F

Ford Connie

Connie Ford

Connie M. Ford was born in 1912 in south-east London, the youngest of three daughters, her sisters being Edith and Laura.  Their father was a manufacturer of school scientific apparatus and, later, artillery sights.

Connie was educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, and then at the Royal Veterinary College, qualifying as a vet in 1933 in the second-only group of women allowed to become professionally qualified vets in the UK. She built up her own practice in London, specialising in marmosets.

During the Second World War she joined the Scottish Land Army, before moving to the East Midlands in 1943. From then until 1972 Connie was employed in the civil service as part of the UK Government's Veterinary Investigation Service, working for many years at Sutton Bonnington. The parish is located in the East Midlands, on the borders of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, lying in the valley of the River Soar and including the hamlet of Zouch. The University of Nottingham Faculty of Agricultural, Food Sciences and Veterinary Science campus practically dwarfs the village in term time.

Connie was at the VIS in Sutton for 29 years, becoming a specialist in the infertility of cattle. For this work, she would be awarded an MBE in 1970.

She had written poems since her childhood, but began submitting her poetry to competitions and writers' groups in the 1950s. She was an active member of the Nottingham Poetry Society from 1951 and also became its chair.

In 1960, she attended a Communist Party Music Group course.  One of the strands to this was a segment on learning to write lyrics on topical subjects, which she excelled in. Connie wrote this ballad on the subject of eviction:

 

                                                                                                                                                                                  Pic: Connie in 1949 

Ballad of the Weekend Child

Friday's child is loving and giving,

Saturday's child works hard for a living,

And, this one. was born by candle-light

At twelve on a Friday night.

 

As a baby, she was round and sweet,

As a child, the liveliest in the street.

The first of a string of sisters and brothers,

She looked after all the others.

 

Had she been loving. but not so giving,

Her looks could have got her a comfortable living,

She could have had a rich man about town,

But she married plain John Brown.

 

She was mother of five at twenty-four,

And then she worked harder than ever before.

With so many to love and so little to give

It was wonderful how they could live.

 

But this was all sixty years ago.

She's lived as a widow a long time now,

And children's children all over the town

Think the world of Grandmother Brown.

 

She's little enough for bite or sup,

But the curtains were clean and the rent paid up,

And she just couldn't understand it a bit

When they gave her notice to quit.

 

"With the rent we've paid since I was wed,

I reckon I've bought this house," she said.

They said, "It's tha landlord's, as you know well,

And he wants it empty, to sell".

 

If only she'd worked without loving or giving

And saved every penny, instead of just living,

She might have been landlord herself to-day,

But that wasn't her way.

 

They gave her three months to find somewhere to go,

But her sight isn't good and her age makes her slow.

She loves life, and yet she's beginning to pray

She dies on eviction day.

 

In stark contrast to her MBE, Connie was also a long-term member and assiduous attendee of the Communist Party’s Science and Technology Committee, certainly all during the 1970s and 80s.

Such was her stature in the world of science and communism that the CPGB erroneously continued to invite her to its renamed “Environment Advisory Committee”. She attended one such meeting in 1990 and offering to withdraw when her membership of the Communist Party of Britain was pointed out. But, instead, it was unanimously agreed she could attend but not vote.

In retirement, Connie published four volumes of poetry and a biography of Aleen Cust (1868-1937), the first woman veterinary surgeon to practice in the British Isles. The Chair of Nottingham Poetry Society in the 1980s, her work appeared in various poetry magazines and publications including 'Poetry Nottingham', the 'Breakthru' series, 'Voices', and the annual poetry workshop magazines of the Society of Civil Service Authors. Her long narrative poem 'The Great Eastern', based on her grandfather's journal, won the John Masefield Prize organized by 'Manifold' in 1968. Connie Ford also published four books of her own poetry: 'Veterinary Ballads and other poems' (1973), 'Wings and Water' (1973), 'Boat Crazy' (1975), and 'The Crimson Wing' (1977).

She was a lifelong supporter of communism and women's rights, and much enjoyed sailing, which she was highly proficient at.

Connie was awarded the J T Edwards Memorial Award by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1991.

She died in in 1998 and, to this day, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Trust offers Connie Ford Retraining Grants for the development and delivery of retraining courses.

A short memoir of her life was produced by Cathy Grindrod, 'Walking my Tightrope: The Life of Connie Ford' (Nottingham: Poetry Nottingham Publications, 2001).

Sources: Joe Clark, CPGB archives, Nottingham University, RCVS.