Chapter 12 The Family




Left to right Aunt Frances Tom Shipside

Aunt Mary Jane Bill Shipside Aunt Kate

The Nottingham based well known and very lucrative Shipside garage business was started with Jackson family money. Well that is the rumour. The facts I think were that when Granddad Jackson (1) died the compensation money amounted to about £100. Granddad had cut himself when replacing a glass window at work. The wound turned septic, then gangrenous. In the days before penicillin death from septicaemias were common. The eldest daughter of this bereaved family was my Aunt Mary-Jane who was married to Tom Shipside. My paternal grandmother was not very good with money and Tom Shipside undertook to look after her. He himself was very good with money. He told my father that “your mother will never want for anything, I will look after her”. And in fairness to him he appears to have done that. My paternal grandma died in Yew Tree House, Oxton, where Tom Shipside and Mary-Jane lived at the time. It was a beautiful house and still was so when I visited it years later at a time when the Divisional Veterinary Officer for Nottinghamshire, Bill McIlroy, was tenant. The house being owned by the Sherbrooke family, Lords of the Manor of Oxton. The founder of the Sherbrooke family was the Liberal Prime Minister W E Gladstone’s Chancellor of the Exchequer in modern times Capt Sherbrooke VC RN sunk the WW2 German battleship the Bismarck. Sherbrooke was promoted to Admiral subsequently.

A younger daughter of the Watnall Jacksons was my aunt Elsie Green (2) who had married Alf Green. The Greens were always envious of the money made by Tom Shipside in the motor business. Tom Shipside was a friend very early on of Lord Nuffield and through Nuffield he had secured a lucrative agency for Morris cars. Jackson money may have started him off but that is all that it did. After that the success of the business was in Tom Shipside’s own hands. My Father’s only criticism of Tom Shipside was that he did not take very good care of the two youngest Jackson boys, his brothers Harry and Frank. I do not think either Harry or Frank served an apprenticeship. Harry did quite well afterwards running a garage business from the Old Home in Watnall. He must have learned the motor trade somewhere, perhaps at Shipsides.

Frank was less lucky. Frank was always moody which is ratter a Jackson trait. He married my mother’s sister, Sarah Martin. My parents did not approve of Sarah’s marriage to Frank for they knew of Frank’s mood swings. Moodiness is rather a Jackson trait. Frank and Sarah did not have children of their own but took care of Albert Martin (3) a nephew of Sarah’s. Albert had had lost his mother. Sadly Sarah died of cancer and for a time afterwards Frank lodged at Aunt Florrie’s in Henrietta Street, Bulwell. Whilst there he did some very fine work on the marketry of a long case clock. Albert pointed the clock out to me and I was very impressed with the work. Aunt Sarah was a very nice lady. In later life Frank drove cars for Shipsides but, some time after Sarah died, he had a very nasty accident. I think it was in Lincoln. A lady pushing a pram came out from behind a vehicle and Frank ran into them killing baby and mother.

My father attended the court case and later arranged for legal representation. Frank a very humane man, was overcome by remorse and at one point the Chairman of the Bench said “This man is not doing himself justice”. I do not know what happened after that but Frank disappeared and was next seen running a window cleaning business, transporting the ladder by bicycle. He married and had two sons, Frank and William. In the 1920’s Tom Shipside had purchased an estate near to Mansfield called Fountain Dale. It was large and had apart from the main house there were several lodges and in the grounds no less than three lakes. One day when I was manning the boats at a Fountain Dale garden party. I saw someone aboard a boat who had not paid so I rowed over. It was Uncle Frank, new wife and baby. It was the return of the prodigal and I was very happy to take him over to meet my father. Sadly Frank died and shortly afterwards Frank’s wife also died. Frank’s two sons, Frank and William both married. Frank married Vyvyan and William married Lorna. Frank did well but unfortunately died fairly young, aged about 60.

Tom Shipside was very religious. He was also promiscuous. This must be an unusual combination. A very devout Methodist and Liberal he fell foul of the Lord of the Manor (Admiral Sherbrooke see above) when he put up a Liberal poster in Oxton Forge of which he was then a tenant. “Shipside, you will take down that poster or leave the forge!” said the Lord of the Manor. To his credit Tom Shipside left the forge. He attended “Chapel” as Methodists call church regularly and when in the congregation was fond of calling out “Hallelujah” and “Amen” at intervals. He wrote a book with the aid of a ghost writer “I lived in a village”. It makes good reading in the earlier chapters but then goes off into a long list of local Methodists of whom he appears to have an encyclopaedic knowledge. He writes about what their day job was and where they preached. These words are not being written by a ghost writer!

As to the promiscuity aspect which perhaps is the more interesting, he had various lady friends and sadly some were fertile. It fell to my aunt Mary-Jane to go and see these girls and make some sort of arrangement. She said many of the women were very nice persons. “Why don’t you leave him?” my father asked. “He’s not getting rid of me as cheaply as that.” She replied. They later left Fountain Dale which she loved and moved to Oxton Manor. Tom Shipside had a great desire to die as resident of the Manor, having been born in the forge. Fountain Dale as a large estate with several lodges and three lakes, on one of which there were two rowing boats fetched only £7,000. I hope I am wrong about this for it was worth far far more.

There is a Robin Hood legend associated with Fountain Dale. At one point Friar Tuck agrees to carry Robin Hood across a moat to an island (i.e. act as psychopomp to the Otherworld) on the understanding that Robin will return the favour on the return journey. However, Robin dumps Friar Tuck in the water half-way back. A fight ensues, and Robin Hood starts to get the better of Friar Tuck who blows his horn which summons fifty hounds. Robin Hood blows his own horn, in response to which fifty bowmen appear and shoot the dogs. In the introduction to the tale, Friar Tuck is introduced as Master of the Hounds. In one of the lodges at Fountain Dale Sir Walter Scott stayed. It was there he wrote almost the whole of Ivanhoe.

Although he was far from perfect I have a sneaking regard for Uncle Tom Shipside. He had not always been the rich tycoon he afterwards became. Once he had to get measured for a suit. He went to the tailors in his pyjamas. They were all he had to wear. He said to my father, “Some people think I am made of money”. After a pause for reflection, he added “And it is perhaps as well they do think so.”

Mary-Jane bore him three children, two daughters and a son. The elder daughter was called Frances and like her mother, became a Justice of the Peace. Tom was never a JP. I suspect his reputation went before him. His son was called William and my father was very fond of him as he was of my father. I called all the Shipside children Aunts and Uncle because they were so much older than me. But of course they were first cousins. Frances was very much against drink, that is to say alcoholic drink. So was my father and I suspect that was because his father, my grandfather used to come home very much the worse for drink and next day would have a bad head and not go to work. Kate Shipside the younger daughter married Harold Adams. They had no children was always very nice to me as were indeed all the Shipside family. The Shipside’s son, Thomas William Shipside was always known as Bill. He was my hero. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. He was not allowed to go to France because he was very young and his parents had to give their permission. After the war he continued to fly and sold aircraft and was part owner of Tollerton Aerodrome afterwards that became East Midlands Airport.

Bill Shipside was a wonderful cricketer and snooker player. He taught his own two children to fly. He had a landing strip near to Holly Lodge his house. He used to fly regularly to le Touquet and once did a trip to the Holy Land. Coming back he flew over protected air space in Libya and the Italians wheeled out an ancient Anti Aircraft gun and fired at him. “What’s that white stuff over there?” asked his wife. “Oh its only low cloud” said Bill. It was of course shrapnel!

Quick witted on that occasion he was not always so. I remember him telling me the story of how he saw my uncle Thomas Tunstall Jackson (4) at Fountain Dale. I suspect Uncle Tom was given lodgings there by his sister Aunt Mary-Jane on the understanding he would do odd jobs. Tom was a very good worker and especially in wood work. Once he was asked to re-roof a huge building at a quarry in Crich a place in Derbyshire. It was a very tall building. “How long shall we have to stop work Mr Jackson, whilst you replace the roof”? “You needn’t close down at all unless you want to” came the reply. My Father said Tom could have done it too. The roof would have been sectioned off and built at ground level. During erection all tools would be tied to Tom’s wrist so there was no risk of injury. In fact they did close the works down whilst Tom put on the roof.

Back to Bill Shipside’s story, Tom was sitting down at Fountain Dale stirring a pot of paint. Uncle Tom had been stirring the pot of paint for a very long time. “How long will you have to stir that paint, Uncle Tom”? Bill asked. “Until the sun goes in” Tom said. Years later when Bill told me this story he slapped his leg and said “I’ve just realised what he meant!” My cousin Bill was a very likeable man. It was generous of him to tell a story against himself.

Sadly Bill Shipside crashed an aeroplane he was piloting a few years later. The accident happened somewhere in the French Alps. Icing of the wings was the problem. After the crash Bill was OK but Aunt Lily; Lily Bacon his wife was badly hurt. She died later; I am not sure how much her final illness was due to the crash. I do not know whether he resumed flying after the crash. Bill died in his mid-sixties having married again. His second wife was Doris, known as Dosh.

Bill rather fancied himself as an engineer. In fact he was probably very good at it. He either built or adapted an MG sports car as a racing vehicle. It was painted in the British car racing colour of green and had a white painted circle on each door on which was painted the race number. His son, Kenneth raced it very successfully. Kenneth won a particular cup twice and I asked what would happen if he won it a third time; would he be allowed to keep it? “He gets a replica” came the answer (he pronounced it replyka).The car was called “Little John” and afterwards was sent out to Australia where Peter, the youngest son, had a garage business. Kenneth and his sister Margaret, had been taught to fly. Both were quite competitive. Margaret and I once carried out a contest to decide who could row fastest. There were two dinghies on the lake at Fountain Dale, both rather similar. We raced and Margaret, a slip of a girl, won. So we switched boats because I could not believe I had been beaten. After the switch Margaret won again!

Frances took a great interest in Oxton Chapel (5) where she was the organist and a tireless worker. She had married Levi Hopkin who was the son of James Hopkin. James Hopkin lived at Oxton Mill. Oxton Mill blew down one stormy night and a man called Jarvis Gibson was in it at the time and suffered from some sort of nervous complaint ever after. Frances was very much against strong drink speaking against it many times when on the Magistrates’ Bench. I asked Bill about his own attitude. I knew he was not teetotal and at one time had kept a keg of cider at Fountain Dale, a secret kept from his parents. “I drink when I am thirsty” was his non-committal reply. But I do not think he drank alcoholic drinks very much.

Levi Hopkin was responsible for introducing films into the work of Oxton Chapel. Methodists at the time regarded the cinema as the work of the devil but a number of leading Methodists including J Arthur Rank, the Millionaire Lord Rank, saw it differently and used film in the Methodist Church to good effect. Rank formed the Film studio which bore his name as a consequence. After Tom Shipside died the Shipside firm was bought by the Rank organisation and Bill Shipside became a retired tycoon. Aunt Kate (Mrs Harold Adams) worked at Shipsides as did her husband. They never had any family. Both Frances and Kate had splendid houses in Oxton with super gardens. The whole of the Shipside family ran garden parties, usually in aid of the Methodist Church. I used to enjoy these garden parties especially the teas.

Levi died and then Frances. Her final days were unhappy as she had dementia very badly. It was sad for such a good person to end up thus. After she died Oxton Chapel became a private house. I do not know the circumstances. Perhaps the congregation fell off; perhaps the problem was financial for I suspect Frances and Levi made substantial contributions.

Bill had three children, Kenneth who went to Nottingham High School the school to which I had failed to get a scholarship. He was in the motor trade for a while and then became an estate agent. Margaret married a local farmer, Tom Shepherd and had two children. Her son, Peter Andrew Shepherd, became a veterinary surgeon and is now in small animal practice in the Wirral. He has never been in touch with me for some unknown reason. That is a pity for the veterinary profession is very small and I know a lot of people having met them during my long veterinary career. I can well understand if Peter wanted to make his own way unaided by family contacts. He went to Cambridge and appears to have done well. I never see his name in the veterinary literature though. Margaret split from Tom Shepherd and went to live on an island in the Mediterranean. She became a very good artist I believe but we lost touch. I have never been in touch with another son of Bill Shipside, Peter who lives in Australia.

Frances and Levi’s daughter Kathleen married John Crow. She is now widowed still lives in Oxton. She is a very well known artist and has had several exhibitions in London. Two of them at least were the Mall gallery. That is the London Mall!

Another sister of my father was Aunt Alice Cunningham (Auntie Jack). She had been a cook in service and had married Jim Cunningham who when they married was a builder’s labourer and a Roman Catholic. Uncle Jim joined the Royal Engineers as a private. The army was destined to be the major part of his life and that of Aunt Alice. He was made a corporal after he pulled someone out of a canal. My father said “you were made a corporal because you pulled that chap out of the canal.” Uncle Jim’s answer was revealing, “No,” he said “I was made corporal because somebody saw me do it”.

I think Uncle Jim joined the army in 1911 and between then and about 1930 studied to pass the army’s educational requirements with a view to getting a commission. My father said to him, “They will never make you an officer, Jim.” Jim said, “They will if I am worth it” The day came, in 1930 when the then Sergeant Cunningham was instructed to ring someone at the War Office. “Sergeant Cunningham here,” he said. The answer came, “Sorry we do not know of any Sergeant Cunningham, perhaps you mean Lieutenant Cunningham?”

In later years Uncle Jim became very fat. Dad asked him what he would do if the scaffolding the army put up was too weak to bear his weight. “I’d make them strengthen it” he said. My parents visited the Cunningham’s when they were at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire. Aunt Alice asked the way to somewhere and was told the route lay over the Wallops. Aunt Alice had an earthy sense of humour. “I am not going over the Wallops tonight,” she said.

The Cunningham’s were stationed all over the world. Aunt Alice had herself converted to Roman Catholicism and had three children, Mary, William and Francis. I asked Uncle Jim once what the worst posting he had had was. He replied “Sierra Leone”. In 1939 he was stationed in Egypt where his main job was building camps and especially looking after the water supplies. Alice went with Mary and Frances to South Africa where they lived in Durban. Bill was by this time at Cotton College where Francis afterwards joined him. Mary had also been away at school, a school near Matlock but I don’t know the name.

Times were unsettled after the war for the Cunningham’s and Aunt Alice had to move around a lot. She lived in one of the lodges at Fountain Dale for a while, courtesy of her sister Aunt Mary-Jane.

Jim retired as a Lieutenant-colonel and bought a house in Watnall from Stanley Jackson, Uncle George Jackson’s son. Jim was a splendid gardener, grafting fruit trees with ease. He had qualified as a quantity surveyor and worked for a time for a Nottingham firm.

His son Bill was commissioned and during the war was in the Reconnaissance Corps being the first British soldier to cross the Rhine. He was also in the Marines. He had done very well at Sandhurst and I think got the sword of honour. He retired as Major and became a NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air force Institutes) manager. NAAFI managers were not encouraged to use their army titles. During his army career he had been mentioned in despatches (MID) for an idea he had of throwing packets of frozen peas out of aircraft to supply troops on the ground. I used to tease him about that! He told me once, shortly before he died at the Watnall house, “You never get over the fact that you have killed another human being”. I was touched by that for army people never tell you if they have killed anyone.

Bill married Pat, an army nurse (Queen Alexandra’s) out in Kenya and they had two children. Their son, Ian, became a solicitor and has done very well to become a senior prosecutor on the Crown Prosecution Service. Ian is also a member of the Territorial Army (TA) and the TA gave him a guard of honour when he married. Sadly I was not able to get to the wedding. His sister, Ann, married a doctor from Hucknall but that marriage failed and she now lives in Buckinghamshire working in PR and evidently doing well. Ann is a very personable girl. Her widowed mother Pat recently joined her going to live in an adjacent property. Pat sold the Watnall house and the site appears to now be occupied by at least four houses. Pat never liked Watnall but it was somewhere to live in view of the army “tied cottage” life the Cunninghams led for many years.

I remembered my late wife asking Pat Cunningham once “You don’t really want to live here do you?” with a rising inflection at the last two words. Of course Pat didn’t but they had to live somewhere.

I met Bill and Pat many times for instance when he was stationed at Bielfeld in Germany. Bill liked Germany and spoke fluent Germanged. He enjoyed caravanning on the continent but not in the UK. I took him to dine at Lincoln’s Inn and he took me as a guest to the officers’ mess at Feltham. I spent the night there and in the morning found a note inside my car from the army police telling me to keep it locked in future. He also took me to Sandhurst. Bill and I looked rather alike in features. I was driving and he handed me his army pass which bore his photograph. “Here Bill,” he said, “You can have the salute this time. We will see if Johnny Ghurkha is awake” The Ghurkha sentry was awake and said to me sternly, “You are not Major Cunningham” I replied that Major Cunningham was sitting beside me and the right man got the salute in the end.

Bill annoyed Anthea my late wife when they first met “Are you Bill’s popsy?” he asked in his rough soldierly manner. The first time we met after the war he asked me what I did and I told him I was a veterinary surgeon. “H’mm” he said, “not much use for veterinary surgeons in the army.” In fact he was quite wrong about that but I told him I had never had any thoughts about joining the army. Bill’s life was the army so he saw it differently.

Frances was also in the army but had a chequered career especially after he pranged the car of a senior officer out in Malaya. Frances endeared me when aged perhaps 25 years he drove down to our house in Worcester with his mother, then a widow. It was in the days before windscreen washers. Frances had evolved his own solution to the cleaning of windscreens whilst on the more. Stopping for lunch on the way Frances laid his water pistol on the table and asked the waitress if she would be good enough to fill it.

Mary never married. She became a schoolteacher and a commissioner in the Girl Guides.

This is the Jackson Coat of Arms. I do not believe it!

(1) See chapter 1 page 18 reference Granddad Jackson

(2) See chapter 2 page 19 reference the Greens

(3) See chapter 3 page 13 for reference to Albert Martin

(4) See chapter 2 page 19 reference Thomas Tunstall Jackson

(5) See chapter 2 page 13 reference Frances Hopkin and Oxton Chapel

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