Forbury residents conversations and reminiscence…
Some memories from Della 23.12.17
Group discussion 19.11.2017
John : did anyone grow up on a farm?
Julian yes I did, my father owned a farm.
JR: Where was that?
Julian : Derbyshire. It was a small dairy farm, mainly cows.
JR: And chickens?
Yes, quite a few years ago we were sorting some papers out and found a receipt from a packing station and I think the quantity was two and a half dozen and that was dated about 1950.
JR: did you do any jobs on the farm?
Julian: well I was only knee high to a grasshopper then, I was eight when we came to Herefordshire, we moved to Leysters on the way between Leominster and Tenbury.
JR: When I moved here the first thing I experienced was the floods…
Julian: did you know Leominster used to flood? In the mid 1970’s they did something to stop it flooding. I vaguely remember coming in to Leominster and they were working on it in that dry summer of 75 / 76′ I think they did it then.
JR We’ve not seen any snow for a few years now.
Julian; I think the last time we had snow was late November 2012 i’m not sure exactly when.
JR; Any other memories from growing up?
Chris: My sister married a farmer from Devon and they lived at Ilfracombe by the seaside I used to go a lot. I got married in 1964. I was living in the black country, I got married in Dudley.
JR: Why is it called the black country?
Chris Because of all the factory chimneys they used to spew out all the soot. It was very industrial. I was born in Wolverhampton.
Edna: They were full of factories in Tipton.
JR What were they making?
Chris; Cars, making cars. Austin Rover (founded in 1968 as British Leyland).
JR: I only really know Birmingham for the shopping centre.
Chris: Birmingham isn’t black country or Wolverhampton, West Bromwich is and Tipton. I grew up in Dudley, I liked living there, I went to Dudley Girls High School.
Della: We had to work in windmills in our village at Long Sutton in Lincolnshire. There were two windmills. It was a mill that ground all the corn and stuff. There wasn’t a lot of people there. They were busy growing food. They called it the garden of eden.
JR What do you remember from schooldays? I remember they had a crate of milk by the door in the classroom.
Chris: That was because after the war a lot of children had rickets so they supplied the milk to try and strengthen their bones.
JR: And do you remember rations?
Lydia: That carried on until the 1950’s.
JR: What rations did you get?
Chris two ounces of sugar, two ounces of butter. That was it.
Julian I understand things like fish’n’chips weren’t rationed though.
Lydia: Nobody was overweight though then.
Della We weren’t rationed as we grew all our own veg and that sort of thing. We had six acres of land. We never went without food, always had plenty of everything.
JR: And meat?
Chris: what meat would it be I can’t remember, meat that you probably wouldn’t eat now.
Mary: It was mostly pork I think because it near home.
Chris That’s right because everybody kept meat didn’t they?
JR: My mum remembered having dripping butties which doesn’t sound very nice!
Chris: dripping on toast was even better.
Mary: Yes but you’ve got to have a very light sprinkling of salt on to make it taste nice.
Chris: it was usually when they had a joint and cooked it in the oven in a tin, the dripping would be left in the tin. You poured it into a basin and let it set and then you could spread it on.
JR: And as kids did you have pocket money?
Chris: (laughs) oh no, well I didn’t!
JR: You didn’t get money to go and buy sweets?
Chris: No! You couldn’t buy sweets. That’s why people my age mostly still have all their teeth.
Mary: We never had the chance because we weren’t allowed out into the town at all. This was in York, we were just kept in our own homes and were educated by nuns in the convent, and they wouldn’t let us out either. I’ve made up for it since!
Country Life: Edna 23.11.17
We didn’t have any transport. We walked to school. I went to school in Risbury. It was about four miles. We didn’t go to school when the weather was bad. We were expected to get the cows in some mornings. We always got up early. Louis Miles lived up in the fields. She had a little barn. It wasn’t much land with it and she kept cows; just one or two. She kept the cows in her house. She had not many buildings. She lived in a pigsty!
Building a boat!
Julian: I’d been on holiday in Wales. I saw this coracle. I was toying with the idea of making a coracle. I made a punt. We put it on the pond. I screwed it together, put some pitch on it. It did float. We got six of us in it. I used the boards of an old hay loader. Asked me dad if I could use the boards, used some pitch to seal it and scrounged some nails. In the end the bottom fell out. I was only knee high to a grass hopper! It was twelve feet long and three feet wide.
I learned to swim in the sea in the late 1950’s, I think. I think it may have been Woolacombe. We went with the family. It was in the sea somewhere. It could have been there.
Carrie: I had a bikini. It was material. A top and a bottom, a bare midriff.
Julian: I think the bikini was invented by a French man.
Life in Staffordshire: Audrey 21.11.17
I lived in Staffordshire. I used to work for Lord Cadman who owned several coal mines. He’d got money and he was nearly into everything. I used to work at Palmers, the timber merchants. Lord Cadman owned one in Stafford and one in Stoke. I used to know quite a bit about it. My father worked as a forester. My father was an engineer. He had a big beam engine.
My granddad was seven and he used to lead the pit ponies. They used to go blind because they had been in the dark. We used to hear them coming home at night. They carried big tins of water and we heard them going “clunk, clunk”. Everybody seemed to know everybody else. There was a German company. They made these huge engines for the colliers. They were Germans.
I used to enjoy being out in the wood. We used to collect big sticks for the fire. Leonard is my eldest brother. He’s not very well at the moment. Ronald, Lesley and Leonard were my brothers. We were a big family – nine of us all together. One sister was a nurse.
My father set traps for rabbits and my mother used to stuff them with onions and breadcrumbs. It was very nice. We had a roast dinner on a Sunday. I think we had rabbit.
I cooked beef and roast potatoes, boiled potatoes as well as roast potatoes. I cooked rice pudding. I like the skin on top. My children are Angela, Yvonne, Terry and Philip. I used to be peeling potatoes for ages. I cooked mashed swede. It was lovely. I put butter with it. Oh yes, cabbage as well. My husband grew it. He grew lots in the garden. He grew lots of vegetables – peas and carrots and cabbage and swede. I enjoyed the cooking. I liked peeling potatoes. I cooked a sponge jam pudding. I made plum jam and raspberry jam. We had a raspberry bush.
Farming reminiscence 29.9.17
Tom talked about sheep dogs, sheep and cattle:
My father had a sheep dog. The only time he gave tongue was when he went past. He only barked when he went past. When I walked round the field at lambing time he’d walk with you. He’d get one up if it was lying down – a young lamb like, only a day or two old. He was marvellous like. You could do anything with him. He worked the poultry. They were running about. He ran around to get them into the hen house. Cattle and all, didn’t matter what, pigs and anything. Shep we called him. He was a real dog. When we went to market, while we were loading some sheep, he’d be bringing more down from the field. He was a marvel. He lived as long as he could. We buried him on the farm. That was it.
The brother of Shep was OK with cattle. We walked the cattle and we walked with him and the cattle. If he wanted to take them he’d take them. If one ran out, he’d take him back. Knighton (market) was the only one we walked them to. There were no lorries about in those days. We had to walk them like. Only a few cattle in those days. Then they increased in time. We took them to the same market as the sheep. We’d sell – £20 would be top for cattle. Sheep would have been £10 if that. This was over sixty or eighty years ago. Years ago there was no transport. We had to walk them all. There weren’t many cattle about then. It would be about twenty sheep. That would be the top, according to what they wanted. Not many – about four or five cows. Cows mainly go for milk or cheese.
There was cattle in a shed that autumn. The man who fed them the night before went back in the morning and the cattle had gone. They were up in Anglesey! They went up in a stock wagon – lorry them up like. I don’t know how many went, it would have been a load. They could get about thirty cows. Twelve month old and up, yearly cows were the dealer’s cows. The dealer would take them up and then move them on again. There’re moved about. There’d be cattle and lambs in Ludlow today. Then they’d be in Denby, then back in Ludlow. They’d go for fat cows. They were fat for killing. We kept some cows for milking. When they’d finished they went to market.
We kept our own bull. ‘Bill’, or according to if he behaved himself. He’d get out sometimes or somebody would loose him out. There was only one. He was alright. We wouldn’t have kept him without.
You can do anything with hens. Oh yeah – eggs every day. You could sell eggs any time. You got too many like. A dealer would take eggs and rabbits to Birmingham, butter, cheese.. We baked our own bread. We ate that. Churned the butter. The hardest part was putting it in the pats – one pound in weight. Homemade bread and butter – that was what we lived on.
There were five in our family – seven with Mum and Dad. Three sisters and a brother. I’m the youngest. I’m the only one left. Well, I’m eighty-nine this last August. One brother used to work on the farm. One sister helped mother. One sister went round farms cooking. Plenty of work about in them days. It was there if you wanted to work.
Fruit Picking 4.10.17
Lydia: It was in the 1950s that you think of things like cod liver oil and rose hip syrup. I think the children did collect rose hips. There was a greater emphasis on things that were natural. It would be good of the NFU could support natural things now.
Della: Very few people collected rose hips. I was born in Lincolnshire.
Carrie: We had rose hip syrup.
Della: People used to make it but I never did.
Carrie: It was good for you.
Della: My kids were always strong and healthy. I never had any need to give them rose hip syrup.
Dorothy: I went collecting rose hips. I think we made rose hip syrup at school
Della: Horse chestnuts – you made a hole in it then thread them through.
Edna: You did as many as you could. They stopped them playing with them at school because you might get hurt.
Della: My aunt lived in Dagenham. She used to go hop picking. I never went hop picking. I went strawberry, gooseberry, apple and pear picking. Lots of fruit picking. We used to have girls from Sheffield and London come down to help with the fruit. They used to grow apples for cooking and for eating. They had a pear orchard near us. I love pears. There used to be a man called Whitehead. He used to give us pears for Christmas and we used to store them on straw. You put a layer of straw in a box and just lay them in it.
Edna: They’re lovely. We had a pear orchard but we lost it. It got diseased. They were sweet, the pears.
Dorothy: Apples. I climbed the trees. We had pears as well.
Pat: I picked plums, gooseberries and blackberries – cultivated blackberries. They’re very big. We took them to market.
Lydia: I think this is the season for picking – things like beetroot, cabbage for making coleslaw. Years ago I did that. I’ve got this theory to prevent colds – a mixture of cherry pie filling and beetroot.
Della: We kept eggs in a bucket of cold water with ‘icing glass’.
Carrie: You could put it in the water and it kept the eggs fresh.
Lydia: During the war you were OK with pickle. If you lived in the right part of the country.
Della: If I wasn’t making jam I was picking something or I was out on the land. One of the things I loved was the sky larks just hovering for ages above you. I’m a proper country girl. You can have all these towns. I can do without. Have you ever tried strawberries sprinkled with pepper? The best strawberries to eat are the sovereigns. They were for me anyway. I dealt with strawberries all the way from planting the plants – not so nice in frosty weather.
Della: ..Talking about runner beans – Mum and Dad were very fond of runner beans. Mum had visitors and let the children play in the garden. She thought no harm. A girl named Polly picked all the flowers off the runner bean plants and she said “I’ve found some lovely flowers”. No runner beans that year. I loved the runner beans but I didn’t like broad beans. My husband liked them.
Della: There were two pumps for twelve houses. You only had a bath once a week. I think some of the older people never had a bath.
Carrie: – tin bath.
Della: Oh we used to have to share the bath water. We didn’t used to have a bathroom. The bath was behind the clothes horse. I used to like it when we had a bath. Mum put clean sheets on our beds.
Carrie: We had a boiler with a fire under it. All of the rubbish was kept to burn under the copper.
Della: I had a dolly (for washing) that I used to turn round.
Carrie: Mangle – pinch your fingers.
Della: I walked miles to go to the village to buy a washing machine.
Della: I can remember having to lead the horses and when I turned the corner, they knocked me into the dyke. I’ve seen it all. My Dad was never really well. He needed a lot of help. He was gassed in the First World War. He wanted a son but he never had one. I used to take the place of the son he never had.
Farming talk 21st March 2017
Paddy: We put the lambs by the Rayburn – only to get them warm. Then we put them on hessian with straw.
We had a ram. We kept the ram away so many months previous. You kept the ram away. I was used to having the lambs come at Christmas. My husband worked it out so they had lambing in March.
Tom M: If you wanted a ram you could buy a good ‘un.
Paddy: We used to have Clun ewes. We used to take prizes for the Cluns. My husband wanted to have sheep. He was used to having sheep up country (at Knighton).
Tom M: We were farming between Presteigne and Knighton.
Paddy: Did you know (…)?
Tom M: Could have done.
They’re all into milking cows now. Got a hundred milking cows. Its three hundred to four hundred acres. One thousand two hundred feet up.
Dorothy C: We had twin lambs – bottle fed lambs that followed us into the house.
Tom M: We had three lambs at once (triplets). The bottle fed lambs were ‘tiddlers’.
3rd April 2017
Julian: Pick-up balers came in. I don’t remember the date. At one time there were more Standard Fordson tractors sold than any other.
Della: I ploughed with horses
Julian: A good man with horses could plough around one acre a day. It was a single furrow. When the tractors came out you took two furrows – when the tractors were small. They are monsters now. A T20 was like a little toy compared to what they are now.
Julian: I saw a video – eleven furrows ploughed by one John Deere tractor. More common is four to five furrows.
Joan R was in the Women’s Land Army:
Emma: Did you have lots of energy?
Joan R: You had to find it! There were no fancy cakes. There were canteens, it all depends (on the farm).
(Joan moved around several farms in Herefordshire.)
Della: We grew sugar beet for the animals. I had to do muck spreading with a fork. We had a ‘wretch’ – they used to measure it out. That’s what they called it in Lincolnshire.
(A wretch was a measured section of land to be worked over by a single worker.)
Julian: I remember a tump of muck being put on the field and getting a mechanical muck spreader.
Hilda: We used to play rounders. I didn’t have to run fast. We used to try and get the next village and play them. I was fast at running. I could run where the others couldn’t run. We were five sisters in one team. Mum would be one to make a number. I used to do fielding and bowling. I used to love to be bowler. I didn’t want to be fielder. I was good at catching. I was only about eleven. I could always run fast. They used to say, “Come on our team”. There were five of us. There wasn’t much between us – I think we must have been spread over ten years. Being a big family Mum used to play with us when the work was sorted out.
Carrie: I played rounders with friends. I liked running. Boys and girls played together. There was big field behind our house. I was out at Docklow.
Edna: I like catching.
Carrie: We played at weekends and after school. There are fish ponds and a café there now. There was a farmhouse where we fetched the milk. I remember tripping over a pot hole and spilling all the milk in like a miniature churn with a lid on top. I cried. The lady filled it up again for me. I had two brothers and they took me back to get some more. There were goats. We used to go after them and they came for me. Goat’s milk was very sweet and goat’s cheese – I could smell the goats.
Hilda: I was living not far out of Leominster and some chaps tried to steal the pigs one night. The pigs made so much noise they couldn’t steal them. We were only tots, eleven year olds. We stood up to these chaps – five girls. I remember saying to one chap, “My Mum hasn’t any money, but she has these pigs.” She used to keep one for the household and she used to get the butcher out from Leominster and chop it into joints. I remember rubbing salt into the pig and if it got in a cut in your finger it stung.
Carrie: – saltpeter.
Hilda: The house has fallen down now. I wonder if the pig sties are still there.
Edna: – the loveliest food out, if you did them properly. I think my mother made them for Friday night’s tea.
Carrie: Mother made faggots. They couldn’t waste anything. They used up every pig, except for the tail. From the head they make brawn.
Julian: What do they make pork scratchings out of?
Carrie: You can get it from the man in Corn Square.
Edna: – From the skin.
Edna: They had chickens mostly.
Della: I played rounders. Stanford was one school. I would play any (position).
Hilda: I liked to be bowler.
Della: I liked cricket with the boys.
Carrie: Cricket with the boys.
Della: Climbing trees was my favourite. I used to tie a scarf around my waist and give the end to my dog and go along on roller skates.
Hedges, walls or dykes
Carrie: I used to go to my friend at Keighley, Yorkshire. The woman there said they had “stone hedges”.
Julian: Derbyshire – the majority of the hedges are stone walls. There are hedges in Herefordshire.
Della: Sometimes dykes – ditches with water in them (in The Fens).
Carrie: When they gave the ditches to the younger men they didn’t dig them out. (Risk of flooding during heavy rain)
Della: They used to call it (The Fens) The Garden of England and Little Holland. The part where I lived used to be under the sea. They used to drain it.
Beryl: Salford, I was born. Manchester I was educated. Right up till I finished in the WRENS I lived in towns. I got married in Enfield, Middlesex. My parents had public houses, hotels, so when they moved, I moved. John was in the Navy when I got demobbed. My parents were in London. John’s parents were in Luston. His parents were of welsh connection; Jack and Mollie came from Llandudno way. We had no house – Mum and Dad had given up on one of their hotels so we had to move. We found a council house, Luston, Westland View.
Beryl: I knew Della because we went on holiday to The Bull Hotel at Long Sutton.
Della: I lived at Long Sutton (Linconshire).
Beryl: I worked at The Balance, Luston for seven years. John joined the AA. He was in the AA for twenty-six years.
Summer holidays and driving
Eric: I was really an English schoolboy while my parents were abroad. They had arranged that I would be at a school in England. I used to go on holiday with the school master and his family. They looked after us very well. They in fact used to go on holiday in England. We went to Wales one holiday.
Carrie: We went to Jersey – one of my favourites. I went on a tour. There was a young man on the bus on his own. He hired a car, you see. He took me to all the little coves. They were too narrow for a big car. They had a lot of second hand minis over there. He was younger than me. I was around fifty-three. Me and Miss Bright – I had a Morris Mini – squarish.
Edna: I had a mini.
Julian: I had a mini that went on fire. I was coming down from Tenbury around one hundred yards before the farm. There was smoke coming. I borrowed a neighbour’s fire extinguisher but by the time I got back it was gone. It burned the car out. Whether it was an electrical fault – it caught on the passenger seat. The insurance – he offered me I think two or three hundred pounds more than I expected. He offered me eight hundred pounds. Probably some time in the seventies or eighties. The first car I had was a mini. I put in cheap fuel. In the end it was using a pint of oil around every four hundred miles.
Carrie: I had a Vauxhall Victor.
Edna: I had a Corsa.
Carrie: I remember John Pugh (Beryl’s husband). He had a motorbike and sidecar.
Beryl: John travelled from Bridgnorth down to Ross and all the villages in between (with the AA). John used to take me. They issued him with a mini van and he used to take me into the Shropshire hills. In all the years I’ve been here since 1963 I’ve seen most of Herefordshire – very beautiful. The colours of the AA mini were yellow and black.
“Home cured”: Herefordshire memories of rural food production
Edna: They kept one pig and the other one was killed and hung up and salted. I used to salt the pig. I remember it hung up. I used to help my father.
Carrie: They used to cure the hams and hang them up by the ceiling. When one in the village killed their pig, they shared it around their neighbours. Another one in the village would kill their pig at a different time and share it. A big ham – they used to salt them.
Edna: We shared the pig meat with the men on the farm.
Dorothy: We killed a pig once a year. We used to salt the meat. They used to use saltpeter.
Edna: I rubbed the saltpeter into the pieces of the pig.
Muriel: How long up to dry?
Edna: About six months.
Edna: When it was cured it lasted twelve months. It needed to have fat on it to preserve it – to stay fresh. If you went to a butchers now and asked for home cured bacon it would cost much more and would be much more fatty than supermarket bacon. There’s a lot of home cured things that people wouldn’t buy now …bacon, milk … We didn’t like milk. It was there and available.
Dorothy: Milk straight from the farm. Things aren’t as cruel as they used to be – the way they killed the pig!
Edna: When we first started selling milk, when Cadbury’s first appeared, they delivered us the churns and they collected their churns every day, or it depends. We didn’t sell milk before Cadbury’s came.
Carrie: When Cadbury’s came to Ford Bridge they had all this milk to go to Bourneville for the chocolate. My brother had a farm and sold it to Cadbury’s.
Edna: … unless there was a man with a float. There was always a local milkman. They could go round with a horse and trap. You’d remember a horse and trap going round with the milk (to Dorothy).
Dorothy: We had a butcher come round with meat. It was from local farms. Their names were Cresswells.
Edna: There was always the baker – used to come twice a week with fresh bread.
Carrie and Edna: A butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker!
Carrie: We called at a place up in Cheshire where they had a candlestick maker. Where they had candles – all different colours – on a trip. There was a glass roof with the cows underneath, where they made their own ice cream – all colours of ice cream. You could have a taste of each.
Edna: Dairy farmers made their own cheese.
Carrie: They’re still making it in Monkland.
Edna: A lot of farmers came down to Herefordshire from Cheshire into farms in Herefordshire where they could sell their milk and make a decent sort of living. They made Cheshire cheese in Herefordshire. Mores made Cheshire cheese down at Stretfordbury because of the milk. We had a cheese press and all the equipment.
Fish ‘n’ Chips
Wartime memories: Food 28.1.16
Julian: – Good for teeth. Better than apples.
Muriel B: – Help you see in the dark.
Julian: If you ask a kid, do you want a chocolate bar or a carrot, they ask for chocolate.
Carol: You only had a choice of having whatever was there.
Muriel B: The chap behind the counter (of the sweet shop) used to dread me coming in. (As a child Muriel was not able to buy any sweets.)
Carol: Sweets, biscuits and cakes – The Penny Bun Shop – they had penny buns. That was a great excitement. My sister, unlike me, she liked sugar. I think we were quite excited to have something we didn’t always get. The Penny Bun Shop was in South Street (Leominster). I think the penny bun was an ordinary bread roll opened up and it had raisins in it and on the top it had sugar and water painted on.
People were very good and looked after each other. It was a special feeling during the war. The fish and chip shops – they would see if you had children. They had small helpings for children. There were three of us. We had fish and chips around once a month. They would save them for us.
Julian: People were healthier during the war.
Carol: We children, when we did go in (into the fish and chip shop) there were three children, Nanny, mother and … Six of us I think. A lot for one household.
Julian: A pennyworth of chips …
Marjorie: We had according to the part of the year and my mother and other mothers didn’t throw things out that we do today.
Julian: … Stew – Many years ago I remember a relief milkman. He said he had roast rabbit, stewed rabbit. Before the days of myxomatosis – all ways you could have rabbit. After the war he may have had the odd rabbit. After the war they introduced myxomatosis so we had fewer rabbits.
Julian and Carol: Terrible, terrible – myxomatosis
Julian: Myxomatosis came in late 40’s, early 50’s? Be about right?
Carol: Yes. And of course, as you say, the rabbits went on and there were rabbits with myxomatosis and they didn’t get eaten. Those without did get eaten.
Kay: We used to have a lot of salmon in Leominster. There was one decent sized river; I think the one by the fire station. Every year the salmon swam through, they told us. We stayed a day or a night with Granny. We were further up in the hills – living. The river came up from the bottom side and under the road and down to Dales and they put in. You could step into the river and this boy used to catch the eels in the river and take them home and his Mum used to cook them for dinner. His Mum used to make a lovely meal from the eels in the river.
Farming machinery developments 28.1.16
Julian: I’ve been in this area since I was around eight. Before I was up North – Derbyshire. A fairly near neighbour one winter went back there. He wrote a book. He was my father’s age. He said 1939 on his father’s farm there was a brand new Ford tractor delivered for £225. The tractors then were like little toys compared to tractors these days.
Kay: We had a horse and cart in Leominster.
Julian: My great uncle near Ross-On-Wye in the early 60’s still used horses. He used a binder to cut the corn. He had loads of money. He wouldn’t spend it!
Carol: The binder flicked it out.
Julian: Fish and chips weren’t rationed were they?
Carol: Butter was rationed a long time. Who was the Minister of Food? (Lord Woolton was Minister of Food, 1940-1943.)
Julian: There was a coalition government during the war.
Edna: Churchill gave everybody in the country the strength to carry on.
Julian: Someone said Churchill would be too rude to rule during peacetime.
Carol: Digging for Victory – I can remember an old man. Me and my sister went to dig beside him. He used to grow some jolly good vegetables. It was good fun. He taught us to dig. That meant a lot – Digging for Victory.
Julian: A lot of the time it was touch and go.
Carol: I remember – nothing must be wasted.
Edna: Mum used to put things in all together (in the cooking). My Mother used to go everywhere she could to get us food.
Julian: I presume there were no fridges or freezers.
Carol: We had a very small fridge.
Edna: We didn’t have a fridge for ages.
Julian: Things like vacuum cleaners are still going to this day. They were better made. Some of the things in proportion were very dear to buy at the time compared to what they are today. Today they can turn them out faster.
Muriel B: Allotments became very popular and sought after.
Edna: We had one. Everyone who had a nice big house always had a garden.
Julian: Didn’t they rip up all the metal fences for the war effort?
Carol: I remember them doing it.
Julian: People got compensation later.
Muriel B: They took the metal railings for …
Julian: for munitions.
Edna: Munitions factories – all sorts of bullets and things for guns. My Mother worked at a munitions factory. Mother, she had a lot of children. She had to go out to work.
Julian: My Mum was allocated a certain amount of petrol. The headlights had slits in them so they weren’t seen by enemy aircraft. Around 1950 there was only one rear light at the back of a vehicle. In 1951 I was in a neighbour’s house and the radio was on. I heard the law came in that every car had to have two rear red lights and two reflectors as well.
Carol: We had petrol, then there was no petrol and the car went up on blocks. Then the petrol came on again. After the war there was no petrol at times. When you had petrol you were given so many tokens to last then they ran out. Our car was so well made. It was a Vauxhall. I still remember the number plate. We all learned to drive in it.
Julian: All cars were solid then.
Muriel B: We didn’t have a car for a long time after the war. We cycled everywhere.
Julian: At one time only rich people and professionals had one.
Muriel B: Or people who didn’t have children!
Tony: When I was young I didn’t miss nothing. I drove a jeep.
(On 1 July 1942 the basic civilian petrol ration was abolished – petrol was no longer available to most civilians. (Ivor Novello was a British public figure sent to prison for four weeks for misusing petrol coupons.) On 1 June 1945 the basic petrol ration for civilians was restored. After that from 1 June 1948, vehicle fuel was only available to “official” users, such as the emergency services, bus companies and farmers. The priority users of fuel were always, of course, the armed forces. Fuel supplied to approved users was dyed, and use of this fuel for non-essential purposes was an offence. Petrol rationing was briefly reintroduced in late 1956 during the Suez Crisis but ended again on 14 May 1957. – Source : Wikipedia)
Muriel B: The thing I missed most was not having any sweets. The sweet shop weren’t going to let me have any. I looked piteously up at the sweets. I went in every day.
Carol: I didn’t like sweets.
Julian: The school I went to had a shop nearby where they sold bottles of lemonade with stoppers on a hinge that you could use again.
Christmas Dinners 8.12.15
Dorothy C: Goose – lot of fat. We used to rub the fat on our chest. Turkey was a lot less fatty and more dry.
Pat W: We had goose too.
Paddy: Sort of medicine, isn’t it? They rub it on their chest. When I was married and had turkey I used to save the fat to feed the birds. It was a bit messy.
Edna’s Christmas Mornings 17.12.15
Christmas morning – Oh lovely! We just sat up waiting for Father Christmas. I remember the one Christmas morning, the nicest part of my life I ever had – just nice! We got all sorts of things – oranges, apples, then something wrapped up. Little parcels all over the place – it was off people who couldn’t send things. One of us found … it was a pillow case. Because there were lots of us you just knew it had the name on it, one for each person. And you knew Father Christmas had done it. I have got no complaints or anything about when we were little and I loved it.
David Cox “It was just a life that you tried to work through.” 19.12.15
The time when I had to walk to school – it took about three quarters of an hour to an hour to get there. Well it took me about the same time to get to school when the weather or the roads were bad. The snow never stopped us from going. I was staying with my grandmother at the time. My mother was in hospital. I went into these arrangements because it was the most convenient thing. I was always the one who was parked out with uncle this or the other. I was used to these problems. I made new friends.
I was the second eldest. John my elder brother, he would have to go to school on his own. I would have to go to school on my own.
I only had one fight with one boy at the school, the first I had to go to. Neither of us could say we had won. I had another fight when he hit my lip onto my teeth. It bled a lot. I wouldn’t normally go to school there. I had to change schools because mother was away and father had to work.
Christmas: Christmas morning was very difficult. It never worried me because we all got used to being expected to do what we had to do. We had a tap, fortunately, in the centre of the village. It was very primitive. We all had to go, basically, into the centre of the village to carry water. We had a yolk to carry water in buckets, one on each side. Our grandfather was capable of going to get water. He had to be careful. In the country we had jobs to do and we did them.
At the weekend one of my uncles used to drive a motorbike and he always took me round on the back – just a normal two-seater motorbike. It was a natural thing. We enjoyed the pleasure of going round the village. It was just me, not my brother. He said, “Come on. Jump on the back.” And you would hang on like good God! I never fell off.
I had two brothers to be playing about with. On Christmas morning, it just depended. You got a small stocking, a cottony woollen thing. An apple and an orange to start and small toys. Nothing terribly interesting. They tried to vary it so you could always interchange.
The girls: We had the house at the bottom of the road and when she came to get together with my sister, I used to take her back along the railway line. If I hadn’t gone into the RAF, I might have married her. There were two girls who lived along the line. I was taking one home when she needed taking home.
Life was very very strange when we had to move from one house to another. It wasn’t frightening. You accepted it. In the country you had to become more individualistic. I never complained, there was no point. In the country you got on with it more when things were difficult. When mother was in hospital Dad would take me to Salford (in Bedfordshire). My aunt lived there and I used to stay and spend a day or a night.
Working for pocket money: I used to help in the big house. They only had small grass cutters. So when I had big lawns to be cut it was a long time doing it. I was well-paid. I saved up for school holidays from about twelve on, I would say. And I also had a daily job, cleaning boots, shoes and riding gear to get paid. It was all shared out with my brother. They were long lawns and they had these and I kept the gardens growing well. They always came to me (to offer me work). I was always first. I was always called upon first. I enjoyed it. It brought me quite a bit of pocket money – put to one side for holidays. It was making use of my time. I saved for Christmas presents. The teapot would get broken so I saved up to buy a new teapot. It was just a life that you tried to work through. It kept you out of mischief. I wasn’t left to work on my own. I’d get a little note from my mother or father – There was a gardener did work in his own village. He asked me to go to cut the lawns. They paid me alright. It took me an hour to cut the grass and they paid me for the time.
The occasional Christmas dinner: I remember most one Sunday at Christmas time. We had goose. Another time we had a turkey or a big chicken. I had to get involved in the plucking – all things I had to do without a lot of effort. Life was not a problem. I enjoyed what I was doing – like when I used to take the young ladies home from their nightly visit. They got accustomed to it. When it was very rough I would also go with my sister. She was just about a year younger than me. We got on quite well basically.
Hop Picking 3.9.15
Edna: It was the only holiday we could have. It made your hands black. Everybody was ashamed of going hop picking.
Cora: We used to go regularly to earn the money.
Hilda A-S: We used to go hop picking and blackberry picking to buy our shoes. We used to take them in big baskets (to weigh) and he used to put his toe under the scales (to cheat to make the weight of the hops lighter). We were about 12. I was afraid to say anything.
Cora: If you were 12 you didn’t like to say anything.
Edna: It was considered a holiday.
Cora: Hops were in slings weren’t they? It used to have a proper name … By the bushel. Yes!
Rita: I was in Ireland. I went hop picking when I was about 20.
Winnie: The boys would go off playing and get sticks to make a camp fire. We would bring a kettle. Usually it would hang on a pole. It would be smoky. We went hop picking in the morning and we went home in the evening.
Hilda A-S: You had to go early in the morning and have dry old sandwiches.
Muriel B: My mother catered. My great uncle had a farm in Hope-Under-Dinmore and mother went and worked. She did all the washing up and cooking. She was on holiday from Harrow (to cater for the hop pickers). My uncle had the farm and they used to come and pick hops.
Kaye: We were taken to see a hop field once and we took some hops back to Liverpool where they hadn’t seen them before.
Hilda A-S: They had to rough it. My sister dried the hops. She had to make sure the hops didn’t dry out too much. They didn’t sleep, they took it in turns to check.
(In Herefordshire hops were dried in kilns, while in Kent the hop-drying building was called an oast house. There was a fire on the ground floor and the hops were laid out to dry on the floor above this.)
The Saturday Night Hop: Wartime dances
Cora: I met my husband at a Bodenham dance in the village hall. It had a good sprung floor. We went out on a bus from Leominster. Saturday night hops – bus load of us. The Jitterbug was under the legs and up and over.
David: They used to decorate the hall. The ladies all joined in.
Cora: The women went up and (beckons with her head) to the men.
Hilda A-S: We weren’t allowed to go at all. We went with Bert, my brother. When we got there he disappeared and we were left on our own. There were three of us girls. We stuck together. We were a big family. My sister Doris, Cecily and I, were the three younger sisters. Bert always came back in time to take us home. The Yanks were there. We did the Boogie Woogie We used to have dances on the Corn Square in Leominster. I don’t know where the music came from. We had to have all three of us together to go. We weren’t allowed to dance with the American soldiers but they would throw the girls up in the air and they would come back down on their feet. I remember it but I didn’t do it. We weren’t allowed to go on our own. Bert went off with his mates. We wore day dresses. We’d get together, the whole lot of us. We’d do each other’s hair.
Victory in Japan (VJ Day), 15th August 1945
Winnie: I can remember it was in August. I was in Leominster. They came out on Corn Square and they were dancing. Somebody shouted it was VJ Day.
Rita: I had a day off school. It was the end of August I think. Well me Mum made chocolates and cakes and things for a celebration. My mother always made a lot of cakes. I had an uncle fighting out in Japan. He came back on a big boat to Ireland and they took us all out on the boats and gave us a big party. It was wonderful. There were big lorries. We all got on and we all had a man! They were lorries full of soldiers. It’s a long time ago you know.
Coping with evacuation
Muriel B: I remember most 1st September 1939 – the great evacuation. I was a pupil at a London school. The war was only going on till Christmas, or so everyone thought. The school was evacuated because it was in London. On the Friday I was evacuated and war was announced on the Sunday, 3rd September.
On 1st September 1939 the railways were absolutely crammed with children being evacuated. We had to walk to Hammersmith and then it took ages and ages to get 20 miles. We went by train and all the boys and girls in the world were on that train. There weren’t enough toilet facilities. I shall never forget that day – hundreds and hundreds of children all walking crocodile.
Our school was sent to Sunningdale in Berkshire and many of us attended the church service on 3rd September, when the war was announced by the vicar. Where the school was evacuated to Sunningdale, we were only there three weeks. There we had lessons in the mornings, sometimes in the billets where the teachers were staying. Then we were moved to Newbury. The school was terribly fragmented at first. We were brought together at Newbury. We were so lucky to have Pop and Mop, our evacuated parents there. My head mistress said to me later she had never been so horrified to see her girls being sent away to different parents. It took them ages. The school was organised but the government wasn’t. We knew who was going with whom but not where. It was terrible for my headmistress and the staff worked so hard. They found the school was fragmented over a large area. My first billet was with Mrs Bolton in Sunninghill. I was 14 at the time. I was impressionable. I was given ham, moving with maggots in it. Well I exclaimed about this and the wise old chap said “Just move it to the side of the plate.” My Mother had asked us to sing “Oh God of love and king of peace, make wars throughout the world to cease. The wrath of sinful man restrain, give peace oh God, give peace again.” After this traumatic beginning, saying I would “walk”, when I wrote or telephoned to Father or Mother, if things didn’t change, I was lucky, because then the whole school moved to Newbury. I felt sorry for the people at Sunninghill. They must have been living a quiet country life and then we came.
Everything settled down in Newbury. We had the girls’ grammar school in the afternoons. We started at 1pm. The grammar school girls had classes in the school in the mornings. I was in touch with my foster parents’ daughter, Vera, from Newbury for a long time until she died. After the war she came to stay and I also visited her.
I belong to the Old Girls Association of my school, Godolphin and Latymer. I go to the reunions when I can but we are getting fewer. Harder to get together because I don’t live in London or Middlesex any more. You took an exam, the 11 plus. That meant I had to travel to London to school.
Nut and blackberry picking
Winnie: We didn’t have grey squirrels until later. The nuts (filberts) were thick on the trees. In those days my Dad had Sundays off. We used to go with him we children and shake the hedgerows. He had a stick with a hook on the end and m y Dad would shake and we children would go along the hedgerow to collect the nuts. We took them home and shelled them and we used to get several tins full and put a bit of salt with them and bury them in the garden. That was usually a Sunday in the Autumn. There were only a few brown squirrels. They get the nuts before they are ripe. In those days they were so plentiful. Nowadays they don’t allow the hedges to grow up high and also the grey squirrels get them before us. We had the nuts at Christmas. Hazels are the smallest, then filberts then cobs.
At the same time we used to go blackberry picking and make blackberry jelly and blackberry jam. Now the hedges are trimmed. We used to get basketfuls of blackberries. We walked to Leominster three miles to sell them and only got about a shilling for a basket.
Donegal and The White Rocks 16.1.15
We were living just off the White Rocks. The whole beach came along from Portrush to The White Rocks. You could go in and go around and find things in the water – shells and everything like that. The sea was clear. The islands were just off the beach. Every time I go home I always go to white Rocks and remember those days …
My Mother would say “Have you been to the White Rocks?” No-one would say. There were four of us girls who stayed together. We said “I’ll tell my mother”. (To make a threat to tell on a sister would stop her doing anything dangerous.)
Aunt Martha came to visit – (my Mother’s sister). She came from Donegal because my Mother was born in Donegal and we often went over to Donegal to see our cousins. We went for a holiday in Donegal. About six of us in one bed. We didn’t sleep very well.
Mother left Donegal to work in Northern Ireland and got married and lived there. There were four of us girls, Anna, Sadie, Me and Elizabeth. Usually a lady would have a person to wash the dishes. If they were really well off they had two maids. The McCauleys had a car. If there was a car coming it was the McCauleys and they would give us a lift to Portrush. I was a housemaid. You had to do these things. The farmer paid us you see. In the summer when there were people coming to stay we worked extra to look after the tourists on the farms, although very few took holidays. There wasn’t a lot of money you see.
Working lives: education and job satisfaction
Cora: I went to the Grammar School in South Street (Leominster). I stayed on. I loved maths. After school I went outside and I did my homework at the last minute. I enjoyed maths problems. I got to the age when I wanted to leave. My first job was with the MEB doing accounts. They were a good crowd there. We used to get some awkward people in. They didn’t want to pay. I could type but not very fast.
Colleen: I liked school. I had lots of friends. I liked that.
Ann E: I didn’t like being sent away to school at 14. I didn’t like the holidays much. I liked English Literature. Enid Blyton was my favourite author.
Ron B: I used to be an author. I wrote two text books on engineering. I was the Company Engineer for Scaffolding Great Britain. I was quite an important person. I had to go to all the board meetings. I had around thirty draughtsmen working for me.
Emma: Which part of your working life did you like best, Eric?
Eric: I liked best when I was a teacher at the boys’ boarding school – Bradfield College in Berkshire. I was a teacher of languages.
Ron B: Was it a grammar school?
Eric: No, it was a public school. It still is. It exists still, in Berkshire.
Ron B: I went to school in Berkshire; a very posh expensive school, Leighton Park. It was really expensive. I had a scholarship. It was the school to go to. Most at the school were not local. They came from miles around. A massive school, around three miles round. We used to have to run round the perimeter. We used to have to swim in the nude.
Emma: Eric used to swim on the boat travelling between Brazil and England.
Eric: They always put up a swimming pool for you to enjoy yourself. I was born in Brazil. I have dual nationality. British nationality because my parents are British. So I had to do military service in Brazil before they would let me out of the country to join the airforce.
Ron B: For how long?
Eric: You could sign up to go to The Barracks. To go early in the morning before you did your work, or you could go in the evening. You went on exercises with the military. The Barracks was their way of making military service available to the better off sections. Instead of going and doing a two year full service, you could opt to do this part-time system. It was a way of getting your military service done without spoiling your work schedules. You could either do it before or after work. I did it before. I was a student. I used to take a tram into town to report to The Barracks and do some marching up and down and a bit of work with a rifle. It was a cunning way that particularly benefitted the wealthier input because you didn’t have to give whole days to soldiering. You later did operations with the army. You’d go with the army on operations. You just went off for a week.
Ron B: ‘Manoeuvres’.
Eric: Yes! ‘Manoeuvres’. When they were doing their manoeuvres.
Emma: What were you studying?
Eric: There were lots and lots of Jewish German refugees in Brazil. They came to escape the awful things .. They came to Brazil in large numbers and my mother was particularly keen that I should learn languages. She said “We’ll get one of them to give lessons.” We made great friends of these German refugees. We played bridge together in German. We had a lot of teaching in the process.
I think a point of importance is why were my parents in Brazil. This organization, this Canadian combine – this organisation had invested very large sums of money in Brazil. No doubt the US was somewhere in the picture. This organisation played an extremely important part in providing for the city of Sao Paulo. They provided all the gas, that’s to say, the domestic supply. They provided the gas. There were parts of the town that didn’t get any gas. Brazil has states like the United States. The organisation provided for the state of Sao Paulo, not just for the city, for all the surrounding area. My Dad was on the gas side. Somebody else was in charge of the electricity and another chap was in charge of the water for the ever-expanding city. It became the second largest important state in Brazil. The largest state was Rio de Janeiro; ‘River of January’. The discoverer of the area found a place where they could get ashore. There was a river coming down from the hills and they arrived during the month of January.
There was a very large central office; a very big and important central office where all the very necessary preparation and the organisation for the distribution of the gas and electricity and water took place. Quite a big chunk of the town was owned by the company and it was divided up into sectors. The Canadian company had to buy chunks of Sao Paulo. At that stage, land was cheap enough and the Canadians bought into Sao Paulo.
As a child, all the youngsters and grown-ups too used to celebrate the three days’ holiday at lent. There would be great ‘high jinks’ in the evenings – celebrations that took the form of sitting in a car with the roof down and throwing streamers at passers-by. I took part as a child and as a young man. The celebrations were fantastically jolly, throwing these paper streamers to the people in the car behind you or to the sides. They had bottles about 10cm tall, full of water which created a water stream (bisnaga). This was on the avenues. You’d have cars going up the huge, long avenues and at the same time you’d have people squirting each other with water (bishnaga) going along the pavements.
School trip to Germany – 1936
Just before the war I went to Germany aged about 16. We were staying in an ordinary youth hostel and we were invited through our masters who were with us to spend an evening with the German youth hostellers. They were very jolly. We had to go to their club. So we walked to their club and at the end of it all, after we’d sung songs, they said we’ll come back to where you’re staying and we’ll march with you. They marched us back and they were singing the German youth song. (Eric sings.) They marched us back singing the Nazi youth song. Yes it was the Hitler youth song. When we got back we just probably had something more to eat. They marched back afterwards.
I was later a pilot. It was quite interesting later because we understood a bit about the psychology of the Germans. Of course the German youth people had had their uniforms, which seemed OK because the scouts had a uniform. We weren’t in uniform but we were kitted out for a walking trip.
The trip to Germany was in about 1936. It felt OK. There was no suspicion. I think it was just before things turned rotten. It was just before things became more serious and dangerous.
Ron Brand 15.5.15
We had a very frightening head mistress. Everyone was frightened of her. She was called Miss Pollard but we called her Polly Parrot. She took me out in front of the class and told the class I was a liar. Mum took us to a pantomime in South West London.
We had a French teacher. If we made a mistake we got the ruler across the knuckles. He was Mr Gibson. We called him Gibbo.
I went to school in London. I was thinking of Miss Pollard every Sunday night because I would see her in the morning.
I was in London until the war. In 1939 I was evacuated to Reading. I was disappointed because when we got to Reading on the train, I could still see the smoke from London and I could see London on the skyline. But then I saw a herd of cows near the railway station. I didn’t realise I was anywhere apart from London until I saw the herd of cows. My Mum came with me as a helper. When the war first started my Mum stayed with me. I was a bit ashamed at the time as I was too young to join the army. I was only nine when war broke out. My Dad was working in a munitions factory in Reading. The first person I was billeted with was a rather frightening old lady. When my Mum came she moved me. At that time my Mum was working in the aircraft factory with my father. I moved to a lady called Miss Soley and we were all scared by her. She had an uncle called Tom who worked over the road in a pork pie factory. Every afternoon he brought back his wellington boots full of pork pies. He must have sold them on the black market.
I had quite a few loves in those days when I was evacuated to Reading. I used to work in a green grocers shop called Chandlers and every week this woman came in and I was in love with her. I was only a youth. She was quite a bit older. There were a few American troops. I used to watch her walking down the road and she was going to visit one of the troops. My heart was broken.
I was an assistant in the grocery shop. I took orders. I had a bicycle with basket under the handle bars. I was going along a road in Reading. My bicycle disappeared from underneath me and scattered all the groceries all over the main road. In those days there were trolley buses. The road was full of traffic. You couldn’t collect groceries from the road. I imagine some ended up in the gutter. I don’t remember what I did.
The main thing I remember about Reading was all the bombers. Reading used to be a junction for all the bombers; early on Wellingtons, later Lancasters. They all aimed for Reading as their turning point. I always remember them being up in the sky on their way to Germany and I heard them coming back in the early morning.
I remember I had Uncle Jimmie and he was in the Far East during the war. He wrote to me regularly. He was in the Royal Engineers. I may have the letters in a tin box.
When the war ended we didn’t go home. I think we stayed on in Reading. Mum and Dad continued working in the aircraft factory. I was doing National Service for two years after the war. I went to Benghazi in Libya. I remember I was disappointed when we got there. I thought we were going somewhere exotic. We stopped in Malta on the way to refuel. I think I flew out in an Avro York. It was an adaptation of a Lancaster bomber with a passenger cabin put in.
VE Day Memories: 70 Years On
Street parties, dancing with the Yanks and continuing with work.
Dot: I was in a pub in Ludlow with Jeff. Everybody was happy.
Cora: We had a street party with lollipops and a bit of dancing.
Joan: We had a street party years ago when I was younger.
Dorene: People gathered in the streets. We were in the town buzzing about. We heard it on the radio and left our jobs.
Cora: We lived on a council estate and we all went out on the street dancing. We had rationing – just two ounces of cheese per person.
Dorene: People went into the street, running up and down because their families were coming back. We waited to organise a street party.
We lived near an army base at Dinedor. We had to keep out.
David: You were not allowed to run around the base. Bletchley was kept separate from the rest.
Doreen: Soldiers were walking around in the fields, around the camp. People worried because their children had gone to war and were not in their jobs. We lived in Hoarwithy Road (Hereford). I liked to meet the soldiers.
Cora: Happy days.
Dorene: Hoarwithy Road had two entries to go into it. They had to check we were back. We had to be careful because my father was working in a factory in Rotherwas (munitions factory). Hoarwithy Road was all new houses. It was an important army camp. As teenagers we were careful not to go chatting about it in the evenings. We took teenagers in (evacuees). You didn’t know your own home in those days. You were sick of carrying those things (gas masks). We had some nice dances in the camp. You had to shout who you were before you went in at night to prove who you were. There were two checkpoints on two roads so we could go dancing with the army. My Dad was at the gate every night!
Cora: In Leominster for VE Day we had a street party. Everyone joined in. We had one on the council estate, Craswell Crescent, where we later bought our house. There were tables down the road and music.
Doreen: Hinton Road (Hereford), by the river – that’s where we had a party. New houses were built there.
Wendy: My mother had a baby at the end of the war! My sister.
Cora: Leominster was only a typical market town. Everyone knew everyone else’s business! All the girls were after the Yanks to get sweets and their nylons. My mother was very strict.
Wendy: How old were you?
Cora: Eleven. Young and innocent. We used to get a bus load of us girls out. Barons Cross; they were good dances. Mini skirts and nylons! Age seventeen to eighteen – good clean fun. My mother was too strict for it to be anything else.
Lucy: Oooh. You little chaser!
Cora: You had to be in by a certain time.
Dorene: My Dad used to be one end of the road and Mum the other.
Cora: You had to be in by a certain time. We didn’t tell them everything did we?
Dorene: The Yanks were good clean fun. It seemed fun at the time.
Cora: Canadians. I was engaged to one but he died, lovely man, a gentleman in every way. He had a brother, a friend of my sister’s. I would have gone out to Canada, my sister wouldn’t have.
David: We were based on the airfield; different areas, different jobs. All had their different jobs to do. Nothing terribly exciting.
Emma: Did you go dancing?
David: Yes, we went dancing.
Eric: When I’d finished my tour of operations I was sent off to teach other people to fly the same aircraft I’d been flying. I became a teacher of other young men who had joined up and who wanted to fly. I was teaching other people all the things I knew about flying within a week or two of finishing in the war. So many different kinds of aeroplanes. When the war was over I think everybody immediately started thinking of getting out of the airforce as soon as possible unless they wanted to stay in. After VE Day the war continued in the Far East and elsewhere.
David: It was very mixed up, jumping all over the place. You could never be sure where you were going to be. It was tiring. I could be somewhere for a short period and then I’d move off, so it just depended how busy they were. I preferred to stay on as a Navigator after the war, being experienced, doing long flights carrying troops. Aircraft always needed a Navigator on long personnel flights. You were doing this today and that tomorrow.
The unexploded bomb
Auntie Jessie and Uncle Jack had an unexploded bomb by a tennis court. They came to stay to Harrow from Croydon while the bomb was defused.
When I left school I was evacuated for a long time, for two to three years. My father was very anxious for us to come home. He lived another four years after we came home. There was no time to look back till later.
We lived in a semi-detached Edwardian house in Harrow and the local bombing started in 1940 and although it was not a lot, the Brands, Uncle Jack and Auntie Jessie came because of the unexploded bomb. We were all in the semi-detached Edwardian house. There was a Morrison shelter. Four girls (me, my sister and Mary Brand) slept in this with our legs sticking out and two boys slept on top of the shelter. Auntie Jessie and Uncle Jack slept in the utility room and Mum and Dad slept in the scullery. The Brands slept in the dining room.
My sister and I were evacuated during the war. I was one of five children. My elder sister was evacuated to Blackpool with the Civil Service. We had two nice holidays there after the war. There were five in the family. We didn’t lose anyone but we never lived again all together. My elder sister met airforce people in Blackpool. She met someone and we’ve not met up again. My elder brother was in retreat from France. He was lucky to come through that. He came over by boat. When the war broke out I was a young girl. When it finished I was twenty-one.
Remembering childhood games
We remembered the games we used to enjoy before computer games or even television …
Muriel B played He in Middlesex, while a similar chasing game was called Tag in Herefordshire. In Middlesex the child chasing the other children was called He. In Herefordshire the child chasing the other children was called It. Muriel said,
“He was a much more respectable name to have than It.”
“He does the chasing and the next person touched is the next He.”
Dennis B said that the boys would play something more rough. Dennis liked football and rugby.
“The girls used to go in and complain to the teachers” (about the boys).
Muriel P grew up in Stockport and she remembers a chasing game called Tag played there. A chain of children was created. She said
“If you were touched on for example, your shoulder, you had to keep holding it till you were released.”
Muriel P described two further games:
“The “Granny Witch” game was played by a group of children one of whom was the “witch” and stood at the front with his/her back to the rest who stood in a level line about a garden’s length away. The idea was that the children had to creep towards the Witch without her seeing. Her role was to suddenly turn round and if she saw someone moving that person had to go back to the start. Then the action would be repeated until someone got close enough to touch the Witch. Then she would immediately chase them all and the one she ticked became the Witch.
“May I?” was a development of Granny Witch. The difference was that at the word “go” all the children would start moving with very small steps and when the Witch turned round they all stopped. The Witch would then pick one child and give the command “2 giant strides” (which meant 2 steps as far as the child could reach) or “4 pinheads” (which meant a tiny shuffle of two feet) or “2 bunny hops” (which meant squatting and jumping forward twice or once or whatever the command was). On receiving the command the child would say “May I?” and, according to the mood of the witch the reply would be “yes” or “no” and then there would be movement. Eventually someone got near enough to tick the Witch and the chase would be the same as the other game.
I can’t imagine children of today being bothered to play either of those games!”
Please add your memories of games like these! Thank you. Do you play chasing games in the playground now?
Collecting cigarette cards seemed to have been popular amongst both boys and girls, with Eric, David, Muriel B and Betty remembering their collections. Eric described how he moved between Sao Paulo in Brazil and his boarding school in Bedfordshire. He was given cigarette cards in England which he was later able to sell in Brazil.
Graham remembers playing conkers, with horse chestnuts hung on strings. There were two other boys who were particularly good at it, as was he.
Ann E explained, “I liked swinging from trees. I had a special tree in a special place.”
Paddy remembers rounders at school, early on Monday mornings. “I used to like that because I used to hit the ball to go flying.” Paddy also played netball. “I was goal defence. It was a tarmac court. I used to jump so high I suffered from grazed knees. In the winter I used to play beetle. I had to throw a six to start the game with a body.” Paddy made the game. She drew the body on paper and drew six legs when she was able to add these during the game. She said, “My cousin was off with the boys, with motorbikes.”
How to Play Beetle:
The goal of the game is to be the first player to complete his or her beetle.
The players take turns to throw the die and try to draw the corresponding body part.
First the six needs to be thrown, since this is the body of the beetle.
Before drawing the antennae and eyes, a five needs to be thrown to draw the head of the beetle.
6 for the body
5 for the head
1 for eyes (two of them)
2 for antennae (two of them)
3 for legs (six of them)
4 for wings (two of them)
The one who finishes his beetle first is the winner
Every player counts his points: one point for every part drawn and the winner gets ten bonus points.
Forbury residents conversations and reminiscence…
Yesterday, Sunday I saw a fat pheasant with long lovely tails. I used to wash them and put them in a vase on the piano.
A lovely colourful thing; his head cocked with a red comb on it.
There was nothing to eat.
The pheasant was plodding along. I kept very quiet.
It walked along and it fled up over the high house wall.
It didn’t see me.
I didn’t frighten it at all.
I’ve had pheasants in the oven.
I was very pleased when they said they had taken a photograph. It meant I was not making it up.
I felt like giving them a four-penny one!
What can I do with these people?
When Roberto was running around taking a photo they had to believe. I was quite cross inside.
They wouldn’t know how to dress and cook a pheasant.
Paddy Bowen 2.3.15
Drama practitioner Toni Cook has been offering dram workshops with us. Here are three poems written by residents of the Forbury responding to visual images:
Ann E, Joan, Sheila, Tony, Wendy, Graham, Ann H, David, Colleen, Lucy, Betty, Kath and Ronald
Clouds over Fields
Gloomy, very gloomy
Alright ʻtil it changed
“Til the yellow came
Itʼs calmed down a bit
Weatherʼs suddenly changed
You see that weather on the Moors
See it coming in
Itʼs absolutely beautiful
Dancing in the rain.
A lightning flash at ground level
Lighting up the ground underneath
A fish shape in the clouds
A golden field below
Those are the clouds
Maybe a river, I donʼt know
I like it
It might be the Midwest
Very, very dark
Somebody is waking up at last
There are little things in it.
A strip of pink sky
The weather is changing
We are all changing.
If you look up there is darkness
Coming down, coming down.
It makes you go bigger
Thatʼs going to start
Hurry up and get out of the way!
Rooftops of sheds
Hurry to get up
Hurry up to get down
I like the colours
People sitting in a chair
Very large cloud hovering over
a large expanse of ground
Itʼs already started to rain
Not very big clouds, light I think
Is that the sea or is that the clouds above?
Or those cold be the clouds
Yes, itʼs going to rain
itʼs dark, Itʼs black.
Dancing in the Rain
Jim Kelly…Gene Kelly!
Dancing, being happy
Dancing in the rain.
Two are dancing
Dancing in the rain
Surrounded by rain
Although they have taken advantage of the rain
The pleasure of being soaked by the rain
Rather nice I think!
The two dancing are enjoying the moisture
that is coming down
Coming down all over and keeping them cool.
A lady to be seen riding the top end
I see the dancing now, I like it.
There is a lady and a gentleman dancing
Looks as though heʼs going to twirl her around next
Heʼs quite a bit taller than her.
Itʼs not good really
Itʼs quite good really
Itʼs a lock up of two people
A lock up.
I might have seen it at the pictures
I liked it
I liked it alot
I like the fact they are dancing in silhouette.
I think theyʼre lovely
I do, I do.
We need st start doing it
I think sheʼs going to kick her leg up!
Turning to dance in the rain
Singing in the rain
I like the colours and the background
Monday was washday
Ann E: I must have blackened the grate.
Monday was washday.
Wendy: We were eating cold meat till Tuesday. Someone in the North would have different food.
You washed the bottom sheets first and put the top sheets on the bottom to save on the washing. We had a copper tub with wood lit underneath it and anything else you could find. 20 minutes and rinse. Rinse 3 times maybe. It was hard work for my grandparents and my mother. Father was away in the war. When the war was on there was no money.
Hilda A-S: We had a copper. I used to bath in it.
Paddy: There was a fire underneath it. Later we had a cylinder of gas for the copper. The sheets were boiled very white. My husband bought the wood for the wood fire underneath.
Ray E: I grew up in Wellington, Shropshire. There was a Chinese laundry run by Mr Woo. We had an outside tap with cold water only. Clothes were washed in a tin bath using a block of yellow soap, with the water heated on a fire. There was no other equipment, no electricity, no gas. In the 1930s I was a small boy. Father would never have looked at a wash tub. He was away from home a lot. He was a travelling boxer. Some people with better houses had a brew house with a big sink. You could light a fire underneath.
Hilda A-S: We had a big range. It was lovely and cosy.
Ann S: They cost a fortune.
Paddy: We had a couple of kettles on a hook.
Hilda A-S: On a ‘sway’.
Paddy: (using a washboard): You rubbed the soap onto the fabric. Washboards were glass or aluminium. In the 1950s we got our first washing machine. We’d been married for a year and we bought a TV and a washing machine.
Rita Partridge, nee Crawford
I’m 90 or something like that. I’m old. I was born in Portrush. It’s at the top of Northern Ireland. It was a seaside place. The beach was called Whiterocks. Oh, there was a beautiful beach there, God yes. We played and swam in the sea, my sisters and me. We would swim there. Oh, it was cold!. My mother wouldn’t allow us to go to the beach by ourselves. She was worried we would get dragged out. She would say: ‘Now, don’t go near Portrush or Whiterocks.’ She told us not to when we were young. There were two big rocks at Whiterocks. We weren’t allowed to go there because my mother was worried we would drown. It was a lovely place actually. We went to paddle there. The sea wasn’t very deep there, but the currents were bad. You could drown there if you weren’t careful. We didn’t go on the beach. We did as we were told. We weren’t allowed there unless mother came with us.
It was quite a distance from our house to the beach. Beautiful sand there. Mother didn’t like it there that much. She used to come and paddle. Dad used to come sometimes too. Behind the beach there were big cliffs with caves inside. We used to go there and play, with my sisters. We had fun really. There four of us girls. Me, Anna, Sadie and Elisabeth. I’m the second eldest. Anna lives out at Colerain, along the coast really. They’re still in Northern Ireland. We were all very close.
We used to walk to school in Portrush. There was a tram we could use too, that ran down there. I’d forgotten about all these things.
My dad was a good man. His name was Hugh. Crawford isn’t a Catholic name. He worked for a farmer. He would help plough the fields. He always wore a cap, and dungarees and a jacket. As we got older and few up. We were taken on to do the potato picking. Father would sing a lot and I would sing with him.
He taught us a lot. He was very good with us, he was very good with his family, and very good with my mother. My mother was a Catholic. Her home was in Donegal. My father was a Protestant and he married her. But they got on with his parents. Oh, you could marry out of church. It wasn’t a problem. I think they got married in a Catholic Church. I think they met at a dance. She had black hair that turned up at the back. Mother liked being Catholic. We were bought up Church of Ireland.
We used to go to Donegal quite a lot to visit my Aunty Sarah, which was nice. Donegal was quite nice actually. My aunt would look after us. Sometimes she would come and stay with us in Portrush. The whole coast round there is rough. We would go by boat sometimes.
We knitted together, my sisters and me. The needles and the wool and we would knit. My mother wanted a dish cloth, something to wash the dishes with, and I knitted her one. She taught us to knit. Mother knitted a lot, jumpers, vests and things like that. She knitted a lot of jumpers for my father. My father was good at knitting too.
There were four bedrooms in our house, and one downstairs. I remember the kitchen and everything. It was nice. We had no electric until later on in life. We had a lamp at night, a Tilley lamp. Mother was a good cook and very good with the household. With the oven, coal would go in the one side and it would keep the house warm. I had to get wood and coal in. Behind us lived the Walkers. He’d been in the army. They were very friendly with us.
I liked cycling. I would bicycle with my three sisters to all different places. We went a lot. Went great distances really. We were out all day. I played golf in Portrush too.
I came over here when I was 18. I said to my mother, ‘I’m going to be a nurse’, and she knitted some things for me to bring with me. I trained to be a theatre nurse in Sellyoak. Sister McLoughlin was in charge. Oh, God, she was terrible. Wouldn’t let you do this, that or the other. Oh God. I trained for many years and became a Sister. I was in the theatre for many years. I wore purple uniform when I was training and blue when I became a Sister, with a white apron. I loved it. I was the boss. Rita Crawford was the person in charge and that was that! When I said jump, everyone would jump.
I’ve never lost my accent. My children love Portrush. I bought my mother’s house a good many years ago. It’s been in the family all these years; you can’t let it go, so I bought it. It’s about two miles outside Portrush.
I married Peter Partridge when I was in my twenties. I wore some sort of frock. Can’t remember what colour, but not white. His mother lived in Rose Hill. I met him at one of the dances at the hospital. He was no good at dancing. He was a hairdresser. He had his own salon. It was love at first sight. We were married for many years. Then he went off with someone else then we got together again.
Tony (Michael Anthony) McKinney
I was born in Co Antrim. I spent most of my time in Londonderry. I was born a valley boy. No job ever beat me when I was young. I would take any job. I had brothers and sisters – and they were the same and worked different jobs. There were loads of them, it was busy. There was a Rose, Anne, Peter, Jim, Willy and John. About eleven of us I think. I went to school too. Sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. I was born Catholic. I remember my first communion. They gave me this thin biscuit and had to go and confess your sins first, and then you had your holy communion. It was a very quiet place for a young lad growing up. You didn’t see many ice-cream vans.
My mam was lovely. My dad did odds and ends: farming, timber work, chopped up fir trees for kindling. In my younger days I did a bit of boxing. Kept me fit. I wore leather boxing gloves. Not all the time like, but they hurt when they hit. I enjoyed it though, I enjoyed sport. I loved singing too. Different places would ask me to sing. I loved that. ‘Roaming in the Gloaming’, things like that.
Tony and I sing ‘Mollie Malone’ and the ‘Mountains of Mourne’, together, word perfect.
Sang other songs too like that. Would be a fiddle too. Maybe wore a jacket and a tie when I was singing. Ay, maybe had a couple of girls running after me. They didn’t have as good legs as you though! I did a lot of dancing too, the Lancers and the Polka. I loved dancing. I’ve won a few prizes. Planned out who I would dance with first, then after, dance with someone else. It was a good place to meet girls. I wore tidy clothes there, my Sunday best. I won first, second and third prizes. I could have won more but didn’t bother. At that time there were dances every week. Good value they were. I liked Ballycastle, a seaside town. I sang there.
When I was a boy, after school, for a bit of money, I would dig peat and build it up like a castle. The peat spade had a special shape to dig peat out. Oh aye, I got some pay for that. I was really good at the time. I would come back from school and do a bit. I went in the clothes I was wearing.
I dealt with motors and scrap metal. Oh, wore old things for that, jacket too. I wasn’t much of a scrap dealer. Worked at Sellafield too, in Cumbria. And I sold woodfinches at Abergavenny market. I was there regular on Monday and Tuesday. I took orders too.
I think I might have lodged in Ross-on-Wye once when I was working for the MEB. I had to go up and down the poles. I loved climbing. I had two straps for each leg with little spikes on that used to go up and down the poles. At the top is it was 11,000 volts. Now and again I fell but it was alright. The electricity was switched off and bloody good job too. Had a few minor shocks that’s all. It was a lot of exercise. Had to be dead sure it was alright before you went up.
I met my wife, Cecily Smith, in Ludlow. She was a traveler and we traveled a lot with caravan. We traveled around alright, different sites. Used to work on farms and have caravan there. Used to stack corn. I had a lot of craics. I have a boy and a girl, John and Rose. Me and the Mrs went to Co Derry long time ago. Was alright. Bit quiet like.
DAVID COX, born 1923, aged 92
I was born in a wooded village in Bedfordshire. Wood started off as just one tree and then all the others planted. It became very popular area for golfers. They had championship games there. I think it was called Woburn Sands. I did play for quite some time there. It was great fun. I enjoyed golf. It was a lovely golf course.
My father was called Alfred. He died quite early on. He was what was known as a burner on the brick works. He worked on top of the brick kilns, where they burnt clay blocks. He used to get the night shift. He did more than his fair share of the night shift with the other brick makers. He worked on the place where the bricks got burnt hottest. I don’t think it was dangerous. It gave him the chance of getting severe colds because he was on an open place on top of the kiln. He wore just normal clothing. He would sometimes wear a jacket. It was a hot job on top of the kiln. He used to always wear a flat cap. Just about wore it all the time. And he wore special toughened boots so his feet wouldn’t get burnt. Seemed to prefer to wear less on top of kiln because so hot. He would feed the little fires that went through the kiln. He worked there quite a few years. He was always involved in the hottest job. He used to wrap well when he cycled to work though, in the winter. Then take layers off when he got there. It was a one man job. He was well known. He cycled two miles to work.
I used to play tricks on him. He could always take a joke. And I used to play jokes on him. He used to say: ‘I’ll get you one of these days!’ We used to like rabbit at home, stewed or roasted, and when we cut the skin off, I used to cut the tail off. Then I stitched it onto the back of my father’s trousers! He took it well. He took it in good sport. That was a joke I played on him. Unfortunately, he got pneumonia during one of the awful winters we had. He wasn’t far short of 60 odd when he died.
Mother didn’t go out to work because she had so many of us children. She had nine children. Her name was Jenny. I would be second oldest. I remember she wore an apron and a dress most times. Quite a do for her really. She wouldn’t have been able to sit around doing nothing.
My first job was working on the local golf course. I used to do some caddying there at the weekend. Only nine holes, a small golf course. Bit of pocket money for yourself, you know how it is. But I left school at 14 and think I joined the Home Guard then. As soon war as war started I joined some local volunteers. Something like, ‘Dad’s Army’. Basically, uniform started off with a hat then some khaki overalls. Didn’t really matter that the uniform wasn’t a perfect fit. The older ones were connected to the army. It was interesting. Kept us going really. We had to march between the pumping station and the water works. We were trying to protect the water works. We wore normal shoes unless you managed to get hold of some boots. I was about 17 then and still living at home then. Bedfordshire had had a few bombs drop around it, and around Cambridgeshire. I have a vague recollection of that.
I joined the ATC when I turned 18. I don’t think my uniform was blue, more a khaki colour. I wore a flat beret with a badge on it. I was a navigator in the RAF. We did have the odd lecture and that sort of thing. Blessed if I can remember what I did as a navigator. But I didn’t fly because you didn’t until you entered the Forces proper. And I didn’t go overseas either. We used to go to pubs in the village. I joined the RAF at Cambridge, one of the only places you could join the services. I very soon received my call-up and I became quite excited by it. Think my mum might have been proud. I passed the exams to join the RAF. I really wanted to join. I was part of RAF ground crew and sometimes had to cycle over to Bletchley about two times a week. Used to enjoy it. It was about eleven miles I think. Had lectures there, that sort of thing. They gave me an ID card. They used to train us to march.
I did marry. I went with her for almost a year before we married. Blessed if I can remember her name. I got to know her quite well. I was living in Aspley Guise and this young lady was living in Cambridgeshire, where her mother ran a little café. I got friendly with her and I used to meet her.
My eldest brother, Charles, was captured in Singapore during the war. He had just landed. He was a Japanese POW for quite some time. Unfortunately, he died helping to build the Burma railway. Difficult life. He just faded away. He was living on worms and all sorts of horrible things. He was about a year older than me. They got such horrible treatment over there. He was buried in Burma. But of course we didn’t hear about it for some time until one or two from the village came back home and talked about it.
Ron Lawson, aged 83, born November 20th 1931
I’ve been here a good while now. I was born in Essex, I think, with my parents and brother. It might have been Braintree, might have been, something like that, or Brightlingsea.
My father went up to London to work. He had his own business there. He was a wholesale stationer. When I came of the army, national service it was, he gave me a job. I think I wore green, or was it khaki colour, in the army. Heavy trousers it was. My fathers business was GH Roberts & Co Ltd. I think I used to wear a suit, a jacket and trouser anyway. I think I wore a tie too. I can remember there were quite a few people working there. I think they wore an overall.
I used to do a bit of photography as well. I was a member of the Royal Photographic Society. I was quite good. I did it because I liked it. Quite a challenge it was too. Taking basic photos is easy, no problem, but taking one that is an eye catcher, from the point of view of art, that’s not so easy.
Really, anyone can go and take a photo and be appreciated for it. You don’t have to be artistic and you don’t always get it exactly right. There are several areas of photography: portraiture, still life and landscape. In those days I took black and white photos. I worked for a newspaper, the Forest of Dean Guardian. The Bright family ran that. Nice family they were. Never heard anyone say a bad word about them. Simply nice people.
Basically, I took photos that I knew would be popular, popular news items. They would keep me primed for what was about to happen. I liked portraiture. I did portraiture. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was very seldom in. I was married then. When I used to get back at night I used to do all my own processing. I developed all my negatives. I might have worn something over my clothes when I was doing it in the dark room. I was very busy, no doubt about it. When I came home I went straight into the dark room, otherwise I wouldn’t get it done. Everyone knew me, I was well-known. Used to bump into people in town who knew me.
I was attracted to the Forest of Dean because of its nature, fields, trees and the population, the countryside. My wife wasn’t very keen though.
When I was a photographer I didn’t have a uniform. I wore civilian clothes, something practical, you know. Don’t think I wore a collar and tie. It was a very busy job. I was the only one doing everything. Had to wear something comfortable. I was liable to go anywhere really. More or less worked wherever they asked me to. Newspaper society would ask me to go and I went. It was my hobby and work. The two were sort of intermingled.
I knew miners in the Forest of Dean. I still think of the Forest, I really do.
When I first started photography I used a Rollicourt 2.5 squared. Quite big and chunky it was, before the day of the 35m. 5cm lens is the standard lens and right lens for the standard shot. The 9cm is for distance shots. I carried some film. I did have a large collection of photographs. I had a photographic film case. It went over my shoulder. All my stuff went in there.
My life changed when my wife Barbara died. They used to call her a ‘dark room widow!’
Many thanks to Marsha O’Mahoney for providing these articles.
Happy 100th Birthday Kathleen Danks!..
Kathleen Johns was born on 11th January 1915. She especially remembers the first part of her life, growing up in Tipton in the Black Country. “I lived opposite the big iron gates of The Park”. She remembers her father, Arthur working “over the way”, making sausages in the big Palethorps factory. Kath, however, was 5 or 6 years of age before her father first saw her. Arthur served in the 1st World War with The Royal Artillery. He was based in Greece and was involved with the Dardanelles Campaign in Turkey. He received a shrapnel wound to his head and recovered from this while in Greece. When the First World War ended Arthur was posted to Ireland with the Black and Tans to help counteract the IRA.
Kath’s mother, Helen, worked away during the First World War in a munitions factory in Longbridge, Birmingham and Kath lived with her mother’s sister, her Aunt Eva for 5 or 6 years in Tipton.
Kath remembers walking to Dudley Port Primary School in Tipton. She says “I liked school. I liked everything”. Kath, however, walked through a tunnel under a railway bridge along a narrow pavement and she has not forgotten being run over there on her way to school. She says “I was the only one then to go to school. It was dangerous. My mother changed my schools.” Kath remembers her next school (The Sacred Heart Secondary School) as being closer to home and with a library close by. “You were 14 when you left.”
When Kath left school she looked after her younger sister Monica, 12 years her junior. Kath recalls “I used to walk to Burnt Tree, not far away, where I put hair pins onto cards. My sister did it after me.” Monica remembers Kath putting press studs onto cards for the Newey Brothers. Kath worked for Newey Brothers until she married her builder husband, Albert when she was 22 in 1937. Kath remembers her wedding on a “summer Saturday”. She had a long white dress to her ankles with a veil and a bouquet of flowers. They moved to a “nice house on the corner, built by Albert, still in Tipton” which Kath kept “nice and clean”. Kath and Albert’s son Anthony was born in 1943. Sadly Kath lost Albert in 1960.
Kath married Sid in1964 and the couple moved South in the late 60s to help Kath’s brother Harry in his pub in Wimborne, Dorset. Sid later worked for Hamworthy engineering while Kath worked part-time in the company’s canteen. Kath lied about her age in order to remain in employment, retiring at the age of 70. When Sid died, Kath was on her own in the flat in Ferndown that they had shared. In her late 70’s she continued to walk the 2½ miles to the shops and back.
Kath moved up to Shropshire, to Chapel Lawn aged 82 to live with her sister Monica. 11 years later she moved into The Forbury Residential Home in Leominster.
Approaching her 100th birthday, Kath takes part in the life of her residential home. In September she enjoyed a canal boat trip and she recently went out after Christmas to The Courtyard Theatre in Hereford to watch Jack and the Beanstalk. She remains accurate and powerful with a ball, tackling her friends during games of seated football! Kath especially likes to work independently, water colour painting or creating collages.
The staff and residents of The Forbury Residential Home would like to wish Kath a very happy 100th birthday.
Keeping warm and eating well during World War 2
Dorothy Colebatch grew up in Gladestry, near to Kington as one of nine children. Dorothy, her brother Leonard, her sister Yvonne and Yvonne’s husband Mike talked to me about life during the war years.
Dorothy with her sisters and brother used to have to collect wood for their open fire. They borrowed a donkey and cart and got the kindling sticks out of the hedges. The donkey was stubborn and it needed a carrot held in front of it to encourage it to move.
There was good organisation to ensure a supply of fresh food. Gladestry School organised the picking of rosehips from the hedgerows. The children would go out in gangs to collect these so that they could be made into rosehip syrup, a good source of vitamin C.
The school had a huge garden. The boys (but not the girls) spent lots of time working in the garden. They used to go out to collect sheep manure to soak in a big tub of water. After a few days or a week the water from this was used to pour onto the marrow plants, with good results! The school garden provided a range of vegetables including potatoes and peas which were probably cooked in the school canteen. Dorothy remembers, “We used to have lovely dinners. They were 4p each.” Leonard suggested that as they were part of a family of nine children, their dinners may have been free.
Meat came in the form of wild rabbits and pigeons and Dorothy’s “lovely Gran” kept the children supplied with butter and eggs. Gran killed a pig every two years. Dad did the gardening at home, growing runner beans, potatoes, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflowers, with sweat peas growing in between the vegetables to encourage pollination. Mum had a large family which allowed her a larger number of ration books. Yvonne remembers the family needing to be self-sufficient until around 1956. Leonard remembers living off salmon and shrimp paste!
Clothing consisted of ‘hand-me-downs’. At night the children slept three together, under an old army overcoat. Heated bricks or ceramic hot water bottles helped. Mike explained that the hot water bottles had a cork and had to be kept the right way up. Another method of heating a bed was to put in a hot steel plate from the oven. The children washed in a tin bath, of course, in front of the fire.
Thank you to Dorothy, Leonard, Yvonne and Mike for sharing this with us.
Despatch Rider (recollections from a Forbury resident)
“I was a Despatch Rider during the war and we were given ration boxes, twice a day. We had one box in the morning and one at teatime.”
The boxes were made of wax cardboard, so that they were waterproof and airtight.
A typical box, would contain:
- x 5 pieces of toilet roll
- x 1 small bar of chocolate
- x 5 cigarettes
- x 3 / 4 biscuits
“The biscuits had weevils in them but we were often so hungry, that we ate them as well!”“With the cigarettes, I don’t smoke, you see but a friend of mine did. We would trade. I’d give him my cigarettes and he’d give me his chocolate! The chocolate was very hard but good quality” (cocoa)
“I was stationed all over – Kuala Lumpa, Malaysia, Singapore, India – all over! If I ever came across exotic fruit on my travels, like bananas or pineapples, I would pinch those too, as food was scarce and the days were long”.
A typical day of a Despatch Rider started at 5 am and ended at 8 pm, sometimes working into the night at times. Considering the hours, I think pinching the odd pineapple is forgiveable!…
Kate gathered a few messages this morning after a Harvest Festival themed Holy Communion. Here are the residents responses to her question: “What are you thankful for?”…
“Thankful for the sunshine” HILDA ASHDOWN-SHARP
“Thankful for all the friends we meet here” PADDY
“Thankful for my family and my wife. Having a family home and unit, where we all live together and trust each other” RON
“Thankful for my good lady” RAYMOND PERKS
“Thankful for still sitting here, as I have had a lot of accidents in my time!” TONY
“Thankful to be alive!” SPIRO
“Thankful for being able to paint” TRIXIE
“Thankful for a good day” BETTY
“Thankful for everything” DOREEN
“Thankful for being here still. I used to go to church every week” GRAHAM JONES
“Thankful for waking up every morning with good health, with strength and God who gives me breath and blesses me everyday. God is gracious, he is patient and gives us his love” ROBERTO
“Thankful for life and food, especially at Christmas” DAVID DAVIDS
“Thankful for having had a good life” GLYNN
“Thankful for a variable life. When I was in the forces, I always seemed to be on the move and regret when I find myself blocked off to do something I would prefer to do” DAVID COX
Ron and the squirrel (August 2014)
Well it was a grey squirrel. It came up to my window and the window was open, not very much, but a bit.
I threw bread out to the birds and the squirrel was getting more of the bread than the birds and it came in.
Did you encourage it?
Yes I think I did. It walked along the window ledge and it jumped down and it got into my room and it went out again, which I was happy about because they can be difficult to get rid of!..
A conversation about the evacuations during the second world war from personal experiences of Forbury residents.
Peggy: There was a war on. We were evacuated.
David C: I lived in a little village only about 15 miles from London.
A lot of the children came to Aspley Guise.
Peggy: All London evacuees came to our area.
David C: We were surrounded by woods and heaths so
we always had plenty of places to play. In the woods there were specially placed edible chestnuts. We used to go and pick up the chestnuts and the cobs for extra food.
When you live in the country you have lots of fun cos’ there’s usually plenty of woodlands and other places for hide and seek.
Betty: We used to pick poppies. We were evacuated to Dunstable.
David C: Dunstable Downs
Betty: We used to have a bike.
David C: Have battles.
Betty: A watermill, watercress. We had a skating rink. We could borrow skates and go rolling round and round.
David C: I know when the people were evacuated it livened the village up. We had a dance in the village hall. It was more fun than before.
Peggy: We had the army there. South Wales – only there 6 months.
David C: Lives became more fun – more children. We all mixed
together. The city children had no woods or heaths.
Joan E: Well, I was in Bradford before it changed.
My father was a builder. He built Thornton Grammar School and the
High School for girls. It was a beautiful city. Right in the middle was a place for buying things – Madam Hughes? People used to come from London for the shopping.
Peggy: You do find a lot of older people don’t talk about the war. They want to put it behind them.
Paddy: I had an aunt with 2 children and a husband in the forces. She had evacuees around Holme Lacy. When they went for their weekly shop they took the evacuees shopping with them. I saw them sometimes. They went back to London after the war. They had to have the big houses filled.
Peggy: They had no choice. If you had a man at home you might
have more say in the matter. The evacuees used to sit on the stairs; 2 to a stair.
Paddy: Years later my brother said the families would come on a visit to see the children evacuees. My brother took them on a tour of the countryside and showed them the milking. They weren’t any better for seeing their parents afterwards. It made it harder for the parents to see their children and to have to leave them and go away again.
Peggy: They probably didn’t see them for another month. The families taking in evacuees weren’t interested in the evacuees like the children of their own families.
Residents reminiscing about rationing during the war and the food they used to eat from local farms.
David C: We used to boil up old potato peelings, mix bran with it. It used to make a really good meal, particularly if it was still warm and they didn’t half go at it.
Dorothy: Black hens were likely to sit on their eggs. They were lively, they could end up running you off your feet.
Muriel: The problem with our hens; my husband ordered a box of day old chicks because there were no eggs due to rationing, we got a bakers’ dozen – 13. We reared them round an electric fire. All survived and we put them in the garden. One was a cockerel. The neighbours complained. I tried to kill the cockerel; broke its neck.
My husband finished it off. We called one hen Charles 1st. It ran around for half an hour headless after it was dead.
Rita P: Rhode Island Reds were crossed with White
Leghorns. White Leghorns were pure white with yellow legs.
Dorothy: On Daddy whittle’s farm – he was our milkman – we used to go after school, used to ride the pony and do jobs on the farm. The pony’s name was Dinky. That was when I first learned to ride. We looked after the hens and fetched the cows in from milking. We used to stand there and shout “Ooh ooh”. There was a hen, when I was 12 years old, its feathers were droopy. It stood miserable in one corner.
I think it was to do with hens before they were delivered; lack of nutrition.
Tony: Egg nog is egg, milk and brandy.
Rita P: They stood on one leg (if unwell). My mother very rarely got a vet in.
David C: Twist in opposite directions to break the neck.
Rita P: My mother once put on paraffin oil for mites. My mother was born in Donegal.
Dorothy: The mites used to suck the blood and wear down the hen.
David C: They’re more trouble than they’re worth.
Dorothy: Laying away – Used to lay an egg and walk away. The farmer had to catch the chicken to make sure it was where it was supposed to be.
Muriel: We were really lucky; didn’t get illness with ours. We were in an urban district in the wartime
so we were allowed to keep hens. You usually couldn’t keep hens or pigs.
Holidays, schooldays, scouts
Memories from residents of childhood holidays, schooldays and the scouts.
Joan: I was born in Bradford, lived in Scotland then in the Lake District. We’ve had some lovely tents. Dad used to get them. Dad arranged it. We took 2 tents.
Trixie: I wasn’t interested in camping. We stayed in hotels.
Gwen B: We went to the Isle of Wight.
Tony: I like Nottingham. Where the girls are so pretty.
Gwen B: You used to get the stick across your ****. You’d be walking along and you’d get the stick across your bum. But funnily enough it didn’t worry us too much because we were all together.
That was a common thing to do. It had to be the black one. I think I was naughty. Life was not so bad when you were younger. As you grew older it got worse. It got heavier at school. The lessons got harder. The teachers loved hitting us across the****. I was never allowed to go to school after I was 14 years old.
David C: I got the cane once when I was at a strange school. The first day I was there. Took a couple of stripes across my hand.
Trixie: If someone wouldn’t do as they were told I would tell them off. I did like to know what was going on. I told the other children off.
Tony: I remember my way to school. It was a good school with a big playground. We used to play ball and get told off. It was at Lough.
Gill. We had a good hurling team. I wasn’t on it. (Singing:) The Lough Gill hurlers will be there! … its too long ago.
David C: I was in the scouts and went up to a Rover. The scouts in Aspley Guise did labour for the lady of the manor. She was a good person. We used to go and do a gardening stint on a Saturday morning. It was always fun as long as it didn’t rain for too long.
Rivers and Sheep Dips
The dangers of sheep-dipping!
Trixie: Maggots. That’s why they have these sheep dips.
Paddy: It’s by law you’ve got to dip them. We had no dip at our farm. We used to take them all the way down to my brother’s. By law you’re to. They come round and check, the police, and they have like a big broom thing to push them down under the water.
Maria: Oh I’ve seen them doing that. My Dad was a farm hand and used to watch them dipping the sheep when he was alive.
Paddy: I think sheep dip can be so strong if you breathe it in it can make you ill. One of my family, donkeys years ago, lost one of the family, dipping sheep in the river.
Maria: You push them down and they come back up and they have a good shake when they come up.
Paddy: Very dangerous dipping sheep in the river – my grand-parents’ time. It was in the River Wye, Holme Lacy way, before my time. It’s not dangerous with a proper bath on the farm. I was only told about it when I’d grown up.
Paddy: At Bolstone in my Uncle’s time, the sheep had to be dipped to stop the maggots. It was compulsory to do it. They were fined if they didn’t do it. They used to take the sheep down to the river and two men or more were needed to stop them going down the river. One man was lost, before my time. Later on they had a tank with disinfectant.
31.7.14 / 11.8.14
Swimming & Fishing
Margaret: I went swimming in a medium river; it was never very cold and never very hot. That was our average thing, in those days.
Trixie: Swimming in the river was good. I’m very keen on swimming. My stroke was nothing too difficult. Crawl – occasionally I found it very difficult.
Margaret: I never used to like that. It’s amazing if you get yourself in the proper way;enjoying yourself with other people.
Raymond (on fishing): It was nice and steady.
Doreen: You won lots of prizes, didn’t you?
Raymond: I did, many moons ago.
Emma: I’ve never seen a pike.
Raymond: You’ll soon get them in your bag. Some people like fishing and some people don’t.
Doreen: I used to take my knitting.
Work experiences of residents
Trixie: I worked in an ammunitions factory – Woolage Arsenal.
Betty: Corporation Road. I used to take my bike there. Easier than catching a bus. It was about 33 miles from London, in Newport, Monmouthshire, making things for testing.
Paddy: Rotherwas was an ammunitions factory. We used to travel from my Auntie’s farm to Hereford. They used to have a barrier and a pass. They had to have a pass to go shopping. They had a German
bomb. I heard the bomb land on Rotherwas. They sealed up the section with the bodies in it afterwards. I know someone – friends of my Auntie further out in the country who used to visit at Christmas. They had a bomb. They must have left a light on in their farmhouse. My brother had an old-fashioned wireless which ran off batteries from a car. We listened to it in the drawing room.
Margaret: I liked working on my own.
Peggy: It was easy to make a mistake. The ledger was a big cash book.
Peggy: (Wash boards) – made of metal, glass or wood.
Paddy: My Aunt had a big bath. She used to soak the clothes on a Sunday night.
Peggy: You put a small blue bag in your washing to get the washing whiter – whatever was in it – to get it whiter.
Peggy: We washed sheets by hand in a big tub with a copper stick.
Joan: My father was a builder and did a lot of alterations. I converted a room into a washhouse with a drying cabinet – one you pulled out for drying. My father taught me. The dining room was huge. We got the wall taken out. I’m selling the house at Radcliffe-On-Trent. My father said “Well I’m glad I taught you something”. There was a tiny lounge so the walls were taken out with the dining room in the middle. There was a lovely wall and a fancy arch leading to the kitchen.
Paddy: I was “the next best thing”. (Paddy was given her name after a female character in a children’s book, born like her after several boys.)
Peggy: I did shorthand for a bit. I worked at Lloyd’s bank for 40 years. In Security – securing things for them. I took security for loans. I was walking home from work one day. The bank manger came up behind me and said “Are you working?” I started at the bank the next day.
Margaret: What happened to the original gentleman?
Peggy: He died. He’s not around anymore.
Margaret: How did he know you?
Peggy: He knew me anyway from the village. He knew I was intelligent enough!
Emma: Were you happy in your work?
Peggy: Some never could be happy and changed to different branches. What was the point of going 14 miles each way? These days they can’t wait to move on. They get bored.
Rita P: I worked at Selly Oak Hospital from 18 years of age till I was 60.
Peggy: I retired at 55. There would have been no more pension if I had stayed on.