Potter's Asthma Cure
In the 1920's medical science was in its infancy, and had little to offer in the way of relief for what was then a very distressing complaint. I remember when an attack came on it left this pale, frail little lady gasping for breath. There was only one slight relief, which was to burn on a saucer a spoonful of "Potter's Asthma cure". By inhaling the rather pungent fumes the attack gradually subsided, but we, as children, were full of pity for Maria and wondered why such good-living people had to suffer in this way.
Both Polly and Maria were invariably dressed in old-fashioned black with bonnets to match, and our Sunday visit was to sing to them the hymns of their choice. Their favourites were from the Moody and Sankey Hymn Book, 'Shall we gather at the river' , 'Dare to be a Daniel' and others. No two people loved their Bible as they did.
In those days there was a booklet about the size of Old Moore's Almanac, and against each day was a quotation from the Bible with a space alongside for the Book, Chapter, and Verse to be written in when it was found. Most times it took them very little thought to find the answer, but now and again we, with the help of our father, filled in the empty space.
Invariably, in connection with old Rectories the question arises as to whether such things as ghosts or secret passages came to the notice of those who lived there. Invariably such rumours change over the years; in my next instalment I will recall the ideas we had while living in the old Rectory, and one ' incident' for which we could find no explanation.
After coming from a very small garden at Cambridge, The Rectory garden and its surrounding fields were indeed a joy to all of us. I remember very plainly the walled kitchen garden, with its Asparagus beds, its fruit trees, many of which were trained on wires, the neat paths with low box hedges on each side. There was an entrance door in the south wall; go through this door and on your immediate right was a potting shed, well supplied with shelves, flower pots, and numerous spiders.
Take the left-hand path, which led to the greenhouse, and if it was the right time of year there were juicy Victoria plums which we made sure never found their way into the house. What is nicer than a plum straight from the tree, especially when warmed by the sun? The greenhouse contained four peach trees which were the sole property of my mother, at any rate until the fruit was ripe. She it was who was responsible for pruning, thinning and tying-in the branches each year.
It was her responsibility for thinning-out the fruit when it was properly formed, but, bless her heart, she hated to be as ruthless as she should have been and invariably left too many, this resulting in the ripened fruit not being quite as big as it should have been. Not that we children minded; they were sweet and juicy, and I can easily picture the furry skin, with its slightly bitter taste, which we loosened with our teeth so that we could peel it off and enjoy the firm, juicy flesh underneath.
We always grew a row of Sweet Peas. In the 'twenties' there were none of the delicate, tinted colours obtainable today, just good old fashioned reds and whites, but what a scent they had! A bowl full in a room would fill it with a fragrance which would hit you as you entered. The walled garden itself, on a warm day, after a shower of rain, had a ' smell of growing' which I have only met once since leaving Moulton. The sea breezes on the Norfolk coast take care of that ! But once, when roaming around a similar walled garden inland from where I now live I was taken back over fifty years - and I longed for the opportunity to change my wind-swept garden for the luxury of such surroundings. With the new Rectory not being built until many years later, we enjoyed a large meadow sufficient to support a horse which, harnessed to a trap, was the only transport we had for a few years. there was also a goat which, awkward as goats can be, for some unknown reason would refuse to give up any milk to anyone but myself. As a consequence, this was one of the tasks allotted to me. Another was, in harness with my sister, pulling a very large and ancient lawn mower, a task we hated.
The garden gave us almost everything any family could wish for. In that meadow were two French Walnut trees which bore walnuts twice the size of their English counterparts. Fresh from the tree their flavour was delicious, and never since have I ever eaten any even approaching those from ' the meadow'. Of the apples I recollect a large Blenheim Orange tree which regularly yielded a crop so large that we stored them on the floor of a room over the scullery, later selling them by the bushel for Church Funds.
Was the Rectory haunted? When we first moved to Moulton I slept in a small room facing the brook, but in the summer (especially the long, hot summer of 1921) it was stiflingly hot, so I moved to a larger bedroom facing the Church in the oldest part of the house. This room was really set aside for servants (who we could not afford), and was reached by a back staircase leading from the kitchen.
At he back of my mind I recollect we were told by several people that there was a ' lady in grey', but none of us ever saw her. She was reputed to use this staircase, which was anyway old and creaky; this probably accounted for the three or four times I heard ' creaks' coming nearer and nearer. But it was enough to make me bury my head between the pillows and hope that it was the age of that part of the house, rather than any ghostly reason.
One incident for which I could never find an explanation was in connection with a large cellar which was also part of the oldest section of the house. It was reached by a stone staircase leading from the passage to the kitchen. Because of its dangerous way down and its overpowering smell of damp, added to what we children disliked most of all, a numerous assortment of bleached frogs and lizards of all sizes (there was only one very small window to let in a dim light), I can assure you this area was ' out of bounds' to us all.
We did, of course, explore the cellar when we first lived there. Apart from numerous slate shelves, there was an iron safe, the door of which could not be moved as it had rusted with the door wide open. But apart from the animal life, our explorations yielded nothing.
It was a considerable time later, how long my memory cannot tell me, when my youngest sister and I plucked up courage to unlock the door (my father must have been out!), and for the second time carefully descended the steep stone steps. The dampness, the livestock hadn't changed but imagine our surprise when we saw by the light of our candle, to the front of the shelf, next to the safe, a wine bottle. It had no label, no distinguishing mark of any kind. Just a brown wine bottle, which could not have possibly missed our keen young eyes on our first visit. in addition to having no label, there was no raised lettering of any kind which could have dated it.
Many residents told us that there was a passage from the Rectory to the Church - from the oldest part, which would include the cellar. I often wished I had tapped the walls of that cellar to see if any could be hollow. I believe we all, to a greater or lesser extent, felt that such a passage existed. I was quite sure there was one. The wall on the right-hand side of the churchyard path, a low one separating the churchyard from the meadow, was a perfectly normal one until opposite the large gate leading to the Rectory garden. At that point there was (in those days) a mound of earth covered with grass; at the same place the wall changed into an archway and there was, I believe, a similar archway in the wall opposite the Church Tower, where it made a right-angled turn. It took little imagination for me to picture a tunnel leading from that cellar to the meadow, where it made a right-angled turn, straight to the vestry.
Returning to matters less ' spiritual', with a large house to look after, children to control, and many other duties, my mother had to have help. She was extremely lucky to have a veritable treasure, a Mrs Fenton who lived in one of a row of cottages on the other side of the brook, just before you reached the Common.
Each week she brought a basket of beautifully ironed, sweet smelling washing, no matter how dirty it was when she took it away, and I can recollect how delighted we children were when the first delivery was protected on the top with part of a pink-coloured children's paper called ' Chips' while the bottom of the linen basket was lined with the remaining pages. We made sure there was no paper in the basket when the next load went, and from that moment we enjoyed the weekly antics of ' Weary Willy and Tired Tim' and other characters as fascinating to us in those days as 'Superman' is today.
While the war was on, tea was in very short supply and I know how ashamed I was when Mrs Fenton had to sit down to her ' elevenses' which did include bread and cheese but had to share with us tea poured from a teapot into a jug from previous meals and heated-up in a saucepan. We called it ' stew' and hated it, but it was either ' stew' or nothing.
Before moving to Moulton in 1916, one of the 'jobs' my father was offered, and accepted, was to be appointed as Headmaster, on its foundation, of what was then called the Cambridge and County School for Boys. Similarly, after moving to Moulton he was asked if he would for a short time, become Headmaster of the Newmarket Secondary School, also on its foundation. I, naturally, became one of the pupils and being the Headmaster's son always at the back of my mind. Not being particularly brainy, I know I disappointed my father in many ways. History and English Grammar I could never cope with.
I often feel how lucky young people are these days with their extensive school buildings, their free transport and free meals in certain conditions. Then Newmarket Secondary School was, for a long time, housed in one dreary room at the rear of a Chapel half way down Newmarket High Street, on the left hand side. There were three classes in this one room, divided by low curtains, and if one was bored with one's own lesson there was always the one on the other side of the curtain to listen to !
There was no playground and chemistry lessons were held in a building quite some distance away. Our mid-day meal was always sandwiches, taken with us. Wet or fine, winter or summer, transport was by bicycle, 3 and a half miles each way. which we really didn't mind except when (I believe on purpose) on passing a string of racehorses there were always some that turned their back on you and kicked out. I never appreciated this display! Luckily my two friends, William and Walter Poulter, also attended this school, and I remember how we varied the journey by leaving the road and cycling through the woods on the Kennett-Newmarket road.
I think it must have been about this time that my father transferred to a more modern method of transport by purchasing a 'bull-nose' Morris. I forget the price, but it was quite expensive - nothing like the £100 Ford of later years. There was only one other car in the village, owned by a Mr Lindsay Lane.
There was no garage nearer than Newmarket for repairs, but luckily for us Mr Lane had a Mr Morley to look after and drive his car. Just as Mr Jimmy Poulter was never at a loss to rectify any troubles we had inside or outside the house, so Mr Morley dealt with what was then really an 'unknown bag of tricks', from the needle enclosed in a glass case and forming part of the radiator cap, circling from left to right as the temperature of the engine mounted, to the exhaust which, unlike those of today, lasted as long as the car. One's eye naturally took in the position of this needle as there was a red line beyond which it should not pass provided things are normal.
Morris Motors fixed a seal to the carburettor of every car they turned out and this prevented the driver from exceeding 30 miles per hour until the engine was run-in. Much to my annoyance, my father refused to remove this seal so that if he was stopped by the Police for speeding, he had a cast-iron defence! Our route to Newmarket was generally via the ' Boy's Grave'. There were two reasons for this.
The only tarred road ran from Newmarket to Bury St Edmunds; all the others were ' unmade', boys were paid a small amount for stone-picking; the stones were laid in heaps along the side of the roads (there always seemed to be a never ending source of supply from the fields) and whenever a hole was worn, either by farm carts or other horse transport, a common happening in wet weather, stones were shovelled into the hole in the hope that the road would be made level again.
On a bicycle avoiding action could be taken, but in a car, with tyres narrower and harder than those of today it was, to say the least, rough riding, when a stretch of road had been patched. Apart from the uneven surface, the stones - mainly of flint - broke up into smaller pieces were as sharp as broken glass. A weekly task was to examine and gouge out with a screwdriver, any flints which had penetrated the tyres, that is if the flint hadn't reached the inner tube and left you stranded with a puncture, which happened quite often. This first car of ours needed continual attention.
Every moving part had to be lubricated with what was called a grease-cup, rather like the screw-on top of a medicine bottle. These had to be filled with grease, screwed on to the threaded joint requiring lubrication and turned until grease was seen to be forced out of the joint. On bumpy roads, this was a weekly task, screwing on the caps until they came to a full stop, which meant that the grease had all been used up and the messy job of re-filling the cap with grease on a knife came round again. I remember there were far too many of these caps for my liking; with a handbook containing the plan arrowing every one of these problem points, there was no excuse for missing any one of them. Automatic lubrication was an unknown luxury then. For petrol we relied on two-gallon cans obtained from Mr Lane until Mr Russell Clarke installed a petrol pump. Even then, we always carried a good supply of 'canned' petrol whenever we went on a long journey.
It seems hard to believe now, but on a holiday journey to Lowestoft , the road from Diss onwards was a surface of sand, and we once ran out of petrol three miles from Lowestoft, where we sat until by lucky chance a petrol tanker came along, and managed to drain enough for us to reach our destination.
When one thinks of the refinements of present-day cars, it impresses on me how much progress has been made in the past 50 years. The battery was situated on the running board one side of the car, the toolbox on the other side. No electric horn; a klaxon to make a louder noise in case of emergency, and ordinary rubber bulb horn to warn the cyclists. But woe betide you if either was used within the hearing of a racehorse ! The windscreen wiper had to be operated by hand: protection from the weather was by means of a hood, which folded up behind the back seat when a waterproof cover was clipped over it. In a sudden shower, the time it took to undo the many fasteners to remove the cover, to extend the hood (rather like opening a camp bed) and making sure it was fastened properly to the fittings provided at the top of the windscreen, meant the inside of the car could be saturated.
Protection at the side was by means of ' windows' of celluloid fastened to canvas which was, in turn, surrounded by a metal frame with feet which slipped into holes running along the top of the canvas of the hood; and as there were six of these windows four very much of the same shape, it was more by luck than judgement if all found their proper place at the first attempt. As can be imagined, there were enough draughts in cold weather to make a supply of rugs absolutely essential, especially for those getting on in years.
Mechanically, apart from the dynamo, which was the vital part of these early cars, we had few worries. I do know that Mr Morley was called for far more often than we liked, but he never grumbled, and even in those early days, was always equal to this and any other problems. The car made itself useful in many, many ways.
To help my father to visit, to carry round the village at Christmas time a load of Christmas cakes and pork pies, either of which was available as a gift to the elderly of the Parish. Once it even acted in an emergency to take me to Dr Gray of Newmarket, when an event took place which, when described, sounds far more horrible than it really was. I was and always have been very fond of gardening, but one thing exceedingly foolish to do is to fork up the potato crop in gym shoes. This I did, and instead of pressing the fork with my foot , thrust it into the ground without first making sure that my feet were out of the way. The result was that a prong of the fork penetrated just below the big toe, and I couldn't get it out.
"Wireless Telegraphy", as it was then called, began as far as I can remember during the year 1922: this was probably the year it could be received in Moulton. The set we bought was enormous when compared with the present day, being the size and shape of a very large canteen of cutlery.
It had "R.I" impressed in white paint on the black, flat panel (there was no lid), this being the maker's name, Radio Instruments. Separate from the set was a large loudspeaker, very much like the old gramophone horn speakers; attached to its base was a large milled knob which adjusted the quality of the output, which, incidentally, was never very good, and could be subjected to crackling, morse, and all kinds of other distractions. Nevertheless, this detracted little from the miracle it was then considered.
Standing upright, in a row at the back of the panel, were seven valves, each the size of electric light bulbs, and there were innumerable switches, not only to control the volume, but "grid bias", whatever that was, and in connection with the wave length of the broadcasting stations, two milled knobs, with brass arms projecting, and which had to make contact, in turn, with brass buttons arranged in a semi circle around each switch. Low wave-lengths to the left, long to the right. But we could only receive two stations - 2LO and Radio Paris - they were more decorative than useful. The valves were run from a large "wet" battery which lasted a week, and then had to be charged by Mr Morley, as Mr Lane's house was the only one having generators to enjoy electric light in every room.
So little was known when the set went wrong and I well remember valves lasting only a few days before they burned out. One could normally easily read a newspaper from the light they gave and their price then of thirty-five shillings each, gave us an expensive time. It wasn't until I noticed the filaments gradually burning through and getting thinner and thinner that we realised the fault was in the switch controlling the current passing through the valves. It was a year or two before valves using less current (dull emission valves I believe they were called) came on the market and the weekly battery change was considerably extended. We shared the Sunday night pleasures of St Martin's-in-the-fields and the Palm Court Orchestra with the Sunday evening congregation by having chairs on the lawn outside the sitting room window whenever it was fine and warm.
I was at the age when my ambition was to build a set of my own: not one with valves, of course, but a "crystal set", the parts and method of construction being shown in a weekly publication called "Amateur Wireless". How I looked forward to the next issue giving, not too much at a time, the step-by-step details ! It was all beautifully amateurish, and what was more important to me, reasonably cheap ! A coil made by winding thin insulated wire a given number of times round a wine bottle, covering the wire with candle grease and incorporating the two ends of the wire into the general circuit of the set.
A "crystal", which was a type of mineral ore, was mounted in one end of a small tube of glass, at the other end of which was a coiled piece of wire mounted on a small handle. This ware was given the descriptive name of the "Cat's whisker". These three items were the main parts of the set which, with various odds and ends mounted on a panel and connected to headphones should, with an aerial wire, complete the "receiver".
At the time the law allowed an aerial of not more than 100 feet long, bare, stranded copper wire which had to be strung as high as possible outdoors, with porcelain insulators at every stage to make sure the signal from the Broadcasting station did not leak away. For my set I stretched the regulations by having two aerials running side by sided and separated by two broomsticks. I attached insulators galore, and was immensely proud of the professional look of it. Came the day when I crammed the apparatus on a chair by the side of my bed, and absolutely essential place for it, because the crackling of a fire or the rustling of a newspaper could drown out the sound in the headphones. I was then sleeping in the bedroom at the top of the stairs used by "the lady in grey". But she was very kind and never walked when I was listening in!
I can remember very clearly the moment when, with headphones on, and holding my breath, I moved the cat's whisker gently over the crystal at the opposite end of the tube. Nine-tenths of the area of the crystal was dead and produced no signal when in contact with the wire, so it was some time before I was thrilled to hear music and I marvelled at the purity of tone, so much better than the seven valve "Rolls Royce" of a set downstairs. But there were two snags: one, that the slightest jarring of the set could break the contact between wire and crystal, bringing dead silence: two, the strength of the signal received varied from one part of the crystal to the other.
The expression "comparatively unstable" used in "Amateur Wireless" was an accurate description. Thus there was always the temptation to try to discover a more sensitive area, with the risk of losing quite a large portion of the programme. Irritating, to say the least, when a mystery play was in progress. It was all wonderful fun though, and the upkeep of the set was no more than buying a new crystal from time to time. The annual licence fee was ten shillings, which covered the valve set and, in addition, "one portable set, which set must not be worked by any person other than a licensee or a person residing on the licensee's premises. The licence must be carried by the person working the portable set". Mine was just about portable, I felt. In addition the licence read, "should any other message be unintentionally received, the licensee must not make known the contents or origin, destination, existence or the fact of its receipt. Nor must such details be allowed to be made known. Such a message must not be copied, reproduced, or made use of". I could only presume that messages were broadcast in plain language by the Post Office or by Government Departments, but I never had the pleasure of picking up any of them !
The weekly publication of Amateur Wireless I eagerly devoured from beginning to end. I think half the fascination was that this was an entirely new science which, because it was new, could be quite easily understood even by young people. Improvements in valve receivers came rapidly and crystal sets became more and more compact, varied in design and price. But I was always faithful to the set I had made myself, and it gave me endless hours of pleasure - in winter more than in summer because reception improved immensely after dark.
The mention of the word "dark" reminds me of one particular experiment of the British Broadcasting Company which has since been repeated quite recently, when Beatrice Harrison went into a wood in Surrey with her cello, in the hope that a nightingale would be encouraged to sing while she played. After several tries, with the bird not co-operating, the experiment was partially successful and it was, no doubt, the forerunner of what are now, thanks to sophisticated equipment, some of the most fascinating items on both wireless and television. The introduction of this form of entertainment was, without doubt, a turning point in the life of our country and saw the beginning of the end of musical evenings with the piano and even a very slight deterioration in the art of conversation, which, in another forty years was to become a fact.
When my sister and I were very young, and for several years after we hung up a stocking each, hoping they would be filled by Father Christmas before we woke early on Christmas Day. We were never disappointed, the contents generally consisted of sweets, small model animals and soldiers (made of metal of course and hand painted), while filling the toe was invariably an orange.
To get to sleep that night was difficult. Staying awake as long as possible to see who it really was who filled the stocking meant that it was at least an hour before we dropped off. By my bed was a carriage clock in a leather-covered wooden case with a soft spoon on top which, when pressed, chimed the hour towards which the hour hand pointed. It was a rule that until there were six swift, melodious chimes we could not light a candle and start examining the contents, but I remember long before six o'clock exploring the rail at the foot of the bed to see if the stocking had altered in shape.
I have little recollection of the toys we were given. Apart from the toy soldiers , some on foot and some on horseback, I do remember a wooden machine gun which, on turning a handle, fired wooden bullets which caused havoc to the battalion of soldiers arranged on the carpet the other side of the room. There was also a toy train with one carriage and six curved rails to make a circular track of very small dimensions. Above all, there was a decorated tin toy in the shape of a Punch and Judy stage, about eight inches tall and the same width.
Press a lever down at the side and a painted scene of the characters in the fairy story shot up from the hidden depths to the level of the "stage". Press the lever again and the first scene disappeared and another came up. Press again and there was a third. This was repeated over and over again, but I remember the surprise we had when, a long time after this toy was given us, a fourth scene appeared just once. Try as hard as we could, it didn't happen again so we dismantled the whole toy in the hope that we could rectify the fault: we were unlucky.
The Christmas season at Moulton was a happy time for we youngsters. My eldest sister, who was at Girton College, and my brother who was teaching at a school in Northamptonshire, both joined us. Three things are still mirrored in my mind: Carol singing, Christmas parties, and one year when we had a Christmas play. First carol singing. There were about a dozen of us including Ethel, Edna and Marjorie Poulter, Bill and Willie of the same surname, and Eadie Williams, among others whose names I have forgotten.
A tuning fork to start on the right note, a candle lantern on a pole to supply the romantic touch, and bicycle lamps burning oil or carbide to show us the way. Our method of transport was always on foot, and the farthest point was Lanwades Hall, the home then of Mr & Mrs Sidebottom, their daughter Ruth and son Hughie. To get to the Hall, we had to make for the Gipsy's grave, walk on the main road towards Kennett and turn in the drive where, as far as I can remember, there were two houses in one of which the Williams family lived.
Here we stopped, sang a carol and then went up the drive to the Hall. Here we sang what we know was their favourite carol and not many lines were sung before the front door opened so that the family and their visitors could hear better. Always an invitation to sing a second one in the lovely sitting-room with its log fire, decorations and the genuine appreciation of our efforts. One thing people could never understand was why we never made any collection. We just went round, singing because we liked doing so, and I think we felt we were able in a small way to bring into life the beginning of what we hoped everyone would have - a happy Christmas. We sang at every point where people could hear us. Moulton was, of course, a very much smaller village than it is now.
Practically every house was clustered around the square made up of the village green and the meadow with its footpath from the Rectory to the village store. By the time we had finished we were always hungry, sometimes wet or cold depending on the weather. Our final performance was at the Rectory, where we were regaled with hot soup and various eatables; by the time we had finished it was getting towards midnight, which meant that some of the older ones went straight to the midnight service of Holy Communion. With Christmas Day services at 7, 8 and 11 o'clock we were only too glad to have a quiet afternoon with whatever games we had given us.
My sister and I longed for this season long before it came. It was not just one or two days every year. Even now I remember with gratitude the kindness of family after family who invited us to their Christmas parties. Here we could enjoy game after game without fear of making too much noise, which I am afraid was almost always uppermost in our minds when at home, due as I have said in an earlier instalment, to our father's insistence that we should play quiet games. At these parties the food was always mouth-watering.
The games we played would be looked on by the present generation with scorn, but we loved them. Take just one - "hunt the thimble" - the rules reading "all leave the room except one who hides the thimble anywhere in the room providing it is visible without necessitating the removal of anything. The hider may direct them when they are warm, hot or cold according to their proximity to the thimble. When someone sees it he or she moves quietly away and sits down, taking care not to betray the whereabouts by word or gesture. The game continues until all have discovered the thimble, when the first finder becomes the hider" Curious to relate, we used to play this game with great excitement for quite a while. Living rooms were then overloaded with furniture and ornaments of every kind, which helped to make the game quite difficult.
For some time before Christmas two of my sisters, with Ethel, Edna and Marjorie Poulter, Eadie Williams, myself and others rehearsed a play which we performed in the Rectory Barn. It was based on the three Wise Men taking their gifts to the infant Jesus, and we managed to dress as closely as possible to the usual scene depicted on Christmas cards. I remember the gift of frankincense, although not really accurate was very imaginative.
A small sauce boat, with a lid: a pyjama cord tied to each handle and inside the smouldering cone of a substance which was really used to overcome unpleasant smells. By swinging the sauce boat the smoke puffed out like a censer from the gap in the lid left for the spoon, and very effective it looked. We did think about having our donkey as part of the cast but it wouldn't keep still, so we had instead one of our dogs who behaved for a time, but later had to be restrained by my sister saying in a hoarse whisper "lie down Mike". The text of the play has passed from my memory except when Edna Poulter held out her hands and said "Rough and toil-worn are my hands, travelling life's rough way".
Luckily we had dim lighting because she had the smoothest and nicest hands one could wish ! The play was very much appreciated by the audience and we managed not to set fire to the barn in spite of having only candle-lanterns and candlesticks for illumination.
Children throughout the ages have always been fascinated by water and we were no exception, in the years following the First World War.
As I have mentioned earlier, Prisoners of War were given the task (which probably relieved them of a very boring existence) of digging out, with spades, the brook as it was then known to us, from Dalham to Kentford. In those days, even in summer, there was always enough water flowing to make a babbling brook, and it figured to a great extent in our school holidays, both summer and winter.
About half way to Dalham - and one could walk along the side of the brook to reach it - was a tree-shaded bend in the stream, white wide and shallow, with a nice sandy bed to it. Here, whenever the weather was suitable, we packed up everything we wanted for tea, including an old tin kettle, which, boiled over a camp fire, may have given us at times smoke-flavoured tea, but who were we to mind? The water was not, of course, deep enough to swim in but we paddled in the clear, swift running stream, exploring the shaded parts for any living creatures. The most common catch was a collection of minnows and other small fish which, alas, we never kept under proper conditions and, as they died after a very short time, we were later content to watch them in their natural surroundings. Could there be anything nicer than collecting sticks to boil the kettle, enjoy the warmth of the fire as the sun went down ? The water for the tea came, of course, from the brook and we were none the worse for it. In fact we always said there was no tea to touch it. It is, I think natural when one is older to remember the nice summers of early age and to have no recollections of the cold and rainy ones. It is the same with the winters, 1916 and 1917 were, as I have described, very cold ones but surprisingly enough I can remember one other . The actual year eludes me, But I can remember that for a long time the frost lingered on, and this brings to mind the happy times we had in another part of the brook.
It was quite near to the Rectory: walk the length of the meadow on which the Church clock looks down and a few yards further into the next field was a comparatively wide, scooped out piece of land, through which the brook ran in a very narrow channel. It was here that we managed to jump across when we went for our picnics and it is easy, even now, to re-live the sound of the rushing water and to remember how we hoped against hope that our jump was sufficient to land us in a dry condition on the opposite bank! This "carved out" area undoubtedly arose from the over-flowing of the brook when it was in flood, because even in dry weather the narrow channel was only just deep and wide enough to carry the water. This cold winter about which I remember must have started either with heavy rain or after a period of melting snow, because the brook was in full flood and the area I described had been flooded from one side to the other. Conveniently, it was not very deep and it froze solid, to the delight of every youngster in the village (and some grown-ups as well). we ourselves, coming from a town, had never experienced the joys of sliding and although learning was a painful process, the frost lasted long enough for us to become experts, while the slides themselves became better and better as the surface improved with use. Here again I looked in vain for this happy playground, but the years had obliterated every trace of it. In its place stood saplings and all the other trees and undergrowth seen elsewhere.
The drought of 1921 was so severe that the flow of water never again stretched from the beginning to the end of the year. In 1922 it gradually flowed less and less, until the morning came when we could walk across, with dry feet, without using the bridge. Being lovers of all types of living creatures we hoped and prayed that there would come sufficient rain to replenish the pools which were becoming smaller and smaller; the small fish were herded closer and closer until there was insufficient oxygen to support them, and they died in their dozens. This we noticed in the shallower pools; the deeper ones, especially those in the shade, lost less by evaporation, but still the rains kept away. Eventually they, in turn, became very shallow, and to our surprise we found that quite large salmon trout, which we never know existed, were themselves imprisoned. After a long discussion we felt it kinder to catch them for a meal rather than that they should die a slow and agonising death. So, for some time we rose early in the morning and , armed with pitch-forks, flung them on the bank where one of us was ready to give them a quick and painless death. How many delicious breakfasts we had I cannot remember, but I do know that I was very glad that no rain came. In fact, in the end, the brook was dry from end to end and this signified the end of all "marine" life, which we regretted very much.
By this time my brother, Eric, had left school and chose for his vocation a teaching career, and occupation which he undoubtedly "inherited" from my father. It seemed, however, that whatever school he chose (I remember he studied the advertisements of a firm called Gabbitas, Thring & Co.), invariably, before many terms passed, ran into financial difficulties and he lost his job.
Eventually he was fortunate enough to obtain an entirely different career with the then-named company Shell Mex & Co., being stationed at Barry Island in South Wales. By this time he had a fine baritone voice and he was accepted for the choir of Cardiff Cathedral. This choir took things very seriously and, of course, gave many special vocal programmes such as the Messiah. I can remember him telling us that, to ease the strain on their voices, the men would hang on a string around their neck and under their cassocks, a milk bottle containing a mixture of milk and brandy. This they sucked through a straw whenever the opportunity arose, which I imagine was when the soloists were operating. I have since heard that brandy is the finest aid to a clear voice, although I have never tried it myself.
My brother stayed with this firm until the outbreak of the 1939 War - but this is another story which I hope to recount later on. He had his Shell job at Barry Island for some time, and I know my mother visited him for a holiday and thoroughly enjoyed herself, especially because, as he supplied fuel to the Barry funfair, he was able to take my mother on every amusement, from the scenic railway to the ghost train, without having to pay a penny piece.
In the oldest part of the Priory, above the cellar, facing the Church, was the Moulton Parish Library. This was available on one evening a week for the exchange of books, the title being written in a book and the signature of the borrower against it. With only a few dozen books and no income the library died a natural death, Afterwards, the room was available for whist and dominoes, mostly men using it. This gave me the first opportunity to smoke a cigarette as I found one the next morning only partly smoked, cutting off each end, I smoked the middle, but a few puffs cured me for many years !
Incidentally, I still have one library book on gardening; its age can be judged by the fact that it says Brussels sprouts can be increased by taking cuttings. By the Priory gate were several large trees including a large elm. This elm had two of its branches high up, elbow shaped, and close together. Whenever there was a wind the two branches knocked together and the noise could be heard for some distance.
There were of course no tarred roads, no drains, no street lights and no public transport, except for a Mr Plummer who, as a public carrier, transported parcels and other goods to Newmarket every week. No delivery of milk. It was my daily duty to cross the meadow to French Hall, then occupied by the Robins family We generally had skimmed milk, cheaper than the unskimmed, and on cold days I was always fascinated to see smoke pouring from a drainpipe chimney sticking from the roof of a small brick building where, no doubt, the farm workers ate their "snacks" every morning.
This milk duty lasted until my sister Monica, who always had, and still has a love for every animal, obtained a goat, then a cow. the goat, awkward animals as they always are, gave no milk when physically it should have done. for some reason, probably due to desperation, I was installed on a stool, The goat on a shelf, a pail to catch the milk (unlikely!) and after being given the basic idea of how to obtain milk from a willing giver, I settled down. I still remember the goat looking round with its evil eyes; lodged my head, covered with my school cap, against the goat's ribs and started milking in what was naturally an amateurish way.
To my surprise (I was left alone in the hope that it would give me every advantage) the milk began to flow, the volume increasing as I increased in skill. Twenty minutes later I proudly carried the pail indoors and from that day I had this task before going to school. It has always puzzled me as to why I succeeded where other failed - perhaps it was because I was a male !
It was about this time that we had what I believe was our one and only domestic help. This was after Mrs Fenton had found the work too much for her. My mother, I now, although a first-rate cook, was less keen on dusting, polishing and keeping the large Rectory as dust-free as it should have been. With the number of friends coming over from Cambridge, apart from those locally, it was quite enough for her to do the cooking - and what wonderful meals she provided. I still remember my favourite task was to make a "fence" of split Brazil nuts over the top of the cream trifle after a layer of cream had been smoothed over its surface.
After my father had removed the ornaments from a very large over-mantel, dusted them and the numerous little shelves and niches, I think he realised how much work there was to do, and it was because of this that Dora Bartle came on the scene. It is here that my memory fails me; I remember that she was a very honest, hard-working young girl and I also remember that my sister and I, being too young to stay up late for those evening meals, had our bed-time food with Dora. And how horrid children can be ! We found that towards the end of our supper, whenever we asked Dora if she would like something else, she had one stock answer "No thank you, I've had quite sufficient thank you". A very polite reply, which she repeated each time we offered her something, which we did time and again to hear the stock reply. I often felt a strong sense of guilt when I grew older because Dora was a nice girl and I am sure she had no idea how we were acting in such a bad-mannered way.
Having many young friends in the village we, both brothers and sisters, were extremely fortunate to be able to spend our spare time without being bored or in any way at a loose end. Apart from the usual sports of football, tennis and hockey our imagination helped us to spend many hours in inventing various pastimes which I am sure not many youngsters would find enjoyable to-day.
My younger sister and Marjorie Poulter had a corner of the blacksmith's yard under an elderberry tree which they set out as a shop, and I remember the elderberries, full and luscious, were part of their inviting stock. While they enjoyed themselves I looked through the entrance to the Forge, watching the making of shoes for the carthorses.
Occasionally I had the pleasure of seeing, from start to finish, the operation of replacing a worn-out tyre on a farm cart. I always had a liking for camp fires, so the large circular fire needed to heat the new tyre until it was red hot fascinated me, as did the skill of the Poulter family in knowing the exact size to fit the wooden wheel, knock it on quickly to the accompaniment of clouds of smoke, followed by steam when water was quickly poured of it to contract it as it cooled down. I never knew them to end up with a bad fit. I must admit though, that I hated the smell of red-hot horse shoe when placed against the cart horse's foot, and I always wondered when the nails went in why the horse felt no pain, realising later that it was the skill of the blacksmith that mattered.
Tennis was a family game. It was my job to have the Rectory tennis court ready at all times, chiefly because my father would suddenly say that he wanted to play, and play he had to ! At that time the lawn had not been levelled, sloped gently towards the brook, and was never really dry underneath. What made things more difficult was that plantains flourished by the hundred at all times. there were no such things as "selective weedkillers". There was only on solution - dig each weed up - and had I attempted this, apart from taking weeks, there wouldn't have been sufficient grass left on which tennis could have been played. So I cut and rolled, cut and rolled, until, at a distance, the court looked quite good, and it only remained for me to mark it out and everything was ready.
My sisters and I joined with my father; the difficulty was that whenever a ball landed on a plantain it skidded, which was all right when it happened our side of the net, but not when my father had to contend with it! I am afraid he was not a good loser, especially as he always had the best player, my sister Monica, as his partner. I remember I played with a very old racket with a handle in the shape of a fish tail, loosely strung and oval in shape.
This racket, incidentally, lasted me for many years, even until I was working in an Ipswich Bank where we had our own tennis club. Everyone wondered how I managed to get a ball over the net with it, but earning the princely sum of £50 per annum, I had no alternative but to keep it.
Sometimes we were invited to play tennis at Mr Lindsay Lane's and the pleasure of a perfect court, with back netting to stop the balls, was wonderful. When at home we had no back netting, which meant that when we were down to two balls we had to make a general search until we were up to the number we started with.
I never enjoyed playing team football, but I and Bill Poulter played "shoot for goal" with a football which, because of the war was made of canvas instead of leather and was as heavy as lead whenever it got wet. My brother did play just once for the village team. The football pitch was then at the back of the thatched cottage near the village shop, and I can picture to this day standing on the touch line watching my brother playing on the left wing. I don't think he could have played much because he roused the wrath of the Moulton supporters when he was dashing down the field with the ball by stopping to pick up one of the opposing team when he had quite fairly knocked him over ! Needless to say he was never invited to play again, and I myself made a hasty exit from the field !
At that time, the Rectory Meadow had no houses on it, and as we had some golf clubs, Bill and Walter Poulter and I one day tried to see who could drive the greatest distance, and were it not for a miracle it could have ended in tragedy. Bill had "teed up", and prepared to drive. Walter and I stood watching him, and it was our duty to follow the flight of the ball in case it was lost in the long grass. Unfortunately neither Bill nor I noticed that Walter was standing in the danger zone.
We were using a niblick as the grass was too uneven to use a wooden club. Bill swung and, as he finished his swing he caught Walter a fraction below his left eye, making a deep cut about two inches long. Had it landed just one inch higher it could have caught him right in the eye with the result too horrible to contemplate. The fright it gave us was so great that we never played the game again. Other games we tried were croquet and bowls, both of which were played on the part of the lawn adjoining the gate leading from the Rectory to the Churchyard.
On two evenings a week the older men of the village had their game of bowls before retiring to the "Shepherd and Dog", now no longer in existence. Besides a football club, Moulton then sported a cricket club, thanks to the enthusiasm of Mr Sidebottom and his son Hughie.
The cricket ground was delightful, situated on the left hand side of the Moulton to Kennett road, and nearly opposite the bridge which crosses the brook and was used, mostly I believe, for cattle to graze on either side of the meadow. Luckily the brook, although wandering considerably on its journey to Kennett, kept to the right hand side of the road all the way. The cricket ground was part of the grassland belonging to Lanwade Hall, and with a thick wood stretching the whole length of one side of the ground. It was rarely cold or draughty. As a spectator I spent many happy hours there. In addition, on another part of the Estate, polo was played for a time, but I must confess I was scared to death when a pony came charging towards the area where I was sitting. I had much sympathy, too, for the horses when they were accidentally hit by ball or polo stick, even when their legs were bandaged.
In 1921 Mr Lane's house was burned to the ground. I remember the event well, although I was very annoyed because, although I sleepily went to my bedroom window on the night of the fire, and although I heard the tiles slipping off the roof as if loads of bricks were being dumped from a farm cart, I never put two and two together. Either the flames were hidden by the trees or I was too full of sleep to realise what was happening. the house was being modernised and Mr Lane was due to move in at any time. "Never mind", he said, " we will re-build further from the road".
In the next large house lived the Hensby family. An event I shall never forget is when Mrs Hensby game me a shilling to "spend on sweets". To me this was a fortune, and I kept the shilling in my pocket for a long time before I went to the village shop to spend part of it. One could then buy a penny bar of chocolate which made quite a meal: for a similar sum two "sugar mice" or twenty (or was it forty?) aniseed balls. Liquorice "telegraph wires" or "bootlaces" were all in the Jennings' village store to tempt us.
The Robins family occupied the next large house, and "Mittie" Robins was a life- long friend of my sister Monica.
Moulton Paddocks was then owned by Sir Ernest and Lady Cassel. We felt very honoured when we were invited to tea; what a lovely place it was and what a tea we had. Here I had my first and I believe my only taste of brandy snaps. For several years my sister Peggy and I each received a Christmas present from Lady Cassel of a pound note, such riches I had never enjoyed before, and for safety's sake the note was taken straight to the Post Office to open an account and to add to it every year.
Sir Ernest we never saw; knowing now how he was involved in the financial world, advising in his time King Edward the Seventh and other great men, I don't think he spent much time at Moulton. Although at that time I was very young, I remember the silver on that tea table, and how I was very relieved when I had safely finished my tea without damaging any of the beautiful china. I would add that, thanks to Lady Cassel's kindness, I had a goodly fill of those brandy snaps.
We had various illnesses we had when young - illnesses which invariably spread from one to another of those of us who were at home. There were of course few medicines which could be of any help except, perhaps, aspirin. For the minor childish ailments, such as constipation, there were only two "cures" I can remember; California Syrup of figs, and Castor Oil.
We were dosed with the latter and I shudder now at the disgusting taste which lingered on; even a chocolate could not conquer it. The mention of chocolates has stirred the grey matter to remember a third medicine called "grey powders" These were just as horrible and my mother "tricked" us into trying them by putting a layer of jam on a spoon, then the grey powder, with jam to hide it. But once in the mouth the powder conquered the flavour of the jam, generally plum - about the only sort obtainable during and after the first world war. Eventually, and much to our joy and relief, a laxative was introduced the name of which I cannot remember. It was blended with chocolate and I can remember the advertisement wording ; "Banish the Old Witch Castor Oil". This my mother saw and acted on; never has there been a truer saying and , much to our joy, we had our chocolate and it had the desired results. Which takes me back a few years to the summer just before we moved to Moulton.
At Cambridge we had a tent in our back garden and my sister Peggy and I sometimes had our meals there if the weather was nice. One day my second course was Damson Tart. After the meal my mother came to clear away the crockery and, on looking at my plate, asked what I had done with the stones. "Swallowed them" I said. "How many where there?" "Twenty-two" I thought. Needles to say there was a general panic ! Luckily one of our relatives in Cambridge was an uncle by the name of Reggie Deck, who had a chemists shop opposite the colleges. (I believe it is still there). I was walked down there at high speed to obtain Reggie's advice. Fruit in the form of Syrup of Figs followed the other fruit and I have no recollections of any dire results except that for the next day or two I couldn't be far from home !
My mother firmly believed that when one of us had any infectious illness it helped to soak a sheet in Jeyes Fluid and hang it over the inside of the door of the room where we lay on our sick bed. This of course had little effect as no doubt there were plenty of germs on the clothes. When we were ill at Moulton we had the luxury of a fire going night and day in the bedroom. Measles and mumps I recollect. The latter was extremely painful and I was very disappointed because I caught it at Easter. My mother, trying to console me while she went to church, gave me a chocolate. In a very few minutes I was in absolute agony with my neck glands so painful that I was in tears. Being all alone made it worse but I had just about recovered by the time the service was over.
I know when I was beginning to feel better it was a joy to watch the flames of the fire playing on the ceiling. My mother, bless her heart, waited for me to ask for a particular gardening book, the signal for her that I was on the mend. My father rarely visited us in our sick room. I expect he was afraid he might catch the particular illness we had. In addition, he seemed to be lacking the gift of conversation with a sick youngster and he never stayed with us for long. The most serious and the longest illness I had as a youngster was rheumatic fever. It affected my knees and for weeks I was in bed hardly able to walk. I am sure it was not helped because I was put in a bedroom which, although it gave me a view of the Church and the garden trees, suffered badly from damp because of a faulty gutter outside. My one slight relief from the continued pain was Sloans Liniment, which I rubbed on my knees until the burning of the liniment swamped the pain of the rheumatism.
Those of you who have used this liquid can imagine how the bedroom reeked of the indescribable odour of this very strong spirit. After some considerable time I was just able to walk again and our Doctor Gray of Newmarket suggested a holiday at the seaside, although it was early spring. So off my mother and I went to Hunstanton. The whole time it was cold and cloudy but I think the idea was a change of air for me, and as much walking as possible. I know we often think now that our springs have changed from lovely warm ones to continental cold, but I can assure you that this spring in the early twenties was one of the coldest I can remember. Whether it was the change of air, a drier bedroom or any other reason, I returned to Moulton as fit as the proverbial fiddle.
To change the subject, I don't think I have mentioned the cottage between the Rectory and the old school. In our time it was divided into two. The first was occupied by the District Nurse, the one the other side by Mrs Hammond and her sister Rose.
Mrs Hammond was a sprightly old lady with lovely white hair and a heart of gold. Her daughter Rose was very eccentric and you will remember the Blenheim Orange apple tree which always bore a wonderful crop of apples which we sold for Church funds. This tree grew at the far end of the orchard, on the left hand side, as far from Mrs Hammonds cottage as it could be. We children delighted in seeing Rose scurrying from beneath this tree after collecting the windfalls. At that time there was a path between the orchard and the wall with shrubs each side, and Rose made a dash for this path which led to the bottom of her garden. In those days, with no main drainage, every cottage had a little shed acting as a lavatory.
I always admired Mrs Hammond's which, besides being spotless always had pinned to the door a large illustrated calendar with a scene from the Bible with months of the year arranged around it. I believe they were obtainable from the S.P.C.K. In contrast, the remainder of the shed was papered with the front pages of various newspapers, so there was plenty of interesting reading.
I used this "little shed" on and off when we lived at the Rectory, but after we left Moulton for Lowestoft, I spent a holiday in a tent very near to the school and Mrs Hammond, bless her, gave me meals at the start of every day and many times I enjoyed her calendar and all the news adorning the walls.
I had two or three terms at the Newmarket Secondary School where, as I have previously mentioned, my father was Headmaster. Before then my sister Peggy and I had a governess to teach us at home. In more ways than one this was far from satisfactory. I remember one in particular who was an absolute beauty. Her bedroom smelt of wonderful perfume and I am afraid she was more interested in always looking at her best rather than teaching us the subjects we should have been learning. Suddenly one day she was no longer with us and eventually I went as a weekly boarder to the East Anglian School at Bury St Edmunds, now, in a different and very lovely location, known as Culford School. But more about that later.
While in the Church Choir, and before my voice broke, the choir had their "treat", which was generally spent at Yarmouth or Lowestoft. It meant an early start and I know it was such an exciting event to me that I had little sleep the night before, with many visits to the bedroom window in the hope that the stars were shining well.
Transport to and from Kennett Railway Station was by farm cart at walking pace, which we didn't mind because allowance was made for us to catch the train. I think it must have been a special Excursion because we never had to change trains and we came back in the same coaches.
I never remember us having a rainy day and I was getting to the age when the opposite sex became an attraction. One in particular , who shall be nameless, was everything to me "sweet and lovely". As it was dark when we left the train on its return to Kennett, I made sure I sat next to her (we sat on the thick timber topping the sides) Being my first love, it was heaven to me on the slow journey back to Moulton with her hand slipped in mine.
Thanks to the dark my father was ignorant of what was happening, otherwise there would have been trouble! With times having changed so much since fifty or more years ago, it seems a very great pity to me that young couples now would think it ridiculous for two to find such pleasure and such deep feelings in this simple gesture of companionship leading on to a deep affection. Maybe, one day, everything will be reversed and life will become simpler and more wholesome for those who are young and starting off on the rough road to maturity.
Having read through the 11 instalments written so far, I realise that are one or two incidents which I have missed while dwelling on my very young days - incidents which come to mind much more easily when one gets on in years. When I was six or seven years old and living in Cambridge I was sent to Perse Preparatory School. I cannot remember any of my fellow pupils but I do remember a German who taught us French, a massive, bearded man. His name was Von Glenn and I was terrified of him. What I did to annoy him I do not know, but to the delight of the rest of the class he yelled that I was "the assified son of a Chinese donkey".
I also recollect that he told us one day that when the next French lesson was due he would take us through a selection of French words beginning with the letter 'r'. For the life of me I couldn't roll my 2r's" and I had a sleepless night wondering how he would deal with me, much to the amusement of my fellow pupils no doubt. All the next evening I tried desperately to utter a rolled 'r' but it was hopeless, and I know I dare not tell him in front of all the other boys, so I asked my mother if she would write a letter explaining the situation. This she did, and although I never knew the contents of it, when I held my breath after giving it to him, a sight of relief followed when all I heard was a grunt. I stayed at the school for two terms only, and derived great satisfaction when I heard that Von Glenn had been interned for security reasons.
Incidentally, there was very little evidence of the war which we lived in Cambridge except that when we walked along what I believe was the Trumpington Road, there was a line of trees alongside the road, iron railings between the trees and the pavement and meadow land stretching behind. All the way along were dozens of horses tied to the trees or the railings, while the soldiers groomed and fed them. It never occurred to me that before many weeks had passed the majority of those horses would probably be dead as well as the soldiers who would ride and lead them into battle.
It was during the war years that my father went for short periods to the villages of North Wootton and Heydon to "run the churches" It was while we were at the first named parish that the German Zeppelins started to raid London and other places. Kings Lynn was one town visited; the night in question our mother was hurrying us downstairs and I stopped as long as I could at the landing window, fascinated at the sight of a Zeppelin caught in the beam of a searchlight.
Bombs at that time were very small and were, I believe, dropped by hand over the side of the Gondola. Next morning we heard that one had dropped at the bottom of the hill straight into a water-butt outside the back door of a cottage. Incidentally, the bomb failed to explode.
To return to Moulton. The village school was, as is the case now of the few remaining village schools, the centre of entertainment as well as education. There were then two teachers, sisters known to us as the Miss Erringtons. As well as concerts, one of which I have previously described, we had evenings of varied entertainment, including dances, one of which was named Sir Roger de Coverley, an old country dance with its individual tune.
Two columns faced each other, women and girls one side, men and boys the other. There were three separate movements undertaken by one from one end of the column and one from the end of the other, in each case dancing to the centre of the column before the movement was started. The couple. obviously of different sexes, finished with a bow and a curtsy, then formed with their arms an archway under which the remaining couples passed. In turn each couple facing each other went trough the same procedure. The dance took a considerable time to complete but in those days it was very popular.
On the wall of the school was a small blackboard on which were marked each day the number of pupils present and the number ill. Because of the lack of modern medicines and injections there were sometimes as many as 1 in 5 away. The total rarely exceeded 70-80 which was quite enough for only two teachers. It was about this time that my father bought me my first bicycle so that I could cycle to Newmarket to school. It cost nine guineas - an expensive item in my eyes. It was the smallest in the shop and I found it impossible to reach the pedals so I had to have two blocks of wood fitted in place of the usual rubber. Need I say that here again the help of Mr Jimmy Poulter was available to make the change?
After the usual lessons to enable me to balance correctly, I was sure I knew everything there was to know, so I made a tour of the village, helped to be over-confident by the absence of any motor traffic. After one complete circuit I turned into the gates of the Rectory, where I had a disastrous finish because for some reason I couldn't steer a straight course so I ended up in a Syringa bush. Remembering the old saying "pride comes before a fall" I kept this secret to myself and, until I had a lot more practice, I dismounted at the gate, pointed the cycle up the drive and re-mounted !
By the time these words appear in print, Easter will be over and this event brings back the feelings I had, especially on Good Friday and the two days following it. These feelings I kept to myself but, being young, and living at a time when such days meant so much more to people than they do now, my mind dwelt on the Crucifixion and everything leading up to and following it.
After attending the 3-hour service I busied myself in the coal cellar, sorting the dust from the coal. Suddenly it struck me - today is Good Friday and it was very wrong of me to be doing this on the anniversary of that day nearly nineteen hundred years ago. Feeling extremely guilty I cleaned my hands and spent the remainder of the day acting as I felt I should This feeling was very real to me and was not unusual at all in those days especially in a family such as ours, when we all knelt after breakfast, each on the floor with our elbows on the chair we had been sitting on, while our father said prayers for 5 minutes. Everyone living at the Rectory outside the family had to attend.
Clergymen at that time (and in some cases now) found it quite a struggle to keep their heads financially above water and my father was no exception with a family of 5 children to clothe and educate. The Living at Moulton was above average at that time, around £800 a year, and we enjoyed now and again a summer holiday, always at the same place - Lowestoft - and always at the same time - the last two weeks in August, because this included Regatta Week and ended on the Friday with a superb fireworks display. We even started this holiday when we lived in Cambridge, when we hired a house at Pakefield which a long while ago fell victim to the encroaching sea. From Easter onwards we marked off the days on the calendar, our excitement growing so that, a week before our departure, we were too excited to think of anything else.
Apart from the beach we had two favourite places, the South Pier and the Palace Cinema. When on the South Pier we looked down on the Harbour where, because it was regatta time there were luxury boats of every description, first place by a long way being taken by a large motor vessel owned, I believe, by Sir Ernest Preston.
We were especially envious when we saw dinner being served in a beautifully furnished saloon. When it was fine we spent the afternoon on the Pier listening to a first rate Military Band, also on warm evenings. Coloured lights stretched the length of the pier, casting reflections on the water. If we had rain, our father took us to the Cinema, in the "five-pennies", with a strict rule that if there was a suggestion of love making or murder we were invariably whisked from our seats in one the front rows to the nearest Exit signs.
Needless to say I went out as slowly as I could, looking at the screen in the hope that I could see the completion of the forbidden scene. After our last summer holiday my father decided that I should spend a year at the East Anglian School, Bury St Edmunds(now of course known as Culford School). My education at that time was sadly lacking, as I soon found out.
By the time I reached the age of 14 I think my father decided that the mixture of education I had - governesses, interspersed with a short stay at the Newmarket Secondary School ( previously described, with my father as Headmaster, and with buildings not fit for a school even in the slums of London) and with short periods when my father gave us various lessons at home. so he chose to send me as a boarder to the East Anglian School for boys, now named and renowned as Culford School. This was a Methodist School but to me it made no difference.
It was at that time that my father's health was beginning to deteriorate although he was not what one would call "getting old". His illness caused great distress to the family, especially to my mother.
I can still recollect how ashamed I was of the clothes I had to wear. This was mostly due to the scarcity of money, with a family of five children growing up. Above all I remember the pyjamas made by my mother. They had no collar and were all in one piece, rather like a night-shirt down to the waist, with two shapeless legs and a non-fitting seat hanging down. I quickly jumped into bed to hide this monstrosity but on the first night, being a new boy, I was ordered to the bottom of the dormitory stair and told to dash up if any master came in sight, because a "first night meal" was being held, with food from all quarters.
Getting out of bed, some boys quite naturally poked fun about my pyjamas but luckily there were some very decent boys who made short work of those who joked about me. Down at the bottom of the stairs I never wavered from my duty to watch the length of the corridor along which I was told the master might come. Unfortunately , he didn't. There was a pair of swing doors at the foot of the stairs; suddenly one swung towards me and the master and I were within feet of each other. Above in the dormitory the tuck session was in full swing. All I could do was to follow in the master's footsteps. I shall never forget the look on the boys faces, but fortunately this master must have been a good sort because the boys didn't receive any punishment and, much to my surprise, I wasn't hauled over the coals.
The target for my school session was to sit for the School Certificate a year after my entering the school and I must admit I found myself completely out of my depth in two or three subjects, Being of a shy type I was frightened out of my wits and one subject, science, I had never touched before It wasn't long before the Science Master found this out, and on enquiry I had to admit the subject was absolutely new to me.
However I had no special coaching for this subject so I must have had a natural aptitude for it. Sport - cricket in summer and football in winter - we had for two hours every day and this I hated. For a month or two I had the excuse that my left foot had not yet recovered from my potato-digging incident, when I ran a garden fork almost through it. But I couldn't keep on with this excuse any longer. Sometimes I had to play but when I was able, I locked myself in the boys "convenience" where I sat for two hours, without a book, magazine or any other reading material. Bored I certainly was but my hate for these two games was worse and I was no good at all at either of them, Tennis, which I loved, was unavailable. Now and again we were awarded what were called "puncs", an abbreviation for "punctuality's"- that is, a whole day free from lessons because we had all been assembled in the Hall before nine o'clock.
We had two or three "puncs" at any odd time; we never knew when they were coming until they were actually announced. I remember on one occasion I caught the train for Bury St Edmunds to Kennett, where I met my girl friend. It was a beautiful day and we spent the day together on a country walk, ultimately resting stretched out on a haystack. Apart from holding hands and a good-bye kiss, we were perfectly satisfied and as happy as any couple could be. Incidentally I was in trouble later on when my father heard about it in a way I never found out. Why hadn't I gone home? I was silent but I could have told him the obvious reason!
Many times I was very homesick, especially on Sundays when I missed being in the choir. The masters and pupils were friendly but I looked with longing at the train steaming towards Kennett and happiness. My clothes never improved: they were a queer mixture of all kinds. It was probably because of this that I was given a new entrant, by the name of Salt, who had long black stockings disappearing into short trousers - a queer mixture as I was ! I had Master Salt for some weeks until he had settled down.
My first end-of-term report I knew only too well was a very poor one. I made sure I collected the post from the wire cage until the day my report came. Being very desperate I boiled a kettle and steamed open the envelope. Against almost every subject my position was between 15 and 25. I had a foolish idea to rub out the 1 or the 2, altering the 2 to 1 and leaving 15 to 19 as 5 to 9 (I was never higher than fifth at any time!) It must have been very obvious to my father that the comments on my progress or otherwise didn't tie up with my position in class. I held the report in front of him for as short a time as possible, but a few days later he asked to see it again and although it must have been obvious to him he never said a word. This made me feel extremely guilty and I really worked hard for the next two terms to get a truer and better report. We had our scientifically inclined boys who were always experimenting.
I believe one was the son of a dentist and, with the craze for building crystal sets there was always a piece of thin wire left over from winding a coil round a wine bottle. This boy was named Heighton I'm fairly sure. In our classroom was a large elderly radiator. Above this was a brass switch for the electric light and Heighton found that if one of his hands touched the radiator while the other switched on the light, a tingle ran from one arm to the other.
One evening I was standing beside him and noticed he was holding a piece of thin wire left over from making a coil. Before I could stop him he connected one end of the wire to the switch, touching the other end to the radiator. At once there was an enormous flash, the wire disintegrated and all the lights in the School went out. Why neither Heighton nor I suffered the slightest injury I shall never know but it was an incident that made both of us numb with fright for a considerable time.
The last term came along and with it the dread of the School Certificate towards the end. We certainly worked hard. Up at 7am and an hour's study before breakfast; no sport (thank goodness) and a week before the exam a special ground-floor room had all its windows whitewashed so we could not see out and those not taking the exam could not see in.
One subject I think we all dreaded - Latin - which we felt was a pretty useless one anyway. Our master made us learn by heart the English translation of one particular speech and to our joy there it was for us to translate. I often wondered whether the person who marked our papers had any suspicion when, undoubtedly, all our translations were identical. During the whole of the exam we were treated by the other boys with sympathy. When it was finished I had no idea how I had fared, nor when I would have the result of my labours.
Having left the East Anglian School and finished my summer holiday at Lowestoft, I knew that my father was taking steps to see if I stood any chance of entering Barclays Bank. this depended on the result of my School Certificate examination mainly, but in those days it helped a great deal if one's parents had any contact with the Director of the bank. Having passed the School Certificate much better than I hoped, my father took the next step by fixing an interview with Barclays at Newmarket. Here, known as "Hammonds Bank", they luckily still had a Director, a Mr Hammond who was undoubtedly in charge when Barclays took over on amalgamation.
We waited anxiously for a fortnight, when a letter arrived saying that I was to report to the Manager of their Princes Street, Ipswich Branch on 25th September, 1925. This meant of course that a visit to Ipswich was essential to fix up digs for me to live in. How this was done I don't now remember, but some were found at 27, Alderman Road for the sum of thirty shillings a week, full board.
If I went home at the week-end (we didn't finish until 1 pm on the Saturday) I saved five shillings. I still felt "sub-standard" as far as clothes were concerned, having hard, non-matching collars for my shirts, a black jacket and pinstripe trousers which were wearing badly where I sat down. I think my father realised the situation, so he took me to Edward J Edwards Ltd and purchased me a suit for 49/-, which I never really took to.
I learned the first day that my salary would be £50 per annum, plus a bonus of £10, which meant that just paying for my digs left me £18 short. To cover this, the Bank made parents of every new entry sign an agreement that they would subsidise their son or daughter until their salary was sufficient for them to live on. Incidentally, we queued outside the Manager's Office on the last working day of every month. I received the princely sum of £5 in a sealed envelope. It was many years before Income Tax entered my life !
Every half-year we had what was then called the 'half-yearly balance', which meant working for at least three weeks late in the evening, while for four days towards the end of June and December we could work until the early hours of the morning. For this extra work we received the sum of £1. On starting work at Ipswich I was placed upstairs in a room containing an outside telephone with switchboard and a similar one connecting every room in the building. Ipswich was the first town to change to the automatic telephone and I recollect the trouble I had with the Directors who, if there was any delay after I had obtained the required number for them, continued to jiggle the lever holding the earpiece, just as they did before changing to automatic. In the old days this would have meant a tinkle on the bell the other end, now it cut them off! After a time I managed, diplomatically, to tell them of the new system but there were many stormy bellows in my ear, blaming me over the internal telephone.
The worst I remember was a Mr Gurney, who went every year to Africa, lion-hunting. There were about 60 staff at this Branch. Mr Bland, a very kind and much respected Director, had a leaning towards lady staff and this was the first Branch to have a proportion of them. It was their duty, in turn, to organise a tea every Tuesday, market day. We had a magnificent spread and I learned later that the sum of £2 was allowed every week to cover everything. How times have changed.
Apart from the telephone I had to be at the office early to go with a cashier to the Post Office to collect the mail. A bundle of cheques was then dumped on my desk, which I took to the one adding machine to list them all. There was no other mechanisation, every thing else being laboriously done by hand.
The Chief Cashier, a Mr Clifford E Till was almost an exact double of Mr Neville Chamberlain, even to his hard collar. He was a keen Methodist and immediately took me under his wing, not only asking me to attend two services on Sunday, but also including two evenings a week. I stood it for month or two, gently disengaging myself but doing my best not to offend him.
Alderman Road, where my digs were, was within a hundred yards of the Ipswich Town Football ground. Ipswich in those days were in the Southern Amateur League, as were the "Big five " banks. I made it a habit to support all the Banks, to the annoyance of the Ipswich supporters.
I stayed a year at Ipswich Branch; during that time I was temporarily switched to Harwich Branch. The easiest way of getting there was not by train because one had to change at Manningtree and the LNER made no attempt to have a train waiting to whisk you there. I recollect having to wait over an hour on the only day I used that method of travel. So I switched to paddle steamer. It left Ipswich Docks at 8am and there was a convenient time for the return journey at 5pm. As it was during the summer I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, which was unusual and much cheaper than rail.
On leaving Ipswich I was transferred to Dovercourt Branch and as there was only one man at Harwich I took it in turns to have a day there. I often took a bundle of Bradbury £1 notes tucked in my coat pocket when there was a need for them at that Branch. Travelling by bus there was no worry as far as security was concerned - so different from the situation today. The summer was hot and dry and once daily I had to visit the Post Office and Lloyds Bank by foot, through narrow passageways which mostly contained warehouses. I was warned that one part was infested with fleas and this I confirmed on one particular route! Luckily there were plenty of ways to take on this journey and I made sure I avoided the spot where "little strangers" could be picked up.
Just under a year at Dovercourt then on to Haverhill, where I was a weekly boarder. There were very few trains so I bought a motorcycle for under £50 and brand new at that. The road from Newmarket was nothing but twists and turns and I often thanked my lucky stars that on several hairpin bends the gate to a field was left open, allowing me to use the field as a bolt hole when I was travelling too fast and had forgotten that another bend was due.
The Bank's policy in those days was to transfer junior staff at least once a year during the first five years. In addition my father's health was deteriorating quite rapidly, although he had only just reached his fifty-first year, and I held my breath wondering where I would be sent to next after I had spent twelve months at Haverhill. When the news was conveyed to me by the Manager, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was bound for Bury St Edmunds, which meant that I could live at home. Lucky me! By this time I was no longer a child (except in Surname) as I was twenty-one years of age.
I travelled from Moulton by motor cycle each day, and I recollect that I was still on the same work as when I started in the bank five years back. As I think I previously mentioned it took five years to move from Junior Clerk to Ledger Clerk, and a further five years before one was allowed to be a Cashier. Paying a visit four times weekly to the local bank it strikes me forcibly how times have changed!
There was a tremendous amount of work at Bury St Edmunds, especially on the weekly Market day, when I wandered round the stalls after I had finished my packed lunch. There was generally a 'fly-by'day' man who, whenever there was a clear area, opened a suit case, sold items for ten minutes and then disappeared. I remember one who sold 'gold' wrist watches. After he had melted away, those who purchased them for a pound found that though the hands turned round when the 'knob' was turned, there were no other works inside, and £1 then was worth something.
I travelled daily to the office, including Saturdays, without any recollections in my mind fifty years later, except for one incident. It was summer, and as I returned home three miles from Bury I met a tremendously large, black cloud with forked lightning flashing to the ground. I did not like storms, and I remember there was Public House I was just passing. I asked the landlord if I could shelter, but he said "No". So I had to continue my journey with lightning and heavy rain on top of me. I opened the throttle of my motorcycle as much as I dared, and came safely through. Week-ends became more and more worrying, especially for my mother.
Some Sundays, especially mornings, I was alone with my mother, and my father was out in the motor car. he was only just punctual, or even a few minutes late for the morning service. When he was late it made my mother and I absolutely petrified in case he did not turn up at all, and by this time the congregations were decreasing in number, quite understandably.
By this time my father's health had reached such a bad level that he was forced to retire. He and my mother moved to a house at Oulton Broad and I remember the last time I saw him, before his death he was bedridden and worried about everything, it was really a happy release for him and my mother when he died. After his death the Bank moved me to Lowestoft Branch so that I could live with my mother.
© HJ Child
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