Click to hear Curly (9mins 14 secs)

Winifred Barber was born in Birmingham, England, in 1907. She was blessed with the ability of perfect recall of the details of her long life. At the age of 93 she made this recording of her friendship with a soldier who had been wounded in World War I, in 1916.

As the war progressed hospitals in Great Britain became unable to accommodate the rising numbers of wounded returning from the battles in France; to ease matters, the Government began requisitioning schools, turning them into temporary hospitals.

Winifred was delighted when her school was requisitioned because that meant she only had part-time schooling elsewhere; on one week she wold attend the new school in the mornings, and the next week in the afternoons.

She often filled her free time by taking walks with her brother in the countryside around Kings Heath, where she lived. On the way they would often stop a the railings of the playground of the requisitioned school, to talk to the men who had been pushed, in their beds, into the fresh air.

This the story of Winifred’s friendship with one of those soldiers, an American named Curly.

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2 Responses to Curly

  1. Di Oliver says:

    What a brilliant recording – how wonderful that you captured her memories – I’m not at all surprised this won an award.

  2. Mike Dickins says:

    Thanks for your response, Di. It’s very rewarding when people let me know what they think. Winifred was quite remarkable – I hardly had to intervene to make the recordings. We did them in her lounge, sitting side-by-side on her sofa. My main contribution was just editing.

    I originally did pieces about her for our local Talking Newspaper (the Wyre Forest TN) – she, being blind, was one of our listeners. Eventually we expanded the series into 36 pieces for our local BBC radio station, BBC Hereford & Worcs; on the last broadcast she was invited into the studio where she talked live to the presenter, Mike George. Afterwards she, and the team, had a cup of tea and biscuits together, using the crockery which had last been used by HM Queen on the occasion of her visit some time earlier!

    Alas, she was never entered for an award (perhaps I’ll give it some thought) but what I am thinking of doing is – say – every fourth programme on the blog, including a piece about her until all the 36 parts are used up. She covers the period from the year she was born (1907) to the end of WW2, 1945. What a lot of change there was over those 38 years.

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