Mary Scarlett is the 91 year old Grandmother of Soft Serve photographer Rob Rowland. After serving in the Land Army during WWII, Mary studied at Bicton Agricultural College where she met her husband Ken. She and Ken spent their married life managing farms in rural England. Mary recently moved to Dalston in London, where she lives alone in a flat on the Regents Canal. This is where we met with her and chatted over tea and cake. You can often find Mary enjoying the weather and long chats with locals at the
Tow Path Cafe. She is always up for a chat so say ‘hi’ if you see her.
We all knew when the end of the war came we’d have to start building a new life
The men came back and the wives had to get used to having a man about the place, the children had grown up used to mother, not father.
After the war the government were helping people with careers, helping people get back into jobs they wanted to do so we were finding jobs. My brother had to start a new career, so everyone was back home and having to adjust.
So I went to Bicton Farm Institute where I had an interview and they asked “are you willing to go anywhere?”
I don’t know, when you’re in your twenties you say, “I don’t mind, yes, I’ll go anywhere” and it turned out to be Devon, and that’s where I met my husband, Ken.
We lived at Bicton, it was the most beautiful house. We thought we were in seventh heaven coming from the war situation, and there was a cook, and the dining room, a big dining room, and of course to come back and eat food like that was absolutely marvelous.
We were rationed for about five years so we could send some of our food so we could help feed Europe. And it wasn’t the best time. When you’re trying to win a war, everything is focused on the war, so you know the reason if you aren’t having cake, it’s being rationed, you accept it and everyone was in the same boat.
Some of us at Bicton were on agriculture, Ken was, and then they had a smaller number on horticulture, and I did horticulture because I thought in agriculture I might be in a job in milking and dairy and it’s not much of a career and I thought horticulture sounded the thing.
We were all about 23 or 24 years old on that course and there were about 9 couples from that group that got married. We all scattered afterwards, to different places and jobs. That was 1948, 1949 and in 1951 Ken and I got married.