REVISION Since this post was published in 2013, we have had the sad news of Betty’s death at the age of 106. May she rest in peace.
One of the best-known of Draycott’s residents has celebrated a real milestone in her life – getting to and passing her one hundredth birthday!
Bessie Hammond – better known to us all as Betty – is someone special of course.
During her long married life, which she spent at homes in Uttoxeter Road and in Rookery Crescent in Cresswell, she has helped with the delivery of some of the village’s babies (as an unofficial midwife!), raised thousands of pounds for local charities, and has done her bit for the community as a parish councillor of thirty years service.
She’s a legend…
Betty (who had left her native Preston to be married here) and Bill her husband had only just had their first baby when war broke out, and Bill went off into the army to have a distinguished service with the Sherwood Foresters regiment.
Left at home, Betty helped the war effort by working at the Munitions Factory in Swynnerton, where, oddly, her job title was … ‘joiner’! A dearth of men meant women were doing what had been men’s jobs.
Bill had a long war, and was finally badly injured in the push on Anzio during the Italian campaign. His eventual recuperation took place at nearby Sandon Hall.
A story from that time is that one day he and Betty met – by complete coincidence – when a group of the Sandon patients were taken to Hanley as a day-out. Apparently Betty was so pleased to see him, she immediately took him home to Draycott with her!
It was only when MPs came knocking on the door demanding his return that Bill went back to Sandon Hall…
Graham, Betty’ eldest son, tells how his mother would sometimes walk the twenty or so miles to Sandon and back again just to visit Bill.
From the buses to the council
After the war, Betty moved on to become a bus conductress. Bill, who could have sat at home the rest of his life on his army pension, refused to do so, and started work driving for Blythe Colours.
All in all, the couple had five children. Sadly, one of the boys, Roy, was very poorly from his youth and he died while still relatively young.
But Betty couldn’t sit still, even with a job and five children to look after. She organised the VE Day Party for the district, and then decided to qualify to work as a nurse at Stallington Hall Hospital, a home for the mentally-ill which was not far from here.
As someone with medical knowledge, she was quickly in demand from neighbours to help as a midwife, and, even occasionally, in laying out the dead.
In those days – when no working person owned a car, and the district nurse (Nurse Salt or Nurse Capewell) travelled slowly by bicycle – a friendly, knowledgeable, capable person like Betty was worth her weight in gold.
Even after she left nursing, she was still being called on for advice.
From there, it was almost inevitable that she’d become even more involved with community activities.
She become a governor at Draycott Junior & Infant School; she raised funds for St Margaret’s Church and for Loxley Hall School; she organised another street party – this time on Rookery Crescent green for the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana; she raised funds for the local Luncheon Club; and she served on Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council for thirty years, from 1977-2007, retiring at the grand age of 94!
However, she says that one of her proudest moments was attending the Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph in London just a few years ago. Bill had died by then, and she wanted to attend the Albert Hall ceremony, and to wear his medals in the parade on the day itself.
When the other servicemen on the day looked at her small and apparently frail frame, they offered to carry her round.
But Betty, as you can guess – even in her nineties, as she was – would have none of that!
Among her other qualities, Betty does not mince words, and says what she thinks.
Friends and colleagues from the church and from Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council have organised other events – but one big party was on March 23rd 2013 (the actual birthday day itself) at Draycott Sports Centre.
See: photos from Betty’s 100th Birthday Party
Betty may be entering her second century, and she does now have ailments of her own, but she still looks after herself, in her own bungalow, and is still living in Draycott – and nobody will be surprised if she doesn’t continue to be the life and soul of the party… as usual!