Part 1 - The Early Years
They were brought up near Yelverton in a house that looked south to the estuary and north to Dartmoor, the younger daughters of a gentleman-chandler, John Radford, who had escaped the narrow evangelical society of Victorian Plymouth to build himself a fine house and indulge in a passion for watercolour landscapes which took him all over the southwest on a bicycle ‘from the Wrekin to Surrey’ carrying sketch pad and paints. The girls were educated at home and later in their teens went to Felixstowe School on the east coast where they nearly froze but flourished.
In the early years of the last century Maisie, the older born in 1885, studied singing and violin, first in London then for 2 years in Berlin with Hans Moser, who was the second violinist with the Joachim Quintet. Later she abandoned singing herself but encouraged others always in choirs. She was a poet and Bard of the Gorseth.
Evelyn, born in 1887, went to Newnham College, Cambridge, to read classics - she was by then a a talented pianist and linguist, played the oboe, fenced, and was one of the Neo-Paganists of whom Rupert Brooke was best known - an intellectual, artistic, liberal group not quite so notorious as the Bloomsbury lot but, like them, reacting against Victorian restrictions in the early years of the new century.
Then came the 1914-18 War. M and E, as they were best known to friends and family, were by then 30 and 28, not married nor employed, living in London during the winter and in the summer in St Anthony in Roseland, where in 1910, after the death of their father, their mother Edith Pinsent had bought the 2 converted Coastguards cottages.
The previous owner, an artist, had added the fine wooden studio at the back which was to become so significant in future years. Here Aunt Edie and her 3 daughters could escape from town and entertain the extended family of Radford and Pinsent cousins with sailing and music. My mother was one of the cousins who came every year.
During the war M and E ran a community in Norfolk for families of Belgian refugees for one and a half years until the men were all absorbed in wartime employment, then they went out to Corsica with the British Red Cross to run camps for Serbian refugees fleeing from Yugoslavia – and finally both served in the women’s land army in Cornwall.