Interview with Sheila Aitken (Part 1)
The interview with Sheila Aitken was recorded on 6th September 2013 at her home in Pitfield Drive, Meopham. The interviewer was Ruth Blake.
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Sheila Aitken, nee Green, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, on the 5th January, 1926. Her parents then moved to Tanzania and were coffee farmers. Life was very basic. Sheila had one sister, who was 3 years 10 months younger. Sheila went to School in Kenya. She talks about the staff they employed for the coffee farm and the all-men staff in her home. When her Father joined up in the Second World War, her Mother ran the farm. Her Mother was born in Scotland and her Father South Africa.
Sheila met her husband Ian, at an Officers rugby match, in 1943. Her husband served at El Alamein. Sheila has two children, Alison and Neil. Sheila and her husband Ian moved back to England in 1963, when Kenya gained its independence, and as her husband was Head of Immigration, a 'white face' in a top Government Department, was encouraged to resign.
Back to England
Sheila talks about their journey back to England on a Dutch cargo ship with only 12 passengers. Meeting an elderly Lady, whom they took under their wing, and with 22 piece of luggage, left the ship at Marsell, taking a train to Paris, then finally arrived at Folkestone. The elderly Lady was met at the port by her brother, which then left Sheila and her family taking the train to London Victoria, with their 22 pieces of luggage, arriving at 8 pm.
Arrival in England
After spending the night in a hotel the following morning they loaded up a hired a car and drove to Sheila's sister, in Charington, near Manchester. They left her daughter Alison there and then went on to Scotland, where her son Neil was placed in a boarding school. After 3 weeks they returned to her sister's home and placed Alison in a nearby Grammar School.
Finding a Home
Leaving the children settled they went to stay with friends, near Oxford. Found a house to rent with good connection, by fast train, to London. Because of what had happened in Africa, the British Government had set up assist to help people forced out by supplying lists of available jobs. Her husband received information about a possible job in Kent, so they came to Gravesend and stayed with friends before renting a house in Manor Road, Sole Street. They then brought their house in Pitfield Drive, from a Mr. & Mrs. Burton, who were emigrating to Australia, plus a lot of their furniture. This is the same house Sheila still lives in today with the most beautiful views, from her conservatory, across the fields.
FOOTNOTE: The Interviewer Ruth Blake gives an explanation of how the field was nearly made into a Bypass road, to take away the growing traffic problem on the A227 Wrotham Road, which runs through Meopham. This has never happened, but it is still talked about today (2013) as a possible solution to today’s heavy Lorries constantly thundering through Meopham Village.
Talks about her children's education. Neil stayed in boarding school in Scotland and Alison went to our local Gad’s Hill School near Gravesend. Eventually Neil became a Lawyer and Alison went to Secretarial College, London. Her husband went into commerce, an Asbestos company, followed by various jobs, before settling into Civil Engineering, which involved travelling the world with Sheila able to join him.
Sheila talks about remembering the shops, around the Windmill, especially the Post Office, next to the King's Arm. Meeting up with former friends from Africa. Being introduced by Miss English, who lived in Sole Street, to St John the Baptist Church, Meopham. (Sheila is still a very active member of the congregation in 2013.) Ian, Sheila's husband joining Meopham Cricket Club.
Her husband Ian was presented with a CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Sheila, Alison and Neil, who had flown down from his Scottish Boarding School, wearing his school uniform kilt, were able to go to Buckingham Palace and watch him receive his award. Ian received his CBE for services in helping oversee the Independence of Kenya.
Sheila joined the flower arranging club followed by a newly formed Ladies Luncheon Club, of which Shelia became Chairwoman. Sheila gives a detailed account of the 40 years she has been a member and the various pub venues they have met in.
Meopham's Road Collapse
Interviewer, Ruth Blake, asks Sheila about the hole in the A227 main road, which split the village, and how it affected her life, during the many weeks of road closure.
Reminisces about family life. Pitfield Drive residents bought between them 'The Green' in their road and how they meet once a year on it, for a drinks party. (This is a large piece of land, situated at the bottom of her road, which you drive around passing some of the houses, which includes Sheila’s house.) Joined the committee of SSAFA, which involved providing practical support and assistance to Servicemen and women, veterans and their families.
Visiting her Mother in Malta
Ian, Sheila’s husband died in June 1986, followed by her Mother 3 months later. Sheila’s Mother and Father moved to South Africa, after Kenya's independence. When her Father died Sheila's Mother moved to Malta, where she had friends, and lived there for 14 years. Sheila remembers regularly going out to Malta with her family to visit her Mother.
Vicars of St John the Baptist Church, and her Children's Careers
Sheila talks about her husband joining Luddesdown Cricket Club. Vicar Frank Mitchell was Vicar at St John the Baptist Church and Ian, her husband, was on the PCC Church Committee. Sheila remembers all the Vicars. She regularly attends the 8 pm Sunday Communion Service. Talks in depth about her daughter Alison's career and how she returned to live in Meopham and is now a Parish Councillor for Meopham Parish Council. She talks about joining the Meopham Historical Society, the Rochester and Cobham Golf Club and taking up playing Tennis. Her son Neil is a solicitor and works in Tunbridge Wells. He has two daughters (Sheila's only grandchildren) and one has recently qualified and is working as a Lawyer.
Pitfield Drive, Meopham
Interviewer, Ruth Blake, asked Sheila if Mr. & Mrs. Burton, whom they brought the house from, moved in when the houses in Pitfield were first built.