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Remembering Alice French nee Holland 1925-2014
Recently I was contacted by Lee Adams who is the daughter of Alice French nee Holland, unfortunately Alice had recently passed away after spending her whole life living on the Island.
The following piece , written by Lee is a great illustration how people like Alice spent their life on the Island but managed to have extraordinary lives.
Alice French has recently died after living all her life on the Isle of Dogs.
Alice was the eldest daughter of Chris and Liz Holland , nee Seymour , and had a brother Chris who lives in Billericay and another bother Kenny who died when a young child.
Alice had fond memories of her childhood, despite having a stern grandfather Philip Seymour; she had many funny tales of buying alcohol for her grandmothers and what life was like then , for instance having no running water except in the cellar . She had to work for her mum, as a child selling clothes from a cart and also collecting money from people, which she hated . This was because the family were hard up, her dad worked as a Corn Porter in the dock and was subject to the call on process, often times were hard and he had no work, he was a shop steward in the dock union .Liz began to sell things from her house and eventually ran little shops.
Alice went to Glengall Road School but left when she was fourteen, working in factories, she then joined the Port of London Authority and worked in the dock offices at Millwall as an admin officer –she very much enjoyed this work and was involved politically at this time being a member of the Communist Party .
Alice volunteered for the ATS during the second world, her service took her to Dresden in Germany after the bombing where she saw terrible things, she was a driver and also tracked down missing service personal. We believe she got a medal for bravery but Mum would never talk about it, though she said she threw the medal in the river being disgusted by war.
Alice with Geoff
Alice met Geoff French a mechanical design engineer in the North Pole pub and they married in 1949.
The North Pole (recently sadly closed, due to be demolished)
Alice went to work with her mother Liz in their shop Holland’s Stores in Castalia Square where she worked for many years eventually taking over the shop with her brother Chris, they also had another shop in Millwall for a time.
Alice with her brother Chris at the shop in Castalia Square (Photo Mike Seaborne)
Alice and Geoff had three children: Lee, Jeff and Rae and settled in Stebondale St after the war in a prefab by the park. It was idyllic really despite the bomb sites, we played in the street and the park safely, and went to the wonderful Cubitt Town Primary school up the road run by Miss Delamare.
Tragically Geoff died suddenly in 1967 at the age of 41 leaving Alice to bring us up alone, She never looked at another man and we guess never really got over dads death, she always worked very hard and instilled this strong work ethic into us her children; she was very independent and strong minded
Alice was a very kind and generous person, a good friend and neighbour and wonderful mother .She enjoyed going out to visit places, exhibitions and her children when they left home , she loved having her grandchildren-8 of them- to stay and taking them out , and in her last few years she loved to spend time with her great-grandchildren Jude and Coco.
In later years she suffered first a stroke and then a heart attack but continued to live at home in East Ferry Rd with help from carers and family. Even when she was wheelchair bound and not that well She enjoyed going out to Greenwich and having meals out .
Alice lived a good life ,she was very attached to the Island and to all the people she had known there and had many fond memories.
If anyone remembers Alice , or us do get in touch