This story of Ricky, a rather special and
charming lady, spans the years from 1909 till 2003. After leaving school at
a young age, Ricky went into domestic service. One of her employers took an
interest in Ricky and was able to secure a position for her as a nurse
probationer in a local hospital. She met her husband Gwyn, a medical doctor
in a London hospital. They married in London and because they both wished to
travel he joined the British Colonial Medical Service and was seconded to
Singapore and British Malaya in 1938.
Gwyn was in charge of a hospital in Kulim in the
north of Malaya. In the latter part of 1941 he developed a psychiatric
illness requiring hospitalisation in Singapore. Gwyn was in hospital when
the Japanese invaded Singapore in February 1942. Ricky, with her two small
children, Yvonne and Bronwen, and six months pregnant, had a miraculous and
dramatic escape from Singapore a short time before it fell to the Japanese.
Gwyn was captured by the Japanese and was a prisoner of war in Changi and
Syme Road internment camps for three and a half years. Ricky and the
children did not see or hear from him for nearly four years.
Ricky and the children escaped on a small
merchant ship that left Singapore just before Singapore fell. After two
weeks at sea Ricky and the children arrived in Colombo, Ceylon and then
travelled in another ship to Bombay, India. David was born in Bombay and the
family then settled in Pachmarhi, a hill station, 864 kilometres inland from
Bombay, for nearly three years. Ricky and her children arrived in England
from India in February 1945. Gwyn returned to England in December 1945, a
very ill man both physically and psychologically. Tessa, the youngest family
member, was born in England in 1947. Times were tough and difficult in
post-war England from 1945 till 1951.
The family immigrated to Australia in the latter
part of 1951. Ricky experienced much tragedy, was a refugee, a heroine, the
lynch pin of her family, an immigrant and a woman of remarkable resilience.
She was greatly loved and admired by her children and by all who met her.
Ricky recorded her family history on tape at the
age of 87 and her daughter, Yvonne, had access to letters, documents and
photo albums and also was aided by discussions with all of her family
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Number of pages: 164
Cover: Clive Dalkins
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My mother Ricky died on New Year’s Day 2003, aged 91.
She would have reached the age of 92 in June of that year. In her last few weeks
the family and I found it very painful to observe her physically wasting and
slipping away, yet her mind was still very sharp. It is sad to have a very lucid
conversation with a loved person when a short time later they no longer exist.
It is very difficult to accept the finality of it all even though one knows that
it is inevitable. I consider myself to have been very lucky to have had a mother
for 63 years, even though I wish that I had had a few more years to enjoy her.
Up until the age of 87, Ricky enjoyed an active physical
life. Despite being widowed at the age of 64, she was content and enjoyed the
role of the matriarch of the family.
When Ricky was at her last residence, the nursing home
‘Marycrest’, managed by Catholic nuns of the Sisters of Charity, photos of her
family surrounded her. However, the most important photo for her was the one
taken of her with her brother and sister when she was a young girl. The three
children were all beautifully dressed in their best clothes made for them by
their mother. At the time the photo was taken their father was serving in France
on the Western Front, during the First World War. Ricky’s childhood memories
were happy ones, and that is what she wished to remember when she knew she was
In her last few days she liked quietness, so she could
relive her past through memories. I used to sit with her after the initial
greeting, pleasantries and attending to a few of her requests, and she enjoyed
the silence, living with her memories. I used to sit beside her, close to her
bed or to the chair she may have been sitting in at the time, and sometimes read
to her until she signified to me that she had had enough.
On occasions she would recite poetry to me, poems she had
learnt by heart as a child. I felt very privileged listening to her reciting
with her beautiful voice, so precise and so English. Ricky also recited long
tracts from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that she still remembered. I
treasured these moments with her. As a Christmas present in 1952, I was given
this book in Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation.
Ricky was born in Islington, East London, on 15 June
1911 to William and Ada Restorick. She was their second child and was named
Gladys Irene. Later in life, she became known as Ricky.
The surname Restorick originates from Restowrack, a farm in
the parish of St Dennis in Cornwall. The origin of Restowrack is from the
Cornish language: ‘ros’ (heath or hill-spur) and ‘dowrack’ (watery). The
earliest mention of the surname is from 1254. The surname over the years has
been variously spelt as Rostourec 1278, 1293, 1311; Resdourex 1357 and 1370; and
Restowrack 1559 and 1618.1
The ancestors of the Restoricks/Restaricks lived in the towns and villages
of East Devon from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The towns of relevance to the
Restoricks were Axminster, Axmouth, and Beer. Axminster was a little market
town; Axmouth was a village described in 1875 as being situated in the midst of
orchards, fields, hedges, and trees; Beer was a fishing village, with a quarry
whose stone was prized for its easy carving. The stonemasons worked underground.
When exposed to the air, the stone becomes very hard. It has been used in many
churches and cathedrals in the south of England. Other towns were Colyford, a
village once much bigger than it is now; Colyton, the smallest town in Devon
situated on the green and pleasant banks of the River Coly amidst water meadows
and sheltered by rolling hills; Honiton, noted in the past for the manufacture
of fine lace; Ottery St Mary, a market town; Salcombe Regis, with striking
coastal scenery; Seaton, a small seaside town; and Sidmouth, which used to be a
small market and fishing town, and which has many buildings of a Regency
Henry Restorick of Colyton and Beer, baptised on 26
December 1769, was a distant ancestor of Ricky’s father. The Restoricks of
Colyton were bakers from the early eighteenth century, the tradition continuing
through Henry Restorick, who settled in Beer around 1792, and his son William,
who moved to London in the 1820s and whose descendants were bakers until 1994.3
Ricky’s father, whose name was also William, came from a
family of four sons and one daughter (four children died young). His father, who
had moved from Shoreditch, was a master baker in Clerkenwell in central London.
William, the eldest, was also trained as a baker. He was born on 11 March 1883
at home in Hoxton, the East End of London, and he died on 27 February 1955 at
Southend-on-Sea. He married Ada Mary Ann Fox in Hoxton on 22 August 1908. His
mother was Elizabeth McCallum4. The bakery named Restorick was at 18
Penton Street, Islington, London, until 1994. The bakehouse was at the rear of
Ada Fox, Ricky’s mother, came from a family of five girls.
She was born at home in Clerkenwell in central London on 8 December 1881. The
family lived in Islington, London. Ada’s father, another William, was a
vulcaniser described as an India rubber maker. Ada’s mother was Elizabeth Rosina
Husk, daughter of Henry and Charlotte Husk, and she was born in 1853 at St
Pancras, in central London. Ada was the middle daughter and her profession, as
described in the Census of 1901, was a military belt stitcher6.
However, Ricky describes her as a seamstress.
The Fox family attended the Vernon Baptist church. The
youngest daughter, May Fox, was a singer. The Fox women were all rather
good-looking and Ada, in later life, vowed that when she was young there had
been many men interested in her. Ricky recalled her grandfather Fox as a lovely,
kind and good man7.
Ada and William met through the church, married in London,
and had three children: Percival (later known as Peter), the eldest; Gladys
(known later as Ricky and in this story referred to as Ricky); and Sybil. Ada
also lost a baby close to term when she was giving the house a spring clean. She
fell from a stool while installing recently washed curtains. The family lived at
St Pancras, in London.
Ricky’s earliest memories of her childhood were of the
dreadful fogs, which she recalled as being almost ‘yellow and black’, the sore
throats and enlarged glands in the neck – a cervical adenitis. Ricky also
recalled the gas lights. A doctor recommended to Ricky’s mother to get the
children away from London to a seaside place, as he doubted the children would
live to be 20. The doctor felt the seaside air to be less polluting than the air
of London. So her parents decided to move to the nearest seaside town of
Southend-on-Sea in Essex, a town 64 kilometres east of London and situated on
the north side of the Thames estuary.8