|This was written by Lilian Smither, a daughter of the Westbrook family in April 1982|
Why, at the age of 81, do my thoughts constantly turn to the above dates? Running to the Village School with sister Edith and Brother Willie. Falling and cutting my knee very badly; each holding my hands, Edith hanging on to a Baker’s cart, my little legs could not keep up, hence the bad fall. This was a practise enjoyed by children at that time - to keep pace with the horse. I still have the scar on my knee.
Our home was a mile from the School, Sylvesters Farm, Lower Froyle, which was rented by my Father, the late George Herrett Westbrook.
Alas. My brother died in February, 1906 from Pneumonia. He was 7 years and 6 months old, I was 5 years and 9 months. This tragedy is as clear today in my mind, as the day it happened.
Upon receiving a note from mother, the Head Master sent for my sister and together we were told to go home at once. He kindly sent an older girl with us, May Webb, she lived at Saintbury Hill Farm. How we ran that mile; over the gate into the meadow, (now the Recreation Ground), over the next gate, through the orchard and home. We were taken upstairs where Mother and Father sat beside Willie's bed, we girls joined them, everything was very quiet. I touched his hand he moved it. The next time I touched it, he did not move it, and we were told to go downstairs. So, I a child of 5 and Edith 10, had witnessed the death of our only brother.
My memory is a blank until the day of the funeral. I was in a black dress, black stockings, and boots, black ribbon in my hair and a black edged handkerchief. Likewise Sister Edith. Black horses drew the Mourning Carriages with black plumes attached to their harness. Again that same mile, as the Church was near the School. I was standing between Father's knees in the carriage and he called my attention to the school children standing outside the school with their Teachers. The picture is so clear it will never leave me. My memory ends here, no recollection of the service in the Church or at the Cemetry. Four big School boys acted as Bearers. Many folk from the village came to see him in his white coffin, some bringing their children. As I grew up I was told I nearly pulled the coffin of the bed in my eagerness to see him.
Then back at home; the drawing room full of people, relations and friends, all dressed in black, many in tears and a bewildered 5 year old in the midst of it all. I still possess the Memorial Card and envelope which Mother had given me, with my name, Lilian, written on the envelope. She made sure I also had a card like all the family far and near. Black edged with a spray of flowers and the words “Jesus called a Little Child unto Him” on the outside of the card.
We had a little sister, Grace, she was 18 months old and another baby sister arrived 2½ months later, Ena. These two sisters still live in the village of Lower Froyle, but I doubt whether any people in that little village to-day remember our brother.
The photo was taken from a Family group. My Sisters still have the large photo, which has always hung over the piano in the three different houses occupied by the Westbrook family, in Lower Froyle. As young girls, learning to play the piano, we only had to look up and there was Willie looking down at us.
Today, would a child of 5 or even 10, be taken to a death bed and a funeral? How customs change, the world is a harder place today. My observation is that folk throw off death more quickly, life is so busy. Maybe this is as well for life has to go on, no matter what happens.