My wife Elizabeth’s parents – ‘Tuttsie’ and ‘Nan’ to their grandchildren – were Maurice Martineau Welcher (1893-1981) and Winifred Welcher (1892-1992). They lived in Sherborne, Dorset, from 1920 onwards. For most of that time – 37 years – Maurice was the senior science master at Foster’s Grammar School, Sherborne. They had two children, Eileen (Ikey, 1922-2015) and Elizabeth.
Maurice was much respected as a teacher, and the ‘Fosterian’ school magazine carried a note on him in the summer of 1956, when he retired to teach for a few years at Lord Digby’s School for Girls: “Of his thoroughness and competence as a teacher there is little need to speak here, for they are well-known to many present and all former pupils, …… It is fitting to recall, however, that he also took a keen interest in many of the extra-scholastic activities of the School. In earlier days he was often a member of the combined masters’ and boys’ cricket team, for a number of years he was in charge of the tuck shop, and over a very long period was responsible for the organization of the Athletic Sports. Every year as the Christmas play drew near he could be seen, and sometimes heard, working miracles of improvisation with the tiny stage in the old schoolroom in Hound Street. Later, in the difficult days of the second World War with its resulting staff shortage, he took over the production of the school play, two of his notable successes being “Ambrose Applejohn’s Adventure” and “The Amazing Doctor Clitterhouse.” In this connection may we say here that many Old Boys still remember with affectionate gratitude the kindness of Mrs. Welcher in providing hot drinks at the right moment during the heat of rehearsals.”
Maurice was still remembered in print 40 years on, in the issue for 1996, when PJ Stainer, who was at the school from 1951-1959, wrote “I was pleased to receive ‘The Fosterian’ the other day…. Completing the little form that was enclosed made me think about my career in chemistry, brought about partly by my love of the subject, but also because the Chemistry Master in my day – Mr. Welcher – was a brilliant teacher, so that even those who didn’t have much flair for the subject enjoyed the lessons….”
He told the most awful jokes and rhymes, in and out of class, and was apt to buttonhole you and watch your reaction – the following are some typical Welcher sayings:
“Boy, pliers, electric wires. Blue flashes. Boy, ashes”;
“She was suffering from fallen archness”;
“There’s no accounting for tastes, as the woman said when somebody told her that her son was wanted by the police”;
“Anybody can win, unless there happens to be a second entry.”
He was the organist at Castleton Church for many years, and he and his family were active in The Amateur Players of Sherborne, founded in 1934.
His wife Winifred believed in looking after her family well, particularly at meal time. She was the granddaughter of George Tarrant (real name George Frederick Wood), a well known cricketer from Cambridge who played for Middlesex and England, and died in 1870. Her parents were George’s son Harry – a tailor – and his wife Anna Elizabeth, who died of diphtheria in 1896 when Winifred was only four. They lived in Norwich and Cambridge. Her maiden name was Anna Elizabeth Dant, from a family of watermen and boatmen who had a ferry across the Cam around 1900, and skippered a steam tug towing freight barges along the rivers Cam and Ouse to King’s Lynn in the 19th Century. The Dant family lived in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, from 1648 to 1854. The photos below are from the Cambridgeshire Collection of the Cambridge Central Library and were copied, with permission, from the Dant Family website.
Maurice’s father was Richard Welcher (1863-1942), who worked for the LNER and lived in St Paul’s Parish, Bow Common, London with his wife Mary Ann (born Miller) when Maurice was small – he was their only child. Later on Richard opened a hardware shop in Cambridge, and Maurice went to the Perse School and sang in Trinity College Choir, before working for Newnes, the publishers, and volunteering for the army in 1914. He was fortunate to survive the Dardanelles campaign, and was invalided out of the army, marrying Winifred in Cambridge in August 1920. Like his forbears he was mad about steam engines – the one below was at the Dorset Steam Fair.
Richard Welcher’s father (1814-1898), and his grandfather in the Welcher line (1778-1863), were both fenland farmers by the name of John Welcher, their wives being respectively Charlotte (born Larkman) from Reepham in Norfolk, and Mary (born Glenn). They farmed and lived near Doddington in Cambridgeshire, and Richard’s father also had a pub there, the ‘Wheatsheaf’, in Benwick Road, in 1861. Richard’s great-grandfather, also called John Welcher, who was born about 1751, came from Manea, a small village near Doddington, and married Elizabeth Merrington there in October 1775.
The Canadian branch of the Welcher family in Saskatchewan are still in business in the agricultural industry.