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Travelling back to your roots is an emotional experience under normal circumstances but when that journey involves grieving for lost relatives then it becomes even more poignant. Kathy Gallimore's journeys from her adopted home of New Zealand to her old family home in Westerham in Kent are loaded with feeling and memories.
This is a personal story about one woman's ties to a small Kent town that is both a local and a family history. It's told in a straightforward manner and this gives the book a down to earth, unpretentious feel.
A Kiwi Returns... starts with a return to the old family home, an experience that sends anyone's senses soaring and invariably ignites memories.
"As I looked around me I visualised my grandfather at work. He always wore a three-piece suit and carried a fob-watch in the small pocket of his waistcoat."
There was also a discovery of some significance in the house. Margaret Wickett who bought it from Gallimore's grandfather had some work done on an old fireplace and builders found the remains of an early 17th-century Geneva Bible wrapped in cloth.
From here the book moves on to local history in two chapters: In Ages Past, and More Recent Past. These are a gentle stroll over the town's key historical developments rather than an in-depth study.
This is OK though in this context. It fits the casual narrative style of a personal view of a town's history. This is exemplified with the Famous Sons and Daughters chapter where the author talks about well known residents of Westerham including Winston Churchill, William Pit the
Hansard and James Wolfe. Being the only gents' tailor in the region for many years, the author's grandfather rubbed with a few famous shoulders.
"He was often summoned to Chartwell Manor, the country home of Sir Winston and Lady (Clementine) Churchill, to fulfil the tailoring requirements of Sir Winston...Bert's other famous client was Mrs Alice Pleasance Hargreaves (nee Liddell), the original Alice for who Lewis Carroll first published his famous stories, Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1872)." Gallimore continues her history using many recollections of local residents as well as researched material from local archives. The book contains a number of mono photos which are of interest. It's an interesting read, especially for anyone with Westerham connections, but it may be too personal and self indulgent for most general readers. ■
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