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How Nellie, 100, was drafted into Doncaster's wartime milk round

Nellie Taylor marks her 100th birthday. Picture: David Kessen
Nellie Taylor marks her 100th birthday. Picture: David Kessen

Nellie Taylor had a tough start in life.

Nellie, of Rosedale Road, Bentley, was born during a German air raid. Not the blitz, the scourge of British cities during the second world war, but a raid by German Zeppelin airships during World War One.

Her her dad, John Gore, was a miner. Mum Rosanne worked in cotton mills before she married. John made a career move in the early 1920s which changed Nellie's whole life - he switched from his job in Wigan to find work in Doncaster, moving to South Yorkshire to work at Rossington Colliery.

It was Rossington where she started school, and it was where she was living when she went down with scarlet fever as a young child.

She was put in isolation at what was known as Conisbrough fever hospital, and spent around six weeks there, along with her sister who went down with the same illness.

By the time she was out of hospital, the family had moved from Rossington, and was now living in Bentley, where her dad had switched to the local colliery. Fresh out of hospital, Nellie started at the village school on Grange Avenue.

She didn't like school, but kept out of trouble, and left school at the age of 14, in 1932, to get a job in service at a property on Bentley Road, a painter and decorator's premises which is now a vets surgery.

Nellie remembers her first day at work well. She said: "I nearly got sacked on my first day. I was asked to clean the windows, and they were old fashioned sash windows. You had to sit outside on the window sill to clean them. It was on the upstairs floor and I was scared, so I refused to do it.

"At the end of the day I asked if they still wanted me. They said come back tomorrow, and I was shown a way to do it without going outside."

She left the job a year later for another one, which paid a shilling more. It was in service again, this time for John Holmes builders.

She changed jobs again, and soon went to work at Peglers in Balby. She spent three years working on a polishing machine. It was hard work, and she spent three years there. "I didn't like it there," she said. "It was too strict. They didn't call your name when they wanted you - they just whistled."

Having left her factory job she headed to work looking after a disabled woman in Epsom, Suurey, near to where her brother was working. But that job was cut short.

It was the late 1930s, and war was threatening. Her employer had two sons, one in Epsom, and one in Canada, and decided to move to Canada, away from the imminent war.

With her job gone, Nellie returned to Doncaster, working as an usherette at what was then the Palace cinema, on Silver Street, but has most recently been the Kooky nightclub.

"I enjoyed that job," she said. "It was easy, walking down with a light. I got to see a lot of films around that time. But war had broken out and I wasn't able to do that job for long."

Instead, she was forced to switch jobs and take on a milk round. She was given a big cart to push, with two big wheels as she delivered milk over a wide area in Intake, near where the Doncaster Royal Infirmary is now. It had no brakes.

"If you were on a hill, you had to make sure that the wheels were touching the kerb, to stop it rolling," she said. "I had one day off a week, and had to push it miles. I was really fit then. If you walked away from the cart, someone would steal a bottle.

"I couldn't leave it during the war - it was part of the war effort."

Eventually, the war ended with Nellie celebrating at a street party on Victoria Road.

And it was after the war she met Horace, her husband, a miner. The couple met at a dance at Bentley Pavilion, and they married in 1949.

By then she had finally been able to leave the milk round, and was working at Wilkinsons on Priory Place, doing alternations to clothes. In the 50s she worked at Ellands wholesalers, and she retired in the 1970s while working, again doing clothes alterations, at Richard Shops, at the Arndale, now the Frenchgate Centre.

During her retirement she used to look after her nephews and nieces during the school holidays, and made bouquets for weddings.

Husband Horace died in 1995, a few years before they would have celebrated their golden wedding. More recently, she has enjoyed going shopping in town, She went three days a week going into town until suffering a fall in 2017, and now goes once a week with her niece Pauline Handley. Her favourite shop is Marks and Spencer, but she feels the town centre is not as good as it was in her younger days for shopping, when she thought there were more independent shops.

This week she celebrated her 100th birthday, with a meal at Whitby's Fish and Chip Shops, and a party at the Mount Pleasant Hotel for friends and family.