Minnie Mercer was the mother of the collector, Tony Wales, and was born in East Grinstead on 08/01/1889. The family, including her three siblings, mother and grandmother moved to Horsham when Minnie was still a child and she lived there for the rest of her life.
Money was tight and the family made their own fun, including keeping up the traditional superstitions relating to events such as Halloween and St. Valentine’s Day. Minnie’s grandmother was a country nurse who knew no fear and would walk the country lanes after dark without harm. She was known for the Sussex trait of obstinacy and the family told many stories in which she featured. Minnie’s mother was a resourceful personality who made extra money by writing for women’s magazines. She cured most of the family ills with home-made remedies and was in demand to tell people’s fortunes from their tea leaves and their characters from their handwriting, two gifts which Minnie claimed to have inherited. Minnie also learnt many songs from her mother who, in turn had learnt them from her own father, keeping the tradition of folk songs alive in the family.
In 1923, Minnie married (James) Ronald Wales and gave birth to Tony on 31/12/1924. She sang the songs learnt as a child to her own son, which probably sparked Tony’s own interest in Sussex folklore and allowed him to record her for posterity. She was a devout Catholic, despite remaining very superstitious and spent the rest of life happily in Horsham where she died on 12/10/1972.
Time passes over more cheerful and gay, The
Morn was fair the sky was clear, The
Shepherd of the Downs being weary of his port, A
'Twas on one summer's evening all in the month of May
Here's adieu sweet lovely Nancy, ten thousand times adieu
As I walked out one May morning down by a river side
Jolly young soldier a letter did write, A