Letters to Margot Stringer in NZ from father William in Exeter



My dear Margot,

Here is a line to wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Your mother is in normal form. The Le Messuriers are a long living family and though she is now 70 68 years of age her hair is just as it was when you last saw her. My own hair is quite white; that is just after I have washed it, but it is a dingy white on the following day. I am pretty well, but as my name is not Le Messurier I don’t suppose I shall see many more Christmases.

Desirée is much as usual. In her last letter, enclosing a cheque for rent – two months overdue – she writes that she is getting fat. I don’t think you will be getting fat. The degree of fatness varies with the size of the conscience. Desirée is doing some teaching because she needs the money to pay boarding school fees for little John. “ No teaching for me” she used to say, but like all of us, she has to adapt policy to circumstances. Little John has suffered several serious illnesses, but he seems, now, to be looking up. The little girl, Mandy, is well endowed with brains and, I think, with a good deal of common sense. Mr. John himself is still holding down his job with the B.B.C. but without distinction.

No news in the matter of births, or of marriages. But as soon as I had written that I remembered one item!  You will remember your Aunt Flo at Swansea (she remembers you very well). Her youngest son qualified as a dentist and married a woman dentist – I went to the wedding[1] and it was a good do – and they now have a son. In the matter of deaths there are two items! Mr. Edwin Le Messurier, daddie’s next younger brother, and my own next oldest brother ( one of your uncles whom you never saw ) Jack. He was 73.

Grace Whiteway came to see us after her return from N.Z., and she presented us with packets of currants and sultanas. We have had a letter or two from her sister in N.Z., and we have received a Christmas card from my old pupil Lock in N.Z.

As a hobby I buy & sell, in very small lots and only occasionally, Stock Exchange Securities. On my advice daddie bought some shares in N.Z. Loan & Mercantile Agency, and of course your mother now owns them. I have bought and sold some myself, and made a useful profit.

Here is a business offer for you. You will remember making the needlework fire screen in our front room. Can you do one for the back room? I should be ever so glad if you would handle the job, and the contract price, to be paid at once on receipt of the goods would be ₤20.

But I should like to see, most of all, your handwriting again. Just see if you can force yourself to send me a specimen.

My love to you all, and your mother’s too.


[1] We have a photo of that wedding I believe


15, The Mede, Whipton, Exeter. 18/2/54


Dear Margot,

Mr. Nutter phoned us when he arrived in Exeter. He was in the city, at the Great Western Hotel for only two days. I arranged to pick him up at his hotel at 2.0 p.m. yesterday (in the new, but modest, Ford Anglia), and off we went to see the cathedral. He had already been there but I was able to show hiom many things, e.g., the piece of timber driven into the stonework by the bomb, which had not been pointed out to him. We walked round the outside and I talked architecture but there was no sequel as at Abingdon. Mr. Nutter informed me that he was a convinced High Churchman, and he made a profound bow when in front of the chancel. No comments from me! He is keen on churches and we looked into several. We then drove to the Castle. The Assize Judges were sitting and I thought (and he agreed) he would be interested in the court procedure. Unfortunately the gallery of the criminal court was so crowded we couldn’t get in, so we spent some time in the civil court (Mr. Justice Collins). We reached home soon after 4.0 and found a huge fire in the front room. Your mother had prepared an attractive tea, and he walked into the clotted cream and jam. After tea he yarned about New Zealand. He has a great admiration for you; he thinks the two girls are marvellous; and he said that Arthur was well on top of his job. He said that you had a valuable friend in Arthur’s sister. He did not know Mr. Lock, the younger Miss Whiteway (née Whiteway! ) or your mother’s old friend at Hastings.

When he left, at 7.0, I accompanied him to the city. On the way he intimated that he had fallen in love with the English pub., and the sensible closing hour of 11.0 p.m., in contrast to the silly 6.0 p.m. closing time in N.Z. He had spent some time in the Turk’s Head (next to the Guildhall) and he knew all about Pickwick finding the Fat Boy there. He wanted to look at Raleigh’s pub., the Ship Inn, in the narrow St Martin’s Lane leading to the Cathedral, so we went there, & he paid for drinks and I paid for drinks. Thus I drank more beer last night than in the whole of 1953. He bought several picture postcards of the Ship Inn. I returned home at about 8.30, so that was that. By the way, your mother gave him several Guernsey postage stamps printed in Guernsey during the occupation. They are now valuable.

Mother is reasonably well, and so am I. I became 71 last St. Valentine’s Day, and my brother’s (Jack’s) wife sent me half a pound of butter from Scotland. Very welcome.

No need now to make that firescreen I suggested some time ago. Some weeks ago I saw a beauty in a shop. Beautiful Chinese silk needlework – sprays of flowers – on a strong silk base. Strong oak frame of the right shade, glazed, & with strong wooden back. 5s7/6d. I had a look at it, & then took your mother to judge it& she approved. 5s5//-d any good?  “Yes!” said the woman eagerly. I wished I had offered 50/- !!

Your mother sent a grand Coronation Bible to Tiny. We should be glad to know whether or not it arrived.

Rag Week here. Childish!

My compliments to Arthur & my love to the children. Very glad indeed to learn of Jean’s fine progress.




15, The Mede, Whipton,


11th November 1954.

Dear Margot,

Your letter of 25th October arrived here on 8th November. I received orders to reply, but I could not do so at once because I needed time to recover from the surprises. The first, and biggest, was the actual letter. I felt afraid to open it, for I thought that nothing less than a death would have produced a letter from you. Well, instead of a death it was a birth, the great day being 24th October. Your mother & I congratulate you and Arthur on your rather unexpected achievement. We hope the little man will grow up lusty, strong, and intelligent; and in due course be a comfort and a sense of pride to his parents. We trust that, by the time you receive this you will be about again, and in normal form.

You don’t tell us the name of the boy. When you have decided please let me know and I will send him a silver tankard. The older such things are, the more they are worth, and perhaps I shall be able to find a nice old  one; but if not he will have to be content with a new one.

The good news about Arthur has given us great pleasure. There was no surprise in that direction, however. In the long run real ability, as indicated by the M.I.E.E., is bound to come out on top. ₤2,250 is a handsome figure but I suppose its appearance is not so pleasing when Income Tax and Welfare charges have been met.

I know nothing about Ballet, but if Jean likes her training and is ambitious in that line, I wish her all success. But, since she is good at Maths., a B.Sc. in Physics is worth consideration. I always liked Tiny, and I am sure she will do well.

Your mother is pretty well in health and in other respects, normal. I am not too bad, but I shall be 72 in February, so I am not so nimble as I was. I have planted 7 or 8 standard apple trees in the garden, and they are quite promising. My keenest interest is following Stock Exchange activities , and I make an honest penny- not much more – from time to time. Perhaps because you lived in N.Z. your mother bought a few Ordinary & Pref. shares in N.Z. Loan & Mercantile Agency when her father’s affairs were settled up.

No material change at Cookham Dean. John Hooper continues his work with the B.B.C., and little John continues at his boarding school. The girl, Mandy, is smart, and with reasonable luck, should have a fine school career.

I have now only 3 brothers, one older, and two younger. My next older brother Jack, whom you never saw, died some months ago. Your Aunty Flo Morris, 17 St Peter’s Rd, Newton, Swansea would be delighted to have a line from you.



The photograph below is of William with his parents Ralph and Rachel Makin, his four brothers and sisters Ann and Florence.

Back row from Left:   John,(1879), William (1883), Percy (1878 ).

Centre:   Ralph (1845), Ann (1882), Rachel (1850),

Front:   James (1884), Florence (1889), Henry (1886)



The photograph is of William with his parents Ralph and Rachel Makin, his four brothers and sisters Ann and Florence. Back row from Left:   John,(1879), William (1883), Percy (1878 ). Centre:   Ralph (1845), Ann (1882), Rachel (1850), Front:   James (1884), Florence (1889), Henry (1886)

15, The Mede, Whipton,


19th December 1954


Dear Margot,

A letter from a Mrs. Grahame, née Le Huray, a Guernsey woman and a retired school teacher, who lives at Hastings, in N.Z., informs your mother that the weather in that place is unusually , and unbearably, hot; and as you are 150 or 200 miles nearer to the equator you may be sweating more freely than the Hastings people. We, here, could do with some of your superfluous heat, though, so far, we have not been frozen up. Some frosty nights, but no skating prospects. So this letter is being written: (1) to wish you all a cool and happy Christmas (in 1955 if it is too late for 1954), and a prosperous New Year. (2) Arthur’s promotion gave me great pleasure. Please tell him so, and add that I expect him to get, where he deserves to be, right to the top. (3) I thought I should like to buy the new little boy (you have not told us his name yet) a little present, and your mother and I decided on a silver tankard. All silver things here seem to be second hand; I think purchase tax, 50%, interferes with the manufacture of new silver articles. Second hand silver must be over 100 years old to qualify for a fancy price as antique silver. We had a good look round the shops and at last bought one. Pint size. Weighs 11ozs., the jeweller said, but whether troy or avoirdupois I do not know. We shall send it off immediately after 1st January, when the rush is over. I hope it will reach you safely before the end of February, and that you will like it.

I was one of six brothers. One died in infancy. I was the third. My next oldest brother, Jack, was carried off by a heart attack some months ago and is buried in Aberdeenshire, where he lived. The rest are all right. My eldest brother Percy, who lives at Andover, in Hampshire, has two daughters. The younger, Joan, is a pleasant and intelligent schoolteacher, aged 29, and she has just been appointed Head Mistress of a school near Andover. My sister, your Aunt Flo, is reasonably well & so is her husband. Their daughter Ray and her 3 small boys are flourishing and so are the dentist son (Percy) and the dentist wife. The other brother, Harry Morris, is a working baker with a numerous progeny.

Margery Fulford is still making her fine toys. Her boy is an intelligent little chap. Her father active for a man over 80. Mrs. Fulford not as good.

Grace Whiteway living with an uncle at Kenn. Came here a few days ago. In good form, but undecided about her future.

In the Mede Congden, Vincent, Watts & Manning all going strong. The Wakehams and Tuckers ditto. Your mother and I the same as ever.

My love to you all!



15, The Mede



13th December, 1955

Dear Margot,

I estimate that, by Air Mail, this should reach you before Christmas Day, and so, my good wishes for a Happy, Cool , Christmastide should arrive in good time.

Family News:

(1)  Your mother is in normal health. Not much sign of grey hair, though rather scanty on top. Always busy. Writes about 20 letters a week, some of them to N.Z. (Hastings, and to Lock & the younger Whiteway). (We receive a good deal of printed matter from N.Z.). I think your mother will live as long as Daddie.

(2)  I am fairly well. Now nearly 73, I spend my time reading, walking, gardening. I stood for election to the City Council, in Whipton Ward, last summer, as a Conservative. Beaten of course, and by 400+. Cost me over ₤24. Poor value. My hair is white.

Desirée still teaches in her private school, and leaves her mother-in-law to do much of the housework. Seems happy, and is certainly care-free. Runs a new Jaguar car, but is in arrears with her rent. John still holds his B.B.C. post, but seems to climb very slowly, if at all. Young Jack at Marlborough school, and is doing well. No recent news of the girl.

My sister at Swansea, and her people are all well. She and her husband were my guests at Red House for a week in the summer. (Your mother cannot, or will not, cope with visitors here). Ray & Co live in a big house with an acre of grounds. They are doing well and appear (to me) to be fully aware of their own importance.

My oldest brother Percy, at Andover, is still working, and though over 78, does not intend to retire. He is the senior A.M.I.Mech.E., and  there are hundreds of them. His older daughter is still H.Mistress of a school in Lancashire, and the younger, a grand lass in my opinion, is H.Mistress of a school near Andover.

My younger brother Arthur has been made an M.B.E. His son Geoffrey, a fine lad married to a girl who can’t have any children is manager of Stockport Savings Bank.

My youngest brother Harry is, as always, unambitious, content, and happy.

The Mede looks just the same, but of the old originals, only Manning, Congden, Vincent & Watts remain. Congden & wife are both over 80. Vincent’s daughter is a District Nurse.

Wakeham does not alter at all in spirit, but is stouter than he was. “Young” Jack is over 40.

Whipton now has a population of over 10000. Over 2000 Council houses and scores building. Hence my election defeat.

I send you a cheque for ₤5. That is ₤1 for each member of the family. My love to them all!

All good wishes again!

(Mrs. Clutsom & son &

parents all well. Mr. I now over 80).                                          W.S.



15, The Mede,

Whipton, Exeter.

6th November 1958.

Dear Margot,

Enclosed is a cheque for ₤4, from mother and me; ₤1 for each of our three grandchildren, and ₤1 extra for Jean for sending us such a fine budget of news.

Your mother is reasonably well, and so am I save for failing sight. I am growing a cataract on each eye, and the specialist says that provided ‘I die of old age they will be then be just about ripe for removal. I still drive our Ford Popular though only by day, and I am afraid I ought not.

My eldest brother Percy died in Andover a couple of weeks ago, leaving me the eldest of the remaining four of seven. Arthur, Harry, and Flo (Morris) are all well. Charlie Morris inherited ₤12000 from his late sister, this year. Joan Stringer, at Andover, is a fine and sensible lass, H. Mistress of a Jr. & Infts’ school of 100, near Andover.

No recent news from Desirée. John senior is still producing jazz at the B.B.C., and D. is still teaching at her private school. Young John is still at Marlborough, and he hopes for a scholarship to Oxford. Mandy passed the 11+ and is a pupil at Maidenhead Gr.School.

Grace Whiteway calls frequently. Cheerful and active but hair grey. Lives at Kenford (3+ miles) with an affluent uncle. Margery Fulford still at Sidmouth, but herfather (80+) hinted to me that the divorced husband, Clutsom, was hovering round, and that Margery was not ill-disposed. He is a worthless person.

The Congdons are going strong, both over 80. Congdon is just getting over a broken collar bone due to a fall. Vincents the same as ever. Watts, retired, has gone to Exmouth. The Mannings holding on. I don’t think you knew the others in the road.

I am sending this by ordinary post, hoping it will arrive about Christmas. And we wish Arthur and you all a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous 1959.


I have not mentioned the ₤50 to your mother.



15, The Mede,

Whipton, Exeter.

1st March, 1959

Dear Margot,

At the beginning of last November I sent you a letter, with a 3d stamp. In addition to a sheet containing an account of such news as there was, I enclosed a cheque for ₤54; ₤1 for each of the children, and ₤1 extra for Jean as an acknowledgement of her letters, which we are always glad to receive (and Tiny’s too), and ₤50 for you. I hoped the cheque would reach you around Christmas Day. Did you in fact receive it?  If not I must take steps about the loss, and also I must send you another cheque.

I had a birthday on St. Valentine’s Day. 76 now, but pretty active still. My sight, however, is poor; growing a cataract on each eye, and I have to read small print with a magnifying glass to aid my spectacles. Your mother is in normal health. My sister at Swansea is a victim of rheumatism, but she manages to travel about a great deal. Her husband inherited ₤12000 about a year ago. My eldest brother Percy died a couple of months ago, at Andover, so I am now the eldest of the remaining four of us. On Sunday, 15th Feby., Desirée and her husband and Mandy arrived here in a big Jaguar car; all looking prosperous and well. Mandy is a pupil at Maidenhead Gr.School. Tall for her age; wears spectacles; begins to look like a regular school marm; but sensible. I don’t like her father any better than I did.

The Congdons are now over 80. Manning is not very grand. The Vincents do not alter very much.

We find N.Z. butter excellent. 3s/1d per lb here. I still mess about with Stock Exchange shares, including N.Z.Loan & Mercantile Agency.

My love to you all.


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