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A Peep into the Past- Ada`s Story

by JaneJames 

Posted: 16 September 2011
Word Count: 1092
Summary: This is a monologue written to be performed at Bantock House Museum as part of a special evening for Museums' Night. The character is that of Ada, who was a maid for Baldwin and Kitty Bantock in the 1930s. She is leaving their employment and while waiting for transport she is reminiscing about her time working at the house. All information taken from oral history interviews with Ada Mallen herself, carried out by Jane James in 2004, and from research into the Bantock family’s history.

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Well, it’s almost time for me to leave Merridale House for good… (sighs)

I can’t believe that it’s been 2 years since I first came here. I was 14 and just left school-
I was never particularly clever, book-wise, you know. Mum had been in service herself, I don’t know how she got on, with her being deaf, but sometimes we wouldn’t even notice it. I suppose, with me growing up with it, her being deaf was just the way it was, if you know what I mean.
So mum saw this advert for a maid that Mrs. Bantock had put in the paper and thought it might suit me! I didn’t know anything about it, but Mrs. Bantock came to our house, would you believe it, and our mum gave her a cup of tea and they sat there and sorted it out between them. So the first I knew, I’d got a job, and mum delivered me to the front door next day.

I was so nervous…. walking through that big porch, seeing the dining room and the drawing room, and all this grand wood paneling, it was quite overwhelming. I’d never seen anywhere so grand! And then there was the library- where Mr. Bantock used to spend a lot of his time- I was a bit scared to go in there at first.

But Mrs. Bantock was so kind and made me feel right at home. I’ve always said you could never meet with a nicer lady. A few months ago I wasn’t feeling too well and had to stay in bed, well you might think Mrs. Bantock wouldn’t be too pleased, but oh she was wonderful. She came up and told me that I should rest until I was better and- do you know what- she even had a fire lit in my room, and we never normally have the fires lit in our own rooms. All the other fires in the house are such a chore, cleaning them out, re-laying them and making sure they catch before moving on to the next, so we don’t bother in our bedrooms- only more work!
Anyway like I said I was glad of it when I was poorly, and that’s Mrs. Bantock all over, such a kind and thoughtful lady.

And her husband, he’s lovely too- though we don’t see much of him now, he’s so poorly. I think that’s one of the reasons Mrs. Bantock has arranged another job for me-
(whispers) they reckon he won’t be around much longer.
It’s such a shame, he’s a proper gentleman. He sits in the library, trying to stay awake, that’s why he does some knitting. I thought it was a bit funny at first, seeing a gentleman knitting, but it sort of suits him, you know what I mean? He even made me a scarf, I’ll show it to you- oh, actually I think it's in the other case that’s still in my room, so if you don’t mind you can take my word for it that it's very nice.

Sitting here in the dining room reminds me of when I first came here, and Elizabeth, the cook, gave me a cauliflower to wash, that had just been brought in from the garden.
She’d already been going on at me to be careful about hygiene- “look at your hands” she’d say if they were the tiniest bit grimy. So anyway, I thought I’d washed it ever so carefully, but when I went to clear the table Mr. Bantock had lined up a row of caterpillars and all sorts round the edge of his plate! He didn’t say a thing, well he did give me a bit of a look but I think it was almost like he was amused. I must have gone as red as a beetroot, but that was Mr. Bantock all over, not getting cross or anything. Now Elizabeth, that was a different- she gave me a right telling off!

She’s a bit stern sometimes if you get on the wrong side of her, but she’s not really that bad. She’s made me a lovely, pretty dress- blue with these buttons in the shape of dogs- I’d show you but that’s all packed away too. Minnie thought it was beautiful when I showed her.
Oh she does chat ever such a lot, Minnie. She stands there ironing away, by the big fireplace, and tells me all these things about the Bantocks. Apparently Minnie’s little niece visited one Christmas and there was such a heavy snowfall that she couldn’t get home and had to stay here right through. Anyway, Mr. Bantock met her on the stairs and he realized that she had no Christmas present like all the others in the house, so he hunted in his pockets and presented her there and then with half a crown! Minnie said that was typical of Mr. Bantock- he’s always thinking of others.
(Pause and sigh)

I have such fond memories of everyone I’ve met here. True, Lily the housemaid is sometimes a bit prim and proper and Mr. Bantock’s nurse can be a bit bossy. And of course there’s Charles Fewtrell, he's the chauffeur, - oh it makes me blush just to think about him! He has all the girls after him, he’s so handsome, and a charmer as well. He's taking me to the station, aren't I a lucky girl! (Pause, little smile, looks a bit embarrassed)

When I’d only just started here George the gardener taught me to pick gooseberries. We had such fun collecting them, using a big stick to hold the branches back- I still got all scratched! It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, the grounds are so beautiful.

It’s going to be so strange to leave. The Bantocks like the simple life and that’s suited me fine- they don’t have many holidays, what with Mr. Bantock being a bit poorly- but they did go to South Africa. Mrs. Bantock brought back a lovely Stinkwood brooch just for me! She was so thrilled because on the boat on the way back she met Richard Tauber (pronounced touw-ber), the singer. Well, he’s her favourite, she’s got all his records for her gramophone, so you can imagine how delighted she was, just like a girl when she was telling us about it.

I will miss her…………

There’s nobody about now, is there?
I’ll just pop the gramophone on, while I’m waiting to go………………
(Winds up gramophone and plays Richard Tauber 78rpm record. Dim lights)

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