Love in great burstead

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Those you do see are predominantly from local businesses promoting local services. These adverts enable local businesses to get in front of their target audience — the local community. It is important that we continue to promote these adverts as our local businesses need as much support as possible during these challenging times. Nellie Starling may be 83, the veteran of three heart attacks, two new knees and a hip replacement, but it doesn't stop this redoubtable great-grandmother in her work as chairwoman of a mother-and-toddlers group in Great Burstead, near Billericay.

Her work with Cradle Roll, aided by able deputies Sue and Muriel, is just part of Nellie's many duties. She has spent most of her working life doing work in the parish, both at Dagenham and, since the early Eighties, at Great Burstead. This is a woman who, after all, was recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, when he came to Billericay about three years ago.

Many could argue the same for Nellie, who has had to struggle against adversity for most of her life. When she was 30 her beloved husband Eric died of a blood clot, leaving her with three small boys, aged seven, two-and-a-half and one to bring up.

It would be easy to be bitter at the hand fate dealt her, but Nellie is a stranger to self-pity. I've never gone without, but I've never been rich either, but I couldn't care less. Her husband was forced to give up work as a wood craftsman once his fatal heart condition had been diagnosed and the couple lived in limbo for ten months before he died.

The time I did grieve for him was when my youngest son got married. She herself never considered marrying again. Another man would have wanted more children, and she didn't. Even so, it wasn't easy on her own. As a widow receiving minimal state assistance and with little family nearby, Nellie was forced to take her two younger children with her while she worked as a cleaner and washerwoman. She did the laundry for schoolteachers living in a large house in Goodmayes.

It took three hours every Monday - the boiling, the rinsing, the mangling - for which she received the equivalent of 25p. Nellie quit when she was expected to clean all the brass ornaments as part of her duties and went to work at a chiropodist's - sweeping up toenails.

She also held down a variety of shop jobs, working full-time in a store once her youngest son left home. Most women in her position would be forgiven for flopping down exhausted at the end of the day, particularly given the fact that she had to cycle everywhere, but Nellie was made of sterner stuff. Evenings and weekends were spent in parish duties, Sunday School, Mother's Union, helping with cubs and scouts. As they got older she studied for church exams, often working through the night to meet an essay deadline, because it was the only way she could fit it in.

Many of Nellie's friends are now women priests, although she herself had no desire to tread the same path. A church stalwart, she nonetheless performed many of the same tasks, visiting the sick, counselling, working with drug addicts, preparing people for baptism, and sometimes taking the service. It was a move organised by her sons after drug addicts moved in next door "I always got on with them OK," she says simply. Ill-health has nowforced Nellie to now cut back on many of her duties. She has arthritis which, she tells me with a complete lack of self-pity, has been so bad that before she had her knees done, she was forced to crawl up the stairs.

She lifts her skirt to reveal legs still shapely despite a lifetime of hard work, the scarring on the knee now fading. Despite the operations, she is still in pain. The arthritis is still in her hands and spine. Her values, of getting on with things, thrift "I've never owed anyone a penny in my life," , and self-restraint are a million years from today's Jerry Springer generation. What a lot I've got - Nellie Starling is in her element surrounded by the mums and toddlers at Great Burstead's Cradle Roll group, of which the great-grandmother is chairwoman.

Converted for the new archive on 19 November Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion. We want our comments to be a lively and valuable part of our community - a place where readers can debate and engage with the most important local issues.

The ability to comment on our stories is a privilege, not a right, however, and that privilege may be withdrawn if it is abused or misused. Great Burstead: Working to bridge the generations News Great Burstead: Working to bridge the generations Early widowhood and the loss of a son hasn't deflected church stalwart Nellie Starling one bit, says JANE O'CONNELL Nellie Starling may be 83, the veteran of three heart attacks, two new knees and a hip replacement, but it doesn't stop this redoubtable great-grandmother in her work as chairwoman of a mother-and-toddlers group in Great Burstead, near Billericay.

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Love in great burstead

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