N.B. The copyright of this piece is solely the ownership of its author. The opinions expressed in its text are the authors alone.
Extracts from the memoirs and autobiographical writings of members of St Dunstan’s
Selected by Alan Morrison, Tutor and Co-ordinator
Writers’ Forum, St.
from My Story
Matthew Cecil Rhodes
My accident was a crash on a motorbike in
As soon as I had my accident, my parents
were told by two uniformed Army Policemen who appeared in their shop and they
immediately knew that something was wrong.
My mother flew over to
When I arrived at the German hospital after I had been found, the hospital had to put me on a respiration machine, as my breathing was very poor, and the doctors thought that I would not be able to live without it. My body had not been discovered until roughly three hours after my accident; so I had spent that time relying on nature to keep me alive.
For my first four weeks I went magnificently down in weight. On the day of my crash I weighed roughly 11½ stone. Four weeks later, I weighed a bare 5½ stone.
For the next four weeks my mother was told,
almost everyday, that I would not live through to the next day. My heart beat was changing all of the time,
going extremely fast, and then going mind stopping slow, sometimes as slow as
four beats a minute; how my fitness kept me alive. After four weeks I was flown back to the
When I was in the English hospital in
The next thing they told my parents was that if I didn’t eat anything by that night, then they were going to have to stick a tube in my stomach so that I could be fed. Well, my parents couldn’t believe that I couldn’t eat, so brought a big bar of chocolate. My parents then came to see me with this one bar of chocolate; my father broke me of a tiny bit and I gobbled it down as though I hadn’t been fed for years! They then showed the doctors this, and I didn’t have a tube entered into my belly, and aren’t I glad as I love eating. Then, when I was eating, because my working arm could not do much, due to the nerve being damaged, I had to be fed by other people. I’m glad that I wasn’t mentally back to normal; otherwise I would have been so embarrassed! Since that day I have eaten lots f delicious foods, and have respected that I could eat.
I was told that I would not be able to do many things, but have proved them always wrong. I was told that I would never walk again, and I’ve now done the 2007 London Marathon.
When I finally came out of my coma, it happened very slowly. I didn’t just spring out of it, as they tend to show on TV programs. When I was coming out of my coma I felt as if I was in a dream. Every night, for over a year since my accident, I always believed, and wished that I would go to sleep and reawaken back in my Army barracks with all my good friends about me. But this never, and would never happen. One scary thing about my accident is that I could remember nothing of it. I went to bed one night, being a person who loved fitness and could run a remarkable distance and not suffer for it afterwards; to trying to get out of bad and not able to do the simplest of things. I also miss the comradeship, as when you have been in a War time situation, your life depends on your friend covering you, as his depends on you. I have found that you can’t get this kind of friendship in civvie street. My two great friends from the Army are still great friends now.
I can remember the first time I tried to walk. I got out of bed with a helping hand from my mum; she had to hold onto me very tightly. I walked, wobbled, dragged by myself and my mum forwards for about 5 meters, and it took us about half an hour, but it felt amazing to me, and my mum was thrilled!
One thing I felt strange was that no matter who I talked to, they could not understand me. I would hear myself speak perfect English, so couldn’t comprehend why they could not hear or figure out what I had said. My mother told me later on that what actually came out of my mouth was nothing but noise, no language, no understandable words. It’s very annoying that I couldn’t hear myself speak the rubbish, as I would have known what was going wrong with my speech and could have changed it. When I could finally speak actual words, I used to get them all muddled up. I would think I had said a sentence finally OK, but would then be told that I had said the wrong words. So when some disabled people sound as if they are speaking nonsense, they aren’t to themselves, they know what they want to say.
Most days I just sat in a chair next to my bed and looked out the window. I didn’t know anything, it was as if I had to be taught it all again. Roughly every two days I was given a bath by two 18 year old nurses, one brunette and one blonde, but I didn’t know the difference between man and woman; if only I could go back for another bath! My mother used to visit me everyday, but to me not being able to remember anything, it would feel like days between her visits. I feel sorry for my family being put all through that heart ache.
One of my sitting in my chair days I saw
this military looking gentleman who came up to me to have a chat. I’m glad to say that the first sentence I
replier to him was said in perfect English.
I was then admitted to
I arrived at
My physiotherapist here was excellent, I couldn’t have wished for a better on. She would take me for my treatment three hours a day, five day of the week. This treatment did me nothing but good. I used to be in a wheelchair 24 hours a day, and when I started to improve mentally and new what was going on about me, it used to make me very upset. One of the main reasons was that because I was paralysed down the right hand side of my body, I could not propel myself forward, thus somebody else had to push me everywhere I wanted to go, and this I felt very embarrassed about. I used to get pushed somewhere nice in my wheelchair and then just left there. I felt like the kind of person who would sit there and count how many bricks were in the wall, very interesting. Every time I saw my therapist she would try to improve my paralysed side, mainly concentrating on my leg to try and get me walking. Another thing that would make me jealous, was seeing all the Physical Training Instructor’s who were stationed at Headley Court going out for runs everyday, and then what would make me even more jealous was seeing how most people hated going out for a run, and I would have given anything to join them!
When I could finally walk roughly six
months after my accident, it was a magnificent feeling of freedom. I would feel so happy that I could do the
simplest of things, such as walk to the toilet without having to be pushed
there. Every time I had a long enough
free break, out to the garden I would trot.
The garden area they had at
Now that I could walk, my physiotherapist used to make me walk up and down her corridor for hours at a time. Even though I could walk, my therapist said that it was not good walking, my body had begun to walk the way it found easiest, which was not the proper way. It was hard to understand as I was just pleased that I could finally walk, I never thought that my body was being lazy in the way that it walked.
Every now and then I would get taken down to the local town. It was here that I began to learn about the British public, and how they regard you if you are disabled. I would go into a pub and I would feel like a cowboy gangster who had just walked into a bar; everybody stops what they are doing to investigate this strange person who has just walked in. For some reason this has never bothered me, I am glad to say. If a lady was walking past you with her young child, she would sometimes say, “If you do such a thing you will be punished like that young man!” Older people are worse than the younger generation. As I have just said, I let them and their comments fly over me. One day I got on a local bus with my wife and sat down in the disabled seat. This bus was very busy. At the next stop and old lady got on the bus, saw me sitting down in the disabled and old person chair and very loudly pronounced, “This seat is meant for old people, so move.” An old lady who was sitting behind me very loudly said back to her, “Can you not see, he’s a cripple!” I stayed sitting in that seat, giggling to myself.
One day I was taken down to the military
So now I had lost two things which I used to love doing; running and driving!
One strange thing I had with two other lads
One day I got chosen, along with two
others, to go to the garden party at
One day I thought we were having a fire
drill, as there was a fire engine paying us a visit, and we were all evacuated
to the large outside area.
Unfortunately, there was an actual fire there, and even though there was
a fire engine there, it didn’t have anything to attend to the fire. The very bad thing about the fire was that it
happened on the last day of refurbishing the whole indoor training gyms, which
had taken a long time to do. Because our
accommodation was on the end of the training gyms, we had to move to a
different military hospital. In a bus we
all got and down south we drove. Our
destination was the military hospital in
When I had finished my stay here, which was for roughly six months, St Dunstan’s, the charity for man and women who had been in the forces and had lost their vision, was my next step.
Matthew Cecil Rhodes © 2009
from A Very Lucky Lad
It took me a long time to come to terms with my new life, I did not want to return to my pre RAF job, initially my cousin Bert and I tried to get a small manufacturing business going, making small side tables, I even obtained a Board of Trade licence but we found it too difficult to obtain quantities of the necessary materials.
At about this time, mid 1947, we were
expecting our Barbara and I was beginning to worry about the long term future,
I missed the joys of flying and approached the two commercial companies,
B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., who declined to use my services as a pilot (silly Billies), but I could see their point as there were
hundreds of pilots for them to choose from, Group Captains, Wing Commanders,
many with academic degrees, looking for work.
Although I would not be flying I also tried Flying Control and the
Meteorological Office, not very confidently, but the Air Ministry Met. Office
were very kind to me and offered me a board with a view to employing me as a
temporary Scientific Assistant which I readily accepted, they inspected my
record and on my promise to take up further education I became a temporary
civil servant on a salary of £320 a year.
I purchased a brief case and felt ten feet tall as I made my way daily
to and from the Meteorological School in Kingsway for about six weeks, I
achieved good marks at the end of the course and went to my first office at
Croydon Airport where I was introduced to twenty four hour shift working,
covering weekends and Public Holidays I needed my own transport and purchased a
250 cc 4 stroke B.S.A. motor cycle which gave me much pleasure and easy
transport I enjoyed my new found career
enormously and completed a correspondence course in my spare time at the end of
which I took the Matriculation examinations in mathematics and physics. During this time our dear Barbara Ann was
A couple of years later I was summoned to
an Establishment board who confirmed my appointment and issued a certificate
that I have never seen although it cost me a half crown, I never could
understand the Civil Service system I believe it has changed since. Shortly afterwards, 1952.
I was promoted and posted to
The period I spent at London Airport, Heathrow, was very interesting, the de-Havilland Comet, the worlds first jet passenger aircraft, would fly to and from Rome and South Africa, it experienced quite a few problems and had its licence withdrawn. After many modifications it proved to be a very fine aircraft which was adopted by the RAF. renamed the Nimrod and has flown with Coastal Command ever since.
I was employed on what was known as 'in flight watch' and would receive a copy of each Flight Plan from aircraft that was due to take off on the trans Atlantic route I would plot the proposed track on a chart and the hourly reports they would make when airborne, they would be informed of any hazardous weather, icing, severe turbulence, storms etc., that could effect them, possibly they would be advised, by W/T, to return or divert, the piston engined Constellation or Stratocruiser aircraft did not have the range of modern jet aircraft, a 'point of no return' was always plotted and a decision would have to be made before that point was reached, we also had to originate messages detailing upper winds to incoming aircraft when they reached 30 degrees West, all very different to the jet aircraft of today that fly above the weather and can fly to the west coast of America non stop from London. I was not destined to stay at Heathrow very long as I was asked to go to Germany, RAF 2nd A.T.A.F., for a tour of duty lasting three years, I accepted the posting because I was near the top of the 'Due to go overseas list' and there were plenty of not so popular posts, such as Falkland Islands, Weather Ships, Christmas Isle, Persian Gulf, etc. As we were still an occupation force in Germany, British Zone, Peggy and Barbara were not allowed to accompany me until we were allocated an official quarter and so, off I went on 1st July, 1957, although a civilian, I travelled on Military trains and ship via Hook of Holland to RAF H.Q. 83 Group situated at an airfield at Wahn not far from Cologne, a few years later, after ratification of German sovereignty, it became Flughaven Koln/Bonn. Peggy was left to sell our new house and put our furniture into storage and followed me on the military route a few months later when we had been allocated a requisitioned house at Troisdorf, a small town a few miles from Wahn,I had learned to drive a 5 ton RAF lorry shortly after arrival in Germany and had purchased, a Hillman Minx car at a very advantageous price, apart from no purchase tax or car duty, new cars were sold to N.A.T.O. personnel at a good discount, I think it cost me less than £800, I gingerly drove the car home from the Rootes agency in Dusseldorf.
I had been issued with an RAF uniform and
'Special Duties' shoulder badges,on being posted to
Germany, to participate in N.A.T.O. exercises we were given a large van (Ford
Koln), which had been fitted with teleprinter links
and office equipment to enable us to work as a mobile meteorological office, on
my first exercise I had to drive in convoy to a site at Spa, in Belgium for two
weeks where I slept under canvas (P12.) with a field cookhouse and a marquee
substituting for the normal Mess, we enjoyed good weather and had great fun
bathing in a local stream, Spa is the location for the Belgian F1 Grand Prix
race every year. There always seemed to
be something happening, the end of the
Barbara was six years of age when joining me and it had all been an exciting adventure for her, she was attending a British Forces school and was very happy there. We made many good friends, both civilian and military, while in Germany and there was a great deal of socialising when we were moved from our requisitioned house into a newly built, furnished property, in Sportsplatz Strasse near Wahn, very nice it was too, a boiler man quietly entered the cellar twice a day to stoke the boiler and arrange a delivery of coke if it should be required, there were outside steps down to the cellar which consisted of three rooms one of which had a large sink, for laundry, and racks for storage, having just acquired a German camera and enlarger, this became my dark room where I spent many a happy hour developing and printing my pictures. We had a very good standard of living as an occupation force, a nicely furnished home and Peggy had a cleaner, Frau Richker, who came in every day to help with running the house, and with a new car the three of us made frequent visits to Koln, Bonn enjoyed trips along the Rhine and Mossel rivers and holidays in Holland and Belgium. During July 1956, Peggy's mother and aunt Gladys came to stay with us for a week, they enjoyed the ferry and train journe they loved listening to everybody conversing in a foreign language and we enjoyed showing them the local tourist spots.
For us Christmas 1956 was always to be remembered, Peggy who was pregnant and expecting the birth to be early in the new year and I attended a Xmas eve party at a neighbours house, which we left quite early, at about 2 a.m. Xmas day Peggy began to experience pain, I drove to Station Sick Quarters where I roused the emergency staff, a driver and nurse, who took Peggy in an Opal Kapitan (large car) to Wegberg RAF Hospital, through villages with cobbled streets that were decorated with Xmas lights, a distance of approximately 80 miles. Peggy delivered our lovely Xmas present at about 9 a.m. Xmas morning. Barbara and I visited shortly after and found a smiling Peggy and a very healthy and noisy Andrew John, he was a handsome baby and I had a job to get Barbara to put him down. When we returned to Sportsplatz Strasse I had the task, with young Barbara's assistance, of cooking a large Xmas turkey that day, neighbours kept popping in to enquire about Peggy and offering much advice as to the roasting of the bird, neither Barbara, or I, had much of an appetite for it, I was silly and gave most of the cooked turkey away.
My overseas tour was due to finish at the end of June, and since we now had a baby, were very comfortable in Sportsplatz Strasse with our daily 'Frau Richker' to help with young Andrew, and Barbara happy at her school, Peggy and I decided to try for a second three year tour and I put the suggestion to my Senior Meteorological Officer who was all in favour and recommended to Headquarters that it be authorized, it was, and the four of us settled down to another three years in Germany.
During the summer of 1958 Mum and Dad visited us to see there new grandson and have a holiday, it was the first time out of the country for them and there first time in an airplane, they travelled out in an Elizabethan and back on a Viscount turbo jet aircraft, to and from Wahn which by this time had become a multi purpose airfield serving both the RAF and commercial traffic.
Nothing very exciting happened during our second tour, N.A.T.O. exercises occurred every six months and had to be prepared for but work at the office was quite pleasant. At weekends and during leave periods we often went into Holland, Belgium, or along the Rhine or Mossel river valley, we agreed that our favourite holiday was motoring to Diano Marina, on the Italian Riviera, for three weeks in June 1959, we took our time travelling through Austria and Switzerland where we went over the St. Gothard Pass to Genoa, then along the beautiful north Italian coast, a lovely holiday, apart from a little sunburn !
Six months prior to completion of my tour in Germany I submitted a letter to Headquarters requesting a posting on my return to somewhere along the south coast, where we thought Barbara at 12 years of age and Andy at 3 years would be happy and I did not wish to go back to Heathrow, I listed RAF Manston,Tangmere, Thorney Island, Hurn and St. Mawgan, quite a list, from which I was offered, and accepted, RAF Thorney Island a beautiful location between Chichester and Portsmouth. The vacancy would occur early in April 1960, and so after dispatching packing cases to Bentalls of Kingston, where our furniture had been stored, we left dear old 139 Sportsplatz Strasse with many pleasant memories, on 1st March 1960, bound for Dunkirk and the night ferry to Dover where we disembarked at about 0600hrs on the 2nd, Barbara's birthday, we had breakfast in a hotel in Ashford then motored on to Bosham, West Sussex, where we had booked accommodation at the Critchfield Hotel while looking for a furnished flat or bungalow prior to finding a permanent home in the Thorney Island area. We rented a two bedroom furnished bungalow on Hayling Island, a short walk from an extensive sandy beach which the children greatly enjoyed, the owner of the property, at that time, offered to sell it to me for £1800, what a good buy that would have been, but it was too small for us long term. We looked at all the new developments taking place in the area and were very taken by the property we decided on in Inhurst Wood close to the, then, village of Waterlooville , which we bought and live in to this day. RAF Thorney Island was rather unique, it was described to me shortly after arrival by a colleague as 'a country club with flying facilities' it was situated on a peninsular jutting out into Chichester harbour with only one narrow road having access to the unit, a lovely Anglo Saxon church with the few flint stone cottages making up the old village of West Thorney, it had all been taken over by the Air Ministry early in the second world war when it was decided to build runways and hangars etc. A sailing club and jetty had been constructed at a later date, it was a superb place to work, I was able to enjoy cockling, sea fishing, swimming and the occasional sailing trip I enjoyed my spell at Thorney Island and was pleased to remain there for the duration of its existence as an airfield I was there until 1977, seventeen years, when the Air Ministry in its wisdom decided to close it (it was rumoured that an Air Marshal who lived at Bosham, on the aircraft circuit, objected to the noise of night flying!!). With only three more years to serve before retirement I was sorry to leave but was posted to the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux, East Sussex, where I was to establish and open a meteorological observing station, since neither Peggy or I wanted to leave our home at Waterlooville I decided to drive the eighty mile journey every few days and stay at a lovely country hotel 'Cleavers Ling' while at the office, I had been posted in the public interest and was therefor able to claim mileage and hotel expenses.
- 8 -
Rather than carry on working shifts and drive the eighty miles to the office I accepted the opportunity to retire when I reached the age of sixty. I soon discovered that retirement was not entirely to my liking, I had enjoyed my work in the Meteorological Office and missed the friendships I had made, occasionally I revisited the office and Cleavers Ling. After a while I took a part time job at a local school as a Technical Assistant in the Design Technology department, it was very interesting working with the pupils on their projects but, because of Council policy, I had to leave on reaching the age of sixty five. As the years passed, and they seemed to very rapidly, both Peggy and I found we could not be as active as of old and employed Harry, our ex window cleaner, to occasionally cut the grass and do a bit of gardening, the family too were very helpful.
During the 1990's my eyesight deteriorated, due to Macular Degeneration, and I had to give up driving which, after more than fifty years, was a blow, it became more and more difficult to read the newspaper and complete a crossword puzzle and in September,2004, was registered blind at the local hospital, not as bad as it sounds, there is much distortion but have no difficulty finding my way about.
As a result of being registered blind John Port, a Social Services representative, visited me to offer any assistance I required, he arranged for me to become a member of St. Dunstans, an organisation founded by Sir Arthur Pearson (of the publications empire) during the first world war to care for blind ex service personnel, an amazing organisation with a very large building at Ovingdean, East of Brighton, on top of a cliff overlooking the sea with beautiful views. A car arrived and took Peggy and I to Ovingdean for a week long induction course during which we had a double room and more food than we could eat, the establishment was run like a hotel with reception, gymnasium, glass walled swimming pool always with an attendant present, and a bar, all this with no charge. About forty blind men. and women most of whom were veterans of the second world war, like me in their eighties, some without limbs, lived on the premises with qualified nursing staff always in attendance. All Dunstoners, one of which I had become on acceptance, were given a braille or talking watch, this was decreed by Sir Arthur Pearson long ago, I was given the opportunity to learn touch typing and study 'Information Technology' at Ovingdean, I attended for four separate weeks , Peggy went with me on a couple of occasions, and transport was always arranged, all this at no charge, the I.T. staff were marvellous instruction was given one to one by very patient, and attractive, young ladies to whom I shall always be grateful. After my last week of instruction I was sent home with a 'Windows X.P.' computer and a Laser printer, using these has rather changed my life and given me the ability to write this, it is difficult for me to find the words to express my appreciation of St. Dunstans assistance.
Leonard Hobbs © 2009
One of the great pleasures of being an ex-quizzman is that I regularly receive telephone calls and E-mails with the opening words, “Here’s one for you Harry!”. There usually follows a very difficult and complicated question the answer to which I have not the slightest idea. However, the enjoyment begins as I get out the reference books and try to come up with an answer.
One of the best examples of such a message recently arrived from St Dunstans Cadet Challenge Project Officer and beer connoisseur Colin Williamson. Here is the question he posed and I quote:-
“Harry old boy,
Answer this one. He appeared in numerous films; Superman 4 where he worked alongside Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman; Robin and Marion, with Sean Connery and Richard Harris, Where’s Jack with Tommy Steele, Anne of a thousand days with Richard Burton, The spy who came in from the cold (again with Burton) Sink the Bismarck with Kenneth Moore (portraying the commanding officer of HMS Prince Of Wales in the battle in which he himself was blinded), The Prince and the showgirl with Marilyn Monroe, Helen of Troy alongside Brigitte Bardot and also worked alongside Laurence Olivier, Peter Finch, Errol Flynn, Ralph Richardson, Googie Withers and Deborah Kerr. He was also a St. Dunstaner. Name him!”
Now that’s what I call a very interesting question and of course I had no idea as to the answer. However, after five minutes consulting “Halliwell’s Film Guide” and “Film Companion” the answer became obvious, it was the well-known actor Esmond Knight who played mainly small roles in countless films. I had heard of Esmond Knight but I Had no idea that he was partially sighted, that it was a 15 inch shell from the “Bismarck” which had caused his injury, that he had become a St Dunstaner trained at Church Stretton and that he subsequently played the captain of the battleship “Prince of Wales” in the film “Sink the Bismarck”.
The story doesn’t finish there. Shortly
after joining #St Dunstans in 2001 I met a new member
attending his induction week making his first ever visit to Ovingdean.
I cannot imagine how he recognised that I was a fellow Yorkshireman,
(it could possibly be the way I talk!) but on that day John Glynn of
John who joined the Royal Navy as a sixteen
year-old was aboard the “Prince of Wales in 1941 as a seventeen year old. He
was present at the sinking of the
It’s surprising what memories can be aroused by a question in an E-mail.
Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Jim (A conversation piece)
You’re looking chirpy.
The wife’s gone.
Where’s she gone?
Back to mother.
Somewhere in Staffordshire.
And the kids?
They’ve gone too.
All of them?
Yeah, all twelve.
And the lodger?
You mean Helga?
That’s the one.
The Swedish student.
The big blonde.
The au pair.
Twice lucky Jim.
No, thrice lucky.
How’s that then?
You’ve forgotten Natasha.
from Harry Beevers’ Autobiography in progress
In the 1920’s and 1930’s Castleford in the
West Riding of Yorkshire was a small industrial town with a population just
under the 30,000 mark. It had sweets and clothing factories, chemical works, an important brickworks and pottery and the second largest
glass bottle manufacturer in
Needless to say, my birth on Saturday May 11th 1929 was not reported by Reuter’s Press, “The Daily Herald” or “Times”, not even in the columns of the local paper.
The coal industry was by far the biggest
employer of the working men of Castleford. In horse-racing parlance it was odds
on that if you were born in the area your father would be employed at one of
the several collieries. So it was with me. Shortly after the St Valentine’s Day
Harry Beevers senior was always known as Big Harry at home although at 5 feet 3 inches he finished up as the smallest member of the family. He was a banksman. That didn’t mean he went to work in a suit and handled money all day, it meant he was up at 4 a.m. and on his way to one of the local mines where he worked on the cage. The cage was the transportation vehicle which took the miners down the shaft and brought the coal up. Its average operating programme was fifty-nine journeys down and up each hour, not much breathing space in a working day! His job was a simple one. As the tubs of coal ran out of the cage and down an incline my father had to ensure they remained on the lines. When one was derailed, (not an uncommon occurrence) he merely had to lever it back into position using a sophisticated piece of equipment called a log of wood. Not too much to ask a ten stone man to perform until he reached the age of sixty-five. He had left school at the age of thirteen and despite the fact he was a bright, intelligent boy his wish to sit for a scholarship to the local Grammar School had been rejected by his parents. “T’pit were good enough for thi father, so it’s good enough for thee” was their response. So at thirteen he began his fifty-two years stint in a hard, monotonous, boring and physical job which could have been soul-destroying for a lesser man. Apart from the 1930’s when the colliery owners closed the pits from time to time because of the depression, I can only remember two occasions when he was off work. Both were the result of accidents one of which was a close-to-death experience. In 1968 his legacy for the fifty-two years hard labour was a beautifully printed certificate from the National Coal Board thanking him for his services and a hacking cough which would trouble him during what was mainly a very happy eighteen years of retirement.
Like many of her contemporaries, my mother, the former Marie Arthurs, was in service before her marriage. This meant that she was a skivvy for one of the local aristocrats and expected to do the washing, cleaning, cooking and whatever other job could be found for her. She worked for a well-off family named Carr. Coincidentally, this just happened to be the surname of the young lady who became my second wife in 1969 but there was no connection between the two families. My mother too had done well at school but like my father she was not given the opportunity to sit for a scholarship. I believe the pair met at a Young Persons Group of the local Methodist Chapel and in 1928 they were married.
Neither of them had any money as they had been handing over their earnings to their parents receiving only weekly pocket money. One of the more popular family tales describes my father’s feelings when he received his first ever shilling. He took it to the toilet to examine it in private, he was eighteen years of age and could not believe that all this money was his!
On their marriage Harry and Marie rented
two rooms in a terrace house occupied by one of my mother’s aunts. It was on
the outskirts of the town and it meant when my father was on the day shift he
had to be up in the morning even earlier in order to walk the mile and a half
to the pit where he worked. The aunt in question was blind and keeping the
house clean was not one of her priorities. The whole house was apparently
infested and it was in one of these two rooms I was born, It was also in one of
these rooms my mother discovered me one morning when I was nine months old with
my body covered with bed-bug bites. This event prompted a hasty departure from
home number one and days later we were on our way to our new home. Home number
two was to be an improvement on the first. It was in the centre of the town. It
had three rooms, not two. One room was downstairs and there were two bedrooms.
Its description was a “Back-to back” house so we just had the one door straight
out on to the pavement. Admittedly there was no water supply in the house.
Water had to be collected from an outside tap some fifty yards from the house
and stored in an enamel bucket in the corner of our living
room/kitchen/lounge/food store/coal bunker. The communal tap was adjacent to
the three earth toilets which served the whole row of around sixteen similar
houses to ours. But the house was clean, my mother saw to that. Like most women
at the time she had given up her job when she was married and it would be many
years when both my sister and brother had left school before she would embark
on a regular job away from home. Before actually moving into
Harry Beevers ©
from Joan (Carr) Beevers’ Autobiography in progress
In 1942, Castleford, the town where I was
born in the West Riding of Yorkshire, saw very little action in World War II.
However, on the night of August 4th as my mother,
My father, William Henry, came to see his new daughter bringing with him – not a bouquet of flowers (well, there was a war on!) – but an oven-ready chicken. In those days hospitals were glad to accept contributions of food from their patients’ relatives. My parents kept several hens, as many people did during the war years, to provide them with a constant supply of eggs and a rare treat for the dinner table. One of these birds was sacrificed so that my father could be certain that his wife was well fed as she recovered from childbirth.
The lying-in period at that time was two weeks long, spent in bed in the maternity home which had been bought by public subscription as a war memorial to the town’s fallen of the Great War. As I grew up I always felt proud that my town had decided to spend the money in this way rather than on a useless monument, and it was a good joke to tell people that I was born in a war memorial.
At two weeks old I was taken home to
Castleford was a coal-mining town and my father, like most men worked “down t-pit”. Well, actually he was a surface worker, a colliery blacksmith and proud of being a qualified craftsman. Only occasionally did his work take him down the shaft to do special repairs or even to shoe a pit pony. Nevertheless it was essential work and as such it was classified a reserved occupation and therefore exempted him from joining the fighting forces. Thus it was that he was at home with the family right from the start of my life. He was still expected to do his bit for the war and he was an air-raid warden in his out-of-work hours. I still remember his greatcoat and tin helmet hanging on a hook near the door ready for a quick getaway in case of emergency.
The question arose of a name for the new addition. My big sister wanted to call me Dorothy but this was vetoed by my parents. My father finally decided I would be called Joan and I would have no middle name. It would be easy for me to learn to write it when I went to school, and with my surname Carr I had only eight letters to master.
Joan (Carr) Beevers © 2009
Bob Childs (late)
What has happened to
Norman Morris was an enigma. In his professional capacity as a chartered accountant his expertise was renowned; he was always in complete control. Outside his profession he was a straw on the wind of chance blown from one dilemma to the next Fortunately these were never the disaster they first appeared and were usually solved. by an outside influence. Why his private life seemed to be governed by gremlins was a mystery. How he managed to persuade Elizabeth, the attractive, sweet-natured and usually serene woman, to become his wife was another mystery.
natured and serene with a good sense of humour she needed to be able to cope
last she heard his key in the lock.
Looking as harassed as ever, in walked
'Don't go on, dear. I'm home now.'
sorry, dear, not anything but everything seems to have happened today.'
should they think it was me? I'm not
dead!' If nothing else,
'A man had collapsed and died in Mason's Store today without any identification on him. Because I had enquired if any accidents had been reported, the police asked me if I could identify the body. He was shorter with fair lair, yours is brown; he also had a peculiar scar on his abdomen. Anyway he was younger so it wasn't you.'
'Oh I'm pleased it wasn't me. You seemed to have made a thorough search. I would have thought a look at his face would have been sufficient.'
handed her the sherry as he spoke and, as usual, managed to spill some. This time though, he had an. excuse, the
as you know I went into the office for the retirement presentation to nay
secretary, Miss Wright. Her aunt has
left her a small hotel in
Undaunted he carried on, ' I decided I would buy her an electric coffee percolator, as you know electrical goods are on the third floor at Masons. Making my way to the lift, I was followed by a well dressed lady aged about forty. We were the only occupants and both wanted the third floor. Between the second and third floors the lift suddenly jolted, then stopped. It must have been an electrical fault or something jammed. I'm not sure what happened except that I was in an embarrassing situation. When the lift jolted she threw her arms around me in panic which knocked us both to the floor. There we were - a tangle of arms, legs, and shopping sprawled on the floor. To make matters even worse I found I was holding a pair of knickers she had dropped, I didn't know what to do or say, or even where to look, it was so confusing.'
'It must have been dear,' his wife sympathised with him. 'Lying on the floor of a lift jammed between two floors with a lady who has dropped her knickers, and not knowing what to do or say. After all, it doesn't happen every day.'
sherry was taking control and
to understand his wife's sense of humour
course, dear, where else would you have got them from?'
'Anyway I handed her back her knickers, and helped to retrieve the rest of her shopping.'
'What did she do, dear, faint with relief?’ She raised her glass to hide an amused smile.
'No, she just said ‘thank you’, and walked away. After I had made my purchase, rather than trust the lift again, I used the stairs.'
'Your action was exemplary dear,' she said, 'Just as any gentleman should act. Is that why you are so late?'
'No, I'm coming to that. I made a terrible faux pas at the office presentation to Miss Wright. It was all so embarrassing I stood up to say a few words on behalf the staff,'
'No,' he said, 'It was worse, it was something I said to her.'
my God, thought
She was trying hard to keep her voice calm but the combination of the sherry and the giggling made this difficult. In the end she just gave up trying and said, 'Give me another drink dear, don't be afraid to shock me.'
'Well it shocked me, and Miss Wright, although it caused a lot of amusement to the assembled staff.'
the events of the day I need something stronger than sherry,' he said and
poured himself a large whisky. Taking
the bottle with him to his chair, he continued his explanation to a bemused and
'I presented the cheque from the directors, and the dinner service from the staff without any problem. When I came to my present I felt self-conscious before all those people and my words became a little muddled. Instead of saying ‘I hope you will make full use of your new coffee percolator’, I said, ‘I hope you will make full use of your new perky copulator.'’
He looked at his wife expecting to be reproached. What he saw was his wife convulsed with laughter, tears running down her cheeks.
He smiled, but not being prissy to his wife's imagination could not understand her hilarity.
'I still don't understand why you are so late,' she managed to say.
'I had a problem on the bus,' he answered. 'You mean there's more!' she exclaimed.
'Yes. On the bus I was sitting opposite a young lady who was pregnant and we were the only two on the bus. Everything was fine until we reached Silver Hill. Then she went into acute labour pains. The driver panicked, abandoned his route and made straight for the maternity hospital. As I was helping her into the hospital he drove off. A young nurse sized up the situation. She put the young woman onto a stretcher trolley, and told me to give all the information at the admissions desk. The admissions clerk asked my name, address and age. I told her fifty two today. She said having a baby on my birthday would be a lovely present. Then she told us to sit down and wait. Why a stranger having a baby on my birthday should give me such pleasure I failed to understand, so I just sat down and waited. Why I had to wait, or why they needed my name, address, and age was beyond me. After all I only helped the girl to the hospital. Finally after hours of waiting they called me, and told me I was the father of twins.'
'It was some time before I could convince them I was not the father, only a helpful citizen. I think I succeeded when I said it must been an immaculate and immediate conception, the only contact I had had was holding her arm and we were only together for about ten minutes on the bus. I then was accused of wasting hospital time and being thoughtless. Didn't I realise the true father would want to be here, then told to be on my way in no uncertain manner.'
mind dear it was all done with the best of intentions,' she said,
'even if you do turn a minor problem into a pantomime. You sit back and relax Mrs Cameron has agreed
to stay behind to prepare your favourite meal.
Prawns in mayonnaise wrapped in. smoked salmon, followed by Beef
Wellington with mushroom
the meantime back in the armchair
sat down to dinner happy in their alcoholic haze oblivious to the rest of the
world. Mild mannered and shy people
often have a secret desire to be somebody different, with
from the doorway, Mrs. Cameron shook her head in amused amazement and thought
in this state they'll never reach the dessert, and decided to let the children
play and to go home. This perception was
not far wrong for shortly afterwards
between the sheets
Bob Childs © 2008/09
[Please note: Bob passed away last year so any mention of him would need to incorporate ‘the late’. Thank you].
Published writings from St Dunstan’s includes:
An Adventurous Life by Herbert Wisdom (Author House, 2009)
I Well Remember by Louis R. Early (Ammonite Books, 1998)
More Early Memories by Louis R. Early
As well as a monthly round up prose pieces, memoir and autobiographical excerpts and poetry by various St. Dunstaners (they are referred to as ‘St. Dunstaners’ by the way), in St. Dunstan’s Review