I would like to begin this story with my wife’s testimony. I will just refer to her as Meg, because that was the name I always used for her and what she called herself.
Meg Sprackett, Marjorie, as her full name was, was born on 5 April 1907. Her parents were separated and as a result Meg had a very miserable childhood. Her father was in business in Burma, from which country he exported silk and ivory. At the age of six she was sent home under the care of a captain of a boat, and back in England she had to be accommodated by aunts and uncles. None of these people really wanted her and therefore her school holidays were miserable occasions.
When she grew up, she had education in the highest grades. Her mother was very zealous that she should have the best education, and therefore she sent her daughter to one of the best schools in England. Meg, however, was not so much interested in her education; she always wanted to explore new things. She was a bit of a bother because she got into mischief and was a nuisance to some of the people she stayed with.
She read the story of Mary Slessor—a missionary who was called ‘Queen of Africa’. Meg had always been ambitious and being deeply impressed by that testimony, she aspired to be like Mary Slessor. And so it happened that one day she went to a missionary secretary in London and said that she wanted to be a missionary. The secretary, naturally, very soon discovered that she was not saved; she was not a Christian. He advised her to make preparations either in nursing or in teaching, because either profession would always prove useful overseas. So she took up nursing and was in nursing training in St. Thomas’ Hospital, in London. There she met another student nurse, Hilda Bennett, and they became close friends. They finished their training together and Meg said to her friend, “Let’s get out of this institutional work.”
They decided that they would rent a nice property and furnish it, so that they would be able to offer holidays to children whose parents were working overseas, to give them a nicer holiday than Meg herself had ever enjoyed. They rented a property, at Chute Magna, near Bristol, furnished it and opened it up to children. The children were told to bring their bicycles and pets and had a really wonderful holiday with them. Meg and Hilda continued in that way for about two years. Unfortunately, the parents of these children did not pay, and since they could not get money anywhere else, and could not carry on without, they had to close the holiday home down.
Now, what would they do? They could not decide, but one day they saw an advertisement in a magazine: ‘Home-made Cake Shop available in Ilfracombe, Devon’. So they simply thought, “Oh, that will be nice; we will take that.” They did not know anything about cooking, but they had a cookery book and they set out on their way to this nice shop in Ilfracombe. They established a restaurant with cakes, breakfasts and dinners. Ilfracombe was a summer holiday place so they had to earn enough in six months to carry them through the year. They did it so well, that they could afford to go to Austria skiing for the winter season, which they did for about two to three years. Then, because of the success of that business, they thought of opening a second shop. So they took another shop in Barnstaple which was not very far away from Ilfracombe. That meant that they would cook in one shop and take all the pastries and cakes, or whatever they produced, to the other one. They bought a little Austin 7 for five pounds. But it would only go uphill in the reverse gear, so there they had a problem. Nevertheless, they were not going to be defeated by problems. They started taking their cakes from the one place to the other. It was Meg’s responsibility to do that. She had trays with various cakes and pastries on the back seat and a dog on the front seat.