I ‘met’ Nicky on Twitter very recently, when, feeling unwell, I put out a random Tweet asking for people, who might be bored in Lockdown Number 3, to share a photograph of their tea towel(s), with a promise that it would then be put into the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. “That’s not what I expected” I said as the pictures came flooding in, and they still are. For a Tea Towel Collector, and the Curator of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, this process has been a joy, as well as being hilarious.
“That’s not what I expected” was my comment when BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester rang to ask me to come on the Malcom Bowden Morning Show. They had discovered Nicky’s tea towel that she had posted, when searching Twitter for some interesting local stories. It was from Feckenham First School, Feckenham being in Worcestershire. They like a local ‘good news story’ and thought it would be a good idea to have this tea towel officially inaugurated into the Virtual Tea Towel Museum, on air. We all spotted the irony of this inauguration, taking place a few hours before Joe Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States (but that wouldn’t be a local story). So there we were, my speech prepared, Nicky telling the background story of the tea towel and probably all thinking that this was bonkers. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages.
Two listeners contacted the Museum: “Have been listening to BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, what a super idea, very uplifting at this time” said Eirlys and Ruth said “I think this is a fantastic idea. First heard about it on my local radio station yesterday… It really made my day. Thanks” and, let’s face it, that is what #TheGreatTeaTowelSharing project is all about.
Besides “That’s not what I expected”, three thoughts occurred to me: firstly, I already have a very distant ‘connection’ with Nicky because she works at the Primary School that Lyra attends, and Hamish did attend; secondly, that this was the school where I created two ‘Sunflower’ tea towels from the drawings of one class who were copying the style of Van Gogh and lastly, Nicky would make a great Guest Tea Towel 2021. And that is where we are today, because Nicky agreed to take part. Here is her story:
“My Dad, Peter Masters, can be seen on this tea towel. In the year 2000, he was working as the School Caretaker, after taking retirement as a tool maker at the Longbridge Car factory in Birmingham.
Feckenham is a small village in Worcestershire and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It’s famous as being the site of King John’s Hunting Lodge, and more recently, Barrett’s of Feckenham, famous for sheepskin coats!
My Dad was born, and brought up, in Feckenham, by his grandparents, after his Mom sadly died when he was a few days old. He was born in March 1938. At the age of 5, he joined Feckenham School. He left at the age of 14 to attend nearby Redditch Technical School.
The school was first opened in 1859 as Feckenham National School with 120 pupils attending. The school faced closure during the 1980s, as pupil numbers fell. Parents joined together to campaign to keep it open. It is a First School, and teaches pupils up to Year 4. Pupils then transfer to a Middle School and then move up again to a High School. The 3-Tier system is quite unusual.
When my Dad retired from work, he was still very active and looking for part-time employment so the role of Caretaker for the school was an ideal opportunity. He was working in the school in 2000 when the school, like many others, commemorated the new Millenium.
Dad isn’t sure which pupil drew his likeness for the tea towel but it is a very good likeness. However, his beard is a little greyer now!
As a family, finding out the tea towel was to join the Virtual Tea Towel Museum has given us the opportunity to chat, and reminisce, and to wonder about the paths the young people featured have followed over the 20 years after it’s printing”
I had been wondering what a ‘First’ school was, and now I know. Thank you, Nicky, for taking part and for a great Tea Towel Story. Tea towels can be part of that ‘family archive’ that we all need, especially at this time when seeing family, in the flesh, can be difficult.