Nellie Adams

What a lovely picture of Nellie Adams rattling her Salvation Army collecting box. She was in the Dover Castle pub in Teynham, surrounded by some of the hardy drinkers (and smokers!) who were in that night.

nellie adams

Nellie’s charitable work made national news as this picture was part of a centre-spread feature in the Daily Mirror in January 1958.

The newspaper focussed on Nellie, who they described as “a woman rich only in her goodness”, to present her with a Mirror Medal for her good work.

The Mirror reported that Nellie Adams was known by everyone in the “tiny” (!) Kent village of Teynham as the woman who takes all their troubles and tragedies on her own shoulders. It said Nellie not only serves in the Salvation Army but also works long hours in the cabbage and potato fields to keep a roof over her head.

The picture, supplied by John Tilling for the Spring 2016 edition of Teynham News, was taken just four months after the death of her husband after she’d nursed him for 18 months.

Mrs Rita Willard, wife of the landlord of the Dover Castle, told the Mirror’s reporter: “She is our sweet lass – the greatest woman I have ever known. Night after night she sits by the aged and sick, comforting them. Then, when dawn comes, she goes off to work in the fields.”

The questions were asked as to whether any reader of the Teynham News remembered Nellie Adams? Or any of the Dover Castle regulars caught in the picture? Or the whereabouts of the ‘cabbage and potato fields?’

Here is what some of parishioners told us:

Barry Knell:

Mrs Adams will be remembered with affection by many from the 1940s to 1960s. She was a truly good woman who put you in mind of Mother Teresa.

She ran a Sunday School for the children of the village in the Salvation Army hall opposite the old Fox pub. To encourage the children to attend she never pushed religion onto them but led by example.

I do not recall ever seeing her get angry or even cross, although she must have been sorely tempted by some of the children's pranks. She was always cheerful and could be seen sitting very erect in her Salvation Army uniform and bonnet and riding her large lady’s bicycle around the village. I don't ever recall seeing her other than in her uniform.

It may sound uncharitable, but to me, being only 8 to 12 years old and because of her distinctive large red nose, I always remembered her as looking a bit like the old comedian Schnozzle Durante.

She could be seen visiting all the local pubs in Greenstreet and Barrow Green on a Saturday evening selling the Salvation Army's War Cry magazine. She never preached or condemned anyone, was respected by all and was never abused by the drinkers in the pubs. Most would drop a few pence in her box but never took the magazine.

The faces in the photograph you printed all look familiar but I cannot put names to them.
In 1957 at the age of 18 I left the village but as I understand it she remarried (Mr Ruck?) and moved to the cottage on the right hand side of the A2 just before Sandown Cottages. A part of the village community and a lovely kind lady.

Clive Friend:

I first knew Mrs. Nellie Adams when I was evacuated from Deal in 1940. I was living with my aunt Mrs Clemons at 5 Claxfield Cottages, Mrs Adams and family lived at number 4.
Her daughter Violet was a few years older than me, and with my cousins we all played together.

Most of the tenants worked on the local Frognal Farm. Her husband Charlie was a tractor driver, and son Ronald also worked on the farm. Her other son Wilfred worked in Sittingbourne Mill as a charge-hand.

Mrs Adams and my mother worked together picking cherries in the same gang on Frognal Farm. The women worked out in all weathers, if not fruit picking it was cabbages, sprouts and potatoes etc. This was very hard back-breaking work, but Mrs Adams worked with the rest of the gang.

Mrs. Adams was always on hand to help out with the problems of local families. She visited the sick and remained a good friend to my mother Maude who was bed-ridden before her death in 1973.

As we know, Mrs Adams was in charge of the local branch of the Salvation Army which held its meetings at the hall now used by Age Concern on London Road. The Claxfield Cottage children and others attended the summer outing run by her which most times was a day out at Herne Bay. To qualify for the outing children had to have a certain number of attendances at the Sunday School, and obviously the attendance numbers increased as the outing date drew nearer. Mrs Adams banned me from attending as I misbehaved, but she did relent and allow me to go.

Mr Adams served in the Army during World War One and resumed work on the farm upon his return. He always drove the yellow caterpillar tractor smoking his pipe, flat cap firmly on his head. Charlie was a man of few words and did not appear to be of the Salvationist persuasion.

Being a child at that time, we always politely called her Mrs Adams, so even now I could not think of her as Nellie. And even if I had called her Nellie, a clip round the ear from an adult would have soon put me back on the right road.

Elizabeth Fleming (nee Sattin):

When I was around 11 or 12 I used to deliver Salvation Army collection envelopes around Teynham. Mrs Adams used to live in the Tudor Cottage just over Cellar Hill and as a thank you she invited my friend and I to tea where we had an array of goodies, cakes etc, then watched her very small tv (I think maybe about 10 inch screen!)

Mrs Adams did re-marry a Mr Trigg at some point.

I have a book signed by her for my diligence to the Salvation Army when it was down at what’s now the Age Concern (AgeUK) building, the Belle Friday Centre.

The lady to the right of the picture on the front of the last Teynham News is my nan Maud Pritchard, who lived opposite the Post Office. She later moved to opposite the Comet Motel when one night she was knocked down and killed outside her house.