Originally printed on April 3, 2009 in the Family Announcements.
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Winifred Foley, who wrote a best-selling memoir of her girlhood in rural Gloucestershire, died on 21 March, 2009, aged 94.Her first book, A Child in the Forest, was published by the BBC in 1974 after it was aired as a Woman's Hour serial on the radio the previous year.It became the first of the celebrated Forest Trilogy. Chronicling her experiences of growing up in poverty in the Forest of Dean, the story subsequently inspired a BBC Television drama Abide with Me (1977).The book's sequel, No Pipe Dreams for Father (1977), charted her teenage years, while the concluding volume, Back to the Forest (1981), described Winifred Foley's return to the Forest of Dean with a family of her own after the Second World War.Born in 1914 in the mining village of Brierley, near Cinderford, Winnie was the daughter of a miner who was blacklisted for being a local leader in the General Strike of 1926.Never having enough food to eat or warm clothes to wear cemented her lifelong socialist views, as did the influence of her husband Syd. She met her him at a political meeting while she was in service in London and they married on Christmas Day 1938.A Child in the Forest started life as a handwritten scrawl in dog-eared exercise books before finding its way to the BBC in Bristol.Later, the book financed a pleasant cottage in Cliffords Mesne, near Newent, where painting became an interest. Finally, after her husband's death, she moved to Cheltenham, where she had gone into service as a teenager.Her eldest son Chris said: "She never lost her love of the Forest, even when she moved. My mother had a very political mind and talked about a lot of things, but she never talked about anything with more affection than her days in the Forest."My mother’s experiences and early life were harsh but also very commonplace. The thing my mother did was to find a voice for it. Many, many thousands of other people had very similar experiences."Her funeral was held at Cheltenham Crematorium and her coffin was adorned with a huge bouquet of yellow and blue spring flowers.The writer told her children she wanted her humanist funeral to be a low key affair in line with her lifelong atheist beliefs. But it did feature the song I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, the theme tune to the acclaimed TV series Abide with Me.
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