navigation buttons

Penny and ducks

Penny and ducks
Penny and ducks in Peggy's garden

Memories of Peggy

My aunt Peggy was the first of six children in the Hislop family. During the Second World War she worked for the Norwegian section of the Special Operations Executive. My father writes in his memoirs:

"Peggy, my elder sister, was easily the best of my generation of Hislops. She died in Oslo from a heart attack on the morning of the day when she would have sat on the left hand side of the King of Norway at a dinner in her and one other person's honour in recognition of the assistance they gave to the Norwegian Resistance Fighters. This was in 1958. She is buried in the Oslo War Cemetery in the Inner Sanctuary where the Norwegian War heroes are buried. The inscription on the stone is just 'Our Peggy'."

Read her obituary written by Malcolm Munthe.

Although she died in 1958 she was an enormous influence in my life, and I have vivid memories of spending four idyllic summers, without my parents, at her home in Oakhanger, near Crewe, in Cheshire. From the age of seven to the age of eleven, in the middle of summer I was sent by train in charge of the guard to Crewe, where I was collected by my Uncle Edwin in his Austin 7 and taken to her cottage in Oakhanger which was, as I saw it from my perspective as a suburban child from Edgware, in the depths of the countryside. There I fed the geese and hens in Peggy's garden and ran wild all day with another child (a son of a friend of Peggy's).

The cottage was surrounded by fields. One field was our favourite; we climbed over the fence and ran to the stream at the bottom of a steep incline, where we would play for hours at damming the stream. Whatever the weather we were out all day, eating our sandwiches that had been wrapped in greaseproof paper, arriving back at the cottage for tea muddy and filthy and full of tales of the adventures we'd had and the places up stream we'd explored. All of this was completely out of sight of any adults, with no one questioning the total freedom we were given and the complete and utter trust we had in ourselves in being out alone and only eight years old.

The cottage had no electricity and to keep the ancient Aga alight my aunt, who had a weak heart, had to rake over the coals throughout the day. She was up before anyone was awake and as I drifted off to sleep I could hear her in the kitchen damping down the coals. Despite the years that have passed I can recall the smell of damp and oil lamps, and the fire in the sitting room grate, which was lit even in summer to ward off the damp, and I remember the nights closing in and how, as we talked, the shadows made by the lamps danced against the walls.