A Poppy Seller

Ellen’s life was a long one, and she didn’t hang about. Five years after her birth in Filey she was living with her parents at Cape Cottage in Bridlington. Her father was a Chelsea Pensioner – an old soldier – and he died before the next census was taken. His widow, an elementary schoolteacher, and Ellen were living at Marsh Cottage in Membury, Devon, in 1881 and working together in the adjacent school. Ellen had found her vocation.

In 1891 Ellen, schoolmistress, was boarding at the house of William SIMPSON, a coke drawer, in Brandon and Byshottles, County Durham. She must have been courting because the following year she married a schoolmaster, William Bowman GUTHRIE, a native of nearby Willington.

Sometime after the wedding, they journeyed south and their two sons, Harold and Bede, were born in North Marston, Buckinghamshire. The enumerator in 1901 found the quartet at Hambleden, near Henley – both parents working as teachers. I don’t know how much longer the family unit held together. I couldn’t find Ellen and Bede in 1911. Father William, 43, married and a schoolmaster, was boarding at Old Hall Farm near Carnforth, Lancashire. Harold, 17, was a bank clerk, boarding in Kew, Surrey.

William and Ellen did take up married life again, receiving news in 1917 at their home in Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk that their sons had been killed on the Western Front. Harold perished while serving with the Royal Fusiliers and Bede, a Lance Corporal with the Gloucestershire Regiment is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

William died in King’s Lynn on 29 July 1936, aged 69. Ellen kept busy for another eighteen years.

Death of Mrs E. Guthrie a big loss

Mrs Ellen Guthrie, of Brancaster Staithe, who has died, was the old type of village schoolmistress, instilling the highest virtues as well as the elements of learning.

She thought it her duty to be a staunch churchwoman and organiser and help in all village activities, a confidante and solace to many.

In September 1924, the late Mrs J. Lance and Mrs Ellen Guthrie, in collaboration with Mrs G. Pike, arranged a series of meetings resulting in the inauguration of Docking and district women’ section of the British Legion and the formation of women’s section sub-committees in eight villages.

From about 50 in 1924 the membership of the women’s section has risen to 410. Mrs Guthrie became its first secretary and despite advancing years was at the time of her death still a most active member of all committees.


Ever since the inception of the Poppy Day Appeal in 1921 she had been responsible for the sale of poppies in Brancaster Staithe and Burnham Deepdale and, throughout the whole of that period, her total collection remained the highest per head of the population for any of the villages in the area of the Docking district Poppy Day Appeal Committee. No one ever declined to purchase a poppy from her.

She was a true soldier’s daughter. When the news of the deaths in action of her two sons, within a few days of each other, was received, she still continued in her place caring for the wounded at the Red Cross Hospital at Thornham.

Hundreds of letters and photographs and a grave flower-lined by children testified to the love this seemingly lonely woman evoked.

Mrs Ellen Guthrie has left the impress of her personality on many.

Lynn Advertiser 16 July 1954

Tree 82  · Arndale Leaves

Google Alt-Text: a group of colourful flowers.

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