A CONTEMPLATIVE portrait of a Tolpuddle villager featured in Looking Back last week stirred memories for readers.

We asked people to help us name the woman who was photographed 33 years ago at the 150th anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

It was Peter Dewhurst who requested the help as he took the photo in 1984 and lost his notes on the photo in a house move.

Well, courtesy of our loyal Looking Backers, we can name the villager as Cissie Puckett, who ran a general store in Tolpuddle.

And we now know that Cissie was aged 90 in this black and white photo.

Cissie's granddaughter Gill Watch got in touch to provide us with some fascinating information about her grandmother.

Cissie married William Puckett, whose mother Jane was a direct descendent of George Hammett, the brother of Tolpuddle Martyr James Hammett.

Gill said: "They were proud and staunch supporters of the martyrs and all that they stood for."

Cissie Agnes Ball was born on February 14 1894 in London and attended Peterborough School, Clancarty Rd, Fulham, London. She was a keen violinist.

Her husband-to-be, William Jabez Seth Puckett, was born on September 16 1879, the son of Seth Puckett and Jane (Hammett).

She was the eldest daughter of William Hammett and Judith (nee Loveless). This William was a local builder and lay preacher. They had two other daughters, Sarah and Clara. These Hammetts were direct descendants of George Hammett, brother to James Hammett Tolpuddle Martyr.

Gill said: "I’m not sure how Cissie and William met but I believe it may have been in Scotland where he worked as a gamekeeper on a large estate and she may have been in service. "They did spend the first years of marriage in Scotland. In 1916 William joined The Kings Royal Rifle Corps, surviving the war until demobbed in 1919."

When William Hammett died, he left his estate to his daughters Sarah and Clara. They remained in Tolpuddle in the cottage, later renamed Hammetts House, until their deaths in 1919 and1922.

William and Cissie then moved in and opened a small general shop next to the cottage.

William's sister Mabel (Roberts) moved in to the adjoining cottage. They lived a simple, frugal life, raising three children – Irene who settled in Swanage, William in Weymouth and Beryl, who was the only one to stay in Tolpuddle.

Gill said: "Between them, Cissie and William had a vast knowledge and information about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and were often called upon by authors researching for books or writing newspaper articles.

"They were always more than happy to keep their memory and story alive. They kept all articles from newspapers about the Martyrs and were never afraid to correct things they knew or believed to be wrong. They also kept in touch with many relatives/descendants of the other Martyrs, especially in America."

William died on June 3 1969 at home, just short of his 90th birthday.

Gill said: "Cissie continued to live in the cottage, treating herself to the luxury of having electricity connected at the age of 76, until she was admitted to Wareham Hospital at the age of 97 having scalded her leg.

"She later went to James Day Home in Swanage where she died on June 16 1992 aged 98 years."

We also heard from another granddaughter of Cissie, Jenny Copp, of Dorchester.

Jenny said: "It gave me quite a shock to open up the paper and see my grandmother in there.

"I always wear my gran's wedding ring. I lived in Tolpuddle when I was growing up and she lived down the other end of the village. I was always keen to go and visit her as she was always happy to see us and so kind.

"We especially liked to go down there when she had the shop so we could have a few sweets."

Jenny also remembers her grandmother getting used to electricity when she had it connected in the cottage aged 76.

"I remember she used to turn the fridge off when she was going out and you would come back and the ice-cream would all be melted!" she said.

Thanks also to Graham Kellaway for getting in touch. He used to live a couple of doors away from Cissie.

He said: "She and her husband used to do a little bit of maintenance because back then was when the main road went through Tolpuddle. I remember her husband going up on the roof and replacing some slates. There used to be a little shop there that they would keep."

It just goes to show how one photo can spark so many memories. Thanks to our readers for keeping the memory of Cissie alive.


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