Chapter 8 Beverley

MY STORY

CHAPTER EIGHT

BEVERLEY SOCIAL

The house at Beverley

Built by a builder for himself and it showed!

The family took the move to Beverley quite well on the whole though it meant leaving our lovely bungalow behind. As Birkenhead Council had decided to build a very large estate on the land adjacent the price we got for the bungalow was lower than might have otherwise been expected. But in Beverley I had found another bungalow. With her heart condition Anthea needed a bungalow.

A further problem was schooling for the girls. They were enrolled in Hull High School for girls, a Church Schools company which was housed at Tranby Croft scene of the Edwardian Baccarat Scandal. Queen Victoria’s eldest son the Prince of Wales was involved. At that time Tranby Croft was owned by the Wilson family who were well to do ship-owners.

Lizzie on left Anne on right

In Edinburgh I had met Adrian Bull an agriculturalist who lived at the Kildary hotel. He gave me an introduction to his uncle, Canon Ben Bull who was in charge of Beverley Minster. I had dinner at Canon Bull’s house. The Jackson family have connections with Beverley Minster through the Thornton family. The wall of the nave was several feet out of true. The Thornton solution (famed world wide) was to erect a timber structure to support the wall whilst it was jacked up to allow for new foundations to be put in.

But coming back to Ben Bull who was charming, we would have very much liked to have joined his congregation but we were in the parish of St Mary’s. St Mary’s was very much the up market church. St Mary’s main claim to fame so far as I am concerned was that Dr Samuel Johnson once preached there.

Beverley has much to commend it. We were close to the Westwood, a very large open space with primeval woodland at one end. The road to York passes over the Westwood and Beverley Racecourse is on one side of it. We thus did not have to pay to watch the races, just look over the fence. I once took the children to see a race and was egged on to place a small bet on two horses. I have a lifelong aversion to any form of gambling as a consequence of my Primitive Methodist past. The horses I picked came in first and second. As I collected the modest winnings at the bookmakers I did my very best to impress on the girls that this result was pure luck. Even though their father was a veterinary surgeon and familiar with horses, no-one could ever predict a winner and gambling was a complete mugs game. I think I may have succeeded for neither of the girls has subsequently shown any interest in gambling.

The Beverley racecourse was the scene every year of the Pony Club Camp. The Pony Club is an offshoot of the hunt. The Club runs excellent courses in horsemastership. I was very pleased when the girls joined. Our erstwhile neighbour Dr Julian Bird was an anaesthetist at Westwood Hospital. He was quite a character. He was crazy about ponies and encouraged our two girls as did Betty Porter one of the Veterinary Officers. Eventually I bought Rocky, a Welsh pony which I had seen when in Cheshire. I borrowed Julian’s land rover and drove him back calling in on the way at Ray Binyon’s Chester house. He thought I was mad. I think he was right up to a point but I am glad the girls did have the opportunity to own their own pony. The expenses of keeping a pony are underrated but we managed. Saddles are quite expensive and when eighteen months later we sold Rocky I got only half the price back. The reason Rocky was sold was that Elizabeth refused to ride him to the blacksmiths. It was true he had thrown her once but I thought the short road journey was quite safe. After Rocky threw Lizzie off I lunged him for a week or so. I led him up to the Westwood and then let him go tethered on a short rope. The first time I did this I think Rocky got a great shock for at the end of the rope he found I could hold him and all he could do was trot round in a circle. It certainly gave him a lot of discipline.

By this time we had a menagerie. There were three animals, Rocky plus Rusty our Jack Russell and Fluffy a half Persian cat. Rusty was quite small being a Jack Russell but he had great ambitions. If there was a bitch on heat within a range of five miles Rusty would be there but without a step ladder. He was I think twice brought home in a police car. One police officer opened the car door for Rusty and said “out you go Romeo”. One time a solicitor’s wife we knew telephoned Anthea and said she had found Rusty on the Westwood. Her house was also near the Westwood but perhaps a mile away to the north. “That’s funny, replied Anthea, “Rusty has just walked in the door”. I think the solicitor’s wife would have had to take the dog she had found and dump him where she had found him perhaps having trouble getting him to go away. We never found out the end of the story. We used to have snow on the Westwood occasionally and it was great for sledging. We never managed to get Rusty to pull the sledge. He would occasionally allow himself to stay on the sledge in someone’s arms but he took every opportunity to jump out and then ran alongside barking at us.

I had found Fluffy on a farm and took Anne along to pick him out. At first Rocky was kept in a stable nearby and the girls used to take it in turn to look after him in the early morning before school. Some of the children complained at the horsy smell even though the girls wore pinafores over their school uniforms. Later on Rocky lived at a riding school where he was on half livery. That meant occasionally he was hired out to pupils by the owner of the school.

Coming back to Julian Bird he had bought a house just outside the town and had installed on the grass field several old railway trucks which he converted into stables. One day when I was with him in their lounge a bulldozer appeared and proceeded to uproot a hedge. “Hey Julian” said Nora his wife, “what is that bulldozer doing to our hedge?” Julian had obviously omitted to tell he was going to make another gateway into the field.

Once when I was away on duty Anthea fell ill. All the time she was at Beverley she was rather unwell. Julian took Anthea home and for a short time she stayed with the Bird family. Rows between Julian and Nora were frequent, she discovered. She once saw Nora throw a vase at Julian. Julian caught it and carried on with the conversation as though nothing had happened.

We had dealings with various medicos in Beverley. Our own Doctor was a Dr Jarvis who wasn’t a bad doctor but he failed to realise how ill Anthea was on one occasion. Her heart was giving trouble and eventually she had to have a second heart operation. Julian offered to lend us his support for he knew a lot of people locally. But in the end Anthea decided she wanted to go back to Liverpool to Broadgreen Hospital be operated on by the surgeon she knew there, Mr Ronnie Edwards who was as it happens the son of a veterinary surgeon.

Dr Michael Rose was another friend. He was a bit pompous though. He told me once that his father was a carpenter and so he, Dr Rose, had come from rather humble beginnings. It occurred to me than that some people might regard a country GP as rather humble beginnings but I had enough tact not to voice such an opinion. But Rose was OK and became a lay reader at St Mary’s.

I joined the Constitutional Club in Beverley and used to play snooker there a lot. I remember walking there with Rusty sitting in the pocket of my gannex raincoat. I was amazed when from this vantage point he started to bark. I used to tie him up at the entrance to the club but never left him there for long as I thought it unfair to him.

I made friends at the club with Harry Roberts a pork butcher who became Mayor of Beverley. During his year of office Harry decided to run a medieval procession and appealed to any horse owners to take part. I did not volunteer immediately and was chided by Harry. I then recruited a pony for Anne and Lizzie rode Rocky led by me in costume. All went well but Rocky relieved himself at one point. Horse manure is good for roses.

Anthea me Mrs Roberts and Harry Roberts

I am sure that had I stayed in Beverley I might well have been recruited to the Town Council. That is the way things are done there. Years ago Anthony Trollope found this to be the case and Dickens is said to have modelled the town of Eatanswill in “Pickwick Papers” on Beverley. What I did become whilst in Beverley was a Venture Scout Assistant County Commissioner. It came about when I was co-opted on to the committee of the venture scouts. One time I was ten minutes late for a meeting and discovered that the meeting was over. I waxed on a bit about this and said that if the meeting had only enough business to occupy ten minutes was it worth having a meeting at all? Then shortly after I myself took over the chair but the man who ran the venture scouts showed himself quite unfit. He just did not understand what scouting was about. The County Commissioner appointed me as Assistant County Commissioner but I only served for a short time because soon after I was promoted and posted to London.

Beverley people like to Summer you and Winter you before deciding whether or not to like you. Anthea never liked Beverley but she said that this was because she was ill most of the time. She was a Hampshire girl and I think compared with Hampshire people Yorkshire people seem very brusque. She said that after we left people there said some very nice things about us all which they had never said when we were there. I think that is typical of Yorkshire people.

I wrote in Chapter nine that my father came to live with us when we were in Worcester. He moved to Birkenhead with us and to Beverley. But things got too much for Anthea and her health had in any case deteriorated and so Dad had to go into a home. I felt very bad about this. So far as I personally am concerned, now I am aged 81 years of age I have no intention of living with either of my daughters and I am sure they will be relieved to know that! If sheltered accommodation is the future or a nursing home is the future then so be it. But things have a habit of sorting themselves out. I have taken (with Anthea’s help) the precaution of learning how to look after myself. I now manage very well with the aid of a weekly cleaner and frequent visits from Lizzie.

My father was in two local authority homes when we were in Beverley. The last one he was in was very nice and they looked after him well. Our bungalow was near to the hospital and dad took to cadging a lift to our house by telling drivers he wanted a lift to the hospital. Sadly my father died when we were in Beverley.

I had got to know many MAFF people when stationed at Beverley as I had been seconded several times to Region. I had also been elected to the Council of the Yorkshire Veterinary Society where a fellow member was Alf Wight, who later wrote under the pseudonym of James Herriot. So I knew him quite well and I knew even better Brian (Bruno) Sinclair who appears in the books as Tristram Farnon. Siegfried Farnon was Brian’s brother Donald but sadly I did not know Donald which was a pity as from the books he appeared quite a character. Also appearing in the books but under his own name was John Crooks of Beverley.

James Herriot pictured at the time I knew him

On 6th November 1967 I reported to E R Corrigall RVO at the Foot and Mouth Disease Centre Oswestry. He took me aside and stressed how serious the outbreak of Foot and Mouth was likely to be. He was afterwards proved quite correct. It lasted for six months. It had started in a market at Oswestry and even worse than that it was in pigs. It was a recipe for disaster.

Foot & Mouth Disease

I stayed at Oswestry centre where we all worked long hours, sometimes starting early morning and going on almost to midnight. Then on 22nd November I was posted to a smaller centre at Llangollen where H (Rex) Cremlyn-Hughes was the DVO in charge. I asked why I was being transferred and was told they wanted someone who was a sheep expert. I denied being a sheep expert but it did no good. “Rex” Cremlyn-Hughes got that nickname because of a strong resemblance to Rex Harrison the actor. He was also known as cream line Hughes which was very unfair. He was an excellent DVO and everything at Llangollen was very well organised.

On Friday 24th November for example I arrived at a farm at 9.00am to do a diagnosis. By the time I left at 10.30pm the diagnosis had been made, put through to Tolworth valuers had arrived to do the valuation, followed by slaughter men then a man with a digger and I left leaving the livestock I had seen earlier alive and well, all buried beneath the soil. I was very impressed by the organisation shown at the centre. It was true that I also had worked hard and efficiently but without the centre’s backup it could not have been done. When I got back nobody thought that what I had done was in any way exceptional. That is the measure of Cremlyn-Hughes’ efficiency as the DVO in charge of the centre.

Harry Ritchie, a senior lecturer at Liverpool Veterinary School was not one who was aggrieved by my presence and showed me how he was recording the development of the lesions on the tongues of the infected animals. He was fine veterinary surgeon who afterwards did a lot of work on the use of pig valves for human patients. Anthea had a pig valve fitted. Another chap from Liverpool was Bill Faull. He was so good that he afterwards acted as the chief of the operations room.

But certain others made me less welcome and I was told that the centre had told me not to call onto their premises. That was quite wrong. I only went where I was told to go. In fact my attitude was to have a quick look round and if I thought everything was going well I went way unless the veterinary officer in charge had anything he wanted to know about. There were many things an officer needed to know which were not in any textbook. What animals should be killed first? Answer the bull. Because of his alpha position Bulls soon got very upset when other animals were being killed. Females never seemed to mind seeing animals killed. They did not appear to have any apprehension or fear. Digging burial pits and setting funeral pyres could also be tricky. Occasionally there were problems over valuations but we normally relied entirely on the valuers as we had no expertise. But for example a castrated bullock does not have any pedigree value.

After my four days a notice appeared “Would Mr Jackson, who reported to this centre four days ago kindly report to Mr Donald Hood DVO as Mr Hood would like to know what Mr Jackson looks like!” Donald Hood I had never met. He was DVO Leicester and he had been told I was to report to him as an assessor whose job was to look at dangerous contacts and decide what animals had to be killed and which could be left. So for two weeks or so I did that job for Donald who was a delightful man. I remember in particular a case involving the Duchess of Westminster’s herd. An outlying sheep had gone down with disease. The herdsman attending had scrupulously disinfected himself but the worry was had he taken the virus back to the other cattle he looked after. These were reported appeared healthy. I decided the risk was too great and had to justify this approach to her ladyship. She was very nice about it but I felt sorry for the man because I believed him when he said how careful he had disinfected himself.

Donald had a good sense of humour. We were suing at the time a substance called Foseco as an aid to the lighting of funeral pyres. “What’s that stuff called? Is it Fiasco?” But as usual I was taken away for other duties. Someone was required to look through the files of the first sixty outbreaks at the Chester Centre and see if there were any common denominators which might give an insight into how the disease had spread sp quickly.

The problem was that many of the early files were quite incomplete. They had not been complied by veterinary surgeons familiar with FMD requirements and forms were either not filled up at all or were filled up in a very cavalier fashion. The people concerned were not longer at the centre so mush information was irretrievably lost and I had to conjecture what it might have been.

On the map the pattern of outbreaks looked astonishingly like the pattern produced by a nuclear fallout with the epicentre at Oswestry. Another feature was the A41 road which passed near to many of the cases. We thought the milk Lorries might be the cause. The milk bulk tankers operate a system where they extract air from the milk tank all the time they are on the road. Milk is a very potent source of FMD virus. We got the Lorries to fit filters so as to remove any virus which might be excreted. But what is needed in FMD files is precise information as to where the affected cattle were? Were they grazing and if so where? What about visitors to the farm? This kind of information was missing which was very frustrating as it normally would be there if the forms had been completed by a whole time veterinary officer. But in the early days of the outbreaks much of the work was done by veterinary surgeons new to the business and nobody had time to oversee their work. The vets who had dealt with many of these early cases were usually long gone by the time I got to read the files.

I came to the conclusion that it was wind or air borne infection. Some 22 miles was the distance involved. Accepted wisdom was that wind borne infection only occurred at a distance of two miles. And that was all I was allowed to say in my report. As to the association with the A41 that was certainly a possibility but I favoured the air borne route of infection. When as was proved to happen, sand from the Sahara Desert was blown as far as England 22 miles for windblown virus was quite feasible it seemed to me.

There the matter rested until as always happens, years later the research epidemiologists took over and proved we were right. They pooh-poohed our work initially because all we did was to ask questions, right the answers down in a notebook and compare results drawing conclusions on the basis of probability. I was greatly helped in this work by my architect friend Raymond Binyon, with whom I was staying at the time. He produced overlays which graphically illustrated my results, even though my conclusions were not believed at the time.

In fact at Christmas 1967 my family joined me at the invitation of the Binyons. I fear I was poor company being very tired and wrapt up in my FMD work. When the children excitedly climbed into our bed on Christmas Day they got a poor response from me, In any case I was that very same day at work as usual and was present at a farm where FMD had been recently diagnosed (see above). I stayed with the Binyons until 25th January 1968. That was the night of the Burn’s night supper. As many of the veterinary surgeons were Scotsmen it was quite a wild night. Someone put whiskey into the water jug which I was using to dilute my whiskey and I was overcome by a combination of the festivities, the knowledge that I was to be posted home the next day and the sabotaging of the water jug. I decided it was unwise for me to drive home and so spent the night fully dressed in the Peacock Hotel, Chester where a colleague had a room with a spare bed. Before getting to the Peacock I managed to walk into part of the Roman Wall which surrounds Chester so I had a black eye when I arrived home finally at Beverley to find Anthea giving tea to one of the St Mary’s curates.

After a break I returned to Chester Centre to advise on problems relating to the aftermath of the outbreak. We were having recrudescences. In other word there had been slip-ups with regard to the disinfection. That was not surprising considering the circumstances under which the original disinfection had been carried out. There were clear signs that this had often not been thorough enough. So ended for me the 1967-8 outbreaks, rather diminuendo than crescendo to use musical terms.

I soldiered on at Beverley until in 1971 I was promoted and sent to Tolworth the MAFF Head Office at that time.

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