Joan Spain

My Grandma was a true Kibworthian, born in the flat above 40 Fleckney Road, a sweet shop at that time which belonged to her Aunty Sarah. She was christened Florence Joan but there were already three Florrie’s in the family. Great aunty, big aunty and little aunty. She became known as Joan, I suspect much to the relief of the other Florences!

The family then moved to the house at 18 New Road where her sister Dorothy was born. Lucky woman got her own name and was known to all the village as Aunty D later in life.

School & Working

Grandma attended the council school, now the old school surgery, passing the 11+ with a scholarship to go to the grammar school. But as the family could not afford the uniform, she was not able to attend. She was always quite sad about that because she had worked hard to pass the exams and wanted the lift it would get her in life. Instead, she left school at 14 going into Leicester every day on the train to work as a machinist in the hosiery trade. 

She met her John, her first husband and they were married here in St. Wilfrid’s. John was a gunner in the Lancaster bombers and was shot down, spending the rest of the war in a prison camp, coming home with T.B.  He passed away in the early 1950s.  During this time Grandma was sewing parachutes at Slaters factory in Smeeton and sewed enough to earn her wings. Like all the stories, parachute sewing did mean they always had nice knickers, because there’s a war on and you couldn’t waste lovely silk.

Grandma loved dancing, cycling to dances in all the surrounding villages, even during the blackouts. It was at one of these dances, post war, where she met Richard, granddad. Although how anybody got him to go to a dance we will never know!! Again, she was married here in this church in 1956.  Two years later her only child my mother Angela came along. And so started the famously white hair too according to the pictures! 

Grandma did a lot of part-time jobs working in various shops in the village, Goward’s Chemist, Mrs Snaith’s Hardware. She wasn’t one for sitting idle and always wanted her own money rather than relying on grandpa. 

Local Community

A W.R.V.S member for many years, so many she earned the longest serving medal they present. She used to go on Sunday afternoons to do the teas for the prisoners and their visitors at Gartree prison. Coming home to tell mum and Grandad that the most popular chocolate bars sold were Breakaway bar, causing a certain amount of hilarity. 

She then started to do the job she always wanted to do, bookkeeping, only 30 years later than she’d planned. Working for Foster’s foods, Chappell’s foods in Wigston where I remember going occasionally in school holidays with her whilst everyone else was busy working. No, I’m not sure how that works either! And of course she also did the books for the garden centre, which she officially retired from at the age of 96, and we still haven’t got the hang of yet. 

Grandma was involved in many things in the village. As one of the founders of the Welcome Club, organising the yearly holidays for the old folks. & continued doing them until it was pointed out that most of the ‘old folks’ were 10 years younger than her. 

She loved going on holiday taking lots of photos, the only trouble was she was a lousy photographer. The games of “Whose legs are these?” and “Where is the animal?” were played every time a new batch of pictures came back from the printers.

Grandma stood for the parish council, becoming the first female councillor. She then took on the role of clerk to the burial board looking after the cemetery. We all got to know the local undertakers quite well. Which I suppose standing here doing this is quite a fortunate thing. I remember going through the big parchment rolls with her. Getting out the special dip-pen and its ink. Making sure that there was a space for so-and-so, you know, whatsits grandma/pa. I suspect that the men in black at the back will also recognise this memory! 

She belonged to the history society, despite practically being history when she joined! As part of which she helped to record the writing on some of the older gravestones in the cemetery. She also had to take pictures of them, but least said soonest mended. She was interviewed as part of the The History of England series done by that famous bloke so she will keep appearing on the tele for years to come. My mother will still utter the words, ‘’You could’ve put your teeth in mum’ every time she sees it though! 

Grandma wasn’t ever still, so she also belonged to the gardening club helping to organise the flower show. Also the W.I. and the drama groups over the years. Though given the family tendency towards being in charge I suspect that they largely belonged to her and everyone else ran to keep up.

She was also a good cakemaker, several cakes made by her have graced local weddings, including of course mum and dad’s. Many children of the village [now grownups] will remember Mrs Spain babysitting. 

Grandma loved a good party but missed celebrating her 100th birthday due to Covid. So we will celebrate for her today , exactly one month after her 102nd birthday.

Ellie Holland