Unfortunately the speaker who was booked for our March meeting let us down without prior warning. If our programme secretary, Mrs Copping, had not had the forethought to check with her a few days previously we might have found ourselves twiddling our thumbs and humming ‘why are we waiting?’. As it was we had a short time to find a stand-in, and Mrs Jane Leffler, wife of the well-loved Trimley rector (now retired), gallantly filled the breach. We were by no means the losers by the exchange as she gave us a fascinating account of her very full and interesting life.
Born in Isfahan, Persia (now Iran), where here parents were missionaries, she returned to England with her family, in 1939, when she was six. Due to the outbreak of war they never went back. Her first ambition was to be a teacher but as she grew up this switched to nursing. While waiting to start her training she worked as a gardener at Lee Abbey, a holiday and conference centre in Devon, where her father was warden. Moving to Cambridge to do a midwifery course she met a young man called Christopher Lerfler at a Newnham College bible study group. They were soon going out together and talking about everything under the sun. This continuing exchange of ideas is one of the reasons why she thinks they have such a strong marriage. The wedding took place a Lee Abbey in 1959.
Christopher, having been ordained, became first, curate at St Mary’s Bermondsey and then vicar at Herne Hill, where they started giving accommodation to needy people, a practice that has continued all their lives. Within two years she had borne two sons, Jonathan and Jeremy, and then fell pregnant again with triplets. On the bus coming back from the hospital with her sons after hearing this news the conductor, explaining the system of fares, said, ‘Even if you had five children, only one would go free.’ ‘Well’ she thought, ‘I have got five,’ and she shed a few tears. The triplets, two girls and a boy, were followed by another boy, making six in all. Soon they moved to Little Glemham in Suffolk where they lived in a huge Georgian rectory with no central heating. Here they kept goats which went on holiday with them in a Dormobile van, big enough for both goats and children. After a spell at Bury St Edmunds they came to Trimley in 1982.
During her time as rector’s wife Jane started a Knitter-Natter group (title self-explanatory) and a guides troupe, and also went back to nursing at an old peoples’ home. She now has fourteen and seven ninths grandchildren, seven of each sex at the moment. In the next few months they are planning a golden wedding celebration when the whole family will get together from various corners of the world.
V E Bines
March 2009 – Jane Leffler