My Life – Page 08

Mother starts work.  We were penniless, and father was in hospital in Aden.   So my mother had to start to earn a living, she also had to start to learn how to cook, clean and generally become a housewife for the first time in her life. My mother was a born cook. She loved cooking. She soon realised that she did not know how to cook curries, her favourite dish and that of the family.  So she got recipes, I think from India, and hunted down the necessary ingredients and very soon became an excellent cook, specialising in Indian cuisine. She did not stop at curries but learnt to make Indian sweets, unobtainable in England at that time.  In later years when she became, I think it was the secretary of the Old Lawrencians, members used to hold their meetings in our flat in London and she would prepare superb Indian feasts. A member of the committee once remarked that there was always full attendance at these meetings. No one, but no one, could bear to miss out on my mother’s cooking.

My mother was extremely well educated, Lovedale saw to that, but she never put it to any use. She took a secretarial course at the Loreburn Commercial College, Manchester, the fees paid for by her father. There she took courses in shorthand, typing and book-keeping, all of which she had studied at Lovedale. She passed the course. Instead of looking for a job with a local or public authority or a major company, she opted instead to work for a small paper manufacturing company called George Stark and Sons, whose offices were in central Manchester. The main factory was in Scotland, and her office was a sales outpost. She was secretary for the managers who worked there.  Both were extremely affluent and lived in large houses in Manchester. For them she did everything from shorthand, typing, book-keeping, answered some of the post, make the tea, arranged their appointments, in fact she was the general dogsbody. For this she was paid the princely sum of £3 per week, and worked from 9-5 on weekdays and 9-2 on Saturdays.   I’m afraid my grandfather must have paid for most of the bills to keep us in clothes and food.

Finances (i).  While my father was still in Aden my mother received a stiff letter, addressed to my father, from the Under Secretary of the Commonwealth Relations Office, Downing Street reminding him that he owed the sum of £90.0.7d in respect of ‘maintenance in India and repatriation to the United Kingdom’. The letter informs him that if he is unable to refund the whole amount the Under Secretary would be prepared to accept monthly or quarterly instalments. This must have come as an appalling shock to my parents who did not have two pennies between them. How on earth were they ever going to pay off a debt for such a vast sum? After much correspondence it was finally agreed that my father would pay off the debt by monthly instalments of £1. During the whole time they lived in Salford they did not have a bank account, everything was transacted in cash or payments made by Postal Orders.

My father comes home.  Finally in 1948 my father completed his journey to England. By a strange coincidence he found himself on the very ship on which he had begun his journey – the SS Canton.  I have two menus from the voyage both dated November 1948.  He always said that he would never forget the look on the faces of the doctor and nursing sister when they saw him coming up the gangway, in fact the doctor remarked to him that he did not expect to see him alive again.  He arrived at Tilbury docks on the 1st December 1948; his journey had taken four months. It was cold and foggy and Derek Stokoe, my Aunt Joan’s future husband who had been sent to meet him missed him in the chaos at Tilbury. My father somehow managed to get through Customs and caught the train to London, here he met up with Edwin his brother who this time managed to smuggle him into the Union Club for the night. The following day he returned to Scholes Street and met up with us.  I think no one in the family ever expected to see him alive again.  My poor mother must have been so relieved. In February 1949 he managed to get a job with Customs and Excise working on the docks at Old Trafford, which was then a thriving dockyard.   However, within a very short time after arriving home to Scholes Street, the TB raised its ugly head again and he was sent to a TB Sanatorium; fortunately the National Health Service had come into being.

The council house.  In June 1949, the Labour Council of Salford offered my family a council house on the Fairhope Estate, Salford 6. It was in a terrace of four newly built houses in a small quiet cul-de-sac, set in a tree lined estate with lawns on the side of each road. It had three bedrooms, flush toilets upstairs and downstairs, a bath, an electric immersion heater which delivered hot water at a price, a largish living room and a long kitchen/diner. All this was unbelievable luxury after Scholes Street. The oven was in the kitchen back to back with the fire in the living room so that cooking could only be done in and on the oven when the fire was lit, but some kind neighbour who was replacing her old free-standing oven, gave it to us.  My mother remained grateful to the Labour party from the day they offered us a home.  She always remembered and was always thankful that she was given a home of her own when she was in need and forever after, when she could afford it gave money to housing the homeless charities. After she died I found that all her old age pension was contributed to charities that housed the homeless.

The house was furnished by my grandfather, my parents having arrived from India without a stick of furniture as everything had been abandoned in India. ‘3 Cleve’ was to be the home of the Holdaways for the next 12 years.

My father returns from the sanatorium.  When my father finally returned home from the TB Sanatorium at Grange-over-Sands in autumn 1949 it was to 3 Cleveland Avenue. It must have felt very strange for him, as he saw I had virtually taken his place and did all the things that he would have done in the past. We sat down and had a long talk. He could see that Anne was very unhappy and bitterly felt our lack of money and the fact she could not get the latest clothes, and that her presents at Christmas were not half as grand as many of her friends at school.  She was young and bewildered and had to find her own way of dealing with our poverty. Most other children at school had fathers who worked; we on the other hand lived on my mother’s £3 a week.  Sadly Anne came to resent me and we began to dislike each other.

011I lost my sister and she her brother, and I don’t think we ever forgave each other for letting it happen. Thank goodness we are now much closer and she is one of my greatest supports. My father never fully recovered his health and was to return again to the Sanatorium.  Meanwhile he applied for and was accepted as an ‘Extraman on Watcher Duties’ at the Customs and Exercise, Trafford Park Docks. His pay was £4.12s per week. He also received National Assistance of £20 per year.

Finances (ii).  So there we were in 3, Cleveland Avenue, my father’s was paid £214 pa, by Customs and Excise, which did not last long as he had to return, yet again to the TB Sanatorium at Grange-over-Sands , he received £20 per annum as National Assistance, and his annual pension from the Office of the High Commissioner for India for all his years of service in the Madras Police was a paltry £56.11.11. p.a., my mother was being paid £156 pa. , and they had to repay £12 per annum to the Commonwealth Relations office, Downing Street. My father was admitted to the Sanatorium at Grange on 30 September 1952 and stayed there until July 1953 when he was transferred to Baguley Sanatorium where they carried out a major operation on his left lung. He finally returned home.


My father on the left with a nurse and another patient at the Grange-over-Sands TB Sanatorium.

Tootal Road Secondary Modern School, Salford.  Having failed my 11+ I was condemned to waste the remaining years of my educational life at Tootal Road Secondary Modern School, Salford where most, not all, the teachers were the dregs of the Salford education system. Some of the teachers had no intention of giving an education to children whom, I now realise, they must have held in the greatest contempt. Others tried hard against the odds

We were poor by any standard but there were some children at the school whose families had nothing. I remember that one unfortunate boy was reduced to wearing his mother’s/sister’s shoes and blouses, much to the derision of everyone. He was quiet and slightly backward, and took a shine to me and whenever he saw me cross a room he would rush to open the door for me and followed behind me in the playground. To my everlasting shame, I thought his behaviour rather funny and I often wish I could meet him again and apologise. Poor boy, his life was made a misery at school because of his clothes and the fact that he was slightly backward. Whatever happened to him? He was in one of the lower streams in the school, and presumably like his classmates probably left the school illiterate.    Those children, like him, who could not afford the small sum which bought you a school ‘dinner’ were given free meal tickets, the children who had paid for the dinners were served before the children with free dinners. To have a free dinner ticket was regarded as a massive stigma and those children were in consequence treated with cruel derision by the other pupils.

Tootal Road Secondary Modern School, Salford. Teachers – Mr Wilkinson


I don’t think these photographs of the school teachers at Tootal Road have been published. As I say only some, not all, of the teachers were useless. Beamish the Head Master is in the front row, centre in a black suit. A really good man but I suspect he was unaware of what went on the school or was he so foolish. Wilkinson is in the front row, third from the right. His wife, just behind him second from the right. Dorothy Brown is also in the second row, second from the left. The teacher to the left of the headmaster is the one who nicknamed me the thief for daring to take a book off her shelves to read whilst waiting for her to arrive at class. The PE teacher, second from the left, back row, was one of the few caring people in the school, who was always respectful to us.  The fact that I was useless at gym made no difference to him.


The Teachers. Tootal Road Secondary Modern School, Salford
Dorothy Brown in the front row, third from right, Wilkinson next to her. New headmaster, have forgotten his name

The standard of teaching from many of the teachers, not all, was appalling. One teacher, Mr Wilkinson, the Deputy Head Master, who was also supposedly head of English, which increased his salary, informed us during one of his bitter tirades that we were just factory fodder and he did not know why he wasted his time with us. He was a drunkard and had a passion for spanking and caning and whenever possible humiliated his pupils.  The man was, I am now convinced slightly deranged and in fact I found out later that he spent the last years of his life in a mental institution and was seen by a shocked ex-pupil walking down a corridor of the asylum raving mad. He loved using his cane; it was never out of his hand.  We all wore shorts, but just occasionally a boy would turn up in long trousers. He would instantly haul the unfortunate out and give him a caning in front of us all, for having the audacity not to wear shorts.  Before my time at the school, so I was told by one of his ex-pupils, though I never witnessed it myself, he  would chose a girl from the class, to comb his hair; so she would stand behind him for most of the lesson combing his hair.  We never had a single English lesson and learnt no grammar.  But  he was fanatical about trains, so we heard a great deal about trains and we all had to memorise, the stations on many of the lines and woe betide anyone who forgot a station or put in one out of sequence. Mr Beeching saw that most of the stations we had to learn about were closed, so much good that did us. We were supposed to study Julius Caesar by Shakespeare throughout the whole time we were at school, but he would soon get bored and ramble off on some other topic that had caught his attention that day. We crossed swords during my first year and neither of us ever forgot it. I was standing in a queue of boys when one of the bullies started to pinch and punch from behind a rather quiet lad who stood at the side of me. I cannot tolerate bullies, I turned around and told him off, apparently you were not allowed to speak when you were outside a classroom waiting to go in so Wilkinson hauled me out and said I was to come to him to be caned at lunchtime. I duly went to him and he said did I know we were not supposed to speak in the corridor outside his classroom, I said I did not and that I was trying to stop someone from being bullied. He was outraged, how dare I answer back and give such a pathetic excuse, how dare I try to sneak my way out of getting caned.  So he caned me. But he was not content with that.  At assembly next morning he said he had occasion to witness a shameful attempt by one of the pupils of the school to get off being caned by dreaming up a weak excuse and he hoped that there were not too many such spineless boys who had just joined the school. I was mortified, and loathed the man from that day on.

French and maths.  I will choose two subjects from the school curriculum, if curriculum it could be called to show what an appalling education we got. We were supposed to learn French, from the French teacher, a Miss Crompton, a relative of Richmal Crompton the author of the ‘Just William’ books,  who was no doubt enumerated for being head of French.  All we did was copy, in our exercise books, a piece in French that she had written on the blackboard. Needless to say, because we did not know what we were writing, many mistakes were made. Our exercise books were then corrected. Anyone looking at our exercise books would think we were reasonably fluent in French. No one in the class knew a word of French when we left school. One day the school had a visitor, a Frenchman, who apparently insisted on visiting us during our French lesson, it so happened that Miss Crompton was called away, probably heard about the visit and absented herself.  We were all copying the French text on the blackboard when he, poor man, came into our classroom, glanced at the blackboard, saw how advanced we were, and immediately broke into French, speaking very slowly and clearly, of course we did not understand a word; the last long forgotten French lesson I had had was at Lovedale in India. He must have realised how pig-ignorant we all were and left in haste. We only got to the giddy heights of learning fractions when our headmaster, Mr Beamish, a nice enough soul, had to take over a maths class, as the maths teacher was off ill.  This lesson occurred at the end of my last term at school.  He inquired about our knowledge of maths and found we had not yet even learnt fractions, so he gave us our first lesson on this heady subject. Good god, I had had lessons in fractions at the age of seven in Lovedale, and at my former school in Crumpsall.


Tootal Road School, Miss Crompton and Mr Beamish to the left, I am in the back row fourth from the right

The library and books in general.  At some time during my period at school, Wilkinson married the teacher responsible for the so-called library. She being a JP was hardly ever seen at School. Finding out that I was an avid reader she told me to take time off school and go into the bookshops in Manchester and make a list whatever books I liked the look of and she would then order them for the library, there being a quite substantial grant for the purchase of books for the school library. No one was ever allowed to take a book out of the library, which mostly remained in firmly locked glass cabinets. Once when a teacher was late in arriving in class I removed a book from an open shelf of books she had in her classroom and started to read it. When the teacher returned she instantly noticed a gap in her bookshelves and demanded to know who had stolen one of her books. I got up and returned the book. She was incensed.  And I was never forgiven for my misdeed, and was always referred to as the thief.     There were four streams in each year, A-D. Heaven  help you if you were in C and D. Apparently, and again I found this out later, many pupils in the D stream never ever learnt to read or write.

The essay.  One day Wilkinson had a great idea, he would set us an essay, something he had never asked of us before. I confess I cannot remember the subject which was set; it was probably something like the most exciting day of my life, or some such topic. He appointed his wife to judge the essay and said that the winner would read it out at Assembly. By this time we were the bitterest of enemies.   I still do not know why, I can only think that most people did not have the ability to write an essay, but his wife chose me as the winner.  Knowing what he thought of me I can only think their marriage could not have been too close – both drank like fish.  Anyway she chose me.  He had to announce the winner, whose name was in a sealed envelope, so with a great flourish he opened it and clearly could not believe his eyes or that his wife could so betray him and with a look of some distaste and with a sneer called out my name. I never did read it out at Assembly. Thank heaven.


Dorothy Brown enters my life. The one bright beacon at the school and one of the few conscientious teachers was Miss Dorothy Brown the history teacher. One thing we all were taught was history. She began in a chronological sequence, and she made it absorbing and interesting. She was to be a great influence in my life. She had spotted me in my first year and decided to take an interest in my education.  I got to know her well as time went on and she helped me do my own studying by encouraging my reading and providing me with books on a number of subjects in which I showed an interest.

London and the school plays. We were to go on a school trip to London for a few days. I have forgotten how much it was going to cost us, but of course there was no way my mother could afford it. I told Dorothy Brown of this, first of all saying that my mother did not wish me to go but she understood and soon got the real reason out of me. She visited my mother and said she would pay but did not want it known. She did me many kindnesses during my time at school, but I never visited her at her home or met her outside the school until I left school.



During our sojourn in London we were actually taken to Eton to be shown around the school. Here I am in front of the statue of the founder Edward VI in the courtyard at Eton. What utter audacity to take us to such a place 

The school plays. During my final two years at school, Dorothy Brown, against all the odds, put on two school plays, the first, Gathering Nuts in May a light comedy, by whom, I cannot  remember and the other Philip King’s Without the Prince (written in 1939). I took the lead in both plays and had to learn large extracts from Hamlet for the latter. There was a cast of ten and looking back I realise what an achievement it was for her to put on both these plays, in that godforsaken school, and  what untapped talent could be got out of us ‘factory fodder’ when we had encouragement.


The school play, ‘Without the Prince’ by Philip King 

Wilkinson (ii).  Her interest in me did not go unnoticed by other teachers unfortunately. And Wilkinson, my form teacher was beside himself with fury about it, and at one time called me into the teachers’ common room when she was absent and actually asked me why I disliked him so much and yet was friendly with ‘other’ members of staff. I suspect the other teachers in the room were as thoroughly embarrassed as I was. I said nothing and was eventually dismissed as ‘sullen and sly’. I became head-boy in my last year at school. The head boy and prefects were voted in by the teachers.  Wilkinson was furious; I presume he had been outvoted. A young music teacher, she must have been years younger than any of the teachers, used to come and play classical music on the school piano during lunchtime, just for her own delight.   Needless to say a few of us were attracted by the sound and took to standing around the piano listening to her play. It was my first encounter with someone playing classical music. I was supposed to be supervising the prefects in keeping order in the classrooms before the afternoon lessons began. I have to say I was bowled over by the music and very moved at times and neglected my so called duties.   Wilkinson’s had his perfect opportunity. During the last few weeks of my term at school he called all the class together and I was dismissed as head-boy, and he then held a meeting with the staff and told them what he had done. Of course having made such a public statement it was impossible for him to withdraw, as was pointed out to him by members of the staff who felt it had been rather high-handed over the matter (all this I later heard from Dorothy Brown). As the title was a rather empty one, nothing in particular happened, but it was humiliating, which is what he intended.

Beamish, the headmaster with some of the prefects
David Cope, William Wright, myself and David Pollock

Wilkinson ensured the young music teacher was dismissed on the charge that  she was getting too close to some of the boys in the school and that her behaviour was inappropriate. We saw her leave the school one day in tears with her boxes of sheet music and her violin which she packed into a taxi and left.  We never saw her again. The unhappiness that man caused knew no bounds.  Hundreds of pupils passed through his hands and none ever had an English lesson from him.  A temporary teacher came to take over his class when he was away ill for a short period and we did get a few English lessons, poor woman must have wondered why we were so ignorant.

When I went to empty my desk just before I finally left the school, I found he had thrown the contents into the wastepaper basket.  He screamed at me to pick my things where he had thrown them. I turned and left the room leaving him screaming with fury, which is my last memory of him and of the school.  I understand the school has now been demolished.  We all left that school without any certificate of education, as far as the school and Salford Education Authority was concerned, we were factory fodder and deserved no better.

The School Inspectors.  I often wondered how the abysmal standard of education was allowed at the school and all was made clear when I attended Dorothy Brown’s funeral many years later. This tale was told to me by the school secretary, who had been secretary for many years. Apparently each year the staff donated handsomely to a fund.  This fund was for the benefit of taking the so-called school inspectors, I presume council members of the education committee, anyway, whoever  they were,  to dine and wine at some local hotel.  This took place during the time they should have been inspecting the school. In return each year ‘the inspectors’ gave a glowing report of the school’s progress. The attendants at the funeral, including many teachers laughed their heads off remembering how clever they had been to beat the system.  I did not, and I was appalled, the secretary, shrugged her shoulders and said well that’s what people did in those days, and everyone was happy about the arrangement. I was sickened and thought of the many potentially bright children who had been condemned to that school, who like me, would carry the cross of leaving school without a decent education. We were all let down by the system.  For most of my life I was ashamed to say where I had been educated and the fact that I had left school without any certificates. Those teachers and those ‘inspectors’ have a lot to answer for.

Finances (iii).  3 Cleveland Avenue, with basic furniture provided by my grandfather, remained uncarpeted for most of the time we lived there. I think we eventually bought a piece of lino which had the design of a carpet on it for the living room, upstairs remained with bare floor-boards and I recall we did not have enough blankets to keep us warm in the winter and had to put our coats on top of the bedclothes. There was no telephone.  Life was hard and there was little or no money. Groceries and necessities were purchased on ‘tick’ from Suttons the local shop. And every Friday, my mother paid off the bill for the previous week. One week she found that having paid the bill she did not have a penny to her name, literally not a penny; my father was in the Grange-over-Sands Sanatorium at the time. She did not even have enough to pay her bus fare to go to work on Monday. I then walked, a trip of many miles, to my grandfather who was still living at Scholes Street with a note from my mother asking for some money. My grandfather unaware of the enormity of the plight we found ourselves in placed some notes in an envelope for me to take back to my mother. He did not enquire how I had journeyed there and I was too proud to tell, so I walked all the way back home, I was utterly exhausted on my return.  My poor mother, how did she cope with the stress?  One other black day occurred when my mother’s handbag and purse was stolen from the office. The door to the street was always open and someone had come in and stolen her bag.  No one thought in the office that she was penniless or that all the money we possessed was in her purse. She therefore had to borrow from the petty-cash, something she absolutely dreaded would be found out, but fortunately never was and she paid the debt back slowly over the next few weeks.  Meanwhile we lived on hardly any food at home.  My heart sinks every time I think of what my poor mother must have gone through during this period, when almost every single penny we had mattered.  Her biggest loss from her handbag was a small stack of her favourite photographs.  My mother collected photographs all her life and all her favourite family and school photographs were for some reason carried around in her handbag.  I am sure she must have wept many times over their loss.

The garden.  The large garden at the back and the small one in the front was a wasteland, left by the builders with bricks and concrete rubbish everywhere. Most other tenants laid out beautiful gardens, but they had working fathers. We did not have even the most basic tools like a spade or lawnmower to do anything about it and tidy up as we tried,  it was still a wasteland which quickly covered with weeds. My mother was ashamed about the garden but felt helpless. Eventually one of our neighbours, an Irishman Mr Doyle, who was the father of a school friend of Anne’s took pity on us and came over and after spending days removing debris from the gardens laid out a beautiful lawn with flower beds.



The garden became one of my mother’s passions, when she had the time. Mr Doyle came over and mowed the lawn whenever it was needed. Mr Doyle had a large family of his own and worked, I think, in the Trafford Park Docks.  We owed a great deal to him for all his kindnesses to us.  He had a TV, something very few people had and insisted that we go over whenever we wanted to watch it.

Latchkey children. 

037Anne and I became latchkey children. In the winter we arrived home to find it freezing, cold and damp. I had to light the fire and begin to prepare the evening meal until my mother returned home from work.  It was a steep learning curve but stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. I learnt to iron, fix a fuse, light a fire, cook, wash clothes, sew and darn, I even learned to knit, unravelling the wool from old knitted clothes my mother managed to find, make the beds and generally do any housework that was necessary.  The radio was a godsend and every evening we spent listening to it crouched over the fire during the winter months and with the windows open onto the garden in the summer. All my mother’s and Anne’s clothes were made by hand, using a small hand Singer sewing machine. Mother would buy a pattern and some material at the sales and we would spend hours cutting and sewing  dresses and underwear. All our cardigans, pullovers and knitwear were knitted by either my mother or myself.  If any knitwear wore a hole, it was unravelled and reknitted and sometimes my mother acquired second-hand knitwear from some market and we would unravel it knit something new from it. I became quite adept at knitting, something I have not done since that time.

Proposal to adopt.  Before I left school a curious incident happened, Dorothy Brown called on my mother whilst I was absent and my father was in hospital. She asked whether my mother would let her adopt me as her son. This told to me by my mother a few days before she died.   Dorothy had come armed with papers so she had apparently gone into the matter with some determination.  My mother naturally refused. Dorothy said I would want for nothing and as she lived nearby I would be able to visit as often as I wished. My mother was having none of it. Dorothy then insisted on leaving my mother some money to get me a new outfit of clothes.  The clothes I wore to school were becoming very worn.  My mother, probably reluctantly, accepted her kind offer, and they parted with no animosity on either side. I often wondered where on earth my mother had found some money to replace my clothes; I assumed that the benefactor had been my grandfather. Dorothy and my mother never met again.

My father and mother.  The only thing lacking was my father. Having got a job with the Customs and Excise, his TB returned with a vengeance and he was taken back to the Sanatorium at Grange over Sands. Unfortunately for me my father was a total stranger. To my shame, I often resented the fact that he was not like other fathers and did not earn a wage and all the comforts it brought and placed so much responsibility for the home on my shoulders and made Anne so unhappy. I never did get to know my father who sadly remained a somewhat remote figure to me for most of my life. I know he had a great affection for me but did not often show it and we grew apart more and more as time went on. Later in life he began to collect military medals, picking them up for trifles or being given them by friends.  He and my mother could finish a crossword in record time; he was also very good at playing cards and could remember every card that everyone had played throughout a game. And of course he was a musician, a musician with nothing to play. I was amazed when we attended a wedding to find him at the piano playing without sheet music, remembered melodies from his days in the army band. His was a sad and short life, defined by TB and then leukaemia. I hope he found some happiness, but life must have been hard and lonely for him in hospitals and the sanatorium.  He had been rejected by his family as a child, he always said that the only family he had till he got married was the army.

Roy and Coleen McMahon.  Someone who re-entered our lives at this juncture was my mother’s cousin Robert ‘Roy’ Spurling McMahon.



Roy in the special police force in Bahrain

It was his sister Coleen who had gone to Aden when my father was thought to be dying. Roy had served 30 years in the India police, except for a spell during the war when he was posted to Bahrain. Working as he did at the other end of the country, it is not possible to given an account of his life there as he never spoke of it.  What can be said that he was serving in Calcutta during the Independence riots of 1946. In these disturbances he witnessed unspeakable atrocities, including having to organise the clearance of a train where every person, man, woman and child had been butchered. These things scarred his mind deeply. He left the Calcutta police in 1950 and came to England. Throughout the rest of his life he steadfastly refused to entertain any idea of ever returning to India for any reason whatsoever. Coleen was to be the last link with India in the family, but more of that later.

Roy retires.  Roy retired and settled in a comfortable house he had bought in Mitcham and Mrs B, the widow of a colleague in the Police in Calcutta came to live with him as his housekeeper. The house was beautifully kept and Mrs B was a very good cook, housekeeper and maintained a beautiful garden. She also specialised in making curries, pickles and chutneys to die for. My family visited Roy and stayed with him on a number of occasions, he always sent the money for our train fare.  One day Mrs B insisted that he marry her, as she said the neighbours were talking.


Roy was a tall, well-built, quite handsome man, probably gay, and she was much older, none too handsome, very short and very stout. The wedding invitations were sent out, and were received with some shock by the family. A few days before the wedding, Roy had a nervous breakdown and had to be sectioned and was taken to a mental hospital. My grandfather went to London and visited him in the hospital. Roy told him, he thought he was being poisoned by Mrs B, which I am sure was completely untrue, and made it clear that the whole question of marriage was repugnant to him. Roy eventually recovered and returned home to Mrs B and all returned to normal as though nothing untoward had happened. It later transpired that Mrs B’s son had his eye on the house and having failed to secure it by insisting Roy marry his mother he then insisted that Roy make a will in his favour leaving everything to him. In fact he later told me he drove Roy to a firm of solicitors and left him at the door with strict instructions as to the terms of the will. Roy apparently waited till Mr B was out of sight and left not having in fact made the will as instructed.  He never did make a will and this was to cause the family a great deal of trouble in the future. Meanwhile Colleen his sister, now a widow living in considerable financial comfort in a large house, remained in India. As she grew older she became almost blind and became wholly reliant on her servants.   We later discovered that she had fallen into the clutches of  a man servant who having dismissed all the other servants, fleeced her of all her money, this unbeknown to Roy, who suddenly received pleading letters from her saying that she had lost all her money and would he send her a regular income to live on.  Roy was living on his police pension and savings but, after trying in vain to get her to leave India and come to live with him, he kindly arranged for the whole of his police pension to be paid direct to her, got a job and went back to work. Mrs B died some years later and Roy’s house fell into wrack and ruin.

Roy dies intestate.  On Roy’s death, Mrs B’s son turned up at the doorstep and said that the house belonged to him under the terms of Roy’s will and that he had taken Roy to the solicitors at the time it was made. I was living in London at the time and was called to the house which was occupied by my uncle Herbert who had moved in with Roy as a tenant. Mr B determined as to his rights slept all night with his family in the car outside the house waiting for me to turn up the following morning. Fortunately Herbert had refused to let Mr B in, and when I arrived I was driven off by Mr B to the solicitor’s office where he had left Roy to make his will. The solicitors had never heard of him.  I made a search for the will but to no avail. I checked if the will had been registered, it had not. Clearly no will had ever been made and so Mr B stormed off, saying we had not heard the end of it. We certainly hadn’t. As he had died intestate, Roy’s estate went to his sister Colleen.  Colleen who was now virtually blind, was in the hands of her dreadful servant, who had milked her for everything, cleaned out her bank account and sold most of her furniture, she now found that the steady income from her brother had stopped, and was distraught and penniless.  We will leave Colleen thus and I will return to this tale which became sordid, sad and lengthy.   The tale is a sharp reminder of the utter corruption of the courts in India and when it came to an end it broke the final link the family had with India.

Meanwhile back in Salford, in the 1950s.  I later discovered that because of the financial difficulties caused by our arrival, the whole burden of which had fallen onto my grandfather’s shoulders, he had been forced to take a job as some sort of caretaker at a Maintenance Unit of the Royal Air Force. How long he was in the job is not known but a letter from the RAF in 1952 shows that he had to retire because of ill-health. My poor grandfather!   Also in 1952 my aunt Joan got married to Derek Stokoe, a teacher who she had met at the Methodist Church.



From left to right, my grandfather, my mother, Derek Stokoe, my aunt Joan and Derek Stokoe’s parents. This was the first and only time my grandfather, a very devout man, stepped into a church since the death of his wife 

Joan and Derek had two children, girls, Beverley and Lindsey.  Our two families remained close and visits were often exchanged as the girls grew up.

Finances (iv).  During the early 50’s when my father had returned to the sanatorium, the Civil Service Benevolent Fund send him 30 shillings a week to help with the family expenses and the Commonwealth Relations Office who now administered repatriation debts informed my father that in view of his circumstance, the £89.7p which was still owing to them would no longer need to be repaid. What a relief that must have been.

The Festival of Britain.  Ivy Edmonds, still living in India with her family, sent the princely sum of 100 rupees to my mother with the proviso that it was to be spent on the three of us going to London for a day to see the Festival of Britain. I don’t know how much 100 rupees was worth, not much, I suspect, but it was enough for us to catch a train to London, stay with a school friend of my mother’s for two nights and see the Festival of Britain. My poor mother, who did not know anything about the Tube or bus services in London, somehow got us to the Festival.


We were in a state of wonder. Saw as much as we were able and then returned. Dorothy my mother’s friend was living in a rather cramped flat, the top half of a semi-detached house. It was good for my mother to see her friend again, and years later when both their husbands were dead I paid for my mother to travel with her on a tour Greece. I can remember very little detail of the Festival, it was all very new and strange and wonderful. And I could see my mother was very unsure of herself in these massive crowds.  I know we returned in the evening exhausted having bought a few mementoes to send to Ivy.

042                  041

My uncle Brian and Joan taken about this time

The Sunday visits to the Sanatorium.  Every other Sunday, my mother would get up at some unearthly hour, certainly while it was still very dark outside, get dressed, pack a few things she had cooked, and set off by bus to central Manchester. Here she waited with many other wives and family members for the coaches which would take them all to the TB Sanatorium at Grange over Sands to visit their loved ones. The Sanatorium consisted of a central block set in its own grounds with small wooden chalets scattered in among the trees. Each chalet contained two patients.



Here my parents met and spent a few precious hours together. My sister Anne and I accompanied her once.


In the sanatorium my father was encouraged to work cross-stitch tapestries to keep him occupied. He gave away everything he made.

The sanatorium parkland was very beautiful and there was a field of horses attached which must have delighted my father.






What a lonely and wretched life it must have been for him, not to be home with his family. My mother used to return home late into the evening, completely exhausted and prepare to go to work the following morning. We had to look after ourselves whilst she was away, something we both had to get used to all too often

036I go to work  

When I left school, I had not the vaguest idea what I wanted to do; I had no educational qualifications, was thin as a rake, 6 ft.3in tall and only fit for factory fodder. Dorothy Brown entered into my life again. She wrote to her solicitors, in Manchester recommending me as a clerk, as she had happened to hear one of the partners say something about needing a clerk, when she had last visited them, probably about seeking to adopt me. I went for an interview, wearing my best suit, my only suit and was accepted at £2 a week which was a pound less than what my mother was being paid. The office was on the top floor of a large Victorian block at the side of Manchester Town Hall. You got to the top floor by an antiquated lift which was operated by a lift man, who had to haul on a thick rope which operated counterweights and which shot the lift to the top floor with many other pulls and grunts on the way. The rooms were off a central corridor, and the firm employed a telephone operator, five shorthand typists, a clerk who had been with them forever, was past retirement age and had a perpetual drip on the end of his nose and a managing clerk, who did the bookkeeping and saw to the smooth running of the office. There were two partners, one much older than the other. Both were extremely affluent sufficiently enough to be transported about by chauffeur driven cars, and I suspect lived in some luxury. Time had stopped in the office at about the 1850s, the furniture for the staff was ancient and falling to pieces, whole rooms were taken up with piles of old dusty sooty files all tied with pink ribbon. In one room there were bronzes, Victorian oil paintings, chests of clothes and antiques, all of which had been left by clients, and stored there for many, many years, waiting till they found an heir.  They never did, and one day the partners told the cleaning staff to help themselves to whatever they wanted and to get rid of the rest. They must have thought it was Christmas, I often wondered what happened to it all. We the staff were not invited to help ourselves and anyway how could I possibly have found a way of carrying a heavy bronze statue or a massive Victorian painting home on the bus. Both partners collected paintings, as the son of one of them told me.  He also informed me that his father’s prize possessions were a Constable and a Turner.  Victorian paintings, such as those stored in the office were out of fashion and so away they went with the cleaners.


The office.  I was assigned to work with and for the man with the dripping nose. Our office, stacked all around the walls from floor to windowsill with papers tied with pink tape and covered in sooty dust, was freezing cold.  It was heated by a two-bar electric fire which hardly gave out any heat and was crouched over by my aged colleague, leaving no heat whatsoever coming my way at a far-off desk.  I was told that I could not wear a pullover and only waistcoats were accepted.  I did not have a waistcoat.  I froze. The partner’s offices and the waiting room were grandly, furnished. They had somehow managed to get some very important clients on their books.  I was given the task of bringing some order to the mass of files that lay on the floor of every office. They were covered with years of sticky soot and dust. I began to catalogue them in an enormous ledger. Someone had begun to do this year’s earlier but had died or left and I had to pick up the pieces. They bought me a hoover but by the end of the day, my hands were black and by the end of the week my suit was dirty. I would have liked the work if it had not been so terribly cold and the files so filthy. I found many files with original wills in them. When I happened to mention this to one of the partners who called in on me while I was working, he was horrified. Clearly the wills should have been put into safes and in the bank vault. If there had been a fire or leaking pipe and they had been destroyed they would have had to deal with many a law suit.  So my next task was to try to locate all the original wills I could find and these were packed off to a bank vault. When the telephonist decided to leave, I was seconded to look after the telephone switchboard. An antiquated affair with plugs you put in and pulled out of sockets. I learnt nothing about the law, whatsoever. I had been employed as a dogsbody, nothing more. At least it was warm and I now had a small electric fire to myself.

The Civil Service Benevolent Fund.  The Civil Service Benevolent Fund wrote to my father saying that now he was out of the sanatorium and hoped to return to work and as I was no longer a financial burden, they would cease making their payment of £1 a week to him. I often wonder what the people employed; presumably at quite reasonable salaries, felt when they wrote such letters in the name of the Benevolent Fund.


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