Margaret Ford is living proof that it’s never too late to write a book.
The 93-year-old, who was born in 1926 and grew up in Blackburn, went on to open military bookshops in Egypt and Singapore, and penned her debut novel A Daughter’s Choice with the help of a ghost writer.
Margaret, a Silverdale resident of many years, who moved to Morecambe in 1975, said she was prompted to start the writing project after hearing an interview on the TV.
“I was watching something and I heard someone say ‘I could never have done it without a ghost writer’,” she said.
“I’ve sold books, I was asked to proof read, but I’d never really thought about writing one.
“So I searched online for ghost writers and eventually found a local number. I read the lady a letter from my husband, and she was immediately interested in it and asked for more details.”
Thus A Daughter’s Choice was eventually published through Pan MacMillan in June 2019.
Part of the synopsis reads: “Poignant yet heart-warming, A Daughter’s Choice brilliantly evokes a lost world, seen through the eyes of a courageous and spirited young woman who never gave up on her dreams.”
The book explores Margaret’s experiences growing up in Blackburn and the surrounding countryside both before and during the war - work, family, education, courtship, and lots of dancing features in the story.
But life went on after the war.
Margaret’s husband Captain James Ford served in the military for 32 years.
During this time he wrote her 630 letters charting his time and experiences in the army, which Margaret has carefully collated along with many other documents and photographs.
A Daughter’s Choice though focuses on Margaret’s early life – growing up at her grandparents’ rural pub and her parents’ small terraced house, the break out of World War Two when she was 13, and the period leading up to the couple getting married in 1947.
After the war, in the early 1950s, Margaret joined Jim in Egypt where he was posted in the Royal Army Educational Corps, and she ended up helping set up and run a bookshop on the military base.
On a subsequent posting to Singapore a few years later, Margaret was asked to do the same based on the success she’d had with it in Egypt.
Jim retired from the army in 1975, and the couple moved to Morecambe, but Margaret said he didn’t know what to do with himself when he came out.
“He eventually went to Lancaster Job Centre and came out saying ‘I’m never going in there again’”, she remembers.
“Then it turns out that they offer him a job at Morecambe Job Centre a few weeks later, and he seemed to like that!”
The couple eventually moved to Silverdale, where Margaret still lives, and where Jim died in 2013.
Throughout her life Margaret was an active member of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), now the Royal Voluntary Service, and she continued this work for a while in Morecambe.
“We might not have got paid, but we certainly got a lot of laughs,” she said.
She remembers lost club members, wild goose chases, and accidentally poisoning someone allergic to chocolate.
“A man who we regularly gave clothing to, an Irish man, he stopped me outside the office one day, and he had his leg in plaster,” she said.
“He had been sleeping in an alley rolled up in a carpet, but someone has run over him in a car thinking it was just a carpet, and breaking his leg. Another time, Morecambe had flooded.
“It was after Meals on Wheels, one man had set his table for a meal, but he was nowhere to be seen.
“We were a bit concerned, so Jim, the police and I are trying to find him, and it gets to 5pm, it’s cold and miserable, and at The Crags they’re having a roaring time, and there was someone playing the piano, and it turns out it’s this man and he’s been there all day! We used to go and sell sweets at The Crags, and on one occasion I get called on by the police. I’d sold some chocolate to a woman that was allergic to it and she was in a bad way.
“So I went to see the lady at The Crags and when I get to the room she puts her arms around me and says, ‘oooh but it was good!’.”
One thing Margaret is not short of is stories, and her memory and attention to detail is remarkable.
A Daughter’s Choice is available in paperback online and in book stores from Pan MacMillan.