MRS BARBARA MARIE THERESE THORNTON
Born in London, Barbara was the eldest of 3 sisters. Her father spent some years in India as a tea planter and died out there when Barbara was 5. Her mother then settled in the Isle of Man with her 3 small daughters, to be near relatives of her late husband. Barbara and her sisters went to the local school there, then to a boarding school. Now aged 97 – and the oldest person in Moggerhanger – she still has a sister, aged 95, who lives in Hove.
Her aunt was a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, so her mother spent much time there during term time andbrought her children up to speak French well. They would spend their winter holidays in France and would go skiing in the French Alps. Their summers were spent in the Isle of Man, swimming, sailing and watching the TT races. Barbara feels they were so lucky to have done these things, not “poshly” she says but on quite restricted means. After they left school, all the girls were sent as au-pairs to France to perfect their French.
Barbara came to Moggerhanger when in 1940 she married Major Thornton, who was soon posted to Burma. During the war she worked first as a hotel receptionist in London. This was during the blitz. They would have French generals, Dutch generals … and were very busy entertaining. At night they would all go to the air-raid shelters, and she remembers “the champagne flowing”.
Later she worked for the Ministry of Food as one of “Lord Woolton’s Young Ladies”.
There were 3 in her team, all with degrees in Domestic Science, and they would go to factories, bomb sites, and other places to show people how to cook with what was available, including dried egg and soya bean flour.
In the early 1970s General Thornton, Barbara’s father-in-law, died. He had lived alone in St John’s House after his wife’s death; this was sold to the Sue Ryder Foundation and is now St. John’s Hospice. Her mother-in-law had been an excellent painter and she stored very good porcelain and china given to her as presents in her pantry.
Wheels in the village and further afield. She also became Chairman of the Bedfordshire branch of the Distressed Gentlefolks’ Aid Association and would “organise lunches, pigeon shoots, etc.”
Barbara “adores dogs” and “would take anybody’s dogs at any time”. This love is shared by her daughter, who now lives in Derbyshire and often visits her mother.
Today her life is quiet. Her main hobby of bridge is sadly no longer possible as she cannot get about to join a group, but she has her friends about her, and her “nut and bolt man” does all sorts of odd jobs for her. She keeps herself up to date with world affairs, watches certain television programmes, reads, and enjoys the sun streaming in through her sitting-room window.
Barbara passed away peacefully on 15th January 2014 at the Airedale Nursing Home, Bedford aged 98 years.