Nellie Mackay (nee Luke)

Nellie was born in a ‘back to back house’ in Birmingham but visited Earlswood to stay in Shutt Lane. At that time there were far fewer houses than there are now. There was a shop at the Garage and when later the land at the corner was not being farmed it was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture. During her stay in Earlswood Nellie spent time at Earlswood Court and remembers seeing the pigs killed in the Autumn.

On returning to Birmingham for a time Nellie was old enough to work, and worked at various firms. The schools had been evacuated and in any case the school leaving age was fourteen.

After a particularly bad night of bombing the court yard where Nellie lived was hit by a bomb. One bomb went through the roof of Nellie’s house, through the dressing table, then the floor and landed downstairs where it did not explode. One house was set on fire and a human chain passed buckets of water to put out the fire until it was found that the bomb needed to have sand poured on it as it was an incendiary.

After this the family moved out to Earlswood to a cottage at the top of Biddles Hill. Blitz damage in the city was so bad that people fled to the countryside for safety, anywhere to avoid the bombing.

Eventually there were nineteen people sleeping in a two roomed cottage that had no piped water and an earth lavatory. By this time Nellie was working full time at Earlswood Court. She joined the Land Army as they provided warm working clothes. One farm she worked on at Oldberrow had thirty milking cows and of course these were milked by hand.

At the end of the day the only way to wash was to heat water over the fire, fill a large jug and carry it upstairs to have a strip wash.

When Nellie left the Land Army she went into Birmingham by train from the Lakes Station to work, but then got a job at the industrial site at the Brickworks. The firm made metal stalls for cows.

Eventually Nellie married the landlord of The Reservoir Pub on The Common. Later her husband had a series of jobs that moved him about the area, Sadly he died just after Nellie had her only child.

Written by Evelyn Berry

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