Saturday, 28 March 2015

1962, Camping, fishing and a surprised milkman + 1963, the big freeze.

1962 & 1963.

The blog has now arrived in the 1960's.  Some people say "if you can remember the 60's then you weren't there!"  It was the time of the Beatles, free love, drugs and music festivals so I suppose what they meant was, if you can remember the 60's you were there, you just didn't enjoy them as much as some people did!
Well I was there and can remember the 60's so maybe I missed something?
While others might have been trying out new things and products, I was discovering the great outdoors, nature, birds (feathered) the countryside and generally having a very good time without doing any harm.
The weekends would see me and some friends heading off down the coast to Tetney Marshes for a spot of bird watching, fishing and camping.  When I say camping, forget modern hi-tech tents and equipment.  This was really basic seat of the pants camping, gathering wood for a fire, fetching water from a pump at the nearest houses and sleeping in small tents.  It was not only impossible to stand up in our tent but very difficult to sit up!  They had to be small though as everything we brought for a weekend had to be carried on our bikes. 

Here's me getting bedded down for the night.

Yours truly with more wood for the fire.  This shows how low the
tent was!


Before anyone gets the wrong idea here, one of my mates had an air rifle.  I don't remember anybody actually hitting anything let alone killing something.  That would have horrified me.  So why am I posing here with a pigeon?  We found it already dead out on the marshes and though it would make a good "trophy shot!".  No. we didn't eat it either!
Going back to the tent, somebody offered to lend us a large Blacks patrol tent, a popular choice of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movement.  It was made from heavy duty waterproof canvas and supported on stout poles but , best of all it was huge.  It was 8 feet long, 6 feet wide and high with 3 feet high side walls so plenty of room to move around in.  The first time we took it out disaster struck, while we were nearby fishing a herd of cows came ambling along grazing as they passed by.  One cow however was curious about our tent and, after going into it to take a look decided to exit the tent through the back wall, tearing it from top to bottom!  We all chipped in to get it repaired but, needless to say, it wasn't offered for further camping trips.  Back to hands & knees tenting.
Another part of my outdoor life was biking.  Once I got a "proper bike" if I wasn't camping at the weekends I would go out with the CTC, the Cycling Tourist Club (of Great Britain) on one of the guided rides.  These rides weren't for speed, other racing clubs catered for that, these outings were purely to get out and see the countryside.  The motto of the CTC was "we ride at the speed and capabilities of the slowest riders" so it was a very friendly and gentle introduction to the pastime.
A friend and I decided to try a ride on our own and chose to ride to Mablethorpe, a small seaside resort on the east coast of Lincolnshire, about 35 miles away.

This is me, somewhere between Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe.

We set off just after dinner on a Saturday and arrived, quite late in Mablethorpe, as it was getting dark.  It had rained most of the way. 

My cycling companion Billy Antill as we arrived at the rain!

We had our trusty (small) tent with us and needed somewhere to pitch it for the night.  After several enquiries in Fish & Chip shops we were told there was a field just  on the outskirts of the town that people sometimes camped in.  Off we went, by this time it was dark so when we found the field we were quite relieved and pitched our tent.  It continued to rain all night and our tent leaked.  In the morning we awoke quite early and could hear a milk float and the clinking of milk bottles so it must have been quite early.  I stuck my head out of the tent to see a very puzzled looking milkman staring at our tent.  A little while later I found out why, when we came out of our tent we realised that, in the dark of the previous night, we had pitched our tent on an area of grass adjacent to the Barclays Bank car park and we were still in the middle of the town! 
We were very wet after a miserable night in the leaky tent so decided to go straight back home, another 35 mile ride.  When we were almost home we stopped at a pub at Tetney Lock, about 6 miles from home and had a rest on their porch seating.

The Crown and Anchor pub, it's still there today.

I still fish at a lake opposite this pub.

Not sure if this is me or Billy resting here on the porch seating.

We had other, more successful bike rides but I'll always remember that one, and the surprised milkman too!

The winter of 1962 - 1963 was very cold.  Snow began to fall at the end of December 1962 and some places had 20 feet drifts isolating villages and remote areas.  On the east coast were we where there wasn't very much snow but, like the whole of the rest of the country, we experienced long periods of sub zero temperatures. 
January was the coldest since 1814 with temperatures as low as -19.4 degrees centigrade.  The sea froze in many places including here at Cleethorpes. 
February  brought more snow in many parts with a blizzard that lasted for 36 hours and winds reaching 81 mph!
A thaw set in in early March and the 6th March was the first frost free morning anywhere in Britain.  temperatures soared to 17 degrees centigrade and the snow thawed rapidly!

I took this picture showing the ice flows
around the pier at Cleethorpes in early 1963.

Another picture I took of one of the fountains
in the Kingsway Gardens on the seafront.

I started this blog in November 2014 with a description of the terrible winter being experienced by the people in Great Britain that year.  I was around but, as I was born on the 9th January that year, it passed me by completely. 
I started the blog as a collection of my memories, being a boy born in the 40's as part of the big baby boom which occurred just after WW2.  I've enjoyed bringing my memories to you, at times it's been a little harrowing for me but I do hope you've enjoyed reading them. 
I've decided to finish the blog here.

It seemed a very appropriate point to wind things up, I started with a record bad winter in 1947 and so the coldest winter in 100 years in 1963 was a good point to finish. 
Thank you for all your lovely comments, plusses on Google+ and the re-shares, I've really appreciated them all.
I'll continue with my lincolnshirecam blog, the link to it is on the link list alongside.










Tuesday, 24 March 2015

1953 to 1959.

For this post I'm just using a few photographs from the 50's with a little explanatory text.
Me and my sister Kathleen by the pier in 1953.

This little angel is me in 1953 aged 6.

Me in the garden of our new council house in 1954.

What a prat!  Me again, now in 1955.  Look at the short
trousers and the tank top! 

Kathleen in 1958 posing on my bike.

Me in 1958 diving into the Cleethorpes outdoor Swimming Pool.  As mentioned in an
earlier blog post it was the largest outdoor swimming pool in England.

Me & my mate Johnny Davis, again in 1958 and again at the Swimming pool.

Between 1958 and about 1963 we spent every day of our summer holidays at the swimming pool.  We bought season tickets on the day it opened for the summer season and prided ourselves on not missing a single day until it closed at the end of September.  Some days were really cold but we still went swimming!
Me with my hamster "Sammy" in 1958.

Kathleen with Sammy on her head, 1958.

Posing on my bike in 1958.

Me and my friend Carl Burgess, plus Sammy emerging
from my trouser pocket.

Carl was the one of 3 brothers, he was the youngest.  Next was Kieth, a couple of years older and then the eldest brother Dereck, who was four years older.  Over the years we lost touch so I was pleasantly surprised to meet up again with Dereck 4 years ago.  he is the water bailiff at the club lake I fish at!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rubber to the rescue.

Last week I talked about the day to day lives of fishermen and their wives and mentioned also how hazardous it could be for their livelihood if the fishing trip was not a success.  There were other hazards for the fishermen, it was a hard life at sea and could often result in loss of life.
The sinking of a fishing trawler was, unfortunately, quite a regular occurrence. Many families in Grimsby and Kingston upon Hull, our near neighbours and also another large fishing port, lost husbands, fathers sons and brothers at sea.  Heavy seas, storms and ice would overwhelm the trawlers and cause the fishermen to abandon ship, often there wasn't even time for the men to take to the boats.  The lifeboats in the 1950's were of a rigid construction and made of wood and had to be swung out on derricks mounted to the decks and lowered into the water on ropes.  This took quite a while and involved a lot of effort, if the boat was taking on water and listing badly the lifeboats on one side of the boat would not be able to get down into the water.  If the boats were able to be launched and the men were able to get into them, they would then have to be rowed away from the sinking vessel in heavy seas and maybe in the pitch dark. These lifeboats were basically large, open rowing boats and would not last long in a heavy sea.
In 1954 representatives of the fishing industry gathered in Grimsby for a demonstration of the latest equipment to safeguard fishermen, rubber lifeboats!  They had been used to rescue the 8 man crew of the Icelandic trawler Gladour who had drifted for 22 hours in a gale off Iceland before being sighted and picked up by the trawler Hull City.  They all survived.  The skipper of Hull City (a Grimsby boat) was so impressed with the life saving capabilities of these new rubber life rafts he got permission to bring one back to Grimsby to show it to fishery representatives.
The new raft could be launched by one man by simply pulling on a single painter line attached to it,once it was in the water.  The valise burst open exposing the raft which inflated within 30 seconds. Half a minute later a canopy had unfolded and erected itself over the raft.  The raft could carry ten and gave the crew shelter from wind and spray, it was almost unsinkable and wouldn't turn over.  It carried emergency rations and distress flares and, providing they had been able to issue a Mayday call via the radio before abandoning ship, it would protect them far better until a boat could get to them and rescue the men.
The new rubber life rafts received an enthusiastic welcome.
In 1956 I was playing in the back garden when a knock came at our front door.  I knew someone was talking to our mam but didn't take much of an interest why.  A while later she called me in to tell me that my dad's boat, Osako had been sunk at sea but that he had been rescued and was alright.  Although my dad's boat the Osako didn't have the new rubber life saving rafts another Grimsby boat the Thessalonian did have them and when the skipper of the Thessalonian heard a distress call from the Osako he steamed toward them.
A newspaper report of the demonstration of the new rubber
life rafts and also the first rescue of fishermen from Grimsby
using the new life saving dinghies. 
The 28 year old Osako had sprung a leak in her fish hold below the water line and the pumps were unable to cope as the water levels rose.  The weather was rough, heavy seas and gale force winds.  The Thessalonian, which had been built the year before, rushed to the rescue.  The skipper of the Thessalonian, Harry Ellis, had seen the new raft being demonstrated  
 three months earlier but had no practical experience of their use, however he ordered they be made ready for use as the situation was
deteriorating quickly.  Heavy seas prevented him from approaching the stricken Osako so he went to the weather side and floated the rubber dinghies on a line to the crew of the sinking Osako who were now clinging to the rails of the vessel!  For two hours the dinghies were hauled back and forth until all 13 men of the crew of the Osako (including my dad) were safely aboard the Thessalonian.  Last to leave the Osako was the her skipper Harold Gladwell from Grimsby.  He tried to save his ship by attaching a towline but it had to be cut as it sank lower in the heavy seas.  The Thessalonian steamed for Torshaven, the capital of the Faroes and landed the rescued crew there, some were suffering from exposure.
This had been the first rescue of Grimsby fishermen using the new rubber dinghies and, following their huge success, it wasn't long before all fishing vessels registered in Grimsby became equipped with them.
The crew arrived back in Grimsby a week later Skipper Ellis said his crew had joked as they abandoned their sinking ship and jumped into the rubber dinghies! 
When my dad arrived home, having lost everything in the sinking Osaka, he was kitted out from head to foot in clothes given to him and the rest of the crew, by the Faroese fishing community.  Such was the camaraderie of the fishing fraternity!  He looked quite comical though as he was wearing a typical, very large flat cap worn by the Faroese fishermen, known in Grimsby as a "Scrob Hat"!  Scrob was/is the affectionate term for a Scandinavian fisherman. 
The rescued crew of the Osako after they had been landed at
the Faroes.  My dad is 3rd from the right on the back row.
(Minus his "Scrob Hat!" 
My dad didn't have much to say about the whole affair, he told our mam that reports about it had all been grossly exaggerated and that the rescue had been a very casual affair in flat seas!  The newspaper reports soon told a different tale though.
The old Osako was a steam engined vessel and was replaced a year or two later by a larger diesel engine boat.  My dad sailed in her for a while before moving to the Yesso of the same fishing company.  He remained in that boat as Chief Engineer until he died of cancer in 1977.   

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Fishdock Races.

You may recall my dad was a deep sea fisherman and sailed out of the fishing port of Grimsby on the east coast of Lincolnshire, England.
Fishing was a hazardous occupation and many lost their lives but there were other hardships involved.  The men would be away for two, sometimes three weeks, depending on the time of year which dictated which fishing grounds they must go to.  When they returned home the catch would be landed and sold to the fish merchants and then it was time to share out the money made from the sale of the fish.  Naturally the trawler owner got the lions share of the profits and next in line was the skipper and mate (2nd in command).  Then came the engineers, my dad was a Chief Engineer so his cut reflected this, and the rest was shared amongst the deck crew.  If they'd had a good trip there could be quite a big pay-out, not a huge amount of money but, as the men were only in port for  3 days at the most they tended to spend it very quickly.  This is why they got the nick name "three day millionaires".
Things didn't always work out so good though.  If the trip hadn't been successful, maybe bad weather had prevented them from fishing or they just hadn't caught much fish, then the sale of the catch would be low and after costs there would be no profit.  They would not receive any "settling pay" at all.  Worse still, while at sea the company would have been feeding them and the cost of this was always deducted from the pay, in some cases the men could end up owing the company!  They had no choice but to sign on again for another trip to recoup their losses and hopefully come back in pocket.
The fishermen's wives didn't have to rely  on Settling Pay to run the house or feed the family while their men were away however, they received a weekly wage from the Trawler Owning company.  It was paid out every Friday afternoon and the wives would go "down dock" to collect it.  The payment wasn't based on the result of the boats fortunes at sea.  This weekly occurrence was known locally as  the "Fish Dock Races" when the women went to the various offices.  It wasn't just the wives who received this pay, unmarried fishermen could nominate their mothers to join the "races" and receive the weekly payment.

One of the best times I remember was going to the lock gates on the dock to wait for dad's boat to return from a fishing trip.  The skipper always radioed home with an expected ETA and the wives could receive a cable (a sort of telegram) which the men had to pay for.  We would wait for it to sail through and the crew would be up on the bow of the boat in their shore clothes ready to either meet their families or go straight to the pubs!  If they saw anyone they knew they would shout out and wave.  My dad was never up on the ships bow as, being the chief engineer, he was below in the engine room  attending to the engines, slowing them up when the skipper rang down.
My dad's Trawler "Yesso" coming through the lock gates after another fishing trip.  The men
are up on the bow of the boat, they did this whatever the weather. However cold it might be
they wouldn't show it by wearing thick clothes, "they were too tough"!  

After passing through the lock pit the trawlers would go straight to the pontoon to be unloaded
that night ready for the fish market early the next morning.

When we had watched it pass through the lock pit we would rush round to the pontoon and when it had berthed and tied up we could go aboard to find dad.  The boat stank of fish and diesel fumes and below decks it was very hot.  That didn't matter though because we were just pleased to see dad again.


Sunday, 8 March 2015


1953 was quite a year with several momentous events and occasions.
It was a very important year for me, from being born we had all lived with my grandparents in their house on Harrington Street, Cleethorpes.  1953 was to see my parents obtain a house of their own and for us to all move away from the house I called home.
In those early years just after WW2 people were still not able to buy their own houses and so they rented a house.  My mam rented a family house on Bramhall Street, Cleethorpes.  As was the custom she rented it for a few weeks prior to moving in to enable her and my grandmother to scrub it clean from top to bottom, do some decorating and generally prepare it for us to move in. 
However, just prior to our moving in there was another, more momentous event, the Great flood of 1953.
Aerial view of the flooding in
the Netherlands.  Image courtesy
of Wikipedia.
It started on the night of Saturday the 31st January 1953 and into Sunday the 1st of February 1953.  A combination of Strong wind, high tide and  low air pressure led to water levels in the North Sea rising 5.6 metres (18.4ft) above normal sea levels and the sea swamped the coasts of eastern England and the Netherlands.  307 people were killed in England but in the Netherlands 1,837 people lost their lives. A ferry sank with all people lost and many fishing trawlers were also lost.  In the Netherlands massive flood defences were built over the following years and similar defences were built all down the English East Coast.  
It was said at the time that it was a freak combination of weather conditions that caused the disaster, "a once in a lifetime occurrence" and it was doubtful it would happen again.
In December of 2013 those same conditions all combined again in the North Sea to produce what has since been called "The tidal surge of 2013".  Thousands of homes were flooded all down the east coast of England, two of the worst places being Kingston Upon Hull and the port of Boston in south Lincolnshire.  As I type this there are still some people waiting to get back into their homes following extensive repair work. 
I took this last week, apart from modern uPVC windows Bramhall Street
has changed very little since our time there.
Back to our new house in Bramhall Street, following all their hard work cleaning it out my mam & grandma had to start all over as the ground floor was flooded and when the waters receded they left a layer of silt, sand and other unmentionable materials.  But, quite a while later we all moved in.  FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY!  The flooding had not only brought sand etc into the house, it had encouraged Black-clocks (large beetles) to take refuge in all the houses and it was infested with them.  My mam hadn't known about them as they only ventured out after dark, as nightfall came on that first night she became away of the problem but it was too late to leave.  We all slept in one bed, mam sat up with a torch.  We though this a great experience but, of course never knew why.  Next morning we "flitted" back to my grandparents house taking with us only solid items that couldn't harbour insects!  I had to leave a soft toy as it was already "home" to the invaders! 
After that false start we were lucky enough to be allocated one of the newly built council houses (known these days as Social housing) on Sandringham Road in Cleethorpes, a large scale  development and part of the post war rebuilding program.  This time there were no problems and we moved into a brand new home, with all mod cons, in April 1953.  It had a coke fired boiler producing hot water, an inside toilet and bathroom and electricity throughout.  She even had a new fangled washing machine, a single tub Hoover with a hand wringer mounted above it to allow the water to drain back into the tub.  It was hired on a daily basis and the hire man would deliver it in the morning and return at teatime to retrieve it. She also had an electric iron that plugged into a  ceiling light fitting! My mam thought she was in heaven!  I wanted to go back to grandmas house!
In January that year I had started school at Elliston Street Infants School.  As we were still living at my grandparents house then it was in that catchment area.  I hated school, I hated it then and continued to hate it right up to the day I left aged 15.  On my first day mam came for me at dinnertime to take me home for lunch and I thought that was it for the day.  Imagine how I felt when she took me back for the afternoon!  I wanted to hear "Listen with Mother" on the BBC light program in the afternoon, as I had done for the previous 5 years!
Elliston Street Infants school. I took this photo last week, as with the houses, it has
hardly changed since I was there.
The house was just across the road from what was to be our house.

A class photo at Elliston Infants.  This is during a music lesson and I'm the cocky
looking boy on the left in the front row with my tambourine!
When the move to our new council house happened I moved to another, closer school,  Bursar Street School.  I didn't like it any more than the previous one but, by this time, I'd resigned myself to having to go to school. 
(Nowadays I would be able to record "Listen with Mother"!!)

An annual class photo at Bursur Street School, I'm sat cross legged in the middle of the front
row.  On the right is Mr. Rudd, the head teacher and on the right is Miss Alport, our teacher.
One of the things about school in the 50's was the large classes due to the post war baby boom.
48 kids in this class!  This was taken in 1955.
This is the following year, 1956 and I've been promoted! I'm now 2nd from the left on the 3rd row from the front!  Mam has put a cross just below on my jumper, (so I would know where I was!)
Again Mr. Rudd is there on the right and on the left is Mr. Cowdroy, my 1st male teacher.
I've already said how I hated school but Mr. Cowdroy made it fun and almost bearable.  The
kids had a nickname for him, he was known as "Rubber neck" due to his long neck.
Life at our new house was, for me, a life changing experience, our garden backed onto open cornfields for as far as the eye could see and the farm was just over the rise in the hill that overlooked our house.  I had come from the middle of a town to the open countryside and all the excitement and interest a young lad could ever want.  I'd become a country boy!
Maybe this new house would be ok after all.

 1953 was indeed a crossroads in my young life and also a big wrench having to leave not only my grandparents house, but also my  friends in that area.
There were one or two other things that took place in 1953.
Queen Elizabeth 11 and her
husband, now Prince Phillip
on Coronation Day. This
image courtesy of Wikipedia.
  Following the death of her father, King George V1 on the 6th of February 1952 Queen Elizabeth 11 was crowned at her coronation on the 2nd of June 1953 to become Queen of United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand The Union of South Africa and Pakistan.
I remember it well as we watched it on TV through the window of a local TV shop, no sound and it poured with rain.
On the same day as the coronation it was announced that Edmund Hillary and the Nepalise Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had successfully climbed to the top of Mount Everest.  It's the highest mountain in the world and the highest
Edmund Hillary, later
to become Sir Edmund
Hillary.  Photo courtesy
of Wikipedia.
point anyone can be while still on terra firmer.  They achieved this amazing feet on the 29th of May 1953, a few days before the coronation.  Why it wasn't  announced until coronation day I don't know, maybe because of poor communications in those days or perhaps the news was delayed to coincide with the Queen's coronation?  Who knows? 
Edmund Hillary was awarded a Knighthood for his achievement.
All I know is I wasn't too bothered about a new Queen but to climb to the top of the world.....well that's something else!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Ferry across the Humber.

The Humber Bridge, seen from the south bank of the River Humber in Lincolnshire.
The Humber Bridge was built to allow road traffic to cross the River Humber from Barton on Humber in Lincolnshire to Hessle on the north bank which was adjacent to the City of Hull.  Prior to this traffic had to drive the long way around to Boothferry Bridge at Goole where it crossed the River Ouse and then drive along the north bank of the River Humber to get back to Hull.
The Humber Bridge was opened on the 24th of June, 1981.
Before the bridge there was another, more leisurely way to cross the Humber to Hull and that was via the ferry boat service which operated from New Holland on the south bank and operated frequent services taking passengers and cars directly to the City of Kingston Upon Hull.  That's it's full name but most people refer to it simply as Hull, which is a great shame I feel.
As a child in the early 50's I remember accompanying my grand parents to the annual open days at the Sailors Orphan Home at Newlands, Hull and we went on one of the ferries.  A great day out for a small boy.  Both my grandparents where raised for a while at the Sailors Orphanage when they were children.    There were two boats used for the crossing so they operated a two way service.  These were the Lincoln Castle and the Tattershall Castle, both steam powered side paddle steamers.  They had flat hulls to cope

with low tides and sandbanks. Occasionally a low tide could mean one of them becoming stranded on a sandbank, it would have to "sit it out" on the sand bank until the tide turned and floated the vessel off again.
I took this photo of Lincoln Castle some time in the 1960's.

The highlight of the trip was when my Granddad took me below decks to the engine viewing area and, through a large glass screen you could watch the huge pistons of the steam engine turning the external paddle wheels that drove the boat.  
When we got to Hull we would go to the open day at the orphanage which, if I'm honest was a bit boring for me!  On the way back to the ferry terminal we would pass a large statue known locally as "King Billy's Statue".  It was in fact a statue of King William 111 sat astride a horse and was more than life size and atop a large plinth.  My granddad told me that after dark King Billy would get down from his horse to stretch his legs a bit!  I'm sure he was only kidding me, ......wasn't he?
When the Humber Bridge opened in 1981 it was the end for the daily ferry service and the boats were sent elsewhere.  Tattershal Castle is now moored on the Thames Embankment in London, being used as a floating pub and restaurant.
Tattershall castle berthed on the Embankment
on the River Thames.  Picture courtesy of
Lincoln Castle was not so fortunate.  After a spell as a floating pub at Hessle, adjacent to Hull, it was moored at the National Fishing Heritage Museum in Alexandra Dock, Grimsby.  Here it was used for some years as a floating restaurant.  However, seemingly without much publicity, it was demolished and systematically scrapped whilst still in the water in September 2010.
Lincoln Castle when she was berthed in the
Alexandra Dock, Grimsby.  before she was
scrapped!  Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.
The ferry crossing was from New Holland on the south bank of the River Humber from a purpose built jetty.  Trains would bring passengers right out onto the jetty, which stretched quite a way into the river to get the required depth.  They could alight from the train and get straight onto the ferry.  Cars could drive down the jetty to be lifted onto the open boats' deck area by crane!
On the other side the ferries berthed at the larger ferry terminal at Hull where they disembarked.
I took this photo on the south bank of the River Humber, from Barton on Humber, in
February 2013.  The large jetty that can be seen in the distance is that of the New Holland
Bulk Terminal Company.  Before this though it was the south bank terminal for the "Castles"
ferry service.  You can still see the jetty continuing to the left out into the deeper water and
which trains ran along!
Historically there was another ferry service across the River Humber operating from Barrow Haven on the south bank to Hull.  When the train service came to the area in 1848 people preferred to take the easier option of direct access from carriage to boat offered at New Holland and the service at Barrow Haven closed.
This is Barrow Haven, the south point of a much earlier ferry service across the River
Humber to Hull.  On the far bank you can see the modern day City of Hull.
Wikipedia describes Barrow Haven as "a Hamlet and small port" and this is just what
it is today.  I took this photo in November 2013.
I have fond memories of the Humber Paddle Steamers, they were from a more relaxed time when getting from A to B in the quickest possible time was not as important as it is today.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Teapots and Rodents.

In an earlier post I said that my granddad (Poppa) was taught music at the Sailors Orphan Homes, Newland in Hull.  He found he had a natural aptitude for music and playing various instruments and became a very competent musician playing to a professional standard.  Some years later when he was married he was offered a place in a London orchestra as a full time professional musician but, as he had a very good job in engineering and a family to keep, it was too risky so he declined.  He said to me in later years that he never once regretted his decision, as music was his pleasure and he didn't want it to become just a job.
My Granddad playing his favourite instrument,
the trombone.  Looking at the letters on the piece
of stage set I think this was when he played with
the Bob Walker Dance band.
Poppa played in local dance bands, the Grimsby Philharmonic Orchestra and the Grimsby Borough Brass Band. 
My Granddad is on the front row at the extreme right with his trombone.
Just below him can be seen where my mam wrote "Dad" on the photo. 

Granddad can be seen here, 2nd trombone from the right with a tin hat in front of him.
He taught music to young students and many people went on to play in various bands & orchestras around the area and beyond, something he took a great pride in.  The music lessons took place in the "infamous" front room at my grand parents house.  You may recall, it was only used for special occasions, well, it was used for music lessons too.  The pupils would arrive at the front door (another exception to the rule) to avoid having them coming through the house and would disappear into the front room for their lesson.  I would often sit outside the closed door and listen to how the lessons were progressing; maybe that's where my love of music was first formed?
Poppa taught musical theory and also how to play the 3 main instruments that he himself played.  The trombone, clarinet and euphonium. 
He played other instruments and in fact could get a tune out of most of them to a standard that allowed him to deputise at short notice if another band member cried off at the last minute.  I remember once seeing him in the orchestra pit at the Empire Theatre, he had been called in at short notice to replace a member who was ill.  They asked him if he could play the double bass and, despite never having tried it, he said he could!  Afterwards they asked him to be the reserve double bass player.
He was once asked to fill in as the percussionist (drummer) in the Grimsby Philharmonic Orchestra, he usually played clarinet but agreed to give it a try.  The occasion was a performance of Tchaikovky's 1812 Overture, a piece of music that required the sound of cannons firing at it's climax and the drummer was expected to produce this sound effect.  As the drummer was positioned at the very back of the orchestra on a raised part of the stage, poppa arranged for a tin bath to be positioned behind him.  At the required point in the music he dropped large chunks of coal over the back of the staging to crash into the bath, making loud booming sounds.  It was a huge success but quite difficult as he had to calculate the delay in the drop to coincide precisely with when the cannons should go off!
You'll probably appreciate how proud I am of my granddad's musical abilities, he could in fact play any instrument and to quote him he "could get a tune out of anything".  This was very true, his party trick was to put a trombone mouthpiece into the spout of a teapot and play a very good tune on it using the lid to change the notes by raising and lowering it!  He also did a pretty good impression of a set of bagpipes by putting the mouthpiece into a length of hosepipe and swing it around while "playing it".
Poppa had a selection of mouthpieces for several instruments that he had made himself.  he was a metal turner on the docks and any scrap end of brass rod would be turned to produce a new mouthpiece.  Many musicians around the town where grateful to Poppa for their custom made mouthpieces!
As I've already said, Poppa was a Metal Turner working on Grimsby Docks for Bacons Engineering.  In those days Grimsby was a very large, busy port with fishing boats and commercial boats which all needed regular repairs and maintenance.  He worked on all the engines and made replacement parts for them. When a boat came into port needing a spare part he would go on-board, measure the part and then return to the workshop to make it.  The parts were exposed to severe friction and wear so needed regular replacement. From very early on he started to keep a notebook of all the boats and the parts that were needed so, when he was summoned to go and measure for a new part he only needed to look up the boat & part in his book and get straight on with it.  I still have that notebook and have reproduced a couple of pages here.  The book is very dirty, remember his hands would be very grimy and oil covered, time has faded it somewhat but it's still possible to read the names of some of the boats.  On the right side I can just make out "Locarno" and "Shepherd Lad".  The rest doesn't mean a lot to me.
Poppa's job record book.
Once a week my mam had to go down dock, I'll tell you why another time, and sometimes I would accompany her.  Before going home we would go to see Poppa at his workshop on Fishdock Road where I could watch him working for a few minutes.  Just before we left he would stop his lathe and let me pull the big handle (it seemed big to me but probably wasn't) to start it turning again!  I remember the loud rumble and the floor starting to shake.  Health and Safety Regulations hadn't been though of in the early 1950's, these days a small boy would not be allowed to even enter the building. 
One last story about Poppa.  He often related the time he was working, in the middle of the morning, in bright daylight, when he and his workmates heard a strange sound outside.  When they went to the door the whole street, from one side to the other was a sea of rats!  They stretched for as far as the eye could see and where running past at an alarming speed, Poppa said it seemed an age before they all passed.  No-one knew where they had come from, where they went, or why they had stampeded.