Fragment: Seandar’s pocket diary from 1928 kept by F.S. Ash, largely in pencil.
Fred S. Ash was born in Faversham, Kent, in or about 1913, the fifth surviving child (one child died in infancy) of William George Ash, a railway engine driver with the East Kent Railway, and his wife, Mary Ann. William and Mary had both been born in the Kent village of Shepherdswell, but, after a short spell in Clapham, where William trained as an engine driver, they had moved into Faversham by 1910, taking a three-bed semi-detached house in Whitstable Road in its eastern suburbs. While hardly well-to-do, they were modestly comfortably off.
The Ashes were a close-knit family: caring parents, affectionate and respectful children, siblings who enjoyed one another’s company, grandparents, uncles and aunts who were regular visitors. It was a family of chapel-going Methodists who leaned to the Left politically. Members of the family assisted at local Methodist bazaars and sales of work, and occasionally attended missionary rallies in London’s Methodist Central Hall. F.S.’s father was a trade unionist and a Faversham town councillor in the Labour Interest. His mother was active in the Co-operative Women’s Guild.
In 1928 Faversham, which had once been a major center of the ship-building, explosives and brewing industries, was a relatively prosperous market town of around 15,000 people.
F.S. Ash was then in his final year at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and, judging from the marks noted in his diary, was a moderately successful scholar. He was also a budding organist, who, while still attending practice sessions for an hour and a half a week, often accompanied hymns in the local chapel. he shared his father’s interest in politics and, while attending meetings of all three parties, his father’s allegiance to Labour. He was not into sports or rough games. His preference was for playing cards with his older siblings. The diary marks him out as an obedient and quietly respectful son. he also clearly liked ‘order’. In hid diary, he records the precise times his parents left for work and returned, the sequences of his mother’s spring-cleaning, the times of visits made by family members and the gifts given to his parents and siblings on their birthdays.
The family was self-supporting, without being insular. F.S.’s mother looked after the house-cleaning and the laundry. His father painted the kitchen. The children helped with the washing up, the gardening, the dusting and the ‘tidying-up’. Members of the family made regular shopping visits to Canterbury, ten miles away, and less frequently visited Kent’s major resorts – Sheerness and Seasalter – and went on walks in the Kent countryside. William Ash was frequently in London on political business.
On 5th November, F.S. noted in his diary: “Dad was elected as Mayor of Feversham’. Four days later ‘Auntie Amelia, Uncle Bert, Auntie Lizzie, Uncle Ernie, Uncle Owen, Uncle Bill, Aunty Fanny and Auntie Jenny’ all attended the Mayor’s Day celebrations and ‘had a good time’. Mayoral meetings began in the ‘front room’ of the family home and William Ash’s presence was called upon for such events as the ‘Unemployed Children’s Tea’.
Unfortunately, the diary did not continue long into William’s mayoralty.