Dear Nelly

[catlist name=”dear-nelly” date=yes excerpt=yes excerpt_strip=no]

A bit about Nelly Boland,
her husband,
and her Namesake
for Britain’s Most Loved Nibbles!

by Perry Estelle

Bolands Ltd

My Mum (God rest her soul) was bred to make bread!

My foodie claim to fame is that my family, on my mother’s side (Yes, Nelly is her name) was of the bloodline who built ‘The Boland Bread of Dublin Company.’ The biggest bread and biscuit company in Europe for over 70 years.

Nelly was a ‘Boland’ and by direct connection part of the Boland ‘foodie’ heritage. Apart from the all too popular brand, this huge manufacturer created some of our most famous, well-loved and devoured family favourites. To this day Chocolate Bourbons and Custard creams have been consumed by almost the entire population at some stage in the last 100 years! (Or, if you are over 30 years old, before Jacobs Crackers bought ‘Boland’, lock stock and biscuit barrel!)

Is the iconic ‘Lemon Puff’ with its glazed flaky dry cracker, sandwiching lemon cream just a warm memory?

Yes. Nelly Boland was a member of the family who created a biscuit empire that used the huge factory during the First War, that doubled as a battle station, barracks and military hospital and before that was also a fortress for the Irish Uprising.

It may come as no surprise that Tesco now offers a full range of biscuits using my mothers family business ‘Bolands’ company name. Well, that takes the biscuit! I must not be too precious as Tesco is probably not oblivious to my families efforts to grow such a massive brand, as they seem proud to promote the original name…but I cannot help being a bit niggled that my family name is capitalised upon, and eaten whole, by a blinking food giant! It’s a travesty as far as I am concerned as even my Mothers family name is no longer sacred. My friends say I should be ‘flattered’ to have a corporation mimick our original family recipes and still use the Boland ‘handle’. Maybe I should sit outside selling my Mums recipes on this website dedicated to her from the local Tesco carpark and call myself “Tesco” and see how they like it? You get my drift?

Nelly Boland was a beach beauty model and amateur actress with a promising career in each. She was beautiful and longed to be famous.

Charles Estelle, met her in London, as England prepared for war in the late ‘30s. He was called up to serve in the Navy.

Very much in love they married and moved from the ‘blitzed’ city skyline to the coast of Yarmouth until the 1953 floods.

My dad was an extraordinary man. Charles Francis Estelle.

Born 1917 within earshot of Bow Bells, London.

Son of an Italian immigrant POW and later entrepreneur.

Mother: Rose.

Married “Nelly” Boland. Changed her Christian name to ‘Helen’.

Before war broke out the couple met while they both worked at Boss wiring.

Lived with his wife in Yarmouth and conceived ‘Frances’ my elder sister. As a Timber yard foreman until the 1953 devastating floods forced the couple and their young daughter, Frances to move inland to Newmarket Suffolk.

They lived in 119 Manderston Road. A small detached yellow brick house. Twins Perry and Dawn were born in 1956 and with more room needed they moved just a few doors away to number 131 where they would spend the rest of their lives together.

Helen worked for the M.O.D and as a second job sang with a band called “The Jack Munns Band” later to be known as the ‘The Versatones’.

Charles found work as a clerk at a young company, a local PYE Telecommunications factory in Exning Road Newmarket and soon ‘worked his way’ up to the position of buyer, then Director and continued to work there until his retirement in 1984. Died 1988.

Charles interests were, gardening, D.I.Y, tailoring, making toys and furniture, fancy cars, good shoes and clothes, photography and analogue photo printing with his own darkroom, any ‘new technology’ or gadget, sketch art, cooking and TV.

Charles personality? Great sense of fun. Loved being creative. Well spoken. Well dressed. An outrageous flirt. Caring. Meticulous. Man of order. Loving provider and parent. Hardworking and enthusiastic. Life and soul of the party.

Charles’ Mother Rose, whom he adored, died in the late fifties.

I thought I had, the most clever father in the world. He would make all our clothes. I was wearing a classic Beatle suit at seven years old (grey single breasted with no collar). He made all the wedding attire including bridesmaids dresses for both his daughters and my first wedding in 1977. I can remember going to sleep each night listening to the whirr and clickety clack of an old Singer treadle machine and having to have our tea in our laps because he had material and pinned tissue strewn all over the dining room table. My Father working feverishly with the French chalk into the small hours. He used to make outfits for Mum and Frances before shops were selling ‘Mother and daughter sets’ of clothes. He honed these skills as a sailor. His ship would sail the deepest cold of the Artic during the war and he was on watch as a Petty officer. With the  biting cold each night he decided to pick up the Singer sewing machine from Singapore and made a ‘trenchcoat’ out of the heavy wool blankets from his cabin, complete with toggles and pockets. Word got around the rest of the crew and it wasn’t long before he was making the same for his ship mates. He would get extra rum and ciggy rations from this little ‘enterprise’.

He was Mr Fix it. He could mend anything. The car never broke down, because he would be underneath it, all weekend. He was a fantastic sketch artist too. I found some of his drawings in a dusty corner of the garage, but to this day I do not know what happened to them.

Because my Dad worked for PYE we had the first Television in the street. A Baird 8” inch screen. I was so proud. I thought my Dad was king and I still do.

He made all our toys and furniture including beds and sideboards, obviously because his love of wood he was a dab hand with tools. Yet, he was a tiny man, 5” 5’ with size 6 shoes and with slender and deft hands. Yet, he could do anything with a chisel or wood-saw.

He made our toys. I remember he made this huge elaborate dolls house for Frances and it was made from start to finish with scrap materials but was mansion sized and every roof tile (1000 of them) was cut individually from some red linoleum in a uniform hexagon shape.

He was a perfectionist. For the first 5 years of his working life at PYE he wore the same two pairs of shoes and a shirt and one other, that he would alternate and switch each night washing ironing and polishing his other shoes. He was very proud of his appearance and you never saw him unshaven. His pencil moustache lovingly manicured. Yet, if the outside manhole was blocked he was not afraid to get his hands dirty with good old fashioned graft.

He was dearly loved and respected in the tiny racing town of Newmarket. Everybody seemed to know him. He was a loving parent and believed in strong discipline although he never used his fiery temper on us kids in a cruel way.

Towards the end of his life he looked after his bedridden wife and still retained his sense of humour and insisting on caring for Mum every minute until the day he suffered a stroke.

As he fell to the ground while we worked in his yard together, I knew the world was never going to be the same without my Father. He was a big man in a tiny frame and I miss him with all my heart.

The Yarmouth Flood Aftermath

Before they moved to Suffolk climate change in 1953 changed their world forever with now a new baby called Frances. The whole coastal town of Yarmouth was hit by a massive flood. was devastated by rising sea levels and so they moved inland to start a new life with their new child, with just a few salvaged possessions.

Father was a DIY genius made all out toys, furniture and clothes through need although he loved making things for us, as he claimed he could make better versions.

Life Before in London

As one of the eldest of eleven children living in a tiny two bedroomed flat in Islington, she spent her entire childhood bouncing along the poverty line looking after her young siblings and daydreamed hoping one day to launch a career in show business.

This website is to say thanks Mum! I remember your banana pie!

Nelly was a great cook and made crushed biscuits with banana custard. Topped with marshmallows and we would watch them melt with our tongues hanging out!

If you like to make your own biscuits or cookies here is a recipe to try from one of our contributors.

Tina’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

6 oz (170g) butter, melted

½ cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups chocolate chips


Pre-heat your oven to about 315oF (165oC).

Line your cookie tray with non-stick baking paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugars. Beat until mixed thoroughly and creamy.

Add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Using a spoon mix in the dry ingredients until combined. And stir in the choc chips.

Drop spoon sized pieces of the dough onto the prepared cookie trays allowing about 2 inches between for spreading.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges just start to colour.

Cool on the cookie tray for a few minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Quickly hide them away or you will need to make another batch 🙂

Happy Cooking

Francis Chang