MORE OF MY LIFE’S MEMORIES
C.R. Johnson, 1971
NB: This was formerly published in booklet form and the copy from which this text was taken was sigend inside the front cover:
To: Phyllis &
Maurice, with my compliments, Uncle Cam, March 1972
n.b Spelling, grammar and punctuation are true to Cam’s original – Ken Morse
I have already written memories of my past life, but as much of it was devoted to my church activities, some of my friends have expressed the wish that I write more fully of my everyday life. I will try to do this but am doubtful if any of my friends will find it very interesting. If at any time I repeat an incident previously recorded, I hope I shall be forgiven.
I will begin by some of my earliest recollections and that is when I was a very small boy, perhaps four or five years old.
I well remember a new suit my parents had bought me. It was the kind of suit popular in those days, known as sailor suits. I felt very proud of it. This particular suit had short trousers, but it was the jacket that thrilled me, for it had the sailor collar falling over the shoulders, the edges being trimmed with yellow braid, as was also the edges of the jacket, and to make my day, there was a yellow cord to go around my neck, to which was attached a yellow whistle for my jacket pocket.
When I was still very young, I, with other small boys went to play in the forest, and we got as far as Danby Lodge. Whilst there, two ladies appeared on the scene, each with a camera slung over their shoulders – I did not know that they were camera. However, one of the ladies asked me to sit at the foot of a tall beech tree, and then proceeded to take my photograph as I sat there. In those days, Danby beeches were noted for their size and beauty, and attracted many people visiting the Forest. I often wonder what became of the picture of little me and the beech tree.
Christmas was of course, the great day of my life, especially during my school days. On Christmas Eve I went to bed expectantly, wondering what Father Christmas would put in my stocking. Although the contents of the stocking were not expensive, I was thrilled with them and awoke in the early hours to enjoy my new treasures. One Christmas morning, I found he had brought me a Noah’s Ark, a toy very popular in those days. I was very happy playing with the various animals it contained.
One night I was determined to lie awake ,and get a glimpse of Father Christmas, but after lying awake a long time, I heard a loud knock at the front door. Then I heard my father answer the door and talking to someone. At once I thought that Santa had come to the door and not down the chimney, and as everything became quiet, I went to sleep eventually. I realized later that it was a ruse on my father’s part to get me to sleep.
To me, Christmas began a week or two before Christmas Day, for it was delightful to look in our shop window when lit up for the evening, and see the boxes of dates, raisins, currants and peel on view, surrounded by oranges, figs, grapes and nuts, interspersed with sprigs of berried holly, making the whole scene a very exciting one for us children.
On Christmas Eve we were put to bed at our usual time, but sometimes before morning, my father had been busy decorating the living room. Going down stairs after emptying our stockings, we children were amazed at the transformation that had taken place in the living room. As we were awake before daylight, the lamp was alight on the table, lighting up the evergreens which my father had placed around the room. Behind every picture, on the mantelpiece, and every other available space, he had arranged holly, ivy, laurel and sprays of yew, giving the room a fairy like appearance; we were absolutely thrilled. For my part, I prefer this old custom of decorating with evergreens, to the modern ones of paper chains, tinsel and balloons. My father may have been too lavish in the use of the greenery from an artistic point of view, but I would not have had it otherwise.
On Christmas Day we had plenty of carol singers. The boys of our near neighbours – the Webb family – never failed to come and sing the old carol named The Twelve Apostles. How they came to learn the carol I never knew, but it was from hearing the singing it year after year, that I learnt the words as they sang them, though it was difficult to understand the sense of some of them. In later years I found there were many versions of it.
Another singer who came on Christmas morning was an old man named Tommy Beddis. Dressed in a smock and moleskin trousers with a billy-cock hat on his head, he would come shuffling along with his stick to help him. My parents always asked him in and gave him a chair, and by his side on the table, they placed a mug of beer from which the old man would occasionally sip whilst singing in his quavering voice the old carol called ‘The Little Room’. The carol is a very long one, and it took the old man a half an hour or more to sing it. Whilst Tommy was singing and sipping my mother went on with her duties, whilst I and my brothers watched and listened with some amusement.
I do not remember if in those days the local band played in the village at Christmas or not but we were visited by one or two chapel choirs as they went from house to house.
Another highlight of the festival was a visit by a group of our local boys, who acted the old MUMMERS play of King George and the Dragon. The players would be dressed in all manner of ‘get up’, old clothes borrowed from their home, no doubt. They would enter the house each in turn to act their part then at the end they would join together and sing a carol. The younger members of our family were thrilled by the display, though it was probably very crude.
I was only allowed to sing my carol at the homes of near relatives.
We had a large joint of beef for our Christmas dinner, for turkey was not thought of then, and chicken would not be sufficient for our family. My mother made a large quantity of Christmas puddings – a dozen or more in quart basins, not so rich as they are made today, but nevertheless very enjoyable.
Bonfire night was another highlight in my life, for when our shop was flourishing, a big fire was made on the green in front of the shop, and fireworks set off by my father on a stone landing platform attached to the shop premises. Although my father supervised the event, I imagine that the cost was borne by the shop accounts.
Many people gathered there for the display. Later in life, I, with other boys celebrated the famous Fifth in our own way. For weeks before the day, we would go down to the Roman Road, cut gorse, and drag it up the hill for our fire.
When the weather was too bad in winter to play out of doors, I loved to sit at the table with the lamp alight and read the ‘Chatterbox’, an annual of which I was very fond. When the weather was fine, I played with other boys, especially Howard Biddington, Fred James, (Teddar) Willie Hawkins and my brother Victor.
It was usual for Forester to shorten names, and this was done in the case of Biddington, The family was spoken of as Bintons, thus Howard to us boys was Howard Binton.
Willie Hawkins lived alone with his mother, who, being a midwife, was often away from home all night. Willie, not liking having to sleep alone in the house, would ask his mother if Victor and I could sleep with him on these occasions. My mother would consent, but Master Willie would make the same request at the homes of Howard and Tedder (inconsistent spelling – KM), so that when we arrived there in the evening there were five of us. Boy-like, after sitting around the fire and talking awhile, we wanted something to do, so one evening we agreed to make some taffee, (toffee). We ransacked the old lady’s cupboard, where we found some brown sugar and treacle. We mixed these ingredients, put it into a frying-pan and then over the fire, where it sizzled for a while till we thought it was done, then spreading the surface evenly, we took it out of the pan to cool. After cutting it into five strips, we sat around the fire and enjoyed our feast. When we went to bed we all tumbled into the old lady’s bed – three at the top and two at the bottom – but there were more giggles than snores for an hour or so.I attended Sunday School at the little church at Yorkley Wood, and also went to service there with my father and mother. At Sunday School, I had to learn the Collect fro the day, but I am afraid that when repeating it before my teacher, I could only stumble through it. However, in later years, I found I could remember the substance of most of them and found it a great help.
When toiling up Bailey Hill
on a hot summer day on my way to Sunday School, I often envied men I saw lying full length under the shade of the oak trees on the roadside.
One of the thrills of my young life was going with my father and mother to Evensong at Primrose Hill. As there wasn’t a church there then, services were held in the school. Mr A.J. Lumbert was Lay Reader and took the service which so impressed me. The most impressive part was the beginning of the service when the hymn ‘Hark, hark, my soul’, was sung as the robed choir walked in procession from the door to the choir stalls. It was in winter, with a large congregation and a well lit church, both of which helped to impress the scene on my memory.
I and my brother, Victor, were sent to bed early, both in winter and summer when the days were long, we often played before going to sleep. One of games was what we called ‘tents’. We would discard all the bedclothes except the sheet, then taking the sheet we would put it over our heads and sit on the corners and pretend that we were camping. What my mother thought of our antics, I do not remember.
On Sunday evenings in summer, when people were thronging the roads after church services, we would sit up in bed and try to count the people as they walked to and fro.
I started school at Viney Hill at what was known as a Dame’s school. It was near St. Swithin’s C of E school and was kept by an old lady – Mrs Gething. The school had only a few pupils of whom I was one. I was there but a short time before being sent to St Swithin’s nearby. There are only two trivial things that stand out in my memory whist at the Dame’s school, one was being taken to an outhouse adjoining the schoolroom, that contained an old cider mill and being made to trot with the other children around the old trough, chanting the words ‘King around boys’ three times, then shout the word ‘Stump’ and suddenly stop. I presume this was for exercise.
The other memory is a scene that persists in y memory, but why it should I do not know. When going to the toilet, we had to go down a narrow path bordered on each side by a clipped privet hedge. It’s this little path that sticks in my memory, for I can still see it and smell the scent from the privet.
I have already written about my school life in a previous booklet, so that I will now mention only briefly some of those school days.
They were not unhappy days. A Mr Harris was the headmaster when I was sent there and his wife and one of his sons were teachers, but soon after I went there Mr. Harris resigned, and he, with his family left the district. Mr J.H.Hudson was the next headmaster and he retained the post for many years, in fact, I was grown up and on the board of managers when he was dismissed. He was very nice towards me, as also were the teachers. I do not think that I was ever caned by the Master, though no doubt I deserved it at times if I had been found out.
A rather amusing incident occurred one day when I was going to school, although it frightened me at the time. When nearing the school, I was passing a big boy who was teasing a horned sheep. The sheep suddenly turned on the boy, lowered its head and ran at him and butted him down a nearby bank. What happened afterwards I do not know, for I ran on to school as fast as I could go.
We used to have special days for examinations in those days, which I think was calculated to upset children of a nervous temperament, for we were told to attend school on that particular day with specially clean faces and hands, combed hair and clean boots. In class we were supplied with new copy-books, sharpened pencils and new rubbers and also clean slates and slate pencils. However, at the age of 13 years I managed to pass an examination and received a certificate signed by Mr S.J.Elsom (School Manager) to certify that I was ready for employment.
My life before starting work was a happy one. I had a comfortable home, but by no means a luxurious one. My parents did their best for their large family, the older members being apprenticed to trade or business, but when the younger ones arrived, they were not in a financial position to do the same for us.
I had plenty of time for play, but had small jobs to do in the home, especially on Saturdays. After starting work I still helped my mother in many ways, especially after my sister Bernice started teaching at Viney Hill school and my father was more or less an invalid.
Although I was fond of my parents, a little demon within me in those days would compel me to tease my mother at times. On one occasion when my mother was cleaning up the hearth I said something to exasperate her whist standing at the door ready to run. Picking up the poker by her side she reached out with it and touched my bare bottom as I only had my shirt on. I do not think she realized the poker was hot, but it left a scar for a few days which, of course, served me right.
When I deserved it, it was my mother who chastised me by putting me across her lap and tanning my bottom with a flat piece of board. Only on one occasion do I remember my father punishing me in this way.
During the summer when various fruits were in season, and we had had our Sunday dinner, my father would bring out what fruit we had, and on a wall outside the door he would make small piles of it for us younger children.
When my sister and Joe Baxter were married, I well remember the event, for it was Boxing Day, and when they were crossing the green near our home, having walked from Viney Hill Church, thick snow was driving in their faces. However, there was a great deal of merriment that evening long after I was put to bed.
I heard afterwards that after the Nag’s Head’ had closed, a few of its customers came to our house to get a drink to celebrate the occasion. One old man excused their calling by saying “Thic owd tin mon told us to come over”. He was alluding to Joe Baxter’s father who worked at the tin-works, and had evidently been in the pub earlier in the evening.
After leaving school at 13 years of age, I started work at the Lydney tin-works with my brother-in-law, and lived with him and my sister Dora for the greater part of the 14 years I worked there.
When my sister’s health began to fail, during the latter part of my time at Lydney, I lodged for a year or so with Mr & Mrs Dick Baxter, then with my cousin Hilda and her husband, Jim Thorne.
Until my marriage in 1913 at the age of 27 years, I seemed to be living two lives – my everyday work at Lydney and my frequent visits to Yorkley during the week and at weekends, as my interests lay there.
Although I was comfortable and well looked after in each of my three lodgings, I was never very happy at Lydney, for I longed for the environment of my home and village.
As I have mentioned in my previous writings, some of the incidents of my life at Lydney, I will try and give a picture of my Yorkley interests from the time I started work, until I was confirmed at the age of 20.
During those adolescent years, I and my friends were members of various choirs – the Yorkley Harmonic and the Yorkley Male Voice being the chief ones, in fact, my brother Horace and I were singing in Mr William Everett’s Male Voice Choir before our voices had broken.
During weekends, I and my friends would walk the roads having discussions and singing hymns and part songs. On occasions we would go for long walks. One of these was on an August Bank Holiday. We started from Yorkley at ten o’clock in the morning, then with arms swinging, we strode along at four miles an hour, through Lydney and Aylburton to Chepstow, then up the Wye Valley through Tintern and Brockweir till we reached Redbrook, where we turned for Coleford and home, which we reached at 10.0pm tired but happy.
One Saturday afternoon in summer, we decided to walk to Symonds Yat, so away we went at a swinging pace, and when we reached there we viewed the scene from the Rock, walked by the river for a while before returning home.
We were not in the habit of visiting Pubs, but one Saturday afternoon one of our ‘gang’ suggested we go as far as Speech House for a walk. When we reached there, thinking we ought to have a drink, we went into the bar to have one. I think I had two whiskies before we left and was feeling quite happy, but it was suggested that we call at the Rising Sun Inn at Moseley green. It would have been better for me if we had gone straight home, for silly like, I had one or two bottles of stout, which evidently fought with the whisky in my stomach, for I sat on a seat outside the Pub wishing I had the courage to jump in the pool that lay before me.
I could not bear the thought of whisky for several days afterwards. None of us lads had any special liking for intoxicants, but like many others at that age we thought it the thing to do, on special occasions like Christmas time, so I did at times indulge too freely. I was amused on one particular Christmas seeing one of my friends lying full length on the rug in front of the fire, muttering drunkenly in his sleep “Stoop down and drink and live”. The thought of its irreverence did not strike me at the time.
However, theses were lapses from our ordinary way of life, for as I have mentioned, we were fond of singing and having discussions. Our discussions were usually of religion or politics and in addition too singing as we walked the roads, we often stood at the bottom of the Bailey hill, raising our voices in Harmony.
We often saw one or two doors being opened so that folk could hear us singing. On one occasion we stood by the garden gate of a cottage where an old lady lay dying, and softly sang the old Sankey hymn ‘Safe in the arms of Jesus’.
As some of my friends were Baptists, I sometimes went to their chapel with them, but not with the intention of worship, I’m afraid, but it was rather the attraction of girls. I was a shy lad, and only on one or two occasions did I summon up courage to walk out with a girl, until Ethel and I began our courtship. I walked with one girl to her home at Yorkley Wood, she being on one side of the road, and I on the other, with scarcely a word being spoken. At another time I went out with a girl who lived at Etloe, but this did not last long, for when she asked me to attend one of their Christian Endeavour meetings, I decided not to see her again. At Lydney too, I went out with a girl for a short time, but none of these affairs lasted long.
My attendance(s) at church in those days were rare. My brother Horace and I did walk to Newnham church one Sunday morning, and we went to Evensong at Viney Hill occasionally. It was at a service at Viney Hill, that I was so impressed by the sermon preached by the vicar, Canon W.A.Roberts, that I decided to be confirmed.
I attended classes under the Canon, the candidates being seven of whom Ethel was one. She was a girl of 15 years of age with her hair hanging down her back. To me, she was just a young girl from the Nag’s Head Inn across the way from my home. I was twenty years if age, and we were confirmed at Blakeney church, by Bishop Mitchenson – the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, it being one diocese at that time.
Feeling it was the Christian life that mattered, I made up my mind to do all I possibly could do to promote the work of the church at Viney Hill. I soon became a Sidesman at church, and a Sunday school teacher.
Canon Roberts was a stern disciplinarian, though he was kind and helpful in his ministry. As an example of his sternness and autocratic manner, I will relate an incident which happened at one of our Sunday School treats. Although Mr Hudson was superintendant, the Canon took charge of the event, and arranged that the children sit on the grass in two semi-circles, one behind the other. He then instructed a teacher to take food around on a tray, going the whole round before another teacher did the same. You can imagine what happened. Before the first teacher had done half the round, the children that had first been served were clamouring for more. Mr Hudson was furious and came to me complaining, then afterwards, he must have gone to the Canon with his complaint and involved me, for the Canon came striding up to me and said that Mr Hudson had told him that I was complaining about the feeding arrangements, I replied that all I had said was that I thought the second teacher should have started her round sooner. His reply I thought was typical of the man, and not very encouraging to a young teacher, “Cameron Johnson”, he said, “I will not be dictated to by my subordinates”.I was coming home from church one Sunday evening, when I overtook a row of girls with linked arms, one of whom was Ethel Morris. As I was passing, one of them made a remark to me, (not Ethel) so I walked along with them chatting. Eventually the girls went to their homes, one by one, till Ethel Morris and I were left alone. I naturally saw her to her home, and from then our courtship began. Naturally my former way of life was changed, for my time at Yorkley was taken up by meeting Ethel as often as possible, as well as my church activities. As my interests in the church developed, so my contact with my Yorkley friends became less frequent.
During those years before
our marriage, both Ethel and I regularly attended the early morning Holy Communion service, Ethel being also a member of the girls Bible Class and singing in the choir, whist I continued my work in
the Sunday school, and as a Sidesman.
As I am recording more of my private life than I did in my previous booklet, I will leave any comments I wish to make about my church work until later, except for what is required for clarity.
I was 22 years of age, and Ethel 17 years, when we became seriously involved with each other. She still had her hair long over her shoulders, and was rather shy of meeting me owing to the difference in our ages, though the opportunities of walking out together were few, for she felt obliged to help her mother in the business at the Nag’s Head as much as she could. She continued to do this after our marriage.
Our courting days were happy ones, although we had at times our little differences. When two lives are to be joined together in marriage, the process of integrating those lives should begin before the marriage.
When we became engaged, after I had asked her mother’s consent, we had a happy day at Bristol, and bought the ring at the well known jewelers, Pleasance and Harper.
On July 21st 1913, our marriage took place at Viney Hill church. It was a beautiful summer day with the sun shining gloriously. It took place on a Monday, as it was more convenient than Saturday as the ordinary business at the Nag’s Head would be quieter.
As motor cars were just coming into use, Ethel and her bridesmaids arrived at the church in a car, Ethel looking very attractive in her wreath and veil, and carrying a sheaf of Madonna lilies, as she walked up the aisle to join me at the chancel steps. She was accompanied by four bridesmaids – two adults and two children, the two adults being, Dulcie Morse (her cousin) Mary Thomas, a friend, the two children being Marjory Baxter, my niece, and Marjory Rasbach, a friend’s daughter.
Ethel was given away by her brother Harry, and my brother Victor was best man.
The Vicar, the Rev. J.K.Chatfield, performed the ceremony and my brother-in-law, Joe Baxter, played the organ. We sang two hymns, the one being A. & M. No. 551, ‘May the grace of Christ our Saviour’, but the other one, I cannot now bring to mind.
After the service, we returned to the Nag’s Head for the Reception, or as it was then known, the ‘wedding breakfast’ which was held in the upper clubroom. I was Mr. Chatfield’s Warden at the time, and he, with Mrs. Chatfield attended the reception. There were about 60 guests present, and the usual toasts were drank and acknowledged. Mr. Chatfield spoke of our work for the church and wished us all happiness.
We left for our honeymoon next morning, going to my sister Bernice’s home at Pangbourne for a day or so, and then on to London for the remainder of the week to stay with Mr. & Mrs. Thorne by their invitation.
At the time of our marriage, I was 27 years of age and Ethel22. After returning from our honeymoon, we lived at ‘Southville’ which we had built for us, having previously furnished it. We chose the site for the house, as Ethel, when quite a young girl, had wished for a house there.
Basil, our first-born, arrived in June 1914, two months before World War 1 started. We were naturally happy and proud. It was on the lawn of our home, that he first attempted to walk by himself. I remember it well, as he came with tottering steps and laughingly fell into my arms where I awaited him.
We, like everyone else, had to endure the privations due to the war, but owing to my work at the colliery, I wasn’t called to the Forces, although I had to go for medical examination on several occasions, one at which I was passed fro Home Field Service.
Towards the end of the war, in 1917, Leonard was born. Conditions in the home were very difficult then. Ethel’s confinement being at home – as all three of them were in fact – we had to get around with candles, as oil for the lamps was in short supply. However, with the help of Ada Beddis, who helped us on occasions, we got through quite well, especially as Christmas was but a week ahead.
It was not until 1922, that Philip, our youngest boy was born. We had the three boys vaccinated, but of course this did not prevent them from having the usual children’s complaints such as chicken pox, measles etc. Basil had an attack of scarlet fever that caused him to be isolated in his bedroom for a long period. Much of the furniture was taken out of the room, and a sheet was hung at the door, whilst Ethel donned a white overall when going into the room. For Basil’s part, I think he had a good time when convalescent, as he had plenty of games to play with. When the period of quarantine was over, the paper was stripped from the walls, and the room was thoroughly fumigated.
When Philip was seven or eight years of age, we had to take him to Standish Hospital for suspected spine trouble. How well I remember the morning we took him in. He came down to breakfast in his pyjamas, singing happily as usual, and was still singing un the car as we travelled to Standish, but when we arrived there, and the Matron took his hand and led him away, he went quietly but dropped his head, leaving Ethel and I broken-hearted, knowing that we would not be allowed to see him fro two weeks. We tried to ease the parting by writing to him daily, and also getting news of him from Walter Cooke who was visiting his son there. However, after Philip had been there many weeks under observation, he was discharged, the doctors having found no serious complaint.
We had happy times together in our home, playing games when the boys were older, especially bagatelle, as we had a miniature table on which we often played. When they were young it fell to my lot to put them to bed, as Ethel went to help her mother in the evenings. I often lay on the bed with them singing quietly to get hem to sleep, but found myself dropping off before the children.
Of course, bonfire night, as in my younger das, was a great event for our boys. Before the Fifth arrived, I would go with them down to the old Roman Road, and cut gorse bushes which we dragged up the hill, in readiness for the fire and firework display. When the boys got older, they went with other boys to celebrate it in their own way.
Christmas was an exceptionally happy time, especially when they really thought Father Christmas brought their toys. Ethel and I would creep into their bedroom in stockinged feet, fill their stockings and lay bigger toys beside them, then go back to bed. Our rest was short however, for after only a few hours sleep we were awakened by the cry of “He’s been” and a great commotion in the boys’ bedroom. There was no more sleep that morning, so after breakfast I did what I could in helping Ethel to prepare the dinner, and then went to Church. When returning from church, I usually heard the band playing in the village and on reaching home I would find the post had arrived with a batch of Christmas cards.
Whilst I had been at church, Ethel had been entertained by the many boys and girls singing their carols at the door. In the afternoon we went to Ethel’s mother for tea and supper, the boys having a good time with their toys. Boxing Day was relatively quiet at home, but in the evening we again went to the Nag’s Head, where Ethel helped her mother cope with the extra business, whilst I kept an eye on the children.
One Christmas, Father Christmas almost let us down, for on Christmas Eve, a special toy we had ordered from ‘Gamages’ failed to arrive, so I walked to Whitecroft station late in the evening, where I found it had arrived, thus saving Santa’s reputation.
Our boys went regularly to Sunday School, and when old enough, sang in the choir, sometimes taking solo parts. At that time I was in charge of the church choir, and Ethel still singing in it. Basil who was at Lydney Grammar School, had learned a carol there, ‘See amid the Winter Snow’. He sang it in church in his clear treble voice without organ accompaniment. At Vicar Williams’ invitation Leonard said the prayers at a children’s service. Owing to indifferent health, Philip was unable to give full-time service in the choir, but he loved singing and gave of his best in the choir.
It was soon after my marriage that I found the strain of cycling to and from my work too much for my constitution, so I left the tin-works and got work at the New Fancy Colliery, where I remained for about 30 years.
Our home life went on normally whilst the boys were growing up, although I remember one or two amusing incidents that occurred.
One evening in winter, I had my hat and coat on ready to go out. As I walked through the hall to open the front door, the door suddenly opened and a stranger walked in and said to me, “A pint of beer please”. H quickly realized his mistake however, and with an apology went quickly out. With the hall light on and the figured glass in the door, he had evidently mistaken the house for a Pub/
On another occasion , and it was New Year’s Eve, we were up late and waiting to see the old year out. It was a wet and windy night, and as we were listening to the storm, we heard my name faintly being called. As it appeared to be outside the house I went to investigate. As I opened the door, I saw a man lying flat on his back, his head in a pool of water with the rain beating on his face, and one of his feet wedged in the railing on top of the gate. My brother Gilbert, who was with us at the time, helped me to release him and set him on his way home. Although we knew the man well, he did not offer any explanation as to how he cane to be in such a predicament.
One night in June, I think it was, we were awakened in the early hours of the morning by a knock on the door. I got out of bed and pushed up the sash window to make enquiries, and discovered it was a woman who was apparently benighted, and was seeking a place to stay the rest of the night. Not thinking it advisable to take her I – and receiving the same advice from a sleepy voice from our bed – I advised her to go to the police station, telling her that it was but a quarter of a mile up the road. She went of, but some while after, we heard footsteps coming back, but passing out house this time.
Talking it over the next day, Ethel and I agreed that she was probably a woman of loose morals, who had been enticed to Lydney fair by some man who had run out on her.
After leaving school the three boys went to work in the electrical business, Basil who had been having home lessons, started an apprenticeship at Dursley, then later, joined the staff if the West Gloucestershire Power Company, and when the industry became nationalized, he was engaged on the staff of the Midlands Electricity Board. Philip started work with the M.E.B but Leonard had a few casual jobs before becoming engaged by the Board.
During World War 11, both Leonard and Philip served in the Forces, Leonard in the Army and Philip in the Air Force. Basil was exempt from National Service owing to his work. The three of them were married eventually and established their own homes.
Ethel and I lived alone for a time, until Ethel’s mother decided to retire, sold her business and came to live with us. Home life was then generally quiet, but when we had a free evening we would make up a foursome and play cards, with my sister-in-law, Elsie, and George Thorne enjoying an evening of relaxation. On Boxing Day all the family would come to us, and we had a jolly time together.
After a short illness, Ethel’s mother died in her sleep at our home, and was buried in the grave of her husband, P.S.Morris, in Lydney churchyard. The sergeant had been killed while on duty near Viney Hill church. In January 1941 my brother Gilbert met with an accident whilst cycling home from work, and died a few days later. As he had expressed a wish for cremation, whilst he was alive and well, I carried out the arrangements for this, his remains being interred in my parents’ grave at Viney Hill. His ashes, I believe, were the first to be interred in Viney Hill churchyard.
At this time, the output of coal at the New Fancy Colliery was so poor that I became redundant, for what coal was raised was disposed of by land-sale. For a short time I was unemployed, then I got a job as stores keeper at the Pine-End works Lydney. I was not there long, however, as I had to give it up owing to heart trouble. After a period in bed, I was sent by a Specialist to Gloucester Royal Infirmary for observation, as he suspected diabetes as the cause of the heart condition. After a few weeks there, and numerous tests, I was discharged, the test proving to be negative.
When I regained my health I was given a job as stores keeper for the local Home Guard. Whilst on this job, I was asked to go back to the New Fancy Colliery to watch over the interests of the Company, during the sale of the property as the colliery had been closed.
When I finished there, I bought the little business at the Corner Shop, Yorkley, which I ran for a few years before retiring at the age of 68, and taking the O.A.P.
Finding the house we had built and lived in for nearly 50 years too big for us, and the upkeep and rates too costly, we decided to sell it and buy a bungalow. This we did, and in May 1957 we transferred our effects from ‘Southville’ to ‘Greendale’ where we lived quietly and happily until Ethel’s sudden illness and subsequent death a few days (he meant ‘years’ - ksm) later.. Our parting was irreparable and a grievous loss to our family and to me personally. I feel that I have lost half of my life for I miss the intimacy of the thoughts and confidences which we exchanged, that only come from a long and happy association as husband and wife.
However five months before her death we celebrated, with thankfulness, the fiftieth anniversary if our marriage.
Since Ethel’s death, I have lived quietly in my little room at Greendale, being cared for at first, Philip and his family and later by Eileen and Leonard, with frequent visits and help by Ada and Basil, all of which have contributed to my comfort and well-being.
During the last few years, my bodily ailments have not permitted me to live an active life, so that I have devoted my time to reading and writing, my writings being mostly of life as I knew it over past years, which I hope has given a little pleasure to my friends.
Archive retrieval by Stephen Morse, recreated for the rest of us by Ken Morse, March 2010