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Margaret Ledley, Group Leader (Philosophical Issues). Joined 1980s
I was born in London, England, in 1930 and named Margaret Annie Martha Abbott. If I had been born on the same day as Princess Margaret, my parents would have received a gift of money. Alas I came later, but still received the name. The other names are those of my two grandmothers.
I have one sister, six years older than myself. My parents suffered the loss of two sons through disease before she was born. My father died in 1932 because of working in a garage that wasn’t properly ventilated – after his death it was pulled down. It was hard for my mother, money was very short. When I was seven we moved to a village called Brightlingsea in Essex and lived there throughout the War. Mother would earn maybe 10 shillings for a week’s work, and with food rationing it was not always easy to have food on the table. However, many people would help by inviting me to lunch. Mother was a remarkable woman; she would smile even when we were hungry and was a great inspiration to many. She had left school aged 10. I think that my father would have taught her as he was well educated.
During the War there were many air raids on our village – being on the North Sea coast it was very close to France. We spent a lot of time in air raid shelters. But my mother was a tower of strength – when you have someone you know will look after you, you are at peace within yourself. In our village we had German and Italian prisoners-of-war working on the farms, and many times we would see them marching in the main street going for lunch. For many years after the War, I would tremble at the sound of an aeroplane.
In Brightlingsea I had an elementary education. I enjoyed my school days and kept in touch with two of my teachers till they died. After leaving school I went to London to train as a cook, working in a hospital in Fulham.
My mother died in 1948 from a lung disease. My sister married and I came to Australia with her and her husband in 1949 – a six-week voyage with 656 other passengers. We had an aunty who had been here for many years. She sponsored me and paid my ten-pound fare and I repaid her as soon as I could. The photo shows me with Aunty in 1950, not long after arriving in Melbourne.
The day after we arrived I was employed at the Royal Melbourne Hospital – cooks were much in demand in those days. Later I worked at the Queen Victoria Hospital and also at Queens College. Melbourne. I met my husband Robert at a square dance and we married in 1953. Now we have two sons, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
I have all my life been associated with voluntary work – I was a Girl Guide Leader for 30 years, then with Riding for the Disabled for many years and St John Ambulance for 18 years. Robert and I now both help at the Royal Flying Doctor Service when needed, and I visit folk in a nearby hostel for a chat weekly.
I joined Melbourne City U3A in the late 1980s, when it was in the CAE building. History was my favourite subject at school, so I enrolled in the Philosophy class with Tutor Jack Little. When Jack died, and no one could be found to take his place, I offered to coordinate the class as a Group Leader and we are still going strong, with lively discussion every week. I enjoy my time with folk at U3A and continue to learn every day. U3A gives us all a communication with many different walks of life. At age 81, I am proud to have been part of the crowd for so long and I thank all the staff of U3A for their help over the years.
Margaret A M Ledley, October 2011