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Personal Glimpses of Normandy Past

Our small part in the story of
Red Leys
by Tony Lorton (Cape Town, South Africa)

Our involvement with Red Leys started in 1953/54 when Ann's aunt responded to an appeal in a national newspaper for adoptive 'aunts' and 'uncles' for the children. Ann adopted a girl who would be, in 1958, a bride's maid at our wedding. By 1956 we had both moved to employment in London and would hitch-hike on some weekends to Normandy to join in the care and entertainment of the children. We even took the older ones to a fete at Osterley Rugby Club where I was a player.

Our first residential period at Red Leys started in October 1959; motivated by Mummy Martin's illness. I was starting the final year of a civil engineering degree at Imperial College, for which I commuted by train. Ann gave up her research job at Glaxo and thus we became 'house-parents' to eight, racially mixed children all living in the upper flat of Red Leys. Unfortunately, Ann and I were obliged to "move on" (so to speak), since my job firstly took me to Newcastle, then to Bristol and Barry and finally to Sierra Leone and Hong Kong.

As my Hong Kong contract was coming to its end we learned that Mummy Martin was in a financial fix. So we halted our globe trotting and returned in June 1967 to live with our two sons and two of the fostered boys in a mobile home in the grounds of Red Leys. We firstly put our case to the authority from which the children came to double the child care fees. In short order the increase was granted, thus easing Mummy Martin's problems. We then became aware of the problem of fostered children being obliged care for themselves without assistance after the age of sixteen years. We thought it necessary for a halfway house to ease the transition to full independence.

We bought a house in Guildford that already had two suitable bed-sitting rooms and moved there in November 1967 with four girls who were making the transition, two to each bedsitter. There, the girls fended for themselves during the week and we lived as a family of eight (soon nine with our third son) at the weekends. After a few years, we felt the urge to travel again and invited any of the girls who were interested to come with us. Two sisters made strenuous efforts to raise the necessary funds and joined us to depart by ship from Tilbury for South Africa in January 1971 (see photo below). I think that we have all made good lives for ourselves in this lovely land. We had kept in contact with a few of Red Leys' children of the 50s and 60s but our contacts have increased considerably with our recent introduction to Facebook and we will meet some on our visit to UK this year.

Mummy Martin's farewell at Tilbury
Mummy Martin's farewell to two former Red Leys girls
Left to Right:
Martin Lorton* (in the arms of 'Auntie'), Mary-Jane Lorton, James Moss, Ann Lorton*, fronted by Richard Lorton*, Shirley Moss*, fronted by Kevin Lorton*, 'Mummy' Martin, Kathleen Moss*, Joe Moss (Dad).
* = En route to South Africa
Also see
Red Leys

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