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Farmer's wife who worked as driver at Westland Aircraft

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

Mary Harding worked as a driver for Westland Aircraft in Yeovil during and after the Second World War

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Mary Harding, who has died aged 88, worked as a driver for Westland Aircraft in Yeovil both during and following the Second World War, ferrying many dignitaries and directors of the company in style and safety all over the country.

Born Mary Goodenough three days before Christmas Day in 1924, Mary was convent educated in Teignmouth, South Devon, but her school days were cut short before she had a chance to complete her Oxford School Certificate by the outbreak of the Second World War, and the "tip and run" raids by the Germans on the south coast.

Fearing for their safety, the Goodenough family left their home, Krithia, and relocated to Holsworthy for two years until Mary's call-up papers arrived and she went, with her younger sister Margaret, to Yeovil to work for Westland Aircraft, which built more Spitfires than any other manufacturer.

Initially starting off in the machine shop, the two sisters were soon charged with other tasks, Margaret sent to work in the welfare department and Mary appointed a driver. She could have chosen to join the armed forces but her father, Eli, was ageing and as a dutiful daughter she did not want to be sent to foreign lands and be away from him for too long.

She helped to nurse him, right up to his death in 1952, aged 86. No one knows to this day how Eli afforded the rambling and now listed farm Stanbury in Morwenstow, North Cornwall nor the family home Krithia, nor the house he bought to rent out in Teignmouth, but most of his income did come from property rental, including Stanbury until he sold it many years later.

Mary herself worked until the late 1950s, enjoying being at the wheel of the imposing Humber Snipe and the less prestigious Austen A90.

As the decade drew to a close she met Ronald Harding, a farmer, to whom she would be married for 51 years until his death just a month before her own.

After their marriage in 1960, Mary's long hours on the road came to an end but she remained an excellent family "chauffeur" for the rest of her life.

Mary turned from career girl into a traditional housewife and helped to run the rambling Medieval farm Bellerica in Upton Noble, tending and planting its acre of garden almost single-handedly, bringing up the couple's daughter, Julie, looking after Ronnie, decorating, cleaning and cooking – following in the family tradition she was an excellent cook – but rarely venturing outside to help on the farm.

"If I do that," she would say, "I will end up doing it for ever more."

Mary is survived by her sister Margaret, daughter Julie and four grandchildren, Oliver, William, Chloe and Daisy, who brought her great joy during the last 15 years of her life.

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