“These are the things that I want in life: 1. A library of my own; 2. All Rudyard Kipling’s Works; 3) lots of money so that I can make poor people happy.”
Evelyn Ashford aged 14, 1937
I don’t know who took this photograph of my aunt, Evelyn Ashford. Probably it was my father. I’ve posted it before, but now we’ve cleaned it up a little. It was taken at Pitch Hill, Surrey in around 1937 when Evelyn would have been fourteen. This was the year when she was forced to leave school to both take care of an invalid mother, and then to start work as an apprentice in the local draper’s shop in Guildford.
Given the high hopes she had for herself, leaving school before sitting her Primary School Certificate would have been a deeply wounding blow. In an English exercise of that last year at school she wrote:
“These are the things that I want in life: 1. A library of my own; 2. All Rudyard Kipling’s Works; 3) lots of money so that I can make poor people happy.” She also wanted to have lots of REAL friends and play Madame Defarge in a stage version of Tale of Two Cities. The people she most wanted to meet included Jean Batten, famous New Zealand aviator, H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock.
She did not achieve these ambitions, apart from the Kipling works perhaps. All her life she struggled to make up for her lack of education. All her life she did what she could to enthuse and encourage others to make the most of themselves in whatever community she found herself. She also survived being bombed on a train, breast cancer, and accidental attempts on her life through medical negligence. But she ended her days, cut off from all of us, her mind in another place: abiding in that state they call dementia.
I have written more about her life in other posts, but I always come back to this image of her, on the trig point at Pitch Hill. She died a year ago last October at the age of 90, but still her spirit survives in this photograph: a truly independent spirit I think; one that still has the power to move and inspire.
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
The Many Faces of Evelyn Mary Ashford
Inspired by Ailsa’s challenge ‘independence’ at Where’s My Backpack Please visit her blog for more interpretations of the theme.
17 thoughts on “Independence beckons ~ Evelyn taking flight”
It is a wonderful, spirited photo.
This is intensely moving, Tish. I’m not surprised you keep going back to that photo which shows a spirit that was clearly not obliterated no matter what she herself endured.
That’s exactly it, Sarah. Thank you for your kind words.
The photograph says it all, Trish. It speaks of a far sighted vision, hope and a generally happy soul.
A moving piece, Tish. I would have loved her for her generosity of spirit. 🙂
Because you are also a kindred spirit, Celestine. Thank you.
I’ll never get round to commenting on this. You keep leading me elsewhere, as I follow the threads of Evelyn’s life. That photo is triumphant, but also sad when you know that possible soaring flight was thwarted.
Yes, I felt it was sad at first. Now I’m not so certain. She changed so many people’s lives. And in dementia land I almost felt she had gone there on purpose. I really need to post some of her stories.
Please do. It’s hard to judge the life of another person. My Auntie Min was a mind-adventurer who took on the family caring role, never married, died from the house she was born in. A constricted life, I thought, and then “How dare I?” She gave me many riches, and I wish I’d known her better as an adult.
That’s a real beautiful and touching story Tish, and that photo spells independence. Have you written any book about her? I would really love to read her story. Thank you for sharing this:)
Thank you, Cocoa
I love that photo of her. It is so full of promise.
That’s a lovely way to put it, Tiny. Exactly sums Evelyn up.
Inspiring post, Tish! 🙂
Thank you, Amy.
I’m amazed that your Aunt Evelyn had her education cut short, her writing you have shared with us in other posts, is so descriptive it takes me into her world.
Yes, she did have a gift. She genuinely wanted to share her thoughts and impressions with others.