|Miss Patricia Catchpole by Cynthia Mottershaw
Affectionately known to all on the Island as 'Catchy', she was the daughter of a Suffolk farmer who also bred Suffolk
horses. Born in Darsham, Suffolk, Catchy moved to West Mersea in 1932.
Her first love was always horses, and 1949-1972, she ran a very successful riding school. Catchy taught hundreds of children and adults to ride and many of her pupils went on to make careers with horses. As a Pony Club instructor and local judge, she was always ready and willing to share her great knowledge and experience with others.
Catchy was also involved with many local societies including the Friends of Mersea, St. John Ambulance, PAT [ ProActive Therapy ] Dog Visiting Scheme and the Dramatic Club. She also tended the flower beds at East Mersea Church where she was a deputy Church Warden.
With Lisa, a stray dog from Battersea Dogs' Home, Catchy won a number of awards for obedience training throughout Essex and Suffolk.
Catchy loved simple things in life and I think she was at her happiest just walking her jogs round Cudmore Grove, watching the bird life around her.
She will be sadly missed by her many friends, and the Island community has suffered a sad loss.
Remembering "Catchy" by Jill Keene
My earliest memories of Catchy are when, as a child, I heard the story of how she saved my brother's pony from
certain pneumonia! The pony had managed to buck Barry off, and would not be caught in any circumstances. It was winter, with, ice, snow and bitter winds, and the pony was running loose in a field by the sea wall. Having tried buckets of feed and apples to no avail, it was decided to send for Catchy... the pony was still wearing his flapping saddle and bridle.
Catchy soon arrived with the answer - one of her prettiest mares! Very soon Catchy had him safely back in his stable, and said that the saddle had helped to ward off pneumonia.
Catchy would never be beaten. She said, "If you say you can't, you won't - say you can, and you will", and "Throw your heart over the jump first -you'll follow". How often I have heard these' ... and how true they were!
I can recall many happy days spent at her riding stables - first as a pupil, and then as a pony owner when she turned to livery in the seventies. Catchy had never-ending enthusiasm for her job, and really inspired us young ones to
work well for her in our weekends.
Often, I'm sure, we drove her mad, especially when caught using her beautiful, expensive haystack as an 'assault course' - and we were heartily told off for it! Now, I can understand just how she felt, and I am much stricter with my helpers! We used to start work at 7.15 and leave about 4 pm. - filthy, exhausted, but happy. For this we earned a much-prized extra lesson later in the week.
Catchy also had incredible energy; rarely ill, she was first at work in the morning, and was often there doing the late feed as well.
On leaving school I went as a working pupil at the stables - £5 a week plus lessons - and I was over the moon. It was very tiring at first, and a day-off was treasured.
One day Catchy was carted off to sea on a very strong young horse ... she took it all in her stride, although she could not swim!
Leading such a hectic life, and also having her mother and her elderly companion to care for, Catchy was the first to admit that she was forgetful. The funniest incident was when she turned up at a hunt meeting with a horse box full of horses and ponies. She safely mounted all her pupils and then found that she had left her own horse behind. The horse was most upset as she was all tacked up and still in her stable at home!
Countless people owe Catchy so much for starting them in their careers, and giving them the know-how to get so much pleasure from their horses and riding. I, for one, am greatly indebted.
(Jill Keene, B.H.S.A.I [British Horse Society Assistant Instructor] must be one of many hundreds who are indebted to Catchy.)
Patricia came to Mersea when she was 11 - she was born in 1921 and brought up in Suffolk - the daughter of Raymond and Phyllis Catchpole, farmers at Darsham Hall. She had an older brother Stewart and a younger brother Kenneth who died young. Her father Raymond and his brother were enthusiastic breeders of Suffolk Punch horse and this gave Catchy her grounding in horses.
With the depression, the farm all had to be sold and the family moved to Mersea, to 'Mondamin' on East Road. Nurse Gladys 'Nan' Peaceful joined them and was to remain with the family. Patricia became maid of all trades at the local private school, either known as the Tin Lizzie or St. Michael's. Miss Francis was the Headmistress. For 10 shillings a week, she would teach, sweep up, cut the grass etc. Patricia was a pupil teacher during the War (which was a reserved occupation).
She met Mr Neil and they started a Riding School at Garden Farm. This did not work long, but Patricia moved on to stables in the Hall Barn - until it became a Country Club. As compensation, Bert Carter put up a building for her, which became the East Road Riding School. Patricia retired in January 1983 and died in 1989.
St. Michael's School, Melrose Road c1936.
Patricia is a pupil at this time - back row, centre of the picture. The school was run by Miss Francis, who is on the right.
Patricia Catchpole on Patsy at Garden Farm c1946
Hall Barn Riding Stables
Mondamin on East Road, West Mersea with the stables next door. View looking northeast
Patricia Catchpole's stables on East Road, West Mersea c1960
Catchy talking to Dennis Chatters in 1984 (Audio)
Last Sunday at Riding Stables (Video - no sound)
More Patricia Catchpole images