Friday, 31 March 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 31 ........... my first girlfriend,

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

Well Hall Odeon
Steve Searl and I would go to the Lido in Charlton Park on hot sunny weekends, sunning ourselves and chatting up girls.

One weekend a lady I knew who worked at Olive Pell’s (I can’t remember her first name she was Mrs Taylor) came to the lido for a swim and she had her daughter with her. Her name was Gillian. A very pretty girl and I took a fancy to her.

So I plucked up courage and asked her for a date to go to the pictures and with the approval of her mother she agreed to go. I met Gillian at the Odeon cinema in Well Hall that night.

She was waiting outside for me. We went in, saw the film, and I came out with my first girlfriend.

I took her home and arranged to see her again. I was in love for the very first time. Gillian and I started to see a lot of each other. Her mother encouraged me to visit her and stay for dinners on a Sunday and to my delight, her cooking was far superior to my mother's cooking I just loved her Sunday roasts.

Gillian liked music and during the week, we went to a pub in Mottingham known as The Dutch House where they had a jazz band playing. This band was lead by Owen Brice trumpeter and played a relaxed style of Traditional jazz that became known as Mainstream jazz. Gillian and I would go there and listen to the band and make a few drinks last the whole evening.

Later on, prior to going home we would go for a walk and have a little kissing and cuddling session, all this was very romantic. I never wanted this relationship to end.

Gillian’s elder sister Susan, was married to a drummer. His name was Ron Hawes and he worked in a butcher’s shop in Plumstead, they lived in the basement flat of the house where Gill lived with her mother and father in Herbert Rd Plumstead.

The Montague Arms
Ron was playing with a rock band in a pub in New Cross called The Montague Arms. Gillian and I went over by bus to New Cross the hear the band play.

They called themselves The Vampires. This band had a lead guitar John Gillard, bass player Dick Thomas tenor sax player Alan Holmes and a guy called Tony (Unc) who sang and played the piano. The music they played was current pop and performed Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis hits.

I was very impressed with the band and loved their music. I became a dedicated fan of Ron and his drums and in retrospect, this man made the biggest influence on me in my life as far as becoming a drummer was concerned. Ron regarded himself to be “Cool”.

He adapted a much laid back attitude to life and the only important thing was his music. He was into modern jazz and liked to listen to Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Mills Davis, Charlie Parker, and big bands like Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He had fixed up a primitive form of quadraphonic sound by wiring four speakers to a record player and mounting them one in each corner of the room. A visit to Ron’s would involve in drinking beer and enjoying some jazz music. I was by this time rehearsing with the skiffle group and

I was still pretending my banjo was a drum. Ron had bought himself a new snare drum and asks me if I wanted to buy his old one and a cymbal. I jumped at the chance and took it on the next rehearsal.

My relationship with Gillian was coming to an end and I blamed my dad for it. I thought I was in love with Gillian and eventually took her home to meet my family. Dad looked at Gillian as his future daughter in law and the poor girl, only just sixteen put off any future relationship with me. So I got the big elbow.

At the time, I was devastated and very depressed. Not only had I lost my girlfriend but I thought I was going to lose my friendship with Ron and his musical mates. Ron said I could still go and see the rock band if I wanted to. I became an unofficial roadie for the band and followed them around on their gigs.

Location Eltham

© Eddy Newport 2017

Painting; The Well Odeon 2014 and The Montague Arms, © 2011 Peter Topping


Pictures;  courtesy of  Eddy Newport

Reflecting on anniversaries

I began writing the book back in 2013.

I say writing it but that is the year I was commissioned by the History Press but it would be more than a year later before I began seriously to consider the project.

Part of the reason was knowing where to look for original source material which was free of copyright restrictions.

But more than that it was about seeking material which had never be seen before and which would bring  out of the shadows some of those who had lived through the conflict and by extension share their lives with people today.

And the story of how I met David Harrop and came to use his collection is on record, so instead I want to reflect on another aspect of writing the book which was and is the anniversaries which roll through each chapter.

It was never designed as a chronological story of Manchester and the war but was grouped into themes from Manchester before the war to the way the city greeted and organised for the conflict in the first few months and then by degree how our citizens adapted to changes brought about by the four years of struggle.

But I was never far away from anniversaries, whether it was the “first Christmas” the Gallopli campaign and later Jutland and the Somme.

And as we progress through 2017 there will be many more which will sit with the personal ones, like the anniversary of the book’s publication, along with the its launch in Central Ref and first time I met those people who contributed family items.

All of which just leaves me to reflect that it is now two months and 29 days since its publication.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; from the launch of Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by ALTOSOUNDS

Thursday, 30 March 2017

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 82 ......... Whispering Dave and the gas inspector

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

A boy, a horse and a delivery van, circa 1900
Now I have been thinking about just how many people might wander through a house in its life time.

It may seem a rather silly thing to spend time on but those visitors will all have stories to tell and many will tell us as much about our collective past as they do about the house.

So over the years in this house there will have been a whole host of causal callers from the milk man to the gas inspector along with the dustman and the errand boy.

"Deliveries daily," 1928
And each of those four reflects the wide changes that the country has gone through in a century.

Few people today still rely on a daily milk delivery and yet until a short time ago the familiar clink of bottles on the door step acted as a second alarm call of the morning.

In the same way the practice of putting all your rubbish into one metal dustbin which was then manually lifted into a dust cart is now as distant as the telegram.

But some of those old services have returned albeit in a slightly different guise.

The arrival of the errand boy on his bike with the groceries vanished in the 1960s but has returned with a man or woman in a van and now ordered up online rather than the old fashioned way of sending a hand written note to the shop keeper.

And only last week we were told to prepare for the installation of  “smart” gas and electricity meters which means I will no longer have to send the readings to our energy provider, who incidentally is no longer the Gas Board with office in the Town Hall but a huge multinational company with headquarters somewhere else in the world.

Salford women gas inspectors, 1917 
The quarterly knock on the door from the meter man highlights also that period during the Great War when many local authorities employed women to carry out the readings.

It was a short lived practice lasting only as long as the war persisted and was stopped pretty much as the guns fell silent.

Nor had the practice been universally accepted with women facing opposition from work colleagues and those in charge.

In 1918 Mr Frederick A Price the superintendant of the Manchester Gas Department reporting to the Gas Committee of Manchester Corporation on the work of the 31 women clerks and 85 women meter inspectors concluded that while they were “good and careful workers” and were “industrious and painstaking, they lacked initiative, were not capable of discharging the higher administrative duties [and lacked] the necessary imagination and concentration with the power of organisation” added to which they “liked to indulge in a little gossip.” **

I will never know just who and how many casual callers Joe and Mary Ann let across the door step or for that matter who their friends were.

French friends, 1975
I do now that occasionally they entertained the odd tenant who lived in one of their houses and called with a problem.

The Scott’s occupied the house for over fifty years but by 1976 we were here and something of the comings and goings I can recall.

We had family up as you would expect along with close friends and then for the short period that Mike John and Lois shared the house there were plenty of people dropping in.

These included the French friends who stayed for short periods, and work mates like Whispering Dave who worked at North Manchester High School.

Building the boat, 1975
I never quite knew why he acquired the nickname, possibly because he looked a little like a popular DJ or it might have been his low voice.

He seemed to arrive around tea time and stayed for a while after he had eaten helping John build the boat which grew in the back garden from a skeleton of wooden beams to a fully equipped ocean going sailing craft.

Less welcome on reflection were some who washed up on the door step, were taken in and later abused the hospitality but in the long forty-one years we have been here they were few.

And that seems a positive note to close on, adding only that like the Scott’s we gave shelter to a whole shed load of animals but unlike all the other families who lived here we were the only ones to have children in the house.

A first which was bettered by that simple fact that our Saul was born here in the house in the big bed in the big bedroom.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;errand boy from the collection of Tony Walker, advert for T.C.Whitaker, 1928 St Clement's Bazaar Handbook,  Salford women gas inspectors, 1917, m08110,, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the reaming images from the collections of Lois Elsden and Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

** Women at Mens’ Work, Manchester Guardian, January 5, 1918, quoted from Manchester Remembering 1914-18, Andrew Simpson, 2017

Italy 2016

We were out exploring and came across the castle, high on a hill.

It dated back to to the 16th century.

Location; Italy

Pictures; Adriatica, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 30 .............. Muffin the Mule, Oxleas Woods and a model sailing boat

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

The Woods, 1976
I had many fights with my brother Dave.

I would tease him until he lost his temper and chase me round the bungalow with a stick trying to hit me with it.

I defended myself with a dustbin lid. Soon my jealousy was to hold no bounds. David’s friend Olive (our neighbour) parents bought a brand new television set and David was invited in to see it.

A television circa 1950s
TV had just started to become popular. That expense was far too much for our family. I did get in once or twice to see it, but not as regular as David. He watched the children’s hour with Muffin the Mule, Hank the cowboy and other visual delights on children’s hour, all this was excluded from me.

The feeling of the unjustness of it all on a 12-year-old, was too much, and I would tease and fight with David even more. As I was bigger I always got the better of the hassles. My mum said to me “One day David will beat you and then you will be sorry” how true that statement was to be. I guess I got what I deserve. We are very close now.

At the bottom of our  garden was a large fence, the other side of it was a Government Training Centre. An establishment set up by the government to help men after the war to get some qualifications to acquire skilled jobs like plumbing carpenters, electricians, gas fitters and hairdressing.

The later being the most popular with the local establishment. Volunteers were asked to be victims to the trainees for practicing their hair cutting skills. On Saturdays, the children were allowed in to have their haircuts. We would queue up at the gate and then taken through to the large room with all the prospective barbers would be waiting. Depending on who you got, and how much experience he had, you either had a good or bad hair cut. All this was for free so our parents did not worry, too much, as to how their kids looked like when they came home.

Blackheath looking out towards the Common 1976
I remember one Christmas when I was given a model sailing yacht as a present which I was very keen to try out. The nearest pond was the Prince of Wales Pond in Blackheath near the pub of the same name. This pond was very popular with small boating enthusiasts who would bring all types to sail.

Model tug boats, jet propelled boats, all sorts The jets were very exciting to watch as these were set up tethered up to a post set in the middle of the pond, the boat would be set off under a jet propelled engine and go round and round at incredible speed until it stopped, crashed or in some cases flew off its cable and ended up going over the grass beside the pond.

Sometimes a sailing boat would get in its way with the end resulting in damaged boats and a few cross words. I would not let dad rest until he took me to the pond to sail my new boat. She looked magnificent when the wind filled her sails and she took off over the pond. I was very proud of that boat.

Our social life was taken up with visits to Kennington to visit Nanny Hicks or Dulwich to visit our Nan and Granddad Newport. Other occasions were spent in visiting aunts, uncles and cousins.Special times were had when cousins Brian, Freddie and Doreen came to visit us. They lost their dad to illness (Uncle Fred) and came down with Aunt Jennie. They loved visiting us what was to them “the country” There were several wooded areas around and we would go off and explore them. I was to tag along with the two boys and I loved it. Close by in Birdbrook Road lived uncle’s Fred’s brother and his two children Vera and Alan and so they had to pop in to see them whilst they were visiting us. A case of two relations visited, for the price of one journey.

Those Woods again
On hot days we would go up Board Walk, which was about two miles long, to visit Oxleas, Jack and Castle Woods at Shooters Hill.

We would pack a picnic and off we go. These woods is an ancient forest and were famous for the hiding place of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who robbed coaches going up the hill as they slowed down.

Shooter Hill was part of the Roman road Watling Street and the main road to Canterbury and Dover. In the middle of Castle woods was an old folly that looked like a castle tower.

The top of the tower could be seen poking out above the canopy of the woods. This had been converted into a café and for a few pence, one could go up the tower and see the view of London and Kent from its top. This was the climax of our day out.The long walk home back along Broad Walk was an effort and when we got home we were ready for our beds exhausted but happy

Dad about this time enrolled me in the Cub Scouts. The scout hall was adjacent to the church of St James’s in Kidbrooke Park Road. St James’s church had a very tall spire but was bombed during the war and was just a shell of a building.

Next door was a prefabricated building which was used for the services.

Mum had Geoffrey christened there and once we reached a suitable age David and I were sent off to the Sunday school.

What I remember of my time in the cubs was good. I enjoyed the games and I was taught a lot of necessary things to get a badge to sew onto my green jerseys.

I managed to become a sixer which meant I had two silver stars on my cap. I felt confident and important and good about myself.

That was until I went up into the scouts proper and I could not handle the bullying and complexity of what I had to learn there so I left and that was the end of my scouting days.

Soon I was to gain my real freedom, dad got me a bike. Unfortunately, it was a smaller one than my friends had, and a little bit disappointed that it was a ladies bike without a crossbar.

It did, however, give me the freedom to roam wherever I wanted to go. Now I could explore my local area and I was off.

My friends and I went all over the area. All about us was trees to climb, fields to play in and streams to build dams in. A wonderful life at that time, not a care or a worry in the world just a boy having fun.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures;the Woods, the 1950s television and Blackheath from the collection of Andrew Simpson and remaining pictures courtesy of  Eddy Newport

On having not one but three other families .........

My great aunt and the Pember family in Canada, 1947
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”*

And anyone who has spent any time researching their family history can testify to that.

The surprises, along with the challenges to what you have been told can be challenging but also rewarding.

Now I am realistic enough to know that there was never a Princess, Duke or famous scientist in our family so no chance of being disappointed at the family story being shown to be fiction.

We were agricultural workers from the Highlands and the Midlands with an equal number of peasants from the lands around Cologne.

That said there is still an unexplored link with the sub Continent but even there we seem to  be dealing with seaman and stewards who worked the liners and tramp steamers that connected the great Empires of Europe with their far flung colonies and not  the dazzling family of an Indian ancestral dynasty.

Not that this is another of those ten point accounts of one person’s family history.

Instead it is a more general reflection on how family history can confront you with a mix of intellectual demands, some pretty harrowing stories and lots of the unexpected.

For me digging deep into the family past is about matching their lives with the bigger picture, otherwise how can you make sense of their experiences, their triumphs and disasters?

So to learn that one of the family was the first to get a University degree, when just four generations before most were illiterate and put a mark against official documents  is to see the transition in a family’s fortunes in a new light.

But it can also be a challenge and bring you up short to discover a close relative committed suicide or spent time in the Workhouse.

Nora Hall and children, that other family circa 1915
These are the sorts of revelations which do make you ponder on whether what you are doing is in some way a tad voyeuristic.

But then that bigger picture enables you to see that the Workhouse was a reality for many in the 19th century and that it walked beside a lot of working class families as a place not just of last resort but also a place to be used as an expedient when times were temporarily difficult.

And yet as grim as some discoveries can be there is the upside, when you come across new members of your family with their own histories to add to your own.

So just over four years ago I came across a second family.  They were the children of my great grandfather who having separated from my great grandmother, went off and married Nora, in Gravesend and in the fullness of time had another five children to add to the surviving four from his relationship with my great grandmother, Eliza.

And only this week a cousin in Canada who I had never spoken to made contact and the process of sharing and discovery began all over again.

Two nephews of my grandmother circa 1938
In the process all of us have learnt more not only about our immediate ancestors but a lot about the places and times that shaped their lives and by extension ours.

Nor is that quite it, because for many of us what starts as a vague wish to know more about great aunt Dolly becomes something much more.

It starts with talking a whole raft of new disciplines from research and writing up the stories, to getging involved in teaching the very skills which just a few months before you were mastering for the first time.

Not bad for a subscription to Ancestry and a trawl of old family documents.

Pictures; from the Pember family, Nita Luce and the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Monty Python

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Searching for our great uncle Roger ................ and a thank you to a heap of people

Now I am fully aware that one person’s family history is another’s long yawn, so this is less about our great uncle Roger and more about the international co-operation that has taken his story just a little further forward.

Places he knew ...... St John River, 2008 NB
He was migrated to Canada in 1914 by the Middlemore organization on behalf of the Derby Union of Guardians and later persuaded his sister to follow him across in 1925, leaving my grandfather and great uncle Jack here in Britain.

He ran away from his last placement in NS and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force changing his name and lying about his age.

He survived the Great War and returned to Canada in 1919 giving his forwarding address as the B & B Department, Canadian Pacific Railway, Revelstoke, British Columbia.

.............. the Patteson Farm 2008  NB
And that is where we lose him.

The family history was that he had settled in British Columbia but it is a big place and the leads just went cold.

But it was our Marisa who uncovered the Revelstoke address and the search resumed.

The Wikipedia entry for Revelstoke threw up the  Museum and Archives*

And given that he worked for the Canadian Pacific I asked for their help along with Exporail, The Canadian Railway Museum.

Both were very helpful sand in the case of Ms English, the Curator of the Revelstoke Museum & Archives did a search of  “our tax records, municipal phone books and other records without success” and suggested some links.

.............. Revelstoke railway station, 1915 BC
Nor was that all, because she also provided the answer to my confusion with the B & B Department which “stood for Bridge and Building department, and they were responsible for general construction and maintenance of snowsheds, buildings and bridges.”

And by one of those nice twists Marlene from Melbourne in Australia offered up the same information on the B & B Department which is a powerful confirmation of the value of social media.

I had first got to know Marlene over some stories I had written on a 16th century Elizabethan Hall just round the corner from us and which featured a 1915 wedding photograph  taken of Marlene’s grandmother who had been born in the Hall and went on to live in Canada.**

......... Revelstoke, 2003, BC
Now that is how I like my history and it just got better when Barb Torres from one the British Home Child sites sent me some more links.

All of which brings me back to our own family and the bits of the story which are parked away in the collective history.

Marisa had spotted that address in Revelstoke and Heather remembered her grandmother talking about great uncle Roger.

It is all a bit like looking through a dirty window .............. you can see some of the detail but much is just a blur.

That said we are getting there so it really is hands across the oceans.

Location; pretty much all over Canada

Pictures; St John River, NB, from the collection of Tammy Wood, and Railway station in Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada - 1915 from  Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Milton McFarland in the Public Domain and MacKenzie Avenue, Revelstoke,2003, Author waferboard, this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

*Revelstoke Museum & Archives,

**The Lomax Family of Hough End Hall,

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 29 .........

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

My favourite trips out were to the East Street market with Mum and Nan to do the shopping.

As a special treat, there were market stalls selling hot chestnuts and hot black current juice and the delight of sipping this delicious concoction to me was pure heaven. That was something to look forward to.

Nan visited the market often and was known by a lot of people so she was always stopping to chat with somebody.

There was a time when I got lost. I was a child who had an independent spirit and hated holding on to hands. So it was no surprise that I became detached from the family group.

I must have been about four years old. I guess I knew I was lost because I went up to a policeman and told him so. I was asked if I knew where I lived I did but could not relate the actual address so I told the policeman I could take him to it.

He persuaded a market trader to give me a present of some cigarette cards. We took off in the homeward direction. Once out of the market area we came across Mum and Nan looking for me. So all was well, but I was chastised for getting lost.

My brother David was now a permanent feature in my life. For four years I had the fullest of attention from my mother and grandmother and now I had some competition. I hate to say this, but I resented my brother whose attention he was taking from mum and nanny was less that what I was getting.

So a feeling of resentment took me over and I would not involve myself with him.

Today as I look back I feel bad that I should have felt like that but it is the truth. As he got older I would torment and tease David until he lost his temper until he got into trouble, but more likely I got into trouble for upsetting the baby.

David was just too far away from me in age to be a pal and our growing up was not a shared experience. Now, years later I love my brother and regret the time missed when we could have been closer. I was always doing my own thing and David his.

A magic moment was when “Jack’s”, a local ice cream man, would come by selling cornets and wafers. It was kept in large tubs with a big brass handles. The taste of his ice cream is a treasured memory. He had a highly decorated push cart with tubs kept cold with dry ice they looked as they were smoking.

He also sold toffee apples. I remember I got a head slapping from uncle Jim when he was taking me somewhere and I spotted Jack’s cart in the distance and shouted out I wanted an ice cream. Uncle was not having any of that and ignored my request to which I shouted louder only to get a thick ear for my trouble. I think he did not like me as I guess I was a spoilt child. I did not tell my mum about this. After that, I held a certain respect for Uncle Jim.

So now our family was four or five if we included Nan.

Nan’s son James (Uncle Jim) Hicks did not join the army. He spent the war as a civilian working in a factory making parts for the war effort. He had been courting a local girl who was drafted into the land army her name was Barbara.

She was a big girl with ginger hair and a quick wit and a fantastic sense of humour. They got married about the time Mum was expecting David and soon after announced that Aunt Barbara was expecting a baby.

They had a boy and named him Barry. He became a play pal for David and they grew up best of friends
A social gathering was often spent at Nanny and Granddad Newport’s home in Oakhurst Grove in East Dulwich. As the Newport’s clan were gaining maturity the boys were getting married and joining the army.

Uncle David (dad’s elder brother) was doing war work in a factory by this time he had married Aunt Rose (King). George married Ellen Nolan Aunt Nell. He joined up and went to war in Africa.

Arthur also joined the army and became a dog handler. Freddy stayed at home and was not able to join up as he was declared unfit for service. Aunt Ginny had married Fredrick Raeburn. Aunt Rose had married Walter Hobbs. The unmarried girls Ivy and Doris later joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps WRAC’s.

Oakhurst Grove was a big terraced house which was divided up into three flats the ground floor housing Aunt Ginny and her husband Fred and their three children Doreen,

Brian and Freddie. Freddie was about my age and I looked forward to seeing him, as he was always up to something exciting and was fun to be with. The first floor lived Nan, Granddad and Uncle Fred and the top floor lived Aunt Rose with her husband Wally.

They had a boy called Bruce. Later on, they had a girl Jennifer. Other social occasions were spent at Nanny Hicks flat with Uncle Jim and Auntie Barbara. Not as interesting as going to Oakhurst Grove. Christmas time was something special. All the family just had to be there even my other Nanny Hicks.

Nanny and Granddad Newport were there to watch over the evening. Us kids would be playing hide and seek down in granddad’s cellar and garden shed. The older generations would do their party pieces to entertain everybody else. My dad was playing the piano. The two-star performers were Uncle Arthur and Uncle George. They would dress up as vicars and do a hilarious comedy routine that had everyone in fits of laughter.

To me, the main event was when we all had to be on our best behaviour when Father Christmas came to visit us and distribute the presents. We all had to keep very quiet and wait for the knock on the door. Soon a loud knock could be heard and in came Father Christmas with a big sack over his shoulder bursting with presents. This was the real thing to a six-year-old.

We all got our presents and after FC had a mince pie and a glass of something he went out the door on his way. These were wonderful memories of a Christmas gone by. It got blown away the following year when FC came in only, this time, he had over his shoulder a pillow and not a proper sack and a beard that looked like cotton wool. Something fishy was going on here, I thought, and I soon realised Farther Christmas was one of my uncles, dressed up.

To me, the Christmas bubble had been burst never to be the same again. Some time later I found out that the original FC was Granddad Newport he was the best FC of all.

This photo was taken in 1945 minus the men still serving overseas. Left to right:-

Uncle David, Aunt Doris holding Cousin Pat, at the back Aunt Nell married to Uncle George (not in photo), and Cousin Doreen with hair bow, behind her is Aunt Rose with Edie (Mother) holding brother David, at the back uncle Fred standing next to Granddad David Newport, at the back standing is Uncle Fred Reaburn married to Aunt Ginny standing on his left. Centre is Nanny Jane Newport holding Cousin Bruce son of Rose and Wally Hobbs (not in photo). Centre right is Aunt Rose married to Uncle David holding cousin Brian, Aunt Ivy is standing with back to the piano. Two boys sitting in front are left, Cousin Freddie and I am next to him. Note photo on the piano is my dad Ted. (Not in photo)
Quite a bit to sort out.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ nu 10....... a bit of progress

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot.

It helps if there is a major new development underway like the one in the High Street and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s Pictures from an Eltham bus.*

There will be many who remember the RACS building in the High Street, which is now just a hole in the ground. Larissa was passing today and took these images commenting "this is the old coop building which will be a cinema....and Greggs."

Location, Eltham High Street, Eltham, London

Picture; March 2017 the old Co-op/Pound Shop site, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

*Pictures from an Eltham bus,

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Passing the time ............... watching

An occasional series of pictures of people and places.

Location; Varese, Italy

Pictures; People & Places,Varese, Italy, 2010, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 28 .........

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby, Eddy prefaced the next two stories with the comment that “I am afraid my blogs are not in any chronological order”  which is fine by me.

1940-1944 are years I have few memories. These was spent running to air raid shelters when a bomb scare was on, and carrying out the day to day business as best as the population can.

On 4th November 1944 my brother David was born in Woking Surrey as by this time the capital was under threat from Hitler’s V1 and V2 rockets. And once more pregnant mothers were encouraged to be evacuated to a safer place.

Dad and the army were on the move again and grandmother (Sara) wanted mother and me to be closer to her home and so rented accommodation was found at number 9 Braganza Street, Kennington, South London.

Kennington tube station was about 50 yards from the house. No 9 was in a row of terraced house and built on three levels. We moved into the middle flat. What I remember that at the back were a kitchen and scullery.

There was a bedroom with a window looking to the back of the house, and at the front, a living room overlooking the street and next to that was a small bedroom (mine).

In the front living room was dad’s prize procession a baby upright piano bought for around £35 from a music shop called Barnes in Oxford Street London. This piano was to be part of our lives for the next forty years.

This was a wedding present that they bought themselves using mum’s inheritance from her granddad.

The group photo was taken in Oakhurst Grove.  Note there are ny husband in thes photo as they are all overseas. Note the photo on the piano it is of my dad Ted.

Across the road was Gaza Street leading to the primary school and a bomb site. Nan’s flat was about a five minutes walk away.

There was a pub with a yard next to it and Kennington Park was about ten minutes away. Bombs falling and wartime disruption did not affect me in any way.

Of course, I vaguely remember being woken up in the night by the sirens going off, and being wrapped in a bed quilt and carried to the underground station or a Morrison shelter in case a bomb fell on our house, it never did.

For years, I used to have vivid dreams about tube trains sucking me into the tunnel and falling onto the railway line. I had a fear of going on the tube right up to the time I started work in London and had to travel on it. Trips out were very often to the park or to nanny visit.

Sometimes I would go out on my own with a friend or two and make our way to the park. The park was locked up at 7 o’clock and one day I got locked in. I became panicky when I could not get out through the gates. By this time mum had come to find me and with her outside and me inside wondering what to do.

However I decided that I was not going to stay in the park anymore I climbed over the gate much to the horror of the mother but glad I made it out.

I was always wondering off to explore the bomb sites. At one time on a long summer evening I decided to go home from the bomb site it must have been about 10 o’ clock. Father was on leave at the time and in I went only to find out that dad and mum had called the police and reported me missing.

1945 after the war had ended. I was taken to the top of our street at the junction of Kennington Park Road to see the victory parade go by. Military bands, marching soldiers, tanks, navy personnel, big guns and still more bands. The climax of this was to see Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery with his famous berry standing up in the back of his jeep waving to the crowd. A historical moment which at the time was lost on me, but later on in life I realised its importance to Londoners as the crowds were huge.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

Random pictures of Deansgate ........... no 2

Take a fine day, the price of a tram ticket from Chorlton to town and you have a start of a new series.

Andy Robertson introduced the new collection of photographs he sent over as “Random pictures of Deansgate” and that is a title I like.

Now this one I suspect will ignite a flurry of comments, given the pub, its history and the development soon to roll over the area.

Perhaps one of the last pictures of the place.

Location; Manchester

Picture, by the Great Northern, from the series Random Pictures of Deansgate, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Monday, 27 March 2017

Random pictures of Deansgate ........... no 1

Take a fine day, the price of a tram ticket from Chorlton to town and you have a start of a new series.

Andy Robertson introduced the new collection of photographs he sent over as “Random pictures of Deansgate” and that is a title I like.

So here is the first and and it captures the place perfectly.

Location; Manchester

Picture, by the Great Northern, from the series Random Pictures of Deansgate, from the collection of Andy Robertson

The places I usually don’t photograph ................... nu 3 the cut through

It was September 2014 and I was on my way to meet up.

Location;  Manchester

Picture; Manchester, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 27 .... 1956

1956 was the year I started at OPC and my social life was running much as before. 

Chris Barber and band, 1957
Steve Searl, Ron Devlin and Bob Taylor had secured apprenticeships in various firms and we still kept in touch with each other.

Bob and Ron had bought guitars and were trying to learn to play them. Skiffle had become very popular by then due to a hit song by Lonnie Donegan whose “Rock Island Line” had become a number one bestseller and was topping  the charts.

Lonnie Donegan was the banjo player of a traditional jazz band run by Chris Barber.

They produced an LP with a number of regular jazz tunes and had some space to add more music, so the story goes, Lonnie who sang American folk and blues songs with the band, had the chance to record a few fillers to go onto the LP.

During a break in recording Lonnie played guitar Chris played bass and a friend of the band was jazz singer Beryl Bryden who happened to have a washboard with her (this was played with thimbles on fingers running up and down on the serrated surface of the washboard thus producing the rhythm) and they recorded two songs “Rock Island Line” and “John Henry”.

This LP (long player) became a hit and it was soon realised that Lonnie’s tunes were the most popular. These two songs were released as a single and shot Lonnie Donegan to fame and fortune in his own right. The effect it had on a my generation of boys and girls who had been brought up on a diet of full band arrangements, ballad singers  and boring dance music was immense .

Rock and Roll had given us own musical identification and Skiffle was to give us the ability to be able to get involved ourselves and have a go at playing it.

Skiffle groups were being formed all over the country. All you had to do was learn three chords on a guitar and be able to sing in tune and if all the group members joined in a passable sound was produced. One problem that had to be overcome was the need for a bass. This was solved by getting a large tea chest which was a plywood square box about two foot by two foot, drilling a hole in the middle of one of its sides and with a stout piece of string secured in the hole and the other end to the end of a broom handle a reasonable note could be obtained.

You had to put one foot on the top of the chest and with one hand keeping the string taut by pulling back the broom handle and plucking the string a bass note was produced. Of course, a washboard was an essential part of the sound too. Washboard were hard to find as washing machines were becoming used more in homes and the old fashioned washboard was being thrown out with the rubbish.

my first drum kit
It was suggested that I would play the washboard (if I could find one) and Steve could play the tea chest bass. I did find one but it was made of glass and not suitable. However, I did manage to get an old banjo. I took off all the strings and with a pair of drum brushes; I produced a passable rhythm by tapping the banjo skin.

We would all meet at Bob’s house and in his bedroom; we would attempt to play some skiffle music.
Tim Leonard and I were becoming firm friends and I meet up with him in the evening and weekends. He lived with his mum, dad and sister.

His sister had been the head girl at the Gordon School. Tim also had a love of music and liked modern jazz. He was taking lessons on the clarinet and the tenor saxophone.

He liked to listen to Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, and American sax players such as Zoot Sims and Stan Getz. I was not too enthused about this style of music, as I was more into the traditional style as played by Louis Armstrong and Chris Barber. Cont:-

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; Chris Barber;(trombone); Monty Sunshine (klarinet); Eddie Smith (banjo); Dick Smith (bas); Ron Bowden (drums); Ottilie Patterson (zang), 1957, Joop van Bilsen (ANEFO)from GaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license and others from the collection of Eddy Newport

Pizza, pesto and a trip up country ........... getting closer to my Canadian history

Until recently I had no idea just how deeply my family’s past was linked to Canada.

Our connections with Germany and Italy were pretty straightforward but the Canadian side rested on a few stories of my great aunt Dolly who crossed the Atlantic in 1925.

Of course if I had thought hard enough it would have been obvious that a fair few of the family would have chanced their arm and started a new life on the other side of the world.

After all with an empire upon which the sun never set there were plenty of open spaces.*

I knew about Uncle Charles who had gone out to East Africa and later India in the 1930s and pretty much never came back but was totally unprepared for the rest.

These included the brother of our great grandfather who had slipped off to New Zealand before settling in Australia the relative who had plied the high seas as a ships engineer and great grandfather Montague who in the course of serving in the old Queen’s army had seen the sun rise in the West Indies, idled his spare time in Gibraltar and spent three years in South Arica.

All of which could be the story of many British families but what I never expected was the great uncle migrated to Canada in the spring of 1914 by the Derby Poor Law Guardians because my great grandmother “was incapable of caring” for him and his siblings which included my granddad and great aunt Dolly.

Once established he persuaded Dolly to join him which she did but in her own words not “fancying the open wilderness of the far west” she settled in Ontario got married and that is how we now have an extensive Canadian family who in turn can draw on French and British settlers from the late 18th century along with a Mr and Mrs Pember who set out from Salford in the 1840s and never looked back.

And in the winter of 2015our Saul wass there in Ontario,.

He did the tourist bit of visiting New York, Memphis and Texas before making the 36 hour bus journey north from New Orleans to Ontario crossing the border at 6 am on a cold Saturday morning and has spent the last week with our cousins.

During that week he met more of the family, saw some stunning countryside and in return dished up homemade pizza and pesto and in the process brought all of us a lot closer.

All of which could be a prelude to a shed load of family stories but instead it will just be a thank you to Chris and Andrea and their two sons for making him so welcome and to our  Jac who sent me the first picture of them all together.

Andrea has more photographs ready to send but for now that’s it.

Pictures; a meal and the landscape of Ontario from the collection of Saul Simpson

*Possibly according to one American journalist because God didn’t trust the British and so wanted to always be able to see what we were doing.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Why did the Derby Poor Law Guardians lose grandad's place of birth?

Beware what you wish for is one of those warnings I have never really understood.

William Henry Hall, circa 1930
But then I have never really made that many wishes and likewise have never really been one for planning out my life.

For me it’s about bumping along which some would suggest betokens a lack of ambition but on the other hand means I am rarely disappointed.

And in the same way I have not got over upset about the discoveries I have made about our family history.

There have been the usual ups and downs, from unemployment, sudden and early deaths to some surprising achievements and along the way a few born out of wedlock,  a couple of rogues and a lot of ordinary people who lived out their lives against the great events of the last three centuries.

But just occasionally I have been brought up sharp, like the time I discovered a relative who had committed suicide.  It had been one of those fairly routine exercises in tracking him down and sending for his death certificate only to be confronted with the evidence of a horrible death and a sense that I was somehow intruding into someone’s private life.

And today has been another of those moments.

I knew that my grandfather and his siblings had been brought up in care and that eventually one would be dispatched to a naval training camp, another to Canada as a British Home Child, the eldest apprenticed to a blacksmith and great aunt Dolly into domestic service.

Laura Isadora Pember nee Hall, 1968 
What I was not prepared for and what has saddened me is that the entry in the census returns for all three while in foster homes listing their places of birth "as unknown."

And yet the documentary evidence is all there.

Great uncle Jack was born in Bedford my grandfather and great uncle Roger in different parts of Birmingham and great aunt Dolly in the Derby Workhouse.

Which leaves me with that simple question of why were their places of birth unknown?

It might have been the policy of the Guardians to omit such information which looks to be the case given that none of the youngsters in either foster home has a place of birth beside their name.

And I certainly don’t think it was because the information was not out there.  My great uncle Roger was 13 in 1911 and must have known where he had been born and likewise it beggars belief that the authorities didn’t know where great aunt Dolly had been born given that it was in their own hospital.

Now I know that their mother way well have been unable to help. I had long suspected that her grip on reality was light.

After a brief spell of looking after them in 1913 she was judged  to be “unfit to have control” and the younger three were taken back into care, and later in 1939 she was in the Borough Mental Hospital where she died in 1963.

But I still find it hard that the children were listed as such.

Great aunt Dolly was well aware of where all of them had been born and said so in a letter she wrote in the 1970s and I suspect so did the others.

It is true that later great uncle Roger would tell the Canadian army that he was born in Derby but he also listed as his next of kin his aunt rather than his mother which would suggest a deliberate decision to muddy the waters which given that he was running would fit with him also lying about his age and changing his name.

It is all a long time ago and all of the children are now dead but I am more than a little angry that such a vital piece if information as their place of birth was never recorded.

Location; Derby

Pictures; William Henry Hall, born 1899,  Laura Isadora Pember nee Hall born 1902, and John Nelson, Montague Hall, born 1896,  from the Pember and Simpson collections.

Passing the time ............... early evening on the beach

An occasional series of pictures of people and places.

Location; Alghero, Sardinia, Italy

Pictures; People & Places Alghero, Sardinia, Italy, 2012 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 26 ....

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

Ted went to war, in the same way, as his dad David went to war in 1914. This was to set up a line of defence with trenches to stop the enemy advancing.

The history of the war is well documented and I am no historian. Ted’s involvement was that his regiment got as far as Belgium before it was realised that the foe was far better equipped that the British forces were.  Ted did get to dig his field hospital.

As he was getting ready for action and his platoon were doing their stuff, when the order came down to abandon everything and get back to the coast and head for Dunkirk as soon as possible.

He and his men were responsible for some wounded and they had to be stretchered back over a canal bridge as quickly as they can, as they were going to blow it up.

Dad said in later life that an officer was decorated with a gallantry medal as being the last soldier to defend this bridge and being the last one back over it. Dad always maintained he and his group were, in fact, the last ones over that bridge.

So the rush back to the coast began and the army was in disarray with many units breaking up. Ted and his men were on their own. His wounded were taken off by trucks or ambulances but the poor old foot soldier had to make do with what he could find.

It was at this time that Ted fired a gun in anger. The story goes that an officer commandeered Ted and his men. He gave him the order to use an anti-tank rifle and to take up a position at a corner of a street and then wait for a German tank to poke its nose round the corner.

Ted’s job was to fire around at it to make it stop and hold it up for a few minutes to delay the advance. The effect on the tank with this weapon was like firing a pea shooter at a brick wall but it seemed to work. I asked dad what he did next. He said he took out the bolt, through away the gun and ran like bloody hell.

Another incident happened on the way back to Dunkirk. He and his men were running across a field and he came under mortar fire. Ted’s running for cover managed to lose his glasses and he stopped to try and find them. His mate Geoff Burchill asked what the hell are you doing and told him in no uncertain way to get a move on.

Ted had a spare pair in his pack, but it did not occur to him at the time.  On another occasion, he was approached by a French man who having seen Ted’s medical badges on his uniform asked to go to his farm house and his wife was in the late stages of childbirth. Ted did not have any experience of this but got things going with hot water and was about to do his best when a medical officer arrived and took over and told

Ted to get back with his men and keep going back to the coast. He always wanted to know what the lady had but never found out.

Ducking and diving into ditches to avoid the German air force that were doing their best to destroy them.

They managed to find Dunkirk beaches at last. He then joined the queues to the boats that were waiting to take them back to England.

At last, he managed to get on board a navy ship. Stripping himself of all his packs and making himself comfortable on the deck, he prepared for the journey home. When a German bomber came over and dropped a bomb straight down the funnel and exploded. The next thing Ted knew was he was in the water and trying to swim for his life. Ted was not a good swimmer and the fact he was not weighted down with his packs saved his life.

Dad said he did not know how long he was in the water but a French man grabbed him and got him to the beach. I ask dad about this incident and questioned him what he did next. Can you imagine, Ted was soaking wet with no pack or equipment.

He said he looked around and found a lorry with some uniforms in and put on a dry uniform. He later found a helmet and rifle from a dead soldier. Having kitted himself out, he once more joined the queue back to the boats. Queuing was a dangerous business as German planes were bombing and shooting up the beaches. On one occasion instead of running to the sand dunes for cover he just lay down where he was and a bomb exploded close to him.

Unharmed he got up and looked about him and realised he was on his own, so he ran as fast as he could and gained some extra yards on the queue. Eventually, he got on a smaller boat and finally got back to Dover absolutely knackered, he got onto a train going to London and once on board he fell asleep. Later he awoke to find the train had passed through London and was well on its way Cardiff. Finding himself alone he later found that the train had stopped at the Elephant and Castle and all the London soldiers got off.

No one woke Ted up and he was very upset that the train had stopped only a stones through from his home.

He could have gone home to his own bed and family.
 Eddy Newport ages one year 1941.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

Leaving for Canada in 1849 .... a momentous step

I think you would have to be really poor of imagination not to feel something at seeing the marriage certificate of an ancestor.

I am staring at the marriage certificate of James Hampson and Sarah Tildsley who were married on December 9th 1838 in the parish church of Eccles.

Now strictly speaking they are not family, but belong to my cousins in, Ontario, but Pendleton where they were both born and lived is just five miles away from Chorlton and they began their married life during the time I been writing about our own township.

And sometime just a decade after their marriage they took the momentous step and left for Canada with their five children the eldest of whom must have been no more than eleven and the youngest just about two years old.

James Hampson was born in 1816 and Sarah a year later and they reflected something of the changes that were happening to Pendleton.  Both came from families which were connected with the new Pendleton which was a place of cotton mills, dye works and coal mines.  Sarah’s father was an engineer and both James and his father were cotton dyers. By the 1840s this part of the northwest had become a centre for the manufacture of cotton.  In 1842 there were 412 cotton mills employing thousands of workers in what is now the Greater Manchester area while Manchester alone had 41 factories.

And cotton dyeing is an essential part of the cotton process.  Many of the dye works were situated along the banks of the River Irwell utilising the steady flow of water.  Before the 1850s the process still relied on natural dyes using the flowers, berries, leaves, barks and roots of plants and herbs.  As such the work would not have been as dangerous as it was to become with the introduction of chemical dyes.

But it must still have been very uncomfortable.  James would have constantly been exposed to hot and cold water and dyes which left his hands stained different colours.  He would also have worked longer hours than other cotton workers.  Long after the government had begun to regulate working hours in the cotton industry a Royal Commission in 1855 found that many bleaching, dyeing and printing workers  regularly put in fifteen or sixteen hours a day and often continued for several days and nights without stopping.

The family lived on Ashton Street within a few minute’s walk from cotton mills, a dye works and a coal mine with the newly built railway and the slightly older canal close by.

Looking out from their home the Hampson’s would have been faced with a row of one up one down back to back houses which backed on to Miners Row.  Theirs might have been a slightly bigger house but the detailed 1848 OS map shows that their nearest water pump was some distance away.

And while there are was sill dotted with plenty of open land it must have been obvious that in the next few decades all of it would be developed for more industrial and residential use.

The rural appearance of where they lived should not blind us to the fact that it must have been a hard life.
Hours were long and wages were low. Engels quotes from the Factory Inspector, Leonard Horner in October 1844

“The state of things in the matter of wages is greatly perverted in certain branches of  cotton manufacture in Lancashire; there are hundreds of young men, between twenty and thirty, employed as piecers and other wise who do not get more than eight or nine shillings a week, while children under thirteen years, working under the same roof, earn five shillings, and young girls from sixteen to twenty years, ten to 12 shillings per week” *

Wages fluctuated with the trade cycle.**  In 1833 the highest wages were paid to men between the ages of 31 to 36, with huge disparities recorded for women and children. Their wages could also be docked for minor misdemeanours ranging from lateness to leaving a window open.***

Now trying to make sense of wages one hundred and sixty-years later is always fraught with difficulty. However Engels living in 1845 was in no doubt that the above wage levels were not good.  And this had a direct impact on the standard of living.  Their food was basic and monotonous. The staples were bread, oatcakes, watery porridge, potatoes, and a little bacon. Sometimes the porridge was flavoured with onions. Porridge was also made in thick lumps so it could be eaten with the hands at work. Tripe (sheep stomach lining), slink (calf born too early), and broxy (diseased sheep) were regarded as treats by the poorest.

Many workers were still paid on a Saturday evening and by then the quality of food at the markets was poor.
“The potatoes which the workers buy are usually poor, the vegetables wilted and the cheese old and poor quality, the bacon rancid, the meat lean, tough, taken from old , often diseased cattle”****
An observation Engels followed up the report that on January 6th 1844 eleven meat sellers had been fined for selling tainted meat.   Added to this there was the adulteration of food as this report from The Liverpool Mercury shows
Salt butter is moulded into the form of pounds of fresh butter, and cased over with fresh. In other instances a pound of fresh is conspicuously placed to be tasted; but that pound is not sold; and in other instances salt butter, washed is moulded and sold as fresh...pounded rice and other cheap materials are mixed in sugar, and sold at full monopoly price. A chemical substance...the refuse of the soap also mixed with other substances and sold as sugar...chicory is mixed in good coffee. Chicory, or some similarly cheap substance, is skilfully moulded into the form of the coffee berry, and it is mixed with the bulk very liberally...cocoa is extensively adulterated with fine brown earth, wrought up with mutton fat; so as to amalgamate with portions of the real article...the leaves of tea are mingled with sloe levies and other abominations. Used leaves are also re-dried, and re-coloured on hot copper plates, and sold as tea. Pepper is adulterated with dust from husks etc; port wine is altogether manufactured (from spirits, dyes etc.), it being notorious that more port wine is drunk in this country than is made in Portugal. Nasty things of all sorts are mixed with weed tobacco in all its manufactured forms.” *****

Hard work, long hour’s poor housing and a poor diet left its mark on the health of people.  In 1842 the average life expectancy of the working class in Manchester was just 17 years of age.  There is no reason to suppose it was any better in Salford.  Indeed infant mortality in Salford in 1850 was much higher than the national average.******

All this took its toll as this description of mill workers by a medical worker in 1833 is horrifyingly unflattering:
'...their complexion is sallow and pallid--with a peculiar flatness of feature, ...their stature low--the average height of four hundred men, measured at different times, and different places, being five feet six inches...their limbs slender, and playing badly and ungracefully...a very general bowing of the legs...great numbers of girls and women walking lamely or awkwardly, with raised chests and spinal flexures...nearly all have flat feet, accompanied with a down-tread, differing very widely from the elasticity of action in the foot and ankle, attendant upon perfect thin and straight--many of the men having but little beard, and that in patches of a few hairs...' *******

Given all this it is easy to see why a family might choose an alternative and the 1840s were a  hard time for all but the rich and there were schemes to resettle working families across the Empire. This was a policy that was actively pursued by the Poor Law Commissioners with parochial aid or assistance from local landlords.   The Commissioners reported that over 2, 000 had gone to Canada in 1841 which was an increase on the year before, and that assistance was also being given to move to Australia and New Zealand.

Location; Salford, Greater Manchester

*Horner Leonard Factory Inspector quoted by Engels Frederick The Conditions of the Working Class in England 1845 page 170

**Frow, Edmund & Ruth, Radical Salford 1984 page 34

***Frow, page 4

****Engels page 101

*****Liverpool Mercury quoted in Engels, Friedrick page 102

******In 1850 infant mortality was 175 per thousand compared to 150 nationally

*******Gaskell P, The Manufacturing Population of England, London, 1833

Pictures; Marriage certificate from the collection of Jacquie Pember-Barnum, 1848 OS map for Lancashire and Union Street Mill,Ancoats, Austin and Gahey, 1835, m52534, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,