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The Wishy Purse
sarahnicholson.com
 

My Wishy Purse by Agnes Johnson ( nee Connell )

Childhood memories by Agnes Johnson, age 63.

Memories of when I was in Fazakerley cottage Homes.

My Wishy Purse.

It was a cold Wednesday in December, over fifty years ago.

I came out of school at 4 o’clock and started the long walk to the bus stop to take me back to the orphanage. I had quite a lot of streets to walk down and as I came to the last little street and I stopped to look at the little houses, they all had Christmas trees in their parlour windows. And in one little house I could see a Mam and a Dad with their children, playing and putting pretty things on their tree inside their house. The house looked so warm and they all looked very happy, and for a moment I wished I was inside their lovely house with them.

I must have stood there for ages watching them, that the lady of the house came out and asked if I was alright, and was I looking for someone. I said “no, I was just looking at their lovely Christmas tree”. She said  “I better hurry off home” as it was getting very cold. I hurried to the bus stop as I went to school in Norris Green and had to get to Fazakerley Cottage Homes.

On the bus I thought about what the lady had said about ‘hurry off home’. I had never thought off the orphanage as a home, it never felt like a home. It was our second orphanage and by far the worst. When my sister and I arrived we were told by the lady in charge that no one wanted us, that’s why we were put in the orphanage. She told us that repeatedly over the time we were there. It was one of her ways of hurting us and my sister was beaten for not calling her mother and we hadn’t been there an hour. And this was the lady that wanted to be called mother.

But today was Thursday. Thursday was the best day of the week, as it was the Cottage Mother’s day off, and when we came home from school tonight Mrs Jones would be there. Mrs Jones was a lovely Welsh lady who called you by your Christian name and not your surname like the Cottage Mother did and Mrs Jones would sing to us in Welsh and teach us to count in Welsh. And just for one day a week we could relax a bit and not be as frightened. We still had our chores to do as we did everyday. Even the house felt less cold and for just one day a week the sound of being children instead of screams and tears, there was laughter. And this Thursday night was when my Wishy Purse was born. 

On the way to school that Thursday morning I could not stop thinking about Aladdin and his magic lamp. I knew I would never have a magic lamp like Aladdin. Then I had the idea about a purse and I could call it my ‘Wishy Purse’. We never had any money. So I couldn’t go and buy any material to make it. I wouldn’t be allowed to go out to the shops even if I had money. I would have to think of something I could make my Wishy Purse with. That evening while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the day room floor, which was one of my chores, I thought about the big bag of bits of sheets and pillow slips that we used for dusters. I still had to dust the day room so off I went to the cupboard. And there in the bag I found a little piece of old sheet. “ Hurrah” I said to myself, “I can make my Wishy Purse”.

And Thursday night was the night we had to darn our socks. We used to wear ¾ grey wool socks that made your legs itchy. You couldn’t get a new pair. If you got a hole in your toes, you had to darn them. I went to the scullery and most of the other children were there already. I put my little piece of sheet in my pinny pocket so no one would see it. So after I had darned my socks, I kept the needle with the grey wool still in it and managed to get a bit more grey wool in case I didn’t have enough.

I excused myself and asked Mrs Jones could I go to the toilet and there I started to sew my Wishy Purse as fast as I could. I couldn’t finish it all at once, so I had to finish it after a few more trips to the toilet. I managed to put the needle back in the sewing box without anyone seeing me.

Friday was the day we did Art so it was there I made the things I wanted to put in my Wishy Purse. I got some thick paper and cut out a heart, a circle for a penny and some sweet shapes. And I wrote down three wishes on another piece of paper too. And down my sock they went. Where could I hide my Wishy Purse without the Cottage Mother finding it and me getting into trouble. The only place I could think of was in my dormitory. There were three dormitories, each with ten beds. And at the bottom of the dormitory along the wall there were a row of big iron lockers and under mine was a little gap between the floor and the locker.

In my Wishy Purse
Made of paper
1 Paper Heart. So someone could love us.
1 penny to give you good fortune and you will never be hungry
1 some sweets so you can give them away as an act of kindness.

Three wishes
1. That my brother and sister were well
2. That someone would want my sister and me
3. That all the other children would find good homes

And wishes do come true. A lovely couple came to the orphanage to adopt a child. They only wanted one child but they changed their mind and took my sister and me to live with them. I just hope all the other children in the orphanage found good homes or returned to their families. So remember that wishes can come true.