Annie May Dyett


This page is dedicated to my mother. I never knew her (well, only for the first week of my life), and I know only a little about her, but it seems natural to me to honour her memory with this short biography. Much of what I know came thanks to an old friend of Annie’s, Iris McNarry. They met at school (New Milton Ordinary School) when they were both about 13, and remained friends for life. How I came to meet Iris comes later in this story.

Annie (she was known as Ann, but she was christened Annie) was the youngest in her family. An elder sister Eva died when Annie was 11, and her two elder brothers were 9 and 10 years older than her. Only the youngest son, Ernest, was close to her in age. I have no information at all about the family when the children were young, apart from the fact that Annie left school at 14 to work as a domestic servant at Becton House, where her father Walter John was a gardener. During the war she worked at Wellworthy Piston Rings in Lymington, before moving the to Signals Research and Development Establishment in Christchurch where she was a “chaser”. The Christchurch station was opened in 1943.

After this she worked at an egg farm, and sometime in the early 1950s, either just before or just after my birth, Annie began work at the Horticultural Research Station at Efford, near Lymington (now sadly closed). I met two of her former colleagues who remembered her. At the end of her career there she was in charge of the packing and dispatch of produce from the experimental crops being grown, mainly tomatoes I believe. She retired in 1975 - and in 1973 I visited Efford on a field trip during my biology course at Southampton University. Annie would have been there, but of course I didn’t know it at the time. So near, so far. Apparently she rode her bike the 5 miles to work every day (she had no other way of getting there), along what is still quite a lovely rural route that goes along Angel Lane. When she arrived home she would carry her bike up to her first floor flat - no mean feat as the bike was probably rather heavy! This kept her fit and healthy.

Annie was the first New Milton Carnival Queen in around 1933. The photo on the Dyett Family page is of her dressed as such, and looking lovely, and there is another shot of her in this role in Malcolm Bailey and Catherine Lake’s book Images of England: New Milton. It appears that she was also involved in an earlier parade, seated at the foot of Britannia (see photo below), but I do not know what this event was (perhaps Empire Day?).

© Alan House 2014 - all rights reserved

According to Iris, Annie had a long and close relationship with Bernard Gulliver, an inspector on Hants & Dorset Buses from Lymington. Bernard was devoted to her, but she would not marry him, a mystery to those who knew her. Perhaps he proposed only after I had been born, and guilt prevented her from making a commitment. I’ll never know. When Bernard died in 1971 Annie wouldn’t go to the funeral - apparently the church was full to overflowing, as Bernard was a well respected man in the community.

Bernard and Annie out and about.

A handsome couple!

Iris McNarry, Annie, and Iris’ mother

My favourite picture of my mother

Bernard and Annie on the beach

Possibly Empire Day, late 1920s

Carnival Queen, aged 20

Annie and friend

Annie and Bernard in her flat, where she lived till she died in 1992. The model viking boat on the cabinet was made by Donald McNarry, Iris’ husband

The model viking boat that Donald McNarry made for Annie

I think after Bernard died she disappeared into herself. I have no idea how she passed her time after retirement. I know she did some gardening and she spent a day a week with Iris, but apparently did not talk about much, especially about her family. Iris recalled that there had been a serious falling out between Annie and her brother Ernest, possibly over money, possibly because of animosity between Annie and brother Edwin’s wife Margaret. Iris did tell me there were always issues with money in the Dyett family, I think meaning that there was never very much, and what there was was often squandered at the bookmakers.

She died, of breast cancer, in Bournemouth Hospital in 1992. I discovered this from her death certificate, on which was named a witness, Iris McNarry. For a while I assumed that this might have been a nurse or doctor, but then found a McNarry in the New Milton phone book. I took a chance and wrote, just saying that I might have been related to Annie and did they know her. And Iris, bless her, wrote back with the photos you see on this page, the first time I had seen my mother. Iris and I wrote several times after that, and I visited her and she told me much more about Annie, despite her own failing health: I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for sharing her stories with me. What amazed me at the time, but seems so in character now that I know what I do, was that Annie had told no-one of her pregnancy, not even her oldest friend or her long-time male companion. Iris remembered that Annie had told them she was going on a holiday and would be away for some time. She was - she went to Brighton, found board and lodging with a sympathetic landlady, and gave birth to me at the General Hospital. A week later, after writing desperate letters to the hospital’s ombudsman saying she could not care for me as she had to keep working to support herself, she gave me away for adoption. Those letters, and a model Viking boat made for her by Donald McNarry (see below), are the only things of my mother’s that I have. And apparently no-one ever suspected (or rather never voiced their suspicion) what had actually happened.

And my father? My belief is that she met him when she worked on the egg farm in Hordle. He was listed as being a lorry driver in those days, making deliveries of eggs to a depot in Cadnam, on the north side of the New Forest. Iris believed they made these journeys together. He was already married, with two young children. I am comforted by two things - she named me after him, and he undertook to pay a pound a week for my care, not an insignificant sum in 1954 for a man on wages and with responsibilities.

The saddest part is that there were only two people at Annie’s funeral - Iris and Donald - and no memorial to her. This page, for what its worth, is mine.

If you are affected by, or just interested in adoption, go to this page for my story and some information about adoption.

I thank Iris and Donald McNarry, Chris Vigor and Harry Mustey for sharing their memories of my mother with me