CHAPTER 1. LOOSE ENDS

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Stanley
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CHAPTER 1. LOOSE ENDS

Post by Stanley » 15 May 2012, 04:53

LOOSE ENDS

June 1982 was a strange time in my life. The closest parallel I can recall is the 'Phoney War' in 1939 when I was almost four years old and, though I didn't quite understand what was going on, I was certain that something important was about to take place and that, it wasn't necessarily going to be nice.

I had just finished three years at Lancaster as a 'mature' student and we were in the limbo between exams and results. Post degree depression was the order of the day, With me it took the form of idleness, I had earned a rest and by God I was going to have it. Predictably, this induced a certain amount of boredom and a willingness to try new things. Not everyone reacted to it in the same way, my friend Jane had lapsed into depression, convinced she had failed miserably. Actually she had triumphantly seized a first class degree and was poised to sail majestically into a distinguished academic career but at the time this was far from clear. It was in an effort to divert her and give a treat another friend of mine that I finished up at the Lancaster Literary Festival with Jane and Joyce listening to readings by a then comparatively unknown Glasgow poetess, Liz Lochead.

It was a very good choice. Jane and Joyce took an instant liking to each other and loved the poetry, I was fascinated by Miss Lochead's verse and the fact that beneath her slacks she seemed to be wearing fish net tights. I should explain that in addition to the degree I was under other pressures like a divorce and unaccustomed celibacy and conjectures like these were pleasant, if not disturbing. After an hour in the theatre we adjourned to the café for a spot of lunch.

The food, like the furniture, was low budget and Joyce and I eventually settled down on one side of a large old-fashioned kitchen table with Jane on the adjacent side to Joyce’s right and we ate our baked potatoes with 'various fillings'. Shortly after we sat down, two other people joined our table. The first was a sharp looking elderly woman with a plastic carrier bag who sat opposite me and the second was a large and very striking man who sat next to Jane. His most striking feature was his face. If ever a person could be described as 'Neanderthal', this was he. He had an enormous craggy brow and my first impression was that I wouldn't like to meet him in a dark alley. Joyce and Jane were oblivious to all this as they had launched into a. deep conversation which it seemed superfluous to interrupt, so I observed our companions.

It wasn't long before a conversation started, initiated by a few polite comments and questions which indicated that this was a chance meeting of two strangers. At first, there was nothing striking about the conversation, the sharp-looking woman had an abrupt manner of speech which fitted my first impression well but the shock came when the man spoke. he had the most distressing stammer I have ever heard, I wouldn't attempt to reproduce it on the page but it was a severe handicap.

Normally, one would expect this to be a barrier to communication but my elderly lady was made of sterner stuff. Where most people would have tactfully ignored the problem and abandoned the attempt to converse, she took the direct approach and asked him how long he had had his stammer. Eventually, painfully, the reply came. "Ever since 1 had my frontal lobotomy".

At this point 1 had the sense to realise that one of life's little bonuses was presenting itself and concentrated totally on what they were saying. I ceased to be aware of the two J's conversation, the background chatter of the cafe faded out and I became totally absorbed in the drama unfolding on the other side of the table.

The questioning continued and my elderly lady displayed an impressive knack of getting to the heart of the matter. "Why did you have to have it done?". "Because I wasn't nice to people". "Where were you working at the time?” "In the men’s outfitting department at Lewis's store in Manchester." "Did you go back to work there afterwards?" "Yes, but they put me in the stockroom." My mind was racing, as I ran through the possible scenarios behind this economical and direct exchange. What was it that this man did in the men's outfitting department that was so terrible that he had to have a frontal lobotomy and then be banished to the stockroom? Vague thoughts of inside leg measurements and unspeakable mutilations milled round in my head but the interrogator was not to be diverted by what she evidently regarded as
paltry detail. "Are you better now?"--- “Oh yes, certainly, I haven't done anything like that since but I do think it has affected my poetry."

This revelation produced an entirely new line of questioning and any chance 1 might have had of learning more about mutilations in the fitting room vanished with the statement "Oh, you write. So do 1, I've brought my poems with me, have you any of yours?" "No, I don't need to, 1 know them by heart." My elderly lady was evidently impressed. "That's very clever of you, I can never remember mine." "Not really, I've only written two poems." With this, unbidden, he started a recitation of two short poems which were absolutely terrible. I am no psychologist but they were so laden with thinly veiled, and to my ear, violently sexual metaphors that it seemed to me that whatever good the operation had done for him, he was still a very dangerous individual. My elderly lady seemed to have no such qualms, congratulated him on the verses and proceeded to read a. couple of her own which, though not as violent, were equally bad and sexually oriented.

The conversation continued and, after ascertaining that they were both attending the festival the following day they made an appointment to meet and go to the performances together. With this, the elderly lady took up her carrier bag and left. The Neanderthal man swivelled slowly round in his seat reminding me of a six inch gun and speaking directly to me said, “Are you interested in poetry?"

At this point 1 knew that the last thing I wanted in the world was a conversation with this man or a reading of his poetry. I gabbled some excuse about having a bus to catch and, breaking into their conversation, bustled Jane and Joyce out of the café. I didn't allow them to stop until we reached the relative safety of the pavement outside the hall. They both thought I had fallen victim to some sort of post-examination brainstorm even though I retailed the conversation to them and tried to convince them that the man was dangerous. To this day I doubt whether they fully believe me. Jane returned to her post-examination angst, Joyce went back to her cleaning job and 1 drifted out of the safe harbour of Further Education into the stormy waters of Life.

With hindsight, 1982 was a watershed and the visit to the festival underlined the end of the first half of my life. I was ready to begin again and have a crack at understanding what was going on. I'll leave you to judge how successful I was but for the moment, let's have a look at the first half.


BEGINNINGS

This is probably the point where I should issue the public health warning. You are not dealing with a skilled writer who has honed his craft over many years. What you have here is a grade A, fully accredited amateur who simply wants to leave a record of his life for his children and grandchildren. This has been triggered mainly by the fact that it has been so difficult to glean any details of family history beyond my mother and. father. Even the photographs that survive have no writing on the backs to identify the subjects. I don't blame them, they had hard lives and hadn't access to the technologies we have today but we have no such excuse, we have the time, the equipment and the education so the buck stops here.

This urge to make a record started a long time ago. Like many sons, I didn't have a happy experience with my father during my formative years. The Old Bull and the Young Bull always have an underlying rivalry between them and the stronger the characters, the worse the antagonism, 1 experienced all the worst manifestations of this but at about 25 years old I realised that, flawed though he was, my dad was a pretty interesting bloke and it would be good thing to find out more about him. I'd always been technologically minded and so I went out in 1957, when times were hard, and bought a tape recorder.

Nowadays, we are used to cheap electronic products, it's hard to realise that the recorder 1 bought, cost me four weeks wage as a wagon driver. £38! We were all living together as a family at the time and even though it was accepted I could do what 1 wanted with my own money, my mother and father found it hard to understand. To their mind it was just a toy, some sort of passing fancy, but with hindsight it was the first evidence of the love of my life, history. Further than this, it. was the beginning of my conviction that the most profitable pursuit for the amateur historian is his own history and that of his community and workplace. It is important that the little people should have a voice, that they should speak for themselves and not rely on being studied and reported on by professional historians who, in many cases, have very little understanding of life and work at this level. So I bought my recorder and during the following years used it to record much of my father's life story. There was no structure at this point, I never really thought about what I was doing, I simply had an itch and scratched it. To my regret, with hindsight, there are tremendous gaps. I never seriously sat down with my mother and recorded her story. 1 have to rely on my memory of conversations with her and am sure that much has been forgotten or is flawed. So, my advice is if you are going to do it, do it properly and don't make the mistakes I did.


MY MOTHER AND FATHER

MOTHER

My mother was born on 25 January 1905 at 46 Foundry Street, Dukinfield. Her mother was Margaret Challenger who had two more children, Alice born on 27 March 1908 and Thomas born on 25 January 1914. Her Father was John Shaw Challenger. He was a cabinet maker but we know that he attended Art School in Manchester in his younger days. He was organist at the Foundry Street Methodist church and was concerned with the chapel's football team. He joined the Royal Engineers at Manchester on 18 May 1915 and embarked for France as 98342 Sapper W S. Challenger on 19 December 1915. By February 1st 1917 he was dead after he was shot in both legs and had one amputated. He is buried at Ballieul Communal Cemetery. Margaret his wife received a small parcel of his effects and a pension of £1-6-3d. At this time (March 1917) she was still living at Foundry Street but by 18 October 1919 the family had moved to 194 King Street Dukinfield.

Early in her life, mother contracted infantile paralysis, poliomyelitis as it is called now. The effect was that her left leg was withered and her foot deformed, in those days this was known as a 'club foot'. She told me in later years that the reason why she couldn't stand the smell of neatsfoot oil was because that was what her mother rubbed her leg and foot with twice a day. We have a photograph of her sat on her father's knee, she looks to be about two years old and her leg is clearly deformed then so it must have happened early in life.

We know little of her early years apart from the fact that it must have been hard. She once told me that she worked at Jones's sewing machine factory but that the job she liked best was working in the mill as a beamer. I can't remember the name of the mill but she told me that she could remember making up beams for Barnoldswick and never dreamed that she would end her days living there. One of the reasons why she enjoyed beaming was that it was seen as a high class job in those days, there was less pressure on them than the spinners and the work was cleaner. She said they used to take their meals away from the spinners because they regarded them as lower class.

A bit of mystery creeps in here about her younger days and to get it in context we need to remember she was 'a cripple' and it was very noticeable, you can't hide a club foot. Her left leg was shorter than the right and the answer then (and still now for all 1 know) was a shoe with a built up sole to make up the difference in length so she could walk properly. She once told me that as a child she had special shoes and hated them. For one thing, they were very heavy but she felt they drew attention to her foot and as soon as she could have her own way she stopped wearing them and went back to ordinary shoes. To the end of her life she did this, packing the toe of the left shoe so she could walk comfortably on tip toe with her left foot. She was so successful that many people didn't notice that she had a disability.

The mystery concerns her marriage to Edward Bowker on 18 May 1929 at Foundry Street Primitive Methodist Church in Dukinfield. He was an engineer's labourer and she is described on the marriage certificate as a machinist, possibly because she could have been working at Jones's then. His address was 78 Stock-port Road, Denton and it seems this might be significant in the light of later events. 1 know little about Edward Bowker apart from the fact that he was still alive in 1978 and my mother was still legally his wife. My brother and sister and I pieced a lot of this together in later years and all agreed that we knew there was something funny going on from a relatively early age, but none of us, understandably, confided in the others or broached the subject. I can remember seeing letters addressed to Mary Bowker and wondering about them. I got round to raising the matter with her but can't remember the date. It was before my father died on the 22 August 1973 because I had a word with him as soon as 1 knew and he said he was glad I had found out about it. Funny situation when you think of it. There was I at about 35 years of age asking my mother if she and my dad were married! She told me straight out, no and what was more, she was still married to Bowker.

It was quite evident that this was a very painful subject for both of them and I didn't pursue it too far. All mother told me was that Bowker had been gaoled six months after they were married and that was the end as far as she was concerned. Looking back, one can imagine the scenario. Mother was a strikingly beautiful young woman from a better than average working class family but was blighted by her deformed leg. She was 20 years old in 1925 in a world which was short of young men because of the attrition of the Great War. Suddenly, she had the chance of marriage to a 26 year old man, can we doubt that it must have been a welcome proposal, quickly accepted. I think we can safely assume that she went to live at 78 Stockport Road and so found herself in Denton with a husband in gaol.

1 think that it must have been about this time that she got herself a job at General Gas Appliances in Corporation Road, Audenshaw, about a mile from where she was living in Stockport Road. She was working as a sprayer, coating the gas cooker parts in liquid containing water and frit which, when passed through the enamelling furnace, turned into a high gloss porcelain enamel finish. Dorothy, my sister, tells me that mother once told her that she and her mates used to take a lot of notice of the dark, handsome Australian who worked at GGA at the time.

FATHER

In many ways 1 am a lot better informed about father's life than mothers largely because 1 took the trouble to sit down with him, triggered him off and recorded his life story up to when he went to the first battle of Loos in the Great War. The reason I stopped there was because he became ill and mother told me it was because he was talking about the war. She had noticed over the years that lie was usually ill about the 11 November each year. As soon as I knew this I stopped but still regret not having done more or started on Mother's story. This of course is one of the major reasons why I am sat here writing my story down, so the future generations will know something of the events that shaped my life. Back to the 'dark, handsome Australian.'

As near as we can tell, because there were no birth certificates in the country districts of Australia in those days, father was born at Rocky Creek, New South Wales, Australia on 17 April 1893. (12 years older than mother.) It had been a difficult birth and he had almost drowned during the delivery because he was a fortnight premature and they hadn't time to get the lady who was to help with the confinement. After about a, fortnight he became ill and grandmother set off on the train to Dubbo to take him to Dr Demolion. He examined the baby and told her to take him home, he said she'd be lucky if he lived through the journey and there was nothing he could do for him.

Whilst she was waiting for the train at Dubbo station, she got into conversation with the station master who was a lay preacher. He suggested to grandmother that she should have the baby christened if he was that ill and offered to perform the ceremony himself. They roped in a lady, a complete stranger, who was also waiting for a train and she acted as godparent. They christened him Leslie MacDonald, grandmother took him home and he slowly recovered.

Father's early life is of course recorded in the transcript of the tapes I did with him so I'll be fairly brief here, however, it would be useful if I put some details of his parentage in here. The wonderful thing about this is the range of gene banks that went to make up the modem family! I think we were very lucky.

Father's grandfather, on his father's side was a Scotsman born in Fife shire, Alexander Neill MacDonald. He was a ships steward and deserted in Australia to go gold mining. His wife was a German lady born in Frankfurt who migrated to Australia with her parents round about 1850. On his mother's side, her father was a Neapolitan called George Johanstone and his wife was Irish and called McFaddean. According to my
Uncle Stan, who I was named after, father's father, Alexander MacDonald was born on 9 April 1855 at Araluen near Major's Creek where his father was mining at the time. He died at Dubbo in August 1956 aged 101 by Stan's reckoning. The Old Man was a bit cagey about personal details, Stan reckoned it was because he had sailed a bit too close to the wind in his time, 1 don't think I ever heard father mention his mother's first name.

In 1914, father was in South Africa earning £15 a week in charge of a pile-driving gang improving the Bloemfontein road on the Johannesburg side of the Vaal River. He heard about the war in Europe, went back to Australia and enlisted for the army. From there he went to Gallipoli, Loos and right through the war until the Armistice. After the war, they were put in tented camps in England to await a ship to take them back to Australia. There was a shortage of transport so their stay in England was longer than had been expected. Pay was poor and conditions in the camps worsened, men were dying every day from meningitis and Spanish ‘flu. Father decided the best thing he could do was desert and get a job. For some reason he headed for Manchester, got a job on maintenance at Armstrong Whitworth and ignored the general amnesty for deserters as he knew it was a ruse by the Australian government to get men to go back. At some point he moved to Richard Johnson and Nephew who made steel wire but by about 1933 had finished up at General Gas Appliances. I don't know what his job was but by the time I was born in 1936 he was Works General Manager. He was doing well and this might be what had influenced him to stay in the country.

So, sometime between 1933 and 1936 we have the paint sprayer nudging 30 who's husband had turned out to be a bad 'un and the handsome 40 year old Australian eyeing her up from his managerial position in the works. Nature was about to take her course!


A NEW START

What is certain is that by February 1936 they were living as man and wife and had bought a new semidetached house, 38 Norris Avenue, Heaton Norris in Stockport. They had a car, mother was at home and father went to work every day seven miles to Corporation Road, Audenshaw. I seem to remember mother once telling me that father biked to work at one time but I don't think that can have lasted long. On February 14 1936 it was snowing heavily and father had to go out and get the midwife at six o'clock in the morning to deliver me at home. Dorothy followed 13 months later and Leslie after an interval of six years. Mother told me once that Leslie was a bit of a shock and the reason his hair was so fair was that she had at one point drunk a lot of lemon juice because she couldn't face having another child. I can remember Leslie being born in the front room at no. 38, Somebody looked after Dorothy and me while it was happening and our first introduction was when we were ushered into the front room and shown the new baby.

1 know very little about their life together before 1 was born but mother once told me that it was hard as she was regarded as a non-person by people at GGA because her and father weren't married. She didn't get invited to any of the social events at the works and it hurt her. A further problem was that. due to the fact she never divorced Edward Bowker, they were unable to claim any tax relief either for the marriage or us kids. Father was taxed as a single man all his life and I believe she once told me that Bowker claimed for us but I might be mistaken about this. There would be more problems later on from this source.

CHILDHOOD DAYS

HOME

Stockport in the late 30's was a very individual place. It was a County Borough and was still run on the Victorian principles of strong local government driven by a competitive urge to improve. The centre of the town straddled the Mersey in a deep valley and was intersected by the main railway line from London to Glasgow and the A6 London to Carlisle road. The most impressive physical feature of the town was the enormous brick railway viaduct spanning the valley. This was to have quite a serious effect on our lives when it became a prime target for the Luftwaffe. The main industries were cotton spinning and engineering and it was the centre of the hatting industry. Another claim to fame was that it was the first town in England to institute Sunday Schools.

Heaton Norris lay about a mile west of the town centre on the road to Altrincham. To get to it you went under the viaduct and climbed Travis Brow out of the valley. Heaton Moor where we later lived was about a mile North. Norris Avenue lay to the north of the road and together with Bankfield Avenue formed a crescent. bisected by Newby Road. It was a single development of about 200 houses built for the private market in the mid 30's. The houses were all semi-detached, brick built with red tile roofs. Everyone had a front and back garden and they were all built with bathrooms, some had garages. In short, it was a good example of best practice in upper working class housing of the period. There was only one problem, the builder had gone bankrupt after the houses were finished but before the road was surfaced. It was to be after the war before the Council adopted the road and paved it. All the owners were surcharged and I can remember it was a big strain on the finances when it. happened. We had moved by then but still owned 40 Norris Avenue, the house next door because father had bought it of the occupant Mrs Nixon when her husband died. Later, my sister Dorothy was to start her married life there.

On the east, the development was bounded by the Cheshire Sterilised Milk Company and Naylor's Foundry. Cheshire Sterilised faced on to the road and was a modem factory with landscaped gardens between the factory and the road. Naylor's lay behind and to the north and was an archetypal iron foundry, dirty, noisy and busy. Their main trade was manhole covers and gulley grates. Cast your eyes down in almost any town and city in England and you'll see the words 'Naylor, Stockport' looking up at you. The firm no longer exists but its products will be about for many years yet.

To the north east, just behind the houses lay a small municipal park with gardens, tennis courts, a. bowling green and a children's playground. On Didsbury Road, between the exits from the two avenues, was a small group of shops.

1 spent the first nine years of my life in this well-defined world bounded by the town, the park, school and forays down the side of the river where numerous delights could be found and, despite the war, it was a happy childhood.

My first memory is very clear, I can see it. in my minds eye as I write. I am sat in a black four wheeled pram with a hood, a padded edge all round and am partially sat up. On my right, so close I could almost reach it is the sloping board at the bottom of a shop window. I think that was black as well. My mother has stopped there so I can watch the steam cranes building Merseyway, a wonderfully inventive construction which the Council built to give more space in the centre of the town. They roofed the river over between Mersey Square and Portswood and made a relief road over it. There were piles of something and a crane with an upright boiler and smoke coming out of the chimney facing to my right and lifting something. The intriguing thing about this memory is that Merseyway was opened in late 1936 so I was well under a year old. I also have a vague memory of travelling in the back of an open car and being carried across a car park towards some railings where there was a view over a deep valley filled with trees. I asked mother about. these events and she told me that she often stopped to let me have a look at the cranes working because they seemed to fascinate me. As for the open car and the car park, this really surprised her because she said it was an outing into Derbyshire with Reg Lawley, a family friend in his Diatto sports car. What surprised her was that I was only three months old! I don't know how common this early memory is but I have always borne this in mind with my children and grandchildren, never underestimate what they are taking in and understanding. We tend to suppose that just because they can't speak, they are vegetables, a big mistake if my experience is anything to go by.




THE WAR

It’s difficult to say what my next conscious memories of that time are. I think 1 can remember sitting on my dad's knee and listening to what I now know was Chamberlain's famous wireless broadcast announcing that we were at war with Germany. To be honest, this isn't clear and we have all heard recordings of it so I can't swear that it is a true memory. What is very clear is the memory of Arthur Thompson from no. 36, who was a gents outfitter in real life and Walter Pitcher from no. 34 helping father to dig the back garden up and install an Anderson Air Raid Shelter. I have an idea this was before war was actually declared. From later reading I know that by August 1939, John Summers at Shotton near Chester had produced over a million of these shelters and were making them at the rate of 50,000 a week. A shortage of zinc stopped production early in 1941 and the replacement was the Morrison Shelter which was installed inside the house. GGA used to buy steel sheet from Summers and knowing father he would be quick to use this connection. Whatever the actual date they were ahead of their time and I can remember much joking by other neighbours about it being a waste of time because the war wouldn't last long. I don't know about Arthur and Walter but father would certainly have very clear memories of the Great War less than twenty years before and would be quite clear in his own mind as to the value of a hole to crawl into if the bombs started to fall.

The Anderson Shelter was a marvellous idea. You simply dug a hole and installed heavy corrugated iron sections which had a straight side and a curve at the top. Two sections formed an arch about six feet high. Further sections could be added to lengthen the shelter, there was a shaped blank end for the back and another, with a small door cut in it for the front. The whole was pre-drilled and was easily erected. Once installed, the soil dug out to sink it in the ground was piled on top and gave a covering of about two feet. As I remember it, ours was about eight feet long and had a seat down each side and across the back. One problem was that water used to seep in and father installed a pump in the entrance to de-water it. There was a bit of a design fault because the handle, if not stowed away, projected across the entrance door at knee height and on more than one occasion somebody running for the shelter came a cropper over it. It goes without saying that come the air raids, we were very popular. Walter and his wife plus a suitcase full of jewellery, he had a jewellers shop in Tommyfields, Oldham and daren't leave valuable stock there in case of bomb damage so he brought it home every night. Arthur, his wife and their son David and the four of us (later five when Leslie was born) made it very crowded. We used to go in their every time the air raid sirens sounded, always at night of course. I can remember being carried out into the cold right air wrapped in a blanket and being passed round knee to knee while we waited for the 'all clear'.

Dorothy reminded me of something I had forgotten. Mother must have got the idea in her head that it was a bad thing for me and Dorothy to be disturbed by the air raid warnings, especially since many of them in the early days of the war were false alarms. She and father brought a bed down into the living room and we slept there for a while. This came to an end when she and father came in one night after another false alarm in the shelter and found Dorothy and me playing at sand castles in the ashes of the fire! You made your own entertainment in those days. Like the time when mother glanced in through the window and saw Dorothy just about to start cutting my hair!
We seem to be deep in war matters so 1 might as well get related items out of the way now. Nobody who hasn't experienced it can really understand what a dreadful sound the air raid sirens were. The warning was an undulating wailing from the siren and even in the early days when there were many false alarms we knew it could mean big trouble. Even then, I knew about bombs and bombs meant possible death. I don't think there were any bombs dropped near us until late 1940 but we never ignored the siren. Funnily enough, the worst noise of explosions we ever suffered wasn't the bombs but a battery of Bofors Guns for anti-aircraft defence that was sited on the park behind the houses. They made a terrific noise when they fired and 1 can remember it hurting my cars, we were less than a hundred yards from them.

By 1941 I was going to school at Hope Memorial, about half a mile away towards the centre of town. We were sent to school at an early age during the war so that mothers could be free to do war work. It was a small school and run on very old-fashioned lines. The first lesson I ever had was how to use a sweeping brush. Mrs Ackroyd with her cane and ready hand dominated that period of my life. We carried our gas masks all the time and had drills at school to make sure we knew how to use them. The warning of a gas attack was the sound of rattles carried by Air Raid Wardens. We used to collect shrapnel from spent antiaircraft shells which used to litter the streets after a raid. Some of these were fair lumps weighing over a pound and it was a good thing not to be about during a raid without a steel helmet on. I remember one day finding an interesting object as I went to school. We were examining it in the playground when a teacher came up and took it off me. Some men came and took it away while we were having lessons and I was given a talking to by Miss Hogg, the headmistress. My understanding was that the next time I found a clip of live 30 mm. cannon shells I should leave it where it was and tell an adult!

With hindsight, it was amazing how quickly we became used to being at war and picked up some fairly esoteric knowledge. We knew the difference between fighters and bombers and soon learned to recognise the sound of the enemy. Years later I found out that the difference was due to the fact that our multi-engined planes had better synchronisation of engine revolutions than the Germans. It’s difficult to describe the difference but the drone of the German planes undulated while ours were steady. We knew about incendiary bombs and how to put. them out and understood the difference between ordinary bombs and land mines. All we knew then about the latter was that you could tell them if you saw them because they came down on a parachute. I later found out that they were actually magnetic mines which had been made redundant because we had found a way of de-gaussing ships so that they didn't trigger them off. The mines were modified with a barometric switch to convert them to a crude blast bomb. They had large charges and when they exploded in the air the blast struck the ground like a hammer and could cause a lot of damage. It was one of these that exploded over the Mary Baines Home about a quarter of a mile from us one night and killed hundreds of orphans.

One event which has always puzzled me was that I definitely heard a V l or buzz bomb later in the war. They were quite unmistakable, a deep droning noise from the pulse jet motor which stopped as the fuel cut off or ran out, when you heard them stop you ducked because they then fell and exploded. I heard this one stop and shortly afterwards there was an explosion. My understanding is that they weren't supposed to have enough range to reach us but I know I heard one. Dorothy tells me she can remember this as well and that she's seen mention of it in local history publications. We both agree that we were in the front room and Dorothy says it was Christmas day because we were stopped from opening our presents!

The main target in our area, and the indirect reason for much of our misery was the railway viaduct through the town. It never took a direct hit and after the war we found out why. The local paper published what was reputed to be the best reconnaissance picture of the town the Germans had. All that could be seen was a black smudge, the air was so polluted by industrial and domestic smoke that they couldn't see the viaduct but this didn't stop them trying. The result was that we had some interesting nights.

The other main target was Manchester and we used to sit in the shelter and listen to the roar of bombs as they got a hard time. The pollution meant that they often got lost and bombed the wrong smudge so we got the overspill from Manchester as well.

One of the most noticeable consequences of being at war was the blackout. The government was convinced that the bombers would get through and that even a cigarette glow was visible from 3000 ft. so the response was simple, no lights at all were to be visible at night. This meant that there were no street lights, all windows had to have light proof material over them, we called them blackout curtains, and car headlights were obscured by a shield that had slits in it with louvers angled so that the already dim light was directed downwards.

The blackout was enforced by the police and Air Raid Wardens. Father and Arthur Thompson from next door were wardens and their job was to be out and about during air raids in order to give assistance where needed and to ensure that no lights were showing. The way they did this was to knock on the door of the offending house and shout "put that light out!", This didn't make them popular with the neighbours who called them 'Little Hitlers'. Because of the shrapnel, a tin hat was very useful. Arthur and father wore them while pursuing their trade as wardens and I remember father coming into the shelter one night with blood streaming down his face. Mother thought he'd taken a direct hit from a bomb but it turned out he had walked round a corner in the dark and run into Arthur. Because of the difference in height, the rim of Arthur's tin hat had caught father on the bridge of the nose and cut right through to the airway. He went to Tommy O'Connell our doctor and asked if he could keep the wound open while it healed because he'd never breathed easier in his life. Tommy managed to persuade him that it wouldn't be a good idea.

Finding your way round in the dark was a major problem. Remember that the street lights were permanently off, not just during air raids. We had a family friend, a wonderful character who was a signwriter in Stockport, Harry White. Harry was always up for a quick buck and came up with the idea of going round painting the numbers on people's houses with luminous paint. He said it was a good thing while it lasted. General Gas got in on the act as well, they produced what we called luminous buttons. These wore a disc of metal about two inches in diameter coated with luminous porcelain enamel. We kids had one each and I often wonder how radio-active they were and if they did us any, harm.

I remember father coming home one day and giving mother what I always knew as the parachute gun. It was a small .22 pistol which I suspect had begun life as a starting gun. There was a supply of blanks and the idea was that when the German paratroopers landed, mother would frighten them off with the pistol. She never got the chance to try the theory out and I got into trouble for throwing one of the cartridges on the fire one day to see what would happen, it made a satisfying bang but blew soot and burning sparks all over the living room.

Growing up with explosions, it wasn't surprising that we took any opportunity that presented itself to make our own. We soon found out that if you took two large bolts and screwed one of them part way into a nut, put some powdered match-heads in, screwed the other bolt in tight and threw the whole thing at a wall, there was a reasonable bang. A bit of sugar made it even better! One day, one of my mates who's father was in the Home Guard, brought a Sten gun out into the back garden of his house while we were playing. We fired about half a dozen 9 mm. rounds into the bank at the end of the garden before our game was spoilt by his mother. Funnily enough, 1 can't remember getting into any trouble on this account. Another wheeze was to get hold of some carbide and a screw top pop bottle. You put some water in the bottle, dropped the carbide in, screwed the top on and threw it as far away as possible. The pressure used to build until the bottle burst with a loud bang and bits of broken glass whistled all over the place.

War also brought rationing. As I get older I realise that this must have been a terrible strain on Mother but I can never remember being hungry. I didn't have any experience of life before the war so had nothing to measure standards by. It was perfectly natural to have no choice over what we ate, it was put on the plate and you scoffed the lot. I still dislike second helpings and always clean my plate. I have to admit that I have been heard to comment that a spell of food rationing wouldn't be a bad thing nowadays. I can't remember quantities except for sweets. It sticks in my mind that we had two ounces a week. There was of course the black market, this was severely frowned on and definitely illegal but everyone knew someone who could get something. I don't think fish was rationed but it was in very short supply. Father had a
friend, Mac Parker who was manager of the CarIton Cinema on Wellington Road North in Stockport (later the Essoldo) who used to turn up regularly with some fish for us or toilet soap. I have no doubt that father was reciprocating in some way and this doubtless explains why the regular Thursday night treat right through the war was free seats in the front row of the circle for us all.

Father told me years later that during the war he and Harry White bought half a cow. They arranged with a butcher in Brinksway to hang it in the fridge for them and went off to arrange disposal. Three days later they went back for it and the butcher denied all knowledge. They had to write it off to experience. One other occasional source of goodies was the care parcel which Ernie Hommel sent us from America. General Gas used to buy enamel frit from the O Hommel Company and Ernie and father were friends. We got a parcel every now and again and it was like supplies from Mars. I particularly remember the fruit cake which was so rich it used to upset our stomachs if we had more than a small piece. There was one more strange source of food which mother used to tap occasionally. In Stockport, in one of the streets running off Princess Street, was a horse butcher called Bert Slack. Horse meat wasn't rationed and I can remember some of the best steaks I ever had coming from there. Father couldn't eat them, he was raised with horses and it was almost like cannibalism to him but I remember him telling me not to mind him but go ahead.

The war had many effects that nobody had envisaged. There was of course a shortage of petrol and this meant that people started using horses again or postponed replacing them with motor vehicles. The railways had many horses and they were used extensively for goods delivery during the war. The Cooperative Society also used horses and I can remember mother taking us to the stables to see them one day. I can't remember where it was but they were kept in a building with several stories and there were ramps between the floors. One large black stallion was named Hitler!

Other strategies were used besides horses. Robinson's brewery and Nelstrop's flour mills brought their old steam wagons out of retirement and they were used for delivering beer and flour. The buses, both the Corporation and North Western Road Car Company ran some vehicles on gas made in trailers towed behind the bus. The fuel was charcoal I think or it may have been coke breeze. The driver had to tend his fire occasionally by cleaning the ash out and loading fresh fuel into the retort. They seemed to be quite successful. The Bagwash laundry had an even simpler idea. They installed a large rack on the roof of the vehicle and installed a proofed canvas bag which was almost as large as the vehicle. This bag was filled with coal gas directly from the mains and was used to fuel the engine. I have often thought that this was incredibly dangerous and they must have had problems with holes wearing in the container because the bag used to flap alarmingly as it became partly empty! I don't remember these lasting long, the Bagwash reverted to normal fuels.

The standard road surface was granite setts. There was some tarmac, indeed, Moorside Road from Moor Top to Didsbury Road was reputed to be the first road in the Manchester area ever surfaced with concrete covered with a thin layer of asphalt. However, all the streets in town and the main roads were setts. No doubt there would have been a lot of roads re-surfaced if it hadn't been for the war. As it was, it was to be many years before we got rid of the bone-shaking stone roads. There was one good side effect of this as far as we kids were concerned, the granite setts were set in gas tar, a by-product from the municipal gas works where coal was used to produce 'towns gas', and in hot weather this melted and bubbled up. We used to collect it and use it like Plasticine. It had a wonderful smell and stuck to your fingers, there were no detergents then as we know them and the way to get the tar off your fingers was to rub them with lard. This was the treatment for minor bums as well, rubbing with lard or butter.


During the war there was one peculiar rule, the churches were not allowed to ring their bells as this was to be the signal that we had been invaded. However, one public noise that was not proscribed was the sounding of steam whistles. These were used on the steam locomotives on the railway for signalling and by the mills as a time-keeping device. On New Year's Eve all the locos and mills used to sound their whistles at midi-light and it was a wonderful sound, I can remember being allowed to stay up to hear it.

I think that's probably enough war stories for the time being, the subject will crop up again no doubt but we'll leave it to do so naturally. The main thing I want to convey is that the state of war was natural to us, we never knew anything different. Sure, we were frightened at times and deprived at others but I often wonder if any permanent damage was done. There was a very real sense that we were all in it together and it seems to me that it was this commonality, the shared experience that got us through. It seems to me that every trauma nowadays has to be attacked with counselling. Beyond the help of friends, I can't remember getting any and there's no doubt that anyone reared in that time has a different attitude than modem people. We were reared with the chance of death, defeat and slavery, and mark my words, even children as young as me knew this. We were under no illusions as to what would happen if we lost the war. I used to sit and listen to the news on the wireless every night and remember in particular that this place Marshalling Yards must be very important because we bombed it every day! On important. occasions I was allowed to stay up late to listen to Churchill's speeches and they still raise the hackles on my neck. On the whole though, I have good memories of those days, we played out, we roamed the district getting into trouble and there was always Children's Hour on. the wireless!

SCHOOL 1940 to 1945.

On the 6th of January 1941 I started school at Hope Memorial as pupil number 624. This was a funny time to start and I suspect my entry had been delayed since the year before because I had measles. Dorothy (pupil no. 660) started in 1941 after the summer holidays and was four and a half years old so I suspect I should have started in summer 1940. Hope Memorial was a Church School affiliated to St Martins Church on Didsbury Road. The Rector was Rupert Kirk and he used to come to examine us in our Catechism about once a week. I can remember getting very confused when asked the question 'What is your name. N or M.' It was neither! We had prayers each morning and sang a hymn before starting other work. The school was about half a mile from home. You turned out of Bankfield Avenue, went past Cheshire Sterilised, paused at the EWS tank at the top of the dirt road leading down the side of the sleeper fence that led to Naylor’s Foundry and looked in to see what interesting things were floating in there. Emergency Water Supply tanks were large round metal tanks which were dotted around the area and kept full of water by the Fire Brigade. They were to ensure that even if the water mains were broken by bombing, there was a supply of water for fire fighting. An EWS could of course be any source of water such as a mill lodge, pond or stream. Large yellow signs pointed to them and can still be seen faintly on walls if you look carefully. Once past the tank and over the railway bridge you turned right down Huntsman's Brow and went about two hundred yards down towards the river. This road led to some big mills, Bukta and the Ring Mill, Before you got that far the school was on the right hand side of the road.

Hope Memorial was a typical Victorian Board School. It was built in 1885 and William Hope after whom, it was named was a leading light in the congregation of Christ Church on Wellington Road North. Evidently this was the mother church to St Martin’s. 1 didn't know such things existed until Dorothy told me. It closed in 1968. 1 remember seeing it in the 70's and it was being used as light industrial premises but was demolished in the late 80's to make room for the motorway which now passes through the site where it once stood. There was one large room and several smaller classrooms and offices leading off it. With hindsight, it was very similar to a very plain nonconformist chapel. Strange when you think that it was a Church School. At the east end was a small stage and the only interruption to the roof space was the bottom tie bars of the roof trusses spanning the room. The windows were high and pointed and there were strange cast iron boxes between each window each having a small cast iron hand grasping a baton on the front. I know now that these were part of the ventilating system but at the time was vastly intrigued by them. Later I learned that at the time when the school was built there was a theory about the communication of disease called the Miasmic Theory. Basically, it stated that most diseases were air-born and that one way of reducing the risk of exposure was to dilute the harmful constituents of the atmosphere by plenty of ventilation. One of the most common features of the early Board Schools and public buildings from this era was the large louvered ventilator on the roof. There was a heating system which fed large cast iron pipes which ran round the walls and this. was supplemented in the main room by a big fireplace which in winter held an enormous coke fire. I can remember the school milk being put in the hearth in winter to warm it up for morning break, God knows what the public health would make of that now! The toilets were outside in the yard and there were large brick air raid shelters which we went in to when there was the occasional daylight warning. We all carried gas masks to school but never had to wear them except when we had drills to show us how to use them. The masks were in strong cardboard boxes which, in turn, were in a light cotton covering fastened by a button at the front. They had a shoulder strap and we carried them slung about our necks.

1 think 1 can remember the first day I went to school. My mother took me and I think I cried when she left. She must have taken me each morning for a short while but I can't remember it. I seem to remember that she gradually got to the stage where she saw me across the road at the top of Huntsman's Brow and then left me to it as there were no more roads to cross. Whatever, I was soon going entirely by myself and started to take notice of the wide world. One thing sticks in my mind, there was a pub at the top of the Brow and behind it was a block of houses with a courtyard in the centre. I noticed that there was a lot of activity there on Monday mornings as all the housewives did their washing in the outside wash houses and hung the clothes out in the yard.

My first teacher was Mrs Ackroyd. She was a nice woman but very strict with us. The first lesson we had was how to sweep the floor and then we got down to the serious business of learning counting rhymes. 'One, two, buckle my shoe...,' was the first, then we went on to times tables and reading and writing. I could read a bit when I first went, my mother used to encourage me to read the advertisements in the shops and on walls. I remember causing much hilarity by making up my own names for things, I thought this was the way that it worked, the only one I can remember is that I called weigh scales 'nebbins'. It took Mrs .Ackroyd a while to convince me that I had to stick to the rules but I was a quick learner and was soon reading everything I could get my hands on. I can honestly say that I can't remember ever getting into trouble at school for being slow to learn, my problem was always the same, I couldn't stop talking!

1 must have been about seven years old when, with hindsight, I had a tremendous stroke of luck. Due to some hiccup in the birth rate or people moving away, a situation arose where there were only two of us in the class. I can't remember the girl's name but I know she took dancing lessons, tap and ballet! From this point until I left Hope Memorial at nine years old and went on to St Thomas's, Miss Hogg the head mistress taught the two of us and I have little doubt it was the best break I ever had. She was wonderful and kind and treated us like her own children. Much of the time was spent reading stories and I remember particularly 'The Water babies' and one about a Chinaman with a pigtail. The latter got me into trouble later on but at the time was just a story. I'm relating it now because I think it's a wonderful example of how formative very simple things can be to impressionable children.

The story concerned this pigtail and Miss Hogg asked us if we knew what a pigtail was. 1 think we probably knew but didn't let her know in case we were wrong. I remember very clearly that she said "If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll show you". I knew something important was about to happen because we had to keep it a secret. Miss Hogg wore her hair in a bun at the back of her head. She looked incredibly old to us but 1 suppose she could have been in her mid thirties. She reached behind her head, pulled a pin out and uncoiled a pigtail that fell into her lap as we sat by the fire. We gasped with astonishment, I don't think either of us had ever thought about her hair, it was just a lump on the back of her head. More delights followed, she ran her fingers through the plait and shook her head and there was this cascade of dark blonde hair. Then, quicker than I can tell it she separated it into three strands, plaited it down to the tip and wound it up into a bun which she pinned on the back of her head. She had taught us what a pigtail was and as later events showed, she had seriously manipulated my psyche, to this day, the phrase 'letting your hair down' takes me back instantly to Hope Memorial and Miss Hogg.

The school's catchment area included some of the poorest housing in Stockport down on Brinksway. It was not unusual for children to miss school for a day or two because their boots were being repaired. Dorothy has done some research in the library and tells me that she has seen a letter from Miss Hogg to the Education Department asking them to provide a pair of clogs for one pupil who's parents couldn't afford to
buy him any. What interests me about this letter is that Miss Hogg stated that the Father was in work but was only an 'Extra Man' working on the railway and was thus too poor to support his family. Poverty was very visible in those days, it was common to see small children playing in the street in all weathers dressed in nothing more than a vest. The school was visited regularly by a nurse who's job was to give us all a brief examination to cheek on our general health. Nowadays the chief fear seems to be head lice or nits as we called them, in those days there was also diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever and tuberculosis. The yellow ambulance carrying victims to the Isolation Hospital was a common sight, we used to call it the fever wagon. The Council ran a decontamination service where peoples bedding and clothes could be taken to be fumigated. I think there was one incorporated in the tram sheds at the corner of Didsbury Road and Wellington Road North. Not surprisingly in view of the pollution, respiratory ailments were common. I had a mate at school, George Davidson who lived on Bankfield Avenue who had permanent green snot hanging out of his nose. We called them candlesticks and regularly away I used to tell George to sniff! Out of sight, out of mind! During the school holidays we were allowed to go into the school and the playground to play under supervision. I suppose that this was to make it easier for mothers on war work. George and I had a French knitting craze at one point. We got two cotton bobbins, drove nails in the end and produced many yards of multi-coloured cord from odd pieces of wool begged from the neighbours. I can't remember what happened to it in the end but have an idea Mrs Robinson made it into table mats and small rugs.

Looking back, Hope Memorial was a good school run by strict but caring teachers. Their methods might look old-fashioned now but they certainly did a good job of instilling the three 'Rs' into us. What's more, there was a strong emphasis on memorising and they taught us the tricks of mental arithmetic, We had to do a lot of sums in our head in answer to direct individual questions. Once you've learned this it never leaves you and I often wonder nowadays about the effects of allowing children to use calculators from a very age.

One last, strong memory of school. We started every work day with assembly and a religious service. There was no concession to any minorities, it was solid CofE. We also had singing lessons and learned songs like 'Hearts of Oak', 'British Grenadiers' and 'Land of Hope and Glory'. The map on the wall was almost a third red and we were left in no doubt that we were British, it was the best country in the world, the sun never set on the Empire and obedience was all. I can't recall any overt propaganda against Germany in school, no need for it I suppose, we were exposed to plenty outside but I can remember Hitler being mentioned and we were never discouraged from singing extremely rude songs about him. Hindsight kicks in again, I now realise that there was another very strong message being delivered to us, that our task in life was to learn as much as we could and then go out to work. I doubt if it ever occurred to the teachers that any of their pupils would ever go to university or indeed, essay any kind of further education beyond a trade apprenticeship. We were factory/cannon fodder and the school's job was to maintain the supply.

While 1 was at Hope Memorial I joined the Cub Scouts. I remember we were the 15th Stockport Pack. I loved cubs and attended as long as 1 could. We once did a Christmas show and my job was to read the story and keep everyone on track. I was mentioned in the newspaper and still remember with pride the glowing description of the 'Diminutive Narrator', nice to know they could use long words like that in the local paper and know that people would understand them! When we moved to Heaton Moor I joined the Scouts but never got on with them. I only lasted about four weeks, I would like to think that it was because I'd recognised that they were a fascist organisation but can't make that claim!

When I reached nine years old I had to leave Hope Memorial and go on to another school. This coincided with the end of the war and some serious upheavals at home so 1 think I'll return to childhood and fill in some of the gaps.

CHILDHOOD 1940 TO 1945
Life at 38 Norris Avenue was not bad at all. My mother was at home all the time and as far as 1 can remember we used to run home for dinner, I have to admit that my memory isn't very clear about this. I can remember aluminium boxes being delivered at school with hot food in them but I have an idea this memory was after 1945 when I changed schools. Looking back, there must have been hot dinners at Hope Memorial because all the parents were out at work. What is certain is that we had three meals a day, usually hot and always sat at the table in the living room with a tablecloth on. Father never ate with us because he was away to work before we were ready for breakfast and was very late home at night due to the war effort. Dorothy and I were always put to bed at half past seven and I can remember lying in bed with the green, almost transparent, curtains closed and seeing it was still light outside. I have a very strong memory of lying in bed and hearing the rain pattering against the windows and tinkling in the cast iron downspouts outside. There were no blackout curtains in the bedrooms only in the living room, front room and kitchen.

The house seemed enormous to me at that age. I can remember going back in there for some reason when I was much older and being surprised by how small it actually was. When you entered the front door there was a hall leading to the kitchen at the back and two doors to the right, one into the front room and one into the back living room where we spent most of our time in the house. The front room was only used when we had guests or a special occasion like Christmas. There was a fireplace in each of these rooms and this was the only heating in the house. The living room fire had a back boiler and this supplied the hot water so it was lit every day of the year. The front room contained a three piece suite and the living room had a table, four chairs and a sideboard. The most important item in the room was the Ecko Eight Valve Superhet wireless set. Perhaps I should explain here that the term 'wireless' was used to distinguish a modem radio from the earlier crystal set which you needed headphones to listen to. There were still some of these about, indeed, later on I used to build them myself. At that time the wireless fascinated me because it had a large tuning dial with many of the foreign stations that broadcast on long and short wave marked on them. I can remember Prague, Luxembourg, Hilversum, Berlin and many more. It puzzled me that there was no signal on these wavebands, even at that age I couldn’t understand how they could set boundaries on the wireless.

The kitchen was half-tiled in white tiles with a green stripe at the top and contained a gas cooker, always a late model because father used to get them on what was known as 'area test' from work, no doubt one of the perks of the job. There was a clothes mangle which folded down when not in use to make a table, a white pot sink and wooden draining board. Some cupboards in the corner served as food storage and that was it. I can't remember how mother used to wash, it must have been in a dolly tub with a posser and a scrubbing board because washing machines were virtually unknown in those days, we certainly didn't have one. Notice that there was no refrigerator. Perishable food had to be bought as you needed it, hence the importance in our lives of the corner shop on Didsbury Road, milk was still being delivered by horse and float by Hancocks from Heaton moor. It was in milk kits and you left your jug to be filled. However, as I remember it we had bottled milk delivered by Dobson's Dairy from West Didsbury. There was a coincidence here because they also had a dairy in Barnoldswick and some of our milk may have come from there. The daily delivery was essential because, apart from the coldest days of the year, milk would sour overnight and be useless the next morning.

Going to the shops for mother was a daily event. It was usually for a loaf or five pounds of potatoes, or a trip to Roger Bennett, the butcher, at the bottom of Travis Brow, anything that was better fresh. Shops didn't give you any form of packaging unless it was really needed so we always took a shopping bag. Spuds were dropped straight in the bottom of the bag and everything else went on top. We weren't as aware of hygiene in those days. A bit of dirt on the crust of a loaf was no big deal. I can still remember how heavy five pounds of potatoes could be by the time I had walked home with them.

Once a week, without fail, mother would go to Stockport market and 1 would go with her. I can't remember her taking the pram, I rather think that a friend of hers, Fanny Dean, used to look after us at times, I can remember being pushed in the pram by her daughter Leslie and being given Farley's rusks to keep me quiet. No problem there, 1 liked them! The market was a wonderful place, it is still held on the original spot, in front of the Parish Church where it started many centuries before. The roads about are all setts and there are little brews dropping off into the lower part of the town. I remember there were all sorts of traders, pot sellers, people selling wonderful inventions that made sugar sweeter, killed nits and darned stockings automatically. There were herbalists where you could get proper sarsaparilla and dandelion and burdock and medicine for almost any ailment. There were wonderful signs for things like Mazawattee Tea, Zebo, Fenning's Fever Cure and Beecham's Pills, many of these were simply painted on the walls of buildings. God knows what went into Beecham's Pills but I should think every woman of my mother's age took them every day. Another one that tickled me was 'Dr Parkinson's Pink Pills for Pale and Poorly People’. There was a café in the market place where we went for dinner and it was exactly like the food we had at home. If there's anything I hate nowadays it's the concept of standardised portions and heavily modified foods. The only way that food was processed in those days was by cooking it, I can remember that there was a notice in the window of one of the pubs that said 'NO TRAVELLERS’, it always puzzled me but in later years I've realised that it meant gypsies.

Mention of the patent medicines has reminded me of something that I thought had slipped me for ever. 1 have been trying to remember the name of an 'influenza powder' that was peculiar to the Stockport area and which we were dosed with regularly. It was 'Cecil Woods Influenza Powders', they were made in Hazel Grove and I suspect contained a lot of quinine, they were gritty and very bitter. Mother swore by them and used them on all of us. Every day we had a 'Lung Healer' which was a small hand-made pill which came in dozens in a screw of white paper, rather like the paper twists of salt that used to be found in packets of crisps. There was a lot of medicine given at home rather than go to the doctor. I suppose in those days we had to pay at the doctors. Our doctor was Tommy O'Connell at Didsbury and a visit to him was a special occasion. He had a partner, Dr Horton who was a lady doctor and they did their own dispensing in a conservatory out the back. Father and Tommy had been mates for years and 1 think we got special treatment. I know I used to go out the back and watch him making up the medicine he had prescribed. He used to give me Easton Syrup which was pale yellow and tasted absolutely foul. It was supposed to be 'a tonic'! Mother once took me down there because father was worried because my head was too big. Tommy examined me and told mother not to worry because I'd grow into it! One thing I remember in particular about the surgery was that there were two doors to go through to Tommy's office. One was the normal wooden door and the other was a padded door covered with green baize. I suppose this was to deaden any sounds of pain coming from the doctor's room. Remember that in those days many small treatments like lancing boils was done on the spot when you visited the doctor.

Upstairs in the house on Norris Avenue there were two main bedrooms, front and back, a small bedroom over the hall at the front and a bathroom over the kitchen at the rear, again, this was half tiled in white. There was a bath, a washbasin, a lavatory with a high level cistern and a cupboard containing the hot water cylinder. This was always known as the airing cupboard because clothes were stored in here after laundering to get them properly dry.

By modem standards 1 suppose the house was cold. In winter, the only heat was the coal fire in the living room. It was a plain grate in a tiled surround and always went out at night. Mother used to light it as soon as she came down in the morning. Very often, her last task at night was to make firelighters out of the days newspaper and leave them in the hearth ready for morning. A quick rake out of the grate, chuck the paper firelighters in with a few knobs of coal on the top, apply a match and then shovel the ashes from the previous day from under the grate and take them out while the fire burnt up. As soon as it was established, another shovelful of coal was placed on the top and in twenty minutes you had a good fire. This fireplace had a back boiler and there was a steel ring hanging down the chimney which was connected to a damper, or flap, in the throat of the flue, If you pulled this down it closed the chimney off and made the fire draw through an aperture under the boiler and up the back of it. This heated the water more quickly. When the water was hot enough in the cylinder upstairs you opened the damper to stop the water actually boiling as this was bad for the system. Managing this apparatus was second nature to us, we all knew exactly what to do. Then it was cup of tea time and on with the day.

I can never remember us having the chimney sweep because mother used to 'sweel' the chimney at least once a week. What you did was roughly crumple up two or three full sheets of the paper, push them into the throat of the chimney and apply a match. As the paper burned it created it's own draught and roared off up the flue burning as it went. This set fire to any loose soot in the chimney and the whole lot burst out of the pot in a shower of charred paper and a big puff of blue smoke. Chimney fires were quite common and often happened without the occupants of the house noticing. What happened was that soot built up in the chimney until a particularly fierce blaze in the grate set it on fire. The hotter the flue got, the better it pulled and the soot would bum quite fiercely, sometimes cracking the chimney pot. The trade mark for this was obvious from outside the house, a dense cloud of blue acrid smoke would pour out accompanied by pieces of burning soot which drifted down in the vicinity. The worst consequence of this was felt if you had just hung out wet washing downwind of a chimney fire, the black soot spots clung to the clothes and spoilt the whole wash.

By the time we came down the fire would be built up and burning well, the house would be slightly aired from the night before so if we could get on the hearth rug in front of the fire we were all right. The hearthrug was an indispensable and disposable item. Its function was to catch sparks or coals which escaped the fire and stop them burning the oil cloth. We were always being warned of the dangers of fire. It was particularly dangerous for girls and women. They would come down in a morning for a warm at the fire and set their loose cotton night-dresses on fire. This was a very common accident.

For all this, the fire was a friend, we used to throw different things on to see the flames change colour, sugar burned blue, copper green and salt yellow. One of my happiest memories is sitting with my mother listening to the wireless as the light gradually faded. We wouldn't put the light on but sit there in the firelight and the warm safe memory of those hours has never left me. It's one of the reasons why, to this day, I still have an open fire in the front room even though I have full central heating. There is something about an open fire which always will fascinate and attract me. They are useful too. In those days very little that was combustible went in the bin. All the rubbish and kitchen waste went on the fire. The latter was usually thrown on last thing at night. A layer of potato peelings and old tea leaves gave a lot of heat and burned well into the night. All right, it caused pollution but we didn't worry about that in those days and at least, there was no plastic to give off dangerous fumes. The bin men came once a week and simply tipped the bins in an open lorry. Later on they modernised and had sliding covers to cover the rubbish up but in the early days there was no such luxury. Flies were a constant problem in summer. Everyone had a sticky flypaper hung up in the house. As the flies landed on it they became stuck and you simply left it up there until it was full then threw it on the fire and replaced it with another. This would be unthinkable nowadays but it involved no dangerous chemicals and was very efficient.

Another thing we had then which you never see now was street traders who came round peddling their wares or services. A regular caller was the rag and bone man, always on a horse drawn, two wheeled flat cart. As he came up the avenue sitting on the side of the cart he would shout ‘Any rag bone’ and people would come out with whatever they wanted to get rid of. Most of it was literally rags and bones but
occasionally other small items like an old pram or a bit of scrap metal. The payment was usually donkey stones. These were blocks of moulded powdered stone which housewives used to put a decorative edge on the doorstep after they had washed it. There wasn't a lot of call for it when houses had gardens because it was usually used where everyone could see it. Decorating with donkey stone was a sign to the world that your house was clean and that you were a good housewife. It reached its peak in the long rows of terraced houses on the towns. I've seen streets in Stockport where all the doorsteps, coal holes, foot scrapers and even the pavement edge were stoned. Serious devotees would blacklead the metal of the foot scraper and polish the doorknocker and door furniture. Father once told me of a street in Ashton under Lyne where they even started blackleading the tramlines in the street. The corporation had to stop them because there was a slight slope and the trams were loosing their grip in wet weather!

The knife grinder used to fascinate me. He had a delivery cycle which was a heavy bike with an iron carrier on the front of the handlebars. Mounted on the carrier he had a grinding wheel and a small work bench. The grinding wheel was driven by a string which went round a large pulley fastened to the back wheel of the bike. He would drop a hinged prop to lift the back wheel off the ground and then drive the wheel by pedalling as he sat in the seat and sharpened whatever he was working on. I was working in Rochdale in the mid-nineties and there was still a knife grinder active in the area. The difference was he had a van, an electric grinding wheel and his customers were hotels and butchers shops.

Occasionally there would be a gypsy selling clothes pegs made out of split hazel with a small piece of tin to strengthen the top, these ladies would also tell your fortune and perhaps sell you a small piece of lace. Almost everyone had the window cleaner who had a handcart to carry his ladders and there were numerous pedlars who sold dish cloths, dusters and small fancy goods. These were often Indians with turbans and many people were frightened of them. After the war another street trader reappeared who had been, quite understandably, absent for a while. These were the French onion sellers on their bikes with strings of onions hanging from the handlebars. Mother always bought some of them, she said they were stronger onions than ours and she used them a lot in cooking.

The onion seller has reminded me that we ate some things then that you never see nowadays. A favourite was boiled onions with salt, bread and butter, fried bacon and cheese, again with bread and butter, tinned pears with, guess what? Bread and butter again. We had suet dumplings and boiled puddings made with suet and all sorts of fillings. One of the biggest treats of the year, and this held true until the mid-sixties probably, was the first salad of the year. Everything was seasonal in those days. We never saw fresh salads all winter and when the crops came in in spring the first salad was a treat. I suppose our systems were crying out for the vitamins, whatever the reason, salads lost their charm for me when it became possible to have them every day of the year. Another seasonal and valuable supplement to our diet was blackberries. Mother would get us on the tram and we'd go to Middlewood at High Lane to the north of Stockport. We used to pick loads of fruit and what didn't go into pies went for jam,

Sometimes father would land home with something he had picked up in his travels, a lump of beef, an old hen or a couple of rabbits. These all went into the pot. There were some surprising things as well. Late in the war the government decided that an African fish called Snoek would be good for us. It was terrible! Nobody liked it and it died a natural death. Another strange item was whale meat, we tried it but couldn't get on with it. The most unusual thing I ever had was in the restaurant of a big store in Liverpool. Mother was very enterprising and would occasionally get us on the train, take us to Liverpool and we'd have ride on the Royal Daffodil over the estuary to Wallasey. We went in this store for a meal, for which you didn't need coupons, and had a salad. The eggs looked funny and mother told me they were gulls eggs and good for me so get them eaten. I did and they were OK, a bit fishy but a nice change.

The only fruit we saw during the war was English. The exception was dried fruit, we used to get Canadian dried apple rings and the usual dried fruit. A lot of concentrated orange juice came in but this, together with cod liver oil, was distributed free at clinics to mothers with children. 1 didn't see an orange or a banana until after the war. A favourite ploy if someone was eating an apple was to ask them for their stump. It was accepted that if you were asked this you gave the supplicant your core. To this day I still eat all of an apple except the stalk! I heard not long ago that there is a chemical in apple pips which is supposed to be an anti-carcinogen. I can testify that eating apple pips doesn't give you appendicitis, we were always told this as children. Another interesting variation to our diet was the sale of locust fruit as a substitute for sweets. They were imported for cattle food and looked rather like a brown broad bean. The black beans were inedible but the dry flesh of the beans was sweet and I liked it. We bought dried liquorice root at Mather's, the greengrocer's shop at the bottom of Huntsman's Brow and sometimes they had fresh root as well. At that time liquorice root was grown at Pontefract at Yorkshire and since the practice stopped I have never seen fresh root, a pity because it was lovely and, I have no doubt, very good for us.

1 hope I'm starting to build up a picture of a happy life on a street where we knew our neighbours, played with their children and felt safe, apart from the bombing. Our house had a garage, not very common in those days. I doubt if there were 6 cars between the 200 houses on Norris Avenue and Bankfield Avenue. Traffic wasn't a problem, we could play in the middle of the road all day if we felt like it. I feel myself moving into a description of one of the biggest areas of change between my childhood and modem times.

I'm writing this in 1999 and have just read an article in the Observer about a proposal to electronically tag children so that parents always know where they are. Another influence on me at the moment is a TV programme I saw on risk management in April this year the thesis of which was that people's assessment of risk nowadays is distorted by the media and results in a lack of balance. I am appalled by the former and in sympathy with the latten

During my childhood we had few reasons for being in the house beyond sleeping, eating, listening to Children’s Hour, sheltering from the weather or obeying the instructions of our parents. The only entertainment we had indoors was reading, writing, drawing, playing board games or cards. Outside, with our friends was much more exciting and diverse. For a start, there was the playground in the park at the back of the houses. There were swings a roundabout and a slide. We used to take a piece of waxed paper and sit on that to slide down, it gave a dramatic increase in speed. Dorothy improved on this one day by taking off all her clothes and I ran home to tell on her to mother! We stood up on the swings and tried to go higher than the bar, at this point gravity used to overcome centrifugal force and there was a satisfying drop and jolt which gave us a thrill. The only problem with this was the 'Parky,' or Park Keeper, a terrifying man who's job was to police the park and make sure we didn't 'get up to mischief. This crime was a moveable feast, I don't suppose there was any hard and fast set of rules, but it seemed to us that every time we started to really have a good time up popped Parky and sent us all home. Of course, we obeyed him and went off to find other amusements.

We had the usual pavement games but in our case, because the road was unpaved, these all had to be pursued on the flagged driveway leading down the side of the house to the garage. You needed a good surface for whip and top, hopscotch and bombers. Bombers were small cast iron reproductions of bombs that could be bought at the local newsagents. They could be split open round the middle and a small explosive cap, actually meant for cap guns, dropped inside. When dropped nose first on a hard surface you got a satisfying crack and a smell of burning black powder. Even during the war they could. still be found occasionally in the shops. Cap guns were a popular item, we used to play at cowboys running round shooting each other. Another war oriented game was parachutes. We would get a square of cloth, four pieces of string and some sort of a weight and make a parachute. If you threw this in the air it would open out and drift slowly to the ground.

Seasonal activities were snow balling and sledging, though proper sledges were thin on the ground, raiding orchards for fruit, we called it sapping and knew every fruit tree within a radius of about a mile! We used to pick wild fruit in season, all of which we ate except for rose hips which were collected for a very different reason. If you break a rose hip open and drop the hairy interior down some poor victims back the result was an uncontrollable and painful itch, great fun to watch. We used to try to get unsuspecting infants to lick our fingers which we covered with the white sap from dandelion stems. It was a powerful diuretic and was known as 'wet the bed'. We all knew how to tell the time from dandelion clocks and where the best horse chestnut trees were to be found. There were many weird recipes for making conkers harder and we used to string them and have competitions to see who's conker could break the most opponents. Mind you, one of the attractions with conkers was simply their beauty, if there's anything nicer than a good conker fresh out of it's shell I have yet to see it.

The best pastime of the lot was roaming round the district exploring and seeing what mischief we could get up to. This included visits to the scrap heap behind Cheshire Sterilised where, if you were lucky, you could find a redundant bearing. We knew that if we threw them at the wall long enough they would break and the steel balls made good competition for glass alleys in a game of marbles. I once found a beauty and got some inch diameter balls out of it. I had one in my mouth one day at school and when the teacher asked me what I was chewing I swallowed it. I can remember I was absolutely certain I would die and never told anyone. I suppose nature took its course but was worried for years afterwards in case it was still lurking in my gut. Underlying all this play was our system of trade, we were constantly swapping things with each other. I remember that when I got the one inch steel balls out of the bearing I only kept two, the others went in trade for things I coveted from other lads.

My pockets were always full of treasures. There was nothing to buy so these were all objet trouves, There was always a knife and a piece of string. Other prized objects included marbles, magnets, nails, washers, conkers, acorns and anything unusual found on our rounds. I remember I once had a spider in a matchbox and it got out and bit my leg. They tell me that English spiders don't bite but this one brought my leg up in a big lump and it was poisoned for a week or two.

Fire, water and ropes were all good value. There was the River Mersey of course but this smelt bad and we tended to keep away from it. We knew it was so dirty that if you fell in you would immediately become poorly. However, there was a disused clay pit towards Didsbury littered with large holes full of water, some with fish in and one even had a crane! This was a favourite haunt, we lit fires, made swings over the water with rope and a stick and could easily while away a whole day there. It was either hunger or the threat of retribution that drove us home. Railway lines were popular, largely for the joy of watching steam engines at work. God knows what the fascination was but there is something quite wonderful about a powerful engine belching smoke and steam and making all sorts of lovely noises as it passed. There was serious entertainment to be gleaned from the rails, apart from watching the trains. If you put a half penny on the line (a serious matter because this was valuable money!) and left it there as a train passed. it would be wonderfully flattened and a source of interest in your pocket for days afterwards. I think George Davidson's dad worked on the railway, anyway one memorable day George turned up with a large copper disc shaped object with clips attached to it. He told us it was a fog signal and if placed on the line it exploded as a train passed over it. Later I found that these were regular issue to the guards on the trains, even the goods trains had a guard's van in those days. If the train was brought to an unexpected halt for any reason, the guard would go back down the line and set the signals to warn any oncoming traffic that the line was obstructed. They were also used during fog by signalmen to warn of the proximity of signals. Remember that the air pollution cause terrible fogs in those days when you quite literally couldn't see where you were. So we went down to the railway line and set this object on the rails. Before long a passenger train came along, there was a tremendous bang and the train stopped! We ran like hell and never looked back. 1 was sure we would all be found out and would go to prison and had a few sleepless nights.

Remember that while all this was going on there was always the chance of a stray enemy bomber or an air raid. Another danger was that we had been told that the Germans dropped booby trap bombs which were small objects, brightly coloured which exploded when you picked them up. I never saw one but the fear was there. Consider then the risks we were taking, the fact that we could be anywhere within two miles of home and the fact that our parents allowed us to do it. As for the modem dangers of traffic and perverts, admittedly the traffic was infinitely lighter but the perverts were certainly about, human nature hasn't changed that much, it was simply that they weren't a subject of public comment. I met up with a couple but survived, however this was later on.

What interests me is what difference it made in our development being allowed this freedom. I'm sure it did us nothing but good, we were fit from all the running jumping and climbing we did. We knew how to run from danger and got a working knowledge of fire, water and ropes. We practised skills like fishing, snaring animals and stone-throwing and none of us was fat. Apart from the usual crop of cuts, scrapes and bruises the only ill effect I ever experienced was a bad attack of what they called acidosis in those days due to playing in stagnant water. The funny thing is that this happened in Middlewood while 1 was blackberrying with my mother. Thank God she wasn't over protective and that electronic tagging was 50 years in the future.

Father was working all the hours God sent during the war. GGA was almost entirely turned over to the war effort and worked in close conjunction with the Planet Foundry next door to them on Corporation Road. I can remember times when he didn't come home for days if there was some problem at the works. This uncertainty in his movements combined with the fact that in May 1940 the Local Defence Volunteers were formed and GGA immediately formed a platoon, GGA Platoon, the 51st Company, County of Lancashire Battalion. We used to call it the Look, Duck and Vanish, but. our fun was soon spoiled, it was renamed the Home Guard. His uniform used to hang in the wardrobe in my room and I was confused then, and for years afterwards by the fact that it said on the shoulder flash 'MAN 5 l' I was very sorry that he was so old and would obviously die shortly as I didn't know anyone else as old as that. In fact, in 1940 he would have been 48 so I wasn't that far out!

My dad always treated me like a young adult. I can't ever remember a time when he didn't speak to me as an equal. From very early days he used to take me to Joe Hibbert's the barber opposite the tram sheds in Stockport for a fortnightly short back and sides when he had his done. It was a marvellous old-fashioned place, four chairs and Joe had his next to the coal fire which always burned in the hearth. All the hair used to go on the fire and this, mixed with the smell of singeing with the taper, an essential finishing touch to a haircut, mixed with the smell of hair cream, gave the place a unique aroma.

1 think that both father and mother had recognised my insatiable appetite for all things mechanical, starting with the cranes on Merseyway perhaps! We were a lot closer to industry in those days, it was a very visible part of our lives, When mother went. shopping in Princess Street in Stockport she would stop half way down the main shopping street in the town so I could watch them pouring iron at Hollindrake's Foundry. The moulding floor was close to the street and clearly visible. A constant delight was to go down the river bank below the Bukta Mill to the Heaton Mersey railway motive power depot, there we used to wander round the sheds watching men preparing steam locos for their work, ashing them out, lighting fires and cleaning them. Sometimes the drivers gave us a ride down to the coaling point and on one wonderful occasion I was allowed to pull the whistle and open the regulator to start it off. No wonder we all wanted to be engine drivers! Most places of work were the same, as long as you kept out of the way and it wasn't seen as dangerous you were tolerated and even welcomed. Goodness knows how the Health and Safety Executive would view this nowadays and we have lost a breeding ground because it was on this fertile soil that the future fitters and engineers were reared. The first regular reading 1 had was father's Practical Engineer and when I'd sucked the juice out of the current issue there was always the stockpile of back numbers in the bottom of the wardrobe in the front bedroom to fall back on.

I can't leave the subject of reading without mentioning the weekly 'penny dreadfuls' as my teachers used to call them. There were two sorts of comics, the picture publications and the ones with text only, I got the occasional Dandy and Beano but my favourites were the Wizard, the Hotspur and the Rover. These were read right through at the first opportunity. I still remember the stories and the characters, Rockfist Rogan, Wilson, the athlete who performed feats like winning the Tour de France on a butcher's bike and detectives like Sexton Blake. There was even a Chinese hero, Hoo Sung and the Rolling Sphere! My spelling was always good and I have always said that the comics played a big part in this.

Father had the same attitude, every Saturday morning when he knew he was going to be able to get back home in reasonable time he would take me and Dorothy with him to the works. Dorothy played with his secretaries typewriter and I went round the works with him. During the war they never stopped and so I saw all the machines working. I can't remember how young I was but I reckon I started before I was seven. He used to explain what was being made and I saw bomb cases, flare bodies for the navy, Hedgehog Antisubmarine spigot mortar beds and rounds, the later Squid A/S mortars and landing craft being made. I can remember when they first started flash-welding flare cases together, I saw the first ones being done and it caused a big problem because the current drain was so great, the lights in Denton used to dim every time they welded a case! They had a problem with dust in the cases and father solved it by taking mother's Hoover cleaner to GGA, modifying it and using it to clean the cases out. Mother had to make do with a dust-pan and brush for the rest of the war. This sounds crazy now but remember, everything was done on a shoe-sting, there were no spare resources and make-do-and-mend was the order of the day. One day at the works we went out to the scrap pile behind the Planet Foundry and let off some coloured flares he had got hold of. I had a 251b practice bomb and a Mills bomb (a type of hand grenade) for years but they got lost in a flit somewhere!

Scrap metal was very valuable during the war. There were collections of old aluminium pans for conversion into material to make fighter planes. Early in the war all non-essential iron railings were cut off garden walls and taken away for melting down. I always thought it was unfair that they didn't take the railings from round Buckingham Palace. This came to mind only the other day in Salterforth when 1 noticed that the row of houses next to the Anchor Inn still have their original cast iron railings. Someone must have missed them in 1940!

The Landing Craft Minor (LCM) was the biggest treat. This was later in the war when the invasion of Europe was being planned. GGA used to build complete LCM's, the famous Manchester heavy haulage firm Edward Box would come down to Corporation Road when one was ready and it would be launched with due ceremony whilst on the back of the low-loader in the factory yard. Then, covered with bunting, it was taken down to Manchester Docks and lowered into the water by a floating crane. One man who was always at the ceremony was Lt. Charles Knighton Warren RNVR. who used to come and stay with us the night before. His job was to supervise the launching and then conduct "sea trials" as the LCM motored down the Manchester Ship Canal to be finally accepted, if all was well, by the Navy at Birkenhead, On one memorable occasion towards the end of the war, father took me with him on the trial. 1 think it, was the best and proudest day of my life and certainly an entirely new experience for me. The LCM's were quite a large boat, about 60 feet long, they were powered by two Invader petrol engines, I think they were a Canadian engine. Part of the trial was full speed running and this was very exciting.

Charlie Warren was a character, he and father used to have a night out when he stayed with us and they always got drunk.. When I was with them we hit Barton Swing Bridge for some reason and I remember Charlie swearing non stop for what seemed like five minutes at the bridge-keeper, most impressive. I was surprised when he came to visit us at Napier Road after the war and had a dog collar on! He had taken Holy Orders and was a curate at Leytonstone. Later he rose to become Suffragan Bishop of Tasmania.

Funny how things stick in your mind. On the occasion of his last visit he found out 1 was on the choir at St Martin's Church and asked me what my favourite hymn was. 1 told him it was 'Crossing the Bar' and he sat down at the piano and played it, while 1 sang. I realised he was crying as he did it and was terribly embarrassed and frightened I had done something wrong but he gave me a kiss and told me it was all right. Apart from anything else, it was the first and last kiss I ever had from a man with a full beard!

There were some curious country episodes in my early days which, for years, 1 connected wholly with father's desire to get us away from the bombing. However, some of them were before the war and I suspect that the first incentive was a day out for the family and the chance for father to do a bit of shooting. I don't think he ever had his own gun, I suppose the choice of venue was dictated by where he could borrow one and shoot a few rabbits or pigeons. The first I can remember was Pool farm at Congleton. We stayed there for a while because I can remember mother taking me and Dorothy (remember, this would include a pram!) up Mow Cop and the Cloud Hill to see the ruined castle and the Giant's Footstep. There was a local tale that a giant had left a footprint on the Cloud and then stepped on the castle on Mow Cop, 1 was disillusioned later in life when I found that the 'castle' was a Victorian folly. One unusual memory from Pool Farm was that the farmer's wife used a goose wing for a hand brush. I've never seen this anywhere else but 1 remember it did the job well!

The second, and longer lasting association was with the Hancocks at Burrs Mount Farm, Great Hucklow in Derbyshire. We went there and stayed for months at the beginning of the war and for long holidays afterwards. We went there before the war but later stays were definitely father wanting to get us out of Stockport before the bombs fell. As I write, there is a picture on the wall of me and father in the back-yard at Burrs Mount. There's a hooded milking bucket and a ten gallon kit on a ledge, there's also a very solemn looking little boy in short trousers, jersey and Wellingtons. Father has his arm round me and has a shotgun in the other hand. The hill behind Burr's Mount farm was the home of a gliding club and I have an idea that Reg. Lawley used to fly there and this was the connection that got us to Hancocks,

It was a wonderful place and there are so many memories. Watching pigs eating coal like toffees, no doubt for the minerals. Mixing up hen grub with hot water, the smell was wonderful. The smell of linseed cake and watching cows being milked by hand, and the taste of warm milk straight from the cow. Working the pump to fill the trough in the middle of the yard, a big mistake this, the water was foul and the cattle got at it and tainted the milk! The pump over the sink in the kitchen and the lovely smell in the house, a mixture of farm and cooking smells that made you feel warm and at home. A subsidiary delight I found one day was the loose wallpaper in my bedroom, I tore it off, folded it up and when they found me I was standing on the bed selling Evening Chronicles to my baby sister. Dorothy did something terrible one day but neither of us can remember what it was, she was put in the coal house as punishment for this and retaliated by wiping coal dust all over her clothes!

When we first went. to Burr's Mount there was a bit of a disaster as far as 1 was concerned. They forgot to bring my silk scarf with them. I had a green silk scarf which, if you twiddled it between your thumb and forefinger was rough one way and silky smooth the other. I always went to sleep playing with this and still twiddle silk to this day! However, on this occasion 1 was bereft. Mrs Hancock had the answer, she gave me a pair of corsets that had silk panels in them and this solved my problem. Later in life, what interests me is that it was evidently the texture and not the object that I had bonded to. I've no doubt a good psychiatrist could have a field day with that one!

Best of all at Great Hucklow was Mr Chapman. He lived alone in a small house just down the road and had his own lead mine which had been worked since Roman times or even before. He had a tool he had found in the mine which was made of a deer's antler. He used to take us just inside the mine and it frightened us to death. His house was wonderful, it was full of cats and he had the most splendid clock I have ever seen. It was gold, surrounded by small flags and was under a glass dome. With hindsight the place was dirty and stunk of cat pee but at the time it was exciting and a completely new experience, partly perhaps because we knew lie was different because he had no family, very strange.

1 still go back to Great Hucklow. Fred and Muriel Hunt have Burrs Mount now, Mr Hancock was a cripple when we were there, he had been kicked badly by a horse, Mrs Hancock had a long retirement in Shatton but is dead now. Peter Hancock and his wife Margaret still live in Great Hucklow, I don't know what happened to his elder brother Leonard but remember that he was a prisoner for many years during the war. Looking back, 1 always recognised what a marvellous experience living on the farm. was for young kids and years later our own children had the same experiences when we bought Hey Farm in Barnoldswick but that's 25 years in the future.

It may seem incredible to people reading this account of life during the war but one of the things we were short of was transport. Even public transport was restricted, especially at weekends. Mother was very good at getting us out of the house and doing different things. The trips to Liverpool were one instance and I have already indicated that she was very adventurous when it came to setting off pushing us in the pram. Looking back I am amazed because she must have been hampered by her bad leg. One regular trip was to set off with Dorothy in the pram and me walking alongside to go seven miles to Dukinfield to see Grandma Challenger and Aunt Alice. Grandma lived with Alice in a small sweet shop at the junction of Sandy Lane and Oxford Road right next to the Oxford Cinema, If I got tired I was allowed a spell riding on the pram!

The sweet shop was very old fashioned and in truth, there was very little stock because of the shortages. However, Aunt Alice always seemed to be able to find us a few sweets and if I was really good I was allowed to go the Saturday morning matinee for children with my Cousin Allan who was slightly older than me. The entrance fee was a jam jar, they were very scarce during the war and were used as currency. Being the lowest of the low, we had to sit on the front row of the stalls and the screen looked enormous. The entertainment was black and white serials and I can remember watching, Pearl White being tied to a railway line by the Villain, Flash Gordon fighting his way across the galaxy and I think, Tom Mix in the obligatory cowboy serial. It will all seem very tame stuff compared with the sort of entertainment available nowadays and even more so in the future but I can assure you, it was pure magic to us kids then,

This then was the pattern of my life between until 1945. I reached nine years of age that year and this meant I had to change schools. Leslie my younger brother was three years old and unknown to me, father and mother were thinking of a larger house, as far as I can remember, Leslie was sharing a room with Dorothy and it was time for four bedrooms. I have a memory at this time of mother taking me to an interview at a Catholic School run by nuns opposite Barne's Homes on Didsbury Road. I can remember a classroom with a lectern and a crucifix on the wall and a very severe nun questioning me about God. All I can say about this is that I was frightened to death and finished up at St Thomas's CofE School, Heaton Chapel for the next two years. I know for certain that Germany surrendered on May 5 1945 and I was in the playground at St Thomas's when it happened. We all ran round shouting "We won the war’ and no one stopped us.

19,370 words
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: CHAPTER 1. LOOSE ENDS

Post by Grockle » 22 Dec 2014, 10:54

Good Morning Stanley,

I just had to drop a line, how enjoyable it is reading your life stories, I know Great Hucklow especialy the Queen Anne pub!,I met a chap at the annual car and bike gatthering in Chapel en le Frith earlier this year who lives near Burrs Fm.,he has some mint early Kawasaki's,500 HI ,750 H2 and a 72 Z1.

We had friends who ran the Bulls Head in Little Hucklow which now looks like it is about to fall down, after a falling out with Peak Park over building on the car park, a real shame as Pete and Julie were real characters, the food was to die for in quality and quantity, all home cooked with chips like tree trunks, you would have tourists from say from London who would take one look at the portions and nearly faint !!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Stanley and all on the OGFB forum.

ps,I'm glad the Steeplejack thread is back.

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Stanley
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Re: CHAPTER 1. LOOSE ENDS

Post by Stanley » 23 Dec 2014, 05:58

Glad you enjoyed it and like the site. Steeplejack's Corner is clinically dead now, the glory days are over, but I have it on life support! It still gets lots of hits but very few responses....
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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