A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote a piece about a Worcester character/nuisance (depending on your point of view) called George Webb, aka Chicken George.

Among comments it attracted were references to another Worcester personality who was at the other end of the scale to garrulous George, for the Lady in White hardly spoke to a soul.

I saw her once as a young schoolboy in the late 1950s and to be honest she scared me.

Standing more than six feet tall, voluminously dressed and her face caked in what appeared to be baking flour, she was like a galleon in full sail coming silently towards you on the pavement.

Her name was Elsie Wood and for years she was one of the most flamboyant figures on the Worcester street scene.

It is rather ironic the only image we have of Elsie, who gained her name for dressing all in white, is one of her waiting at a bus stop wearing all black. Presumably taken in her younger years before eccentricity took over.

However, some indication of her height is that her hat almost touched the top of the shelter.

Elsie would glide around the city with her face covered in white make-up and wearing very unusual outfits, plus equally distracting headgear, sometimes featuring stuffed birds.

She rarely spoke to anyone and is believed to have lived in the Shrub Hill area.

It was widely rumoured she became an eccentric and recluse after being jilted as a young woman.

But my father, who knew the family, would never have that and believed Elsie’s behaviour just developed as she got older.

It was a view shared by a lady named Jean Turner, of Cranham Drive, Worcester, who sent a fascinating letter to my predecessor on this page, the legendary Mike Grundy, in 2004.

It read: "I left school in 1940 at the age of 14 and was fortunate enough to get a job at the Cadburys factory in Blackpole Road, where cocoa tins were made and various tasks carried out for the company's Bournville works, such as the sorting of nuts. It was a privilege to work there in those hard times and we were known as Cadburys Young Ladies.

"It was there that I met Elsie Wood and I remember her well. We all wore white coats, sitting in rows. She was a very elegant young lady, then in her 20s. We were not allowed to wear make-up but I remember to this day Elsie's very clear skin and kind smile.

"We were not allowed to converse, our only communication being through sign language, though we had to keep a watch out for the forewoman, who had very sharp eyes and a stern manner. Even in the lavatory, a lady sat on duty to make sure no conversation nor time-wasting took place.

"The only chance for a chat was during the breaks, particularly the mid-morning one when we had to file out into the yard for a hot chocolate and biscuits. We were then able to talk but only for a few moments - not much time for getting to know one another.

"The working day was from 7.30am to 5.30pm though juveniles were given a half-day off on Thursdays. The regime was very strict as the Cadburys were Quakers but they took great pains to look after the welfare of their employees. In the factory grounds were a swimming pool, tennis courts and other amenities which we were encouraged to use at any time outside working hours.

"We were all very happy there and it was a great start to my working life, even though my wage then was only seven shillings and sixpence a week.

"There were no buses to the factory so we all had bikes - mine cost me ten bob. Elsie Wood had one just like mine. At that time she lived somewhere along Bilford Road and her father also worked at Cadburys - in the grounds.

"I sat close to Elsie sorting nuts and noticed that she would occasionally draw ladies wearing flowing Victorian dresses. I think she was quite clever really. I don't believe the story of a broken love affair or of her having been jilted because Elsie always seemed quite happy.

"Alas, my job at Cadburys came to a sudden end when the factory was turned over to making munitions for the war effort. As I was under 18, I was not allowed to stay and undertake this type of work. It was a sad day because my time at Cadburys was one of the best of my life.

"In later years, I regularly saw Elsie around Worcester, always wearing lovely silk dresses, very much like the Victorian ones she used to sketch at Cadburys. I wondered if she had made them herself and, when she caught my eye, there was a faint smile of recognition.

"Unfortunately during her later years, she became very strange with her face made up so white. You could often see her walking around Astwood Cemetery too and I understand she eventually died in Shrub Hill Hospital.

"Even to this day, her memory is still very fresh in my mind. Elsie left a great impression on me. I always had a soft spot for her and it hurt me a lot when I saw people ridicule her."

It was a sad end for one of Worcester’s most gentle people.