Taken from West Hallam and Mapperley Church And Community Magazine May 2001
During the Great War, the Squire's wife held a party for all to attend. Everyone quickly grabbed a sandwich imagining the taste of succulent ham, as enjoyed by those with money. Instead they found, much to their disappointment, a spreading of jam.
In the thirties and early forties, Europe was held by an evil of unimaginable hatred. However, good people endured, especially in Mapperley, where at times the war in Europe could seem a million miles away. The following events take place before and around the time of the Second World War.
"I've got the presence of mind not to take the board", Rosella, wearing her bonnet and leaning over the garden fence, told Charlie as they went to check on Mr Fensom, a gardener at Shipley Hall, reported dead by his family.
The board in question was one kept specially for the purpose of laying out corpses on. Rosella kept the board, scrubbed dean after each use, behind the toilet door. Being too heavy for Rosella, Charlie would carry the board. Rosella would place the body onto the board to await the arrival of the undertaker. Though she took care of the dead, Rosella was a born nurse, a woman of natural caring. Whenever a neighbour was ill, Rosella would be called upon to lend a gentle hand.
Although she was married to the preacher at the chapel, Rosella rarely went to church. Even more astonishing for someone whose church visits were few and far between, was Rosella's habit of putting on a tea, a veritable banquet, for the Parson.
The Parson wasn't the only one to enjoy the hospitality of Rosella and her family. Their house was a refuge for all those in need of a cup of tea and some cake. As the children sang Sankey hymns such as "Shall we gather at the river", and perhaps most aptly for someone of Rosella's nature - "Have you had the kindness shown? Pass it on", all would be fed and watered. Neighbours and visitors to the park would drop in for refreshment and a chat, before the days of multi-channel television, twenty-four hours news and Trevor McDonald, this provided a way of sharing information that even Reuters would be jealous of.
Even the local tramp, Pat Quinn, would visit Rosella and her family.
After the coal man had tipped the coal out onto the street Pat would take it in for people. Rosella would treat him to a bottle of tea and some sandwiches, nicely thick cut, even though her friends warned her that doing so would only encourage him to visit more often.
Pat would sleep in people's toilet blocks and eat bacon fries cooked on a shovel heated by a furnace at the mines. Hardly nutritious by today's standards.
As West Hallam celebrated their Carnival Queen, Mapperley had her very own fancy dress parade. All the children dressed up, their parents looking on proud at their transformation. However one little boy wasn't impressed when his mother lovingly dressed him up as a French poodle. Godfrey's likeness to a small dog was amazing, so much so that he screamed in horror as he realised his new persona.
At the time, Mr Johnson was headmaster of Mapperley School. His rule was strict but fair, unafraid of using corporal punishment; his cane was no stranger to the young students.
Mr Johnson's rule was no deterrent to young Billy Straw though. Much to the mixed horror and amusement of his classmates, Billy would dress up in Miss Hunt's coat and hat, take out the headmaster's cane from the cupboard and sing in a nonsense voice - "Doo dee doo dee doo!" Though apparently fearless himself, the rest of the class worried about what would happen if the teachers were to find Billy in the middle of his rebellious revue.
Billy had a plan. Each time he took out Mr Johnson's cane he'd cut a little piece from the bottom hoping one day to wear it out completely, sparing the class from its cruel sting.
The morning's playtime saw mothers bringing children their lunch and elevenses, some cocoa and cake. And even though Rosella's young grand-daughter, Nora, had spent the morning talking in class, Mr Johnson would let her take a break from her lines to pick up her snack.
Miss Hunt, as well as unwittingly sharing a coat and hat with Billy Straw, was a good teacher whose scripture lessons left the children inspired and informed. Their knowledge of the Bible was unsurpassed, beating that of their eventual teachers at West Hallam School when they left Mapperley.
Nora's report card as she left school, at the age of fourteen, to join the world of work read "Excellent. Splendid knowledge of the scriptures." A testament to Miss Hunt and Mr Johnson.
When the greenhouse full of coal caught fire, Charlie Durow was called upon to help put it out lest the ARP warden, or worse still the Luftwaffe, see Charlie, whose kindly nature was loved by all, immediately helped his friend Rosella and her family to take care of the fire.
The mines and the time provided much sad use for Rosella's board. Her services as a nurse regretfully of no use as she helped the dead on their way.
And yet on hearing of Mr Fensom's demise she had the 'presence of mind' to leave the board where it was, not only to spare Charlie's back but in response to what may be called woman's intuition.
As Rosella and Charlie entered the room, Mr Fensom sat upright in bed, probably surprised to receive such a visit. His family perhaps mistaking an afternoon nap for slumber with God.
Unfortunately Mr Fensom was ill and weeks later passed away. Rosella's board taken from behind the toilet door to perform its grim duty once more.
Rosella rests in Mapperley churchyard. She's most probably in heaven cooking tea for the saints and inviting angels in for cake and a chat, her bonnet atop her head, a smile upon her face. Remember her kindness, and pass it on.....