The Law's Lass - The Coronation Flowerbed
My Father was known locally as 'The Law' - his official title was 'Parks Superintendent'.
Home was the ivy-covered, detached house in the large grounds. Mother’s fervent wish, in the days when we lived surrounded by neighbours and with five children, had been, “To live in the middle of a field!”
And so it was, at three years old, I first saw the house that was to be ‘home’ for the next quarter of a century, and Mother’s wish came true. It was the house all children draw; door in the middle, windows at each side, winding paths through front and back gardens. Father looked at the place and saw its potential, and soon the North End Recreation Ground at Stockton (now the site of the North Shore Academy) looked more like a ‘Park’, as he made flowerbeds and planted roses and evergreen bushes.
This is how Gwendoline McDiarmid (she was Gwennie Thomas then) describes her new home in the grounds of the North End Recreation Ground on Norton Road in The Law's Lass - her two part book of reminiscences of her life. Later in her memoir she describes how her father marked the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in his own special way...
Each Autumn, Father planned his Spring and Summer show, the steep bank running down to the tennis courts and greens being a good place to show his skill. He arranged the plants in patterns, diamonds and circles. We looked on, fascinated, as he made a graph, working out the numbers and colours required. His ‘Piece de Resistance’ was in Coronation year, 1953. Most people used buses to travel to work and it was subject of much speculation when it became apparent that the flowers actually spelt out a word – perhaps a ‘b’ became visible, then an ‘o’. Then it was revealed as, in all its glory, red wallflowers, blue lobelia and white alyssum read out:
GOD BLESS OUR QUEEN, LONG MAY SHE REIGN
He had kept his secret well. Afterwards, lying in bed, he considered it worthwhile. Mother took brown paper, laid it on his back and, using a warm iron, ‘ironed’ it to ease the pain and stiffness. It was with pride he viewed the photograph of it in the local newspaper. Nearing retirement, it was his ‘Swan song’.
Members of Stockton Library Service can download both parts of Gwendoline's story from our e-book catalogue.