Ode to a Nonagenarian

On the occasion of my Grandfathers 90th birthday my mother , Jane Lines, wrote the following poem – dated 28/1/78

Sonnet1 to a Nonagenarian
Young George2 goes trotting off to school
To Owen's3 - for he is no fool !
There he gathers lots of prizes,
Gilt-edged books, all shapes and sizes.
To be an engineer is his ambition,
So breaking with family tradition,
His brothers, making rocking horses4
Do joinery and other courses,
But working in a steel foundry
Is not as easy as making tea5 !
An unpronounceable Swiss firm6 -
What a lot there is to learn !
Suddenly all has to halt7;
The Kaiser's out to take our salt.
"Now form up all you soldier lads, for you are off to fight.
Left, right, left, right, down the street. It's here you'll stay the night."
"I don't like this - not up to much - what do you think men ?
Down the stairs - we'll try our luck and join the queue again !"8
Then a young soldier, off to France,
To lead the Germans a pretty dance.
There awarded the M.C.9
For some secret gallantry10.
Back home to try a different life,
Accompanied by a pretty young wife11,
To the beautiful peaceful countryside
To farm at Box12 and there reside.
Meanwhile Arthur13, Bill14 and Walter15
Have ideas - their Dad16 won't alter -
So boldly the brothers three
Form a brand new company17.
Famous throughout the land for toys
Here we come - the Triang18 boys !
"Before you lose all you put your shirt on19
You'd better come and help at Merton20."
And now he's an engineer again.
(The scale is different from a toy train21 !)
Doll's houses22, trikes23 and prams24 you see
With the well-known name of "Pedigree"25.
His own family increases -
Along with nephews26 and some nieces27.
Lovely hols at Gorran Haven28,
Always sunny, never rainin',
Michael29, Roger30, in the sea
Here comes Jennifer Mary.31
Jeremy's32 busy with a spade
Tim's33 shorts on rocks will soon be frayed !
Alas ! Another war34 we see
And Triang make things military35.
(About the shade of yonder windmill36 -
Does Grandpa's army lurk there still ? )37
The family at Pickwick38 are,
with Sam39 and chicks40 and motor car.41
But eventually persuaded to retire
They've gone to the heights of Hampshire.42
There though armed with fork, spade and barrow
The house was inaptly43 named Rest Harrow44.
No other such super veg45 can grow !
No wonder he's first in the Bentworth Show46 !
The latest venture's to plant some vines -
And next twill be sampling home made wines.
Down to France47 and the lovely sun -
to stay in the flat48 - it is such fun !
Then after having B on B49
They'll have a quick splash in the sea.
Now for the family photograph50. "Line up everyone.
Jonathan51, Chris52 and Jennifer Ruth53, Peter54, Elizabeth55, Ian56,
Robert57, Julie58 and Nicola59 - come all you grandchildren !"
Now everybody, give a loud cheer !
For now its Grandpa's 90th year !!


Some of the links to the notes are not yet active. I hope to get them all done when I get time.
Some of the information I do not have, and would be grateful if any family members can fill bits in, or correct what is here.

  1. Technically not a sonnet, as it does not have 14 lines,  but I am happy for it to mean what she chose it to mean.
  2. George Edward Lines – my Grandfather, known in the family as “Chief”
  3. Dame Alice Owen’s School – I think
  4. His uncle and father were George and Joseph Lines of G&J Lines who made rocking horses.
  5. Grandpa did his engineering apprenticeship initially in England – at Clayton & Shuttleworth for 4 years, ending in December 1911,   and then in Germany and then in Switzerland (I think)
  6. The Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik which made the mountain railways. My Aunt Fanny’s Grandfather, coincidentally, worked there also – although that would have been earlier
  7. Grandpa was an Army reservist, so was called up at the start of World War 1.
  8. Jennifer told Jeremy that when Grandpa joined up in 1914, aged 26, they were billeted in Epsom and when he was shown his house he went upstairs and was not impressed so he came down, walked out of the back door and joined the back of the column and finally ended up in super ‘digs’ but his good landlady had the memorable name Mrs Coffin!
  9. He was awarded the Military Cross
  10. He did not speak much about his wartime experiences, but I think it may have been “For great gallantry and determination during operations which led up to the establishment of our line across the Lys on the night of 19/20th Oct. 1918. He personally supervised the building of infantry bridges across the river under heavy fire, and it was due to his example that the operation was carried to a successful issue.”
    From The London Gazette.  There is more about his war record at my George Edward Lines Official War Record posting.
  11. My Grandmother.
  12. After the war Grandpa switched from engineering to farming. More information about the farm would be interesting.
  13. Arthur Lines, Grandpa’s younger brother
  14. William Lines, Grandpa’s eldest brother
  15. Walter Lines, Grandpa’s elder brother.
  16. Joseph Lines 1848-1931
  17. Lines Brothers
  18. Three Lines make a triangle – hence Triang
  19. The farm ran into financial difficulties during the Depression and Grandpa went to work for Lines Brothers
  20. The Triang factory at Merton. From http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/toy-manufacturers/lines-bros-ltd/  “Even though the Old Kent Road factory had only been operational for a little over a year, by the end of 1923 it had become apparent that Lines Bros. was growing at a rate that required even bigger premises. In December, a contract was placed for a new purpose-built factory in Morden Road, Merton, South London, on a 27 acre site.”
  21. Hornby and Triang Trains
  22. Grandpa’s niece, Peggy Lines had a very nice dolls house
  23. Not really related to Grandpa, but apparently Walter Lines invented the scooter when he was just 15.
  24. Some notes are going in so that if I think of something relevant I don’t have to renumber everything.
  25. Another well known Lines Brothers trademark, though I don’t know if Grandpa had a direct connect with that side of things.
  26. Nephews – Walter Lines had two sons Graeme and Sandy, William Lines had one son Joseph, and Arthur Lines had three sons, Arthur, Hugh and Peter.
  27. Nieces – Walter Lines had two daughters, Peggy (of Hamleys fame) and Gillian, William Lines had four daughters, Winifred, Margaret, Dorothy and Nancy, and Arthur Lines had one daughter, Marjorie.
  28. I have seen a film clip of my father, uncles and aunt playing on the beach, probably at Gorran Haven in 1939
  29. Michael Lines, my uncle
  30. Roger Lines, my father, who was a research forester became Silviculturist North, and received an O.B.E. for services for forestry in 1986
  31. Jennifer Lines, now retired from being Headmistress of Herriard school and and now focuses on her painting.
  32. Jeremy Lines, now retired from yacht building and is now occupied with Yachting History and other sailing related activities
  33. Tim Lines, now retired from the International Labour Organization
  34. The Second World War
  35. From http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/toy-manufacturers/lines-bros-ltd/ During the Second World War Lines Bros. Ltd. stopped making toys and concentrated all their efforts on production to help the allied war effort.“. This included a redesign of the Sten Gun – lots of detail available in the book Sten Machine Carbine whose author I know through Oxford Phab
  36. The windmill on the heath was the Home Guards H.Q. where they mustered. 1939-44.
  37. ???
  38. The next family home was called Pickwick, after Pickwick, near Box where Granpa farmed. The Mr Pickwick of the Dickens novel was indirectly named after the same place.
  39. Sam was the family dog. I don’t have a picture or know very much about him
  40. The family kept chickens. I have seen a film of Granny feeding them.
  41. The car I remember as a Austin 1100, but this was probably referring to an earlier car.
  42. To the village of Medstead.
  43. The family mantras are “If a job’s worth doing … Its worth doing well” and “If you want a job done well… Do it yourself” – which tends to keep us busy.
  44. The name of the my grandparents house.
  45. There was a large vegetable garden, and  a huge fruit cage, rotating compost heaps, and Grandpa was out in the garden a lot of the time.
  46. My Grandfather regularly carried off most of the fruit and vegetable prizes in the Bentworth show, and my Grandmother would win many of the floral entries.
  47. He was driving to the south of France regularly, as he became older (I am not sure when) they started to break the journey half way down.
  48. The Flat at St-Clair, near  Le Lavandou
  49. Breakfast on the Balcony.
  50. Family photographs were a required ceremony at family gathering, using the self timer feature of the camera to add suspense and excitement.
  51. Me
  52. My brother
  53. The elder of my sisters
  54. A cousin, now a doctor in Australia
  55. My younger sister.
  56. A cousin, and International Croquet player
  57. Another cousin, also now living in Australia
  58. Another cousin
  59. Another cousin, now living in New Zealand.



  1. I am Tim Lowth. My mother is Gillian Lowth (nee Lines), Walter Lines’ youngest child. I think that makes us second cousins.
    In your note 22 to the Ode to a Nonagenarian you refer to Peggy Lines’ dolls house. Peggy (my aunt) never married, and gave the dolls house to me in the 1990’s. I had three small daughters at the time, who loved to play with it, even though the plumbing and electrics were no longer functional. Peggy had made some fairly brutal alterations to the dolls house to get it into the house she moved to in Devon – a chimney sawn off and the whole house shortened by about 18 inches by the removal of the garage and accommodation over it – but it was still an impressive thing. Since 2011 the doll’s house has been in the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.
    I am very interested in my ancestry, and wondered how much you know about Abel’s parents, grandparents etc.

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