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Lives of Knottingley Folk

JEAN LODGE, nee Jane Harker

Jane Harker (Jean to many, Ginny to her brothers and sisters) was born in June 1915, the year of Gallipoli and the first Zeppelin raids of the Great War. She was born in the Yorkshire town of Knottingley to Richard Harker, a railway clerk, and his wife Anne. She was the fifth of six children and was the last of that generation, having outlived them all.

Only she and her sister Doris acquired formal qualifications, both becoming SRN and both becoming theatre sisters. She was immensely proud of her nursing background and kept in touch with friends, receiving letters from them even up to this year, for her 90th birthday. It was during her nursing career that she acquired the name Jean, by which most people knew her today; quite simply, there were five Jane’s in her training course and they had to differentiate somehow.

She did her main service at the then Staincliffe Hospital, now known as Dewsbury District Hospital, where in due course she also trained others in theatre techniques. Socially, she was an active young woman and was keen on cycling and dancing. It was at a hospital tennis tournament that she met Sydney Lodge, whom she married by special licence in September 1939, just after the outbreak of World War Two. Sydney went to fight in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, her own war was perhaps quieter, but no less vital.

Sydney and Jean settled down after the war in Batley, buying a house in Soothill Lane, where Gail, their daughter was born in September 1947. Gail was named Teresa Gail, the first name in honour of one of those close friends and colleagues with whom Jean kept in touch. Once Gail was old enough to go to school. Jean continued with her nursing work, becoming a health visitor for Batley where she became well known to more than one generation of mums and their children.

She was inordinately proud of her Yorkshire roots, as Yorkshire people are wont to be. She talked fondly of the Gatehouse at the railway crossing where she grew up, which became known locally at the time as Harker Gatehouse. One of her noted characteristics is her constancy of friendship; asked for her wish for her 90th birthday, she asked that one or two old neighbours from Batley should visit her. They duly did.

Those who knew her well, if asked to describe her characteristics, might use words such as sharp, acerbic, and opinionated. As befits a health visitor from the 50s and 60s, she could adopt a stern, business like exterior, but it was not without its sense of humour. To be respected, admired and loved by Jean was also to have high expectations demanded of you. She was not shy of telling any of her extended family what to do, and how to behave; this was in fact a sign that you were in a way ‘hers’.

Sydney died on the 7th July 1990, exactly 15 years ago to the day of Jean’s funeral.

Just as she was proud of her Yorkshire roots, she was proud of her extended family. All of them meant a great deal to her and she insisted on having letters and pictures to keep her in touch. Until the day of her death there were over a hundred Harker’s and Lodge’s spread over four generations; herself and her daughter, nephews and nieces, great and great-great nephews and nieces. The largest numbers of these are in Yorkshire but spread also to London and elsewhere.

She lived in Nottingham with Gail for the last ten years of her life. She was lucky here, forming friendships with wonderful neighbours. She formed a bond with their young children too. She looked forward immensely to their visits and, as her own health failed, those young visitors always seemed to energise her and make her laugh.

Whoever they may be, neighbour, family or friends of family, adult or child, no-one ever left her presence without some small token, usually a chocolate, most often Quality Street. Sweet trays were waiting by the exit at the end of her funeral and offered to the mourners as they left, a fitting reminder of Jane Harker, Jean Lodge, and a full life well lived.

Mrs J.A. Walton

[Knottingley Folk]

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