The Mother of Necton

Paperback published by The Larks Press September 2009
ISBN 978 1 90-4006 48 0
Price £9.50

Necton has grown somewhat since Eliza Brown married Walter Ong there in 1904. It was then a small farming village where farm labourers earned 10s a week in the hinterland of the market town of Swaffham. The story of this couple and their family takes us through all the hardships of the 20th century, the first World War, the Great Depression, the second World War and the grim years of rationing and austerity after that. It tells us much about Necton, but at the heart of the tale is the author's grandmother, Eliza Ong, the local midwife, loved and trusted by all, who because of the number of babies she helped bring into the world and because everyone went to her with their problems, became known as the Mother of Necton.

This is an updated reissue of the hardback book published by Breedon Books in 2000 and is available in most Norfolk bookshops, but if you live outside Norfolk it's best to contact the publisher:


Mary Nichols has written more than thirty historical novels, including some romantic tales for Mills and Boon, but this is her first work of non-fiction and this reviewer is certain it will join the ranks of her popular novels. Why? Because the story of her grandmother, Eliza Ong, the village’s unregulated and uncertificated midwife, is told with a mixture of love, respect and an understanding of the hard life she lived, all in a style of writing which is eminently readable and in its way is a masterpiece.
The way historical facts, village history, our native dialect and human emotions are brought together to record the story of just one lady and a village we take for granted as we drive swiftly past on the busy A47.'   
Friends of the Norfolk Dialect.

Mary Nichols has written a beautiful story of her grandparents, Eliza and Walter. I have never read another book that has left me feeling as if I've been wrapped in a blanket of love and warmth as this one did.

Ms. Nichols has a unique quality of making her readers feel as though they are right there in the kitchen with her and her grandmother as Eliza tells her family stories. While this book is entitled "Mother of Necton", the title earned by Eliza with the village as she tended to both those entering this life and those who "had a good run" and were departing, it is really so much more.

You will not regret reading this book as you cry with Eliza's separation from her family at a young age following the death of her mother; laugh as Walter chides her for her driving of the pony and cart; live, or in some cases possibly re-live, WWII and rationing of food and petrol, and finally grieve when you read the last pages of the book and leave this wonderful family.

Here's a thumbs up and a big "THANK YOU" to Ms. Nichols for sharing her family and history with her readers.

Susan Wright, posted on


A definite keeper, right up there with the rural writings of Allison Uttley
and Flora Thompson. It's the biography of a couple who married in Norfolk
in 1904, and who just happen to be the grandparents of Mary Nichols. No
fictionalising history here - rather a fascinating true story from which I
learned so much about country life in the late Victorian era right through
to the 1970s. Beautifully written, I didn't want it to end, but the
consolation was that now I can look forward to the excitement of
discovering Mary's historical novels. If they are anything like The Mother
of Necton, they will be unputdownable.
Penny Haysom, member of the Romantic Novelists Association. 

My husband and I have both read 'The Mother of Necton' and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've enjoyed Mary Nichols' novels for years, but this is something very special. I wish I could remember my past as well as she's remembered hers. It's easy to read, vivid in its description of the past and you feel you know the characters. The book should be recognised as a national treasure.'  Avid Reader posted on 


The hardback is now out of print, although there are a few copies still to be had via the Internet.

ISBN: 1 85983 217 2

'There is an amazing amount of well-researched detail... the book is illustrated throughout with photographs of the family and the village. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in English rural social history.' Country Smallholding.