Q&A with Grandma Mavis
Today, I sit down with Grandma Mavis, the wife of the founder of Hollands Country Clothing, Malcolm. At 92 years young, Mavis is still very much at the heart of the family, as the mother of Mark and grandmother to Matthew, Sarah, and Robert, all of whom run the business today.
She still lives on the farm, surrounded by her family and her beloved ginger cat Montgomery.
Here, we have a good chat about the history of our farm and family, as well as a surprising conversation about Pigeon racing of all things!
Sarah: Grandma Mavis, spill the beans! You moved from Whaley Bridge to live on the farm with Malcom when you were in your twenties. How did you find life on the farm initially?
Mavis: Well, I've got to say, they worked tirelessly and had very little. It was the 1950s when I met Malcolm, who had been farming since he left school at 14. The biggest issue for me was that they had no running water or indoor toilet at that time, so initially I would always make damn sure I'd been before I went to visit! I do have very fond memories of them still doing the milk round, every day, with their horse & cart.
Sarah: What’s your first memory of Malcolm launching the idea of Hollands Country Clothing?
Mavis: It all began after he recovered from a heart attack and he was struggling to continue to farm. Malcolm started selling clothing and footwear to other farmers and eventually expanded to country markets such as Chelford. Shortly after, Mark finished university and joined his father in the business.
Sarah: Any interesting stories you can remember from the early days of the business that you'd like to share?
Mavis: (giggling to herself) There was the story of the odd wellingtons. Malcolm and Mark couldn't understand why they had so many odd pairs of wellies which caused a lot of bickering and finger-pointing. It turned out that another farmer (who shall not be named!) who helped at the shows had been selling boots to customers with different-sized feet, leaving them with a surplus of undesirable boots!
Sarah: Looking back now, what would you like to share about Hollands Country Clothing that most people wouldn't know?
Mavis: (Pondering for a moment) That you were operating from my kitchen for a while! I would make sure I’d had my dinner and gone into the lounge with a cup of tea before your uncle and your brother started bringing jackets and boots in to pack!
Sarah: If there’s one piece of advice you would give to your grandchildren now, what would it be?
Mavis: Always listen to each other’s opinions and points of view.
Sarah: What do you love most about having all of your family living on the farm with you?
Mavis: I feel unbelievably lucky to have all of my family around me and to see them every day. It reminds me of William Swindels and Sarah Ann, Malcolm’s grandparents, who had nothing and worked to create what we have now.
When I came here, they had flag stone floors with hessian bags on the floor; they had nothing and worked 7 days a week! They did enjoy pigeon racing though, and that’s the only thing I remember them spending money on. They’d be giving them whiskey and all kinds of stuff! When the pigeons flew back after the competition on a Saturday, Malcolm’s father, Alan, would clock the time and then head over to New Mills Pigeon Fanciers to see who had won! I still have some of the correspondence somewhere.
*Long discussion on Pigeon racing ensues*
Sarah: OK, lets get back to it, what’s your favourite item of clothing that we sell?
Mavis: Waxed jackets were really what brought about the initial success for us. Everyone wanted one, and now they're back in fashion! And I remember that for a while, we bought them off two ladies who used to be machinists at Barbour! I wonder if they're still in business...
Sarah: What was your favourite part of having HCC running from the farm in the early days?
Mavis: I felt more involved and interested and could keep up with everything (aka she kept up with all the gossip!).
Sarah: Finally, Grandma Mavis, who’s your favourite grandchild? 😉
Mavis: No comment.