Mrs Fudge, a woman who made and gave out sweets to children on Daniel Hill before Kelvin was built, was real and dates back to the early 1900s. The name is a fabrication as person who told me this story – passed down from his own Grandfather – had never been told her name. She made nougat and sugar lollies as well as fudge. No one really knows what happened to her, just that she stopped making sweets for the kids and disappeared. I severely doubt that anyone is still alive that remembers her other than as a story and, as such, she has passed into legend. Given the joyful effect she had on the local children, remembrance of some sort seems appropriate. I’m not sure this is quite what she deserves, though.
A Requiem for Mrs. Fudge (i – iv)
‘I knew her husband. My Stan worked at the same cutlers. They were always dreaming of being their own Mesters but when he left, Stan resigned himself to the yard. It was ‘What kind of mother . . .’ and all those questions, that made her do it. Made her kick him out. He got no good answers and she made him leave. Bit of a scandal really. He’s in Wales now, last I heard. Wasn‘t her fault, of course, but you have to wonder. Anyway, she worked at the confectioners on Albert Terrace Road. Three days a week in packing. At weekends, she took in washing to make ends meet. Her hands were raw by carbolic and that splintered dolly she had. People would go to her rather than the corporation laundry. Personal touch, see.Oh, she was right pleasant, just a bit . . . distant after he went. We didn’t know much else about her, really.’
On Mondays and Thursdays
the children would swarm
down Daniel Hill. Racing
to where a plump and creamy
woman sat. Step freshly vimmed,
gingham pinafore spilling over
her cushioned lap. The room
behind her flock and nets
burst with the fat scent of sugar,
butter and hot condensed milk
in a sickly Madagascan miasma.
Chops slapped in expectation,
as they held out their hands
and she passed small bags
of sweetmeats to kisses
and hugs and hullaballoo.
She wondered if today would be the day
to let the sun stream in. She poked her head
around heavy Damask to see rain burnishing
and blatting the window. So, she sniffed,
disappointed; relieved; and turned to stoke
the fire, freeing a cloud of anthracite,
that made her sneeze.
and moved a filigree box – containing
a small wax masque – from the mantel to her
bedside table, again. She placed it next to the
plaster footprints and the pressed wild flowers
and prayed for another chance at summer.
By the time they had reached
seventy-one, Ernest Woodhead
had already seen the carriage,
drawn by four horses in black feather
head-dresses. He saw she wasn’t
waiting for them. Her door shut;
the neighbour’s curtains closed
against the sadness.
Ernest knew why you were taken
by horses and marched behind
the carriage and with sober
gesture called for the others
to join him in the confectionery cortege.