Memoirs of Harry Huyton
Note: to go to the footnotes click on the underlined numbers e.g. (1) in the text.
These are recollections from 1910 onwards. They were penned by my grandfather who was born in 1897 and lived in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
I had seen the original notes, which my grandfather was making, a long time ago in the sixties when I was very young. For some reason I remembered these quite vividly and often wondered what had happened to them. The way I remember them was that they were hand written in spiral-bound journalist's notebooks. There were a lot of footnotes.
Recently I was corresponding with my Aunty and I had mind to ask of the whereabouts of my grandfathers memoirs. She very kindly sent me three typewritten booklets and several other sheets which grandfather had painstakingly typed himself from his original notes.
I have re-typed everything and edited things slightly but at the same time I have tried to maintain the flavour of the language in the originals.
The stories and memories contained within the following pages are very important to me as I feel that they go a long way in to explaining where I come from. I have amalgamated the three original documents here: "A Grocer's Boy," "Oilman & Chandler," and, "A Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery," and I have also included some of the other notes which my grandfather made in the form of several documents with the titles of, "Times Have Changed," "I Remember," and, "Changes I have Seen."
I remember some of the places that my grandfather mentions here. I remember the house in Burscough Street and seeing the aftermath of the fire. I also remember going once to the chip shop with an empty casserol dish just to get chips - even though he doesn't mention that. I remember Ruff Wood and also the pond in the park where he used to swim. In my childhood I went there to fish for sticklebacks and brought them home in jam-jars for which grandad had made string handles. I also remember Ormskirk market, especially the brittle toffee. What was it called?
I have a photocopy of a photograph of my grandfather with his van and horse. It is on the wall above me as I write this. I would really like to know which horse it is. Is it Tommy or Bobby or Duke?
Stuart Huyton, December, 1999
My Work-a-Day World
A Grocer's Boy
Having got a full attendance with good conduct and having a job to go to, I was able to leave school. My age was twelve years and nine months.
Before this, I had been delivering milk for Mr Tweddle, whose dairy was in Southport Road. It's a vet's surgery now. In the summer, I would take and tend some cows in a field a mile away on the old cobbled road going towards Southport. One Sunday morning Miss Tweddle went to a front door where a brother [of the occupant] usually calls at this time. The man of the house came only in his shirt and on seeing her, flew back up the stairs. This made matters worse.
It was in February 1910 that I started with Messrs Daish & Salter's, the grocers in Church Street. The hours were from 8am to 8pm and 10pm on Saturday's with a half day on Wednesday. The wage was to be 4/- (1) a week. The manager, Mr J. H. Carr, asked my first name. On saying, "Harry," he said, "Will call you Henry, as we already have one."
My first job was to scrub the bacon counter and boards, then the seat of the house of parliament at the top of the yard, this is of course the lavatory. The brass scales and the front door handles had to be polished with vinegar and brickdust. Hot water was on tap next door at 'The Three Crowns' Hotel. The landlady was Mrs Banks and it is now an outfitters. At the rear was Sumner's garage.
My next job was down the cellar to clean fruits. The method was to use a riddle with circular wiring, rub with your hands and the stalks would fall through. You had to watch for small stones and nails. I started with currants, sold at prices ranging from 4d to 6d (2) per pound, then sultanas, raisins and finishing with the prunes which I had to polish with a little syrup. There were two qualities 60 to a lb and 70 to a lb.
After Monday, I would take the groceries out, using an oblong basket with side handles. I could carry this best on my left shoulder. If it contained a large bag of flour (home made bread and cakes then) and a week's groceries - it was heavy enough. If the load was too big to carry, I'd use a small handcart.
The worst road in the town for the hand-cart was Church Fields, the way to the "Athletic Grounds," taken over later for the County Road. Coming back from the bottom of the hill the cart would weave from side to side.
I remember on one occasion, whilst stopped opposite Tweddle's dairy, (now the vet's) a lady on a cycle coming round the bend of the road lower down than the Drill Hall (Civic Hall now), must have lost her nerve. She called out, "Save me, save me." Well what could I do? I was very thankful when she exclaimed, "Oh I am all right now." I never found out who she was, probably from Halsall or Scarisbrick.
One Saturday night rather late, I went to a house in Church Alley where the old lady gave me two cream crackers with raspberry jam. These are my favourites even now.
After about a year when I was stronger, Mr Carr mentioned about me riding the bicycle and on saying my legs were not long enough he retorted that I must go to Jones' ropeworks to get them stretched. The following Wednesday half-day I borrowed the bike and got going up and down Halsall Lane, where my home was. I got used to the carrier which was ideal with some bricks in it.
Mr Carr was a great cyclist. He would take Mrs Carr about in a trailer attached to the rear of his cycle and I think he was so understanding because of this. Once when my foot slipped off the pedal of the carrier bike breaking a bottle of sherry, he calmly put another bottle in the basket. I thought a lot of him, though strict in his training. I was always glad of it in later years.
One time he watched me coming down the stairs with a load of something and remarked that that was a lazy man's load. On another occasion I had been moving and stacking in place some 56 lbs of Sunlight Soap and had just sat down when he came on the scene. He should have come some minutes sooner!
Our haircuts cost 2d at Barber Lea's opposite the church. He used shears too much for Mr Carr. He advised going elsewhere and having some fringe left on. Telling Mr Lea he left some on.
When I was fifteen I started to deliver to the country with a horse and van, making me quite proud. I would travel as far as Parbold in the East and Halsall in the West. I had an unfortunate occasion in the Rectory yard at the latter named village. Before taking the goods, it was the thing to fasten a wheel of the van and having to take the items indoors this takes a little more time. On returning to the van I found the horse had moved. With one wheel being fast and the other being free, he had gone round in a circle eventually falling on his side, mixing up the remainder of the load. The moral was to fasten both wheels.
More trouble another time. When going down over the canal bridge at Ainscough Mill at Parbold, the horse stumbled and fell on his knees. I think I had made him nervous with holding the reins too tight. Ever after I used slack reins but firm in my hands. The horse's knees were bruised so I covered same with some oil from the inner side of the wheel. Old Herbert the horseman made me put kneecaps on his front legs.
I must tell of the six foot figure of a Chinaman that was placed in the shop advertising tea. After frightening a gypsy and others it was eventually moved to the top floor. When a new boy started, we would send him to that room to test him. It is now in a museum.
A trick done to new boys was to put a funnel in the waist of their trousers, balance a coin on the forehead to be dropped in it. Whilst balancing, another person would pour water in it.
With a black pony I used a lighter trap and delivered in Lathom and Parbold districts. Fortnightly I went to Lathom House which was nice to see it in all its glory. In the stable yard I once saw a groom, I could tell by his clothes, washing a car hissing as if he was grooming a horse. This amused me very much. I told him about this when I married one of his nieces a good few years later, then he related about his duties in London driving his Lordship in a carriage and pair.
One story he told that his Lordship and guest were shooting deer in the home park. When one was shot, a groom's boy had to bring a pony and truck to cart away the animal. The Earl's companion exclaimed, "How could a lad load it himself?" The Earl knew that the lad would unyoke the pony, fasten the traces with a rope over the front of the truck to the deer, and so pull it onto the truck, then reyoke.
I remember seeing the result of the railway accident on the south side, Moor Street bridge.
I got promoted to be warehouse lad. The duties were to receive merchandise and store it away. In time I could stack 2cwts sacks of sugar, rice and soda three high. There was a knack in doing so. On the second floor was a coffee mill, to be used by hand. It had a big wheel and handle and was not too easy. Two bales of bacon (eight sides) would arrive Wednesdays. These had to be scraped, dusted with rice flour before leaving at one pm when a Gorgonzola cheese came in a basket. We would say, "Put a weight on it in case it walked away."
Members of staff included: stern Mr T. Wright; Jim Johnson from the Talbot Hotel, (on one special Saturday night, he brought a large jug of hare soup from home which was a treat for us boys); Will Dutton, he lived at the Swan Hotel, Burscough Street; Harry Halton, he left to be an inspector at Rushton's wholesaler's of Wigan; Ben Meadows who cycled from Weld Blundell, Lydiate.
Also: John Monk, of Southport Road; Hughie Hastings he lived in Aughton St. I must not forget Lawrence Sulivan who, on one Monday morning on his usual task of window dressing, got stung with a dead wasp. He had rested his elbow on the floor of the window. This chap liked to go next door for a drink of beer and on coming away would crush a coffee berry in his mouth. Also Jimmy Forrest whose parents kept a chip shop opposite the Parish Church. Miss E. Hodge lived at Cherrytree Farm at Aughton, was seen in the pay desk and on leaving, Miss L. Hunter from Derby St. took her place. The latter was promoted to the office when Miss Martlew left. A new comer to the paydesk was Miss E. Mayson, of Aughton Street.
It was winter time and over the weekend snow had fallen heavily. One Monday morning, on opening the office door where she worked, Miss J. Martlew cried on seeing the mess: deep snow and broken glass. Needless to say the books and papers were in a bad state. When the roof was repaired a metal grid was placed over the glass to prevent a recurrence.
Hughie and I would take a sack of sugar on a truck to next door Messrs Wood's, confectioners. The sack had to be lowered down the cellar steps and emptied into a bin. I would go to Messrs Cammack's pop works up Moorgate. I liked going because I always got a free drink of pop. The building is now used by Messrs Hesford's engineers.
One Wednesday afternoon, Mr Daish having some business to do in Blackpool, took Jimmy and I with him. It being my first visit, I was very thrilled. We had three hours stay, Southport had been my limit before.
The newcomers to the town, I remember Hesford coming to Southport Road, the Massey family to St Helen's Road, Mr Hindle Robinson and Family to Southport Road, and the Pettoners.
By now I had had several rises in wages without asking. The time came when I thought should have another one, on asking Mr Daish he said did I deserve one? Answering, "Yes, sir!" I got another shilling.
About recreations, there was the Coronation Park for football and cricket on Wednesday afternoons, swimming in the lake, we learned to do so, changing in the pavilion.
On August Bank Holidays there were swimming races and games of polo.
On one summer's day, the water was more shallow. Diving in I touched the bottom with my head. I remember going under twice and a thought came into my mind not to struggle, my feet went down and I stood up. I have told others in case of needs.
I had now a cycle of my own. One weekend I cycled to Brinde near Chorley, to stay with a pal, Harry Shacklady, who lived in at Mr G. Barton, a son from Aughton Hall Farm. Not allowing enough time to get home on Monday, I was nearly an hour late. Mr Carr was kind again and excused me.
The firm now had an electric coffee grinder and a machine for cleaning fruits.
On 4th of August (3) , the Great War started. Mr Johnson in the Territorials was called up, Ben Meadows enlisted but I, being only seventeen, was able to stay longer.
Alas, after nearly five years, at the end of the year I had to leave because my father needed me to help with an oil business, travelling the districts with a van retailing paraffin oil and chandlery. This was a big change in my work-a-day world.
As an Oilman and Chandler
In our early days, retailers of paraffin oil were classed as oilmen, travelling the districts with horses and vans, catering for lamp lighting, cooking stoves and heaters.
The discovery of oil in the North Sea, has created a clear turnabout to the term of oilmen, for our Country, this means a different class of work-a-day life, thus making a change we are not yet used to.
Having been an oilman for fifty years, the oil was then imported, mostly from America, coming as crude oil then refined in this country. During this process, petrol is the main product, paraffin and lubricants.
For thirty years I travelled with horse and van, selling also, all kinds of soaps, washing powders, chandlery, lamp glasses and all the fitments for the oil trade.
To show that this trading was most essential, advertisements for certain goods listed as sellers, grocers, chemists and oilmen.
Being classed also as a hawker, had to pay £2 to the excise authority, but when driving a motor-van this payment was not made being instead classed as a mobile chandler and oilman, a nice change.
In the 1930s my brother and I took over the business of two vans, which we had built up selling about 30,000 gallons a year, later, intermediate changes were coming about, with gas and electricity being installed, this being another change.
The delivery men bringing our soaps and washing powders often remarked that we were the biggest buyers in the town. Common soda crystal was a big seller, but we had to buy this in 1 ton lots and cart it from the railway goods yard ourselves. This was sold 2lbs a penny, 7 lbs for 3d. Little is sold today, another change.
With the advent of detergents and biological powders, a big change had come about, taking the toil out of washing.
On retiring in the 60s, the business was passed over to relations but owing to the oil trade diminishing and the growth of supermarkets, eventually phased out.
After working at a grocer's for five years, I found being an Oilman was a great change. My father had been an Oilman for Garside's for twenty years, a trade that was very essential. Such a lot of paraffin used in those days.
The latter part of 1914, he was offered the oil business of Mr Woosey in Derby Street. When giving his notice to Garside's this firm decided to give up that side of the business. This put my father in a quandary, knowing the past capabilities decided to have both concerns. With the help of a brother, did so, and started in January 1915, then I started my new job.
Woosey's let us have their yard, store places and two-horse stable. The horse had to be destroyed, wanted so, being a pet, the driver carried a small bucket, bottles of beer, giving it drinks at the bottom of hills. We did not want this caper.
We bought a mare from the Remount at Lathom, to pull their van. My father still had the horse he had been driving.
I had a lot to learn, there seemed to be happy trade relations at that time. Paraffin was 9d a gallon, soap 4d a lb, soda 7lbs for 3d, pegs 24 for 1 1/2d, shovels at 10d & 1/- (6) , yard brooms 10d, 1/- & 1/2d, dollies 1/8d & 1/10d, Hudson's & Lively Polly washing powders 1d each. None of your modern detergents.
After a few months we ran into some trouble. Coming home from Rufford, the crupper strap broke behind the saddle, causing the breaching to dangle on her hocks. Being a mare nothing worse could have happened. She started lashing out with two hind feet, breaking in the front of the van, just missing me.
Got one leg over the shaft and started running away. I scrambled out being powerless. Nearly a quarter of a mile on, she stopped, tried to turn around, got jammed and started kicking the side of the van in. On arriving, I got her quiet and unyoked. It was good that there was a farmyard opposite for me to leave the van. I found the inside of her leg badly bruised.
On leading her home, father told me of having sold the mare that day, of course this [accident] took some value off. The next day had to take the replacement, to bring the van home, to refill and go out again.
Still getting good supplies and doing well. Our predecessors Woosey's used to blow a bugle, letting customers know the van was coming and to get their oil cans ready. We carried on the custom. It seems that the original Mr Woosey had been a bugler in the army. On leaving he started with a handcart selling paraffin. Using this bugle sounding a call like, "paraffin oil," he became a character. I could remember him, always seemed to be wearing thigh boots, and independent.
Monday's, went to Parbold through to Rufford, took our food with us, eating it at The Farmer's Arms, Bispham. It was pleasant here, the landlady knew a lot of Ormskirk people, they called when cycling and hiking. Tuesday, had our dinner at the Old Mill at Rufford going on to Martin Mere and New Lane. Wednesday it was Halsall, Barton and Haskayne. Thursday to Lathom through to the Bull & Dog, ending in Scarisbrick. Friday to Westhead, Scarth Hill and round to Aughton. Saturday a smaller round, into Halsall Lane and Cottage Lane.
At a house on Martin Mere a customer gave me a white feather, must have thought I was older than I was.
When my 18th birthday came, I enlisted under the Derby Scheme to join the army when 19 and wore an armlet to that effect.
John, an elder brother, was in France in the King's Regiment. He advised joining the Royal Field Artillery, doing so I carried on [working] till April 8th having word in the meantime to report at Fulwood Barracks Preston. Hope to record my army life.
A Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery
Having took the King's shilling, joined the 'Derby Scheme' in December 1915, so on the following 8th of April I was called up.
Before this, my elder brother John in France in the 'King's', advised me to join the artillery, doing so, had to go to Preston.
On the way met Tom Rimmer, a farmer's son of Clieves Hills, so had someone I knew to pal with. Arriving at Fulwood Barracks given a number 118547, height 5 ft 10 1/2 ins, and made a gunner, in the R.F.A. (7) Getting settled in, the Corporal advised us to put newspapers between palliasses (8) and blanket, these would absorb any dampness, and I must start shaving.
Most breakfasts of cold boiled bacon with sauce, I did enjoy, of course we had to make the best of anything.
An Aunt, advised me to have a bottle of Neats Foot Oil mixed with metholated spirit to rub nightly on my feet, must say, was never footsore on my service.
We soon had to attend lectures, the first subject was to keep away from women and wine, told our pay would be 4/- one week and 5/- the next, moral, couldn't afford to.
During our drills, if we were slow in doing them, rude remarks from the N.C.O. about being in Moor Park the night before.
Good thing, had been used to horses, gunners had to help the drivers (under 5 ft 9 ins) to groom them, we gunners were never taught to ride. I was sorry about this in an escapade that I had overseas.
Having done a lot of walking, our route marches came easier to me than most of the chaps. We would do about ten miles or so with ten minutes rest every hour, would have a band leading.
Once attended a military funeral, the Dead March for over a mile from barracks to cemetery seemed never ending.
The guns we had to learn about were 18 pounder's with passing out in three months. The next stage, being moved to Woolwich, this is a real military place, for regulars. I got two day's C. B. for going sick with ear-ache.
A fine sight on the Sunday morning church parade, with the band being fully dressed wearing Busbies.
After a week, on parade complete with full rigout to go to Mesopotamia, was cancelled at the last minute.
Awaiting new orders, I was able to visit London, this being my first time. A week from the first parade attended once more, this being successful, for France.
Setting sail from Southampton, landed at Le Havre, early morning, in the third week of July (9) , so started a new phase in my life.
On the way to the base, we were greeted with enthusiasm by the French people. On arriving were put in bell tents and on checking us the N. C. O. said I could not go in as I wasn't 19. How did he know? I stuck to it, this being my correct age so kept with my pals.
The day after went before the doctor, this question [of my age] arose again, the law being that one had to be 19 on active service, convincing him was allowed to stay.
Passing out again with guns, were ready to go as re-enforcement's to the battle front. Starting in alphabetical order, several men would go to one unit and so forth. I was disappointed, my pals with further spaced initials had to go with others.
My destination was the Somme front where a battle was raging. I had to find the wagon lines belonging to A Battery, 103rd Brigade, 23rd Division. During the darkness was taken to the guns.
On meeting new comrades, found a corner in the gun pit to sleep till morning, the guns firing didn't keep me from doing so, must have been tired. At parade time was able to have a look around. On this, got picked out to be a Bat-man to Lieutenant Morton, something more to learn, such as attending to comforts, but not his food. This was a mess affair, with an officer's cook to cater for six to eight on the staff, batmen had to join also, for separate meals and general help, washing up etc. no duties with the guns.
This officer owned a mandolin, never heard him play. I had to take great care of it, got a little extra pay and his cigarette ration. I did not smoke, made a pal who was glad of them, making a swap with him, for malted milk tablets he received from home. His name was Harry Stapleforth, a mention of him in the peace years.
The battlefields were gruesome, several of our early tanks were abandoned, dead soldiers lying about, buildings etc. forest's in destruction. I had to use self control to carry on, the rum issue helped us.
One evening, I dug a trench to sleep in, being safer below ground level. During this night had heavy rain, I slept on and in the morning could not move, only shout. The chaps lifted me out, gave me rum and hot tea, was lucky I had no ill effects.
In the new year the division moved to the Ypres front, taking a week, mid way I was suffering with my back as if it was on fire. At night resting asked someone to see if I'd a rash but nothing could be seen so I could not go sick. Getting to our destination, went better. Soon after, my boots went done, could only get size 11s instead of 9s. Out of the blue came a parcel from Cottage Lane Mission one of the gifts being a pair of lovely thick socks, an heaven sent help to go with the bigger boots.
When possible, helped the cook, learning at the same time, this helped later. About May, moved again to near hill 60, on this journey I lost the said mandolin also my job, going back to main duties.
This hill had been mined, in the previous evening to being blown up, Lt Morton took me as a runner, if telephone wires got broken I would have to take the messages. These wires were laid and used to send them to the battery of guns during the action.
We were waiting down a sap about 40 yards deep, at dawn June 7th (10) the bang came, the earth rocked like a ship, the infantry went over first, then our crew, as we advanced word was phoned to increase range of firing. During this action and going along a previous German trench a sniper of theirs spotted us going round a corner and fired a shot, I was the last of five and got hit.
It was a flesh wound at my left side, falling I remember calling 'mother'. I got up quickly to follow the others, reported this, used a field dressing all that was necessary.
In a German dugout found a tobacco pipe, it was unique, one of four parts, thoughts of a present for Father, also a leaflet what 'they' are going to do to us, I still have this, reads - DEAR TOMMY, YOU ARE QUITE WELCOME TO WHAT WE ARE LEAVING, WHEN WE STOP WE SHALL STOP, AND STOP YOU IN A MANNER YOU WON'T APPRECIATE. "FRITZ".
About a fortnight later, a shell hit my dugout, being daytime I was elsewhere lucky for me. "He" didn't like the idea of the pipe being taken, hitting my haversack and of course breaking it. Coming to see what had happened, found my friend the cook had been hit with a piece of shrapnel in his arm below the shoulder. Taking his tunic off I set about putting a tourniquet on his arm higher than the wound and took him to the dressing station. His name was Fred Whybrow, from the east end of London, will refer to him again.
Had 12 inch long candles for light in the dugouts, one would be lit all day for the smokers, also all night. Once whilst asleep something went over my face. Sitting up I saw it was a huge rat, it appeared to have a diseased back, killed one like it two days later.
Come July went on another part of the front, having finished my dinner stooped over a bowl to wash the dixie tin, felt I was hit in the arm between the wrist and elbow, then heard the whiz-bang coming then exploding quite near. Getting some of my belongings together, made my way to a dressing station. After dressing the wound I received a pot of tea which I vowed was the best I'd ever tasted. Then went to a base hospital at St Pol, here had to borrow a razor, had left mine behind in my hurry. Being an open one and using my left hand, also the first time using one I really was nervous.
The German bombers dropped bombs three nights in succession but this place was not touched, in the meantime the doctor probed my arm for the piece of shrapnel, not finding it my arm began to swell. The next day the doctor put me on a list to go to England, that's what I was hoping for, so Blighty was the place for me (the song).
Three days later arrived at the port and set sail. On board got our first taste of dark bread, we did have white, overseas. Got a thrill with the first glimpse of the white cliffs of Dover.
At the railway station was put on a train for the north, eventually arriving at Sheffield. [We were sent] to a hospital that had been a poor law institution and after settling in went under an x-ray, proving where the shrapnel was, from its entrance was three inches and embedded in the bone. Two days later a coloured doctor operated and took out the piece, which I kept for a souvenir.
Soon on my feet and able to go sight seeing. One place I was interested in, the Vicker's steel works where our guns were made.
A month later went convalescent to Lord Sheffield's place outside Scunthorpe. [We] all enjoyed this, with each meal had music on the electric organ. Here I learnt to play billiards, having baths galore, making up for being without, out there, had a chance to play tennis, wasn't interested.
Another month over, was due to be sent on leave (sick), should have seen the M. O. (11) I volunteered to go game beating on the estate so was a week longer here. Going home, our folks had moved to Wigan Road, so that was my next port of call.
Waiting for word to go back to Preston to start again, was astonished to get notice to proceed to Tipperary in Ireland. Our ship from Liverpool was a cattle one and having a rough crossing no one enjoyed it. [We were] glad when we arrived at Dublin, then by train.
Might have been on a holiday there being nothing to do, only pictures and dances. Now February had come and the next move back to England to High Wycombe, half way from Oxford to London. This was a furniture-making town. I would see spindles, chair legs turned out as quick as saying your name. Being boarded out to civilians was my first time and quite enjoyable. Here I met Fred Whybrow the late cook, his arm and hand had withered I was sorry to see. He was quite cheerful, never heard of him again.
Now it was March and the Germans had started an offensive, again went to France, got attached to the A Battery, 296th Brigade, 59th Division. Just prior to reaching my destination, one of our party got wounded well above the knee. I used another tourniquet, saw him to a dressing station, this was the total war he had seen, never heard of him again.
Found on arriving at the battery they only had 4 guns, the usual strength being 6. These 2 had been used as anti-tank weapons, quite near to the front and had been captured when the Germans broke through. Two days later appeared to have broken the line again, orders came turn our guns to the rear, a false alarm but did eventually fire to our right to hold in check.
Our shells measured about 18 ins by 3 ins, as well as being percussion, that is, exploding on hitting the target, could set a fuse to explode in the air, with 365 round lead balls could be devastating over a company of the enemy.
A German shell exploded about 80 yards away, a piece of it came whizzing just over my head, it looked like a piece of a broken cup.
About this time, coming to my 21st birthday, a parcel had been sent to me from home, it contained a wristlet watch, must have got lost as I never received it, the one consolation I was still alive.
We gunners got relieved at times, having a spell at the wagon lines, duties now to help groom the horses and getting cleaned up, at times taking a turn going to the guns with supplies.
On one of these trips, on our return journey were spotted by the Germans and hell was let loose. To a wagon six horses made a team, two abreast with three drivers, I was in the middle. The gunners had never been taught to ride, a mistake, I lost my stirrups, had to hold on like grim death, had the wind up.
Whilst here I spent a day at the nearest inhabited town and witnessed at a blacksmith's, a horse getting its tail docked. The method, the animal in a frame with each leg strapped to an upright, tail bared, the hair held back to the length desired, the guillotine's red hot, used, then salve was put on the cut.
What seemed cruel, having dogs in carts delivering milk. Must be where the name came from "dog carts", also used them in tread mills churning milk. Heavy horses were put on platform tread mills to thresh corn, also to grind it.
On these outings would enjoy a meal of egg and chips, with coffee. If you had dirty franc notes the café owner would knock coppers off the value. Played on our ignorance.
In very wet weather, taking the horses to the central drinking troughs undid your grooming. Everywhere a quagmire, one rider with another animal, the horses knew the various bugle calls, for feeding would prance about.
Back at the battery, the Sergeant-Major said he was putting me in for a stripe, the very next day in orders a volunteer was wanted to be officers' cook, applying I got the job. As I said before, had been learning cooking felt I was capable and would be quartered at the wagon lines. The officers' mess would consist of about 8 from a 2nd Lieutenant to a major also a doctor, paying into a fund for their food and extra requirements.
Having a mess caterer with a horse and cart, journeys to a shopping town, buying vegetables, eggs, fish, butter and the usual grocery goods, with these I change the menu. Breakfast at 8 am, lunch at 12, tea at 4, the main meal at 8 pm, for this I prepare soup, fish, meat & veg's, sweets, savoury and coffee and biscuits.
One officer had charge of the rum and the issue of it, in my previous mess this was got at. An old soldier batman would put a cork-screw three parts in the cork of the gallon jar of S. R. D. take a pint out and replace with water, turn the cork and mark the jar. I didn't believe in this and saw it would not happen here. Another officer, wanted two helpings of some dishes, I said no, would not be fair to the others. In feeding the batmen also, we were very happy together, they would help in the work.
A younger brother (12) had also joined the R. F. A. and arrived in France, knowing the law that an elder brother could claim to have him transferred to his company, the Major helped me to do so. Our doctor just then was without a groom, Stanley got this post. he started his army life in the Horse Dragoons, then in this part of the forces, so he got what the Dr ordered.
In May I received a field postcard from John the elder brother, signed Sergeant Kemmal, this being the name of a hill about a mile away, so judged he would be thereabouts. I quickly answered saying had got a book from home called "Dicky lost in the bush", this village was pronounced like Dickybush, John did twig it and found us, I gave him a good feed.
On the last day at this place, had to prepare a special meal at noon. After the soup course the Major remarked the caterer must buy bigger plates and after the meal sent a vote of thanks for the splendid dinner. Always had a stockpot for soup, putting in bones etc. Would clear this with egg shells, too greasy used blotting paper, make browning with burnt sugar.
The potatoes at one time were larger, on serving these the Major sent word 'That we are not Irishmen'. Some weeks later this gentleman left, the captain now in charge said "We are Irishmen". I took the hint. Now and again made toast for tea, very difficult to make on open fire. Using two iron bars about a yard long, resting on a couple of bricks at either end, had wood for fuel. Had a rough lot of pans and a kettle, it was a smoky business. To prevent the contents of pans being smoked, putting a thin piece of wood across the top would do so.
Starting now to advance would make use of partly destroyed buildings to kind of live in, one Estaminet (beer house) was such a one. At daybreak, felt a thud on a remaining wall, empty bottles inside fell over. Later, on looking outside saw an enemy 6 inch shell. I presumed in losing velocity the nose or cap didn't hit the wall, thank goodness. I carried it to the top of the garden out of harm's way.
In this village found 5 tame rabbits alive, these would make a good pie so set about it. Having killed these at home, was easy, you hit them behind the head with your flat hand. Found a large enamel bowl, there being a big oven here our problem was solved, when the pie was cooked it looked grand, the mess waiter wanted the officers to have [it], I said no it's ours.
Still advancing, found the main road to the frontier very straight, could look ahead for miles, turn about, the same again. It was said owing to past wars on the frontier, the army's quickest way was the road with no turnings.
Arriving near Mons, was billeted in a farmhouse that had been under German rule since the beginning. Still here when the war ended. The old Frenchman took us down the stone steps into the cellar, with a hammer and chisel started taking bricks out from under the steps. On making a large hole proceeded to reach bottles of wine out. We drank and toasted "The Allies".
Now the officers were doing a lot of entertaining, very difficult for my planning to cater. The men on duty were having an easy time, I asked to be relieved, on finding a successor, received it.
A law had been passed, if your employer claimed, you could get your discharge. This my father did but it takes time. An artillery association came into being. It was suggested each of us subscribe five Francs, a rest house in London was suggested, a pay day was arranged, you asked for a sum on account as wages, 5 Francs would be added.
The ceremony was held in a bell tent, could hear what was going on. My turn came I asked for five, the pay officer said that would be ten. I told him I did not want to participate in this scheme. "Why not," he asked? Told of my living in Lancashire and would never go to London, have been once. The men outside commended me for it.
Through this, was sure they delayed my going home. On January 11th did get discharged, had to make my way to a dispersal unit at Preesheath, getting a civilian suit etc., a certificate to draw a month's pay, a gratuity of 30 pounds and 2 medals with reference of good character, so this is the end.
Now that it's all over, I've had no regrets. Tom Rimmer came through, have seen two comrades I was with at Preston, Henry Stapleforth lives at Lyme Regis, have visited him three times, see story in later book.
One pessimistic note if D. D. T. had been thought of sooner, what a lot of itching would have been saved.
As an oilman continued...
Have you seen goods advertised in the press? "Can be purchased from chemists, grocers and oilmen." This shows how essential was this type of trading.
Leaving the army on January 11th, 1919 had a weeks holiday, then started work in earnest. Prior to this, my uncle had been called up and eventually went out of the business. I took over from a sister and a younger brother, having kept the vans going, my rounds were rearranged, starting from scratch.
During the war Father got exempted from army service, had to do something to the war effort. Renting three small fields in Moor-gate, and two in Greetby hill, started farming. He had been on a farm in his teens. Those days it was usual to go every week on the oilrounds in winter and fortnightly in summer. Usually started at Easter, working in the fields for about five months. This meant we toiled hard both seasons. In later years the fields were sold, much to our relief.
Monday, still the same round, met a lot of old friends, still eating at the Farmer's Arms, same ladies being there, Auntie, Nelly and Rose. During winter it was hard going up the hills at Parbold with a four wheel van. In bad weather used a two-wheeled (float), this being a standby for years. Wherever roads were blocked, would try and get over fields with it.
From November to April, when the horses had new shoes, screw holes were put in for using screws on slippery road. These had to be replaced when the sharpness wore off. In the summer, in very dry weather the wheels needed attention: putting wet sacks on at night and carrying some iron wedges in case of slackness during the day.
When the police strike was on at Liverpool, wanted to join the force but felt that was leaving my Father in the lurch, so stayed.
Children liked having rides in the van or on the back step. I realised that, in later years, they were potential customers.
Better supplies were now coming in. We still sold a lot of lamp glasses which we would order in gross lots in January to come in about August for the next winter's supply. These would come in say four or five huge wooden cases from the Continent. Started getting new kinds of washing powder, toilet and ordinary soaps.
In the 1930s electricity began reaching the countryside. We were losing customers for paraffin, some would increase in other goods to make up. Started stocking light bulbs.
Seemingly, had a fair number of years without trouble, then it started. This weekend my usual horse had leg trouble, a shake it was called, a trembling and swollen back leg. To cure this used oak bark well stewed to bathe it which takes a few days. Being Monday it was Parbold round so I took an older horse that had been out to pasture. About 3:30 when walking down an incline he slipped on the tarmac and fell. In getting up, fell again. He had died with heart failure. Several men came on scene, unfastened the harness, pushed the van back, then dragged Duke onto the grass verge. Phoning home for Father to come out he promptly did so, also phoned Martland's of Burscough, that dealt with dead horses, to come for ours.
Had to go looking for a replacement, succeeded at a nearby farm, as he was coming to Ormskirk the next day he would bring him home. How lucky this for us, it appeared they took some pigs to Swarbrick's. Sending for help, it is essential when coping with a fresh animal, not knowing their temperament. They may not stand still when at the calls.
In the meantime, school children passing had something to tell the school-mistress the next day. On a previous occasion, had Duke on the same round, but later in the evening. It was dark with snow laying on the Rufford Road. Coming from a house to the van, saw my red lights in the distance. Had a greatcoat on, making it hard to run. Knowing farther down the road would be a cycle at a backdoor, I grabbed it, eventually catching up to the runaway. Getting in a line with him was no mean feat, owing to the condition of the road. Got hold of the rein, forcing him to stop, turned round, to leave cycle and renew calling.
Tuesday, Clieve's Hill day, did not like this journey, customer's talked too much. If I could get their order, take it to them and get paid then it was possible to get away. One farmer's wife, finishing their dinner, asked, if I would like a plate of Scouse, I said I wouldn't mind, she remarked, "I don't either," so I got none. Some weeks later, this question was repeated, on saying, "Yes, please," received a plateful.
On one round, stopped, partly down a steep hill, the one opposite the Waggoner's Arms. I scotched a wheel with a large stone, whilst going I went to a house some fifty yards away. Coming back, could see horse and van in a potato field down below. Well!!
"Tommy" had pulled over the stone to eat some grass, the weight of the van had pushed him and he could not stop. Coming to a right turn which we usually take, Tommy tried to do so. Failing, he went through a wall at the corner into the field. Must have gone head on, for the van to have kept upright.
On reaching him, found he was all right and lead him down the drills to an old road at the end. Some lamp glasses were broken, shuddered at what might have been, so was lucky again.
Wednesday, an interesting round, making a huge figure of eight, at Lydiate. The first time, going to a small house, opposite the C. of E. Church, got a surprise. I saw Annie, she had been the helper at the Three Crowns Hotel, next to Daish's. I had been an assistant there for 5 years. During my war service Annie had married and was pleased to see me. Years later she had moved to a larger house, was tea-time now, and would go in. Noticed her husband when pouring tea into his cup, added, looked like rum. Some weeks later I remarked about this, it's only cold tea left from morning, he did not like hot tea.
Near this church, lived an old farmer's widow, still farmed. She bought a bucket, was dark nights at that time. The week following she made some excuse and returned it. The following morning when replacing stock sold, found this person had given an old bucket instead, made her pay.
I managed to get friendly with her as time went on. Another story about her of one thing she had done during her life on the farm. Farmers in these parts sent wagon loads of produce to Liverpool market, paying a man extra to pay for bed and breakfast on arriving there. Sometimes this person would go herself, the 5/- saved was thrown behind a corner cupboard. On leaving to retire about 500 pounds had collected.
At the next farm, remember talking to a farmer about things in general and once expressed a wish for a motor van. The farmer was very annoyed and said, what would farmers do about hay and corn? A daughter later told me he liked riding in a car. When he passed on, his sons soon had a wagon and car.
On this round in later years, about mid morning I knew of a certain lady would leave a door key, hidden for me to enter and make a cup of tea.
Thursday, covered a large part of Aughton, including the Alm's Houses, some grand old ladies lived here in retirement, very interesting listening to their reminiscences. Near to the Swan Hotel, as I went to the rear of a house, the lady client came from the front. Would I come that way, explaining there's a rat in the yard, feeding on a bone, could I help. Getting a poker and a doormat, unbolting the door, rushed out. On seeing me it squealed. I hit the rat first time, the idea of the mat was to throw on it if escaping.
A farmer nearby looked to me to help load potatoes on a wagon, had to dodge him. There was the Freeman Brothers, reputed to have lots of money hidden, and made their own whisky.
At one time the new road 'North Way' was being made behind the Swan. Being dinner time I had put the nosebag on 'Tommy' and sat in the van eating, when an Irish road-worker came to stroke the horse. Calling to him not to, Pat said, "Oh he won't hurt paddy boy."
This horse 'Tommy', was really a one man horse, not safe for strangers to go near and the reason of telling Pat. Well in a flash the horse lashed out with a front foot, kicking Pat above the knee. Lucky the leg wasn't broken, only the skin.
When North Way had been completed, had a new horse, (piebald). I was travelling towards Aughton Springs when I met a man with a big St Bernard dog. This horse gave a sudden swerve, running against the opposite curb, strained the undercarriage of the van, but could carry on. The fool thing, I should say, would go around man-holes in the road, a source of danger on busy roads, so soon sold it.
Friday, went to Melling, Kirkby, on to Simonswood then Bickerstaffe, making the longest journey, was spaced more, would change horse's with my brother, this being faster, more suitable for longer rounds. 'Bobby' wanted understanding, to keep him still, unhook a trace and he would stand an hour if needed be. On hooking up, had to be quick to get in the van.
On Saturday, only about the town, finishing at about 2pm.
Occasionally the horse would cast a shoe, or loosen one so I kept a few of the proper nails by me. If you put these in the same holes in the hoof, you would not go wrong.
In the summer of 1919, met a young lady in the Ruff wood who lived at Westhead and knew my Father well. The day after, a Monday, with a lady friend, went by train to Northumberland on a holiday to a farm. Whilst there helped with some jobs, one was to mark sheep. Coming to a black one, this young lady was asked to go to the dairy for some white tar, an excuse to drink some. On coming home, started going out together, would take a clothes peg for fun. Our clothes pegs came from Canada, trade mark, 'The Daisy,' selling 24 for 1 1/2d, and packed in 5 gross wooden boxes.
Getting married in 1922, had my first holiday to Brough in Westmoreland, I was glad my job wasn't there, so hilly and no stone sets for horses. I saw they had lighter loads.
Our vans and business were still at Derby Street so I had to have a bicycle, living at School Lane, Westhead. For a hobby reared poultry, using the intensive system. I favoured White Leghorns winning prizes at shows, hatching chicks, selling day-olds. It was profitable.
On my 30th birthday, moved to Ormskirk as had been able to get an owner occupier council house, this becoming mine own on my 50th birthday. Weeks previous had fixed posts and netting on some ground rented from the council next to our house, to be given up at a month's notice. One night in the autumn, a gale blew one shed over letting loose the White Leghorn hens. On trying to catch them with a lamp, they went further afield. Discarding the lamp, with the birds being white was more successful. After four years the ground was required for building so had to sell everything.
We moved our business to another part of the town: Burscough Street. My Father was living in the house, with a big yard and several out buildings. A great improvement. In 1934, eventually I moved there with my wife and two children. Father leaving part retired.
With new estates being built, business improved, had to create new rounds, and go fortnightly to most people.
Must relate more experiences, of the gentleman at Maudsley. His 10 gallon oil drums started to leak, wanting the loan of another, I lent him a new one. A month later asked about buying it, on saying the list price of same, he indignantly replied, this was second hand and wanted it cheaper. He also remarked, put a notice up in the van, 'the customer is always right.'
Of an old lady in the country down this same road, made tea in a jam jar in the oven. I had to have a drink, with sugar but no milk. She was related to some well known wealthy people.
Also in this district once, whilst standing at the rear of the van, heard a rattling noise. Turning to look just got a glance of an animal struggling under the hedge. Making a search found a cat with its hind leg in a trap. This was a metal rat catcher. On pressing the spring with my foot, the cat bounded away. It did not appear to have a limb broken or to be any the worse. Needless to say I kept the trap.
We had a contract in the summer with Woosey's, (they were coopers), to take about every month a load of repaired beer barrels to Bent's Brewery at Liverpool and also reload with some to be repaired.
Setting off at 8am, would arrive between 12 and 1 o'clock and after 2 o'clock start off home. The easiest route both ways was Prescot Road and on through Melling. On one of these journeys, had got past the Pear Tree Inn when I saw coming towards me a wagon loaded with broken jam jars. I had met this other times, on the way to a tip. When abreast of my horse, some pieces fell off with a clatter, startled 'Duke'. I was leading him just then, as I pulled at the rein to stop him bolting, he turned into the hedge, had to let him go.
After about half a mile he started to walk, soon to be stopped by a blacksmith, having seen there wasn't a driver. On arriving found no damage had been done, did not tell them at home. The very next, Father went this journey. The blacksmith seeing and knew him, told of what had happened. I got told off, Father saying the horse could remember at this spot and run away again.
One hay time the farm bailiff, at the local testing station done Dark Lane, wanted a helper to cart hay, I was at liberty for that day and knew how to do so. After unloading the first load had a pint of draught beer and carried on, during the day carted 9 loads and had so many pints, did not effect me, it would come out in sweat I supposed. My wife did not know for a long time, would not have been pleased it being her father's failing, he was a retired blacksmith.
At Newbrugh, one summer's day at a customer's house, noticed a strange little girl. On asking where she came from, told me, Lyme Regis. A wartime pal lived there, so was very interested, at the house asked who had come with her, was a grand-parent, I was thrilled when saying she knew Henry Stapleforth, he being a taxi proprietor also a neighbour. I gave her a note to give to him, was pleased to do so. I have related about Henry in my was experiences, one was we swapped my cigarettes for the malted milk tablets he got from home. Not having heard about him since in the war, was pleased on getting a letter and have seen my pal three times since.
In this same district once, had to see an elderly spinster about paraffin, no answer to my knocking. The door being ajar I entered to look for and saw the occupant, she was sat in a chair looking up at me with a demented stare, finding the can, filled it. Lower down the road, told a person who I knew did visit the lady, about what I'd seen. That same night, a policeman came to see me, asked about this person, the circumstances of when seeing her that day.
Had gone to bed when he came again, asking how I left the door, found it ajar and left it the same. On Saturday following a police sergeant showed me some photos pertaining to this lady's room. Only knew then she was dead. The people I had told, on going to see, rang up the doctor, on his arrival would not attend to her but got in touch with the police. It was proved she had died of natural causes, I was in the clear.
Another time near the Farmer's Arms, going to Miss Proe's front door found her groceries there, and no answer to my knocks, looked through the window also a side one and saw nothing amiss. After telling them at the Farmer's they went to inspect and look though a further window saw she had collapsed, found she was dead.
My horse once ran away from this pub [The Farmer's]. I did catch him up, thought I could stop him easier if I could climb into the van. In doing so my right foot slipped and was run over, did get in and stopped him. It was a struggle to finish my calling at houses, was off work a fortnight.
Coming home from one district, that meant the last call, would take one hour and forty-five minutes. The road over Hoscar Moss, after heavy rain would be flooded, have more than once gone through a depth of a foot or so and over two hundred yards long.
One evening at the River Douglas bridge, Robert Culshaw an Ormskirk butcher, met me, asked could I help him, owning a stack of hay some fields away from the road had taken a pony and wagon to take a load home. His pony had got stuck, he was lucky I came on the scene. Leaving my van at the road side I took my horse to do the needful, glad to say we managed very well.
Another time, making towards Hoscar Station, had noticed a train stopping and leaving. Getting to the gates was met by an Ormskirk lady, having got on the wrong train wanted a lift home, her problem got solved and very grateful.
When Singer's Sewing Machine shop was in Burscough Street I gave the agent the address of a lady living at Parbold, requiring a special machine, a week later this man sent 10/- for commission.
The piebald horse I mentioned before, one night taking him into his stall to take the harness off, suddenly jammed me up against the manger. He had seen something different hanging up behind on a rack. I managed to climb up and get over into the next stall.
Another new horse was bought from Halsall Hall. The first Sunday after tea, went in the stable to feed and water him. Standing behind this one considering, he kicked out with his hind feet catching my legs above the knees. He must have caught me with the rubber bars on his shoes, as I wasn't hurt only startled.
To cut the hay to make chop for provender, had a small petrol engine, taking the hard work out of it, but more dusty.
In winter, on Sundays would leave a bucket of water for each animal, the chill would be off for the evening drink. Our small daughter was interested and would accompany me, one such time something happened, and she backed sitting down in one of them.
One Tuesday, about tea-time, finished a call, sat in the van and called on the horse to go when the hames top strap broke. By holding the reins very tight I kept him in the shafts until someone came. Tom Whalley a farmer happened to be near, he knew what to do, by using some wire to hold the hames together could carry on.
It was Wednesday at Jackson's at a wooden canal bridge, old Mrs Grogan stopped me on the top wanting an article. On paying, a 2/- coin slipped from her hand through the boards without touching. Another time a person from a distance, on receiving the goods handed a penny to pay thinking it was a 2/- piece, waited some weeks before getting paid.
After a lot of rain, and about 4 o'clock had to go through a deep flood in Butcher's Lane, Aughton. The horse paddled though all right, at the other end was a teacher from Melling on her way to the bus stop near the Swan, turning around acted as ferry for her. Knowing this lady I smiled to myself, it was her father who was annoyed when I talked about wanting a motor van.
On one winter's day, had to lead the horses all day, the roads were covered with snow, to give him encouragement, when 50 yards from home, down he went. The usual thing to do under these circumstances is to lie on the horses head, they won't come to any harm, till help comes. It was letting out time at a pub and the men gathered round, freeing the harness, backing the van he was able to get up. They were great sports, instead of reyoking they pushed the van to the yard.
Another trouble is two horses in one stall, happened when one got loose, was tricky to separate them, had to climb over the front of the stall and back the guilty one.
You have to watch your horse does not eat customer's hedges, privet is poison, but they will eat it.
The horse 'Bobby' once left my brother at his last call, over a mile away on the Southport Road. Crossing County Road, no mean feat, found his way into our yard, halting in his usual position. All this was very clever, good no harm had come of it. Stan got a lift home.
In Elm place, a person had read my christening notice in the church magazine of that year, told me my name was Henry, since my shop days had reinstated to Harry.
When the war came, our work got more difficult, with rationing and short supplies. There was still a lot of paraffin required, electric had not got everywhere. Soaps and powders on rations, would have been a blessing if detergents had been invented.
Came home one Friday night, we had three evacuees, a small boy and two sisters, very touching to see them in bed. They were happy together. Two was our allocation, my wife could not turn [the third] one away.
We found the winter more difficult, with dark nights, travelling, no lights and seeing to coupons, also if our yard got bombed. Did have an incendiary on either side, with no ill effects. Was out with the van when bombs were falling over Liverpool, on leaving horse and van, secured the wheels.
By now felt time had come to have motor vans, would get home sooner, eventually getting a second hand one, at this time had a younger brother home on leave from the R.A.F., during this, taught me to drive, at noon on the last day, left, I said would manage and did.
Found out, my horse had travelled 70 miles one week and 60 the next, as shown on the motor mileage.
Knowing there would be a long wait, ordered a Commer with a body specially made, some months later got another second-hand one.
How we got it was remarkable. A friend of ours from Newcastle came to stay in Ormskirk for a holiday and took a liking to our horse, wanting one like it to do wagon work at home. Controlling five lorries as carrier from Newcastle to Carlisle, would pick up parcels to his depot. Told him he could have him if he got us a van.
About three months later, rang to say had a chance to buy a P.O. telephone van in good condition. Knowing the type they were common round here, his electrician would wire the inside, we agreed. When ready, left in the morning and arrived here at tea-time, came like a bird he told us. On the Monday morning having arranged for a horse-box to be at the railway station, set off home. On the transaction, also included a harness set, we paid only a little cash.
The following summer, my wife and I went on a holiday to Haltwhistle, half-way from Carlisle to Newcastle. Went off for the day to the latter, with the object of finding this horse. Seeing him made our day, in the pink of condition, his coat shone and his driver thought the world of him, licked my hand.
Years later when B. R. S. came into being, his lorries were taken, was offered a job driving one of them at 5/- a week, the horse was put to sleep. This van might have been made for the job, cupboards and shelves were ideal, using an old 80 gallon tank out of the horse-van, (both van and tank had done duty for over 50 years), made by Farr's Chapel Street Coach Builders, made it complete.
About now, ordered another new van larger than the other, for which we were still waiting, both of us to have a new one to our own specifications.
Eventually the first new one arrived for my brother, mine came the weekend before August bank holiday. I had to spend the time off lowering the garage floor for it to go under cover. This van had a passage down the middle, shelves all round, two windows and a tank holding 65 gallons, on either side. These tanks had a glass gauge in view, useful when filling.
I found this vehicle much easier to handle, the layout of the inside, made work a pleasure, indeed a hobby too.
Could not expect to be on the road too long without further trouble, as I found. Happened on the Liverpool Road South, at Burscough Town, was stationary, the road icy, and a little foggy. A car skidded into the rear of the van, bent the step, broke one of the gauges, another car bumped into the first, then one more into the side of the van. The gritting wagon came when it was too late. Could have called on my way home, did carry on, got mended up the next day.
The next winter happened again, with one car at Gaw Hill Lane, Aughton. This lady driver was a local resident was upset, and a customer of ours. A couple of years later left to go to the north to live, six or seven years had gone by, I was in Kirby Lonsdale on a trip and met her, (1964).
Another winter it occurred once more in Aughton St, every time lucky I was not standing at the back of the van, could have been measuring paraffin.
One very cold day got home a bit late, my wife asked why, I said I've been having a few drinks, over my meal, reckoned I had 15 cups of tea and coffee.
Would take peoples electric bills, rates to pay, one lady gave me 20 pounds to put in her bank. Other jobs, kill poultry, drown kittens, carry coals, move furniture, quite happy doing all these.
Have just remembered about 1925, a man at Parbold asked could I manage to deliver an Ormskirk patter chair to be re-rushed to Henry Burrow's, Aughton Street (now Draper's Cafe). Having a rail round the top of the van, could do, going down a lane at Bispham and not noticing a low hanging tree, the chair fell off splitting one of the uprights. The cabinet maker did a good job and I shared the cost, saw him recently, had come to the market, I didn't mention the chair.
Down this road where the chair fell off, a couple of weeks later, stayed a few minutes to watch a poultry farm sale, in that time, bought an incubator for 5/-. Thought it would be worth the money to take it to pieces to see what was inside, getting it home to Westhead did so. Found a copper water tank, on testing found it leaked, was able to solder it, putting together again used it for its purpose, made good use of it till the end of my poultry days, sold it for £1.
More trouble, when I go to the gamekeeper's house, off Hall Lane have to verge over to my right, turn left then reverse, there's no way through. This day a contractor had laid a drain filling up the trench, going dark I was unaware of this, with no danger lights showing, the consequence was I got ditched with my two side wheels.
Mr Rimmer from the hall seeing my plight sent 2 tractors and more men to help, I struggled under, with the aid of a torch to fasten a chain round the back axle, also one about the front under-carriage, when all was ready, with my engine running, we got out.
Asking Mr Rimmer how much I owed, he laughed, would not take anything, said the men liked doing these kind of jobs, the next time round, did tip the men.
A Saturday morning in Mill Street a customer dropped a glove, on my picking it up, said I would have a surprise, I smiled am not superstitious as a rule. After 10pm this evening hearing a noise at the front door, did expect our son home on leave from the R.N.A.S., it was him, with a beard, that was the surprise, told the person next time.
Had we been using motors when Albert (13) left school, would have been interested in the business, instead wanted to be a draughtsman, eventually entered the R.N.A.S. for 21 years.
Whilst stopped on the main road at Lydiate, a fish sales man pulled up, a little girl of one of his customers playing with a loose bottom sandwich cake tin, got it round over her head and below her nose. This man tried getting it off, decided to take her to a blacksmith or a doctor. Having a pair of tin shears with me, I set about to free her. Guiding a finger inside the tin managed to sever it, the kiddie cried then smiled.
My work with a van having been both a pleasure and a hobby, when it came to be destroyed, was a calamity in my life, usually loading it the night before, can set off earlier on the morrow.
About 4:30am was disturbed with noises on the yard, drawing the curtains, what a sight our 2 vans were on fire. Getting some clothes on, got to the phone to dial 999, no reply so went to get an extinguisher, which was of little use. Opened the gates and neighbours came on the scene, one tried the phone again, one to the police. The fire brigade arrived, seems a postman on early duty seeing the fire went round to the police to ring the brigade, he was responsible for its early coming. Having also 3 tanks containing about 1000 gallons of paraffin, it could be precarious, so were warned to be ready to evacuate, glad this wasn't necessary. The firemen using foam got control and eventually [put the fire] out, everybody was so kind and helpful, some making tea for all.
What to do next? Had to get 2 more vehicles, hiring them till we could buy two, so got the rounds going again. Glad we had some old tanks that could be used, found hiring was expensive, made us hurry to buy new ones. If anyone wanted an excuse to give up, here it was.
Getting the garage, buildings put right helped in our recovery, our losses were considerable in moneyed value. Gradually got back to the usual routine, trade good, meeting competition with service etc.
The country people needed looking after, wanting tar, creosote, lime for white-washing, cement and bulky goods.
The age of retiring comes, going 18 months over, felt had earned it, this period a relation was employed with the view of taking over. So November 20th 1963 did just that.
During the term of the title of this book, have made hundreds of friends, travelled a quarter of a million miles, feel the job's been well done, with due respects to all.