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Family Of Four: 29 - Quiet Sundays

...After tea we had Bible stories read to us, and in the winter usually held our own Chapel service. Arranging the dining chairs in two rows we would choose the hymn, singing without any music. "Onward Christian Soldiers", "There is a green hill far away" and "All things bright and beautiful" were amongst our favourites. A prayer or two followed and we all enjoyed these simple services...

Mrs Vivien Hirst recalls quiet Sundays at home.

Mrs Hirst's memories of her childhood were gathered into a book by her nephew, Mr Raymond Prior.

Sunday afternoons were a quiet time, for Daddy withdrew to the couch in the dining room. Dropping the two arms at either side, fetching a couple of cushions, and a rug to cover himself, there he fell into deep sleep, which seemed to refresh him miraculously for another busy week.

After tea we had Bible stories read to us, and in the winter usually held our own Chapel service. Arranging the dining chairs in two rows we would choose the hymn, singing without any music. "Onward Christian Soldiers", "There is a green hill far away" and "All things bright and beautiful" were amongst our favourites. A prayer or two followed and we all enjoyed these simple services.

Sunday School played a very small part in the lives of Bobby and myself. Doreen and Rex had been attending Highfield Sunday School for a year or two and were happy there, Doreen bringing back picture cards which appealed to us and telling us all about them. I expect Rex had them too, but they would be stuffed away in his pocket no doubt!

Each year there was a Sunday School treat which Bobby and I were invited to attend, and sports were arranged - races, including egg and spoon, and the sack race, jumping both long and high, games of many kinds. Tea was served on long tables in the field, or disappointingly, when wet, in the Sunday School. Bobby and I were interested and quite ready for our turn to come.

Alas! We had a quite different experience. Mummy had a friend, Miss Kitty Shaw, who had begun a class for children whom she knew at Lindley, and she begged Mummy to allow Bobby and me to join. We were dubious about this, but, of course, had to go nevertheless.

The walk was a mile long, and needless to say we always walked. The class was held in the vestry of the Church, which smelled musty and disagreeable, a combination of paper and dust I thought, but perhaps it was because there was only the one closed window. The walls were surrounded by the choir boys' surplices. Chairs were arranged in a half circle in front of these, and Miss Kitty played on a harmonium by the door, in dim light.

I suppose there were a dozen of us. I had the misfortune to sit next to a girl called Janet Watts, who was not a friend of mine, being too clever and sarcastic. She bullied me to sing up. "Why don't you sing, Vivien?" she demanded, she having a particularly clear voice drowning my own, until I shrivelled away into my cloak of silence. Bobby, who usually copied me, also trailed off into silence.

We left the stuffy, dull room with relief, but our troubles were not yet over. The three Mason boys, one of them James, who was to become the famous film star, took a delight in chasing us on the way home. I would dodge round the mighty trees standing in the middle of the pavement trying to escape, which was just what the boys loved. They were always jolly and teasing, but I did not like this at all.

We faced several severe thunderstorms too, and Bobby and I would run, fast as we could, holding hands for comfort, as the lightning flared in great zig-zags in the heavy sky, and the thunder growled and roared.

At last Mummy realised it was no good our continuing any longer, and we were thankfully allowed to stay at home. No further mention was ever made of attending Sunday School, so we never went to Highfield after all!
It was not Miss Kitty's fault in any way; she was always kindness itself. Perhaps the fundamental failure was the difference of that Sunday School from the one we had formed in our imagination

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