Tape 143. Mr Edgar Sainty, sides 1 and 2

Tape 143

Mr Edgar Sainty was born in 1910. He was interviewed on 23 May 1991, when he lived at 58 Maldon Road.

He also appears on tape 145.

For more information about him, see Sainty family including Edgar in the People category.

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

Mr S:    Solicitor is now, there.

Q:    Oh you mean next to the school up the Maldon Road?

Mr S:    Yes, just a little place, a little place there. There’s a house there now, a solicitor’s now [41 Maldon Road]. That used to be a pub called The Bell.

Q:    You remember that do you?

Mr S:    There used to be a pub called the Bell there. [???] Rex Griggs, I don’t know whether you know him at all?

Q:    Well, I know his sister I think it would be.

Mr S:    Rex he lives in that house that’s up for sale now. Well he’s a bit older than me. He remembers The Bell. Of course it was in my time but you see I was only little.

Q:    That’s it, so you didn’t go in there [laugh]. Is he older than you then?

Mr S:    Yes, I would say he’d give me about three or four years.

Q:    Dare I ask you how old you are then?

Mr S:    Yes, well his father died. When I was about eight or nine years old they used to keep a greengrocers shop which was, I don’t know whether you’ll remember, Pendle the grocer being up there? (Q: Yes.) [48 Church Street] Well that was where they kept the greengrocers shop. Griggs the greengrocer.

Q:    I see.  Well his sister still lives in our road, I think it must be, a piano teacher.

Mr S:    Yes, Elfreda. Because his other brother he got killed in the War. He got blown up in the War. Well, He was a bit younger than me.

Q:    So how old are you, if that’s not a rude question?

Mr S:    Eighty. (Q: Are you really?) I’ll be eighty-one this year. (Q: Will you really? You don’t look eighty at all do you. You’ve kept very well.) Yes. I still do a bit of digging. Only trouble is keeping the house clean, doing housework of course (Q: Well, doesn’t matter.) Well, it does for I don’t like to live in filth.

Q:    But you don’t have to do it all the time. If you prefer to be out in the garden.

Mr S:    I have a clear out now and then.

Q:    Oh well, you remember a few things then. Where were you born then?

Mr S:    I was born in Ipswich, Khartoum Road, off the Woodbridge Road, Ipswich.

Q:    And your father, was he on the railway as well as your …?

Mr S:    No my father wasn’t, grandfather was. He was on the railway till he retired when he was seventy. I remember him retiring. He came in and said well you won’t get no more wages now, because I used to get a penny a week wages [laugh]. Me, I had a penny, and he had two other grandchildren, which was his daughter.  They used to have a penny each. Threepence a week. A lot of money then.

Q:    You were quite little then?

Mr S:    When he retired I was probably eight or nine years old. It was after the ‘14 War. Cause he was on the signalbox all during the War.

Q:    Was he, what in Witham.

Mr S:    The 14 War.

Q:    So did you all come to Witham together then? Your grandfather?

Mr S:    No, me grandfather lived here a long time before, well he was here during this accident [1905] I don’t know when he came. He lived in Braintree for some time. My father was born in Needham Market, then they moved from Needham Market up into Braintree and Braintree to Witham. Lived in Church Street. Then he lived in Braintree Road.

Q:    But your father moved away to Ipswich?

Mr S:    My father worked in Ipswich.

Q:    What was his job then?

Mr S:    Well, he always used to term himself a clerk, clerk or whatever they call it. He was very good at figures. I can’t do it but I’ve seen him sitting down [???]

Q:    What sort of place did he work in then?

Mr S:    He was in Essex County Council till 1914 and he always said to me he was one of the bloody fools what volunteered. (Q: I see.) And when he came back from War they didn’t want him, they said ‘No, you volunteered, you’ve let us down’. (Q: Oh really?) And he never had a job, well, what I call it a job, he worked sometimes for old Charlie Warren, who kept a garage in Witham. Then he worked for old Joe Mens. Then when I was about fifteen or sixteen I set up in the radio business, and then we worked it together. But he was on the dole. He went to get the dole and they said ‘No you can’t have the dole, you’ve got a piano in your place you’ve got so and so, you sell that, and then …’ I happened to be there and I was only getting a few pound a week, and I told them what I thought of them.

Q:    What was it they told him he’d got to sell? They said he’d got something he should sell instead of getting the dole?

Mr S:    Yes, you see at that time they had what they call a means test. They’ve still got it I believe. They come into your home and. ‘Oh sell this, sell that, sell that’ you can get, you’ve got plenty of money. (Q: Oh dear.) That was the idea those days. All that they was allowed to have was a table and a bed and a cooking stove. All the rest, and a chair to sit on, all the rest you’d got to get rid of. (Q: Oh dear.) That was in the old days. That was in the old days, I was only about fifteen years old then.

Q:    Where did you used to go for that then. Was there an office in Witham where you had to go for that?

Mr S:    No I used to run all my business from Albert Road, 23 Albert Road.

Q:    Sorry, I meant to get the dole and everything.

Mr S:    Oh, there used to be a man. You know where Thompson’s coal office is? [1a Braintree Road] (Q: Yes.) There’s a little tin shed there. That used to be the dole office. (Q: Did it really?) A man named Cundy used to be the man. And incidentally used to live next door to me, because we lived down in Braintree Road, Portland Villas I don’t know if you know. And he used to live next door to Fleuty. Used be Miss Fleuty she always used to be, win all the prizes down there for jam. And Alf Fleuty he was retired but he used to be a wheelwright. (Q: I see.) Where that RAF place is in Bridge Street. There used to be a little row of houses and they used to call it Fleuty’s Yard. And he used to be a wheelwright there. The last wheelwright was a man named Phil Bright. I remember him. I don’t remember Fleuty being a wheelwright, that was before my time, but I do remember Bright, Phil Bright. He used to be in the choir. I used to be in the choir in those days. (Q: Oh did you?) I was a choirboy [laugh] And Cyril Ashby and Cecil Dudley. Whose names I dare say you’ve probably heard. Cyril Ashby was the organist down there until a few years ago. And those little devils used to blow sneezing powder around. And so everyone started to sneeze. (Q: What, in the choir?) Yes, in the choir [laugh]. Oh yes, we used to get up to all those sort of games.

Q:    Was that at St Nicholas church?

Mr S:    Yes, St Nicholas church. The old bell ringers, they always used to ring the bells at Christmas. And there used to be another man there, name of Brad[?] Chalk, I always used to be a very very nice man. I will always remember it. On Easter morning, he used to ring three bells. Ding, ding, ding. Ding, ding, ding. Ding, ding, ding. Ding. Made a tune and then started again. (Q: Really?) Used to have one on like this, one on his foot …

Q:    Oh, I see, he did it all himself?

Mr S:    Yes, rang the three bells. (Q: Goodness.) Of course that was the days when the old bellringers, when they had New Years Eve and they rang in the New Years they used to have [???] so they could have a drink.

Q:    So they rang?

Mr S:    The old bells. Old Bill Butler, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him? (Q: I don’t think.) Well, he was one of the bell ringers. As a matter of fact when he died they rang a half muffled peal for him. Funny old boy. He used to live opposite us when I moved to Albert Road. Because we moved out of this place in Braintree Road into Albert Road, you know, right opposite Crittall’s.

Q:    So, when you set up the business, that was at home was it?

Mr S:    Yes, that was where I used to run the business from. (Q: I see.) Where he used to live, my grandfather lived at Portland Villas, I think its still called Portland Villas [Braintree Road].

Q:    They’ve got the names up on haven’t they?

Mr S:    Yes, not far, there used to be a little shop, remember there used to be a little shop there, Jack Hannah used to keep that and actually, well, he’s not a relation but his wife’s sister married Fred Sainty and she worked for Perry at Little Braxted Hall as his housekeeper. You’ve heard of Perry Avenue, well it’s named after this Perry. She worked there, she was housekeeper. She used to drive into Witham in a little pony and trap. Many a time I’ve called at the house and she’d take me over to Braxted Hall and I’d stay the weekend. Of course she was a widow and Mr Perry he did want to marry her. She wouldn’t have him. I think I’m right in saying he never got married until she died. She was very a smart person. (Q: She was?) She was. Me, I was just the same as I am now. [laugh]

Q:    Was she always smart you think?

Mr S:    Yes, I don’t know how to put it, she was a little bit out of the ordinary of other people. She was very very nice.

Q:    So Fred Sainty?

Mr S:    Fred Sainty, he died.

Q:    What relative was he then?

Mr S:    He was my father’s brother. He died before I was born. (Q: I see.) He died of appendicitis. Of course that was fatal in those days. No one knew what it was you see. (Q: No.) Appendicitis turned into peritonitis and he died.

Q:    Did they have children as well?

Mr S:    No, she had no children. She used to make a fuss of me. She [???] said ‘Well you’ll be all right when I die’ but I never did see it. (Q: Oh you didn’t?) And I was very much put out about it because I used to have a motor bike and, unfortunately, I was going up a bit of a hill there, you have to rev up to get up the hill, when they were bringing her coffin out, I went past. And Mr Perry he got onto me about it. I said well ‘I’m sorry Mr Perry but I never knew she’d died’. I said ‘It was up to you or the people concerned to have informed my father or myself’. (Q: Yes.) ‘So we could have attended the funeral’. I said ‘I never even knew that was her being buried. So I’m not guilty’. I always remember that.

Q:    So you didn’t see much of him, himself, it was her mainly that you, was it?

Mr S:    Oh no, he was a big farmer.

Q:    What did Fred Sainty used to do for a living?

Mr S:    That I couldn’t tell you. I never know much about him.

Q:    Did you have lots of uncles and aunts?

Mr S:    Oh I had several uncles and aunts. I had Uncle Harry, he was a bit hoity-toity. Aunt Lil, she lived till, well she died down at the old people’s bungalows down at the bottom, Laurence Avenue.  Oh she was, you don’t meet people like her now She was one of the best. To tell you the truth she helped me a lot. (Q: How did she …?) Yes she helped me a lot. She was one of the best. She used to be in service to Dr Payne. (Q: Did she really?) I don’t know whether you know, but the Retreat, they call that the Retreat now, (Q: Yes,) that used to be an asylum (Q: I see.) that used to be an asylum there and it  belonged to Dr Payne [off Maldon Road].

Q:    That was who she worked for. She was in the house at that time?

Mr S:    Yes, she worked at the house. Where the Chinese restaurant is now, I think they call it High House I believe they call it, [5 Newland Street], the Chinese have got it now, that’s where Dr Payne used to be and that’s where she was in service. That belonged to Dr Payne.

Q:    Can you remember that when it was an asylum?

Mr S:    Yes, I can remember that because there was a little bit of an upset there I think, a patient died under some circumstances and there was a bit of an upset and I remember she had to go to the inquest or whatever it was called. Oh yes I remember that.

Q:    When you say she helped you a lot, in what way did she help you?

Mr S:    Oh, she helped me financially, because she was always a bit of a hoarder. (Q: Was she?) [laugh]  She was always a bit of a hoarder, and when she died I had to go through all the Christmas cards.  Opened a Christmas card there was a ten shilling note. I should think there was more than fifty pounds in ten shilling notes there. And things I’d given her they were still there. I’d have given her some chocolates, they were still there, she still hoarded them, of course they were no good.

Q:    Was she your father’s sister then?

Mr S:    That’s my dad’s sister.
Q;    So she didn’t marry?

Mr S:    No, she was courting a chap but he was in the Scotch regiment when they laid in the Avenue at Witham (Q: Oh yes.) and they were all, that Scotch regiment, the whole lot of them went over to France. A bomb dropped and they was all wiped out. (Q: Oh dear.) Jim McQuin was his name.

Q:    So she met him when he was down here.

[looking for something, finds cards, not noted]

Mr S:    I was offered a pound for them and I wouldn’t, and then I found out when the had the Antiques Roadshow I found out they were worth twenty-five pounds each.

Q:    I’m sure they are, probably more, they look as if they were made yesterday. They’re beautiful. She’d kept them had she. Souvenir de France.

Mr S:    They were what this Jim McQuin sent to her when he went. Then of course they went off somewhere else and …There is something on the back.

Q:    So that was 1918 so it must have been quite near the end of War then? (Mr S: Yes.) Oh dear. Beautiful aren’t they.

Mr S:    I don’t know if his relations sent them to her.

Q:    It’s a good job she was a hoarder really isn’t it? Such a bright colour and beautifully kept. Amazing. Do you remember the soldiers yourself?

Mr S:    Yes, I do, I remember them laying in the Avenue, because the Avenue then was all trees, all beautiful trees. I remember that as portrayed in the photographs I’ve seen of the Avenue. I remember it like that and there used to be a big house at the end of it.  That’s all been pulled down now and they used to, the lady of the house Miss Laurence, that belonged to a man named Laurence, the lady of the house they used to drive through there when they went to church in an open carriage, don’t know if they call it a landau or whatever it is, with the old boy on top with a cocked hat. (Q: Really? [laugh].  There’s two more photographs there. Hold them up to the light.

Q:    Oh yes, because it shines through the windows and everything.  That’s 1906 and this one 1905. That’s to Miss Lily Sainty, is that her as well?

Mr S:    Yes, Lily, that was her name. (Q: Diamond Terrace) Diamond Terrace that’s where they lived, when they first came to Witham [11-14 Chalks Road].

Q:    That’s opposite our, in Chalks Road.

Mr S:    No, that’s right up the top of Church Street. There’s Church Street, St. John’s Street or what they called Diamond Terrace. There used to be some houses up there what they called Diamond Terrace. [possibly he is mistaken about this, to judge from 1901 census]

Q:    One’s from Lil and one’s from Jessie, that must have been, they’re Christmas cards aren’t they. So she must have lived till quite an age then if she was still alive and went on to live in Laurence Avenue?

Mr S:    Well, she was seventy odd, well approaching eighty I suppose. Have you ever seen anything like that before?

Q:    What’s that then?  Good heavens, bullets.

Mr S:    Take them out and then there’s a card.

Q:    Oh 1915 Princess Mary. Best Wishes for a victorious New Year. Good heavens. Who was that to?

Mr S:    That was what my father received [???] Christmas present. There was some chocolates, a little packet of chocolate and a little packet of tobacco. This, one of these is a pencil.

Q:    Did they get them as well? Were these in it or were added?

Mr S:    No, they were in it, the bullet as a pencil. And the other one was a dummy. I don’t know what that was for.

Q:    Perhaps that had something in it. That was your father? So he was in the First World War?

Mr S:    Yes, my father got that when he was in the First War, that’s what they gave them for Christmas present. Princess Mary. All the troops had them.

Q:    Fancy keeping well, you have done well haven’t you.

Mr S:    Have you seen anything like that?

Q:    Not at all no. Christmas 1914 it says on it.

Mr S:    If that was complete with the chocolates and tobacco in there, it would be worth £300. They said, told us that on the television on the Antiques Roadshow.

Q:    Great isn’t it. It was the Army he was in, was it then?

Mr S:    Yes, yes, in the Army, he was old, over the age when he joined up and then he went into the Army Pay Corps and was stationed at Shrewsbury.

Q:    I suppose if he was good at figures then …

Mr S:    Yes, he went into the Army Pay Corps and Colonel Todd he came home to my home when we lived in Braintree Road, not Albert Road, when he was in the Army he brought Colonel Todd home with him and he stayed at our place, and as my father was only a Corporal he couldn’t walk with Colonel Todd so he walked in front and the colonel walked behind in case any MPs came along. He wanted to go out and see Witham. So he told my father he said ‘You’ll have to get into civvys and come out [???]’. My dad said ‘[???] the MPs’. He said ‘well if the MPs stop you,’ he said, ‘you’ll have to come before me’. [laugh] Well he knew what that meant, and soon as he got before the Colonel that would be …

Poor old father, I remember him saying he nearly got into a row because an order came out that all the soldiers had got to have a moustache, and he made a mistake one day and shaved half  of it off. So he appeared on parade … That was when he was in the army before he went in the Pay Corps. He was on parade and it was the South Wales Borderers I think and he had, he thought and he said ‘Our Colonel in Chief is clean shaven, are you going to have him up for not wearing a moustache?’ The Colonel in Chief was the Prince of Wales, the old Duke of Windsor. [laugh]

Q:    That was clever [laugh]. He knew how to stand up for himself then. That must have been awful when he came back and couldn’t get any work then.

Mr S:    Well, when the men came back after the last War there were hundreds, thousands on the dole then who couldn’t get any work.

Q:    So how many of you were there at home then? Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mr S:    No, we just existed and that was all.

Q:    Did you have brothers and sisters at home?

Mr S:    No, I’m an only child. It was only my mother’s good management and that sort of thing that we sort of pulled through.

Q:    Did she work at all?

Mr S:    No, my mother never worked. She was rather a shy sort of person, wouldn’t push herself forward in any way. She was absolutely spotlessly clean and I used to be turned out, when I went to school, I was always turned out to be, boots and one thing and another, children of course some of them, poor little beggars. Their fathers only worked on the land, about nine shillings a week, they couldn’t afford it. Of course my old mother and father they went without to do it, to give it to me.

Q:    What were their first names, did you tell me?

Mr S:    My mother, Clara Jane. Father was Edgar William. And incidentally the voting is still in his name and the rates are still in his name. And the bank is still in his name. Mine’s G, EWG. Edgar after my father, William after Grandfather and George after an Uncle, that’s mother’s brother.

Q:    You’ve got quite a lot of names then? So who was the Harry that you mentioned then?

Mr S:    Harry Sainty that was my father’s brother. My father was the oldest. Harry came next and I dunno, Fred and Lily. There was Harry, Fred, Lily, and my dad, that’s four, five children [probably Nell as well]. (Q: You say he was a bit different, Harry was a bit …?) Yes, he was a bit hoity-toity.  (Q: Why was that do you think) I don’t know. I wrote to him once, I wrote to him and I’m afraid rather offended[?] him. I said ‘They don’t need your letters of thanks and that sort of thing, what the old people need is a little bit of money’. Because my father used to try and get the poor old man, that was old Ben, used to try and give him a bit of coal and that sort of thing. Same as Christmas time he’d give him half, five hundredweight of coal or four hundredweight rather, that was ten shillings, half a crown a hundred. [???]

Q:    Harry lived in Witham as well did he?

Mr S:    No, he moved to Blandford, kept a little village shop at Charlton Marsh near Blandford in Dorset. Never did see no more of him when he went there.

Q:    So what made you take up your radio and electrical line?

Mr S:    Well things got a bit umpty and the wife wasn’t always interested into it, that sort of thing, and things was getting a bit umpty you know what I mean. I’m glad I did. Because I went to work at the Co-op and I must admit they were very very good. [he probably means this is why he gave it up, not why he started]

Q:    That was as in electric …?

Mr S:    Yes, I was on maintenance you see, Chelmsford Co-op. (Q: Oh yes.) Doing all the dairy work. Motors and ‘frigerators, etc. etc. and wiring some places up.

Q:    When did you change then? When was it that you moved there?

Mr S:    Oh I should say about 1952.

Q:    When you first started your own business, how did you learn the business then?

Mr S:    Well, I had a course, I saved up and bought myself a course at Benet College, that was a correspondence school, and that’s how I come to it. I had another one, I forget now, I know I had that, and they wrote to me after I had gone through asking why I didn’t go for City and Guilds. So I sat my City and Guilds and passed that. (Q: Well done.) And that’s how I got my transmitting licence and all that. (Q: Got your?) Transmitting. (Q: Oh I see yes.) I’ll show you …  I’ve still got the licence and could start again today if I liked. I don’t like to cause it’s not the same as it is today. Here’s some of the papers, if you want to look through that. America. Sweden. [book of cards from places where he received calls from] (Q: Where they’ve received your …) That’s mine, that was my call sign. (Q: I see.) America and Sweden.

Q:    They’re all ones that have received? (Mr S: Communicated with.) When did you start doing this then?

Mr S:    Oh, when I was about twenty-two years old. That’s another one, American, another one down there, American.

Q:    That’s what you used to do, send cards to each another did you? (Mr S: Yes.) That’s 1936, 1936, 1937.

Mr S:     Oh I’ve got a whole lot of them. I didn’t know anything about that.

Q:    Did you have cards that was the one that you sent to people was it?

Mr S:    Yes we used to send cards to each other. We never used to send them to the person individually, but used to send them to the Radio society of Great Britain, and they used to send a whole bundle of them out. That’s where I lived, 23 Albert Road.

Q:    So did you just do this in the evenings sort of thing ?

Mr S:    Oh yes, and at any odd times.

Q:    Yes. I didn’t know anything about this. Because I mean …

Mr S:    That was when that was first [???] At the present day the restrictions are, mustn’t let anybody speak or anything like that but I used to let anybody, if anybody wanted. My old schoolmaster, Crosby, [???] he came in and I said well you can speak to them then.

Q:    He came along to see you did he, but you’re not supposed to let anybody else speak?

Mr S:    You mustn’t now but you could then, yes.  Oh yes, ever morning at eight o’clock, I used to speak to a chappie in Northampton. and another one in Brightlingsea, the three of us used to link up with each other. We used to speak, the same as we are speaking now. (Q: Really?) That’s Holland I think that one. G’s are all British.

Q:    I see. Does this mean you actually transmitted as far as the States then, in ’36, and that sort of thing?

Mr S:    All of them, New Zealand, Australia. A man in Australia’s heard my heart beat. I used to get a microphone, used to hold it over my heart like that.

Q:    That must have been, because there has been a bit of a craze recently for …

Mr S:    These are German ones.

Q:    That’s a boat isn’t it? There’s been a bit of a craze for these sort of CB radios and things recently but that was more local I suppose?

Mr S:    Oh that’s, nothing, Those CBs, you can do CBs but you’ve got to pass exams to do that (Q: Quite.) You’ve got to pass Morse too, Morse code, fifteen words a minute.

Q:    You picked that all up from the course did you and then, oh isn’t that lovely.  (Mr S: [???] I mean what made you, when you were at school were you good at this sort of thing then when you were a child?

Mr S:    When I was at school, when I was about thirteen years old I was making little crystal sets and selling them. When I was thirteen years old.

Q:    How did you learn how to do that?

Mr S:    Don’t ask me, I don’t know. (Q: You don’t know.) It just come.

Q:    You bought the pieces for them?

Mr S:    Bought one or two pieces and wound the coils.

Q:    Because they didn’t teach things like that at school in those days they? (Mr S: No.) How clever. You must have, did you perhaps read about them in books or something do you think?

Mr S:    Yes, I’ve got books upstairs on every subject there is. Radio, X-rays.

Q:    Norway and Finland here. So you kept on doing this, right through, 1937.

Mr S:    Oh, I kept right on doing that until just after I got married.

Q:    Lithuania.  When did you get married then? (Mr S: 1947.)  So you were doing this during the War as well?

Mr S:    No, you couldn’t during the War, that was impounded. They took it away. (Q: Really.) They took it away during the War, and that was kept down at Southend.  I had to give it all up. Give me transmitter up and everything else.

Q:     You must have missed it I should think didn’t you. Still you can see why. That’s Hungary, 1937, Sweden. Oh that’s wonderful isn’t it.

Mr S:    I was the first one in Witham to do it.

Q:    I should think you were pretty handy when people. So for the business, you sold, you mended, you repaired?

Mr S:    Yes, I repaired. I could build me own set, I used to make my own radio sets.

Q:    Because I think Mrs. Ireland who lives opposite us, when I spoke to her I said that I’d spoken to you, she said to remember her to you. I never knew him, I didn’t know her husband but she said to remember her.

Mr S:    Ted Ireland, a nice chap. He had only got one trouble. A little bit too much of that [drink]. He would go and have too much, you know, drink. I don’t say he got nasty with it or anything like that. He wasn’t satisfied with having a pint, he always had five or six.

Q:    Where did he to drink then? Local?

Mr S:    Yes, well, I never, he was a nice chap. He used to work for Cromptons didn’t he..

Q:    That’s right, yes. She seems to keep very well. She must be 96 or something.

Mr S:    Yes, I’ve known her for [???]

Q:    Did you used to go there to fix things for her then? (Mr S: Yes.) I mean quite a few people in Chalks Road have been there a long time.

Mr S:    Yes. [???] Incidentally poor Arthur Chalk. I don’t know whether you knew Arthur Chalk (Q: Was he the one?) He’s been dead now about twenty years.

Side 2

[in station at rail crash – AC3[?] as boy]

[about rail crash of 1905 at Witham, when Edgar’s grandfather Ben was a signalman who with two others prevented another train crashing by setting the signals; they were given certificates of which Edgar showed me one]

Q:    That must have been terrifying.

Mr S:    Because he was only a boy you know.

Q:    Did your grandfather ever talk about the rail crash and everything?

Mr S:    Ooh, sometimes, he’d talk about different things. (Q: Mmm.) My father always used to say that people the collected for him on the train but Lord Claude Hampden, the big I am – he shook hands and said ‘Ben you’ve been a very good man’. That’s all he got off the Railway Company. (Q: Oh dear) Of course it was the Great Eastern then.

Q:    It said on the certificate it was from the passengers didn’t it?

Mr S:    Oh yes, not the Railway Company. The Railway Company gave him nothing. [???] he shook hands with him, and said he’d been a good chap. He must have saved them thousands of pounds because if the train had gone into the other, well  they’d’ve all been killed. It would have been terrible, more terrible than it was then.(Q; Mmm.) Of course in those days, it used to be the old doctor, the old doctor Gimson. (Q: Oh yes.) I never knew him. I knew Ted Gimson. and Karl Gimson, they used to be lads (Q: Were they?) My father told me that on Guy Fawkes night they used to get everybody out of the way and they used to roll the tar barrels out in the street and set fire to them outside what is now Martins [70 Newland Street]. They used to get up to high jinks, they were only young boys, you see, then, at college.  Ted and Karl Gimson, that was before my time. The police, they got on to them Old Wedlock, a man named Sergeant Wedlock was his name, my father said, [???] going to chuck him on to the fire. Well they done the same thing, they done the same thing, the policeman what interfered when the peace celebrations were on in 1914 War, not this last one, they done, the same thing happened. The policeman interfered and they chucked him on fire. (Q: Oh dear!)

Q:    So the police weren’t necessarily very popular then?

Mr S:    [laugh] Yes I never knew the old man. Apparently old Doctor Gimson he dropped down dead when he was operating on somebody. Because they used to do their own operations those days. If you’d got anything wrong and wanted, want lancing or anything, what you call minor operations, they used to do them at the surgery. Nowadays they send you to the hospital. (Q: That’s right.) In those days they used to be all at the surgery.

Q:    Did you have to have the doctor much yourself when you were small do you remember?

Mr S:    Well, I did when I was small. I had the doctor several times. Little old Doctor Knight used to live [???]. The Nurses bungalow, I don’t know whether you knew where that was? (Q: In Collingwood Road? [no.46]) Little old Doctor Knight he practically built that place. (Q: Oh I see.). He said ‘I don’t like’, what was it, it was published in the paper, the Essex Weekly it was then, he didn’t like lumps of stone or something of that description,  want to build a hospital or something for the people of Witham, and the reply was to this.

And he said ‘Well if the Witham people contribute towards that, I’ll give the rest’. He’s the one [???]. Laurence gave the ground, that was the one that lived in the big house at the bottom of the Avenue, he gave the ground and the people of Witham they raised, I don’t know, about two or three, two hundred pounds or something and he made it up, cause building land, you could get a place like that for about five hundred pounds. And that was built by Dean, later that was called Adams and Mortimer. Down the lane there, opposite what used to be the warehouse,, Cullen’s warehouse. (Q: White Horse Lane, yes.) There used to be a builders yard there, last I knew of it that was Adams and Mortimer, course they’ve gone now, they took it over from Dean. A man named Dean. He was the one that built that bungalow.

Q:    Doctor Knight actually came out to see people?

Mr S:    Yes, he was a little chap, only a small man, he always used to be whistling, don’t matter where you see him, whistling, hands in pockets whistling. And when he saw children, he’d put his hands in his pocket and give them some sweets. When I was a, when I was a little tiny tot and went to that little school in Church Street [Chipping Hill Infants School] I think that’s still there, opposite the church. That’s where I started school. He came there one Christmas, or Father Christmas came there and he gave us an orange and sweet, orange and  three or four sweets. [???] I was one of them. I’ll always remember him he looked at the fireplace, [???] the fire was alight. The old boy he went off whistling, well I never knew who that was, and when I got older, I met one of the teachers, Miss Eldred, she used to be the senior [???] and one of the Eldreds, Miss Eldred, and, I asked her, I said ‘Who was that Father Christmas’. She said ‘You should know’, she said ‘You think’. She said ‘He used whistle’ She said ‘That was Doctor Knight’. He went to Infants school there, then he went to the Infants school at the Church School what’s been pulled down. That’s where I was educated at the Church School.

Q:    How did you get on there then?

Mr S:    Rowles was the schoolmaster then. And old Crosby. Cause he’d dead, poor old beggar died with cancer. Old Crosby. lways remember poor old Crosby he was, I got in the row cause I was doing the sums very quick and he caught me done doing it one day, I’d got a slide rule. I can’t do it now but I used to work these out on the slide rule.  So he took it away from me and I had to stay in after school. I think that was six o’clock before I got out, I had to teach him how to work the slide rule. (Q: That was clever.) I don’t think he ever did it.

Q:    He couldn’t manage it?

Mr S:    No. I’ve still got the slide rule upstairs now. I couldn’t do it now.

Q:    How did you learn to use it I wonder?

Mr S:    I don’t know, it just come to me. I had a cousin who was rather interested in those sort of things and always used to, whatever he done, I did the same. (Q: I see.) I used to quiz him. He was always one, he started on anything, he never finished it.

Q:    What, the cousin you mean?

Mr S:    Yes, lives in Ipswich, he’ll be 89 this year .

Q:    Has he always lived in Ipswich then?

Mr S:    Yes, he’s always lived in Ipswich. He worked for Revell’s [???] it’s not Revell’s now, it’s some other, take over the business, by William Revell.
Q;    So he taught you all his tricks did he?

Mr S:    Yes, he taught me a lot. We have to still talk about it, when I go and see him, we still have a talk about the old times.

Q:    So you obviously had quite a flair for that sort of thing then, maths and so on?

Mr S:    Yes, I was always interested [???] I was interested.

Q:    Did you get on well at school?

Mr S:    Well, I think I did, but I learned more after I went to school, when I started, when I took this Benet College.

Q:    Did you do that straight away when you left school?

Mr S:    Yes, about six or seven months after I left school I [???] and believe me, well I wrote to them once, and I said I was fed up with learning about an electric bell. They always used to be on about the electric bell. And they wrote me a letter back, they said they were sorry about that but if I studied that carefully all the time I should need no other education. You could understand how transformers worked and understand all that sort, and that’s right. They taught me all about [???] [???] Oh yes, I used to design all my own transformers. (Q: Really.) [???], barring the pieces which I couldn’t make, I’d make the whole lot, I maid all my own transformers, all my own coils.

Q:    It must have been difficult to learn it by post though, mustn’t it. It’s the sort of thing you need people to show you really?

Mr S:    Yes, made all my own coils. [produces documents]

Q:    ‘Radio laboratory handbook’.

Mr S:    Although that’s old fashioned the principles are still the same.

Q:    Was it your idea to take that up then?

Mr S:    Yes, Oh, I’ve got loads and loads of books. I’ve got loads and loads of books. [???] [???] There’s one on logarithms. My daughter said to me ‘I used to have terrible trouble at school doing logarithms, I never knew anything about it’. I said ‘I could have told you’. Of course it’s [???]. It’s all tapping buttons now. But you’ve got to admit, unless you know something about your fundamentals of arithmetic or whatever it is you can’t work one of these machines. You’ve got to know what you’re doing and why you are doing it. (Q: And what sort of answers you expect to have, to know whether it’s right, don’t you’. The only thing is [???] doing all the head work..

Q:    But you could do it in your head as well I should think? (Mr S: Yes.) Like your father.  You must have got on very well with sums at school then?

Mr S:    Yes. I was pretty well all right with sums, or arithmetic or whatever you call it, they call it mathematics now.

Q:    What about the other things, did you like English and reading and that?

Mr S:    Oh we never had a lot of reading, we used to learn about verbs and adverbs and so on, but I never did know anything about them. History, we used to have a bit of history and geography.

Q:    Did you enjoy it at school then?

Mr S:    Yes, I liked school. Yes I used to like it at school, Incidentally tomorrow is Empire Day (Q: Oh right.) well we used to [???] all have to come out and stand in the front there to attention and raise the flag and salute the flag. We didn’t mind that, because when we had done that was dismiss and we had the rest of the day off. Twenty-fourth May. That’s Empire Day. We haven’t got an Empire now.

Q:    No, you did then I suppose didn’t you.

Mr S:    Ever since we’ve given up that Empire there’s been nothing but trouble. India. We never had any trouble in India, Africa. We never had any trouble in Africa. Now that’s all trouble. (Q: Yes.)

Q:     So they used to teach you about the Empire as well did they.

Mr S:    Yes, about India, and …

Q:     Did you have to go, it was a church school wasn’t it? So did you have to go to church as well, when you were at school?

Mr S:    No, no, the only time we went to church was on All Saint’s Day. We went to church then. The whole school used to go to church, but that was the only time we went. The old parson used to come and see us sometimes, talk about different things. Since then I’m afraid I don’t believe a lot in it.

Q:    I remember you saying when I was here before you didn’t.

Mr S:    No, I think [???]. It’s a money making concern.  And what happened in India this Ghandi business. That’s all religion. (Q: That’s true.) Sikhs, and Mohammedans and these other peoples.

Q:    Did your parents go to church or anything like that, were your parents religious, did they go to church?

Mr S:    Yes, yes, my parents used to go to church, because I used to be in the choir. After my mother died we didn’t go so much.

Q:    I see. So there was just your father for quite a long time was there?

Mr S:    Yes, she died about 1925-26. (Q: I see.) I didn’t leave my father’s place until 1947. That’s when I come down here. 1947. January 11. It started to snow on January 11 and didn’t finish up till March 31. [laugh]

Q:    I remember that myself. Not a very good time to move was it? So this business about the church. I suppose more people went to church in those days.

Mr S:    Yes well, a lot of people went to church, it was a case of having to. They worked for the old farmer and they more or less had to go to church. Or the village squire, I should say.

Q:    Would there be people in Witham that you would think of like the squires and that? (Mr S: Yes.) Who were they then? Were there some people in Witham that …

Mr S:    Well there was old Phil Hutley, he bought a, he presented an organ to the church to pave his way to heaven. [laugh]The old man used to give two sheaves of wheat to the church at Harvest Festival. One used to be that side and one the other. Then the old man, when Harvest Festival was over he’d walk in the church and he’d walk back to his farm carrying these two sheaves of wheat. [laugh].  He was very very mean. He was a just man. If he owed you a penny he’d pay it but he was very very mean. I went to his place when the rocket had dropped in the middle of the road. Made a mess of it, didn’t know whether anybody was getting hurt there, so I know I went to his place to phone. He wanted money before he’d let me have the phone. (Q: Did he?) He wanted the tuppence before he’d let me phone.

Q:    That was just near his place was it?

Mr S:    Yes, he was mean.

Q:    Yet he must have had plenty I should think didn’t he?

Mr S:    Yes, I always say now, he was the richest man in the churchyard. He left thousands when he died. Set all his sons up in farms.

Q:    Strange how people are really. Did you have to go there to do any work or anything? (Mr S: No.) Did you go in any of the big houses?

Mr S:    No, I never did much in the big houses. The only big house I used to go to was, I used to go to a man at Fairstead. A Mr Brown at Fairstead Rectory. He was one of the nicest men I [???]. One day he said ‘I want to see you, I want a new wireless set’. I picked one out. Then next week he wanted to see me again, he said ‘I want another one, I want one for the servants’. And if he had a new car, he’d buy one for the servants. (Q: Really?) He’d buy a little [???] or a little Ford or anything like that for the use of the servants. Pay the expenses of it. His wife, there was always a present on Boxing Day. She’d go round every tradesman that called, the lads that called on them, [???] she’d drop them a pound note. ‘With Mrs Brown’s [???] and Miss Brown’s compliments. [???] [???] Then the gardener used to dress up as Father Christmas and if there were any children he used to visit them and give them a present. He also went all round the little village of Fairstead, because there weren’t more than half a dozen houses, and every child had a present from them. You don’t see people like that now.

He was something to do with John Brown’s Shipyards. (Q: I see.) I think he was one of the brothers. I know he’d got a yacht. He used to take the servants. Used to take them on the yacht for a holiday. The servant girls there, he used to keep two, and they were well kept. Several jobs I used to do for him.

He was the only man I never used to send a bill to. (Q: Really?). Every time, ‘Thank you very much’ and he’d give you half a crown or three bob, well that was a lot of money those days.. I mean three shillings then was three shillings.

Q:    I suppose that’s the problem if you’re running your own business, you’ve got all the money side to worry about as well haven’t you?

Mr S:    Yes, well when I started used to, the Income Tax people got a bit naughty. They’d got to have auditors and got to have this and got to have that. I was paying out for auditors, I was paying out Income Tax. I told the old Tax people said ‘You’ve had your last, mate’. He said ‘We’ll see’.

Q:    What, they came round to your place did they?

Mr S:    No, the Income Tax Offices used to be then, used to be over the, what’s now Gallants [39 Newland Street] (Q: Oh did they?) used to be a Tax office upstairs.

Q:    So you had to go round there?

Mr S:    Then they built a big one up the end of the road. [Colchester Road] I always say ‘all the twisters up there together, the Income Tax, the Coppers, the Health people are up there, they’re all up there. I said the whole lot of twisters up there together.

Q:    You don’t think much of the authorities then?

Mr S:    No, personally I don’t. I’ve had a lot of trouble with them.

Q:    What sort of troubles have you had, apart from the Tax people?

Mr S:    Oh, they tried to stop me transmitting. They tried to stop this and they tried to do this. I told them, I said ‘You can’t do nothing about it’. ‘We can stop it, we can stop it’, I said ‘You can’t, here’s the licence.’

Q:    Who was it wanted to stop you then?

Mr S:    Well, people made complaints about it.

Q:    Did they, what sort of people? Do you mean local people?

Mr S:    Well there were a lot of these religious people, they didn’t believe in it. (Q: Oh, why not?) No, they didn’t believe in anything like that.

Q:     How peculiar. Why not I wonder?

Mr S:    I don’t know. People you see were very very narrow minded in those days. It’s in that book there or this book here where they burned a man at the stake because he said the earth went round the sun. (Q: That’s right.) That was in 1600 he was burned at the stake, for saying the earth went round the sun. They wouldn’t believe him, they said [???].

Q:    I suppose radio and all that was quite new then. (Mr S: Yes.) Was that the trouble do you think, is that why people were worried about it?

Mr S:    Oh they were quite narrow. I mean that was in the infancy of it then.

Q:    So people found it a bit strange?

Mr S:    Of course at Chelmsford, there was Marconi’s used to have two terrific great poles up. I don’t know if you remember, or remember them or have heard about it. (Q: I think so yes.) If you stood on Wickham hills, you could stand on the hill and pick them out. (Q: I see.) up on Beacon Hill, used to stand on the top of Beacon Hill and pick those out.

Q:    So when you actually started the business did many people have radios, ordinary radios?

Mr S:    Well, that was just starting.

Q:    So there wouldn’t be many people who knew much about them I don’t suppose?

Mr S:    No, very few people knew anything about it. Radio was only [???] as to what it is now. I wish I’d got some of me old stuff now. Used to have old basket coils, what they called basket coils, used to put them together. First radio set I made were an [???] box. I’ve got the box out in the shed now. Little box with a piece of panelling over the top of it and you put one valve in there and one valve in there and the coils. I had all the stuff but the wife, she got rid of it. I don’t know what’s happened to it.

Q:    So did you realise that it was going to, it was a bit risky when you started something that was all new like that wasn’t it? You didn’t know if it was going to carry on or not I suppose? (Mr S: No.) So you were actually making the things and selling them?

Mr S:    Yes, making me own radio, make my own radio, it was cheaper to make them than it was to buy them.

Q:     Was it really? What sort of people bought them then? Were they quite a lot of money? (Mr S: Oh yes.) I can see people, they may have thought you a bit strange to start with because they didn’t know anything about it. It was so new.

Mr S:    Well there weren’t many people, there was only old Joe Glover he sold a few.

Q:    Was there much transmitted on the ordinary BBC?

Mr S:    Well that was the British Broadcasting Company then.

Q:    But there were actually programmes that you could listen to?

Mr S:    Yes, well they had the first 5XX which is now the long wave transmitter. That used to be stationed at Chelmsford. Captain Eckersley, P P Eckersley, he was the one, he used to do all that sort of stuff. And they were transmitted from Chelmsford, I suppose on these poles. 5XX they used to call it and the other one 2LO, 5GB. 2LO and 5GB, that was that until the beginning of the War when the War first started. I think it was still 2LO then. This last war I mean, 1939, ’38 and ’39. I think it was still 2LO.

Q:     And then you repaired them as well. (Mr S: Yes.) Did you do ordinary electric work as well or just radio?

Mr S:    I dabbled a bit in electric work.

Q:    I suppose there was more of that.

Mr S:    Yes, well, during the War I got into the electrical side of it. During the War, You see during the War, I didn’t go to the War, and there was well, a lot of work to do, being bombed and that sort of thing.

Q:    I see, [???] Because when we were talking about when they bombed Crittall’s, that was when you lived in Albert road?

Mr S:    Yes, they bombed, the last lot of bombs was the worst. They were the heaviest of the lot.

Q:    Did anybody get hurt then?

Mr S:    They done damage to the factory and they done damage the powerhouse and places like that, but actual casualties they were very lucky. There was nobody killed.

Q:    Because you were near there weren’t you.

Mr S:    There was nobody killed, I think they were very lucky.

Q:    Did you have people come, was it you who said you had people come to you when the bombing was on?

Mr S:    Yes I was in there when they dropped the last lot, I believe I told you before, the night shift was leaving off, that’s early in the morning, about eight o’clock in the morning, the night shift were leaving off and the day shift were coming on. And the place, the road, Albert Road and Braintree Road were crowded with buses and crowded with people when he came over. He rattled his machine guns first, and of course everybody dropped, and then they crawled in up the passage and anywhere else they could get. (Q: What into the house). I’d got the door open cause I opened the door, while he was machine gunning that way I slipped out and opened the two doors. Well I opened them because I thought if he was going to drop some bombs that would let the blast right through. Because the poor old dear next to me, she was trying to hold her door in. [???]

Q:    She was holding it you mean?

Mr S:    Yes, well, she was an old girl, poor old girl they didn’t understand did they? One was deaf, poor old girl was deaf and they were machine gunning over the top.

Q:    Was she hurt then?

Mr S:    Oh yes. Poor old Mrs Pavelin, that was her name.

Q:    I’ve talked to a Miss Pavelin, Flo Pavelin.

Mr S:    No I don’t think they are any relation to this Mrs Pavelin. The old man used to work but he died long ago, been dead since well since, 1925 or there about. Used to work for Spurge’s, Mrs Pavelin used to be the cook, for Spurge’s. What’s now been rebuilt, Boots is there now. [42 Newland Street]

Q:    You’ll be getting tired, doing all this talking. I’ll leave you in peace. It’s very nice of you anyway. Who is the picture over there. I keep seeing that one in the corner?

Mr S:    Oh, that’s the family, all of them.

Q:    That’s all the uncles and aunts is it? They’ve kept very well all your pictures, haven’t they? Very clear.

Mr S:    That’s me father, that’s Harry I was talking about and that’s Harry’s wife and that’s my father’s sister and that’s her husband. That’s the children, two children. That’s my mother and that’s my Aunt Lil that I was talking about, and that’s me. [JG’s photo M300]

Q:    Oh that’s you, you do look good [laugh]. That’s a lovely picture isn’t it?

Mr S:    That’s my mother and grandmother and grandfather, and that’s my cousin Barbara and my cousin Oswald and that’s me aunt there and that’s her husband. He was born in India and died in Africa that one.

Q:     Your father’s the one in the middle?

Mr S:    That’s my father, he was the eldest son.

Q:    That’s great isn’t it. When you said he worked for the County Council do you know what it was he did there, what department?

Mr S:    In an office. He went to Chelmsford every day. When we lived in Guithavon Road he used to go there. That’s where he joined up from, Guithaven Road. We moved to Braintree Road during the War.

Q:    I see, so when you first came to Witham it was Guithavon Road?

Mr S:    Yes, we went to Guithavon Road. Right at the end of Guithavon Road there are three cottages standing like that, we was in the middle one [extreme west, facing Spinks Lane].

Q:     Oh yes, round the corner a bit.

Mr S:    Used to be a brook with watercress in the front garden, used to go and instead of taking the water out of the tap we used to take the water out the brook because that used to come straight from Witham spring.

Q:    That’s a very nice one. You don’t look as if you’re too pleased to be there [laugh]. Lily you said was the …?

Mr S:    Those two are, we used to call her Aunt Nelly, her name was Nelly Peake, she used to be a school teacher. Me Aunt Nell, well they’re all dead now, except one two three cousins. I don’t know whether they’re still alive.

Q:    The cousins.

Mr S:    I know that one is [himself].

Q:    And the one that ended up in Laurence Avenue? (Mr S: That’s that one.) The one on the right hand side, (Mr S: That’s Lil.) Its got all the names on the back.

Mr S:    That’s me daughter wrote that. She was interested and we got it out one day.

Q:    Your daughter lives in Witham does she?

Mr S:    Yes, she lives in Mersey Road.

Q:    I’d better leave you to have a rest now, but maybe I’ll come back another day, if that’s all right with you.

[Talk about Braintree Road shops, not noted]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *