Molly Hugh was an extraordinary woman and I’d like to remember her on this, International Women’s Day.
In 1925 at the tender age of fifteen Molly and her sisters and one older brother were thrown out on the streets with their deaf and dumb parents. Father, Anthony, had become ill and his shoe-making business had fallen on hard times and in one fell swoop they had lost everything.
But Molly was not someone to be easily beaten.
She had already left school and was working in a local cake shop where she earned very little. She quickly realised she was going nowhere. It was down to her, as the oldest daughter, and Joe, the oldest son, to get their mum and dad out of the workhouse.
It was down to her plucky ways that she landed a plum job as a lady’s maid in London after an hour answering an advertisement in The Times. She had no experience of this kind of work and was taking a huge leap of faith when she got a one-way ticket for a train out of Truro to London. Her sisters were not so lucky and were at the mercy of the nuns where they lived in harsh conditions until they were old enough to leave. Ten years later Molly had enjoyed her time in service and had a very good relationship with her employer who thought the world of her. She met Johnny Brooks having been taken in by his charm and smooth moves on the dance floor. He was quick to ask her to marry him and why wouldn’t she say yes but sadly he turned out to be a ‘wrong’en’ as folks would said and it was not a happy marriage. It was 1943 when she met Guy Woodhead and a wonderful romance ensued, despite all the odds being against them. Perhaps it was the backdrop of World War 2 that made them reckless and live for the moment. They had to relish what little time they had together before Guy felt he should do his duty and sign up with the military police where he served firstly in South Africa and then on to Italy. He was away for many years and Molly lived out these years working as an electrician in the aircraft factory on the old Brooklands race track at Weybridge. Many men said it wasn’t right that women were doing the jobs of highly trained men how could they just pick it up and carry out important work building Wellington bombers? But that’s what they did. Some even learnt to fly the aircraft to their destinations. Whatever next?
As well as working long hours a woman was expected to shop weekly with her
coupons and somehow feed her family with what little rationing provided. Molly turned her garden into a vegetable plot and kept chickens.
Did Molly manage to rid herself of the awful Johnny Brooks?
One thing I can tell you is that I had the fortune of marrying the son of Molly and Guy so I am able to tell this heart wrenching story.
The Disenchanted Hero by Gill Buchanan will be out shortly on Amazon.