Harrison Memoir

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Harrison Memoir

Post by Stanley » 20 Jan 2013, 05:59


The family can be traced back to the year 1737 with Edmund and Elizabeth Harrison of Brown House Farm, Thornton in Craven, West Yorkshire. They had five children, the fifth( our ancestor) Elisha was baptised on the 7th of May 1754, at the Inghamite Methodist chapel in Salterforth. In 1777, he married Susannah Brogden at St Mary's C of E church, Thornton. She was born at Booth Bridge Farm, Thornton . They had six children, our ancestor, Thomas, born at Brown House Farm, was baptised at St Mary's 2nd November 1777. He married Mary Kenyon in 1807, and they in their turn had nine children. William, our ancestor was born in 1812, and married Ellen Howorth. Seven children were born to them, Thomas, born in 1844 (died in 1902) was my Grandfather, he married Mary Ann Keenan (born 1861 died 1932) on the 31 Oct 1882. They had five children, my Father Francis being the youngest. He married Ellen, my mother in 1924, they had two boys Francis Gerald born 10 Nov 1924 and myself, Thomas born 17th January 1926. I married Catherine Beesley (born 3rd June 1931) on 13th Sept 1958, and four children were born. Frances Mary (born 20th October 1959) she was married to Peter Eccles on the 13th September 1985. Peter died 13th May 1988. She then married Paul Medlam (10th Sept 1994). Michael Anthony (born 12th May 1962), married Frances Walmsley 27th April 1984. Two sons were born to them; Robert James (10th Sept 1992) and Christopher John (1st Aug 1995). Peter John born 2nd July 1964, married Susan Skinner (born 23rd Dec 1965) on 25th May 1988, one daughter was born Emma Catherine (28th July 1992). Philip Martin, the youngest son (born 14th March 1970) met Caroline Tate (born 20th July 1972) in 1991.


Family background

My Grandfather, William, was born in 1844. He was a Showman who travelled all over Lancashire, with the fairground community. His wife, Grandmother Mary, was born in Ireland and spent some time in India with her father, who was a military man. My Dad, Francis, was born in 1896 in Grimshaw Street, Preston, which was a very prosperous area in those days. Unfortunately his father, William, was killed in an accident in 1902, which meant the family income was decimated. I believe he was crushed under a waggon in Orchard Street. He died in Preston Royal Infirmary.

The family broke up and Dad, his brother Jack, and sisters Florence and Gertrude, went to live at 26 Berry St with an old aunt, Helen Keenan. She was the the one that guided the family into the Catholic faith. Dad’s sister Helen, along with his Mother travelled with the fairground community.

In 1909 Dad started work in the Mill. He was a part-timer and his work was to climb under and over the machinery cleaning off the cotton dust, he received 15p per week for this dirty job. At dinner time he took basins of food to be warmed up in the boiler house of the factory for two of his sisters. Dad’s brother Jack joined the army in 1914 and was seriously wounded, he was sent back home and met his future wife. Whilst recuperating he met the man who started him on the life as a Master decorator.

Dad was called up in 1916 and joined the Light Infantry and then transferred to the Service Corps. In France he got lost in no-man’s land, found a tin of jam in a shell hole, ate it with a pal, and they both finished up with dysentery. Because of his illness, he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he trained as a flight mechanic and was posted to Alexandria in Egypt. On his demob he started work at Horrocks’s Mill as a sheet weaver. He met Mum in 1923, they married in 1924 and my brother Francis was born in November, 1924. I was born on Sunday the 17th of January 1926 at Preston Royal Infirmary. It is rumoured that I was a very beautiful baby! Dad started new employment as a bus conductor at the Ribble Motors Company Preston. He was a very fastidious person when it came to his equipment, before he went out to work he polished his leather cash bag and straps until they gleamed. He worked for the company right up to the beginning of the Second World War.

My Mother, Ellen Leeming, was born 09/09/1902. The Leemings were brought up in Nelson St in the Adelphi area of Preston. Mum was attended St Walberge's Church and School. I do not know very much of the family history, only that Standing was the name of my Grandmother before marriage. I believe they owned a hotel called The Prince Consort Hotel in Aqueduct Street. Mum’s father, John Leeming, was a stonemason, who died after falling from a church steeple. I believe it was St. Peter’s Preston. Mum was around seven years of age. Her mother had five children, Ellen, who was my mother, John, Elizabeth, Thomas, and Mary.

Grandmother worked in the Mill. She was blinded in one eye with a flying shuttle, there was no compensation in those days; this meant that the family had to rely on poor relief as their only means of survival. She died when my mum was nine years old, this left her to bring up the rest of the family with the help of an aunt, who went out to work . When their aunt had to finish work they were very poor. The charity fund of St Vincent De Paul made a payment of six shillings per week to help them out, but one day when the charity visitors called they saw a half a pound of Butter on the table and said ‘you should have bought Margarine’. Aunty was then informed they would no longer receive the help they needed so much. From that day my mother would never give a penny to the Vincent De Paul Society. Many years later when she gave my son Philip some money to put in the Church collection, he put it in the S.V.P. box; Mum played hell!


Our home had three bedrooms, one living room, kitchen, yard and cellar. The rent was seven shillings per week. Our toilet was in the yard; very cold in winter! We did not have toilet paper in those days and had to tear up newspaper, put string through it and hang it up on a nail. We had a coal fired kitchen range which Mum cleaned with black lead every day; all our cooking had to be done on this stove. Our light was from a gas mantle over the fireplace, which gave poor illumination. The kitchen was something else, one cold water tap, a boiler built in the corner of the room which Mum had to light with coal at five am. Coal was one shilling & four pence per hundredweight.

Before Mum could wash the clothes, she had to light a fire under the boiler in the back kitchen. The washing was done in a vessel called a copper, which was also used by Mum to make puddings in. She made a pastry using suet, rolling it out and spreading it with jam then wrapping it in a muslin cloth, which she then boiled in the copper until it was cooked. The result when covered in custard was delicious, it was called Jam Roly Poly pudding, an alternative was Spotted Dick, which was filled with currants instead of jam. To do the washing she used the same copper boiler, she filled three dolly tubs with water, the first one contained dolly blue to give added whiteness to the clothes, the second contained boiling water and the third had water to rinse them. A tool called a posser was used to pummel the clothes and a Mangle was used to press the water out of the clothes. It consisted a metal frame, and two large wooden rollers, driven by a large wheel turned by a handle. Tuesday was wash day in our house, Mum could not cook a dinner as it took all day to finish the washing, so I used to go to a shop called Place's for pies, they were filled with a lovely gravy and cost three old pennies. On Wednesdays Mum had to spend all day doing the ironing, her flat Irons had to be heated on the open fire; great care had to be taken to make sure that they were not too hot.

Our coal was stored in the cellar which had two rooms and was where we kept all our things like the bath, and any things we did not use very often. On occasions, Dad would pluck the Turkey or Goose for the Christmas dinner down there. The sink was made from a solid piece of stone about three inches thick, with just one tap. It was very cold in the middle of winter, washing one’s body in ice cold water, and perhaps that's why I have such good skin! There was gas in all our rooms until one day when my brother set light to a piece of cellophane and threw it on my cot. Dad put out the fire, contacted the gas board and told them to take every gas pipe out of the house immediately. We were the first house in the street to have electricity; we had electric lights that we could switch on, it was magic! Next we had a new electric oven. Mum could not believe it; she did not have to light a fire to make a cup of tea. She used the kitchen range to air clothes after we got the new oven.

Bath night was Friday; not very convenient! Why you ask? Well the bath was a tin one, four feet long, which was kept in the cellar. Mum had to fill it with the kettle; it was a slow process, so my brother Frank and I had our baths together. We were having our weekly bath one Christmas Eve when a knock came on the front door; it was Father Christmas! He was delivering a parcel from Merigolds, which was the biggest toy shop in Preston. Talk about panic; Dad grabbed the parcel and dashed up the stairs; it was a Fort. As children we had wonderful Christmases. Although he was on low pay (two pounds per week for forty hours), Dad saved hard to make sure we had a good time. All our neighbours used to come into our house for drinks and butties! We sat on the stairs listening to the partying.

Built on to the gable end of our house was a scout's band practice room . Can you picture the scene, Thursday night, listening to our cats whisker radio, then the melodious tones of twenty bugles, ten snare drums, and a base drum; even the mice beat a hasty retreat. Berry Street consisted of roughly 80 houses, three grocers shops, one barber shop, and a pub called The Bush, (where I spent many hours in my youth!) It was a quiet street and everyone helped when there was difficulty.


There were many things from the past that the younger people might never hear about, for instance, there were the Lamplighters who came round the streets just as it was getting dark. They carried a long pole with a tube inside which contained a flammable liquid, which gave out a small flame. The gentleman concerned reached up to the Gas lamp, pulled down a little lever with his pole, then ignited the Gas. The light that was given out was very poor, but there would be two or three lamps in a street.

There were men called Knocker-uppers, they also carried a long pole, on the end of which were fastened birch twigs. Their job was to go round the houses very early in the morning knocking on the bedroom windows, getting people up for work . It may seem strange, but the mill workers had no alarm clocks and started work at 6am. The charge for a call was three old pence for a six day week.

Buskers were part of life, these were mainly ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 war unable to find work. They came round the streets playing instruments, cracking huge whips, performing escapology, and doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things for pennies. Every Friday night in winter Mr Sumner came round the streets selling Parched-Peas. He carried a basket on his head and rang a bell; he charged a half penny a bag and his peas were really delicious. In summer he sold crumpets. On Sunday morning men came round the streets selling SnigFrae [Elvers] from a tin bath, they were tiny eels. I did not try them as I was a fussy eater, but plenty of people boiled them and had them on toast for Breakfast. When Dad was at home on Friday nights our treat was small (50g) two penny bar of Needler’s Orange Chocolate. And, yes, that was divided between four of us.

One of the highlights of the year was to see Mr Wardell, the ice-cream man, pushing his gaily coloured cart around the streets. There were no refrigerators in those days, just a box packed with ice, but the ice cream was the real thing. Easter Sunday was the day that every one was waiting for! You see, no one sold it during the winter months, hence the kids excitement, not one person sold it until that day.

Here are some prices from around 1939.
Large Loaf of bread 2 and a halfpence
Fish & chips 3d Cigarettes 2/-, Beer per Pint. 5d, House Rent 12/6,
Semi detached house 3beds, £400, Suits from Burtons, £2/10, Shoes, 5/-s,Shirts 12/6d
Milk 2d a Pint, Oranges, 24, 1/-
Apprentice wages 9/ shillings per 40hrs,Tradesmen 3-00pounds 40hrs
Teachers 5 pounds per week
Store manager 5-00 per wk

At that time there were no supermarkets, which meant all the shops were small businesses, usually run by families. In Avenham Lane we had dozens of shops to choose from, for instance, four Fish and Chip shops, four Butchers, three barber shops, three fish and fruit shops, three Newsagents, four sweet shops, two Hardware shops. There were many more of all types of business.


At the age of three I started school, St Augustine's Infants; I remember not wanting to go, but a kind nun, Mother Gertrude soon put me at my ease. I attended the school up to the age of six years when I moved to the secondary establishment in the September of 1932. My teacher was a May Martin, she was a great person lots of patience, and good humoured. In 1933 school milk was introduced, one third of a pint per day, the cost was two pence halfpenny per week. The children used to place the bottles on the hot water pipes in winter to take the chill off the milk.

As part of his equipment, my father carried a Acme Thunderer Whistle which was used to tell the bus driver to set off. One Saturday morning, whilst Dad was in bed I borrowed it and went into town for a walk; Lancaster Road was a junction for all the Trams, they left here for all the destinations in Preston, apparently the time all the trams left was on the hour. I blew the whistle at about two minutes to ten and all the trams set off without their Conductors. An Inspector saw what was happening so he ran down the road trying to stop them, but he could not do anything about it; he came back and took the whistle off me. On my return home Dad went mad, he took me back to town to apologise and he managed to get the offending whistle back after a lot of grovelling!

One weekend I decided that I would go camping; Frank my brother, Stan Peddar, and Jacky Ingram, said they would like to go too. We packed a little two wheel truck with a tent, pots and pans, and plenty of food and got permission off my Dad. We set off through Avenham park across Tram Bridge and along Tram Road. About two miles on we decided to light a fire; we boiled Potatoes, fried bacon, eggs, beans, buttered a loaf, and tucked in. A couple of hours later we were hungry again, so we had more delicious food. At eight we were ready for bed, this was the first time any of us had been away from home on our own. It was now dark, we talked excitedly and then we dozed off. The tent collapsed on top of us, it was pitch black, there was quite a deal of shouting, and panic. The guilty party that knocked down the Tent was a huge wild animal, with horns. It was a Cow! The morning came and it was time for Breakfast. One snag was apparent; no food left. We packed all our gear and set off home, Dad was not very pleased, you see it seems we had taken enough food for three days.

Another time, Dad bought Frank and I a new Navy Blue Blazer suit, we set off on Sunday for a walk up Tram Road, we were to be home at 4pm for Tea. The Parish Church bells rang out at 6pm, so we started to run home and the rain came, the sky opened up, thunder and lightning, it was terrifying, and then it happened; my legs turned blue and Frank’s shirt turned the same colour. By the time we got home we were completely covered with dye. Dad was not very pleased. He took the suits back to the shop the day after, Moors in Friargate, he got two new ones in exchange. Frank and I got a roasting for being disobedient.

Things were very different in the thirties. There was no TV to watch; children had to make their own amusements. One of my pleasures was to place a hard-backed book on a skate, find a suitable incline, sit on the vehicle and go like the wind, my favourite elevation was Chapel Street. I would ride down the hill to the park entrance, mind you there was very little car traffic in those days. Each season meant different games were played, for instance, in Spring the boys played Top and Whip, Marbles, Diabalos. Girls played Hop Scotch and Skipping Ropes. One of the best games was tying a rope at the top of a Gas lamp and using it as a Swing. Later in the year playing conkers was the main pursuit, seeing who could break the nuts first. In Winter it was games like Hide and Seek, and knocking on people's doors that were most popular.

One of the highlights of the year was the flooding of Avenham Park in Winter. The Firemen used to draw water from the river, and when it had frozen over all the families went down to skate, or play on toboggans. Dad made me one out of an old bedstead. All round the frozen area were stalls selling Black Puddings, Roast Chestnuts, Roast Potatoes and Coffee, the atmosphere was fantastic, looking back I feel sorry for the children of today, they are missing out on so many simple pleasures.

Easter tradition was something that the kids enjoyed. Weeks before Easter Monday, Mums bought and boiled large numbers of eggs, these were dyed using onion skins and then faces and scenes were painted on them. everyone went down to Avenham Park to roll them down the slopes until they broke. There were very few chocolate eggs before the Second World War, most people could not afford to buy them in any case.

At the corner of Vauxhall Rd there was a Fish and Chip shop, the owners were two ladies called Florence and Jane Cottam, one was over six feet tall and Jane was about five feet, both wore skirts down to their feet, across the window was a white curtain and the two ladies spent hours looking out of the window; Jane’s nose used to rest on the wire and Florrie being tall stood behind her, they had the same hair style, tied at the back in a bun. Mum used to send me for Dad’s Fish and Chips in a basin, the reason for this was so that they could put plenty of vinegar on the chips. When I went into the shop Florrie used to say to her sister; Mr Harrison wants his chips white. Many a time I skipped the queue because of this, the price of a portion of fish and chips was three old pence.

At the bottom of Berry St was a general store which sold just about everything. One morning Mr Bolton, the owner, asked me to reach a very tall sweet jar from the shelf. I reached up for it, but pushed it instead. Crash it went, through a very large plate glass window. He sent for my Dad, who said ‘Tom is only tiny; you ought to have more sense than let him reach up to that shelf’. That was the end of that.

Round the corner from our house was a sweet shop owned by the Peddar family, the Mother was really bad-tempered. They had a son called Stanley, I played out with him, On Saturday mornings Stan used to come to our house at six am and shouted through the letter box ‘Tommy!’, he carried on calling until I appeared. My Dad used to go mad, he always seemed to pick the days when dad was not at work. One day we were playing on Avenham Park, and our ball went over the fence, Stan climbed over and on his return a metal spike went through his thigh; he was hanging upside down. Someone went to phone for the ambulance and the poor lad was taken to Hospital. He was kept in for a week, I had to go and tell his Mother what had happened. A week after coming home we went into town to watch the fairground being built, we were crossing Church St opposite Miller Arcade when a car approached very fast, I shouted ‘lookout Stan!’ He turned in the direction of the oncoming car and just stared at it. Bang! Stan was on his back out like a light. Yes I was the one to tell his Mother. She went Ape, ‘do not ever take our Stanley out again!’ she screamed. Actually he was a little bit retarded, people used to say it was because his parents had him late in life. He served as a toilet cleaner in the Air force during the war.

As a young boy I had lots of pals in my gang, we were very well behaved except when we played pranks on the neighbours! Nothing serious, just teasing, such as tying two door knobs together, knocking on both doors and peeping over the school wall at the two people trying to answer the door, or tying a large button on to a long piece of cotton thread, slipping it through the door knocker, hiding over the school wall and pulling on the thread; after the lady of the house had been out several times they realised that it was young Tommy Harrison up to his tricks. The Evening Post took a photograph of a group of us playing on the Top Walks, Avenham Park , it was the start of our annual School Holidays, Philip got a copy of it for me when I had my seventieth Birthday. I spent a great deal of the time on Avenham Park, playing on top of the Summer House, it was like a new world in my imagination. We never had to worry about things like being abducted, it seemed like a different world in those days. The bushes came in handy; so did the Dock Leaves!

When I was a young boy I spent some time in hospital, and then three weeks in a convalescent hospital at Lostock Hall. While there my uncle Fred brought me a mouth organ, I was able to play it immediately, from then on I carried one with me all the time. Dad bought me a Chromatic Harmonica for Christmas each year after that. Later on, there was an advert in the Evening Post for a Piano Accordion, the price £4/10 shillings, I was now 14 and working, I asked my dad to lend me the money to buy it, I agreed to pay him back at 2/6pence per week. The address was a farm along the River Ribble towards Samlesbury. I cycled there, on the way home with it strapped on my back, I was in a state of collapse, riding up London Rd was pure hell. When I arrived home it was worth the pain! I was able to knock a tune out of it on my first attempt. I used to have concerts in our Lobby, I charged a halfpenny to come in. It was good fun.

One of my disappointments as a small boy was after seeing a Fur Coat in a shop window, with a sale price of six pence, to be sold on Thursday the feast of Corpus Christi. I got out of bed at about 5.30 am, dressed and went into town. I arrived at the shop at 6 am, first in the queue. The shop was to open at 9 o’clock, there were quite a number of people by the time the door was opened. By now I was very excited at the thought of Mum owning a lovely fur coat. I walked in to the shop, asked for the garment and was told that I could not have it, the reason was that they could not take it out of the window. Being a little boy I did not realise that I could have insisted on the purchase, so I carried on to Mass at St Wilfrid’s and when I came out of church the coat had gone.

In November 1932 my Grandmother on dad's side died. She was in her late seventies and lived in a caravan. She was always dressed in long black clothes with a shawl round her shoulders I never remember once having a hug or kiss from her; she was a very cold person. I was not allowed to attend the funeral, but the teacher let me look through the window at the cortège. There were hundreds at the ceremony, mostly travellers from the fairground. She had been granted a permanent pitch for a Pea saloon on Preston market. It was passed down to the family but no one wanted to carry on with it. The stall, along with two Electric motors and a number of cobblers lasts were in the cellar of 26 Berry St when it was demolished, that was in 1964.

The year 1933 was very special for me because I was invited to become an Altar Boy. My parents were delighted. I trained for six weeks under a Mr Woods, who taught me church Latin, and how to conduct myself on the altar. Also in 1933 St Augustine’s was the church chosen to lead the Whit Monday Procession, this meant we all had to wear special clothes for the occasion. The group I had to walk with had to have white silk shirts, (cost 6 shillings) velvet shorts ( 5 shillings) white socks (2/6d) Patent Leather Shoes (5 shillings). The procession met at Larkhill Convent for Mass at 7am. We then moved off to Chapel St where all the churches were joined by the 14 bands playing for us. The atmosphere was fantastic, thousands of people were waiting for the start. All around Preston people had taken their chairs into town in an age-old tradition; I was so proud to be a part of this.

We had something else to look forward to; the Fair was open on the market place. We went home and had a meal, got changed and went back into town to try out the rides. On the far side of the market place were stalls; The Wall Of Death; a Boxing Booth; a Freak Show; Coconut stalls; Bearded Lady; a fortune teller, and many more. I used to get free parched peas, and free rides; I just had to say ‘Harrisons please’.

The main entertainment at that time was the Cinema, there were eighteen in Preston. Five of them were in the town centre, these were the posh ones. The Flea pits that Mum and I went to cost as little as one old Penny, but if you could not afford to pay, a Jam jar would get you a seat (an early form of recycling). At the Cosy, which was one of the very poor ones, Mr Wilde the owner would walk round with a long cane; anyone who misbehaved would get a smack. They used to say that you went in with a pullover and came out with a Jumper (Flea). It was a regular thing to queue for two hours and even more to see a good film. Most of the picture palaces (as they were usually called) closed down around 1960. My favourite one was the Ritz; I had a regular booking every Sunday night on the front row of the back stalls, which cost a shilling. There were Two Theatres, The Hippodrome and the Palace; variety was the main entertainment, and occasionally musicals were played. I remember seeing Richard Tauber who was a famous Tenor; I thought he was rubbish, however he was a favourite of my Dad so I made no comment about my thoughts.

One of Cath's friends went to the New Victoria Cinema, she felt a furry creature on her knee, thinking it was a cat she stroked it. What a shock - it was a Rat! Just round the corner in Avenham St there was a large house, my Aunty Florence decided to buy it thinking she would start to take in lodgers. She called round one night to have a look at her future investment, on opening the front door the wide staircase was covered with rats, there was a carpet of them to the top of the landing. The whole of Fishergate was infested with the creatures. One of my friend’s father was the town’s Rat catcher, who, along with his Terrier dog, in a Fishergate cafe called Dixons, caught no less than 96 rats in half an hour. He stood in the basement, banged the central heating boiler and as they came out, the dog nipped them on the back of their necks. The floor was covered with the vermin.

Dad always, took us on a holiday, usually to Blackpool. One of my earliest memories was that Dad had friend, Mr Moor, who recommended a boarding house there. We booked in and on the first night my brother Frank fell out of bed. Dad put the light on and there was a large bite on Frank’s face. On the ceiling were hundreds of bugs. We all went hysterical. Mum got us dressed and we went down to the landlord; Dad played hell with him and then we went to the Police Station. They disinfected our luggage and then they took us round to a hotel. Although it is over sixty five years ago I still remember the man’s name, it was Merigold, he was very kind to us and we had a great holiday. When we arrived home, Dad told a friend who worked for the Health Authority, who sent a team of inspectors to check Mr Moor’s shop in Heatley St. They found out that the bedrooms were infested by bugs. Sugar and soap was put in the beds to encourage them not to bite the owners’ bodies. The shop was closed down, and that was the end of a perfect friendship.

One year, Dad met an old farmer who lived the village of Warton. He invited us to stay there for a week. It was fantastic; the farm was on the banks of the River Ribble. The daughter, Alice, took us down to catch Fluke using our feet, it was called Treading. We caught them by the sackful. We helped with the farm work. The food was excellent, plenty of fresh fruit, lots of rhubarb, until one day Mum saw Mr Lee with a large Bucket and a stick spreading manure all over those lovely Rhubarb plants. Unfortunately, Mum recognised the Bucket. She preferred Custard from then on! We had many holidays on that lovely farm, and remained good friends with the family for the rest of their lives.

One of the old traditions that died with the advent of war, was called The Co-op Field Day. Thousands of Children from every part of town congregated on Moor Park to be entertained and to receive a free cup of Coffee and a bun. It will seem strange to the young people of today that anyone would queue for a drink and a cake, but the fact was there was so much poverty. Millions with no work meant that just a cake was a special treat.

A gentleman called Johnny Traynor owned a Doss House in Shepherd St. This was a place where the hard up people used to sleep. Usually they were immigrants from Ireland, who worked as builders labourers. The terrible thing was that there were no beds in this establishment, just ropes across the room. The idea was that the men just leaned on the rope to sleep. In the morning Mr Traynor released it and they just fell on the floor. It does sound rather far fetched but it is perfectly correct. Johnny left a fortune when he died, at least it did go to charity.

We had neighbours in Berry St called the Catons, every Saturday night the men used to kick the stocking tops off each other. There was quite a good deal of violence at that time, although people seem to have forgotten, or they do not want to believe it happened. There were streets like Manchester Rd, Shepherd St, Stoneygate where you dare not walk after dark. Comparing the thirties with present day there was far more general violence then, but you could always find a policeman. From Church Street to Lune Street there were at least six Bobbies on regular patrol.

There was a woman called Mrs. Holden, she weighed about six stones, very often we would see her chasing her sixteen stone husband, Crasher by nickname, with a frying pan. All the kids thought it was great fun. There was one man called Gashouse Joe who slept rough in the towns Gas works. In Avenham Lane there was a lady the children called Old Jane, the windows of whose house were all boarded up; she had dozens of cats roaming round the house, the neighbours said she was a Witch. There were dozens of such people in the district.

I was being bullied at school by a boy called John Ryan, every day he picked on me. One afternoon in the playground he started to hit me, I retaliated and a fight started. My Headmaster came across to us and said ‘I want to see you before you go home’. I reported as instructed. Mr Moulding gave me an envelope to take to St Ignatius’s club. I went there that night, met a Mr Keo, gave him the letter and he showed me to a changing room, ‘put on these Boxing Gloves and come through to the Gym’ he said. I was knocked all over the ring. That was a very good lesson for me. I attended there for a good few years and I was never bullied again. I was very proud when I took my first trophy to School.

A man that encouraged me to box was Mr Starling, who lived across the street from us. He was a retired Sergeant Major, of huge proportions, and weighed twenty stones. There were three daughters, Margaret, Elsie, and Kitty, and Mrs. Starling who was a Cockney. I used to take the mickey about the way she spoke. They also had a little dog named Peter, he was a bad tempered little beast, who would let you in the house but would not let you out. Margaret gave me a Saturday Penny every week for years. If I had overstayed my welcome, Mr Starling would say to one of the girls, "bring the cheese dish out" this was the signal for me to beat a hasty retreat. The dish was massive, and contained at least a pound of smelly Gorgonzola. I think this is why I have a hate of the delicacy. Mr Starling gave me a pair of boxing shorts for my first contest, they were silk and they used to be his. I was about six stones and he was huge, can you imagine how I looked in them? One day, my Dad was the conductor on a bus in Longton, Mr Starling dismounted, a lady said ‘he is a nice man’, and Dad said ‘yes he lives across from me’. Her reply was not what Dad expected. She said ‘Mr Starling lives here in Longton, he has five children’. End of conversation.

In 1938 things were looking very bad on the Continent, it looked like war was imminent so the Government asked for people to join a new Fire Service. I enrolled as a messenger and I collected my brand new uniform at the fire station in Tithebarn St. It was very smart! The Fire Station to which I was sent was a bungalow situated in the grounds of Preston Royal Infirmary. I was on duty every Friday night; it was great except for Fireman Chambers snoring, many a night I slept in the bath to get away from the noise. There was a gentleman called George Gamble stationed with us, his profession was assistant Pathologist. One night he took me round the laboratory to see all the strange bits and pieces in jars of formaldehyde. Then he took me into the mortuary; he had just finished a postmortem on a murdered young woman, she had been drowned. I did not eat my supper that night.

When I was ready to leave school, my Aunt Nellie (Helen) came over from Liverpool on a visit, whilst Dad and Mum were talking to her, she said that she had always wanted a son, and if they would allow me to travel with them, one day I would inherit the fairground business. Arriving at Liverpool Railway we went to Lewis's Store where my Aunt treated me to a Banana Royal, an ice cream dish the likes of which I had never seen, the price was half a crown, a fortune to me, my spending money was one penny per week. I spent six weeks travelling with them, living in a luxury caravan, we travelled to Crosby, Seaforth, Frodsham, and Helsby, but I did not take to the life, and I asked if I could go home. Most of the people employed on the rides were real vagabonds but they treated me very well. I remember carrying buckets of money into the caravan each evening. They must have been loaded, because all the walls were covered with Crown Derby plates. My uncle Ted asked me to stay; he was a great chap I liked him very much, but living like Gipsy Rose Lee did not appeal to me. I was so pleased to get back home.

There was person that lived near me who had never been to school, his name was Jimmy Ashworth, he was a great friend of mine until he died at the age of 64. He could not read or write but he was mad on football, he had thousands of programmes and Football magazines, he could only look at the pictures. I decided to teach him to read, he picked it up in no time at all. To be able to read the newspapers about the matches was all he ever wanted to do.

Looking back on the days of my childhood it is very sad that many of my friends died at a very young age. Across the street from us my best pal George Linford died of some obscure disease when he was only about ten years old. Five houses up on the same side of the street lived a family called Wright. Walter was their oldest son, a smashing boy. Some kind person slipped a firework in his pocket, the resulting burns to his leg were the end of him, he died of Pneumonia. A family called Tattersal lost their daughter at the age of Thirteen years. Today all those children would have lived as a result of the advance in medicine.


Sunday 3rd of September 1939 was to change all of our lives. Sitting in church at 11am Mass, Canon Prescot announced that a state of War existed between Gt Britain and Germany. The look on peoples faces was unbelievable, a deathly hush fell on the church as everyone tried to take in the consequences. At two o’clock we had our first air raid warning, everyone ran to the air raid shelters, but it was a false alarm.

Dad left his job at the bus company, to become an inspector at Euxton munitions factory near Preston and after several months he was promoted to Foreman. Six months later he went to Woolwich Arsenal on a ballistics course, and when he came back, he gave lectures to the managers at the factory. He stayed there until 1946.

In 1940, at the age of fourteen, I started work for a company of tea blenders, The Belfast, British and National Tea Company. I worked a five and a half day week, 44 hours, my wage was 8 shillings and six pence. During the first few weeks I was out on the vans and later I was given an apprenticeship in the garage, I loved it. The owner of the company was a gentleman called Fred Heaton, he started the business in the around the year 1900, in Berry St where I lived. He used to go round the streets selling tea from a Gladstone bag; he finished up with four depot's and forty vans. I remember being sent for by Mr Fred; I walked into this huge office panelled in Oak, there was Fred sat behind a large desk. He was a fat man and he had a great Gold Chain across his waistcoat. I stood in front of him frightened to death. He took out a silver case from his pocket and slowly took out a silver Three penny Piece. He said ‘I have been keeping my eye on you and you are working hard, so I have decided to treat you’. I could not get out of his office quick enough. Bert Marsh was my head mechanic, he was a great person. I was soon stripping engines. After several months I was asked if I would be able to build one up. There was an engine in pieces in the cleaning tank, it took me two days but when I had finished Bert said ‘that's very good but I want you to set the timing and get it running’. When I had finished the engine, I turned the key and it started first time.

Rationing was introduced. Each person had a weekly allowance of 2 ounces of Tea, 4 oz of Sugar, 4 oz of Meat, one Egg, two oz of Bacon, and two oz of Butter or Lard. There was no fruit to be had at all. Occasionally a sign would appear on a shop window; one onion per family. Beer was also in short supply, so a friend of mine called Jack Axon decided to make his own. The Customs men got the tip off and they found extra strong ale in his bath. He was fined £300 which was a vast amount in those days.

At the age of sixteen I could drive (self taught). On duty at the Fire Station one Friday night the Fire Alarm sounded, and, as our driver had not arrived, the section leader asked if anyone could drive. I was the only one to answer. He told us that a Mill in Derby St was on fire and that the product of the factory was highly inflammable. I backed out the fire engine and off we went. On arriving at the incident, a very senior Fire Officer jumped into my vehicle and we drove to Winckley Square to pick up some Hoses. On our way he asked how old I was. I answered ‘sixteen’. His retort was you have to be twenty one to drive a Fire engine! ‘Beggars cannot be choosers’ I said, ‘do not tell a soul’ was his reply. We arrived back at the scene of the Fire and I was on duty until eight am.

Christmas Eve 1942 Mr Marsh sent me out in a van with two of our drivers, Jimmy Hill and Freddy Woods. I had to sit in the back, our destination was the Fylde. After they had made a few deliveries and toasted the customers at each one, they were in no fit state to drive. By late afternoon we were lost. At that time we could not ask people for directions because there was a fear of spies; there were no sign posts and to make matters worse there was no street lighting or car headlights. We ended up in a farm yard. Fred had a chat with the farmer I saw a pound pass over, the next thing three live ducks were thrown in the back of the van and on to my knees. We arrived back at work around 8pm and it was suggested that we go to the Avenham Hotel, I pointed out that I was only 16 years of age but they said I could have non alcoholic drinks, so I agreed. Inside the pub I was given a small glass of what looked like beer, but was told it was Ok, I had about five of the them and I was pie-eyed. I set off home with a duck on a string, arriving home I knocked on the door, Mum answered it, our cat saw the duck, the bird flew and wrecked the lovely table set for a party. Dad said ‘let me smell your breath’. Bang! that was the end of my partying for one night. The duck was given to a poor family up our street.

During that period the Germans were bombing all the major cities and towns, all the kids used to go up to the Top Walks to watch the planes dropping bombs on Liverpool and Manchester. We could hear the German aircraft flying over Preston, they had a strange sound, not like British bombers. One night in August 1940, a bomb fell on the roof of St Mary's vicarage in Brockholes View, there were no casualties. A bomb dropped in Ashleigh Street and broke all the windows. Also in August a bomb fell on a petrol dump on Moor Park. An incendiary bomb fell on a house next to English Martyrs Church, the same plane dropped one on Sacred Heart School in Ashton.

A very good friend of mine was married and she went to live in Lostock Hall with her in-laws. On October 27th 1940 a bomb was dropped and destroyed 3 houses. Twenty seven people were killed. Margaret’s Father in Law, Mother in Law and Brother in Law dived under the stairs and were all killed, Margaret and her new husband got under the table and they did not have scratch on them. A lone German Plane had machine gunned Leyland Motors a week earlier, killing three people, and injuring eighty. It was shot down over the river Ribble towards Freckleton.

Several Belgian families were billeted in the old school next to our house, I was very friendly with one family. The father owned his own boat and he had escaped from the Germans bringing many of his friends with him. We were very good pals right up to them going home after the end of hostilities. I have often regretted not keeping in touch with them.

I arrived at work one morning, went to put the key in the garage door when there was a violent explosion, the door started shaking and all the windows shook, later that day we were informed that a petrol tanker had blown up in Preston dock, all the Chinese crew and the Dutch Captain were killed. There was a great deal of speculation about how it could have happened, the conclusion we came to was that the tank must have been full of gas and someone had a cigarette when the Tank was being cleaned, we never did find the answer.

By now, American Troops were in Preston in large numbers. The pubs in town were packed with them. They were big spenders, so the ladies were in close attendance. In 1943 Bamber Bridge was a depot for the coloured American troops. One night, at the Hob Inn, a barmaid refused to serve the black troops after 10 o-clock and the white Military Police were called. Because one of the men had no pass he was arrested, there was a scuffle and a fight ensued. News of the trouble got back to the army camp in Mounsey Rd, the coloured troops raided the armoury and stole hundreds of guns. A white officer was shot, he was seriously wounded. Shooting went on all through the night, the result was that a black soldier was shot dead. Things were brought under control a day later. The ringleaders were given prison sentences of 15 years.

Warton was developing into a giant airfield, Flying Fortresses and Liberator Bombers were numerous. August 23rd 1944 a Liberator crashed on the school in Freckleton killing 38 infant school children and 23 adults. The plane was caught in a thunder storm returning from a test flight, it struck a tree and exploded in a class room covering every where in burning fuel. The children were buried in a mass grave in Freckleton. The American air crews paid for a community centre as a permanent Memorial. Each year the air crews come over to pay their respects to the dead children.


On my 18th birthday I received a letter from His Majesty The King inviting me to report to Ballykinlar camp in the Mourne mountains. On the twenty third of January, I caught a train to Carlisle. Mum and Dad came to wave me off. I arrived at lunch time, had a meal, and set off for Stranraer to catch a Ferry. The crossing was very rough, and I was sick most of the journey. I was looking forward to my new life, but what a shock I was in for!

Breakfast at six, porridge with salt, and rissoles. What a great start. Off to collect my uniform, no man with a tape measure, just a lance jack [Lance-Corporal] throwing the gear that he thought would fit, and boy did it fit! Just where it touched; my underpants were past my knees, vest, way past my calves, the uniform jacket was to be seen to be believed. Outside, on parade, was the next order. We marched to the Barber shop, ‘excuse me Sergeant I went to the hairdressers yesterday’. ‘Son’ he said, ‘I'm standing on your hair!’ I really had a trim! One nice boy slipped the butcher a 10/-note and he came out with no hair. That’s the Army!.

My six weeks at Ballykinlar was very hard, the weather was bad, with snow on most days, but the lads were a good crowd, and we had plenty of laughs. There was a large canteen called Sandy’s Home about a mile from camp where we could just about afford to buy a cup of tea. The price of a meal was around 7d; the sting in the tail was that there was a charge of 1/- for each piece of cutlery. The only people that could afford were the Americans, because their pay was so high they thought that the whole meal was cheap at 3 shillings & sixpence. They just left their plates after eating, we waited in the background to pounce, took the tools back to the counter and collected the three shillings. When you think, my pay was only seven shillings per week, it was hardly a king's ransom.

Every morning I walked to Sandy’s Home, the canteen, and purchased a bucket of tea, the price 12p, and carried it a mile back to the camp. All thirty of our squad paid me an old penny each for their pint of tea. I did this every day for six weeks, and on the last day of our training I asked if someone else would get the brew. No one would volunteer to go, so I just bought a jug for myself; they were sick when I sat on my bed drinking the tea. The lesson I learned on that occasion stood me in good stead. Just before I left Ireland, on completion of my training, I had a series of ability tests, apparently these were to decide the type of unit that I would be sent to. And, yes it was true; they did put Bromide in our Tea!

On to the ship, and back to the English countryside. Catterick was my destination, my first memory was a massive Tank in the entrance of the camp, I asked the sergeant what the huge vehicle was doing there. ‘That’s what you will be driving in an hour’s time’, he said. He was right; after I left my kit in the barracks we were taken to the Tank park, no lessons, just ‘get in the driving seat Titch’. I obliged. As I was driving over the moors, my foot got stuck under the siren bar situated beneath the clutch pedal. I could not change gear and it was rather a panic stricken young soldier for about two minutes. I changed my underpants when I got back! Most of the next eight weeks was spent learning how to maintain and service the Sherman M10 Tank Destroyer. It weighed approx 40 tons, carried a 17 pounder gun, a 0.5 inch machine gun, 70 shells, 12 hand grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition. It was great driving over the Moors until going back to camp at the end of the day (it was not like washing off a Mini). Every thing on a tank is very heavy, even the hatch weighed over a hundredweight, but I soon got the knack of it.

A couple of weeks later when I went to my room to get ready for guard duty, someone had used my mess tins for their tea. They were filthy, and they had to be ready for inspection the following day, so I opened the window overlooking the square and threw the contents out. There was a shout from below. It was Sergeant Major Calvert covered in tea leaves. He ordered the squad outside, and asked who was responsible. I was scared stiff, I admitted that it was me after a lot of heart searching. He made us dismiss from the parade ground on the double, I slipped on the gravel and my knees were bleeding and trousers were torn. I went to the doc and he asked what had happened. When I explained to him, he told me to leave it with him. The Sergeant Major was very friendly after that. It turned out that it was a cardinal rule that running off the Square was forbidden.

I was very keen on cleaning and pressing my equipment which in a way helped me to have a easier life, you see, all the time I was in the army in England I was picked as stickman each time I was rostered to do guard duty. This was a tradition going back centuries, out of all the men who were picked to be a guard, the smartest man on parade was relieved of that duty, I was very proud to hold the record for dodging that boring job.

I had served in the Army for sixteen weeks and still not been on leave and I was becoming very home-sick. In those days there were no phones in our street so there was little contact with home apart from the odd letter. A pass was given to me for 48 hours leave; I thought it was my Birthday, it was brilliant! That is except for a huge blister on my heel, anyhow I saw Mum and Dad and that is what I wanted.

I had some really good pals, two of them had been prisoners of war in Italy, and had escaped and walked 300 miles, mostly at night until they reached British lines. Geordie Dodds and Nobby Hall, they were both much older than I, and had been in the Army from 1937. They helped me in many ways and kept me out of trouble. Wales was our next posting. By this time I had passed my Driver Mechanic Armoured Fighting Vehicle qualification, and I was now a Fitter A.F.V. My pay was increased to £1- 8 shillings per week. Just a thought! An American doing the same job was paid £28-0-0 per week, no wonder fraternising with the fair sex was no go!

Conway was the advanced training depot, where we began our battle training; now we were really learning how to fight! Up at the crack of dawn, run up and down the hills, into a rowing boat and then we were thrown into the sea to make our way back for breakfast. If we did not do the above we spent an hour marching up and down the countryside, which I just loved. We had a good social life, Rhyl, and Llandudno were very close, so we had good weekends.

I met a young lady named was Pat Oakley who lived in Llandudno Junction. One night she asked me to meet her mother. The next Sunday I went round, as we chatted I mentioned that I came from Preston, and she said ‘that's strange, I was in Preston in the Great War’. I asked her where she lived. ‘St Augustine’s’ she replied. Apparently she had worked there as a maid. She told me that her pal had married a man called Ted Swindlehurst, who was the local Undertaker and a friend of my Dad. Then she dropped her bombshell; ‘I went out with man from St Augustine’s, his name was Frances Harrison’. It was my father; I was shocked to say the least.

One day, I was driving my tank round the back of Conway Castle. The road was very narrow so I had to reverse down the road to make a turn. When reversing a tank someone had to guide you back holding up both hands in front of their body. An officer called Captain Davies was doing the honours, unfortunately when another officer rode up on his motor cycle, Davies turned round to speak to him keeping his hands upright, as long as he kept this position I had to continue driving. There was great shout in my headset, a huge crash, and the tank was in the front room of a Semi. The lady of the house was cooking chips in the kitchen. Everyone was in a great panic, not at least me. A team of Royal Engineers re-built the front of the house later.

Three weeks after the accident I was marched, cap off, into the hall where the Brigadier general, and a row of officers sat, I had a captain to defend me. I was charged with being negligent. The case against me was brought by Captain Davies. The President of the court asked me if I had anything to say. I told him that I had followed my instructions and that the person responsible for guiding an A.F.V. in reverse had complete control. I explained to the court that the Captain was talking when he should have been watching me reversing. The Brigadier dismissed the charge. I waited outside and could hear Davies being roasted for trying to blame an innocent 18 year old for something he was not responsible for. The day after, he was posted to a new regiment!

There were many accidents involving the tanks. One of my pals was driving along the coast road when a steam roller approached; he tried to pass it but unfortunately he caught the large roller on the front, the thing just fell to pieces. Roadside walls were knocked down every day; a team of engineers followed us to repair our damage.

The invasion was now imminent. We were sent to Wokingham to join a new Regiment called The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. The patron of the Regiment was Queen Alexandra. Everyone that joined should have received a set of silver buttons and a cap badge, but because of things that happened later, I did not qualify! On our journey down to the new Regiment I met a Land Army girl. She worked at a farm near to our camp, so we arranged to meet the following Saturday in Reading, I was to meet her outside the Cinema at 2pm. I arrived in good time and as I stood there waiting, three other Land Girls came up to me and asked if I was waiting for a girl called Rita. I said that I was, and they gave me a message; Rita was married that morning. Later that day I saw her with a soldier, she ran across to me and said that she was sorry but her boyfriend had come home from Italy after telling his commanding officer that he had arranged to get married. He had been given special leave and a special licence. Well, what could I say; I was gobsmacked.

For miles around the camp there were tanks, trucks, ammunition dumps; not a lane was clear of equipment. D day was just around the corner! We were sent on leave, and things began to happen. I was glad that my regiment was to be in reserve. We embarked from Folkstone in an American Tank Landing Craft, which was flat bottomed and consequently rolled and pitched in the rough water. All the lads were sick and things were made worse by the food served up. It was typical American fayre; very greasy and unappetizing. We went across to France without equipment, and we expected to go into action soon. On landing I took out my Piano Accordion and all the lads gathered round singing ‘We’re Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line.’ A Free French Recording Van came up and they recorded our musical efforts.

A couple of days after landing in France I was invited along with Ronnie Lock, a pal of mine, to partake of liquid refreshment. The farmer and his wife and all their friends made such a fuss of us; out came the beer, pint after pint, litre after litre. After a while I said to Ron I am dying to spend a penny, he was the same. Neither of us could speak the language but we had a French English dictionary, I scanned it and found Toilet; ah, Lava, here it is, I pointed it out to the Farmers wife minutes later she returned with a bowl of cold water and a towel. We made our excuses and went outside.

That night they asked if we could sleep there, we asked the Captain if we could, and he said it was fine with him, we were shown our room and were informed that the room was their son’s who at the age of sixteen had been taken prisoner by the Germans. Behind a curtain was a row of shelves, and all his toys were still as they had been left, including a Drum. To get to our room we had pass through the old folk’s room. At about two o’clock I was awakened by the call of nature. A couple of minutes later Ron said he needed to go too, but the question was where. Not through the old people’s room, I know! The Drum! We put a puncture in it, the sound was enough to waken the dead. What to do with the contents? The Fan Light! I climbed on Ron’s back, opened the window, poured it out, and a very loud shout followed. There was a guard standing directly underneath. I would not say I was the flavour of the month.

Some weeks later, quite unexpectedly, a message came over the radio asking for six men to go to Rhyl to get some information on tank engines. I, along with Nobby Hall, arrived at the Hotel on the front. I should say ex Hotel, all there was in the place were a few cot beds, and a fire bucket filled with sand, that was it. We were informed that starting Monday, an intensive five day course was on the cards, and that we were still on active service! Nobby asked me if I would consider going home for the weekend, I said ‘no way’. I pointed out that we were still on active service and we could only travel three miles from our base. We set off at four pm, arrived at Manchester Railway Station at around seven thirty. The problems started when we tried to buy tickets for home, (no passes). I had not counted on Nobby’s ingenuity; he asked an air force man who was stood behind the barrier, to get tickets to Preston and Hull, he got them for us, and off I went on my unexpected weekend leave. I had brought a huge bunch of black grapes for my Dad as we had not seen any for years. For Mum, a bottle of French Perfume. In her excitement she dropped the bottle and it broke. She was so upset! Years later she still got down on her knees to smell her real French perfume.

On Monday morning I returned to Rhyl at eight am; I had the shock of my life, no beds, in fact the place was deserted. I ran to the front door to see if I was in the right building and at the door were two Military Policemen. ‘Are you Harrison? ’‘Yes’ I answered. ‘We have had all the MP's in Rhyl looking for you all weekend’. ‘Where are my pals? ’I asked. ‘They are back on the Continent’ was their answer. I was put in the back of a jeep and driven to the commanding officer, cap off, and march in. The charge of desertion was read out, and the C.O. asked me, ‘How old are you?’ I told him 18 and he said ‘I want your civvy age not your army age, why did you go home?’ I told him that it might have been the last time I would see my family. He was quiet for a moment and then said ‘one day’s Royal warrant’. That means one day’s pay stopped. I could not believe that he had let me off so lightly. I marched out and stood outside, when who should march in but Nobby, with a Military Policeman on each side of him. I gave him the thumbs up, signalling that things had gone well for me, and waited outside for my pal. When he eventually came out he looked grim, in his hand was a large envelope. ‘What was his verdict?’ I asked. ‘28 days field punishment’, which is every soldiers dread. He explained that because he was deemed to be on active service in Europe, the punishment must be served there. In the envelope were our charge sheets and railway tickets to Aldershot. We caught the train and ten minutes out of the station Nobby opened the envelope took out the charge sheets and tore them to shreds. He then threw them out of the window. I said ‘You must be mad’ and he just laughed. We arrived at about two o’clock, and went to the office. The first thing we were asked was if we had had a leave pass since our return from France. “No Sir!" was our retort. ‘I will grant you a week’s leave, report back here next Tuesday’. We never looked back!

After returning we were sent to new Units, Nobby to the Airborne Division, and me to the Guard’s Armoured Division, the 21st Anti Tank regiment. They had seen lots of action already, I was soon driving my A.F.V. and hearing the horrible sound of the German 88mm guns, they certainly made your hair stand on end!. The Division moved very quickly through Belgium, Louvain, Brussels, into Holland. The airborne division had dropped over Arnhem, and we were trying to reach them. The problem was that we kept getting mixed up with the German troops and kept joining their retreating columns. They even left their stores. We would take them in day time, then they took them in the night. One of the things I used to worry about was going to the toilet when in action, the truth is that it never entered my mind when the shells were flying.

One day, while I was waiting to go into action, I said to the wireless operator ‘I want so much to go to confession’. Within a minute or two a priest came up and asked me if I would like my confession heard, so I climbed down and stood with him at the back of a little church. The relief I felt was indescribable.

We were trying so hard to reach the Airborne troops but it was too far. We were stopped at Nijmegan, the Polish troops were badly mauled at Arnhem bridge, many of them lost their lives The next few weeks were spent doing maintenance, but we made some attacks on the towns close to the Rhine, Bonninghart, was a pretty hairy battle! I think that was the most scary time of my life; we were shelled all night. The next morning, when we saw a German 88mm gun being dug in, we asked our officer to knock it out but he was in a blue funk, six of the Welsh Guard Cromwell Tanks were knocked out, driving down the hill by that one gun. I suspect that most of the crews would have died, because of his cowardice. Shortly after that we heard a thunderous roar in the distance, as it came nearer we saw the most incredible sight; three thousand bombers. They dropped their bombs on a town called Wesel, not very far from us. The planes were crashing into each other as they headed back home.

Life in a Tank was not very pleasant. There were five men in the crew, an officer, or sergeant, a gun loader, the layer, who sighted and fired the gun, a wireless operator, and yours truly, the driver. Space was at a premium. When in action we ate and slept in our seats, as you can imagine it got pretty high with all the hatches closed. We cooked when we could, taking turns about. The rations were pretty good, and we had a ration pack every three days. They varied quite a lot, there was sausage (out of a tin), bacon, stew, hot pots, just like mother used to make, tinned fruit, dried milk, tea and sugar, oh, and cheese & biscuits. We cooked our food on a half a biscuit tin filled with sand, and a pint of petrol, it was very efficient. Of course when we were under fire, there was no grub!. Each member of the crew took it in turn to do the cooking for the day, we used to live off the land at times, pinching eggs or the odd chicken, once or twice a pig managed to be purloined and then it was all hands to the pump! Shortage of water was a very bad problem. I went about eight weeks without taking my clothes off, we had about a pint of water each per day when in action, on many occasions men used their tea to have a shave, thank goodness I was devoid of whiskers.

Just a day or so after Christmas, the German tanks broke through the American lines in the Ardennes. We were ordered to be ready to move in one hour. Our first stop was at a town called Berg-Leopold, in Belgium. At two pm we were informed that there was a mobile shower on the main square. It was a boiler connected to about fifty metres of pipe, and surrounded by a Hessian wall. When we entered the shower we had to hand in all our dirty clothes, all we kept was our steel helmet and boots, the water was turned on, and just as we were soaping ourselves, the Germans came over at tree top height, in fact you could see the pilot’s faces. They were machine-gunning everything in sight. We all ran, helmets in a strategic place. There were civilians running all-over the place. We ran naked into a bar and sat on a bench, helmets on our knees, as waited for half an hour, and the all clear.

It was New Years Eve, we had no money so we went down a street known as Petticoat Lane. Each of us took one of our blankets and 50 cigarettes to sell and we managed to get around 600 francs for our trouble. Each of us bought a bottle of Brandy, and the owner of a cafe said ‘you can drink that here if you buy my beer’. We agreed, and you can imagine the state we were in by midnight. I lost my overcoat and by now the snow was coming down. I went back to my tank and to my horror someone had stolen my only blanket; a very cold start to the New Year .

We continued on our journey in very bad weather. Driving a tank in the snow is not exactly fun, as the large fan at the back of the gun compartment sucked all the cold air through the drivers hatch, and after a few hours you felt like an Ice Lolly. By this time the roads were very bad, covered in ice. As we moved into Louvain, my tank began to slide down a hill. I could not stop, the weight was too much. Unfortunately my 17 pounder gun went through a pub window, just one of those things. The proprietor was rather upset.

As we neared the Ardennes we were amazed. The Americans were moving out carrying beds and even pianos on their waggons. There were hundreds of them retreating. Apparently there were German troops who had been dropped by Parachute dressed as G.I.s, who were directing traffic to confuse the Americans. The only Yanks that were still fighting were the Second Division. All the troops were Afro-Americans, and they were equipped with little Honey Tanks carrying a 37mm gun. The Germans knocked hell out of them. By now there was at least 3 feet of snow everywhere. We went into action the day after; it was so cold that my sergeant had to reach over the top of the Tank and had to rub my face to clear the ice from my eyebrows . We were billeted in a small town called Jodoigne, sleeping on the floor of an old cinema. At least it was warm!

My Dad sent me a half a pound of fresh coffee, the locals had had no real coffee since the start of the war. They drank a brew made from roasted acorns. I met a family called Peters, I mentioned to the daughter that I had some of the golden liquid and I went to her home to meet her family. The Father was in his eighties, I asked him if he would like a brew. In the centre of the kitchen was a round stove. The old man put the coffee in an huge pot and stood it on top of the stove, when it was brewed every one filled their cups, you could hear the "ahs" and "woos" from every one in the room. It was lovely. When the pot was empty he did not throw away the empty grounds but just added more coffee. We sat up all night talking and drinking, it really was a memorable night.

We were in action several times until the Germans were stopped in their advance, we left the area and returned to Holland, all our energy was devoted to maintenance, and preparing for the Rhine crossing. The fateful day came, and we were given the order to move. Our column set off at around eight pm; it was quite dark and lights out was the routine. Following a tank close up was very unpleasant; diesel fumes from the twin engines belched out causing breathing problems, and the darkness was no help. As we neared our destination, there were masses of vehicles, the likes of which I had not seen before, coming from all directions. Guns of every size, tanks, half track vehicles, Bren-Gun carriers, scout Cars, armoured cars, every type you could imagine. And then Monty’s Moonbeams were switched on (these were Searchlights) and the river was illuminated. By now the guns were opening up, and the Royal engineers were building a Bailey Bridge on barges. Our turn came to cross; it was very frightening, the barges were moving up and down with the weight, and the tracks kept bumping on the side because of the narrowness of the bridge, also it was comparatively dark. Added to this, the heavy gunfire was very worrying, not knowing who's shells were who's, we had no sleep for a couple of nights, but the crossing of the Rhine was a great success.

One of my pals was killed. He saw a Silver Salver in a trench and jumped down to get it. Unfortunately there was a booby trap attached to it. The Germans planted booby traps everywhere, they even placed them in the toilets attached to the chain, one pull and bang. One of the most frightening experiences I had was approaching a railway bridge which was blocked by hundreds of huge logs. The only way through was over the railway embankment which was very steep. Now driving up an incline meant that I was driving blind; you see, using the periscope, all that was visible was the sky until 17 feet had cleared the top of the embankment and then the tank was back on the level. Can you imagine! Knowing you could be seen several seconds before you dropped level. There was a loud explosion. Had we been hit? No, it was a Bren Gun carrier next to us, and it was burning fiercely. Suddenly all hell broke loose, it turned out that the vehicle was full of tins of food and they were blowing up with the heat.

It was a great shock to see the terrible state of Germany, everything was wrecked. It was very depressing seeing the glum faces of the population and I was ready for home.

We attacked the Reichwald forest. The German snipers were tied to the top of the trees, many of them were no more than children. One of my friends was shot and killed. He was given the last sacraments by my cousin Jack. His name was Patrick O'Neil, and he had lived in the next street to me. A German soldier with his head bandaged was sat on the side of the path I was driving along. As I approached him he jumped out in front of the Tank. Nothing I could have done would have saved him; he was crushed. I did not eat for days. I found his haversack and in it were some freshly pressed handkerchiefs which suggested that he had just been home. There was a photo of him holding a horse. He looked about forty years of age. What a waste of life.

I was on guard duty at around midnight, on the banks of the River Ommersum. German troops were about 50 metres away on the opposite bank. It was a cold night and suddenly there was a splashing sound, my imagination started to work overtime. I pictured the Germans rowing across the river. The more the splashing, the more my nerves were on edge. One of the other guards came to investigate; along the river bank were about half a dozen rats. What a relief!

Our major was a real popinjay. His name was Tuesau and he travelled in a Honey Tank, on the back of which was his own special toilet. Each time we stopped for the night his batman had to dig a hole and erect the loo. One evening we entered a huge estate. A German, obviously a high ranking person, I remember he had he had a sabre scar on his left cheek, approached the Major. He said the officers could sleep in the large castle-like building, the other ranks were to make do with the barn. This was a very high structure and very long. We settled down in the straw to have a sleep. We chatted for a while and I realised that for its size, the building had strange dimensions; the ceiling was very low and was made of new wood. I mentioned this to my Sergeant and we decided to explore. Finding a trap door, we decided to be nosey. I got on his shoulders opened the door and had a great shock; there were rows of legs of ham, sides of bacon, and dozens of large sausages. There were literally hundreds of pieces of preserved meat. It was unbelievable; like looking into a pork factory. At the time our rations were very low, so I dropped legs of ham down to the boys. They were in raptures. Morning came and I was duty cook for our tank crew. We had a super breakfast, but what was I to take to the Major, who was by now sat on his Throne! Sgt Evans told me to fry him a slice of bread with an egg in the middle, which I did. Tuesau nearly blew a fuse. ‘Can I smell Bacon?’ said he. ‘If you can get me a slice, I will forget what I said about looting”. He got his slice! He finished his career as a General, in Ireland.

As the days passed by, more and more Germans surrendered and rumours abounded; the war was about to end, but it was another month before we heard over our radio that midnight was in fact the official deadline. Oldenberg was to be where we would accept the surrender of the German Forces. I was on one side of the street, rifle at the ready, and across the street were the men with whom we had been at war for six years, it was a very strange feeling, it was unreal. At midnight the Germans laid their arms down and were taken to the cages. I, along with a chap who in civvy street played piano for Lew Praegar’s band, one of England’s top musicians before the War, were invited into the home of a doctor. He had lost his leg in the Africa campaign. We sat there listening to Smithy playing Chopin on their Piano. Can you imagine the thoughts going through our minds; one hour earlier we were deadly enemies.

The day after the war ended our destination was Cuxhaven. We were given two litres of rum for each tank crew. It just happened that none of our crew liked the spirit, so yours truly drank more than was good for me; I was incapacitated for three days. The attitude of the local people was very cocky; they went out of their way to tell us what marvellous soldiers the Germans were, showing us maps of the areas that had been captured by them shaded in black. Our retort was to tell them that we were moving out and that the Russians were taking over. Their attitude changed dramatically.

There was to be a great Victory parade and Brigadier General Alan Adair was to take the salute. We had to clean the vehicles and bull our kit. The parade was very impressive, and then came the sting in the tail! The big man made a speech, thanking everyone for the great effort, and as an aside mentioned that the young ones would possibly have to go to the Far East to fight the Japs. Within a week I was on my way.

My first stop was a town called Gennep on the border. I went to find an old friend of mine, a Corporal called John Grey, who we had left there when we passed through earlier. Our Commanding Officer, had decided to let him stay there because of his age and because had a large young family. However, I was told that a vehicle had knocked him down the day the War ended. He was dead. A consolation came later that day, Nobby Hall who had got the 28 days field punishment in Rhyl, was also in the camp. When we had split up he was posted to the Sixth Airborne Division, and had been on all the parachute jumps in Germany. We had a good old natter. That day I made a vow that I would never go to that Hell Hole again. Death and destruction were the only memories that I had of Adolf’s Kingdom.

A group of us set off by truck to Ostend, taking two days to get there. On arrival we boarded a naval ship, and were on our way home. Being an inquisitive person I looked into a small locker room and I saw a large parcel. There was a ring hanging from it which I proceeded to pull. Wow! it was a gigantic life raft; in seconds the room was full. I beat a hasty retreat. Our destination was Dover. To see the white cliffs again was a real treat. Next stop was Woolwich Army Depot, where I collected my pass and railway ticket before setting off for the happiest train journey of my life. To express my feeling of relief would be impossible. The sound of guns was just a dream from the past.

I walked into our house; it looked so tiny! Mum and Dad had no idea that I was coming home, and were so relieved that I was in one piece. My cousin Frank was home after spending three years as a prisoner of war, after being captured at Tobruk in Libya. Frank was a wireless operator in the Royal Tank Corps, and we had some good nights out! We went out one night in our civvies, I asked a pub landlord for two pints of beer, he served Frank but refused to pull me a drink saying ‘you are still wet behind the ears sonny’. I was most annoyed, and after showing him my pay book he gave me a free pint.

Next to our house lived a lady called Gerty Buckles, who had a sister called Joan. We decided to have a night out at the Bridge Inn, and Shaw’s Arms, and ended up truly intoxicated. On our way home along the river side, Frank jumped across the brook, Gerty followed. It was now my turn; a successful leap. Joan followed and straight into the middle she went! Talk about wet from top to bottom! We rolled her in the long grass, trying to dry her, but it was a waste of time. The poor lass was scared of what her Mum would say.

It was a brilliant leave. My brother Frank came home for a couple of days and invited Dad & Mum to Liverpool for the Blessing of the Submarine in which he was serving. While I was stood at the dock gates talking to him (I had not been invited) his Captain passed and asked Frank who I was. When he explained that I had no invitation, the Skipper took me on board. I would not have served on a Sub for a thousand pounds a week. Mum climbed down the Conning Tower backwards way, how she missed breaking her neck I will never know! The accommodation in the Sub was very poor, it was very short of space. In fact my brother had to walk about with his head bent, it was so low every where you went.

After my leave I reported back to Woolwich. One day we were asked to volunteer for a job in a civilian bakery. I thought it would be a bit of a skive, and that there would be some free grub. The next morning I reported to the boss at five am. He showed me how to put the bread into the oven. When it was ready we had to put a large paddle like tool into the oven and lift the eight loaves out. That was 16 pounds weight on the end of a stick, resulting in eight loaves on the floor and the sack. I next volunteered to work in the canteen, where they gave me the position of chip cutter. First potato, missed the spud, cut my hand! I decided to stick to a soldier’s life.


The time for us to leave England had arrived and we were kitted out with our eastern clothes. I was not looking forward to meeting the Japs face to face. We left Southampton, on a ship called the Durban Castle which had been a luxury liner before the War. I was on the bottom deck next to the engine room, where it was very noisy and very warm. We slept in hammocks which took some getting used to. There were three hundred men on this deck, and at meal times it was quite an experience trying to find space to eat our food in comfort.

By the time we reached the Red Sea the temperature was in the high 90s. You could wash a blanket, and in three minutes it was bone dry. We were by now trying to find space on the top deck. I found a space under a ventilator, laid my bedding down and a six foot guy picked it up, threw it at one side and put his own in its place. Nobby Hall, who was walking on the deck, saw what was happening and gave this guy one to remember. Oh to be six foot six.

There was a panic one morning when a Submarine surfaced very close to us. There was an alert, it was really terrifying, the Red Sea was renowned for its shark population. We all lay on the deck saying our prayers, but fortunately it turned out to be a Dutch Sub.

As we approached India there was a radio message that the American Air Force plane Enola Gay had dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. We did not appreciate what that meant until the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The captain spoke to us over the loud speaker and told us that the Japanese had surrendered. He explained about the power of the atomic weapon, and that hundreds of thousands of people had died.

We laid off about seven miles the coast of India. There was a very unpleasant smell, which one of the crew said was coming from Bombay, but I could not believe that a pong like that could come from a city. The day after, as we drew closer, there was a mass of colour on the land, which turned out to be the turbans and the gaily colour clothes of the dock labourers, who apparently just lay down after they had finished work, as they did not have homes to go to.

We took a train to a town called Deolali, which was the biggest Military depot in India. On the journey a man selling watches came into our carriage. He had dozens of them on a tray. We asked how much he was charging; 5 rupees was his price, which was about three shillings. One of the lads bought one, but ten minutes later he noticed that although it was still ticking, the fingers had not moved. He took the back off and inside was a beetle. He dashed out of our carriage and found that half the troops had been conned! As we travelled on, a fruit Walla came up to us with a large basket on his head containing mangoes, limes, oranges, passion fruit and bananas. When you think that none of this had been seen in England from 1939, and it was now 1945, the reaction was evident; we all stuffed ourselves. I especially went for the Bananas- did I enjoy them!

At the camp I had a medical, followed by tea and bed. It started at about ten pm. First a feeling that I needed to go to the loo, (it was about 40 Metres across a muddy road to the Latrine) once there the pain began, excruciating would be putting it mildly. I crawled back to my bed, covered in mud, lay down for a couple of minutes and back to you know where. This time I set off back but passed out in the mud and someone carried me back to the hut. The doctor came to me and diagnosed dysentery. What have you been eating? Bananas, was my answer, ‘I am afraid that was your enemy’ said the Doc. I was taken to hospital and I lost two stones weight in a few days. I had my own Punka Walla, he was on duty all night bringing me bed pans, and keeping me cool.

A week later I was in bed covered with a mosquito net and chatting to my next door neighbour. It was quite dark and suddenly a man called out for me to keep quiet. He shouted ‘I will sort you out tomorrow!’ Come the dawn and my net was lifted up; a man was stood over me. He was going to sort me out. However it turned out to be a neighbour, Wilf Eastham, who lived in the same street as me at home. We became very good pals. He also had dysentery, but a more virulent type which proved to be the cause of his death five years later.

One of my dreams at that time was to sit down to a really good English type meal. Thinking that India was the last place to get my dream meal, I could not have been more mistaken. Wilf took me into an Indian restaurant where there was a menu full of all the dishes for which I had longed; steak, onions, chips and two eggs, Banana Fritters and fresh cream. This was luxury indeed and it only cost a shilling!

On my recovery I was posted to the Eighth Field Regiment Royal Artillery, at a place called Karackvasla, which was an extinct volcano. I learned to swim in a caldera lake formed in the basin, no one knew the depth, but it was reputed to be the deepest in India. The heat was oppressive, it was still the monsoon season and we all had prickly heat, so we spent a great deal of time in the water. We had to wear our shoes walking on the Lava rock, otherwise burnt feet would have resulted in hospital treatment. On the lake was a raft, about one hundred yards from the shore. I had never swum as far as that but one of my pals said I could manage the distance. I dived in, and after about half the distance I was gasping for breath. I reached my destination and lay on the Raft for about 10 minutes. Then the sky opened, it was a monsoon shower. All the lads dived off and left me on my own. I plucked up courage and slid into the water, but before I got to the land my lungs were bursting and I thought I was going to drown. It was my last swim in that lake.

After a month we moved to Poona, where was more to see and the bazaar was a good place to buy a bargain. I enjoyed bartering with the stall holders and, believe me, they certainly knew how to do just that. You could bid them down from 50 rupees to 20 with a little patience and cheek. There was a canteen called Lady Lumly's in the main street. I went there one day and found that a dance was in progress, and, typical of the British army's class distinction, there was a rope across the floor separating the officers from the other ranks. To make it more absurd, the only women were on the officers side of the rope.

In the camp we were constantly pestered by people with all sorts of skills; Ear-clean-it wallas, Corn-remove-it Wallas, Tailors, Cobblers, Fruit Wallas, Char Wallas, Hair-cut-it Wallas, Dhobi Wallas, you name it, there was one. I bought my first Ball Pen just about that time, it was a new invention, and cost three pounds, which was a great deal of money. One morning it went missing. I saw a young boy no more than eight years of age hanging about the camp, so I asked him where my pen was. He immediately said that he had sold it to the village milkman. I reported it to the Military Police and a couple of days later I was told to go to the village Police Station. In the cells was the little boy, with a big black eye. I asked what was going on and the Sergeant said he was being charged in court the next day. I said that I would not press charges and he was freed later that day. The Police had given him a beating to make him confess.

I met a pal of mine walking in the town, Fatty Bennett, whose dad owned the fish shop in Newhall Lane, and later was to be the owner of Bennett’s Frozen Foods. It is surprising that seven thousand miles from home I was to meet up with two people I knew in such a short time. I was to meet another friend from work several days later, we spent some time reminiscing and wishing we were back home working for a living. John and I went to the cinema; it was a three hundred mile round trip, but it was such a big country that miles meant nothing.

I was teaching a Sergeant to drive a three ton truck. One afternoon we were driving along the Kirkee Bye Pass and in front of us was a Churchill Tank. Sat in the turret were two Indian soldiers, who were acting silly and not taking notice of what was happening behind them. I told Sergeant Finch to overtake and as we got along side the tank the driver did a right turn. The track started to tear into our vehicle; I could feel us being dragged down. The tearing of metal was terrifying. My seat was torn from under me and I passed out. When I came to, the track was pressing on my leg and my back, I looked up and Finch was still gripping the steering wheel. His head was cut right across from ear to ear. Someone freed his hands from the wheel and lifted him out of the cab, but it took several minutes to free me. I lay on the footpath, and some clot put a cigarette in my mouth. A passer by said that they would give me a drink of brandy, but a woman said ‘No, he’s too young’.

By this time I was in a great deal of pain. My left trouser leg, and my boot top were missing and I was covered in blood. An ambulance arrived and took me to Poona Hospital. The door opened, a voice asked ‘What’s his name?’ ‘Harrison’ someone said. The person looked in, it was my Uncle Jim, Mum's Brother-in-Law! They carried me into the Medical room and he looked at the damage. He poured Gentian Violet all over, saying, ‘take him back to camp and he will be O.K’. They took me on the back of a truck, by this time I was in agony. Someone put a pair of pyjamas on me and lifted me into bed. The doctor came took my temperature, it was 103F. They took me to a Cottage Hospital, gave me pain killers and left me for the night.

The doctor came to see me in the morning, my temperature was very high, and he decided that I should be sent back to Poona. On arrival I was put in a room on my own, a nurse appeared and proceeded to stick pins in my thumb, I said ‘Why are you doing that’? He said ‘I am testing you for Malaria’. ‘I have been involved in an accident’ was my retort. He tried to take my pyjamas off, but my leg was so swollen he had to cut them off, -not my legs, just my jamas. From my thigh to my toes was one big bruise, and my leg was twice its normal size, they transferred me to the surgical ward. It had 300 beds and was just like an Aircraft Hanger As a result of my Uncle's stupidity I spent nine months in Poona Hospital. It was 49 years before I got my pension.

There was a Court of Enquiry in the hospital. A Brigadier conducted it and he said that if I had been in the co-drivers seat I would have been killed, as the seat was found under one of the Tank tracks. I explained to him that I had been sat on that seat. Someone must have been looking after me that day! For the next two years I had recurring nightmares.

One day a soldier was put in the next bed to me, he was suffering from Polio and could only move his head. I used to feed him and he said to me ‘Don’t you know me?’ I replied no. He was so thin. He told me to look at the photograph in his wallet; it was the six foot six man who had thrown my bed off the deck on the ship. His chances of life were very poor and he was sent home to Scotland.

One night I heard a noise like an animal running, I reported it to one of the nurses and a trap was set. The next night, at about two am there was such a scream, there was a Bandicoot in the trap, a rat like creature as big as a cat, the noise it made wakened the whole ward, apparently they had been trying to catch it for weeks.

By the time I was ready to leave the hospital my regiment had gone down south of India. Two weeks passed and I was told that I could leave Hospital in three weeks time, so I enjoyed the few days that I had left in Poona. I went to the races one day, and the horse that I backed threw its jockey. It was entered in the last race as well, this time it won with six lengths to spare. Only two people had backed it the second time, and they received 25 thousand rupees prize money. Most of the time I helped in the Hospital Radio Station. I started to enjoy Classical Music, the man who ran the station played quite a lot of Chopin, it was certainly something that has stayed with me all my life.

I left on the Great Western Railway, my destination was a city called Coimbatore. I was told it would take three to four days to get there. The railway carriage was very basic, with wooden seats and a bunk hung above my head. I was the only passenger, it was lonely but it was great to be on my own, or so I thought! The journey was some three thousand miles, I wondered what I would do for food, but as it turned out every station was filled with caterers. As soon as the train entered a station people appeared from nowhere, carrying trays of all types of delicious cuisine (sarcasm). I found out later that there was a Restaurant on board, and for 7/6d you could have a 5 course meal. The service was incredible; it was like being at the Savoy in London.

To see the change in the countryside was wonderful; mountains, valleys, jungle, paddy fields, huge rivers and lakes. I was at least seeing the world free of charge. As I referred to earlier, I was on my own, or so I thought. I put the light out and went to sleep and woke up minutes later and on the floor were dozens of bodies. They were non paying passengers who had been sitting on the roof until my light went out. On went the light, out went the bodies!

Arriving at the camp, I was given a cushy job ferrying top brass round the country. We traveled all over, checking that bridges were strong enough to carry tanks. I had a very good friend for a couple of years, his name was Eric Woodhouse, he came from Leyton in London, and he went home to England on demobilization at about this time. I missed him because he was such a jolly chap. Things were becoming quite volatile, as the population wanted us to quit India. Jai Ind signs were everywhere. One of our Sergeants died a horrible death; he was tied to the front wheel of a truck, petrol was poured over him and set on fire.

Our camp was at the foot of the Mysore Jungle. We used go out at night with a Lt Harry Backhouse, our quarry was the Jackal which had become a menace raiding the camp and stealing anything, even boots. We had a jeep equipped with a search light; you could see their eyes glowing in the dark. There were so many we could not make an impression on them. There were many animals: elephants, Samba deer, buffalo, all types of snakes, scores of monkeys, and the odd tiger. We went on a scheme for three days, and on our return the camp had been wrecked by a herd of elephants; the cook house and toilets were all demolished.

I went to the toilet one day, it was just palm leaves round a frame. I got comfy, looked up and above me, wrapped round a bamboo pole, was a Cobra. With shorts round my ankle I ran down the lines. One of the boys killed it with a spade, he later sent it home to be made into a hand bag. White ants were our biggest worry, if you left your boots on the floor they could eat through the soles overnight. We stood our bed legs in small tins filled with paraffin. Going to bed one night there was the sound of hundreds of bullfrogs croaking in the distance. As the sound increased literally thousands of flying white ants invaded our tents. As they flew around, the Bull Frogs came in great numbers. The ants fell to the ground and were eaten up by these huge frogs, which took them in and then spat out their wings. Talk about nature in the raw.

On parade one morning we were told that as all our cooks had been admitted to hospital, they were asking for volunteers to take over the cooking duties. I put my hand up and the following morning at 5am, I, along with an old Indian bearer, was set to cook the breakfast for 300. Porridge, 2 eggs each, tea and toast. The oven was a row of bricks, a corrugated sheet, a 5 gallon drum of oil and a drum of water. I had to light some rags under the tin, when it was hot I turned on the oil and water. To cook the eggs I filled a bath with oil and as they moved round to the opposite side I took them out cooked. When you think, 600 eggs, I thought I would never eat them again. One of the mysteries to me was that all the time I was in India I never saw one single duck and yet the only eggs you ever saw were duck eggs. The next day roast pork was on the menu. Two men came in the cookhouse carrying a pig each. They were covered in hair (the pigs). Having never been involved with cooking animals, I shaved off all the hair and cut them into joints as best I could, the only complaints I received were, ‘Where's the crackling?’ I forgot to tell them I had skinned the beasts! Christmas Day was quite difficult. I cooked a full dinner, not an easy task when the oven consisted of a 50 gallon oil drum with a sheet of metal for a shelf, we had Turkey, roast and boiled potatoes, three veg, and Christmas Pudding. That day I was so tired, but very satisfied! It was very strange to waken up on Christmas Day to a temperature of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Relief was to come from the hot climate, when we were posted to a hill station, it was called Wellington, Ootacamund, nine thousand feet up the Nilgris Mountain Range. It was like being in the Lake District; the weather was beautiful, very cool, and a little snow. I loved it. The camp kitchen there was ultra modern; huge steam boilers, electric ovens and refrigerators. After the primitive conditions of the plains, this was bliss!. I had an old Indian helper back at camp, he had never been anywhere in his life, when he saw all this high tech equipment he could not take it in. He would have worked 24 hours a day if I had let him. One day the men requested jam fritters for pudding. I started to mix the pastry, and a seven pound tin of curry powder fell off the shelf. Half of it spilled into the pastry. I dare not waste it so I carried on with the dish. After the meal there was a queue asking for seconds; they wanted to know the recipe.

I had my first ride on a horse, six of us set off over the hills, after a few minutes my pony decided to have a feed of grass, he moved to the edge off the track there was a sheer drop of some 3000 feet, his head went over the side and I bailed out, my first and last attempt at equestrian pursuits. We spent six weeks up in the hills, returning to camp was not something I was looking forward to. Driving down the mountain was very hair raising; there were thirteen hair pin bends, and sheer drops of thousands of feet, I was driving a truck, on the back of which I was towing a 25 pounder gun and a Limber with a total length of sixty feet. It was nice to reach the bottom.

Once we were back I was relieved of my cooking post, as the cooks were back, I was sorry in one way but I was given a good job; I was to spend the next few months traveling round the South of India. I visited towns in Portuguese Goa, Cochin, and Calicut, two beautiful places, Bangalore, the garden city of India, and Madras. It was much better than staying in one place, sampling the different cultures and traditions of which there were many.

While we were on one of our journeys we stopped for a brew, the cooks gave all the British soldiers a mug of tea but nothing for our Indian drivers. Let me explain, in the group we had 15 Army vehicles and 7 private cars driven by civilians. These cars were for the use of the high ranking officers who were in attendance. I offered my mug to one of these drivers, and he said ‘Are you sure you do not mind me drinking out of your cup?’ I said ‘not at all’. I filled the Pialla (cup) with Char (tea). He drank it, touching his lips, which is forbidden in the Hindu Religion. His remark to me was that because I had been so kind in offering the drink he would follow our way of drinking. Later we talked and it turned out he owned all the cars. He was a Rupee millionaire. I was invited to his daughter’s wedding, but unfortunately I could not attend.

On my return to the regiment I was offered a leave in Kashmir, in the very north of India. I packed up ready to go, and as I was about to board my transport I saw two of the men I had been with in Europe. I asked them where they were going, ‘to England on LIAP’, was their reply, which was special leave for any person who had spent more than three years overseas. I ran across to the adjutants office to ask why I was not going home on LIAP. He checked up and agreed that l was entitled to go but he said that all the places had been filled. I explained that I had had only three leaves since joining the Army so he called a sergeant in, spoke to him for a minute or two and then asked me if I would be prepared to cut the cards with the sergeant, and the winner would go home. I cut a king and it was my lucky day.

This was in February 1947, 6 months before partition of India. The journey to the coast in the back of a truck was decidedly not one to be recommended. We arrived in Bombay three days later, in the dock were several large liners: the Monarch of Bermuda, Empress of Canada, Durban Castle, Empress of Australia, and, wait for it, the S.S. Lancashire, a battered old coal-fired remnant from the first world war. Guess which ship was ours? You’re right - the tub!

We were packed like sardines in a can, and we were all given work to do on the ship. My duty was in the galley. Two days out and the weather was extremely rough. I went to help with the breakfast. Chef opened the huge oven and there before me were row after row of Bacon and sausages, the smell got to me and off I ran to the deck. I spent most of that journey with my head in a bucket. One of the ship’s crew who had befriended me during my illness asked me if I would do him a favour, he said that as he would not be able to go ashore when we docked, could I take a parcel home and post it on to his parents. I agreed although I thought the package was rather bulky. I opened it when I got home; inside were thousands of duty free cigarettes. If the Customs had looked in the case I would have been a guest of his Majesty.

The normal sailing time was 14 days, it took us 32. The weather was appalling. It took us three days to just cross the Bay of Biscay We reached the coast of Wales and lay off until dawn. It was snowing very hard so you can imagine that after living in a hot climate for so long it came as a shock. The ship docked in Liverpool the day after, and then came the good news; all forces with group numbers below 58 would not have to return to India. Mine was 57. We were told to go home for a month and then report to Woolwich. This was a real bonus. We were given a cup of tea and sent on our way, just one more hour and home.

Arriving at Preston station, I ran up the entrance, and looked up at the Town Hall to see the time, it was a mass of flames, as the water cascaded down the building it turned into ice. Fishergate was like a skating rink, I was so sad to see this beautiful building being destroyed before my eyes, never to be replaced. It was wonderful to be home, with Mum’s cooking, and to be able to sleep in my own bed.

On my first Sunday home went to see my Aunt Flo, Dad’s sister. Mum and Dad came with me. I knocked on the back door and hid round the corner, she put her head round and on seeing me she nearly squeezed me to death. We were the best of pals; we loved each other so much! She laid on a party for me a week later; all the Harrison clan were present and we had a lot to talk about! Every Sunday as a young lad I went to see her. There was always to a great welcome, she used to put the kettle on and made me toast with best butter. Margarine was not good enough for her favourite nephew!

I think now is the time to tell you more about our families. My Dad’s brother, John, was married to Peggy, they had 14 children, Jack, who became a priest, Jim, Frank, who was a German prisoner, Ted, he was a professor of classics, Barbara, she married an American Pilot who was shot down over Germany and escaped to Spain, Marie, Monica, Veronica, Rosa, Bernard, he was the private secretary to the Minister of Health for many years, Ursula, Theresa, and last but not least Brenda. A great family, they, or most of them accompanied me to Aunt Flo’s, regularly. Then there was Aunt Nellie who ran the fairground. She had one daughter, Dolly, but we did not see her very often, as she travelled with her Mum. There was Aunty Gertrude, we called her Gerty. She was married to Tom Wilding, a very nice, quiet man, and they had two sons, Gerald, and Terence. I was very friendly with Gerry until he became wealthy and then he did not want to know.

Back to Sunday mornings. We left Aunty Flo’s with at least twopence in our pockets, we used to say ‘lets call at Auntie Gerty’s’. It was the same story every time, ‘sorry kids, it’s broken week’, this meant she did not want to treat us!

The month’s leave soon passed and it was back to reality. I reported back to Woolwich Depot and I decided to try to find Eric Woodhouse. All I knew of his whereabouts was that he came from Leyton. I caught the train not knowing where to start. I came to a Leytonstone Rd, knocked on the first door that I came to. A lady came to the door and I said ‘I am looking for a young man’. She said ‘I know you; I have a photograph of you’. Yes, it was Eric’s mother, she said he would be home in ten minutes and asked me to go for a walk and come back later. When I arrived back he came to the door. I was shocked, I was looking at a real London spiv, complete with long side burns. We went out for a drink and after ten minutes I left. He sold goods out of a suit case in Oxford St. Indeed he was a real spiv. We did not have a thing in common.

I had only been in Woolwich a few days when my posting came through. Bovington camp was my destination, it was in Dorset, close to Lulworth Cove. The nearest village was Wool, where there was a Pub and 10 houses. Cider was 4d pint. The camp was the main Tank training facility for the Army. My job was instructing drivers on the M10 Tank Destroyer. I spent my mornings on the moors, and afternoons teaching maintenance; it was really interesting work.
My Captain's name was Clarke. He called me to his office to inform the crew that in two weeks time there was to be a Tank race over the moors. All the allies were taking part using their own vehicles. It was to be a handicap race, the leading tank was the Black Prince, it was from the first World War, with a top speed of 5 miles per hour. On the day my tank was next to the last, the back marker was a new experimental vehicle, the A 10, it carried a 105 mm gun, which was very big for the time. As the race progressed I passed all the field, driving down the last incline I hit a ridge, the tank bounced up and my face came down hitting the front plate. I passed out. When I came to, a Turkish officer was lifting me out of the turret, I must have opened my mouth because blood covered his white Trench Coat.

They took me to hospital. I had a very badly damaged face, and a broken nose. I looked a real mess. It turned out that in my excitement I had forgotten to fasten my seat belt. After a couple of days I went for walk to our canteen, one of the NAAFI girls saw me, screamed, and ran out of the room. She later said she had never seen a face as swollen. There was a Plaque over my hospital bed which said that the great T.E. Lawrence Of Arabia died in that very bed, after he had been involved in a motorcycle accident.

I was approaching the time for my Demob, and the last project I was given was to prepare my tank for entry into the new Museum. I cleaned it up and painted the Regimental badge on the turret. Cath and I went to see it in 1957, it is still there as far as I know. As I was preparing to leave the Army, Captain Clarke asked me to consider signing on. He said that if I changed my mind, I should post a letter he had written to the Personnel Office in Woolwich. I opened it years later and the recommendation was brilliant, saying that I was the only person capable of work on this type of vehicle.

Woolwich was to be my base for a few days and then on to Woking for my Demob. I was given a reasonable Blue Serge Suit, a Raincoat, a Trilby hat and a pair of shoes. I had a medical, and the doctor said ‘I see you have been wearing your collar stud too tight!’ He was looking at an old carbuncle scar. That was the Army! The end of one life and the start of the new.


I started my life in Civvy Street with a great disappointment. I went to see about starting work at the Tea Company, but Mr. Marsh informed me that because all the men had returned from the forces, there were no vacancies. He promised that he would send for me when he could. I went to the employment office, they gave me a card to go for an interview for a position of a hat inspector with a company called Hart Ashworth Ltd, off Marsh Lane. I got the Job and started work on Monday morning, my wage was £4, 10 shillings per week. The company made the felts for gents trilby hats. The factory was a dump, there was steam every where, the conditions were very poor, I stayed there for about three months.

I applied for a job as a machinist at Leyland Motors Ltd, during the interview I was asked if I would accept a metal dressing job for six weeks and then I could have a machine, so I agreed. This consisted of filing or chiselling rough metal castings. There was a system of equal pay for men and women, and there was a Bonus of up to 100%. That was the theory, but in practice non of the men were ever able to make any extra money. The ladies were given easy work, usually bolts that needed a die running down, and they could make double the amount that men earned. It turned out that the Foreman was taking these ladies out after work. I complained to the Union and they would not do any thing about it so I decided that a move was called for.

My next employment was with a firm called The Swallow Hosiery Company. I started in the Packing Dept, the pay was £9 per week, an improvement on my past wage. About a month after starting work the Manager asked me to do some stock checks and I worked out the system in no time. I took over the stock control, which I was really happy with. Another few weeks passed and I was sent to Manchester to book Shipping space for export stock. I went round all the warehouses and it was a great experience; the prospects were looking very good. After 6 months I even had charge of the keys to the factory.

I now made the mistake of my life, Mr. Marsh from British Tea called to see me, thinking back he had a cheek coming to my place of work. He came to offer me a job! I was in a state of shock. Going back interested me, I had always enjoyed working there, but like a fool I did not ask him about pay before agreeing to return. The first thing was to go to my boss and hand in my notice. When I told her that I wished to finish she said she thought I was foolish, and that my prospects were very good. She gave me a pay increase although I was leaving in two weeks. It took me one week to realise what a fool I had been, my new pay was £5 per week. This was a drop of £6 per week, so my advice to you is never accept a position without finding out about the pay on offer!

For a few weeks I worked in the garage which I really enjoyed, Fred Marsh sent for me and asked me to spend some time learning tea blending. This I did but the snag was that it was very dusty. The job itself was very interesting and Mrs. Blanksby who was the owner’s daughter treated me very well, I got quite a lot of knowledge about the Tea business from her. It was April Fool’s day and for a laugh I decided to hang a Leek in the Tea Hopper. I went to Mr. Alf’s office ( he was the Boss’s brother) ‘There’s a Leek in the Hopper’said I. He dashed to the packing room, when he realised what it was he went mad. Unfortunately the smell from the offending vegetable contaminated the Tea. Black mark for Tom.

I decided to buy a new suit, I walked all round town and saw the one I liked in Alexander’s Tailors. It was charcoal grey, with a pale Windowpane check. I went inside to be measured, paid Five Pounds and was told it would be ready in two weeks. On my way out of the shop I met a neighbour of mine Tommy Higginson, he was buying an identical suit. Time to collect my suit, I went along to the shop tried on the jacket and it was miles too big, the salesman was full of apologies but re-measured me and said he would drop me a line when it was ready. Two days later I met Tommy and asked him how he liked his new suit. He replied that he could not get it on, and they had re-measured him. What a mix up! They offered me a spare jacket for half price, but I declined the offer.

My spare time was divided between Bowling at Frenchwood Club, and as a committee man. After a short while I took on the position of Stock Secretary, (this was to assist me later when I applied for new employment). I took up Fishing as a hobby. The shop I bought my bait from was the place that eventually changed my life, you see the shop assistant that sold me my Maggots later became my wife!

Catherine was born in Hudson Street. Her Father, Robert, and her Mum, Agnes (nee Gardner) had four daughters: Margaret, Teresa, Alice, and Catherine. The ran a big dairy in Avenham. Agnes died as a result of pneumonia in 1937 when Catherine was 5 years old. One year later her father re-married, six weeks went by and he died, also of Pneumonia. The second Mrs. Beesley was to be stepmother to the girls. She was quite a hard woman. The result was that Cath as a young girl spent all her time working in the dairy and delivering milk. She had a very hard life and at the age of 20 she had left home. Alice and Cath went to live with the Watson family in Ribbleton. They were good to them but not like real parents. Cath was working for Tommy Hall a local Fishing Tackle dealer, whose shop was in Church St. She worked a five and a half day week for which her pay was Five Pounds per week, a pittance for the work she was expected to do.

Every weekend, with my pals Tommy Hall, Jack Leonard, John Woods, and Stan Cosgrove, I used to go to the Lake District, where we had a few drinks, good food, and a little fishing!. One day we were fishing in a small lake, there were clumps of grass that we had to jump on to get close to the water, I leaped on to one and to my horror it was a floating clump of weed. I was up to my neck in water! The next hour was spent in the car using the heater to dry out. We had a holiday in Ireland in 1950. By plane to Dublin, a brand new car waiting at the airport, 10 wonderful days fishing, hotel accommodation, drinks every night, presents for the family, and the total cost for each of us was the magnificent sum of £25. To put the icing on the cake, I caught the largest specimen fish of the holiday, a 4 lb eel, the largest Pike and the smallest Pike.

Preston Guild was to be celebrated in 1952, it had been postponed for ten years because of the war. The week was magic, everyday was special, there were processions throughout each day and the pubs were open all night. I had bloodshot eyes most days. At 2am on Tuesday morning all of us from the King Bill went round the streets. I had a piano accordion, most of my pals had instruments of one kind or another. We were playing and singing, all the windows were opening and the residents joined in with the merriment. It was like that, everyone forgot their inhibitions and let their hair down and had a good time. Saturday night there was a torchlight procession followed by a Firework display. Quite a fitting end to a great week.

In 1955 I had a date with the girl who sold me my fishing bait. Six weeks later I asked her to marry me. We were officially engaged at Christmas of that year. We were Married 13 September 1958 at St Augustine’s Church. The Best Man was my brother, Francis and the Bride’s Maids were Catherine’s sister Alice, cousin Ann, and Christine Ashcroft, a family friend. The reception was held at The Strawberry Gardens, we had some forty guests, and a good time was had by all!

Our Honeymoon was spent in London, the Hotel was the Mandeville. We had told our friends that we were staying at the Regents Palace Hotel, and when we got home Tommy Hall told us that he had sent a pint of Maggots to the wrong place. We were on the fifth floor and there was no lift; I felt like Sherpa Tensing climbing Everest, with two large suit cases. That evening we decided to find a posh restaurant and have a really good meal. We found this lovely place in Soho, all plush and dimly lit, the waiter in tie and tails took our order, the soup arrived, low and behold there were white finger marks on the plates. I called the head waiter, and remonstrated with him. He apologized and offered us a free meal, but I declined. We walked out. Next door was a Jewish restaurant. We thought we should try it and meal was excellent, half a chicken each, cooked to perfection. We went back to the Hotel, on our way we came across a barbecued chicken shop, this was the first one we had ever seen. Both of us sat on the edge of our bed in our night attire eating that delicious chicken. We went into that chicken shop every night on our way back to the Digs.

One of the highlights of the week, was when Cath went for her hair styling at one of London's top hairdressers. Next door was a gown shop, and in the window was a two piece suit in black and white. The shop owner came to ask me if she could help me, I told her Cath's size and the lady said that it would fit. It did and she walked down Oxford St like a Model, people were turning round to look at her, talk about glamour! We arrived home, that is, to our new home which we rented fully furnished for two pounds per week. It had two bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. We were quite comfortable, and it was very cheap to maintain, for instance, the gas bill for thirteen weeks was 17 shillings. considering we cooked with gas every day, and used the hot water heater, it was very reasonable. We later found out that the landlord had fiddled the meter!.

I was now a salesman and I was enjoying meeting people and travelling all over Lancashire, Yorkshire and Wales. On my way home from work on Christmas Eve, having had a very good couple of weeks, I had about 40 pounds in my pocket. Most of it was from my customers as tips, A man stopped me in Friargate and asked me if I was a Catholic, I answered in the affirmative. He told me that he had come from Rochdale looking for work and that he needed 10 shillings to help pay for his railway fare home. I said ‘sorry mate’. Walking down the road my conscience pricked me. I went back to him, gave him the money, he asked me for my address saying he would send it on to me. Six months later I was walking in town with a couple of work mates when I saw this man talking to a young gent. When this fellow was passing me I said, ‘were you asked if you were a Catholic?’ He said that he had been. Bob and Harry wanted to punch the conman in the nose, but I said I would deal with him. I walked up to him and said ‘I believe you owe me ten shillings!’ The next thing I was on the floor; he had hit me under the chin and then ran off. As he hurried down Friargate he grabbed a ladies hand bag. I lost him at the back of St George’s church. When I reported it to the police, they asked me for a description and I described him from head to toe. They arrested him the following day, and the Police rang me the day after to congratulate me on the description I had given.

That Christmas we decided to invite all the family for the day. We took the menu from the Daily Mirror, Breakfast to Supper. Dad, Mum, brother Frank, his wife Mary, and Mum’s Brother Jack. We had a full Breakfast and a Turkey Dinner. The Punch was something else; it took me an hour to make. One glass each and the guests were asleep like babies! The day was a great success. Four months after our marriage, Catherine said that she was to be a Mother, it was the best news we could have had. We decided that we should find a house of our own, and we were saving all we could. One day we went for a walk round the river side, on our way home we saw a man putting a for sale notice in his window. After looking round the house we decided to buy it. That was my second big mistake.

The house was in Thomas St, off London Rd. We moved in at the beginning of September, furnished the house and laid new carpets. The house was full for the warming, and every one had a nice time, and then the snag! The wall under the window became black with damp. When everyone had gone home I went next door to ask Mary our new neighbour if she knew that there was damp in the house. What she said shook us, it seems the people we bought from did not have a fire in the room for six months so that the wallpaper would not stain. It took me seven weeks to sort out the problem, it turned out that the kitchen door had been hung the wrong way which allowed steam from the kitchen to come into the lounge. I knocked all the plaster off the walls, removed all the wood work, skirtings, door frames, architraves, just the bare bricks were left. I must say it looked nice when it was finished.

I had a good friend called Bill Doherty, he was the Headmaster of St Augustine’s Boys School, I was a pupil of his when I was 11years old. We got on really well, spending a lot of time Fishing, and Bowling and I taught him to drive. Once we went for a day out in the Lake District, with us were Jack Leonard, and Tommy Hall. Bill was driving, and crossing Hard Knott Pass and Wry Nose Pass we went round many Hairpin Bends, we were approaching a very bad one with a sheer drop to our left, as we actually got on the bend Bill changed gear and to our great shock the Gear lever came out in his hand. I pulled on the hand brake, looked to my left expecting to change seats with Bill, there was no ground to step out on. There was a deathly hush as I climbed over to the drivers seat. It took me about twenty minutes before I was able to get the lever back in, by the time we got to the next bend the engine had overheated. We had to take our socks off soak them in a stream and place them round the fuel pipe, this strategy worked. I drove the rest of the journey home.

Our first child, Frances Mary, was born on the twentieth of October 1959. I went to a phone box at 6 30 am, and the hospital told me of the birth. I dashed round to Mum and Dad to tell them the good news, they both sat there crying for joy! We were very happy, Frances was a good child, the highlight of my life was when I went into her room during the night to change her and give her a bottle, I took a warm nappy from the airing cupboard, wrapped her snugly in it and fed her, just to hold that little bundle in my arms was the most beautiful feeling in the world.

As Christmas approached and having spent our savings on the house, things were looking rather bleak for the festive season. I went into a coffee shop for a sale and the owner asked me to buy a raffle ticket, the price was one shilling which was a lot of money in those days, but I decided to buy one. It was the Shaw Hill Golf Club Draw, and two weeks later I got a letter saying that I had won a prize. Bert from work went to pick it up, what a surprise I had, it was first prize! 25 Bottles of Wines and Spirits, a twenty five pound turkey, and twenty five Pounds in cash. I asked the local butcher to cut the Turkey in two. He went home drunk, so did every other visitor that called. We invited some friends for a meal on Christmas Eve, and Cath cooked a half of the Turkey. I had not seen a bird so large. The following year I won another Turkey and it was so bad it nearly walked out of the house. My Christmas was spoiled by a friend of mine being knocked down and killed walking down London Rd minutes after I had left him. It was a drunken driver that killed him, he was walking down the pavement, stopped to light a cigarette, and bang.

One summers day we went out for a walk, Frances was in her pram, which was pale green and white and Coach built. On our way back from town we heard a sound like thunder. As we walked down London Rd people were bringing dead bodies out of the Greyhound public house, they had been altering the building when it collapsed, one of our neighbours had a feeling that things were wrong. He walked out of the Pub seconds before the catastrophe. The Landlady and three others died.

Christmas 1960 Catherine carried Frances down stairs, she was wearing a lovely Red Velvet dress, and when she saw her toys I took a photograph, the look on her face was one of bewilderment. She had lots of Toys but she played with an Orange. May 1962 Michael was born. The Midwife was unhappy about him and she contacted the specialist from the Royal Infirmary, who told us that he thought Michael had a serious heart condition. He was admitted to Liverpool Children's Hospital, which was one of the top Heart Hospitals in the country. While we were waiting to see the doctor, a friend of ours, Bill Doherty, came out and told us that his little girl had got valve problems, but the doctor said she would be OK.

The specialist, a Doctor Goldblatt, told us that chances were very poor, and that the diagnosis was transposition of the great vessels. We walked out of his office in a dream. They took him to the Operating Theatre did open heart surgery, breaking down the centre membrane and allowing oxygenated blood to be circulated round his body. This was the first time a Blue Baby had successfully been operated on. It was a huge breakthrough for Medical Science and Myrtle St Hospital. Bill’s baby died after her operation. It was ironic that we were given hardly any hope, and Michael lived.

The following Sunday, I went to Liverpool. I caught the 9 o’clock train, arriving at 10-45 am. Michael was in an incubator, I sang to him, and he opened his eyes for a second and then went back to sleep. I arrived home at 4pm having spent just 10 minutes in the ward. We were very apprehensive when we took him home; he was so tiny and had a huge incision down his chest and round his back. We were told not to let him cry, the tension was very real.

Dad had started work as school caretaker at St Augustine’s, and, one day, while carrying a dust bin full of ash, fell down the cellar steps leading to the boiler room. He complained of a swelling in his chest, so we sent for Dr Duncan, who said that there was nothing wrong and told Dad to go to see him at his surgery. The following day Dad went to see him and collapsed on the door step. He was admitted to Preston Royal Infirmary, and the following day I went to visit him and was told that he had just six weeks to live.

My cousin Sister Michael (Wendy Leeming), who was the daughter of my Mum’s brother Thomas, was the Theatre sister at Mount Street Hospital and she managed to get him admitted to a private room at no cost to us, for which we were very pleased. We had a family Mass at his bedside. We were very upset, but Dad seemed very happy and resigned. On the seventh of April 1963 he died, which was Palm Sunday. Just minutes before the end he asked me to kiss him and asked ‘where is Frank?’, my brother. I said that he would be there shortly and Dad said ‘kiss me for Frank’. These were the last words he spoke.

Mum moved into a multi-storey block of flats, Lancaster House. Catherine looked after her like her own mother, visiting her at least once a day, to shop and clean, and help in any way she could make. I have not said anything about Mum. She was a lovely person, always helping any one she thought needed it. For instance, Mrs. Bland, an old lady who lived down Berry St, received a hot meal each day for seven years from Mum. She cooked that meal even though she may not have been cooking for herself. When Mrs. Bland died she found another old lady to look after, a Mrs. Caton. That was Mum! She passed away 6th of July 1983.

My work took me to all parts of the North West, including North Wales. I worked a six day week. Early on I was mainly a retail salesman, but as the years passed wholesale became my speciality. My customers were Hotels, Boarding Houses, and Business Premises. It was grim at times but things were not too bad. During the Winter months it could be nasty, the weather in the Skipton area could be really bad especially in the snow. One day the road was blocked and yours truly sat in the car with two cushions tied round his head with a scarf. Nine hours later the snow plough dug me out.

Peter came on the scene in 1964. He was born at home and I attended the birth, which was different experience! Afterwards, Dr Dowling came in the kitchen carrying a tray covered with a cloth, and he said ‘you have seen everything so you might as well see this’. I needed the cup of tea! That year I bought our first car, it was a Ford Popular, which I bought from a customer and cost me £40. That night I parked it outside and in the morning the ground under the car was covered in oil. I took it to a friend who worked in a garage and he put it on the ramp. It was an oil seal that was leaking. I saw the man that sold it to me and asked him if he knew that the engine had a leak. He was really embarrassed and admitted that his son had thought that a main bearing was broken. When I told him what was actually wrong he was sick; the price of it should have been nearer £100 than £40.

We had a young man working in our garage, who owned a French car. After seeing my car he asked me to exchange mine for his which was two years younger. Mr. Marsh got to know about the proposed deal and said that I must be mad to swap and told me to look in the boot. I opened it, and under a blanket was a hole as big as a brick. I told Ian that I had changed my mind and did not look too pleased. The next morning when I was ready to go to work, I turned the ignition key and nothing happened. I lifted the bonnet and every wire had been cut, and even my Petrol pipe had been cut. I was gutted. I went to work and spent the day in a deep depression. On Tuesday morning Ian came up to me and said ‘I heard about your problem’. Considering that he was not at work the day before, it began to look suspicious. On arriving home a neighbour called to tell me that on Monday morning at 1am there was a red car outside our house, which had the engine was in the back and looked like a Renault. Ian’s Dad owned the same type of vehicle. I repaired the damage and got back on the road. On the Saturday, after I had finished work I went to collect my Ford and the front wing had been torn off. I took it to the scrap yard. I was so upset! There was no proof that the damage was done by my so-called work mate. I bought a bicycle to go to work on, as I could not afford another car.

Dr Dowling sent for me and said ‘I want you to break it to Cath that Michael needs a new Heart’ I was gutted! At that time there was no such thing as a Heart Transplant. I walked round to work and I told my Boss what he had said. I could not hold back the tears, I still feel choked when I think about it. I was ill shortly after, and was off work for six weeks with a kidney infection. This was the first time I had been off work in 28 years. As it happened it was heaven sent, because Dr Goldblatt told us that there was a new operation being perfected by a Canadian Surgeon whose name was Musterd. Every morning Michael and I lay in bed listening to Jimmy Young’s radio program. There was a recipe every day and we both enjoyed listening to it so much. The day came when we had to take him to Liverpool Children's Hospital. We were told that they wanted Michael to have this new operation, which they had performed on two occasions, but not very successfully. One child had died and the second one was mentally affected. We left Michael that day and went back on the Wednesday.

We were setting off for the train station when a man who lived across the road, Dick Cornwell, offered to lend us his car, saying that we could keep it as long as we needed it. This was indeed a wonderful gesture from someone we with whom we had never even had a conversation, just the odd ‘good morning’. The car was a little Austin Seven, but it was like a Rolls Royce to Cath and me.

The morning they took Michael to the theatre we sat in an ante-room, I smoked one cigarette after another. I picked up the Bible that was on the Table, and opened it on a page that said if that you ask anything of God, ask through me. The strange thing was that on the three occasions I opened the Bible, each time the message was the same, but the writers were three different Evangelists. Hours later we were called to the Intensive Care Unit. Michael was a lovely pink; until now he had always been blue! He asked his mum if his lips were warm, and went back to sleep.

Cath and I were given a room at the Hospital. Later that night a Sister came to ask if we would mind if Michael was Confirmed. We asked why, and she said that things were not good. I went up to see him. The unit was full of doctors and nurses who were working on him; his face was deathly white. I went back to my room devastated. That night I knelt down and prayed like I had never done before. I remembered what I read earlier in the day and I know in my heart that my prayer was heard! Early that morning around 1am the phone rang. ‘Would you I please come up to the Unit.’ I went into that room not knowing what to expect. Michael was sleeping and looked so peaceful; he had turned the corner. The next day was Corpus Christi. I asked the Sister if I could go to the cathedral mass, and she said ‘OK, but come straight back’. I sat in the church and I thought that I would love to serve mass there. Seconds later a Nun came up to me and asked if I could serve mass. I said yes and she took me down to the Sacristy, where I got changed into a cassock & cotter. I asked the priest if he would say a prayer for Michael and he said ‘I will do better than that, I will offer this mass for him’.

Within a few days Michael was up and about. We took him home and on our way, I said to him that if there is anything he wanted, and if we can afford it, we would get it for him. The shock came minutes later, when he suddenly said ‘You asked me what I would like, well I want to walk round the block’, We were gutted. We arrived home and I took him round the block, neighbours were waving to him through their windows. It was the end of a great deal of worry and heartache. The day that Michael had his operation, Father McGann phoned us and told us that he had never seen so many candles in church at one time; the church was packed.

Luck was with me once again; I had a friend who owned a repair shop, and he had an Austin A40 car in for repair. The man who owned it could not afford the repair bill. Tom Judge who repaired it, asked me to buy the car for the price of the work, £120. I had no cash so he said that I could give him two pounds per week. After I had paid one hundred pounds he said I did not need to pay him any more. The car was a little gem; green with a black top. It was in mint condition inside and out, the family had many a happy hour in it.

In July 1969 we set off for a holiday in South Wales, after travelling 5 minutes Peter asked Mum if we were there yet. In the car was Cath, Frances, Michael, Peter, myself and all the luggage. New Quay was our destination, the weather was foul all the way, the clouds were on the ground. We arrived in the early afternoon. The accommodation was quite nice, a bungalow with all mod-con's. The neighbours were classic car owners, Rolls, BMWs and Jags, and me with the humble A40. We had a nice week but it was very wet. On our way home we had the start of a heat wave!

When we arrived home there was a letter from my Mother’s brother John,. He had gone to live in Torquay and he said that he felt like ending it all. I phoned him from a call box. There were not many people with telephones in those days. He sounded very depressed and asked me to go down to see him. Within two hours of arriving home from my holidays I was on my way to Torquay . I got to my destination at 2am, found the house and knocked him up, he was so glad to see me. After three days I talked him in to coming back to Preston. He stayed with my Mum for a few weeks and then bought a house in Zetland street just round the corner from us.

Because of the way I had been treated by the company, I decided to sell commodities of my own. Even with my own activities I was still top salesman of my firm’s products. Firstly I called at a wholesale warehouse, on the shelf were bags of custard powder, the contents were suppose to be 7lbs weight, price 30p. I bought 4 bags and a box of plastic bags. When I arrived home we weighed the bags and they contained 7.5lb. This meant if I split the bag by three, I could charge 17p per two & half pounds which meant 22p profit on a bag. Mum weighed it out. It was so light that it went everywhere; the house covered in custard powder. The following day I was in Morcambe, and I sold out in half an hour. That was the start of my custard boom. The next day I bought 100kg. Soon all my friends from work were queuing up outside our house to buy. I was soon selling 500kg per week. The boom lasted for about a month; everyone had sufficient so I started to sell it again after six months. The manager of the wholesalers asked me to tell him what I was doing with all this custard powder; it seems I had sold more than is total customers in a year.

What to sell next? Something that people used every week - eggs! I went round the farms and bought 100 dozen. I sold these in quick time; I was selling 200 dozen per week until one evening on my way down Hennel Lane, a Tractor came out of a field, I braked, and I had a 39 dozen egg omelette in the back of the car. The smell never went away. After one or two accidents I gave up the egg sales.

Potatoes seemed like a good idea. I started to ask my customers if they would like me to supply them, when most said yes, I was back in business! Until, that is, I made a delivery to a hotel in Blackburn, the week after the landlady said ‘no more’. I asked her why and she said that she had left the bag of potatoes outside her bedroom and during the night she heard a scratching sound, she investigated and the noise was coming from the bag. She looked inside and there was a nest of mice inside. That was the end of a good customer relationship.

Another little earner, arose when I was passing a warehouse in North Rd and decided to have a look. It was like an Aladdin’s cave. I bought hundreds of dinner plates; they were very colourful and I sold them to hotel owners, making a profit of around 10p per plate. Once I had cleared this stock I had to find something else. Houseproud; that was the next product. I saw thousands of cases at the top of the building. I asked Herman, the proprietor, what it was, ‘a cleaning liquid’ he replied. It seems a company had over reached themselves spending too much on advertising and going bankrupt. In the literature the price quoted was 37 pence, the cost to me was 6p per bottle. I filled my estate car up and off I went. At the end of the day I had sold the lot.

All my friends from work called to get their supplies every morning, there was a queue half way up the street. I charged them 20p so my profit was very good. I took Michael with me one day. We called at a farm and I asked if they would like to buy a bottle. The wife asked ‘Will it clean cars?’. I said ‘Get me a bucket of water!’ I made a good job of their car, and after I had finished she said ‘I won’t bother’. Michael was laughing all that day; he still does! One day in Liverpool I saw a Hardware shop which was called Houseproud. This was like a gift from heaven. I had a chat with the owner and he said he would take all I had. I emptied my car and said I would call again, intending to call each week, things did not turn out quite as I had expected. While talking to Herman he mentioned that his insurance company had refused to cover him from 31st of December. Apparently he had had a fire months earlier. I went for my supplies as usual and lo and behold there was the biggest fire I had ever seen. Herman had retired!

I was sat in a cafe in Barnoldswick, looking through the window at the CO-OP, which was closing down. Outside was a rail full of Ladies Car Coats. The price on the stock was one pound each, but not one person even stopped to look; let alone buy. I went across to evaluate the coats, which were brushed nylon with a silky lining. I purchased one, put it in the back of my car and off I went to my next customer. She came out of her hotel for a chat and saw the jacket on the front seat. ‘How much is the coat?’ ‘Three pounds’ said I, ‘I will have it’ said she. I went round to the store and bought all the coats. I sold them in two days.

A carpet firm in Blackburn was a customer of mine. I went in one day and asked if they had a piece of carpet for my car. They offered me a sample, it was Wilton; the size was one and a half metres by one metre and the price was 75p. I drove away but thinking about it gave me an idea; why not sell rugs? I went back and asked how much for a quantity? ‘One pound each!’ ‘Give me all you have!’ I bought sixty, but I could not carry them all, so I took half, they sold like hot cakes at three Pounds each, by three o'clock I had sold up and collected the rest. This became a regular money spinner! I sold hundreds over the next few months

The list of my sales was endless: nylons, Easter eggs, Christmas cards, Penguin biscuits, cake tins, nightdresses , knickers, jam, pickles, dresses, jumpers and candles. The miners were on strike and electricity was being cut off; there were nights without any lights. Herman had bought a supply of candles from Germany. I purchased two hundred and the following day the strike was over. If you know anyone who wants to buy 200 Fancy Candles speak now! I did manage to get rid of them by giving them away; it did take me a few months but the pain was not as great as the time went by.

I bought hundreds of pairs of ladies knickers, all very fancy and skimpy. When I was down to my last fifty and getting fed up with selling them, I stopped at a set of lights, in Blackburn. A chap was walking past; I called him over and asked if he was married. He said he was and I said ‘Give these to your wife’. He looked bemused and walked off with the garments under his arm. I chuckled all the way home wondering what his wife would think.

Just before Christmas one year I bought £350 worth of knitwear and I arranged to have a sale at a pub in Coppull. After laying out all my goods, a crowd of people came into the room, they tried on most of the clothes and then left without buying one item. I was gutted, I had visions of being stuck with dozens of dresses and jumpers. I set off on Monday morning to Morcambe, and I had a sale at my first attempt. By Thursday everything had been sold with the exception of one dress. I saw a lady walking down Mitton Rd in Whalley, and I said ‘Would you like a good bargain for Christmas?’ The dress was pure wool and I said that she could have it for a pound. She could not believe her eyes; after holding the dress to see if it would fit she gave me the money and ran down the road. I think she was frightened that I may have changed my mind.

I was Stock Secretary of St Augustine’s Club. It was quite easy until the steward misappropriated the takings and then it was the devil’s own job trying to prove it, but I did eventually get a result. One night Mr. Cassidy, the Producer of the Operatic Society, asked for volunteers, three of us said we would go for an audition and we were all accepted. We started to rehearse for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida. The music was really enjoyable, so much so that I used to sing it to Michael when I took him for rides on the cross bar of my pedal cycle. Everything was great until I went to try on my costume, it was Elizabethan in style; floppy hat, coloured tights and curled up shoes; I won’t tell you what I looked like or how I felt. The show was a great success, it was put on in St Augustine’s brand new hall, the stage of which was as near professional as possible. The following year we did Iolanthe, followed by HMS Pinafore and Trial By Jury, then Patience, and The Gondoliers. The last one in which I appeared was Yeomen Of The Guard. I was given the position of Chairman after that, and it was a pretty thankless job, but at least we made a profit that year for the first time; I drummed up support from as far away as Clitheroe. Sadly, the Hall was demolished after just 30 years.

I had one or two frights over the years, one afternoon I was driving back from Clitheroe, and just as I was passing Samlesbury airfield I hit a brick, my steering wheel spun out of my hand. Parked on the side of the road was a new Rolls Royce; I bounced off it taking my front and rear wings off. Sat in the other car were two old women with chokers of pearls round their necks. They said ‘you might have picked on an old car’. The driver came to me threatening me with the police, but when I regained my composure I realised that he was in a no parking zone, pointing this out to him changed his attitude to me. He drove away wondering if I would be reporting him. Mr. Marsh was not very happy when he saw the state of the van.

The following Saturday I drove out of the garage in a brand new van, twenty minutes later I stopped at the junction of Ripon St and Garstang Rd waiting to cross. Bang! A car ran in my back propelling me into Moor Park gates. Guess what kind it was; yes it was a Rolls Royce. I reckon this must have been some sort of a record, two Rollers within a week. It was a funeral hearse belonging to Whalley's Undertakers and it had just come back from the spray shop which had cost over a thousand pounds for a new skirt. Mr. Marsh was again delighted.

Just around that time I was accident prone, I took delivery of a Jowett van. I was in Blackburn one day, and when I put the van in reverse my bumper caught on a lamp post and finished up like a letter L. It was made of half inch stainless steel and when I tried to straighten it there was no response. I drove down a back alley in Carlisle Street, what could I do to make it right? I decided that I would wrap some books round it and press it against a wall. This I did, gently until the bumper was pressing on the bricks. I accelerated and the result was disaster! The building collapsed; it was an outside toilet. I took off like the bats out of hell.

Catherine was expecting and the baby was giving her problems. The midwife sent her to the hospital where it was found the cord was round the neck of the baby. The delivery was very difficult for Cath, and it took her some time to recover. I was sat outside in the waiting room for hours but I had been forgotten. Philip was born at 11am on the 14th of March 1970, the family was now complete.

Round about that time I was a member of the Lourdes All Night Vigil Group. The aim of the group was to visit the shrine for a weekend to pray for the conversion of Russia. We left Blackpool Airport at about 9am on Saturday morning arriving at Tarbes around noon. We went straight to the Grotto after first bathing in the spring water. Four o'clock was time for the Blessed Sacrament Procession. After this we had a break for a meal and I must say the food was always excellent. At eight pm we joined the Torchlight Procession. This is a marvellous experience; there were often 50 thousand people taking part, all carrying lighted candles and singing the Lourdes hymn. We had a short break and then our vigil started. We began with Holy Hour followed by Mass, then it was Stations of the Cross. Next it was an hour of silent prayer at the Grotto, followed by the Rosary. It was now six am and time for the Stations of the Cross over the Mountain. This was a gruelling climb over a rock strewn path, yet some of the pilgrims did it bare foot. The strange thing was that these people were the ones that did not complain of sore feet. The cost of the weekend included Coach to Blackpool each way, return flight to and from Tarbe, dinner breakfast, Sunday lunch, and a trip to Bartres, was 19 Pounds all in. I went 1970 to 1974 inclusive.

Our daughter Frances attended St John Fisher; now Christ The King. She was a very good pupil, she enjoyed her school days and her exams were no trouble to her. For her 11th Birthday I decided to give her something different, when she came home on Friday 20th I said ‘Get dressed up - we are going to London". She was so excited. We made up a bed in the back of the car and at 9pm we set off. It took us around 5 hours to get there, we had a sleep until around 7am then drove to Russell square to find a Hotel. We settled on the Cosmos. It was a very comfortable room, a Russian couple kept it; we were also very close to Town, so we could leave the car and walk. It turned out to be a great weekend, we did all the sights and shows. I still think of Frances's 11th Birthday.

Peter was a pupil at St Augustine’s Infants School. I do not think he was all that thrilled with some of the teachers. He was a chubby little lad, full of life. I remember one Sunday we took him to Mass and as the Priest cleaned the Chalice, Peter called out in a loud voice "When he’s finished washing up, can we go home?’ One of his little tricks was to hide dozens of miniature toy soldier's in his pillow. In fact everything he loved went into that pillow. He became an Altar Boy at the age of seven, and before long he was Father Morris's right-hand man; anything special and Peter was the one that was sent for. I believe Father was grooming him for the Priesthood. I think being a sheet metal worker suits him better!

By now I had found a new interest; antiques. It started by my buying an old cup and saucer. I had no idea of its value or even if it was old. I took it to some friend of Catherine's the Duckworths, who had two shops selling Objects D’Art. I left the cup with them in February and by September I was still waiting for its return. This made me realise it must be something special. I went to the Library and spent quite some time trying to trace the marks. Success! It was a part of a set dated 1846, purchased by a Duke, for Louis Phillipe of France, which made it a collectors piece. The fact that I had been owned by royalty added to its value. I went to the Duckworths and told them if they did not give it to me I would see a solicitor. After a lot of trouble they returned it to me. Because of a shortage of funds I sold it for 48 pounds. To my consternation I found a book with the top prices paid in auction in 1926. In the Sevres section was a Cup (no Saucer) the price 26 Pounds. That would make a price today of around one thousand pounds.

I was by now very keen to learn, and I found that the best way of learning was by studying old paintings in the art galleries. I was once in a second hand shop in Blackburn The lady in the shop was searching the pockets of some old clothing from a deceased man, and she found a small packet in which was a Gold coin. Having no idea what it was she asked me if I could help her. It was a Spade Guinea dated 1783, and I told her that it was worth around 95 pounds. She thought I was mad. Her husband said he had something that would interest me and told me to come back the following week. I called several times but he put me off saying he was busy. A month later he brought out a large bag, lifted out of it the most beautiful chandelier. I thought that this was going to cost me an arm and a leg. I asked him how much and he said eleven pounds. I was so shocked that I said ‘Eleven pounds!’ and he said ‘Well, go on, you can have it for nine’. I could not believe it. I took it home, cleaned it with ammonia, put a light fitting in it, switched on and the room sparkled like Crystal Palace. Just then Cath came in the house, her words were ‘If you think I'm having that dust catcher up you are mistaken’ It turned out to be Waterford Glass, for which I was paid 200 Pounds.

There are so many bargains but I will just tell you of a couple: I knew a man who, when he was young, had a contract fitting new lighting systems in old churches; he took down brass lamps and installed modern ones. The old ones he kept in a large building in Mellor. One day he invited me to see these artefacts. Walking around I noticed a brass Grandfather clock face in a tea chest. I asked him if he would sell it to me, and I offered him 20 pounds for it. He jumped at the offer, on my way out he said, ‘by the way, I have the case for the clock; it’s no good to me so you can have it’. On my way home I managed to get 150 Pounds for it.

Another time I was sat in my car doing my books, on my left was a Monumental Masons shop, the door was open and in the room was a Sheraton sideboard, covered with Marble dust. It looked a real mess, Mr MacWhinny the owner was passing, I said to him ‘how much for the sideboard?’ He said ‘5 Pounds’, I said ‘I will give you 3 Pounds’ and his answer was ‘Take it away!’ When I got it home Cath said ‘Steptoe's here!’ Week’s later, after working very hard restoring it to a beautiful condition, I sold it to a hotel.

One day I was talking to a lady in Coppull, in her garden was a round table, painted yellow. She mentioned that it was going on the bonfire, and I offered to purchase it from her. The chance of making a couple of pounds for a piece of junk was beyond her belief. When all the paint had been removed I found that it was made of seven different woods. I lovingly restored it revealing a beautiful eighteenth century pie crust table, I sold it to a hotel owner in Morcambe.

In 1974 my life changed again: The date was Saturday 06/07/74. I arrived back at work at 2 pm and the manager, Robin Heaton, sent for me. ‘I am sorry Tom, but we are going into Voluntary Liquidation, we will give you 500 Pounds redundancy payment’. I asked them about my pension and after a hush I was told they would think about it. I finished up with 800 Pounds after 32 years service, I served my one month’s notice, and on the 13th of August I started work at the British Aircraft Corporation.

The morning I started, all the new employees had a briefing session which told us very little, just a load of waffle. I was told to report to 127 Shop (Coppersmiths), I passed a gentleman on my way, he raised his hat and said good morning, ( I must admit I was dressed in a nice suit). The man turned out to be my Manager, he never raised his Hat again; I was only one of his minions. I was on a work station issuing materials to the Coppersmiths, it was a very boring job. After three weeks I was upgraded. Jack Norman, my Superintendent, said he thought I would make a good Progress Chaser. This entailed walking round the Factory making sure the parts are made in good time; if any items were urgent I had to take them from one operator to another. I checked how far I had walked in one day; 17 miles on hard concrete. When I arrived home in the evening my feet were like boiled tripe. It was not possible to hate a job more than I did, every minute of every day was grim! We were given computer lists with over a hundred items. When we had cleared the list a new one appeared as if by magic. After a while I started to get used to it, but was looking out for a fresh job.

There was a position on the notice board for someone to take over a stores in the apprentice training school, so I applied. A month later a man I knew said that I had got the job but my boss was refusing to let me transfer. I asked for an interview with the Manager, who said he wanted me to stay in the department and promised to keep me in mind for promotion, but he refused to let me move.

One year later the job was advertised again. I went to see the Training School boss, I asked him if I would be wasting my time by applying again. He told me that I had been first choice last time and that he would put pressure on the Management to let me transfer. A month went by and I was informed the job was mine. The man who was already in the position gave me just a half day’s training and off he went. Later I got to know off him that his reason for asking for a move was that considering the responsibility involved, the rate of pay was minimal. I got stuck into the work with gusto, reorganizing everything; records and stock control were non existent. It took me months to get straight, but it was much easier once I had completed the task.

I decided to take Michael and Peter on a weekend trip to London. I booked at British Rail but two days before we were due to go I received a letter saying that the Hotel was fully booked. I had been allocated a room at the Hotel Penta. Arriving at Euston station I asked a Taxi driver if he knew the hotel, he said he did, and off we went. The cost of the weekend including rail travel, two nights accommodation for three, and a full English breakfast was thirty pounds

Knightsbridge was our destination, we drove down a street with small hotels on the left hand side, the car stopped, the door was opened by a gentleman wearing a Top Hat and Frock coat. We stepped out and on our right was the Penta; 1700 rooms, an entrance hall with huge chandeliers, seven people on the reception desk, it was a shock to the system. The boys could not contain themselves, we caught the lift and it was like a rocket, it made your tummy turn over. 170 was our room number. It was like a palace inside, there was a Refrigerator full of drinks, an Electric Shoe Polisher, a Trouser press, a Teasmade, TV and Phone; not a bit like the hotels I was used to. We settled in and then went to the Restaurant, after the meal I went to get my hair cut at the resident barber shop. It was called Barbarela's; fancy name and fancy prices. My normal barber charged 30p and this guy charged me £1.37. He hardly took any off; when I got back to my room Peter said ‘what’s wrong Dad, was it closed?’ We had a lovely time visiting the British Museum, Natural History, and Science Museums. On the Saturday it was the Trooping of the Colour on Horse Guards Parade. We got a smashing position but Peter wanted to leave after about ten minutes; it was a shame because our spot was about the best in the square. All in all we had a great time.

Just about that time we were thinking about looking for another house, there was one for sale on Frenchwood Boulevard at £1700. When I started making enquiries there was a blight on selling, the council had let it be known that the houses in our street were going to be demolished. It had not been official but once word had got round we could not sell. It was some time later that we were told that we were going to lose our house. The council called a meeting to tell us that they were going to make a grassed area with trees and a recreation space on our land.

One day we were offered a house in Manor House Lane. Cath and I went along to view, but it was a dump; I have never seen a house so filthy. I went to see the housing officer and I said ‘do not ever send me to a dump like that again. My home is in excellent condition, and you are suppose to improve on what we are leaving’. The day after, we got the keys to 77 Harewood Rd, we liked the house so we agreed to move. The Council made us an offer of 2300 pounds for Thomas St, but considering the amount of work we had done, and the money we had spent getting our house as we liked it, the offer was very poor. I objected but was told if we did not accept we would lose Harewood Rd. All the family liked the property so we took the money. Six months later the Council broke their word; they sold the land to a Property Company. Looking back, I should have sued them for Malpractice, it was pure fraud.

The day we moved in, 14 February 1977, was very exciting for us all, we would have a garden for the first time, with even a Vine in the greenhouse. The next few days were very tiring; the lads and I carried stepladders, cleaning equipment, tools, everything we needed to get the house ship-shape. I measured all the rooms for carpets, and ordered new furniture. Cath and I went to Mears’ in town and ordered new furniture and picked the carpets. I went round to measure up, when we got the bill I had been overcharged by approximately 40 pounds. I went to the shop with the exact sizes and they apologized and altered the bill. We spent around 1500 pounds in total, getting everything we needed to move in. There were a few things that needed doing; the garage was just about dropping down, the Greenhouse had more broken panes of glass than whole ones, the outhouse was rotten, and in general the outside of the house left much to be desired. The worse part was having to pay rent. Our mortgage in Thomas Street was 6 pounds per month, the rent in our new home was 7 pounds per week, an increase of 450%. Just as a matter of interest, we paid 13 pounds per annum general and water rates. We now pay around six hundred pounds per year.

It took a while getting used to catching the bus to town, but I had my bicycle to go to work on, until one day I saw an add in the Evening Post; For sale a Morris Marina 1800cc price £600. It was local, I called to see it and it was a great bargain, I bought it on the spot. It had done 93,000 miles when I sold it.

Frances, who had by now finished her Nurse training, applied for a Midwifery Training Course, in Newport, South Wales. She was delighted when she was chosen. When the fateful day came for her to leave home, it was foggy when we set off and like that all the way; the journey was dreadful. Michael came with me and I remember there were one or two wet eyes when we waved to her as we were leaving. I visited her about once a month, whilst she was in Wales. One day we received a phone call from the Royal Preston Hospital telling us to ask Frances to attend the prize-giving. We explained that she was on a course, but we contacted her and she said it was not possible to come home. A few days went by, and yet another phone call; this time we were told that Frances had won the nurse of the year award and that she was needed at the ceremony. We rang her that night and said ‘Who do you think has got the Nurse of the Year Award?’ She mentioned one girl’s name, and I said ‘No, you!’, and she screamed out to her flat mate,’ I've won’. It was a very proud Dad and Mum as she went across to receive her prize that night.

I took Peter down on one occasion and there were road repairs going on; the traffic was diverted on to the north lane. After a couple of miles the car bonnet flew up, I was looking under the gap at the bottom of the bonnet; I was terrified! There was a massive tailback of traffic. I saw a gap in the central reservation, pulled over and got out. It was scary; Heavy Goods Vehicles were passing every second. I dropped the bonnet and set off back along the side of the wing, I managed to open my door, stepped inside and a heavy truck passed, the vacuum took the door out of my hand and smashed it. The rest of the journey went very well.

Frances was by now going out with a young man, his name was Peter Eccles. They had been out one night and on their return Cath called Frances upstairs, I was on the floor unconscious. She put a spoon under my tongue to stop me swallowing it. I opened my eyes and there was a crowd round me, mostly in white. It was three o’clock in the morning and I was in Preston Royal Infirmary. Apparently I was joking with Cath when I fell out of bed; she thought I was acting silly, she spoke but got no answer, on closer inspection she found I was unconscious. The doctor asked me questions like ‘have you got a car? what registration is it?’ None of which I could remember. I was kept in for a few days, the diagnosis was Cervical Spondylosis, the doctor said I would not be able to work again, apparently when I turned over in bed the jagged part of my spine had pressed on my Artery and this had caused me to pass out. I had to wear a collar day and night. I returned to work 11 months later.

During the time off sick I took up Oil Painting which helped to take my mind off the pain and the boredom of being at home. The Vicar of St Oswald’s church, across the road from us, came for a chat and I mentioned to him that I would love to be able to paint. The next day he came with a box of paints and a couple of brushes. ‘There is nothing to stop you from painting now; get on with it’. I remember my first attempt was of Lake Ullswater. It turned out to be very good and gave me the impetus to carry on to try other subjects; animals, birds, portraits, as well as landscapes. One of my best works was a herd of elephants. It took me a few weeks to complete, and then I gave it to one of my colleagues at work. In fact I gave most of my work away to friends. I never sold my pictures, except one of a Peregrine Falcon. A lady saw it and she threw 75 pounds on the table ‘I will have that’ she said. I did not argue with her! I loved this hobby and continued to paint for about twenty years.

On my return to work I reorganised the stock system. By now I realized that my pay structure was way below the responsibility of my position. In fact it turned out that the labourers were earning more than me. Complaining to my boss was a waste of time so I asked for a pay revue by Management, which was granted. Mr Bond accompanied me to the meeting and he was frightened of backing me. I could see that I was getting no where so I told the Chairman that they were wasting both their time and mine, he was visibly shaken at my attitude.

Two weeks after that meeting I was approached by a Foreman who said there was a position about to be advertised on the notice board, the vacancy was for someone to start up a stores in the Electronics Department. I went along to see Head Of Department, a Mr Fred Clarke, he explained that they had no stock and that this was an experiment; up to then stock had been bought as required.

I put my application in and waited, and waited, and waited. One day I received a phone call from the Personnel Dept. ‘Why have you not come for your interview?’ ‘Because I have not had a letter’ was my answer. ‘Can you come down now?’ There were several men waiting outside for interviews, chatting to one of them he informed me that he had a degree. I thought that’s my lot! I was called in to a Mr Jim Birchall. We got on like a house on fire, it was apparent that my previous experience was just what he was looking for, added to that, the fact that my boss had held back my interview; told him something. Mr Birchall said ‘I should not really tell you now, but you can have the job’. We agreed terms, and he said I would receive a contract before next Wednesday.

I walked back to my office like a zombie. A week later there was no word, so I went up to see Mr Birchall. He got on the phone to Personnel who confirmed a contract had been issued. We went down to see the secretary, and I signed a new contract there and then. Going back to the Training School I went to Fred Bond’s office. ‘You can tear up that contract you received for me’ said I; ‘Oh you have changed your mind about leaving have you?’ ‘No, I am handing in my notice; I leave in two weeks’. He was gutted. He pleaded with me to stay, and apologised for the sneaky way he had behaved. No way would I have changed my mind.

The day came for me to start work in the Electronics Department. All I had was an empty room. My brief was to build up a stock; Transistors, Chips, Thyristers, Capacitors, Resistors, Triacs, Diacs, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Considering I had no idea what any of these things looked like, let alone what they were used for, it was a daunting task. I read all the books that were available. My first order was around a thousand Pounds. Unpacking and Filing the goods was a struggle but I got there in the end. I had a Million Pounds worth of stock in my charge after a year, and I knew a great deal about Electronics. Jim Birchall was a real good friend to me and he trusted me to make decisions on my own. I once went to London to commission a Machine. I travelled all over the country buying spare parts. One year I actually travelled 13,000 miles for the company; mind you the mileage expenses were quite good.

Jim had a Heart attack, I went to see him in hospital, he died the following day. I was stunned. The Company lost a wonderful servant. My new Manager, Len Sayers, was also very good to me. I had an application in for a pay review. The company said they were prepared to grant me a Technical Grade, but the Union said that because I had not got any formal qualifications they would not sanction my promotion. I resigned from the Union; they were suppose to be on the side of the workers. I had always been a good Union man but I had learned that the leaders were in it for themselves. A compromise was found by the company; I was given an Administration Grade.

We were chatting one day and decided to have a Holiday, Phil and I went to the Travel Agents, perused the brochures and decided on a 14 day foreign tour. It embraced Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy. Cath was apprehensive as she had recently had a serious operation. We were to travel by coach and sail from Felixstowe. Saturday came and we caught the Tour Bus, arriving at the port we had to wait until the night sailing. We were in the queue waiting and there was an Irish couple talking about sailing. Barbara the wife, said ‘I am terrified of being raped so I put a chair against the door of my cabin’. My retort was ‘Why don’t you put your Passport Photo on your door?’. That broke the ice. The journey was very rough; all of us were feeling queasy, it was a great relief to be on dry land once more.

In the morning we set off in our Luxurious Coach; No Toilet, no TV, no drink making facility and I suspect no springs. To make matters worse the driver had a back problem, he had to have a jab every time we stopped. The only good thing that resulted from the holiday was meeting Paddy and his wife Barbara; they were a lovely couple. More about them later! As far as I was concerned the only part of the holiday that I enjoyed was our visit to Pompeii. It was like a dream looking at the artifacts that had survived that terrible volcano, in 79 A.D. The weather was around 90 degrees, it was so hot that we bought bottles of water to pour on our feet to take the swelling down.

We visited the Isle of Capri, I won’t elaborate on that, but what happened will be with me all my life. Our stop in Milan was rather funny, all the rooms faced a central courtyard, at 5 am there was a shout from across the court yard; we opened the window shutters and one of our party called out; ‘Good news everyone, The Red Cross Parcels have arrived’. This will give you an idea of how bad the tour was; dreadful food and poor accommodation. Our stay in Paris was a disaster; when I walked into our bedroom in the hotel my foot went through the carpet and the floor board, the Toilet had been ripped about a foot from the wall, all 52 of us went down for a meal and the smell was so bad none of us had a bite to eat. I tried to see the Tour Operators but they would not see me, after about four months I gave up.

There was a vacancy advertised in the paper, it was for a apprentice Gardener. Michael applied for the job and was successful , there were 80 applicants. He enjoyed the experience, and learned quit a lot. Unfortunately the Company closed the factory after he had been there for just two years. He got employment at Preston Parks; it was a very hard job, and considering his heart condition, we encouraged him to find something else. Michael applied to become a nurse but failed his exam. He went to see the chief Nursing officer. He said Michael could have a job as a Auxiliary Nurse if he promised to go to Night School and got some O levels; he would then consider him for a RGN course. In the mean time Peter got himself an apprenticeship at Leyland Motors as a Sheet Metal Worker, he went to Leyland every day on a 50cc Honda Cycle, he took to the work and made a very good tradesman . This was in 1980.

We had a phone call one night, the caller was Paddy the man we met on holiday, he asked if we could meet him in Blackpool. Philip, Cath and I went to the hotel they were staying at. Barbara looked a different person; when we last met she had looked very poorly. Paddy came out, asked us to take them to the airport, where we went into the pilot’s club. After a few minutes he said ‘Lets go for a flight’. Phil and I went out to the apron. There was a Cessna standing there, we climbed on board and Paddy started her up. At 500 ft he handed the controls over to me, I was a little scared but soon settled down. We flew along the coast and on to the Lakes, the thing that fascinated me was the beacon system; it told us how far we had travelled from the last one and the distance to the next. It was so simple. Over the moors to Lancaster, then we flew to Liverpool, back up the coast to the River Ribble and on to Preston; we went right over our house. We landed one and a quarter hours after take off. I was on a high for three days after that flight. Paddy turned out to be a millionaire business man employing 300 workers. He had a house built on the edge of Dublin Airport. When he came home from his Factory in the evening, he went over the Irish sea for an hour’s flight just to relax. He was a qualified airline Pilot, he took the course because one weekend he was flying to France, got lost and finished up in Cyprus.

I purchased a Fiat Mirafiori 1600 cc car. I thought it was wonderful,; a real driver’s car. One of my colleagues at work installed a burglar alarm system, it was great until one night I parked outside Mum’s flat. As I walked away the Alarm shrieked out; I dashed back tried to switch it off and no way; I had to pull the wires out of the dashboard. The car was excellent apart from the alarm. I took the boys for a weekend in London with our next door neighbour, we stopped at a motorway cafe for a brew, back in the car and it wouldn’t start. I got a man from the RAC to have a look; he banged the starter motor and hey presto it started first time. We continued our journey to London. We were staying at the Baden Powell Club. I put on a limp so I was able to get a parking space under the building, considering there are no available car spaces in London we were very lucky. After a great weekend we set off home, after travelling about 100 miles a meal was the order of the day, we stopped at a pub, had a good meal and went back to the Fiat. I turned the key, but the car would not start. I was in my best suit, I lifted the bonnet hit the starter motor and surprise surprise, not a sign of life. I crawled underneath, took off the wires from the starter, and re-connected them. The engine started straight away. We visited Woburn Abbey and spent a nice couple of hours seeing how the other half live. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

We decided to go to Scotland for a week’s holiday, Philip, Frances, Catherine, and I set off in great spirits, we drove to the border in good time, and at Gretna Green stopped for a brew, we got back into the car after half an hour, I turned the ignition key and nothing happened. I got the family to give me a push and the engine started up. One of my colleagues had given me an address of a hotel in Kirkcudbright. The owner was a University Professor who enjoyed catering; the hotel was very well appointed, all the rooms were tastefully decorated with antique furniture. Everything was great until we were served Game soup, it had a fish base and was revolting, I still talk about it today.

Our next stop was in Pitlochry, we found a hotel with a Trout Stream running through the grounds. Phil could not wait to get his fishing rod out of the boot, we asked the manager if he could fish and he said yes no problem. We settled in and out came the rods, Phil caught 17 trout in the first hour. The second day took us to Dunkeld, where there was a nature reserve; we were very fortunate to see a pair of Ospreys feeding. We visited Killiecrankie, The Soldiers Leap, Blair Castle; all wonderful places to see. We also went to Perth for a day but we were not very impressed. At the end of the week we set off for home, the car behaved very well and we arrived back in Preston at tea time. The car let me down quite a few times so I decided to check it out with my meter, I spent hours going through all the wiring, my persistence paid off, there was a 3 volt current drop on the wire that had connected the Alarm system; I removed the offending cable and everything worked fine. I decided to try to sell the car. I put an ad. in the paper and the day after it had gone. A funny thing happened, the family had bought me a set of wheels trims, one of them was stolen so they bought me another set. A year after I sold the car I saw it parked outside the North End Football Club, with one of the trims was missing off it. I went back home and returned with one of my spares; I often wonder what the man thought about the sudden re-appearance of his trim.

My friend Jim Ashworth was taken into hospital with suspected cancer, I went to see him everyday, it was so sad to see him lose weight, six weeks later I was sat talking to him, I asked him if he would like a drink of orange juice, he nodded his head so I gave him a sip. I said to him ‘you are my best friend’, he smiled, closed his eyes and died. Jim was not a catholic but he spent most of his spare time in St Augustine’s Club. He had no family, so I took over his funeral arrangements, I went to see the Parish Priest and asked him if Jim could have a Requiem Mass, he agreed and we were amazed at the hundreds of people that came to bid him farewell. In his will he named ten of his pals as beneficiaries. I broke up his home, giving all his personal effects to all those who cared for him.

My mother died in The Royal Preston Hospital 06/07/83. I was called out from work and along with Catherine we went to the ward to see her, Mum had just got back in to bed, she asked me to pray that she would die. I did pray for her at her second request, a moment later she closed her eyes and she went to her resting place. My mother was one of the most loving people it was possible to meet, I don’t know of a person who could speak ill of her.

Michael started courting with his Ward Sister, Frances Walmsley. They married on the 27th of April 1985 and went to live in Alma Rd, Higher Walton. He passed all his exams and got a position at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. After two years they bought a bungalow with a great garden in Higher Walton, ideal for when they had children.

I bought a Honda 70 motor cycle after I sold my car, it was quite nippy, I used it for about 12 months and then I let Michael have it for work; he travelled to Blackburn every day on the Honda, one day I got a phone call from him he was in Houghton, outside the Royal Oak Hotel the bike had broke down and he was on his way to work at Blackburn Infirmary, I went along in my car and let him carry on to work. I pushed the motor bike all the way to Alma Row. We got it to our house later in the week and I checked it out; the wiring was in a bad state, it took me about two weeks to get it back on the road. Michael sold it and bought a new one.

My next car was a Mini, I paid 400 pounds for it; I spent a great deal of time getting it to my liking, replacing the carpets, bumpers, and lots of bits and pieces. In fact when I had finished it was like new. Frances also had a Mini; it was a special edition called a Retro, it was red with black panels, it came from Belgium and was in perfect condition. I was driving along Leyland Rd one morning and I saw this Mini on the forecourt of Leyland Garage, Frances had just passed her test and she asked me to look out for a car for her. I went to have a closer look at it and found it was like a brand new car, it had very little mileage on the clock, next to it was a similar vehicle but the colour was in reverse, I asked the proprietor about the history of the two cars, he said they were demonstration models from Brussels. I dashed home, Frances was in bed, I explained why I had come home and she was very excited when I told her. We set off back and the moment she saw the Mini she exclaimed ‘That’s mine!’ She paid two thousand pounds for it which was at least a thousand less than any comparable one. She loved her little car. Frances was engaged to Peter Eccles, the poor lad had lost a leg as a result of cancer, they were married on the 13th September 1985, at St Joseph's Church, Father Thomas Ford was the celebrant. Our son Peter took the Mini to pick up Michael to take him to the wedding, he was a long time in coming back and I was getting worried, I received a phone call to say that he had been involved in an accident, when he eventually arrived the front offside wing was badly damaged, it did not detract from us having a lovely time at Hoghton Manor. Their Honeymoon was spent in the New Forest. Peter was employed at BAe as a Metallurgist. They bought a bungalow in Walton-Le-Dale; they had a great deal of land which included an orchard with Apple, Pears, and Plums. By now Frances was a Midwifery Sister at Sharoe Green Hospital.

Some time later my son Peter and his Fiancé went to Manchester Airport in my Mini, the weather was very bad it rained all the way there and back, on their arrival home the car had a foot of water in it. I tried everything to stop the leak, with Fibreglass and Plastic but to no avail, the bump Peter had had must have warped the body. I managed to get 250 pounds for it ,so it was not too bad. I was lucky to find another car in excellent condition, a Vauxhall Carlton. It was luxury! I kept it until 1988.

In 1985 along with Cath’s sister, we went on a holiday with Blackburn Coach Lines. Weston Super Mare was our destination; it was a lovely week, every day we went to different areas, Bath, Dunsfold, Cheddar Gorge, Monmouth, Ross-On-Wye, Lynton. I really enjoyed myself, the food and hotel were excellent.

My knowledge of Electronics was building up and I now had complete charge of buying, it meant that I could bypass the purchasing department, which saved loads of time and frustration. I was now looking out for ways to improve techniques on the shop floor; my first project was a Printing Plate, the cost of replacing one was 84 pounds. After a few attempts I came up with a cheaper solution. I put a layer of metal foil on the printing side, which worked, and the cost was negligible, I received 100 pounds from the suggestion scheme. One of my ideas was to fit filters on to the systems cabinets which would keep oil and coolant from ingression into the electronic components. I tried the idea on one machine and to my delight after a month there was not one break down. I got permission to install them on 30 machines, after one month the breakdown incidents had fallen dramatically, I was awarded one hundred and seventy five pounds (a pittance) for the amount saved. I found out recently that the second in command of our department Malcolm Kenmare, who had retired, was given a position fitting these filters, he works two half days a month, for which he receives 12 thousand pounds annual remuneration, it just goes to show it is not the person with ideas that gets the cream; he just gets skimmed milk. Altogether I entered a total of 10 suggestions and I was paid for nine, the best one brought me one thousand four hundred pounds, but the company saved forty thousand pounds annually.

The company installed an IBM computer in my office and I was given six months to install a stock system, I worked every Saturday and Sunday to complete the task, men from other sites came to look at the stock control, and I was sent to other sites to help with their planning. By now I was doing lots of the tasks that my manager was paid for; I used to wonder how such men managed to get promotion. I was responsible for the overtime and holiday charts and I was giving assistance to the maintenance department electricians who were taking over some of the jobs that electronics were responsible for.

I purchased a Yamaha motor cycle for travelling to work on; the first time I went to work on it I stopped in St Paul Rd, I attempted to move off and the bike reared up throwing me to the floor, I returned home to lick my wounds. The day after I mounted the wretched cycle at lunch time, turned the key and away it went leaving me on the deck; all the staff were on their way across the yard to the canteen, the machine ran into a wall, how it missed hitting someone I will never know. My hip was damaged as well as my pride. The company that sold it to me sent a truck to take it away, the day after I was told to pick any cycle that was in stock. I took a Honda like the one I let Michael have. Like a fool I failed to claim for my Hip damage, two years later I had to have an operation to have the debris removed, I believe that the arthritis I suffer from had some connection with that accident.

I had finished my project at work and I was starting my Christmas break, the family came round on Christmas morning as usual, they attended Mass at St Gregory’s and all stayed for dinner and tea, I enjoy these family reunions. New year’s Eve I built a workbench in my shed and decided to take all the rubbish to the council tip. Phil and I carried the bags up the steps of the skip, as I went up for the last time my breathing became very shallow and I experienced a strange trembling sensation in my chest. As I drove home the feeling got gradually worse, as I turned in to the drive of the house, my right hand locked on my steering wheel, and I realised that it was serious. Peter took me to Hospital and after being checked out was admitted for observation. I had a blood thinning pump fitted to my arm and was given a pain killing injection. At midnight Sister came round with a trolley of drinks to toast the New Year in. She was kind enough to get me a glass of non-alcoholic wine. I was feeling much better in the morning, they took my injection off me it looked like good news. Frances and Peter came to see me on Saturday night but during their stay I started having heart pain. I called the nurse and she re-installed the Blood thinner. At three the following morning, as the Sister was attending to the man across from me, the pain became very severe, I called her over and she gave me an ECG. ‘You are having a heart attack’ she commented, ‘try to relax and I will give you an injection for the pain’. She had words with a Doctor and then obliged me with a jab. I returned home one week later.

My manager Fred Clarke called round to see me each week, after about a month he suggested that I should go into work for a couple of hours a day to keep up to date; it turned out that he needed me to keep him straight. Once the works Doctor told me he thought that I should retire, Fred ceased to call. In 1988 I was admitted to hospital three times, twice with heart pains and once with fluid on the lungs.

Frances's Peter died 13th of May of that year, 12 days later my son Peter married Susan. 1988 was indeed a year to remember. October 1st I retired on medical grounds from BAe. They invited me to a presentation, it was rather embarrassing listening to the praise being dished out. I received a lovely box of Painting materials and several canvasses. A company Director thanked me for the hard work that I had done, and especially for my suggestions which had saved the company thousands of pounds. It was one of the happiest days of my life turning my back on the Aircraft Industry.
One of the first things we did was to apply to the council to buy our house, they sent a Architect to check it out and arrive at a price. He walked into the kitchen and he said there might be some subsidence. Actually, I had checked it out earlier and found that it was the kitchen cupboards that were an inch higher at one side. I said to the Architect that if he suspected subsidence the maximum I was prepared to offer was 10,000 pounds. One month later I had a letter from the council offering us the house for just the amount I had suggested. The deeds were prepared within a couple of weeks. It was a nice feeling to pay the solicitor on the day we received their account. That was 15th October 1988, the rent we had been paying was 28pounds per week. The rent in 1997 is 45 pounds.

We began to improve the house, first we had a new kitchen installed, new carpets fitted and we did plenty of improvements to the garden, Philip was becoming interested in Bonsai Trees. We built a stand for them, at one time he had about 40, some of them were quite beautiful. I enjoyed visiting Bonsai centres with him. We visited a Southport garden owned by a gold medal winner, knocking on the door we were met by two scruffy individuals and a huge dog, they invited us in to a house that was so dirty we felt like running out. We went into the garden and what a surprise, the Bonsai were fantastic; there was an apple orchard in full fruit, it was a beautiful garden.

One morning Catherine had gone into town shopping, I received a phone call from Mays Travel Agents to say that there had been an accident. I went straight to Orchard St, Cath sat in the shop as white as a sheet; she had tripped over a loose flag and had hurt her arm, I took her to the hospital where it was x-rayed, her arm was broken in two places. I went back to look at the flag and the council had already put wedges round it, one of the shop assistants had phoned them about the accident. I went to the Solicitors who came back and photographed the scene. It took four years to sort out the claim, Cath was in very bad pain for a number of years, she still has problems with it.

In 1990 Philip went to Plymouth University, to start a B.Sc. course in Geography. Catherine and I took him down in a hire car. He moved into a nice house and soon settled in. He met a young lady, Caroline and settled down to hard work, after three years he achieved a first class honours degree and we were very proud, also he received a special award for the best dissertation in his year. He was accepted to do post-graduate research. He went to Singapore and Australia to attend conferences, and has had several things published.

May 1992 I was admitted to Wrightington Hospital suffering with Arthritis and Gout. I was in a great deal of pain; the doctor gave me 17 injections of Cortisone in one afternoon. After two weeks I was discharged, a couple of days at home and Michael took me to the barbers, on my return home I started to be sick, Michael phoned for the doctor after first sending me to bed, on seeing me the doc phoned the Hospital for an ambulance. I was admitted and given a single room with bath and all I could possibly want, after a couple of days I started to get worse. I was beginning to be delirious and felt really ill, after many tests it turned out to be kidney failure, I was in hospital for 28 days and in that time I lost two stones in weight. Michael saw the specialist and explained to him that he thought being on my own was detrimental to my general health, I was moved into the ward and I began to feel better in myself; after a few days I asked the doctor to let me go home, I was not eating and felt very depressed, he relented and I was soon on my way home. The next five years were spent in and out of hospital, but after 1996 things have improved beyond my wildest dreams, I am now looking forward to the new Millennium with my grand children, Emma, Robert and Christopher.

Tom Harrison, Spring 1998.

[Transcribed from the original by SCG June 26, 2005 for inclusion on the oneguyfrombarlick site. I have also sent a copy to the Imperial War Museum for assessment with a view to putting it in their archive. Tom Harrison’s contact details are: Tom Harrison
E-mail Address, tom@harrison147.wanadoo.co.uk. Personal Information: Address:
77 Harewood Road, Preston PR1 6XE]
Stanley Challenger Graham
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scg1936 at talktalk.net

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

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Re: Harrison Memoir

Post by Wendyf » 20 Jan 2013, 09:06

Wonderful! I started reading this with my early morning cuppa and couldn't stop, making me late letting out the hens and feeding the ponies. I'm only half way through, and if I start reading again I won't get anything else done this morning.

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Re: Harrison Memoir

Post by Stanley » 21 Jan 2013, 05:25

I wasn't sure if I'd posted it before but if I had it doesn't harm to have it in Rare Texts twice!
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

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


Re: Harrison Memoir

Post by hartley353 » 24 Jan 2013, 19:51

This is one of the most interesting articles I have ever read,like one of the earlier comments I couldn't stop reading it,a very full and memorable life,and a story worth the telling. Now I know more about a stranger than my own family, but he doesn't feel a stranger there is an afinity there.

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