Brenda Alder

(From an interview by Michael Pavitt for The Gamlingay Gazette. March 2000)

In 1959 Brenda and her husband Tony arrived at Gamlingay, Tony having been transferred to the village as the local policeman. Their home was therefore the police house in Cinques Road.
They had children of school age; and at that time R & H Wale ran a scheme where they would employ women from 9am – 3pm so that the mums could be at home when the children came home. Brenda took this opportunity to get a job as a packer at R & H Wale.

Although she did not know it, Brenda’s movements were being carefully watched. Miss Orlebar, who lived at Charnocks House was a Guide Commissioner. Brenda had been a Guider before she came to the village and the Guide grapevine very soon informed Miss Orlebar that there was a Guider in Gamlingay.
Consequently just two weeks after arriving here Brenda was approached with a request to become active in the Guide Movement in this area. With Olive Sewell, Brenda soon restarted the Brownie Pack in the village.

In 1960 a Cambridge Guider wanted to run a training camp for Gamlingay Guides in preparation for a County Camp to be held at Babraham later in the year. This camp was held in Charnocks Field (now Charnocks Close). Brenda was part of the team and later led the group which went to Babraham, travelling on the back of an open topped lorry belonging to John Leader. In 1962 Brenda was asked to stay on after Brownies to run the small Guide company which had not been strong since the Second World War.

Brenda was actively involved in Guiding, becoming at times a commissioner, a Camp Advisor, a Ranger Leader and a Young Leader Advisor. In 1973 she led a small group of rangers to visit the Guide Chalet at Adenboden in Switzerland. She retired from active Guiding at the mandatory age of 65 and is now a member of the Trefoil Guild.

During his lifetime Tony was an active supporter and fund raiser for the Guides, but Tony died in 1966 which meant that Brenda and her four children had to leave the police house. At this time R & H Wale owned the house at 45 Mill Street where their business had started during the war. Through the good offices of Mr. Percival the family moved there until they were able to move to a permanent home in Dolphins Way where they stayed for 20 years. Friends in the village raised a collection in memory of Tony and Brenda was able to buy her first fridge.

1968 saw the beginning of another stage in Brenda’s life when she started teacher training and, characteristically, used her training not only for a job but also for more voluntary work. In the early 1970’s Brenda started teaching at the Rose Lane Primary school in Biggleswade, where she stayed for 12 years. However she had already started as a Sunday School teacher, a job which became vacant when Rev. Michael Goymour and his wife Margaret left the village (Margaret had run the Sunday School in the Rectory).
The Sunday School used to meet on Sunday afternoons in the Church, Dorothy Hinton taking one class and Brenda the other. Later with the influx of new people in Green Acres there was a large number of children of church going parents who could benefit from Sunday School and attendance rose to a peak of about 60.

At one time there were 6 teachers looking after 3 classes according to age. Two classes met in the Church Hall and the oldest group met in the room which had been Marcus Arnold’s butchers shop¬†opposite¬†the one time Post Office near the church. Brenda was the Sunday School leader until she retired about two years ago.

From 1968 until the early 1990’s Brenda was a member of the P.C.C. In the 1960’s Brenda, who had been a bell ringer since her childhood, was one of the band of ringers who were trained in change-ringing by ringers from Godmanchester.

During the first term after Brenda had retired from teaching at Biggleswade she was asked by Social Services to take Gamlingay people to the Day Centre at Holm Meadow in Toft. This she did for two years until a small committee, prompted by Social Services, organised a voluntary Day Centre in the village. Brenda joined this team and 14 years later is still there. (March 2000)

One would think that after such a very active life in the village Brenda would want to sit back for a well earned rest but that is not the case. She still runs a once a fortnight Bible study/discussion group for a small number of children, a carry-over from the Sunday school days. Brenda also still hosts discussion groups which take place at various times during the church year.
And there is more! 10 years ago there was a village college course on lace making which Brenda attended. When the College was no longer able to run this course the group became a club and still meet regularly. Examples of their work may be seen at various village shows.

In conclusion may we say how fortunate the village has been that Tony Alder was sent to Gamlingay way back in 1959.