Tansley Village

"He swept me off my feet"

Sehri Saklatvala always listened with rapt attention to her mother talking about her early life in Tansley and stored all the details of the village and village life in her mind.

Sehri’s mother, Sarah Elizabeth Marsh, one of 12 children was born in 1889. The fanily lived at Gregory Yard, now known as Walston Close, where they had the centre cottage of three with their own parents in the cottages at either side.

Life was difficult for Sally as Sarah was generally known. There always seemed to be a baby being born and everyone had to help with the younger children. At 7 she was baking bread and at 13 she was in service. After a brief spell in the Tape Mill in nearby Lumsdale, she went to work at Smedley’s Hydro as a pantry maid, becoming a waitress by the age of 17.

Sally (Sarah) Marsh

Shapurji Saklatvola
Hydropathic treatment

A number of Hydropathic establishments were built in and around Matlock but the largest and most luxurious was Smedley’s Hydro built on the hillside overlooking the town. By this time, Matlock had become well known as a place to take the waters and this attracted influential and wealthy people from all over the country and from abroad.
A very pretty girl

One day a well-to-do Indian Gentleman, some 32 years old, came to the Hydro to take the waters, saw Sally, aged 17, and fell in love with her. Sally was a very attractive young girl and for some time she rejected his attentions.

However, Shapurji Saklatvala, as he was called, pursued her and tried many ruses to gain her attention. He bribed the Head waiter so he could sit at a table served by her; he distributed lottery tickets and gave her a bicycle saying she had won a prize

Flowers almost every day

As Sally recounted to her daughter Sehri many times in later years “He asked Maria, (her cousin) who I was and then asked her to call me over to his table and introduce me to him. With his beard, I took him for an old man. He gave me flowers almost every day and asked me to go for walks. I was too frightened to do so but I kept saying I would, just to satisfy him for the time being.”

“Whenever I went out he would walk behind me. One afternoon I went to Matlock by bus; when I offered my fare the conductor said a gentleman behind had paid ... One day I got a note from a shoe-shop, would I go in and try on some shoes. There was a note inside a special pair of shoes which I was to try on, from him saying he hoped to be able to buy all my shoes from now on.”

“The day he left the Hydro to return to London he asked me to see him off on the 2-19 train. I said yes but had no intention of going. My friend and I went out for the afternoon. When we returned there was a message to say he was at the station and intended to stay there until I went to see him. I went at 9 o’clock that night. He wrote to me twice a day after he went away.”
A special birthday present

In the end he invited Sally and her parents to a meal at the Peveril of the Peak Hotel for her 18th birthday. Knowing she would not remain alone with him, he persuaded her to go into the rose garden with him accompanied with her father as chaperon, so that he could give her his birthday present.
There he dropped onto one knee and asked her to marry him - offering himself as her birthday present.

A new life

They were soon married and went to live in London where Shapurji became a well-known MP. Sally was a wonderful person. She never changed. She took her new life in society in her stride and remained herself and cherished many fond memories of her childhood in Tansley.

Shapurji Saklatvola, a Parsi born in Bombay in 1874 was to become only the third Indian Member of the British Parliament and the second Communist MP in 1922. He served as MP from 1922 to 1929 and died in 1936.
The Fifth Commandment

Sehri, who was named after her father’s name for her mother, learned from her mother all about her mother’s brothers and sisters, about what they did as children, going on the moors to pick bilberries and about her many relations. After her mother died she came up to Derbyshire and walked miles looking at places her mother had described, visited places her mother had visited, walking the paths her mother had trod and finding people who knew the family.

In 1991 Sehri published a biography of her father with the title “The Fifth Commandment”. Why The Fifth Commandment? As Sehri explained, the fifth commandment appears in the Bible .... “Honour thy father and thy mother ....” That is what I am doing in this story: I write a book: I carve a headstone.

(The Fifth Commandment, Published in 1991 by Manchester Free Press, Paragon Mill, Jersey Street, Manchester. ISBN 0-9518274-0-5 )