Local Face: Mary Roworth

Mary Plackett was born into an old Buckinghamshire family based in Newport Pagnell. It was there that she met Robert Roworth. They married in 1956 and immediately moved to Wendover because Robert was an only child and his parents had just moved south. They celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary earlier this year and recall how different things were in those days: they were married on Saturday 10 March and went to London for their honeymoon but by Friday they had both signed on at Aylesbury Labour Exchange and on Monday morning Mary started as a typist at Cow & Gate in Aylesbury. She worked there until their first son, David, was born in March 1961. As was the norm in those days, Mary stopped work to look after her family and in May 1963 Peter was born.

Mary has always lived in the same house in Wendover and knows the neighbours very well. In 1973 there was a small crisis in the John Hampden School Dinner Service to do with building an extension and Mary went along to help with the washing up for 6 weeks because she knew the Head Cook. Mary carried on working in the School Meals Service and ended up as Cook herself. Those were happy days. Mary describes with great affection the proper straightforward “Mum’s Meals” she prepared-nothing fancy but ordinary good food with alternative vegetable to cater for different tastes. The work was hard because everything was made from raw ingredients but the children loved their school meals and the Headteacher Mrs Hatwell loved them too. Mary is often stopped in the street by a grown up former pupil, “Oh Cook! I did love your dinners!”. The children learned how to sit at a table with a knife and fork and wait until Grace was said before starting their meal. Manners were considered very important in those days. Each sitting took about 20 minutes to eat the meal and the children had mid-day supervisors to look after them in the dining room and the playground. The teaching staff had their own table in the dining room, too, and most enjoyed taking their break in there.

Unfortunately, Bucks County Council decided in 1986 that the school meals service was not necessary any more. There were rumours from June onwards. Redundancy notices were not given out until the new school term had begun and abruptly on 31 October the service closed. Ruth Goodchild, a School Governor sent Mary a lovely letter saying that the “whole business is very sad” and that the “high standard of school meals made its contribution to the very good reputation enjoyed by the school”. Mary still misses the teaching and dining staff she worked with.

After that, Mary worked as a packer in an Aylesbury factory before turning again to more local work at the garden centre, then run by Jim Bone, as her in-laws became more frail and needed help. She also looked after two aunts and her husband’s health deteriorated so eventually she had to retire because home commitments were increasing.

Mary is very happy at home, though. David lives in Watermead and works in London. Peter lives with his wife and two children near Northampton. Anna, 8, and Ben, 6, love coming to visit their Roro and Nanny.

Mary doesn’t have much time away from home and garden but she has a widowed friend and they enjoy day trips with Derwent Travel and usually manage to get away about once a month. They particularly like trips to the seaside.