Obituary: Florence (Florrie) Hilda Garfoot

Florence (Florrie) Hilda Garfoot EMN-140930-091737001
Florence (Florrie) Hilda Garfoot EMN-140930-091737001

Following a private family cremation, a service of celebration for Florence (Florrie) Hilda Garfoot (nee Shearsmith) was held at Caistor Parish Church.

The Rev Canon Ian Robinson led a full congregation of family, friends and neighbours which included the singing of Florrie’s favourite hymns.

Grandchildren Richard, Mark and Holly Garfoot paid tribute with their bible and poetry readings, and eldest son Colin reflected on the long, full and eventful life of their matriarchal family figure head.

Florrie was born on July 16, 1920, the fourth daughter of William and Emma Shearsmith, who were landlords and farmers at the Fleece Inn (Top House), Caistor.

As a young girl she could still remember the famous sheep fairs held at the Fleece Inn.

Florrie attended the Caistor Chapel School, where she excelled academically but poor family finances meant she had to leave school at the age of 14 years and one week.

During her school years she had a number of jobs, including helping her father deliver milk in Caistor by pony and trap, with the milk measured out of a churn in jugs, she sold cakes on a Saturday morning from a basket around Caistor and delivered fish and chips by cycle on Saturday lunch times.

From an early age she had the work ethic and this remained with her to the end.

Whilst working at home she learnt to help with the annual pig killing, made sausages and pork pies, churned butter and milked cows by hand.

Florrie was also an enthusiastic member of the Girl Guides in the 1930s, as well as the Chapel Sunday School.

Aged 15, Florrie commenced work in Beech House at Caistor as a ‘Day Girl’, where her hours were 7.30am to 5.30pm and the wage for helping with the cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing was five shillings (25p).

In 1930 Florrie left home to work as a Headmistress’s maid at the London Orphan School in Watford, where her hours were 7am until 9.30pm, for the sum of 7s 9d per week plus board and lodgings.

1938 saw Florrie move to a guest house in Ealing Common in London where her role was House Parlour maid and a short move to North Ealing in 1940 brought Florrie to work for Captain GS Wilkinson, who developed the very successful Napier engine.

During the winter of 1940, Florrie slept in a bomb shelter at the bottom of the garden and often heard the London blitz.

In 1941 Florrie presented herself at the Air Ministry in London, volunteering for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAFFS) and from then to 1946 she served at six different air stations in five different counties.

Initially her role was on domestic duties, but she remustered and trained as an electrical engineer on heavy bombers. After one “air sick” trip on a Wellington Bomber she was grounded, but continued to repair, maintain and rewire aircraft.

Demob in 1946 saw Florrie return to civvy life working in Caistor shops and on a wet cold January day in 1947 Florrie married Wilbert (Wib) Charles Garfoot at Caistor Church.

Their home for the next 15 years was in the game keeper’s cottage by Pelham’s Pillar.

1953 saw water piped to their home and in 1960 electricity was installed; prior to that date they relied on pumped water from a well and oil lamps, while their mode of transport in the early years of marriage was a pony and trap.

The result of Florrie and Wib’s marriage was three children - Daphne, Colin and Ian. Sadly Wib died in 1976, but over the next 38 years Florrie was blessed with six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and a further two she was looking forward to greeting this coming winter.

Florrie’s life centred around her family, but she was also blessed with so many good friends and neighbours.

For more than 55 years Florrie was a member of Caistor WI, holding the positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer at different times and she was quietly thrilled to be presented with long service awards by both Terry Waite and Countryfile’s Adam Henson.

Florrie also attended and supported Caistor Church, Mother’s Union, Friendship Club, Caistor Society, South Kelsey Luncheon Club and Domino Club, Snitterby and North Kelsey Whist Drives, Caistor Town Hall Productions and Caistor Schools.

And whilst Florrie never regarded her life has been anymore than normal and routine, she was regarded by her family and many friends as being quite remarkable.

J W Varlow & Son carried out the funeral arrangements, with donations received for Caistor First Responders, the RNLI and also Caistor Church.

Her day ended with refreshment prepared by Kate Jacobs in the Caistor Chapel School Room, where 90 years earlier Florrie had started her formal education.