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North Devon in 100 Objects: 18. The Evacuee’s Doll

A sitting doll with a painted face, wearing a pink knitted hooded dress, tied with a white ribbon, and pink knitted boots.

This doll, dressed in pink, represents the experiences of one war-time child who was evacuated from London to the peace of North Devon. Her name was Janet. Bombed out of their home, Janet, her younger sister, baby brother and their mother were taken to a local Rest Centre, while their father salvaged what he could from the ruins of their house. Janet took with her a beloved rag doll named Jinny made by her mother from black-out curtain material, but at the refuge she gave it to a girl whose family were dead and who was crying inconsolably.

Janet’s aunt Ida was working in Bideford, where she cared for evacuee children from London.  She found a cottage for Janet, her sister, brother and mother in the countryside nearby, but with no electricity or running water. Here they settled into country life with all its unfamiliar experiences.  At Christmas their father, who had stayed in London, arrived in Bideford with presents, best of which were two ‘china’ dolls. Each doll was clad in knitted bonnet, leggings and coat. Janet’s was pink and her sister’s was blue.

The original garments disappeared years ago, but the doll survives and, freshly kitted out in pink, has been donated to the Museum by Mrs Janet Moake. We don’t really know the doll’s name, but as the doll that was given away was called Jinny, perhaps this one is a Jinny too.

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