Ellen Jenkins

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Tribute to Mrs Jenkins by Molly Miller

Most of you know much more about Mrs Jenkins than I do, but I would like to share my memories of her with you.

She left school at 14 which was common at the beginning of the 20th century, and went into service, working in several big houses in the area. When she was 16 her father died after an accident at work. She then went to work in Bristol House, earning £2.00 a month, giving her mother 10 shillings of it. It was there she met Albert Jenkins. They married when she was 21 after courting for two years, and set up home in Elm cottage. Their six children were born there. Mr Jenkins died in 1969, but Mrs Jenkins stayed in Elm cottage for a further 78 years. When she realised she could no longer manage alone, she took the big decision and moved to St Cadoc’s Court in 2001. Three years later she celebrated her 100th birthday.

wedding day

The little cottage on Chepstow Road was like the Grand Central Station of Raglan. Hundreds of people called in over the years for a chat and she learned so much about what was happening in Raglan without even leaving her fireplace. All the gossip that came her way was discretely filed away and forgotten. For a woman of her age her memory, both short and long was phenomenal. Mrs Morgan and I visited her in the home near Pontypool on 5 March and she was the one who told me about the burglary in the village shop.

She was a good listener, who had great discernment and didn’t suffer fools gladly. She would assess a situation and with a slap of her hand on her knee would say, “I told him straight”!

There are so many memories I’d like to share, but time only permits three. The first thing that struck me when I first visited her almost 35 years ago was her lovely complexion, so clear and so rosy. Someone 30 years younger would have envied it. For one whose work had been among dust and coal fires it was amazing. When I asked her the secret she replied, “Cold water and no cosmetics”.

The 2nd memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life is hair washing day. This was a major event. Caroline had to fetch water from the barrel and put it on to boil. I carried a bucket of hot water from the surgery to augment the kettles. Furniture had to be moved and quite an arrangement of chair, table, plastics and towels took place. It wasn’t just the hair that got washed! Despite our best efforts water got into places we didn’t intend. After washing, the beauty treatment was completed with a brush and blow dry and woe betide us if it wasn’t done precisely as requested. But then, she was the boss!

Her 100th birthday was a grand affair that will stay with me. We’d been planning it for about 6 months were determined she was going to live to enjoy it. Thanks to the home carers and our prayers she made it despite some hitches. February 14th dawned mild and sunny. It was a thrill to see her coming down the corridor, dressed in a pink and mauve dress and looking beautiful. Her smile was radiant and she really enjoyed the day. Those who worked to make the day so memorable were in tears when she stood tall to give her thank you speech. It was an effort, but that was the character of the woman. She disciplined herself, her family and us. She was an example to us of how to endure and overcome hardships, no matter what.

Mrs Jenkins in garden ca 1999

Her character and presence always made you feel better for having visited her, even on those days when she wasn’t well. Her eyes may have dimmed, her hearing failed, but she never lost her fighting spirit. After all, she was in command!

She may have passed form her earthly abode, but Mrs Jenkins will live on in our hearts. We all consider it a rare privilege to have known and cared for her. She was the epitome of village life.

Thank you Mrs Jenkins for being such a good example to my generation.

Ellen Taylor Jenkins (1904 - 2006)

p.s. Mrs Jenkins was my next door neighbour when we moved to Raglan in 1997. She was a great story teller and a lovely woman - always cheerful - always full of local gossip. She died shortly after her 102nd birthday and is buried in A section of St Cadoc's Churchyard. (C Morgan, webmaster)

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