Chapter 1…the early years

MY STORY

CHAPTER ONE

EARLY DAYS

The Schooner Hoshi

The Schooner Hoshi

The Schooner “Hoshi” 50 tons TM

The 72 feet of the 50 ton topsail schooner “Hoshi” moved rhythmically up and down as she rode the swell of the English Channel. I was seated in the stern with my hands on the enormous wheel keeping a watchful eye on the compass in the binnacle. I was fearful of doing an involuntary gibe. This would happen if I relaxed my concentration and allowed the wind to get the wrong side of the huge mainsail. Then the boom would whip over and as this was a spar of at least one foot diameter the consequences for anyone who was hit by it just did not bear thinking about. The boat could be dismasted. The skipper had shown enormous trust in my skill despite this being the very first time I had been at the helm of a vessel. I did not realise at the time how that voyage was to alter the course of my life forever.
What on earth was I doing there? I was a 24 year old lad from Bulwell Nottingham a town which is 72 miles from the sea? I had never sailed a boat before. I must explain that I was part of an amateur crew of six who were paying guests of the owner. Lt-Commander “Chunky” Duff who had found that in 1950 to finance the boat he had owned before the war he had to take in paying guests. Hoshi had once been the private yacht of Admiral Earl Beatty. He was the hero of the battle of Jutland 12 May 1916. Beatty was afterwards First Sea Lord. Beatty had served in the Far East. We were told that “Hoshi” is Japanese made up of two words, “Ho” and “Shi” meaning East and West. Many years later I was told by a Japanese Architect that “Hoshi” means “Star”, West is “Nishi” and East is “Higashi” so now we know the truth at long last. When Beatty sailed her she had a crew of 16 all decked out in whites. Under Lt Commander Duff’s ownership she was rigged like a Thames barge so as to cut down her sail area and allow her to be sailed by a crew of three. We did have a professional crew of three. The skipper was Des Sleightholme who afterwards became famous as the editor of “Yachting World”. He was a wonderful teacher.

Bill at the help

Bill at the help

Me at the helm. Note yachting cap……..No yachtsman EVER wears one

Also aboard additional to me were five paying guests, none of whom had previously sailed. On this very breezy day all these were seasick. Seated at the wheel I found I could easily retain the contents of my stomach. In fact it was probably the effects of the fresh air and the fact that I was concentrating on keeping the ship sailing on the course laid down by Des. At any rate I was not seasick and was I suppose rather cocky about that. The faces of the other amateur crew members were distressing to say the least and I kept my cocky views to myself. However I felt pleased with myself for being able to helm this huge boat. It may also have been the case that I do not have a well developed vomiting centre in my brain. Horses do not have a vomiting centre. At any rate I have never been seasick or felt sick except when aboard a smelly engined craft hanging upside down trying to coax a reluctant engine to start.

Seasick

Seasick

The Seasick crew

It was a strange series of events which had brought us all together. I had met the organiser of the party, Cliff Kell when we were both members of the Derby Scottish Dancing Club. He was a genius at selling. He wanted to make up a party of six to be able to book Hoshi for a two week cruise from Chichester to Brittany and back home via the Channel Islands. Cliff’s fiancée was a medical student Winifride Billington. To keep her company she in turn invited a Sister Midwife, Anthea Gillard.

Anthea and Winifride

Anthea and Winifride

Bulwell Market Place

Bulwell Market Place

Bulwell Market Place

Bulwell a small coal mining community and a district of Nottingham was where I was born in 1926 to

General Strike

General Strike

William Thornton Jackson and Elizabeth Jackson nee Martin. Times were hard in 1926.

This was the year of the General Strike. The General Strike (illustrated left) hit colliers hard. I was very lucky to have good parents who were much older than parents usually are.

They had been married for 19 years before I was born. My mother was then 43 and my father was 45.

I was a three times attempted forceps delivery performed at home by Dr W J Candlish, attended by “nurse” Robinson. Dr Candlish afterwards became my godfather. My mother was in labour for forty hours. With all respect due to Dr Candlish I am lucky to be alive! Candlish also later circumcised me and ruined my chances of joining the Gestapo.

Billy at 9 weeks

Billy at 9 weeks

Mum and me when I was 9 weeks old. My mum was great!

Billy at 9 weeks with Nurse Robinson

Billy at 9 weeks with Nurse Robinson

Me aged 8 weeks with Nurse Robinson.

I must have spent a lot of time in the studio in those days. Nurse Robinson was unqualified. She used to be a dispenser (unqualified) at Dr Candlish’s practice and then set up a private nursing home. She had a daughter Nurse Nellie, who qualified SRN though that was much later.

Billy at 1 year old

Billy at 1 year old

Me in September 1927 when I would be just over one year old.

My parents had lived in the house where I was born, 49 Commercial Road (formerly Quarry Road), Bulwell since shortly after they married on June 8th 1907. My mother’s parents lived at that time next door at number 51. Like all the other houses in the terrace it had three floors, four bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs there was the dining room, the kitchen the scullery and of course the front room which was normally the parlour but now had been converted to a shop. Parlours in Bulwell were sacrosanct places which were never used. An aspidistra plant was often located there together with family portraits and treasured items of china. The aspidistra would be dusted regularly and in this coalmining area there was plenty of dust.

Commercial Road

Commercial Road

Me at 49 Commercial Road, Bulwell, about 1984
By that time it had reverted to a private house

In our house there was no bathroom or inside lavatory, the lavatory was out in the yard. There was usually no lavatory paper in it. Torn up bits of newspaper were used instead. To digress I am reminded of the story that when Princess Marina of Greece was married in the 1930’s to the Duke of Kent the Glasgow Evening Record promised to print their next edition in ink the same colour as Princess Marina’s going away dress. That turned out to be blue. Next day the Glasgow Evening Record was inundated with calls from people complaining about their blue bottoms.
The only water we had in the house was a single cold tap over a stone sink. Dad used to sharpen knives on the stone. Later we had a very small electrically powered water heater which produced about two gallons of hot water. Dad was so pleased with this he used to bring people in from the shop and proudly demonstrate it to them. Dad had set up a hardware shop shortly after he married on June 8th 1910, using the bow window of the front downstairs room as a shop front. For baths a tin bath was on very rare occasions filled but washing was normally at the stone sink. In the bedrooms wash hand basins and commodes were available but as these required to be emptied by hand their use was frowned upon by those who had to do the emptying. Mother used to lock all the doors to the dining room and have a good wash using a flannel and soap. We males did not bother. Baths were regarded as weakening by the males of Bulwell. No houses in Bulwell in those days were equipped with a bath. When a benevolent council built houses with bathrooms the story (almost certainly apocryphal) was that the miners would only use the bath to keep coal in.

The Jackson family in later days (ca 1953)
From left, Dad, Anthea, Aunt Alice Cunningham,
Col. Jim Cunningham, Aunt Elsie Green and Dorothy Green

The front door of our Victorian terrace house became the door of the shop and inside the former parlour Dad had a counter running at ninety degrees to the direction of the shop front. Soon it became a cycle shop and later sold motorcycles and cars on commission. A petrol tank was sunk into the alley of number 51. It had a hand pump. It was probably the first petrol pump in Bulwell. Further up the alley dad had a small oil store. Petrol sales had earlier started using cans only which were stored in a steel container kept in the back yard.
My father rented the house and under the terms of the then operative Rent Act only paid a very small weekly rent (12/6 now 66P) which, to the probable fury of the subsequent owner of the property, could not by law be raised. Furthermore by the time this new owner, Sam Wilkinson, took over, Dad had virtually converted the property from a Victorian terrace house to a small shop with storage space behind in the roofed over back yard where many bicycles were stored. By adding to that the petrol pump and the oil store installed in the alley my father had rather encroached. I suppose this was only possible because the previous tenants of number 51 had been my maternal grandparents.
Dad had also purchased a large allotment at the top of Severn Street which was just round the corner, but instead of growing vegetables he erected three brick built garages which he let. One caught fire in 1926 and mother held me in her arms when she called the fire brigade out. Dad went up to the garages and managed to get his car out because he had left the car in neutral with the handbrake off. Two other cars burnt out. Charred wood doorposts remained as evidence of the fire. The asbestos roofs were replaced. Also on the land was half a surplus wooden army hut which was very large. Many cycles were stored in that. My father told me that at one time he had a stock of 300 new bikes.

He also made a grass tennis court of part of the allotment. He employed Fred Ridge, a friend who was either out of work or certainly in need of extra income in those hard times. Dad got the grass seed from the bottom of haystacks. The surrounding fence was made out of old crates used to ship in the bicycles by rail. My dad was nothing if not frugal but times were hard and he ended up with a very nice tennis court. He had to buy the net of course and also the white-lining machine which was pushed along filled with whitewash. It had to be kept very steady if you wanted a straight line.

Billy escaping from Pram

Billy escaping from Pram

Me trying to get out of my pram
It was in the tennis court
You can see one of the white lines and the fence made out of old bicycle crates

After the tennis court was made a lawnmower was needed. Dad was always a good businessman and bought one wholesale, getting himself appointed as the Qualcast agent for Bulwell. Similarly after I was born a pram was needed and dad secured the Bulwell agency for Elite Prams! The ex-army shed on Severn Street allotment was felt roofed and Dad had the agency for Pluvex Felt too.

Mum on the court wearing a hat

Mum on the Tennis Court

Mum on the Tennis Court

The road up to the Allotment was only just wide enough for a car. It was crudely paved with ash from a local power station. The road ran alongside a sandstone quarry which was perhaps 100 feet deep. There was a sheer drop down separated by a hawthorn hedge with many gaps. The drop terrified me. I have always suffered from vertigo. I believe vertigo is caused by a too vivid imagination but perhaps I am wrong. The quarry of course gave its name to Quarry Road. Owned by the McCarthy brothers the quarry business latterly made bricks marketed as Special Pressed Whites. These were used by the construction industry for internal walls.

Tib

Tib

“Tib”

My father was very fond of cats and when I was born he had a black cat called “Tib” an entire tomcat. Dad was told to get rid of Tib because he would lie on top of my face and suffocate me. Dad refused to get rid of the cat and Tib used to lie on top of my pram. Dad put up a runway for Tib to get on to the roof over the back yard.
I can remember events which could only have taken place when I was aged two years. I am not alone in that for I know of others who did the same. My earliest memory was of lots and lots of water surrounding my pram. It could only have been when we were on holiday in Huntingdonshire and there were large flooded areas around. I would have been two years old at that time.
For the first four years of my life I played happily in the shop or up at the Severn Street property which we called the garage. My mother did much of the business work and looked after the shop during the day. That started sometimes at 6.00am when lorries owned by a Mr Horry, would arrive and five or six gallons of petrol would be served into each. These were I think the only lorries which bought petrol from my father. With their comparatively large tanks Mr Horry was a good customer. One who was worth getting up at 6.00am for. The shop shut at 9.00pm so it was a long day. Very like the shop featured in the TV programme “Open All Hours”. Dad wore an overall coat and looked rather like Ronnie Barker sans moustache.
I can only remember two employees of my father. Dick Bowyer lived in Basford the next door district to Bulwell. He was I thought very clever. He worked up at the garage, which was the large ex-army shed at the Severn Street Allotment. Dick found a way of making electricity using the motor lawnmower. No wonder I thought him very clever. He went into the army as soon as war broke out and I never saw him again but I think he survived the war. George Baumber succeeded him. George was a gangly youth who was a farmer’s son from Hucknall, again a nearby town. George had outgrown his strength. George was no intellectual. My father was very scathing when after being asked to ride a bicycle to the Raleigh works, a place I had often been to myself by bike, George replied “I don’t know me road.” Farming was in dire straits just before the war. George was no doubt quoting his father when he blamed everything on the Milk Marketing Board. George said there would be a revolution in the country before long. There was a revolution of course, in the shape of farming subsidies and the Central Agricultural Policy of the European Union which made farmers rich beyond the dreams of avarice, at least for a very long time.
My mother was so busy with the business that I had to have nannies. They were not trained nannies but served the same purpose and of course I loved each one dearly. There was Nancy, Audrey and Margery and perhaps others also but I can’t now remember all their names.

All the films were in black and white

During these long working days both my parents would get away for relaxation. My father used to go to the cinema and see movies with actors such as Fatty Arbuckle, Slim Summerville, Charlie Chaplin, Tom Wall or Ralph Lynn. He also used to go to the Bulwell Church Institute in Robinson’s Hill. The Institute had little to do with the church. It was a working man’s club. Dad loved to play billiards there but snooker was not popular for some reason. He was treasurer of the Institute and when the great Joe Davis (world snooker and billiards champion) came to play an exhibition match dad was chosen to play him.
My mother’s hobbies were to go to Nottingham shopping. To Smart and Brown’s furniture store or to Toby’s in Friars Lane which sold fine china.
On one occasion Dad had driven mum to Nottingham, stopped at one point and then drove on. He talked as he drove. After a bit he thought “it is funny, she ain’t saying anything”. He looked round and she was not there “Christ” he said, “She’s fell out!” He drove back to where he had been and there was mum looking into a shop window. She had got out of the car to look at the shop window and never realised Dad had driven away.
I wrote above that I played happily in the shop. That was true but one day I stepped on a metal cycle mudguard, and as these things will do, it leapt up at me and cut me on the lower lip going very deep. I do not remember the event at all but I still have the scar. My father was very upset and rushed me up to the doctor who decided not to stitch the wound. I must say the scar is hardly noticeable. I would love to be able to write that the scar marred an otherwise classically handsome face but I have many times been told that I “am no oil painting”. Despite my lack of matinee idol good looks I eventually managed to persuade Anthea June Gillard to marry me and Anthea and I were married in 1953 at St John’s Church, Bulwell, Nottingham by the Rector, Canon George Sprittles.

Bulwell

Bulwell

Bulwell
The St John’s Church tower is on the right

Dad had begun life in a small nearby village called Watnall where his father was joiner and wheelwright. Dad attended the same school as famous author David Herbert Lawrence but not at the same time. They shared a schoolmaster in the shape of the redoubtable Gaffer Whitehead. Lawrence mentions him. Dad was very impressed with Gaffer Whitehead and grateful to him for an education which stopped at age 14, which was usual in those days. Few people stayed at school beyond that age. The other famous Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, T E Lawrence, also had a nebulous connection with Bulwell for he used to ride a Brough Superior motor cycle and the Brough works were in Bulwell. Sadly it was on a Brough Superior motorcycle that Lawrence was killed.
Dad’s first job was in Watnall Hall Gardens. Watnall Hall was owned by Lt-General Sir Lancelot Rolleston VC, the squire and a friend of Lord Baden-Powell who founded the Boy Scout movement. The head gardener was called Mr Peat, (and I am not making this up!). Dad never really took to gardening but it was a start. He remembered digging out bramble roots to act as the base of roses which would be grafted on to the bramble stock by Mr Peat or his staff.

My Father in 1898

My Father in 1898

My father in 1898
Picture taken in North Finchley, London

Soon Dad was off to North Finchley to become an apprentice wheelwright. He was articled to a relative, another Jackson. Dad told me of the beautiful carriages they made, all bright with varnish. Sometimes twenty coats of varnish would be added and each coat rubbed down before the next coat was applied. He stayed in that job for the whole of his seven year apprenticeship and I think would have been there for much longer but at home he met my mother, Elizabeth Martin. He always spoke fondly of his North Finchley days. There were a number of apprentices for him to chum up with including a first cousin, Sam Jackson, who afterwards kept the Salisbury Arms a public house in Winchmore Hill, a very posh area, which remains so. Whilst in London he played football as an amateur. I suspect he was a good footballer for his team won the amateur league early in the 1900’s. Dad was always in demand and never liked to say “No” and was sometimes in trouble because he had promised himself to more that one team. Sadly his footballing came to an end once he started in business for the shop had to come first and that meant Saturdays were occupied.
Dad was also very interested in cricket and once had a trial for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club (Notts). He played a lot of village cricket. Once he was playing for Oxton village team and doing rather well batting at the crease. His Uncle James Hopkin who lived at Oxton Mill, said, “That’s my nephew batting there. I never saw him sit amiss nor stand amiss.” What James Hopkin meant by these words I am not sure, but Dad was very pleased. Playing cricket cost dad a broken nose. They were throwing the ball to each other and dad was hitting it with a bat. He missed and the ball broke his nose. It was never set properly so dad had a nose like a boxer for the rest of his life. Medical and dental treatment was rough in those days. Dad told me that a Bulwell dentist called Lympany used to ask patients, “Can you stand pain?” If the answer was yes the tooth could be extracted at half the price. I think sixpence rather than the shilling it cost if you demanded anaesthetic.

.

James Hopkin

James Hopkin

James Hopkin at Oxton Mill

Dad used to talk about the great team of Billy Gunn and Arthur Shrewsbury and how they took a very long time to amass a score. But not a Notts player called Ted Alletson. Dad remembered seeing a headline ALLETSON in an evening paper and wondered what it meant. The story is that Notts were playing Sussex at Hove on May 20 1911. When Alletson went in to bat Notts were in a hopeless condition but with 189 scored in 90 minutes by Alletson victory for Notts was secured. To cite just one over off Killick, this included 2 no-balls, 4,6,6,4,4,4,6 = 34. Alletson was a big man 6 foot six inches tall and came from Welbeck where his father was a wheelwright.
Dad used to often reminisce about his North London days and talked of the suits he bought at the Fifty Shilling Tailors in Severn Sisters Road and of the times when a group of apprentices regularly swam in the local baths. Overhearing them constantly boasting about their aquatic exploits and skills somebody called Uncle Jim decided to teach them a lesson. One day when they were together in the pool Uncle Jim appeared on the very top deck of an enormous diving tower. He executed a perfect dive, came out and departed without a word to anyone.
Here I should mention that what Dad always called the house where he was born, “The Ode Om”. This had land sufficient to house a Welsh pony called Taffy. Taffy was never broken with cruelty but broken with kindness. He never had the stick in his life. He was later retired to Fountain Dale where my Aunt Mary-Jane Shipside (nee Jackson) had an estate. I was told on good authority that Taffy was very bad tempered.
In the picture below Uncle Frank Jackson is my father’s brother, Tom is another brother, Billy Owen is a mysterious cousin, Kitty Jackson is my father’s brother Levi’s daughter (hence my cousin) and Taffy is himself!

Taffy

Taffy

Picture taken in the orchard of the old home
Frank,Tom, Billy Owen, Kitty Jackson and Taffy.

At the ‘Ode Om’ they also kept a pig or pigs and when the time came to kill a pig Dad was obliged to help whilst the animal was killed by cutting its throat. That was what cottagers did in those days

Grandma Jackson, Philip Shipside and Freda Green

Grandma Jackson, Philip Shipside and Freda Green

Grandma Jackson, Philip Shipside (left) and Freda Green

They also kept hens. One day my grandmother asked one of her sons, very sweetly, “And what would you like for breakfast my son?” “I’d like an egg, mother”. “You’ll lay it then!” was the speedy reply. Freda Green is my Aunt Elsie’s elder daughter. I don’t know who Phillip Shipside is but there were two branches of the Shipside family and he may be the son of Bert Shipside who I never met. Tom Shipside married Grandma Jackson’s eldest daughter, Mary-Jane.

William Gillison Jackson

William Gillison Jackson

My Grandfather William Gillison Jackson (1850-1907)
outside the old Home. He died from a cut hand & septicaemia. No penicillin in those days
With the number of sons she had times were hard for my paternal grandmother. Shirts she made out of a roll of material. A hole for the head would be cut and hemmed but no collar was made. In those days they wore detachable collars which could be bought. Then the arms would be cut out, fashioned and stitched up. That was the shirt problem solved. My father and his brothers loved to tease her. They had a billiard table. Play was forbidden on Sundays so they used to bash the balls together to make the familiar sound of billiards being played without actually playing.
Arrived back in Bulwell Dad courted Mum for five years. They went for walks mainly. He always asked her if she would like some chocolates and then would produce a golden sovereign as payment. She would say she didn’t want him to break into a sovereign and so did without the chocolates. This went on for several weeks and then she said,” Give me that sovereign, I want some chocolates!”
Before she married mother was an Overlooker in a lace factory. The system was of piece work and the lace makers did not get paid unless their work was passed by the Overlooker. So it was a responsible job. My mother would have been a terror to work for. Nothing would escape her eagle eye I am quite sure.
All her sisters went into service apart from her youngest sister, Aunt Florrie, who had studied cookery but now just came in every day to cook our meals, arriving mid-morning and leaving after teatime. My mother’s contribution to the housekeeping duties was to make jam. She did not profess to be a cook. In any case she was very busy always in the shop for my father often left the shop in her hands. For example in an attempt to sell a bicycle he would ride a bike and push a new bike alongside it to the pithead where he had been told there was a collier interested in buying. If the sale failed he just rode the two bikes home. Deferred payment or hire purchase was the norm. Some of the bikes only cost just over one pound but the purchaser would pay off the sum owed over the course of many weeks. It all made a lot of work for the book keeper who was my mother.

Shonky Pit, Bulwell

Shonky Pit, Bulwell

‘Shonky’ Pit Bulwell

On the road outside our shop miners would be seen riding along with strapped to their waist a round metal container holding cold tea and a tin box for their snap (sandwiches). They would be wearing knee protectors. Coming home they would have the same items but now their faces would be black with coal dust. There were no pithead baths in those days. They had exactly the same washing facilities as we did. As in our house bathing would be in a tin bath kept hanging on the wall when not in use. It was a miner’s wife’s job to scrub his back. Their Davis Safety Lamps were all numbered and left behind because then the operators of the pit would be able to calculate who was still down the pit. No-one was allowed to take matches or tobacco down the pit because of the risk of fire damp (methane gas). The pit was always a dangerous place and many of my family had been seriously injured
My mother’s father, Tom Martin (after whom I was named), was a coal miner as were all her brothers. Tom Martin had been injured in the mines which was a common occurrence. As part of his compensation he was awarded a concession to cart miners’ coals. Every miner was allowed a certain amount of coal, I think perhaps five tons. The coal had to be collected at the pit head and this was the job of my grandfather. He had a horse and cart, perhaps two horses come to think of it. In fact Dad had used his skills as wheelwright to make Granddad a cart in the back yard. Do not ask me how they got it out! It must have been taken out in pieces. Grandfather Martin charged sixpence a load to collect the coal and shoot it up outside the collier’s house. It was a regular thing to see heaps of coal in the road waiting to be barrowed into the back yard coal house. I am sure such a practice would not now be allowed. As well as a lavatory each house had its own coal house in the back yard.
Some jealous person tried to muscle in on the concession granted to Tom Martin and so he walked about ten miles to where the owner of the colliery (a Mr Sealey) lived and told this grand person all about it. Mr Sealey said very little. All he said was “Go down to the kitchen and the butler will give you something to eat. Then go back to Bulwell and get some of that good Bulwell air into your lungs and wait and see what happens.” His use of the phrase “Good Bulwell air” is evidence that he was not often in that area! The concession was restored. But a few years on someone else tried it on. “I still know my road to Mr Sealy’s” said grandfather. And that was the end of that.
The pit was properly called Bulwell Hall Colliery but it was always known to us as “Shonkie”. There was a local dialect which takes some understanding if you are not familiar with it. A favourite greeting would be “A-up surrey” followed perhaps by “tha must keep on the cawsey that knows.” The first part is simply a greeting and is perhaps Shakespearean English, “Sirrah”. The second part is “You must keep on the causeway/pavement/sidewalk and is probably from the French word “chaussee” there were a lot of Huguenots in Nottingham at one time, attracted perhaps by the textile industry. If so they would have brought French with them.
Bulwell Hall was at one time owned by landed gentry. It is said that two of the brothers in the family quarrelled over possession of a horse. The brother who lost the argument went and shot the horses dead. When I knew it it had become a municipal golf course and a poor one at that. It was only nine holes. The fairways when I played on it were more like rough. The grass was so long it required a good shot to get any distance.
The coal industry was dangerous and many miners were injured including my cousin George who as a result of an accident down the pit was confined to a wheelchair, courtesy of Winifred Duchess of Portland. She also helped set him up in a shop but I do not think the shop did very well. It is interesting that in 2006 the present Duke of Portland is an actor who has a part in a TV soap opera. Cousin George’s father was also George, married to Aunt Hannah, a lady of some spirit. The story goes that Uncle George took it upon himself to lie down fully stretched on the hearth, which would have a blazing fire. A hearthrug made of rags stitched to a canvas backing would be before the fire. Aunt Hannah took offence at this behaviour, thinking it was uncouth, and she fetched him a crack on the ankle with a poker. Uncle George then chased her round the furniture for a while but failing to catch her gave up. They were a very loving couple when I met them, though no doubt saddened by the injury to young George. Old George met his death in a tragic accident after he retired. He was supervising a lorry which was backing into a gateway and he was crushed by the vehicle and killed.
Customers and visitors to our shop in Bulwell were very frequent. One person who was frequently in the shop was my cousin Tommy Martin. Tommy was a socialist who read the Communist Daily Worker every day. He was well informed and subscribed to Hansard. His job was a representative of the National Provident which provided credit to working class people. People would buy a Provident Cheque and use it for purchase up to the amount on the cheque. My father used to sell bicycles on credit and I suspect some of the credit came from this organisation.
All my father’s family were craftsmen who had served apprenticeships. Two younger brothers did not because there was no money to pay the premium for them after my Grandfather died. The two younger brothers went into the motor trade. None of my father’s family went into the collieries. This was in contrast to the maternal side for all the males on my mother’s side were miners. The Jackson side’s only connection with the pits was my grandfather who worked as a joiner at the pithead; that is when he was not working as a joiner, undertaker and wheelwright for himself at his home. Dad was proud of his father’s skills. He said that Granddad had templates for many things. Using templates he could make a wooden wheelbarrow very quickly indeed. Unfortunately he had no head for strong drink and would come home occasionally very drunk and would be unable to go to work the next day. It put my father off drinking alcohol for life.

Dad used to do the occasional funeral. In those days village joiners made coffins and acted as undertakers. Dad said he was never a very good undertaker because he could never keep a straight face. At one funeral he handed the death certificate to the vicar as he thought. A few minutes later and after the burial, a white-faced vicar came up to dad who had inadvertently handed him a hymn sheet, not the burial certificate.
Dad had a fond of stories. One of his favourites (and mine) is about Lloyd George and Lord Derby who were both very important politicians. Derby was a member of the distinguished Stanley family and had served in a number of important government posts. Lloyd George was Prime Minister during WW1. Lloyd George had a large moustache and very long bushy hair. The story goes the two were together in a railway carriage and were joined by a very talkative man who insisted on being friendly with them both. Finally Lord Derby gave him a cigar to shut him up. Not a bit of it “Damn fine cigar this,” said the man and continued to talk. Then the train happened to stop and Lord Derby got out. Exasperated by this time Lloyd George said “My man do you know who that was who gave you the cigar?” “No I haven’t the foggiest” said the man, after a pause. “Well,” said Lloyd George “that was Lord Derby.” “What THE LORD DERBY?” “It was none other” came the answer. “Well he’d think we were a rum pair of buggers, I ain’t had a shave as a week and yo want yer ‘air cutting!”
He told the tale of a bowlegged man (Couldn’t stop a pig in a passage!). The man was told that if he kept on saying to himself “Me legs is straight, me legs is straight” they would straighten. “But do not on any account look down” he was told. The man carried on for a long time and eventually could not resist looking down. He then found he was knock-kneed.
Then there was the tale of the keen gardener who complained bitterly that he could never get any length on his carrots. “It’s those colliers down there.” He said, “They keep nibbling the ends off.”
A true story was one involving a Morris car. Dad sold these on commission for his brother-in-law who had founded Shipside’s Garage Limited, area agents for Morris cars. Tom Shipside was married to my Aunt Mary-Jane (mentioned earlier). Dad drove a Morris car to Shipside’s and then as he thought, drove it back home. But it was the wrong Morris car. Its rightful owner was very wroth with Dad but cars of the same make are like peas in a pod and Dad could not see what all the fuss was about. In those more trusting days of course ignition keys were often left in cars.

William Thornton Jackson

William Thornton Jackson

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