“My son William is learning to read and he’s encouraged me to learn too. I enjoy it although it’s hard sometimes”
Joyce is learning to read with her coach, Sandra, from the North Cotswolds group, at the age of 76 and is making great progress. Born into a Traveller family, she left school at nine and worked on the land picking crops to earn money for the family. One of 16 siblings, the family had three caravans and three horses to pull them. “I would help my mother with washing all our clothes. We would put a tub on bricks outside the caravan and fill it with water and light a fire underneath and do the washing in it with a scrubbing board.”
The family travelled from Bristol to Evesham to pick apples and plums and then onto Pershore to pick pears and strawberries. Descended from a long line of Travellers, the family had high standards of behaviour and a strong work ethic. Joyce explains: “I was nine when I started in the fields. I liked being outside and winter was best, I didn’t get hot. Before that I helped my mother look after my brothers and sisters. We didn’t have dolls or toys to play with, or anything like that, we would make up our own games”.
After getting married and having a family of her own with five children, Joyce has now settled in a small village in Gloucestershire, with 17 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She says: “Life is so much easier for me no, there’s no trouble and no worries. I could never read but I didn’t think I minded…I like learning now”.