were with mother in the dining-room sitting by the table when Edith came in and said “A woman to see you, Ma’am”. She brought in a six-foot tall and big in every way woman, wearing clogs and shawl over her head. She spoke very clearly and told mother she had heard that a cook was wanted. She had been in service before she was married. My mother asked where her husband was. The answer was “In prison for twenty years. He had come home after drinking and struck his two—year-old son, who fell on the fender and died the same day. I remember how she wept and we did too. She came and was an absolute treasure for twenty years. We all loved her dearly.

Faukes then gave notice and met her husband, Thomas, at the prison gates. She lived afterwards in a toll-gate cottage and we saw her often for many years.

My two brothers had a Tutor, who taught them and walked them for miles. He was an amusing person and always teased me when I was running about. He called me the little fat one!

When I was three years old [1892], I remember being shown my tiny sister, and seeing my mother sitting in a blue velvet- covered rocking chair in the nursery. he sang “Now the day is over” to us, while we sat up in bed eating bread and milk for supper, and nurse folded our clothes into neat heaps.

On my fifth birthday [1894] I was told “Big girls or five don‘t cry when they fall down, or go out and do just what they like.” I can remember being given a lovely doll by my governess, and my father had made a swing on a stand for it. What a happy day it was! At breakfast there was pink lay round my plate and five large sweets, and at teatime a pink sugared cake with five candles on it.

My birthday was in May. It was generally fine enough to have a picnic, and after lunch — which I had, not in the nursery as usual, but in the dining-room with my parents -we all set off in two carriages. One was driven by my mother, with Nanny and we three girls in it, and the other by father with Dr. Lindsay and the three boys.

We loved the woods, so were left to play and climb and pick flowers, with Nanny and Dr. Lindsay in charge. Father and mother went to visit two same-keepers and their families, and returned about teatime.

An awful thing happened this day. George climbed a tree to look into a nest. He could not see into it, so put his hand in to feel for eggs. The woods were soon echoing with screams. His fingers were in a trap. Dr. Lindsay climbed up but could not manage to free him. The game-keeper came running along. He had set the trap to catch jays and magpies, as they ate the pheasants’ eggs and were a pest. Poor George had two very sore fingers for a very long time. No serious damage was done and as he got two days’ holiday from lessons he did not mind very much.

I now did lessons in the mornings with my sister Bessie. As she was ten and I was five, we could not work together much. Our governess was very good and we all loved her. She taught me to sing hymns and took me to visit old people. She bribed me with a piece of chocolate to stand on a chair and sing. She was a great walker and we used to deliver the Parish magazines for father. Sometimes the kind farmer’s wife would invite us in and give us glasses of milk while she and Miss Leigbus drank tea. We generally found kittens or puppies, which thrilled us.

I always loved all animals and would have liked to keep a menagerie. I already had a dog called Bob, rabbits and guinea pigs. We had a pony called Topsy, which we rode in turns up and down the drive, guarded by Charles on Jack, my father’s black horse. What happy times those were!

We were once taken to see a torchlight procession and father was very upset because his beautiful black horse, which had been borrowed by a young man in the village, was ridden by this young man dressed up as Mephistopholes with horns and a long tail!

Another proceeding which interested us greatly, and to which we were allowed to go, was the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. Paraffin stoves were ranged round the room at which many women were frying pancakes. Eggs were twenty for a shilling then and a lot of eggs were gifts. A charge of sixpence was made and for that we could sat six pancakes laced with golden syrup and as much tea as we could drink. The supper was always followed by a concert. Our Irish curate sang “Father O’Flynn” and as an encore “We don’t sell bread with one fish ball.”

One morning, passing father’s study door, which said on it “Children not admitted here”, we saw the door was open. My sister and I went in and saw a drawer open with a lot of money in it. We thought of the children that we saw going past our window barefoot and were worried that we could not get them shoes. Taking one of the bags, we hurried to the gate. As we had just come out of lessons, we thought they would be too, and there we saw them. We gave them all the money out of the bag. Not knowing the value of it, we gave them a handful each. They said “Thank you, Miss” and ran off.

That was not the end of the story, because my mother sent for us about teatime and when we came in she said ‘Where did you children get the money you have been giving to other children?” We answered “Out of Daddy’s study’. “Oh!“ she said “that is stealing.” Now to Nanny, who was with us “Nothing but bread and butter for tea, and have them both dressed by nine o’clock tomorrow morning”. She just have got into touch with the local policeman. At nine o’clock we came down looking very subdued and were walked down the village street to the Police Station, where a policeman, whom we knew very well and with whom we were very friendly, looked at us and said ”I understand you have been stealing, Miss”. We were then handcuffed together and put in a cell for about ten minutes, where we sat and sobbed in each other’s arms. Then we were taken home and sent to do our lessons, after which mother gave us such a talking-to, that I think I have been fairly honest all my life!

Memories come flooding back. I remember a man came rushing in at lunch time one day. Would my father come. They were pulling down an old Public House and under the stone fireplace there was a bottle which said the old landlord’s spirit was in it and if touched he would haunt the disturber for ever after. Father picked it up, carried it away and buried it in the churchyard, and no-one has heard of the landlord‘s spirit since.

One Monday night, Father, returning home after visiting, heard screams coming from the churchyard. He hurried across to find his gravedigger, one known as Jimmy the

Finisher, or Tom Two Thumbs as he had a small thumb growing out of the right hand thumb, at the bottom of a newly-dug grave. He had been preparing the grave and then had gone off for a drink at the Pub. On the way back he thought he would just see if it was all right, and fell in. Father fetched a ladder and helped him out. He told him it was very unwise to drink and dig graves.



“Growing Up”

Children were brought up very severely in those days. Life went on very quietly with lessons, and once a week a dancing class, to which we looked forward with much pleasure. We were dressed in party frocks and then well wrapped up, and with Nanny and Charles to drive us, we set off six miles to a lovely house.

One little girl called Queenie, had a governess who taught us and the twelve boys and girls who gathered together. After an hour’s dancing we all had tea and then set off home. The following Saturday we would be at another house. We lived too far away, so it was never at our home.

One memory of those days made a great impression upon us. We heard that one of the cages in a coal mine in our village had fallen, and they feared sixty men were killed.

Off went my father and mother, and for the next three days we only saw them for a few minutes each evening. They stayed with all the parents, wives and other broken-hearted relatives until the last body was brought up. We saw our cook, Fawkes, carrying buckets of soup a mile several times a day, and Charles with baskets of bread, going to the pit-head with her.

A few days later Nanny took us to the garden gate and we saw the Duke of Sutherland’s lovely grey cart horses drawing waggons covered with Union Jacks and flowers. I remember standing crying as the people passed by, all in black, following their loved ones, who were all buried in one grave in our churchyard.

Life went on. We played in a wood opposite the house and had many happy hours, until we had to have a new governess. Miss Dean was an English women, and we did not like her from the very beginning. Often she was very cross with us. We were not easy to manage. She always had a cushion on a chair which had a movable seat. So one day we removed the seat, tied cotton across and balanced the cushion. You can imagine how she stuck in the frame of the chair, and what a row we got into! Mother decided that we must be thoroughly frightened, so we were sent to bed and had to say “Sorry” the next morning.

We disliked Miss Dean very much. She gave endless trouble by upsetting he maids and at the end of the term she left. About this time we had a holiday in Wales.

My sister I were taken to stay at Colwyn Bay. Nanny went with and we arrived, to be met on the step of the house by a boy of about twelve. He said “Me mother isn’t well, but go in”. So in we went. We all went upstairs, and presently were left in the dining-room sitting on a sofa. When Nanny came back she said I don’t think it is very clean here, Ma’am.”. My mother replied “We shall have to stay till we can find something else.” Just then there was a scream from downstairs. My mother hurried out to find a little old lady with the back of her hand badly bitten. Her daughter, the landlady, being drunk, had bitten the back of her mother’s hand nearly off! It was all well bandaged up by my mother. Then supper came and mother -complained of fish bones in the blancmange, and the dirty plates. The boy waited on us, helped by a poor little gir1 dressed in a dirty cap and apron. She staggered in with the heavy trays, which Nanny always grabbed because she was afraid they would be dropped.

Father went out next morning to look for more rooms. He had taken these through an advertisement. While he was out we heard this little maid coming up the stairs with a tray as usual. When she reached the door she dropped the tray, smashing several things. The landlady ran through the baize door, caught up a broken jug and struck the girl, cutting her right cheek very badly. Mother immediately bound her up and Nanny went for the Doctor and the Police. We children, frightened, crept under the dining-room table and there we hid listening to everything.

As she lay on the settee the little girl sobbed out ’That rabbit pie you ate last night was them dear little kittens. She chopped off their heads.” Then we remembered that father had said “No heads in this pie. I wonder what she has done with them.”

The Doctor and Police arrived. When they undressed and examined the girl, I heard my mother and nanny saying ‘She is half-starved, and look at the bruises. Poor little thing.” Then we heard from the Police and the Doctor that she was an orphan girl taken in return for a good home to help in the house, and this was the way she had been treated.

The end of the story is that we moved into other rooms and took the little girl with us, whose name was May. She went back with us as a betweenmaid and lived with us until she married the postman and became the postmistress. The last time I visited her was when I was grown up. I arrived unexpectedly and was hugged and embraced and asked to stay and have my dinner. I did, remarking, “You won‘t give me rabbit pie, will you, May!” She rushed to find John, her husband, and told him I was there. She opened all the tins [I think] in the house and gave me a good dinner.

Life was very happy end uneventful until I was eleven, and mother decided to allow my sister, Bessie, then sixteen, to accompany our Aunt Lucy to America. My eldest brother had proved so delicate that the doctor said that he must be in a warmer climate. So he was already in Florida, growing pineapples with another clergymen’s son called Mayo. We missed Bess and Richard very much, and George, who went to boarding school. My sister Monica and I were very fond of each other and worked well together at lessons.

One day my parents received a letter which upset them very much. Presently Nanny came to the schoolroom door and told our governess she was wanted by my parents. We were given some copying to do, but I am afraid we talked most of the time until Miss Leibus returned with her handkerchief in her hands and her eyes wet with tears. She told us to be good. After tea my mother told us that Bessie had run away to New York and married Percy Mayo, the partner with my brother.

As Bessie was not seventeen and had been expected to come home and finish her education, naturally it was very upsetting for my parents. We were told that Aunt Lucy had married to a young American. All this exciting news we took in but did not fully understand until we were much older.