Tape 148. Mr Lesley Skingsley and Mrs Joan Skingsley, sides 1 and 2

Tape 148

Mr Lesley Skingsley was born in 1917. The birth year of his wife, Mrs Joan Skingsley, was not noted. They were interviewed on 11 October 1991 when they lived at 11 Elizabeth Avenue, Witham.

For more information about them, see Skingsley, Leslie and Joan, 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

Q:    You were born in Witham? (Mr S: Yes.) Where were you born?

Mr S:    In a little cottage opposite the doctor’s surgery, there’s a little cottage there where Borno the chemist is, next door to that there was a cottage that is now incorporated in one or the other, I’m not sure which, but it doesn’t exist now as an independent cottage, that was a cottage between what is now Borno chemist, and also there’s a little shop next door that is now a bookshop, was a watchmaker called Graves. [Borno is 124 Newland Street, Graves was 120 Newland Street]

Mrs S:    [???] That was a Mrs Holloway, she lived there, they were all elderly people, and I always remember these Miss Graves, thinking about Charlie Graves.

Q:    That was between the bookshop and, it’s probably where the lady who owns the bookshop she herself lives …

Mr S:    I think at one time didn’t one of the doctors live there, who had the house converted, the cottage, I think that’s what really happened, but anyhow it doesn’t exist now as a cottage. It was called Myrtle[?] cottage then. And I don’t remember living there because I was only about two years old when I moved from there, and we moved up to the corner of Maldon Road and Maltings Lane, that group of houses called Olivers Cottages, and lived there for the next four years, that’s the earliest memories of got of the …

Q:    Am I allowed to ask how long ago that was?

Mr S:    Yes, it was 1919 when I first moved there.

Q:    So you were born in …?

Mr S:    In the High Street.

Mrs S:    ’17

Mr S:    That’s right.

Q:    You’ve kept well haven’t you. Olivers Cottages were built then, they were new then?

Mr S:    They were new. They were built specially for Mr Mens there, who was the owner of the Witham Cartage Company at that time, and my father was employed by him, and he was the first one to move into the new houses, a group of three built there, you see, red brick cottages, we moved into there. Then my father’s brother moved into the third one of the group of three. And Mr Barber, lives out the back here now, he was in the, his family were in the middle one.

Q:    Everybody there worked for Mr Mens did they?

Mr S:    Yes. My father drove a traction engine, and his brother was mate on there with him, and Mr Barber he was a lorry driver, all for the same firm.

Q:    So what did the traction engines do?

Mr S:    Well all sorts of heavy haulage work, it was timber haulage, and cutting down trees, and hauling them about sort of thing. Waggon loads of gravel. Any large quantities that were to be moved kind of thing.

Q:    Cause they were quite strong I suppose?

Mr S:    Oh yes, I know in the early days, sometimes he, most mornings he used to get up about four or five o’clock and go down to the shed which was where the Garden Centre, is the Garden Centre still there? (Mrs S: No, it’s where the houses are.) [Maldon Road]. Where the Garden Centre was, that’s where his shed was, that’s where the engine was kept, he used to go down there and get it moving sort of thing, get it fired up, and then sometimes on a Monday morning he’d be off on a Monday morning and wouldn’t come home till Friday night, when he had to go up to the docks or something like that, take loads up to the docks.

Q:    What he drove the traction engine all that way?

Mr S:    Yes.

Q:    What sort of speed would it go then?

Mr S:    Oh about five miles an hour maximum stop here and there to throw the pipe over any bridge that he came to and take the water out the river, get coal where they could.

Q:    Oh dear, times change don’t they.

Mrs S:    Cause your grandparents used to live in Chalks Road, didn’t they.

Mr S:    My grandparents did, yes, living in number 5, but they’ve been dead some years now.

Q:    Is that on the Skingsley side? That was your father’s parents?

Mr S:    Yes, that’s right.

Q:    So what did he do then, your grandfather.

Mr S:    My grandfather he worked for a Mr Thompson. You remember George Thompson. He was a coal merchant about here. At that time he had one or two small farms, smallholdings, and he worked for him.

Q:    On the smallholdings, you mean?

Mr S:    Yes, mainly agricultural work.

Q:    Did you see much of him, did you see much of your grandfather?

Mr S:    Oh yes, we used to see quite a bit of him when he was alive. Before he lived up Chalks Lane he lived at Smalelands Hall on the way to Ulting, on the back road to Ulting. Then I think when he retired he moved up to Chalks Road and lived there.

Q:    What were their first names, their Christian names, your grandparents?

Mr S:    Arthur Skingsley, I don’t remember my grandmother’s name.

Q:    Of course when you’re little you don’t. And your parents’ first names were …?

Mr S:    Ernest and Agnes.

Q:    Was your mother from Witham as well?

Mr S:    No, actually they were both from, mother from Finchingfield and father from Wethersfield. And they were married in Finchingfield church and moved to Witham in 1915.

Mrs S:    It’s not so long ago since we saw their marriage certificate, is it, in Finchingfield church.

Mr S:    No, we walked in there one Sunday and had a look in the church, we hadn’t been in there for some years, this was just after the church service wasn’t it, the parson was still there, so we mentioned the fact when we were walking round the church that my parents were married there in 1910 and he said ‘Would you like to look at the records?’ and it was nice to see my parents names you know, written in the records there at the church, the record of  the wedding.

Q:    What was your mother’s name before she married?

Mr S:    Underwood.

Q:    I wonder why they came to Witham then?

Mr S:    Well I think really my father was the instigation of it really, because when he came to Witham in 1915 all the rest of the family seemed to follow them over here. He was the first one to come this way. Then two or three of his brothers come this way, and his mother and father. All the family seemed to emigrate to Witham, from Wethersfield, Finchingfield.

Mrs S:    Brothers married sisters.

Q:    Did they?

Mr S:    Oh yes. My uncle, my father’s brother that used to work on the engine with him, he married my mother’s sister.

Q:    I see. Was that the one that lived in the same cottages.

Mr S:    Yes. The descendants of those live at Kelvedon now don’t they. Maldon Road at that time, there were no houses on the right hand side hardly at all, there was the old Board School which is now the Youth Centre. Then there was a few houses called Trafalgar Square, you’ve probably heard of Trafalgar Square, and then there was a couple of little cottages where the Burmah garage stands now, and there was no more houses then on that [east] side of the road at all. Nothing else on that side. On the other side just the smallholding near the bridge and where this house stands now and all this estate, used to be the smallholding that belonged to that house near the bridge, Mr Shelley. Things have changed a bit since then.

Q:     It’s a funny place for Mr Mens to build right out there, it was right out in the country really wasn’t it?

Mr S:    It was then, yes.

Q:    I suppose he just had the bit of land perhaps.

Mr S:    I think, his depot was in Collingwood Road then, in the little place where the heating engineers, in between the George and the taxi office.

Mrs S:    Cause his daughter’s still alive isn’t he, as far as we know, moved out to …

Mr S:    Margaret Mens. I think she’s still alive.

Mrs S:    I think she went out to Earls Colne to live, I’m not sure.

Q:    Did you know Mr Mens yourself at all?

Mr S:    Oh yes.

Q:    What sort of chap was he?

Mr S:    Well, he was one of the real old style bosses, you know. He got things done, when he wanted things done he got things done, one of the old bosses. Both my mother and my mother’s sister I think at times they both worked for him, or his wife in the big house. Cause that’s pulled down now, that was where the Health Centre is now, that’s where they lived.

Q:    She worked as a, in service?

Mr S:    Sort of part time housework kind of thing. I think at that time most mothers went out to work somewhere, you know, to help to make a living kind of thing.

Q:    So when you say he was one of the old school, did your father, did he ever get into trouble for anything, or was he good, your father?

Mr S:    Oh yes, I think he was a good boss and as far as I know my father was a good workman.

Q:    They didn’t actually cross swords or anything?

Mr S:    Not really, no. The usual thing between boss and employee.

Q:    Did you hear him talking about Mr Mens at all?

Mr S:    Used to hear him talk about him yes.

Q:    People were different then. Did he have any others working for him, or was it just the three in the houses.

Mr S:    I think there were, I think he also had small farm as well, he had one or two other people working for him on the farms as well.

Q:    Was it him that, I’ve heard people talk about Joey Mens, is that the same person?

Mr S:    That’s the one. Yes.

Q:    It wasn’t his name was it?

Mr S:    No they always called him Joey but his name was A C, Arthur, I think, Arthur C, Arthur Charles I think his name was. But he was always called Joe. And I think he finished up as a steward in the Con Club [Constitutional} I believe. I think that’s where he was, he was there for a time I believe?

Q:    When he was at the firm, did he, he didn’t do any driving himself then or anything? (Mr S: No.) What did he actually do himself in the job?

Mr S:    Well I think he probably just went around and got business sort of thing. I never remember him doing any physical work, you know.

Q:    So when your father went away for these weeks on end, what sort of places did he stay?

Mr S:    Usually they went into lodgings, or if, sometimes when they went on to say, an estate to do some timber felling or anything they used to tow a caravan with them and live in the caravan for the week. That’s … They used to do quite a bit of this, during the latter part of the War [First War] he was, he didn’t go in the services, because he was down as a reserved, occupation was down as a reserved occupation I think because of, you know the timber work he used to do. He used to do a lot of timber felling and supplying to the services, building huts and all that kind of thing you know.

Q:    Still I suppose it was quite a good steady job in those days.

Mr S:    Oh yes.

Q:    Were they ever short of work do you think?

Mr S:    I don’t think he was ever short of work, I think it was the other way, there was always too much, I think. Eventually, he left that in 1924 and he went as a foreman down at the Moy’s coal depot in Easton Road.

And we lived there then in the little cottage in the yard which I think now is pulled down, cause that’s all car park now, which was the coal depot, it’s all car park now. And we lived there for thirteen years.

Q:    So that was quite a good job for him, to be foreman then, was it.

Mr S:    Oh yes, that’s right, not, well like everything else then pre-war wasn’t very well paid, I think he was on somewhere about two pounds five shillings a week.

Q:    That’s better than a lot then, isn’t it though.

Mr S:    Oh yes. It was mostly, labourer’s work was about thirty shillings a week, that was about it I think.

Q:    Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mr S:    I had one sister. She died four, well, how long, six or seven years ago I suppose.

Q:    Her name was ..?

Mr S:    Florence.

Q:    Was she older than you?

Mr S:    Yes, she was about, six and a half years older than me. She would have been eighty, no, …

Q:    I suppose with all these brothers, did you have cousins nearby?

Mr S:    Well, yes, cause my father’s family was a big family you see, there was ten, ten of them in the family, so I’ve quite a few cousins round about, you know.

Q:    Did you go to play with them and things like that?

Mr S:    I used to go to Kelvedon quite a bit, because when my father left Mr Mens, his brother left as well, and he took over the foreman’s job at Kelvedon Moy’s depot as well. So he was at Kelvedon and father was at Witham, and of course I, during the summer I used to go down to Kelvedon quite a bit and stay there, in my younger days, while I was still at school, during the school holidays.

Q:    You liked that?

Mr S:    Oh yes, it was a change. Didn’t used to go anywhere much, not like it is these days. There wasn’t the opportunity then to, holidays at Clacton that was about as far as you went. Clacton or Walton.

Q:    Did you ever go away for a week or anything like that? To Walton or Clacton, or did you just go for the day?

Mr S:    Mostly it was just for the day, but I think once or twice my parents went to, had a week away, which was not very often. Sometimes they did I believe had a week at Yarmouth once, but it wasn’t very often. A week’s holiday was as much as you could get. By the time you’ve got your week’s holiday, could you afford to go away.

Q:    And I suppose some folks, you weren’t paid for the holiday anyway were you, so you …

Mr S:    No, no, there wasn’t guaranteed holiday pay or anything like that.

Q:    No. So they both left Mr Mens together, at the same time, then, did they?

Mr S:    I suppose so, yes.

Q:    Still it was a move up, wasn’t it, to get more money.

Mr S:    I can’t remember him having a holiday, not while he worked for Mr Mens, he may have done but I can’t remember, I know I never went away for a week anywhere or anything like that. I went for the odd day or half day I suppose, to Southend, Clacton or Walton, or a Sunday School treat or something.

Q:    Where did you go to Sunday School?

Mr S:    Down at the Congregational, used to be the Congregational then. That was the Sunday school I went to originally.

Q:    Did your parents go to church there as well?

Mr S:    Yes, that was mostly their …

Mrs S:    Your mother was a good Congregationalist weren’t she.

Mr S:    Yes.

Q:    Did she do a lot there then?

Mr S:    Yes, she used to go down there quite a bit.

Mrs S:    Belonged to the Legion as well.

Q:    So she kept busy. So, did they make you go to Sunday School or did you just, wanted to, or …

Mr S:    Yes, I suppose they did really. I don’t think any of us ever liked to go, you know. No that was the usual thing I think, Sunday school, Sunday afternoon.

Q:    Did you go to church as well.

Mr S:    Yes, usually, either in the morning or in the evening, sometimes both.

Q:    You didn’t get much rest on Sunday did you then?

Mr S:    No.

Q:    What about Saturdays, what did you do on Saturday when you were a boy?

Mr S:    Probably go to the pictures at the Public Hall.

Mrs S:    You had a job towards the end, didn’t you?

Mr S:    I did yes, when I was about twelve years old I started working between school hours and Saturday mornings, (Q: Where was that?) well there was a little shop. the first one I went to was, there’s a couple of photographs here from my friend round the corner, her father lived in Witham all his life and, that little shop there was J E Cooper, that used to be a little hardware shop, kept by a Mrs Lawford, that was after this period, and I used to go there in between school hours and Saturday mornings, and work in the shop, deliver things like soap and paraffin oil and all that kind of thing. (Q: You had to take it around?) Take it around on a bicycle with a carrier on the front, you know. I think that shop now is part of, where Woolworth’s garden place was [probably 33 Newland Street]. (Q: I know yes, it’s a building society isn’t it now?) That was the little place where there used to be a little shoe shop (Q: What this one in between. I remember, there was a mending ..) And that one there is now the health shop [31 Newland Street].And of course the one there used to be …

Mrs S:    Don’t you remember Cutts the fish people?

Q:    I’m not sure that I do.

Mr S:    Originally they were in this end shop, which is now, you can see H Cutts. [probably 29 Newland Street] And then they moved into this one after Mrs Lawford finished, they moved into this one [33] next to Woolworth’s. (Q: I see). Then of course they finally finished.

Q:    So is Mrs Lawford the one that had Cooper’s then?

Mr S:    She had Cooper’s shop, yes.

Q:    So who was Cooper then, I wonder?

Mr S:    I don’t, that was before my time, I wouldn’t know. Mrs Lawford when I first went there, that’s be about 1928 or 29 I went to work there. I used to work when I come out of school at twelve o’clock, a little while before I went to school at nine, and then come out again at twelve and [???] and again in the evening from about four till six. And then Saturdays, used to go in there about eight o’clock Saturdays, doing all the deliveries and things. Delivering little parcels of soap, soap powder, paraffin, black lead.

Q:    So even though they were quite little things, people would have taken round.

Mr S:    Yes, you have about, anything up to about a dozen to twenty calls. Take them all round on the bike. Cans of paraffin and so forth.

Mrs S:    Who was the Drurys that you used to work for?

Mr S:    Well, after I left there I went to Drury’s across the road, this was the George, where the Witham travel agent is now, [32 Newland Street] there was a little grocer’s shop there which used to be run by the Drury family, and I worked there after I left Mrs Lawford’s. Doing the same thing in between school hours and delivering groceries on a Saturday and so forth.

Q:    So you even did it in your lunch time did you?

Mr S:    Oh yes, yes. Half past eight till just before nine o’clock in the morning, time to go to school, come out at twelve o’clock, work from twelve till about quarter to one I suppose, and back again at four o’clock till abut half past five, and Saturdays.

Q:    Was that your idea to get the job.

Mr S:    Yes. I think it was either that or paper rounds, one or the other, but I think my parents weren’t keen on me getting up to do a paper round early in the morning

Q:    Did you get the job for yourself, did you go round looking for jobs yourself?

Mr S:    Yes I think I did, as far as I can remember.

Q:    Did you quite enjoy it or was it hard work?

Mr S:    Oh yes, used to, it was quite enjoyable.

Q:    Made you feel grown up I suppose.

Mr S:    I think the bit I used to like about the one, when I worked for the grocers, I occasionally used to go out in the van with the driver, help him deliver with the van you know. Vans were few and far between then.

Q:    I suppose they were yes? Outside of Witham.

Mr S:    Yes, delivering from, anywhere that was in sort of a couple of miles of the town.

Mrs S:    Is that Mrs Drury still, is that her what’s still alive, live in the Avenue? Or was that the daughter in law?

Mr S:    I think she’s still alive.

Mrs S:    Is she the daughter in law you used to work for? She was Veronica Kellett, she’s a Kellett.

Mr S:    Yes, that’s right, that’s the family?

Mrs S:    Was she the daughter in law of the person you used to work for, or was that the person you worked for?

Mr S:    I don’t know which one it is, in the Avenue.

Mrs S:    Well it’s Mrs Drury, she was Renee Kellett …

Mr S:    [???] sister, that’s the one.

Mrs S:    That is who you worked for.

Mr S:    Yes.

Q:    She must be getting on a bit then.

Mr S:    Well I think so, yes.

Q:    In between the two, the Roller Flour Mills [31 Newland Street] it says here, Witham, is that Blyth. Was that there when you were working there?

Mr S:    No, it was Brand’s then. I think it was Brand’s then.

Mrs S:    That was Blyth’s Mill, down the valley, that was the people wasn’t it?

Mr S:    Yes. That was the same people. They had the mill where the Peculiar People’s chapel is now, they had the mill there and they lived at the Mill House [Guithavon Valley]. And then they eventually had the new mill built up by the Goods Station [railway station] and they closed that one down and the Peculiar People built their chapel on the land there. That was the same family.

Q:    Was it Miss Blyth that somebody told me had something to do with the church, on of the churches.

Mr S:    That’s right.

Mrs S:    That’s the person from Rickstones Road.

Mr S:    Yes they had a little wooden mission hut up Rickstones Road. That was the family, yes.

Q:    It’s not the same church, it’s a different church from the one that’s next to the mill, isn’t it then.

Mrs S:    Yes. It’s still up Rickstones Road, well it’s been rebuilt. And I think when we first come to Witham we went there, the first Sunday we was here.

Q:    So in the Congregational Church, you say your mother played a big part in that, was there any difference between the sort of people that were in the Congregational church and in the other church in St Nicholas and All Saints?

Mr S:    No I don’t think so, just a matter of choice as to which religion you are. I think they had been before they came to Witham they were in the Congregational church although they married in Finchingfield Church, they were really Congregationalists before they came this way. But I don’t think at that time, there was a Congregational church in Finchingfield at that time.

Q:    So did you go to, which school did you go to, did you go the Maldon Road School?

Mr S:    No, you went to the Maldon Road school and I went to the school which was in where the Newlands car park is now, the Church School, in Guithavon Street.

Q:    Was there any special reason why people chose one school or the other?

Mr S:    I don’t think so, you just went to wherever you fancied kind of thing, where you could get in I think.

Q:    Did you like school?

Mr S:    Yes, I liked it. Yes. It was quite nice I think.

Q:    It must have been hard work once you were working as well though, I should think, wasn’t it?

Mr S:    Yes, I think you just accepted, you realised that was the thing those days that was done, most youngsters went to work either on a paper round or in school hours or Satudays, to supplement the family income sort of thing.

Q:    What were you best at at school then?

Mr S:    Well, I should think possibly arithmetic and music chiefly I think.

Q:    What sort of music did they do?

Mr S:    Mostly you know, classical stuff and that kind of thing, but they didn’t go in for any [???] not like they do these days. They didn’t have you know sort of music lessons as they do now. But I think I had a pretty good ear for music and I always used to get on all right on that side. But …

Mrs S:    You liked geography too, didn’t you?

Mr S:    Yes, I think anything, arithmetic I was pretty good at, geography and composition, that kind of thing, it’s all got different names these days [laugh]

Q:    Did you every join any bands or anything.

Mr S:    Not at school. I dabbled in a lot of things afterwards. Yes I was always very fond of music.
[chat about coffee, not noted]

Mr S:    That was another thing, most children were those days, if the opportunity was there and they were given piano lessons, and like most others I went to piano lessons for a time yes. Played, I think that was a shilling an hour for lessons.

Q:    Did you enjoy that?

Mr S:    Oh yes I was always very fond of music. But I’m afraid when it came to paying for my own lessons I packed it up.

Q:    When did you have to do, when you were working was it.

Mr S:    I think mainly like everything it’s the practice in between, it’s not the lessons so much it’s the practice.

Q:    Did you have a piano at home.

Mr S:    Yes, we always had a piano.

Q:    Did your parents play or sing or whatever?

Mr S:    My father used to play the old fashioned type of accordion, called the melodeon. Single button accordion, he was pretty good at playing that. Used to play and sing with that. But I went in for the, when I was about sixteen I suppose, I went in for the piano accordion and I played that. Taught myself to play that and various ones. I was in the [???] when I worked eventually after one or two jobs after I left school, I went to work at Crittall’s and I was in there, they had a band then, and I was in the Crittall’s brass band then.

Q:    Playing the accordion?

Mr S:    No, brass instruments, tenor horn and the euphonium.

Q:    What, you just taught yourself that as well did you?

Mr S:    No they supplied those instruments.

Q:    But you taught yourself?

Mr S:    I taught, yes I suppose really, I never had any real tuition I was taught the fingering and you just sat down in the band and played, you know. I could read music you see, which was a big help.

Q:    I think they’re quite difficult to play, aren’t they, things like that.

Mr S:    Oh yes. And of course eventually then Crittall’s band packed up and the British Legion formed a band then, and they bought the Crittall’s band instruments, and I played with them until they packed up in the sort of late 1950s.

Q:    So when about did the Crittall’s band pack up, how old were you then about?

Mr S:    I think they must have packed up somewhere about late 1940s, I don’t know whether they did much after the War at all. I think the British Legion band bought their instruments up sometime in the late 1940s perhaps.

And I played with them, you know, until the British Legion packed up. I enjoyed that. Before the War with the Crittall’s band we used to go round to carnivals, football matches, always out somewhere weekends, particularly in the summer. And playing concerts and so forth. And then of course during the, during me army service, I was in the musical side of it there as well. We had in our unit we had a Corps of drums and I used to play the old flute and the bugle, and of course I came back and I continued playing the accordion sort of thing, two or three different ones. Then I went on to an organ, had that for a time, sold that. I haven’t had much to do with it just likely, I’d like to, I still like to have an instrument of some sort.

Q:    It’s something different, when you’re working hard, it’s relaxing.

Mr S:    I was fortunate, well, fortunate in one way I suppose, but, I had a very good ear for music but I could never really apply myself to sitting down and reading music properly. But …

Q:    If you’ve got a good ear for it you don’t need to, in fact it’s a bit of a hindrance in a way, always looking at the music, if you can hear it and play it.

Mr S:    I sometimes think you’re better off if you haven’t got an ear for music and if you play properly but music, either one or the other.

Q:    Yes, I don’t think they mix very well. I remember a piano teacher said to a girl she wasn’t going to play her by hear.

Mr S:    That was a thing they frowned on if you went to piano lessons, you read what was written and not play your own, not do your own thing.

Q:    Who did you go to lessons with?

Mr S:    Originally Miss Griggs. She’s still alive I believe. She must be some age now I should think [Chalks Road]

Q:    She’s over eighty.

Mr S:    She must be. Cause I went to her for piano lessons when she lived in the little house right on the corner of Church Street, with a low doorway, right on the corner, I used to go there. And then Miss, at some later date, I don’t know why it changed, but some later date I used to go to Miss Hancock, Winifred Hancock.

Q:    Well she’s still going on as well I think.

Mr S:    Cause she lived in the house next to us in Easton Road, because her father was the station master, he lived in the station master’s house and we lived in the little cottage which was a matter of fifty yards apart, you know. So I used to go to Winifred for music lessons.

Q:    That was quite convenient then. So how old would you be roughly when you went to live by the station.

Mr S:    Six years old. 1924. Most of my young life, I remember more about the …

Q:    By the station.. Was Miss Griggs very strict, was Miss Griggs and Miss Hancock were they very strict?

Mr S:    Well, I would say of the two Miss Griggs probably was.

Q:    But you managed to enjoy it though.

Mr S:    Yes. Yes, it’s …oh yes I enjoyed that part for music anyway, that was nice.

Q:    It gives you a good start, the piano, I remember talking to her about what was the best instrument to start with and she said do the piano first and then you get the basics for everything else. A friend of mine’s got a melodeon, they’re not very common nowadays, accordions are more common. He saw it in a second hand shop and he’s very pleased with it.

Mr S:    Yes, I think a drawback with them, it’s like the mouth organ, you’ve got the blow suck business, you’ve got the two different notes on the draw and push kind of thing, that’s the draw back with them. But with the modern piano accordion that’s much easier.

Q:    I see, it doesn’t matter which you do.

Mr S:    What I’d like to tackle now would be the modern accordion with the buttons on both sides, like a melodeon type but with several rows of buttons on. There was a woman playing one when I was up in Derbyshire. A morris group there outside one of the pubs in the village of Hartington.

Mrs S:    One of them had also got a melodeon hadn’t they?

Mr S:    Yes, there was one with a small one. I’d like to tackle that.

Q:    Why not?

Mrs S:    I think he’s tried every instrument.

Mr S:    Yes I didn’t get on too well with, I never had much to do with string instruments, I haven’t had a lot to do with them. Brass was my favourite.

Q:    Must be quite satisfying, it makes a good big noise, doesn’t it. And playing with a group of people’s very nice isn’t it.

Mrs S:    [???] practice.

Mr S:    Marches, I used to play for, I loved playing marches.

Q:    [to Mrs S} Are you musical as well?

Mrs S:    I was taught the piano, but I didn’t [???]

Q:    Did you go to school in Witham as well?

Mrs S:    For about three months.

Q:    Just for a little while.

Mrs S:    Three months.

Q:    Where did you start off?

Mrs S:    Down Maldon Road.

Q:    Sorry I mean where did you come from?

Mrs S:    Peterborough.

Q:    Oh, I was born in Peterborough.

Mrs S:    Was you really, so was I. What a coincidence.

Q:    I was only there till I was six. [???]

Mrs S:    [???] fourteen years.

Q:    So why did your people come to Witham do you think?

Mrs S:    My father worked on the railway, and it was either going to March at a low grade, it was when what you call it, the recession? (Mr S: Recession, depression in the 1930s). The job of foreman came on at Witham so we came here.

Q:    Cause normally the railway was quite a good job, wasn’t it?

Mr S:    It was a life job then.

Mrs S:    Well he done his, he started on the railway at (Mr S: Whittlesford?), that’s right at Whittlesford. Which is in Cambridgeshire. He started there, he was on the gates, and made his way up.

Mr S:    Yes he did forty seven, years.

Mrs S:    He done his time.

Q:    He finished up as foreman.

Mrs S:    Yes, station foreman.

Q:    So what, there was a stationmaster above him, did they?

Mrs S:    Yes, there was an inspector, or did an inspector come after that. Inspector’s higher than … (Mr S: At Witham, there wasn’t an inspector at Witham then.) No.(Mr S: Just station master.) Station master. He started under Mr Hancock didn’t he?

Q:    I see, yes.

Mr S:    George Hancock, he was a nice, he was one of the real old railwaymen, a real stationmaster. And he was very strict but very fair, he was a real gentleman.

Mrs S:    Father took after him as well.

Q:    Your father, what he was strict?

Mrs S:    Mm.

Q:    With you as well?

Mrs S:    He was with his men anyway, I know, but they get things done, or they did get things done.

Mr S:    I worked under him for a couple of years when I come out of the army, I went to work on Witham station, I worked under him.

Q:    So you were in the army during the War you mean? (Mr S: Yes.) You said you had a few jobs before you went to Crittall’s, what were they?

Mr S:    Well the two jobs while I was still at school were the little, Drury’s and Mrs Lawford’s and then I went to, the first job I had was at the glove factory then which was, do you remember the glove factory.

Mrs S:    Oh you went from the glove factory to Rowley’s?

Mr S:    Yes, I was at the glove factory for, oh I don’t know, perhaps a year or so.

Q:    What did you do there? It was mostly women working there wasn’t it?

Mr S:    General dogsbody. Ostensibly my job was to look after the boiler that fed all the steam to the, kind of the mechanics, where the girls used to iron all the gloves, see, the final operation with pressing the gloves before they were packed away.

Oh yes we also used to supply the heating for the whole of the building. It was my job to look after the boiler amongst others, keep the boiler going, keep the steam up, the heating. I used to have to make the packing cases as well, to send the gloves away in. Keep the place clean, [???] keep all the weeds[?], clean the windows and do all the [???] work, and in my spare time go and help the mechanic who made the tools to cut the gloves.

Q:    You had plenty to do then.

Mr S:    Six shillings a week.

Q:    You were just starting I suppose. Was that your idea to go there, do you remember, or …

Mr S:    Well it was a job that was going at the time, I think, it was about the only one that was going at that time.

Side 2

Mr S:    Yes that would be 1931.

Q:    So perhaps, you didn’t feel you’d got a lot of choice perhaps, did you?

Mr S:    There wasn’t a great lot of choice then, you had what was going.

Q:    There used to be two buildings at the glove factory, one had 1948 on it so that would be after you, there was the one little one was there.

Mr S:    Yes this was the original one built in 1912 I think. There was a house where we Joan lived (Mrs S: We used to live in Albert Road, that’s where that originated from) The house where Mr Pinkham started making his gloves. (Q: What number?) Number thirteen. (Q: Oh the big tall one, oh, a friend of mine lives there now, a nice house isn’t it.) Mr S: I think that was the one. (Mrs S: It was that one.) 1904 I think.

Q:    There’s a pair isn’t there. (Mrs S: That’s thirteen and fourteen.) It’s fourteen she’s in.

Mr S:    Built on four floors kind of thing. A semi basement and then two rooms and two rooms above that and the two attic rooms.

Q:    Did that sort of go with the job that?

Mrs S:    No. [???]

Q:    It was convenient then wasn’t it.

Mr S:    Yes cause he came, he had to come here in lodgings first until he could find a house.

Mrs S:    About six weeks, I think before we came down to live.

Q:    So what was your name before you married.

Mrs S:    Drury.

Q:    Oh you’re a Drury.

Mrs S:    Nothing to do with the Drurys round here. My father originated from Cambridge.

Q:    Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mrs S:    Yes I’ve got one brother and one sister. One sister lives in Witham and my brother lives at Bures. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t know my sister. Did you used to shop at the Co-op? She used to work at the grocery during, well she was in the army during the War, and she used to work in the grocery at the Co-op and then in her latter days she used to work in the men’s department. Very tall person she is. Cause they used to live in Albert Road, right on the corner, number nineteen, till they moved down to Cromwell Way.

Q:    What’s her married name?

Mrs S:    Hunt.

Q:    As you say I probably know her by sight, if people are in shops you tend to get to know them. What was your first job?

Mrs S:    Oh I went to the glove factory for about two months. And then I had dermatitis, I couldn’t, the fur, irritated the skin so I had to come out of that, and I went to Cullen’s the 19th of December for forty nine years. If I had gone to the December of that year I’d have done my fifty years. (Q: Oh well.) Cause I worked for Cullens, and then, Deals came in it, and then Haslers took the whole lot over, and that’s when I finished. Well that’s when they actually closed down, because they were finished when my husband retired.

Q:    So you kept on working when you got married then.

Mrs S:    Well I used to go part time when I got married and then in later years one of the girls she died and I went full time then. I worked under Frank Cullen, Tom Cullen, Anthony Cullen. Then [???] used to live in Witham, and then Deal’s took it over.

Q:    What relation were the Cullens to each other, were they father and son?

Mrs S:    Frank Cullen, Tom Cullen were brothers, and Anthony was the nephew.

Q:    Cause Mrs Cullen, the one that’s a hundred, is she …

Mrs S:    Yes, that was Tom Cullen’s wife.

Q:    Tom Cullen’s wife, I see.

Mrs S:    Used to live at Ulting.

Mr S:    Well Anthony Cullen was my company commander during the war. (Q: Was he?) One time, anyway, not all through.

Mrs S:    No, cause he was a PoW two, three years, weren’t you.

Mr S:    We were all territorials, you see, we were a territorial unit before the war, so of course we were all together in one group you see.

Q:    So you were with other people from round here.

Mr S:    Oh yes quite a few of the local boys were with me kind of thing. We all joined up in the territorials just before the War.

Q:    Where did you get sent during the War then. You were taken prisoner were you?

Mr S:    Yes, in North Africa. We went to Sierra Leone first, where we had six months there. Then we went round to the Middle East, into Iraq, all this business about the Gulf, I know that area quite well because I was there for six months, up and down Iraq, then eventually we were taken prisoner in North Africa and went through Italy and Germany, came back that way.

Q:    Did they keep you in one place all the time?

Mr S:    We had two different camps in Italy and two different ones in Germany.

Q:    Were you with people that you knew there as well.

Mr S:    Yes some of them, because we were all, the whole unit more or less, was we were all, the whole battalion was more or less taken prisoner at the same time. Just about the period when things were going a bit wrong for us in North Africa.

Q:    So when you joined the territorials, did you think there was going to be a war then?

Mr S:    Oh yes, everybody did then, they all flocked to join when this scare was on in about April 1939, when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia. Everybody thought that was starting then, but they didn’t start for six months, then of course everybody joined up in the territorials about fifty of us joined up one night. They’d never know such a big company, they’d been used to having about a dozen men of Witham, all of a sudden they were overloaded.

Q:    What did you have to do in the territorials then, did that take up quite a bit of your time?

Mr S:    Some of the time, it was just weekends, weekend camp and also a fortnight’s camp during the year which you had to attend. But it was only a matter of six months and we were called up. I only went to one camp, a fortnight’s camp, and that was in August 1939, I was only back a fortnight and I was called up and that was it. I was in for six years.

Q:    Were you already married then?

Mr S:    No.

Q:    I see.

Mr S:    We were engaged then weren’t we. (Mrs S: We got engaged that year.) Easter ’39. So we had sort of, so we had intentions then, and then of course the war came along and i went abroad and of course I never come home then for five years.

Mrs S:    We’ve been married 46 years in a fortnight’s time.

Q:    That’s good going. When, where you living, you were living by the station, and you were living by the station, so were living there when you married. [laugh]

Mr S:    She lived over one side of the railway and I lived the other, we could shout to each other across the railway. And then of course when we got married, well I just lived at home with them until we were able to get a place of our own. Then I had, we had a little cottage right at the top of Guithavon Road, that was the first place we had, that was privately owned, seven and ninepence a week rent. And then, we were there six years, and then of course that was place was, and then we got this place, we’ve been here ever since. The first Council house. 1954.

Q:    I see, that was when it was built was it?

Mr S:    Yes. Yes.

Q:    So for work, you, where have we got to, you went to the glove factory.

Mr S:     Yes. And from there, from the glove factory I went to Rowley’s down at Maldon Road, here, which is now Harcog[?] motor company.

Q:    What did you do for them?

Mr S:    Worked in the office, I was supposed to be working in the office, but I think I did more labouring work than office work anyhow. I went there cause they offered me a little more, I got seven and sixpence a week there. Then I had that for a few months and I got into Crittall’s then, and that was a bonus that, I went from seven and six to twelve and six a week. And I was there then until I was called up.

Q:    So you were really still quite young when you went to Crittall’s then.

Mr S:    Oh yes, I was still, just coming up to sixteen.

Q:    Then you stayed there, did you go back there after the war?

Mr S:    Well no, I didn’t go back after the war, I should’ve done, I was entitled to, I was actually going back, I had already been up there and I was due to start back the following Monday, but I thought about it, over a day or two, I thought I’ve just had three years prisoner of war I can’t go back and work inside again, so I just couldn’t face working inside. So Joan’s father, cause he was foreman you see, he said, you see the stationmaster and in all probability there’s something on the railway if you like to accept what’s going, you know. So I went and saw the stationmaster and I got started at, on the platform as a porter at Witham. So I stuck that for a year or two and did various relief jobs, you know, ticket collector and shunter and various other jobs, relief walk, and then when they had some vacancies they started the signal school up at Stratford, I went into the signal school at Stratford and I was in signal boxes then up until the time I left the railway.

Q:    So how long were you in the signal boxes for?

Mr S:    Ten years. For various local ones you know.

Q:    That was quite interesting I should think wasn’t it?

Mr S:    Oh yes, quite an interesting job. And then of course they started the electrification you see and they were sort of cutting out all the small signal boxes and only having the big ones, so I was out of, I would have been out anyway, but I was transferred to the clerical grade then and went to work in the stationmaster’s office at Stratford for two years. And I finished with that. (Mrs S: He didn’t like the travelling did you?) Well travelling was too much every day. I was doing over twelve hours  a day for a thirty-eight hour week, and getting nothing for it, so I had to start from scratch again you see.

Q:    I suppose there was a much bigger staff on the station was there when you started, I mean they don’t have porters as such now do they.

Mr S:    No, it’s a different organisation altogether now.

Q:    When you say you were a porter what did you have to do?

Mr S:    Well, general labouring duties really. Mainly if there was loading up guards vans and that kind of thing, loading and unloading, and opening and closing doors for passengers and this kind of thing. And when the train were yes keeping the station clean, cleaning the toilets out, sweep the platforms and do anything that had to be done to keep the place going kind of thing.

Mrs S:    One thing my father was strict about, making sure the cloakrooms were cleaned, didn’t he.

Mr S:    They had all sorts of different grades then you see, if you were just an ordinary porter then you could graduate to a parcel porter which is equivalent now to a leading porter, I think, and then you could move up then to a foreman and an inspector and so on. But that was, the grades now are altogether different. Still I enjoyed the period on the railway, that was …

Q:    Again I suppose it’s steady work isn’t it. (Mr S: Oh yes.) It’s a job for life once you’re there. Anyway you’d be playing your music all the rest of the time were you?

Mr S:    Oh yes.

Q:    When you say about the practising, did you practise a lot here at home? (Mrs S: He used to get upstairs.)

Mr S:    With the euphonium and so forth I’d rattle the house down up there.

Q:    Got kind neighbours have you.

Mrs S:    Used to have an organ in here as well.  I used to say ‘For goodness sake turn that down a bit’.

Q:    You can turn that down, while a euphonium presumably you can’t really, can you.

Mr S:    Not much you can do about that. No, you can’t turn the volume down. No I think that was mainly my chief love in music was brass bands. I always liked that. That’s the military bands, I liked it all brass.

Q:    So you were playing in the bands right up to … (Mr S: Well, right up until the legion finished wasn’t it?) There don’t seem to be the bands around do there [???] I don’t know why that is.

Mr S:    There don’t seem to be the enthusiasm for them like there is in the north country. They still hold on well up there, not so many of them down here, except of course for the Salvation Army, they still do very well, that’s part of their tradition I suppose.

Q:    I suppose at Crittall’s if they’ve got a big staff there … (Mrs S: But didn’t the Legion take over Crittall’s?)

Mr S:    Yes, I think, after the war. I don’t think the Crittall’s did much at all. Course I didn’t work there at Crittall’s after the war, but I don’t think they did much, eventually I think they just faded out and the British Legion bought their instruments and started up. There were mostly Crittall’s bandsmen that were in the British Legion.

Mrs S:    Cause there are several of them still alive, cause you very often see some of them.

Mr S:    Oh yes. There’s one up your way I suppose, Mr Joslin, Cecil Joslin, lives in the bungalow near the railway bridge. There’s a bungalow there. Opposite what was the Co-op. [???] friendly with a woman there, Madge Glass. She used to work for Cullen’s.

Q:    Were you musical at all yourself, do you play anything?

Mrs S:    I only play the piano. But I play by music.

Mr S: Got no ear for … Of course with brass instruments once you’ve played one you can play the lot because they’re all the same. All the same fingering sort of thing, it’s just a matter of getting used to the size of the instrument and the …

Mrs S:    My[?] brother’s the same as you are, he likes brass bands and that doesn’t he.

Q:    So you can all get together and have a good …

Mrs S:    It’s funny you should say that, they’ve both got what you call them, keyboards, and when he comes over he brings it. Like a couple of kids.

Q:    Have you got any children yourself?

Mrs S:    No, got no family. Plenty of nieces and nephews.

Q:    [to Mrs S] So going back to your job, did you sort of move up in, how many were there in the office?

Mrs S:    I didn’t work in the office, no, I worked in the warehouse, dealt with seeds all my time there.

Q:    What did you have to do with them then?

Mrs S:    Packet them. Did a little job of everything I think.

Q:    Where did the seeds come from to the warehouse, did they come …

Mrs S:    Come from the farms. The seed was sent out at certain times of the year to be grown, and it come back certain times of the year to be dried, but a lot of it came from abroad.

Mr S:    They used to grow a lot in Hungary.

Mrs S:    Yes, Mr Cullen was very often out there.

Q:    Cause there’s a book not long come out? Miss Roper.

Mrs S:    Yes, that’s right, I read that, because he plays bowls with one of the Cullens which I think is a nephew. (Mr S: Yes, Walter.) And he happened to say that I worked there, didn’t you, talking to him, and he said ‘I’m sure she’d like to read that book’. And so we got it out of the library and read it, and that is, it’s quite interesting. That deals with another firm we used to, King’s at Coggeshall, and one or two round there.

Q:    I hadn’t thought of that, I suppose the seeds, I don’t know much about producing seed. I suppose they have to send the seed so they know what they’re getting do they?

Mrs S:    Yes, that’s right, they go out to the farmers. A lot of it used to be grown round here when I first went there, but of course things got bigger and they had to go further afield. But there used to be a lot grown round Tiptree way. And of course we had our own trial ground. (Q: Where was that?) Where Crittall’s car park is now, well it isn’t Crittall’s now, is it, down Albert Road. That used to be all fields there, sweet peas, used to be lovely down there didn’t it. And further down the lane where all those houses are, they all used to be trial grounds. Stuff was grown down there. Quite interesting.

Q:    So it would come in in lorries or …? Would it come in sacks or whatever, how did it …?

Mrs S:    Well, that used to come in sacks and that used to come in lorry loads, and then be bagged up. Course the latter end it used to come in big, I don’t what they used to call them must they must have weighed, two hundredweight, and that was put into the hoppers straight away from off the lorries. What they called the mangel warehouse, all the mangel stuff was in there, and vegetables was this side. (Q: So were there other things as well as mangels there?) Yes, mangels, swedes, sugar beet, you name it it was there. (Q: That was the seed … that was the one down towards Church Street was it) Well it’s in Braintree Road actually isn’t it, and White Horse Lane. They cut that in half didn’t they. (Q: That’s right, there’s two main buildings.) Er, yes. (Mr S: Wooden one is a listed place.) One of them is yes. Cause I believe there was a fire there the other week. I can’t make out which one was burnt. They did build another one at the end there where they used to dry all the stuff. (Q: Which was that one then?) I don’t think you could see that from the road. (Q: Back in the yard?) Yes. There was the big warehouse and that was sort of built on the side of it, and they used to test there own seeds, used to have a laboratory there. (Mr S: Which Cullen was it my uncle worked for at Kelvedon?) That was Walter. (Mr S: Another one of my father’s brothers, he was a Kelvedon, worked for …) He worked for Walter Cullen.

Q:    [to Mrs S} What did you do in your spare time then if you weren’t playing in the band?

Mrs S:    I don’t think I done a lot, I was courting mostly. We used to go to old time dancing.

Mr S:    Yes in our younger days we used to do quite a lot of old time dancing.

Q:    Where was that then?

Mrs S:    Public Hall. (Mr S: Public Hall, Kelvedon, various other …) That’s another band you was in.

Mr S:    At Kelvedon, the old time dance band at Kelvedon. Had a little group down there two accordions violin and piano and drums, play for they old time dances down there.

Q:    Did you do it all voluntarily? Did the bands ever get paid?

Mr S:    Oh no. No, no, never got paid. (Mrs S: They didn’t then did they, I believe they do now. [???])

Mr S:    No, just used to do it for enjoyment.

Q:    So what about the instruments, were they …

Mr S:    Well they were our own instruments, except I think probably at Kelvedon the piano belonged to the hall, but all the other, Ray had his own accordion, I had mine, the other chap had his violin, Mr Good had his own set of drums.

Mrs S:    Mrs Gibbons from Witham used to play for you didn’t she? Play the piano?

Mr S:    No, she used to play for the old time dance for the lessons, didn’t she, at the old Legion hut.

Q:    So when you say that the Legion took over the Crittsll’s instruments, did Crittall’s have some of their own instruments as well?

Mr S:    They were, the ones that the Legion took over they were all, they actually belonged to Crittall’s, I think the majority of them did anyway. (Q: But you had your own too.) One or two of the players had their own instruments but mainly the instruments originally belonged to Crittall’s and the British Legion took them over. But I know, like Stan Champ, he had his own cornet, and Henry Benson had his own tenor horn and so forth, they had their own instruments, but in the main they were all brass type instruments. Where they are now I don’t know. Whether anyone bought them when the British Legion packed up I don’t know.

Q:    Was Crittall’s thought of as quite a good firm to work for?

Mr S:    They were. Oh yes. They were quite different after the war to what they were before. During the time of the Depression in the 1930s they used to take on a lot of people for short periods, and they’d bring them up, like a load from the Welsh miners perhaps from the depressed area of South Wales, they’d come up here and give them work for a short time then all of a sudden they’d dispose of them, a lot of them, you know. It was quite common then, you know, to be at work say up to the Friday afternoon, at half past four they’d just say ‘You’re services were dispensed with’ sort of thing, it just finished. But in the main I think they did, they did quite a lot of good by giving these people work for short periods, from the depressed areas. Quite a lot of them settled round this area, you probably know, like Silver End there’s quite a lot of Welshmen at Silver End, and Scotsmen and so forth. The same in Witham, I mean there’s quite a few of the Welshmen that never went back. I know we had some lodged with us when we were in Easton Road, some of them, the Welsh miners came up here for a short period and they probably had a few months work and then they’d be away again. Cause you, your parents, they had lodgers in for quite a while, didn’t they. They had some from Lancashire was it, Pilkington’s, Pilkington’s glass, came from Lancashire. (Mrs S: Dad used to have more railwaymen than anybody.)

Q:    Were your family, what hobbies did they have then? You say your mother spent a lot of time in the church, were you ?

Mrs S:    No, not really, although we was always brought up Church of England. We used to go, the children had to go, I’ve known to go to four times a day. Eight o’clock communion, eleven o’clock main service, Sunday School then half past six in the evening.

Q:     Really? Did your parents go?

Mrs S:    I can’t think they did.

Mr S:    I think really your mother and father would mostly work on a Sunday, so  (Mrs S: Work shifts.) Working shifts, seven days a week kind of thing. (Mrs S: Three of us were brought up to go to church, my brother was in the choir anyway.

Q:    I suppose, when the war came, what happened to the trains then, did it make a difference.

Mrs S:    No, I don’t think it did really. Made more work I suppose.

Q:    Cause apart from anything else they wouldn’t have the men …

Mr S:    I think there were quite a few women started on the railways, during the war they had quite a few women staff and that was the first time they’d ever had women staff, wasn’t it. Even the booking office used to have all men, didn’t they. During the war and after the war …

Mrs S:    She’s just died what lived down the road, she used to work on the platform (Mr S: Mrs Hughes.) She worked under my dad.

Mr S:    For the time I worked on there, 1946, 47, they had female staff there didn’t they cause they had female staff in the booking office, besides the male staff. Platform, on the platform they had to have the women staff cause the men just weren’t available.

Mrs S:    I can’t really remember much about the railway during the war.

Mr S:    No I think more or less apart from that I think they more or less carried on as far as they could normally, kind of thing.

Mrs S:    I’m sure my father did, otherwise, I would have known.

Mr S:    The trains had to run as before, except when the trains were mostly taken over by the military I suppose. The movement of troops and that kind of thing .But I wouldn’t know much about that because I wasn’t here and I wouldn’t have had anything to do with the railway anyway till 1946.

Q:    Did you do anything special during the war, did the job carry on the same? [to Mrs S]

Mrs S:    Yes, cause I was agriculture so I was exempt. That’s why I used to go to the First Aid up Bridge Hospital. You had to do some, one subject really during the war, you had to fill in, so I used to go up there, First Aid, used to laugh, I don’t know what would have happened if anything had have happened [laugh]. I wouldn’t want to be one of the patients. But you don’t know what you would have done.

Q:    That was just to have you there ready was it ..?

Mrs S:    One night a week, stay up there, had to take it in turns. Otherwise that was watching or whatever you called it, night, fire watching, that’s right.

Mr S:    Your sister had to go in the services, she went in the ATS during the war. And your brother was in the air force.

Q:    I suppose it’s a long time ago now isn’t it.

Mr S:    We wonder sometime where forty odd years have gone. Marvellous. And Witham has changed out of all proportion now. The population then was about seven to eight thousand, it’s now twenty-five thousand, made quite a difference.

[chat, not noted]

Mrs S:    I never did like it [Witham] when I first came here. (Q: What didn’t you like about it?) I don’t really know. I think the people were a little bit uppish I think, being a youngster I suppose, you …

Mr S:    I think it’s natural when you’re a child sort of thing, you’ve got all your friends then you’re suddenly dragged away and you’ve got to make a lot of new friends and sometimes children are not always the best of friends.

Mrs S:    I’ve never been one to make a lot of friends.

Mr S:    No, I think we’re both the same like that, we’ve never gone out of our way to make friends and join in with things sort of thing, we’ve always sort of kept ourselves, not with intention, but just because we’re not the type to go out, we don’t go out much anyway.

Q:    Still I suppose if you were going out with the bands and things, you met a lot of people that way, didn’t you.

Mr S:    Oh yes. I used to enjoy that.

Mrs S:    Saturdays. Be at the carnival same as these Twirlettes do, it’s the same sort of thing.

Mr S:    You don’t see the old bands now, you don’t see a band at the carnival now, it’s all Twirlettes and that kind of thing. You don’t see a good brass band like you used to.

Q:    Did you go along to these things as well?

Mrs S:    Yes, very often, didn’t I.

[chat, not noted]

Q:    Presumably you stayed at the same school right through then. (Mr S: I did, yes.) Did some of them went to …

Mr S:    Well everybody at that time, there was the opportunity there if your headmaster thought you were good enough, to put you in for the scholarship either for Braintree High School or Intermediate School, and if you were successful you went to either one or the other. But, I did go in for the High School scholarship exam, but I didn’t get through so I just stayed where I was till I was fourteen.

Q:    Would you have liked to go to High School do you think?

Mr S:    I think I would have done, but I think I was, I don’t know, but I was probably not sort of up to it kind of thing.

Mrs S:    He’s made up for it since, cause I think you’ve got a very good head on you.

Q:    It’s just luck these exams isn’t it?

Mr S:    Another thing I went in for, I went in to learn shorthand, and I got through part of the way and let it slide half way through, I’ve got a certificate for shorthand.

Q:    When was that? Was that when you were quite yount?

Mr S:    Yes when I was, just about before or after I left school.

Mrs S:    You used to like woodwork too, didn’t you. He used to go to woodwork down, what is, Chipping Hill School.

Mr S:    The one and only school prize I’ve got left I’ve given all the others away. (Mrs S: No you’ve got another poetry one there.) I’ve the poetry one yes.

Q:    [reads] ‘Scripture Prize, presented to Leslie Skingley by the Vicar, July 1930’. G. Campbell was that? ‘H J Rowles, BA, headmaster’.

Mr S:    That’s it. That’s the other one I’ve got, Tennyson’s poems.

Q:    ‘Composition’/

Mr S:    They now call it something different, composition, don’t they.

Q:    I’m not sure, just essays. Is that what it means, writing?

Mr S:    Writing stories, that kind of thing you know. Essays and that kind of thing. That’s the only two I’ve got left. I had various other ones. I usually used to finish up in about the first four in the class at school.

Q:    You had a sister, Florence, and she stayed at the same school?

Mr S:    Yes she was at the Church school, she was there until she, she didn’t go to any other. I think she went in for the High School exam as well. But I think my trouble was, I never used to apply myself to things, I think if I really got down to it and applied myself to it properly I could have done better.
[about photos etc., not noted]

Mrs S:    Cause your father used to keep the Star, what was the old Star, didn’t he. [Bridge Street]

Mr S:    We were in there for a period, not very long, but, 1937 …

Mrs S:    You were in there when all the floods, when we had the floods.

Mr S:    In 19, the whole pub was flooded out in 1939, that was the old Morning Star, right on the edge of the path then, on the forecourt of where the new one is now. Cause when we lived there they just started to build that new one in our back garden. But the war came along and my parents didn’t feel they could take on a new place, so they got of it and he went back to his old job, working for Moys, at Chelmsford then.

Q:    You lived there.

Mr S:    Yes I lived there, it was three years I lived there, we moved in there in 1937, and I think they moved out about 1940.

Mrs S:    I was going to say, you wasn’t here when they moved, were you?

Mr S:    No.

Q:    That would have been a different life for them, in there.

Mr S:    Cause they started building this new one in about spring 1939, started building the new one in our back garden as it was then. We were still living in the old one in the front on the edge of the path there.

Mrs S:    Can’t imagine where the other one is now.

Q:    Cause Bridge Street’s had a lot pulled down hasn’t it really.

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