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17 January 2019

NORTH CRAY People - part 10 North Cray Kate

Another local character mentioned in Peter Townley's memoirs (NORTH CRAY People-part 9) was North Cray Kate. 


Peter recalls that Kate pushed her bike along the North Cray Road, and suggests that perhaps she could not ride it. He said that "she would always blow raspberries and swear at me before plodding out of sight. The AA man at Ruxley Corner was more scared of her than I was. Rumour had it that North Cray Kate could speak several languages [and swear in them too?] and was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish grandee".

Others remember her, too:-

"She was a Lady tramp, seen in Sidcup High Street in the 1950s. She was the opposite of Smokey, being well dressed in a suit - riding along on a bike and swinging a punch if you dared to laugh at her".

" In appearance, she was about 5' 8" tall, slim build. Her face appeared to be gaunt but was always obscured by a leather flying helmet and goggles. She always wore trousers, unusual in those days (1942-45) and gaiters."

"She was believed to have lived in a cottage in either Parsonage Lane or Bunkers Hill - she was always seen pushing (never riding) a decrepit bicycle which had badly crossed wheels and no chain".

"She used to park her bike outside the old catholic church in Bexley while she went inside, sometimes practicing on the organ. If spoken to, she only ever replied with a mouthful of vile language. She was last seen in 1948 or 1949".

Poor Kate, whoever she was. It was likely that - like Smokey Joe - she had suffered some life-changing trauma in her life that had made her what she became, a sad and eccentric old woman. Perhaps she, too, had served in the Forces, learning to swear like a trooper. Whatever, I like to remember her by thinking of what, otherwise, she might have become. 

Jean Gammons