A resident at Care South’s Gillingham care home, Fern Brook Lodge has shared her remarkable life story in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Myrtha Parsons-Biedermann, known as Myra, was born in Switzerland in 1927 and in 1947, after seeing an advert to act as paid help in a country estate in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, left her life in Switzerland with her friend Martha and began her new adventure in England.
Myra and Martha alighted a train at London Victoria in June 1947 with no idea how to get to the country estate, and unable to speak a word of English. A woman in uniform helped them and they discovered there were no more trains to Chipping Norton that day. Myra and Martha had to sleep on sofas in the lounge of a hotel before getting a train the next day. At every stop they asked: ‘Chipping Norton?’ until they finally arrived and were met by a driver.
Myra began her work alongside Martha, a butler, a footman, lady’s maid, cook, two kitchen hands and three housemaids. There were 11 servants in total including the two Swiss girls. On occasion Myra and Martha went into Oxford where they met two English soldiers, one of whom Myra started a relationship with and would write to using a dictionary to pick out words as her English was still poor.
On 28th February 1948, Myra married Roy Evan Parsons at Oxford Register after only knowing each other a few months and lost her Swiss citizenship rights becoming ‘British by marriage’. Six months after starting her job at Barton Abbey, Myra quit and moved into Roy’s mother’s house while Roy had to return to an army base in Dusseldorf. Myra took a variety of jobs including working on the sweet counter at Woolworths where chocolates, sweets and liquorice were still rationed.
Myra travelled home to Winznau while Roy was still in Dusseldorf but her money only got her as far as Basel. She left her passport and address with the police and managed to continue her journey to Winznau, where she stayed with her parents for a few months until Roy returned to Oxford. In 1951, Myra and Roy had a baby girl, Yvonne, who was born at the Military hospital in Wuppertal, and they rented a large apartment overlooking the River Rhein. Myra and Yvonne spent many years travelling around including living in Malaysia for a couple of years while Roy fought in the war between South Korea and North Korea.
Later they returned to England to live in Woking until 1960 when the British Army let Roy go at the age of 34 due to personnel cuts. He received a redundancy fee and a small pension and the family all moved back to Switzerland.
Seven years after Roy’s death Myra met Sidney who became her late love. They travelled far and wide together and regularly met to play Bridge. Myra now lives at Fern Brook Lodge care home in Gillingham under the care of Care South which employs a large number of female employees all of whom have been sent a thank you card to mark the day. Myra said: ‘I do not regret anything I have done in my lifetime and moving to England was the best decision I have ever made.’
To hear more from Myra about her life at Fern Brook Lodge, visit the Care South website here: www.care-south.co.uk/video/myra-interview/