Mr Ken Cuthbe was born in 1898. He was interviewed on 12 July 1983 when he lived at 64 Valentine Way, Silver End.
He also appears on tape 84.
For more information about him, see Cuthbe, Ken, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.]
This occasion was mainly for Ken to show various papers and photos, so is not a proper interview and only odd parts of it have been typed, though they are interesting. He was not keen on the idea of being interviewed.
[chat, not noted]
Mr C: My grandmother started the Sunday School at Tillingham, and she held it for many years, and I’ve got a brochure which they produced on the centenary, and a booklet on that.
[chat about photo etc, not noted]
Mr C: [Friend of Bradwell] She belongs to a family called Dowsett and Son. Dowsett and Son were builders at Bradwell on Sea. Mr Dowsett took her position as Superintendent of the Sunday School from my mother, my grandmother, Mr Dowsett. And he is there [on photo], this is Mr Dowsett, and he was the head of W Dowsett and Son builders of Bradwell on Sea. My father was a senior, what do you call them, in the chapel, deacon, senior deacon, and he came next, followed my father. Now he was superintendent for some time.
[chat about brochure with photos, and photo, planning to give to Record Office, photos including some Dowsetts, not noted]
Mr C: Now here’s my sister Hilda, she’s three years younger than me, she died in March at 81. She would have been 82 in September, and I will be 85. Now these are so well known to me. Now, at the time that was taken I was in Worcestershire with my aunt Mercy[?], my father’s sister, I was there for nearly three years. So I don’t figure in these at all.
[chat about photo, not noted]
Mr C: You see my grandmother was a rather a notable sort of person, because a poet wrote about her. This is my [???], her name was Rachel, and I’ve got a copy of her marriage certificate which took place in Southminster church in 1854. And her husband was Abraham Whitaker Sexton. Now this poet wrote this about my grandmother.
[chat about poem, not noted]
Mr C: She got her Sunday School going on two points, that she gave sweets to the children, she insisted on cleanliness which is next to godliness, and if they were pretty poor in rank she would give them any clothes she could manage, or make them clothes, mend their clothes for them, do that sort of work, so she sort of endeared herself to these people, other people that was as well.
[chat about poem, not noted]
Mr C: Now I had a friend called Jimmy London[?] who’s got some records in the Record Office, because he was a great friend of mine, because when we were boys he was captain of Dengie, which is next to Tillingham, football team, and I was captain of Tillingham football team, we used to play against each other. But we in fact joined the army the same day and were billeted together, we met in France and everything [First World War]. But after he came out he got very interested in Essex dialect, and I’ve got poems which he’s written, that’s one that he sent to me. And he used to come to my house every week at one time, but they’ve [Essex Record Office} got a file on him I know, because I think he’s recorded it. He used to go round to the Women’s Institutes, after he retired, and they used to love him. He could speak it. That’s him actually the War, Jimmy. And when I went to France in 1916, he had already been wounded and I met him in Boulogne. And we had been billeted together at Stamford in Lincolnshire, and at Yarmouth. I signed on for Foreign[?] and service in 1915, and met then, and didn’t see any more of him till I met him in ’16 in France after he was wounded. And then of course after the War he used to come every week to see us. And then his wife was a hairdresser and she cut my wife’s hair for the first time, you remember when they had it short. But you can see what sort of man he was, because there’s a very great tribute to him by the Chairman of London Transport. Jimmy became a conductor and later on a driver, and there’s a bit in there about him and I should like the Record Office to have something like that.
Q: He died then in 1968 did he.
Mr C: That’s right.
[chat about going to his grave at St Lawrence, and about photos, and poem, not noted]
Mr C: Do you remember when we had a vehicle called a tumbril. Do you know what a tumbril is?
Q: I’ve heard about them.
Mr C: Well a waggon is a four-wheeled thing, rather large, now a tumbril is like a half a waggon, in other words it’s only got two wheels. Now one horse, it’s made for one horse to pull, if they’re [???] you can put one in front, but mainly it’s that. Now at, when we were young, these wheels had iron bands round them so they made a noise. So when anyone was ill, and these streets were full of those sort of things, they used to put straw down, to deafen the noise, now that’s all about that. [the poem?] Now this Ben Down[?] that he talks about, is a remarkable man, he was a Peculiar, but he was very poor and he used to go round and he used to sell, with a horse and cart he used to sell paraffin, and he used to also sell oranges and all sorts of things as well, and he used to collect rabbit skins, and he’d come past the school and he’d throw oranges at us that he couldn’t afford, really. And at home I’ve got a wonderful urn, I hope you’ll come to see it sometime, it stands as high as that, which my father got from him. He had a place where he used to collect this thing, this man was, he was a rag and bone man they call him, and he saw this urn on a dump of his, and it was all covered in verdigris. My father gave him five shillings for it, and it’s a magnificent thing, it’s a tea urn, and when the chapel had their anniversary, they always had their urn, you know, to serve the tea from.
Lightly, lightly, tread with [???]
When treading on straw up the street
Cause on his deathbed do lay
Ben the ragabon man, so they say.
To see that waggon going by
Well he his huss should be dry.
(That is the horse that he used to drive. That’s his ‘huss’, that’s horse that means, he, should be dry, drive that’s what he means.)
[???] for a tinker whose black feet
Now tread on the straw up the street
Psalms he sung round old Ben’s bed
(They did sing the psalms, they were the Peculiar People and they’d sing)
Hands be laid on
(They used to lay hands on as a kind of medicine man, you see, and they used to put oil on them to get them over their illnesses)
And a book be read
(That’s the bible)
Prayers be said, and with oils (that’s oil)
He be treat (that is to treat)
As lightly they tread the straw up the street.
But come sing allelujah, rejoice this day
For old Ben has been spared they say.
As soon as he back on his house[?] fit
To tread the straw once laid up street.
But now in churchyard old Ben lies
And with him a custom lies.
For straw no more be trod by feet
When near death’s door up village street’.
Now that’s a little bit of Essex dialect.
[chat not noted]
Mr C: My grandfather, he was a Primitive Methodist. My people were Congregationalists you see. Now that’s him when he was 94. (Q: Was he Tillingham?) No, I don’t know where he was born. (Q: Cuthbe?) That’s grandfather Sexton. Now they both lived to be 94. She died first. She was older than him by four years. (Q: That’s your mother’s people?) That’s my mother’s parents. And I’ve got a sovereign which he had. That’s her again.
[chat about other relatives, photos etc., not noted]
Mr C: Now they were very religious so my father’s sisters were named Rebecca, Sarah, Honour, Grace and Mercy. And that’s Mercy, she was a lovely woman, oh she was a lovely person. That’s my aunt Mercy. And while I was there [living with Mercy in Worcestershire] I got a scholarship to Malvern College. But a fatal thing happened. I’d been away over two years and my aunt thought I ought to come home for a holiday which I did, and I got homesick and I wouldn’t go back. And she stopped another week and I wouldn’t go back. And then she stopped another week and I wouldn’t go back. But I’ve still got the letter from my schoolmaster saying how much he regrets I did not take up that scholarship to Malvern College. They called it a rural[?] scholarship. (Q: How old would you be then about?) When I came back on holiday I was coming thirteen. I went when I was coming eleven you see. So I had to leave school on my attendances. So I had to write to Mr Church, that was my schoolmaster, who incidentally was an Essex man. And he wrote back in the letter and said how much he regretted I wasn’t going and …(Q: That’s interesting to wonder what would have happened.) That is, yes, well I think my life would have been quite different but I don’t think, it might not have been all that good.
[chat about helping at by-election for five weeks in 1933 in Lincolnshire, not noted]
Mr C: I was the agent here, yes, that’s quite true, because I took it over, this was 1933, I took it over 1929, I was the agent here [Maldon constituency], but I wasn’t a full-time agent, I was honorary agent, you see, and I didn’t become paid at all till 1934, when I was out of work, that was how I come to do it. I was going to Kent, move to Kent, and they decided then to pay me. Of course if they hadn’t I couldn’t have done it, I would have to have gone.
[chat about school papers and photos, not noted.
Mr C: It’s the Sunday School. [Tillingham] They used to go down in waggons. And the farmers used to lend the waggons, and there were five waggon loads used to go, and about thirty children in each. There was about 150 children, going down, cause the Sunday Schools then as you probably know from your history were thriving places.
Q: I met somebody the other day who said they knew you when you were junior Oddfellows.
Mr C: Yes I was. (Q: Mr Baxter, that’s right.) Mr Baxter, that’s right. (Q: He was the Witham one.) And I get a little pension from them. Goes on.
[chat about what time to leave]
Mr C: Well now, yes, these are the photographs of my father and mother, which are rather nice. But my mother was four years, he was 21 and she was 17 my mother, and she had twelve children. Three died, one lived two days, the other two less than that. And the others lived, which meant there were nine lived. Now there’s two of us left of that nine. Ethel is 77 and crippled up and I’m the other one. And then that strain has gone. There’s no Cuthbe [???] cause I’m the last you see, cause I had a daughter, Eileen, and she had a tumour on the brain when she was twelve and died, that was 1940[?]. It was a great loss. But of course the name wouldn’t have been carried on.
[chat about someone he knows, Whitworth, who was secretary to Archbishop of Canterbury, lives Twickenham, and also about family photos and about eldest sister who was a cook and ran businesses away from Essex, and another sister Rose was a lady’s maid and also lived away. Another next down, called Happy[?] also lady’s maid, details given by KC but not noted.]
Mr C: I used to see her every fortnight at one time because I was on the, I was a co-opted member of the County Council in 1937, on the Public Assistance Committee, we used to meet at Essex House at Essex Square in London
[used to meet sister in London, and saving photos, not noted]
Q: Mrs Baxter mentioned you as well from the Food Office. Were you in charge of that?
Mr C: I was the Deputy Food Executive Officer there, all through the War.
[chat about photos, not noted]
Mr C: This is the shop you see, my father, when I was one year old, I was born in ’98, he bought three cottages here, because this goes on here. This is where we lived. This is our, we called it our front room but in fact it was side by side, these are two of my young sisters, that’s my aunt who kept the shop, my father’s sister, and these people here may be some relations too. But that’s the grocer’s shop (Q: That’s Tillingham?) That’s Tillingham shop, you see.
Q: That was hard work, I should think. Did you live there yourself for a while?
Mr C: Well in our house we had eight rooms, in our house. (Q: That was in this one?) Yes this end you see. That’s our, we called it the front room, that’s really the parlour, you see, where we had a round table like this and in the middle was the family bible and all that sort of thing. (Q: Did you have to help at all.) No, no.
[more about photos, not noted.