A photo of me at my 80th birthday party in Ramsgate


Since my retirement in 1993 I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to compile a one-name study of  our family name.   Firstly by joining The Society of Australian Genealogists and spending untold hours searching for every item in their records re Chittendens’ worldwide.   At the same time advertising in Genealogical Magazines and the Genealogical Research Directory, which resulted in considerable correspondence from the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia and New Zealand  Having virtually exhausted the research facilities available in Sydney, and  much prompting by Andrew and Christopher to go on the ‘Net” I eventually accepted their advice and with some doubt and trepidation I took the ‘big step’.    It has proved to be a great advantage to accessing information from the four quarters of the globe, with the minimum of fuss.   Making contacts with researchers, worldwide, and receiving almost instant replies.   This hobby came about because several years ago I had read that a Thomas Chittenden, from West Farleigh, Kent was, at the age of twenty-three, given a life sentence and shipped to Australia on the ship ‘Atlas 3’ and arrived in Sydney on the 22nd July 1816.    Having, during my lifetime, only met one person named Chittenden, who was not one of my own family, I assumed that tracing Thomas would be a simple task, needless to say I am no nearer tracing his lineage past his parents than I am of concluding our own family tree.    Using a common genealogical expression, I hit the proverbial ‘brick wall’ in 1784 in the search for my own ancestry. 


 On the 20th August 1784 the Banns were listed for Stephen Chittenden and Mary Williamson at All Saints Parish Church, Maidstone, Kent.   In view of their continued association with that Church after they were married it must be assumed that their wedding took place there, however I have yet to find the Marriage record. Their children were Stephon, born 12th June, baptised 3rd July 1785, John Speek, born 25th November, baptised 24th December 1786, Mary Ann, baptised 31st May 1789 (who married a John Apps in 1808) were all baptised at All Saints Parish Church, Maidstone.   The last child recorded, Thomas, was baptised on the 11th May 1791.


 It does appear that Stephon my direct descendent, born 12th June 1785, married Amelia ?????? at Deptford,  Mary Anns Building, High Street Wesleyan prior to 1817 as on the 2nd February 1817 the Parish Register reads ‘Amelia Charlotte, daughter of Stephen and Amelia Chittenden of Greenwich was born on ? of January 1817.   Registered 3rd February by me Joseph Sutcliffe, Minister’   There were two other children, George, born 1819 and William, born 1828.   From the 1841 Census records Stephen (55 is listed, occupation Bricklayer, his wife Elizabeth (48) (It can only be assumed that Amelia had died and he married Elizabeth ???? whose birthplace is listed as Gravesend) and their son William aged 18..    In the 1851 Census Stephen (65) and Elizabeth (58) are residing at 20 Pearson Street, Greenwich and his brother Thomas aged 60, Bricklayer, is also listed with them. Son William is listed as a lodger at 7 Roan Street, Greenwich.   Elizabeth Chittenden died 6th April 1857 at 20 Pearson Street, Greenwich, aged 64.   Cause of Death:  Paralysis.   Stephen died 12th December 1857 at 9 Roan Street, Greenwich, aged 73. Occupation:  Bricklayer.   Cause of Death:  Passage of  Gall Stones.  


United Kingdom Wills:   This is the last Will and Testament of me, Stephen Chittenden, Bricklayer of 20 Pearson Street, Greenwich in the County of Kent, on this third day of December 1857 wherein I do bequeath unto my three children at my decease, after all my debts are paid all that remains of my personal effects and property consisting of a house situated at 9 Roan Street, Greenwich and three cottages and shed at the back of the said No. 9, Roan Street and also four houses No’s. 7, 8, 9, and 10 on the east side of Pearson Street, Greenwich, and I do advise that the rents of these houses shall be collected and after ground rent, interest on mortgage repayments, insurance, rates, repairs and collection of any other expenses attached thereto that occur the quarter the surplus shall be equally divided between my married daughter Amelia Charlotte Brook and George Chittenden and William Chittenden.   And further I Stephen Chittenden do hereby appoint William Brook or his Agent to collect all rents, pay all expenses and obtain a new mortgage if possible should it be required but provided a new mortgage cannot be obtained then the said William Brook shall dispose of the property on the most advantageous terms possible with the advise of all interested parties and for which receives a fair and proper percentage shall be paid together with all needful expenses incurred in collecting the same.   And further that at the decease of either  the before names then all his or her part that shall be enjoyed by the husbands or wives of the said parties and their children.   And it is my desire that all my building materials and tools then in possession shall be kept in the shed for the purpose of repairing the before mentioned property and an equal use of the shed be for the right of both of the interested parties.   I hereby revoke all my former Wills and make this my last Will and Testament.   As witness thereof proof I have this 3rd day of  December in the presence of ….. signed my hand George Salter, 19 London Street, Greenwich.    STEPHEN CHITTENDEN.   Testator:   Francis Harding, 10 George Street, Crooms Hill, Greenwich.  


 Amelia Chittenden had married William Brook on 16th August 1841:- ‘William Brook, Bachelor, Profession: Dyer.   Father: Abraham Brook, Bricklayer.   Amelia Charlotte Chittenden, Spinster.  Both of Full Age.   Residence at time of Marriage: Charlton.   Marriage solemnised by Banns in the Parish of Charlton


George Chittenden married Charlotte Mary Walter at the Parish Church of Charlton on the 2nd December 1839.   George is listed as a Bricklayer.   Charlotte Mary Walter was born in1821 and christened at St Alphage Church, Greenwich on 4th September 1821    Her Father, Richard Walter was born in 1785, in Kent, and was a Blacksmith.   George and Charlotte had five children who were all christened at St Alphage Church, Greenwich.       George born 15th October, christened 8th November 1840, William James, born 17th September, christened  9th October 1842, Charlotte 7th May 1845, and Stephen Potts  christened 19th June 1847 and his death is registered in the September Quarter 1947  At the time of the 1851 Census they were living at 3 Roan Street, Greenwich West, Kent.   George (39),  Charlotte (29), George (10),  William (8), Charlotte (6) and Maria (2) ( I have had no success in tracing the birth of Maria   Stephen Chittenden was born on 29th January 1853 at Greenwich.


George Chittenden, my great great grandfather died in 1867, aged 48, from an accident at work.      The Death Certificate, dated 8th July 1867 states ‘Injured from an accidental fall from scaffold.     Father: Stephen Chittenden, Bricklayer present at Death’   I remember my father telling me that his father and grandfather were both steeplejacks..    George’s wife, Charlotte Mary, died in 1871, aged 50, at 9 Roan Street, Greenwich, from ‘Congestion of lungs and serious effusion in pericardium’


Stephen Chittenden, my grandfather, married Rose Bignell in 1878 at Camberwell.        Rose was born in

Kingston, Middlesex in 1858, and is listed as a machinist.  Her father Thomas S Bignell was born in Paddington, Middlesex  in 1834 and is listed as a Cordwainer.            Stephen and Rose had six children:-

Stephen Thomas 1879, William Valentine 1881, Rose Charlotte 1883, Florence Marie 1886, Maud Mary

1890 and George Henry 1893.    The 1881 Census shows Stephen (31) Factory Engineer, Rose (23) Stephen T (2) and William V (7 months), residing at 12 Champion Terrace, Camberwell, Surrey.  They were still residing at this address in the 1891 Census, but in addition to the four occupants shown in the 1881 Census, Thomas Bignell (57) shoemaker, Rose (7), Flora (5) and Maude (8 months) are listed.   Rose Charlotte Chittenden married Herbert McPhurr at Camberwell in 1909. Stephen Chittenden died 17th April 1925, aged 72, at 19 Kerfield Crescent, Camberwell of Bronchites and Heart Failure.      He left his effects of Three Hundred and Thirty Two Pounds to his wife Rose, who died 25th February 1937 at 23 Redpost Hill, Herne Hill, London  SE 24, and her documentation reads   ‘Administration London, 15th March 1937 to Rose McPhurr (Wife of Herbert McPhurr)   The lawful daughter and one of the persons entitled to share in the estate of the said intestate. Effects of One Hundred and Sixty Three Pounds and Sixpence’.


George Henry Chittenden, my father, married Margaret Elsie Trower on 26th November 1921   Margaret Elsie was born on 17th January 1899 at Cedar Lodge, Harrow Weald.   Her father Percy Trower is listed as a servant  and her mother is shown as Harriett Mary Trower, formerly Trower.   The marriage certificate reads ‘George Henry Chittenden, age 28, Bachelor, House Decorator.   19 Kerfield Crescent, Camberwell. Father: Stephen Chittenden, Secretary of Friendly Society.   Margaret Elsie Trower, age 24, Spinster, 95 Wyndham Road, Camberwell, in the presence of H.J. Whalley and Alfred Trower.   George and Margaret had  eight children:- Marguerite Elsie born 13th May 1922 at Camberwell and died Stoke Newington 24th April 1999,  George born 1925 at Mile End, he died young but have been unsuccessful in finding a record of death it is possible that he died at birth.   The following births were all registered in Stepney  Stephen Alfred 7th July 1926, Arthur Sidney 30th June 1927, James William 16th January 1930, John Ernest 8th March 1932 and Dorothy Ethel 2nd November 1933.   The Birth of a  further daughter, Pauline R was registered in the March Quarter 1937 at Lewisham and her death was registered in the June Quarter.   I do not remember her coming home from the hospital.   My mother, Margaret Elsie, died on the 9th March 1938 at St George in the East Hospital, age 39. ‘Resident of No. 2 Rupert Street Mansions, Stepney E.1..   Wife of  George Henry Chittenden, Painter and Decorator.   Cause of Death:   Acute Heart Failure.  Toxic Myocardites.   Carcinoma of Cervix Utery’.   My father, George Henry, died on 28th October 1956 at Hackney Hospital, age 63. ‘Resident of 123 Shakespeare Walk, Stoke Newington,  Builders Painter.   Cause of Death:  Congestive Cardiac Failure.    The Certificate was signed by my brother, Stephen Alfred

who at that time lived at 47 Clissold Avenue, Stoke Newington, N.16.    Unfortunately I was at sea on an old cargo boat called the SS ‘Tekoa’ serving as Chief Steward and did not return to the UK until December.1956.


Now, Arthur Sidney comes into the picture, born 30th June 1927 at the Whitechapel Maternity Hospital.

Which is located within the ‘sound of Bow Bells’ this makes me a bona fide Cockney   As far as I can recall my childhood was not an unhappy one.   We lived at 3 Rupert Mansions, Goodman Street. Stepney, in the heart of the East End of London.   The term Mansions did not mean a thing to me at that age however I have often chuckled since, when I think back to a ground floor apartment, one main living room, three bedrooms, outside toilet, shared by the occupants of other apartments, no bath or shower.   Saturday night was bath night, a tin bath, placed in front of the stove in the main living room, water heated in kettles on the stove, smallest in the family first in and as each child finished they went to bed and the elder children took their turn, kettles of hot water being heated on the stove as the Saturday night ritual progressed.    The rest of the week you just washed your hands and face in a tin basin before school or on very special occasions.    This may sound rather sordid when considering our modern concepts of hygiene, however we did survive   To my knowledge we never had problems of skin infections, acne or boils.   I well remember that in our bedroom, shared with three brother in two beds, we were not allowed to touch the wallpaper because the slightest knock would bring the bugs out in droves.   At school it was a weekly ritual to have our heads checked for nits and it was always a proud moment to be able to go home and say they could not find any.   To my knowledge the only time I was ill was with a dose of ‘double pheumonia’, that is what my sister told me, when the doctor had me admitted to St Bartholomew Hospital, which was founded in the year 1123, and is known worldwide as ‘Barts’.   My only other comment re health is that I never owned a toothbrush until I joined the army in 1949 when we were issued with a ‘regulation toothbrush’ and told to use it, however I have never been a ritualistic tooth cleaner but will give them a brush on ‘high days and holidays’ which were rare.


When I think back and ponder on eating, all I can say it was very little.   In the morning we usually had sliced bread and dripping.    If we were lucky we got some of the dark brown, rich dripping, from the bottom of the basin but if we did not get in first it was just the light coloured  fat on which we poured plenty of salt.    We did get a meal, midday, at school and these were always devoured without complaint, excluding Monday when a suet pudding was the fare of the day and it was absolutely ghastly.   Whenever I felt that I was so hungry I had to eat it I invariably had to run outside and vomit the lot up.   I can now understand the reason for this disgusting concoction being served on Mondays was probably the lack of time to purchase fresh food supplies - no refrigeration in those ‘good old days’.    I can vaguely remember my Mother cooking meals at home, mainly roasts, ‘toad in the hole’, sausages and mash and stews.   When mother died I remember our father, who did his best on what he could afford, specializing in boiled sheep’s head and pigs trotters - this put me off any form of food with the exception of a roast or a grill for  many years    The other disadvantage was that there was no dripping.    After school we were allowed bread and jam.   And if we were financial a feed of fish and chips or just the chips made into a sandwich we all thought that they were fantastic. Maybe I often went hungry, but I never starved.    Within close proximity to where we lived was Spitafields Wholesale Fruit & Vegetable Markets and we used to go there on Saturday mornings to search the heaps of unsaleable fruit picking out mainly apples, bananas, oranges and pears, which had some rotten spots, taking them home and cutting out the bad bits.


I learnt at a very young age that working for pennies not only gave you affluence but very often included food.    When I was about seven years old I managed to get a ‘job’ after school at a grocery shop, on the corner of Leman and Cable Streets, on the route between home and school.   In those days there were no packaged biscuits, they were delivered in tin boxes and the grocer sold them in paper bags, the outcome was a lot of broken biscuits.   My job was to go through all the boxes and place the broken pieces into bags which were then sold at  discounted prices.   Needless to say that whilst that job lasted my desire for food was greatly decreased.    I also discovered how to look after ‘number one’.   In my innocence I introduced a ‘friend’ to the grocer with the good intentions of getting my school friend a job and aiding the ‘boss’ with another pair of hands.    My first major mistake in the world of employment!, within a short time, my friend took over my job and I was out, maybe I was eating too many biscuits?.  The loss of the job did not worry me but I sure missed the feed.   My next enterprise was on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, I had a job stoking the fires and boiling the kettles in  two of the apartments in our ‘Mansions’ for a couple of Orthodox Jewish families.   They were people who had left Germany before the Second World War and were just as poverty stricken as we were.   They paid me a penny for my chores and very often gave me some of their Matzos bread to take home. I still enjoy matzos today.   My next job of significance was with an Irishman who sold papers in Aldgate High Street, he wanted somebody to sell the papers whilst he made his frequent visits to the boozer across the street to ‘wet his whistle’.  I really enjoyed that job until one day I accidentally took his pocket knife home which we used for cutting the string that  tied the bundles of newspapers.   Unfortunately, that night my friends and I were wandering down Leman Street when we discovered that the knife would open the power boxes on the street lights, consequently we went from lamppost to lamppost opening the boxes and turning the lights off..    It was not long before the local Bobby caught up with us and in our panic to disappear from the scene of out crime we left the knife stuck in a lock.    Next afternoon when Paddy asked for the knife I had to tell him that I had lost it so I collected a tirade of Irish abuse and told never come back.




A view of the school taken in July 2007





We attended St Pauls School, Wellclose Square, which was situated between our home and the London Dockland, within walking distance from our dwelling, although I must admit that our philosophy was never walk if you could get a ride.   Our mode of transport was to hang on the back of the horse drawn carts which traveled up and down Leman Street, to and from the docks.    You soon learnt to be shrewd and never picked an  unloaded cart because if the driver saw you he would lash out with his whip and believe me if he hit you it would really sting.    The secret was to choose the fully laden carts because the drivers vision was restricted. by the load    Thinking of horses and carts, I recall the occasion when I dashed out of our ‘Mansions’ and ran into a vehicle, luckily I was not seriously hurt but the wheel of the cart, fortunately unloaded, run over my instep which left me with one instep higher than the other.    Cannot remember the pain but still think of the driver who came round to visit me a few times with goodies and to see how I was recovering.   Such was the sincerity amongst Cockneys     St Paul’s Church of England School for sailors and their families was attached to St Pauls Church for sailors, in Dock Street, Whitechapel.    The school was built on the site of a Danish Church, which had served the needs of the Danish merchants who traded in timber for the rebuilding of London after the Fire of London in 1666.    The school was opened on 30th June 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales.    Wellclose Square is about half a mile from the Tower of London an area we often went to play after school.   Alongside the Tower were a flight of stone steps which led down to the river and was often used as an access area for the bargees.   There were no side railings to these steps  and at low tide the drop would have been about 20 feet from the highest step to the mud flat.   One afternoon, when it was high tide we were larking about when I slipped over the edge into the water, needless to say I could not swim, the only water I was ever in was the Saturday night tin bath.   I still remember going down and touching the mud a couple of times before a hand pulled me out.   Fortunately a man had come down the steps, probably to relieve himself and gave a little bit of relief to me instead.    He disappeared and the other kids helped me strip off and ring my cloths out, by the time I got home they must have dried out.   I never dared mention my mishap at home as it would have resulted in a belting from my father.   In fairness I must say that our father never abused us but I did seem to create occasions when he would take the belt off that held up his trousers, and give me a few good, maybe well deserved, whacks.   I often wondered how his trousers stayed up!.   I cannot recall any trauma during my schooldays at St Paul’s.    My term reports were average in most subjects and apart from the usual comments ‘very talkative’, ‘could do better if he gave more attention to detail’, and ‘restless’- probably most of the kids in the school got the same comments by teachers who had large classes and who worked under a great deal of pressure.    The only time I remember having to front the Headmaster, who was a Mr Smith, was when I took my father’s war medals to school.    I cannot remember whether I disposed of them for a couple of pennies or  were stolen from me - I do remember that the recipient showed them to our teacher, a Mr Murdoch.   Unknown to me, my father’s name and Army Service Number was engraved on the edge of the medals, so I was ‘sprung’ and the headmaster was given the task of caning me in front of the class.   Strangely enough, years later, after my father died I asked my sister, Elsie, did she find Dad’s army records and medals amongst his ‘things’.   She said there were none, hence I have never been able to trace his records in the First World War.


Until our mother died we regularly attended St Pauls Church, Dock Street and I was a choirboy at the Sunday morning services, although I don’t think I contributed much to the singing as I seemed to have had a habit of fainting whenever we stood up to sing and often ended up stretched out on a bench in the vestry.   As proof of my religious upbringing I still have a Book of Common Prayer & Hymns Ancient and Modern presented on January 19th 1938 for regularity - no commendation for my singing ability or other attributes..   When our mother died in March 1938 my church attendance ceased.    It was not until I started compiling our family history I realized what a sad period this must have been for my father.   His mother, Rose died in February 1937, his father, Stephen had died in 1925 and Margaret Elsie had lost her last child, Pauline, born earlier in 1937, and he then lost his wife a few months after.    Immediately after our mother’s death I was aware that the Council Officers and the Church Authorities were pestering my father to give up us kids and have us placed in a ‘home’    My father would not hear of it and claimed that our sister Elsie  was able to care for us.


With all this turmoil and uncertainty there was no compulsion for us to attend church on Sunday’s and my Jewish school friend was able to get me a job with a Jewish lady who had a fish stall in Petticoat Lane, she sold mainly Kosher fish like Rollmops, Soused Herrings, Pickled Fish, Sardines, etc.     This employment continued for some time and although I did not care for the rollmops, sardines in a couple of slices of bread were okay - trying to live by the old saying ‘If it won’t fatten at least it will fill you up’.    Unfortunately my career as a Kosher fish seller came to an end due to the lady’s philandering husband.   She explained to me that her husband was having an affair and I was to follow him and his girl friend to find out the address of the residence they visited.   I was given money for bus fares and sent on my mission.    I vaguely remember that there was no problem following them.    They caught a bus going to Mile End and after a couple of stops they got off, so did I, and they walked a short distance  and then turned left with me on their heels - as I turned the corner they were there waiting for me - it taught me another important lesson in life - always try to get some training before taking on a new venture or at least do some homework.   They were very friendly and gave me some money - cannot remember how much - and sent me on my way.   Needless to say I did not go back to the fish lady   I continued to earn my Sunday pocket money in Petticoat Lane helping on a fruit stall by unpacking the boxes of fruit and sorting out the overripe stuff.   One other job with a difference was working for a ‘quack’ medicine salesman.   All I had to do was sit on a kitchen chair and put on an act that I had a pain in the arm, or leg or whatever was his speil for the day and he would try and convince the crowd that he had the perfect cure using me as the guinea pig to apply his bandages and potions - the only trouble with that job was every time I seemed to get comfortable he got the wink that the ‘Law’ was approaching so I had to pick up the chair and ‘scarpa’, meeting him at a pre-arranged spot to set up for another session.    That job did not last long as there was nothing to eat.  


 The year was now 1939 and in August my childhood came to an abrupt end and my father’s dispute with the Council and Church officials  were all resolved thanks to Adolf Hitler.   War was imminent and the London County Council started planning the evacuation of mothers and children from London


The history of the East End of London goes back to medieval times and has been a place of notoriety for the past five hundred years.   The records state  that Wellclose  Square is situated in the dockland area south of the Tower of London and St Katherine’s Dock, adjacent to Cable Street, Dock Street and the Highway.   Historical records go back to the 9th Century.   In the 1600’s there was a factory on Salt Petre

Bank to the west of the Square   In the nineteenth century a stone cistern containing the remains of two children was unearthed in the Square.   Robert Mutton who died in 1669 owned houses, yards and wharves near Execution Dock, and lived there himself.   Francis Hooper who died in 1692 had four, sixty pound houses on the Highway and eleven smaller, thirty pound, houses in Wellclose Square.   In the 1660s’ John Knight, gent, had a timber yard and a fine house: the lease was worth two hundred pounds (the equivalent of some 500.000 pounds in 19th century money.   Parades of solid sea-captains residences intermingled with sailors cottages and lodging houses, interlaced with drinking establishments of every variety.     Daniel Defoe (1670 - 1731) wrote about the area ‘one of the foulest districts in London.   A warren of alleys ran northwards from the Ratcliffe Highway to Cable Street in which  bawds offered insalubrius lodgings to seaman too drink-sodden to care where they fornicated.   Throughout the eighteenth century the cheapest and most pox-ridden prostitutes in London plied their trade around Wapping and St Katharine’s, a class of whore too low to satisfy the rakes who frequented Hogarth’s ‘houses of ill-fame, off the Covent Gardens piazza’.   The Royalte Theatre, Wellclose Square was opened in 1787 and burnt down in 1826.   The Brunswick was built on the site in seven months, rather too hastily, as it turned out.   During rehearsals, three days after it was opened on the 28th February 1828, it collapsed, killing several actors, technicians, the proprietor and a passing team of horses.   Wellclose Square’s third theatre,’ Wiltons’, named after the owner, a former Bath publican called John Wilton, was opened in 1859 to fill the needs of the West End theatre-goers who loved to ‘slum it down the East End’.   It was said that on the opening night lines of cabs filled with West End toffs stretched back to St Pauls   They marveled at the luxury of Wilton’s - its ‘Sunburner’ chandelier had not fewer that 300 crystals.   Great music hall entertainment’s of the calibre of George Leybourne appeared there: he earned the then staggering amount of one hundred pounds singing such songs as ‘Champagne Charlie’ - about a chap who drinks only champagne with friends ‘from Dukes and Lords, to cabmen down, and from Coffee and from Supper Rooms from Poplar to Pall Mall’ songs that emphasized the Cockney’s disregard of any sort of class barrier.   Like other East End music hall, Wilton’ developed a reputation for drunken and bawdy behavior - prostitutes were said to lure sailors there, get them drunk and rob them. Their victims were then dropped through a trapdoor, dragged down a passage and dumped in the neighbouring streets.   Following a fire it was closed down in August 1880 and rather incongruously, became a Wesleyan mission, then in 1950s’ a rag warehouse.   In 1965 it was acquired by the Greater London Council and was used for various purposes, including the BBC filming of Bleak House.    An appeal launched by the London Music Hall Trust, with the support of such stars as Liza Minnelli, Lord Olivier  and Roy Hudd, aim to restore Wilton’s as part of a ten million pound theme park, a national variety centre with London’s oldest music hall at its heart.


The street where we lived, Goodman Street, which ran parallel with Leman Street, was named after Mr Thomas Goodman, one of the local well-to-doos’  and where he probably had his residence.   In the 1860s’ there was a temporary shelter and soup kitchen for Jews.   Between 1870 and 1914. 120.000 Jews came to England most stayed, at first, in the East End.   Those that did not have relatives to take them in went to the Jews temporary shelter in Leman Street then off to mean lodgings in the surrounding streets..   The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor was still in existence in Byrne Street, near Petticoat Lane in the 1950s’.    Leman Street was developed in the late 17th century by Sir William Leman, however the history of this area goes back to Saxon times and was said to be an area of thieves and robbers at the time of William the Conquerer.   At the time of the Great Plague 1603 - 1647 and 1665, the top end of Leman Street was know as Red Lion Street and close by, in Aldgate was the Great Plague Pit


I remember the great street party we had in 1936 when Prince Albert, Duke of York became George VI - this all came about by the abdication of King Edward VIII because the Church would not permit him to marry the love of his life Mrs Simpson.   It was the first party I had ever been too - paper hats, balloons etc - and the best part of all ‘a good feed’.   The school gave every child a commemorative mug.   The other memorable occasion was the ‘Cable Street Riots’.   In the East End, there was always some envy and resentment of the success of certain hardworking Jewish families - despite the fact that the Jews were just as impoverished as other East Enders.   To capitalize on this fairly limited anti-semitism, the British Union of Fascists, known as the ‘blackshirts’, and led by Sir Oswald Mosley, set up branches in the East End, where they ranted against Jewish residents and their sworn enemies the Communists.    In 1936 they declared their intention to march through the East End on Sunday 4th October.   Attempts to ban the march was unsuccessful and fearing trouble, 6.000 police were mobilized.   In the morning, a barricade was set up in Cable Street to obstruct the Fascists, but was soon cleared by the police, and the anti-Fascists crowd  (who were mainly the local residents objecting to the march), that assembled were charged by the mounted police.   This all happened before Mosley had even arrived near the Tower of London.   By mid-afternoon the disturbances were so serious that Mosley was asked to cancel the march, and under protest did so.   The following Sunday gangs of thugs - probably including Fascists - stormed through the East End, smashing shop windows, attacking Jews and looting shops.   Although my friends and I wandered up and down Leman Street and along Cable Street, where there was plenty of noise and excitement, to us it was just another experience and we never sensed any fear as far as our own well being was concerned .   Halfway along Goodman Street there was a Public House and I remember seeing fights at closing time that made the Cable Street riots look like a Teddy Bears Picnic.  The Public Order Act passed soon afterwards outlawed political uniforms, such as black shirts, and the police were given the authority to ban processions.


I had one very good Jewish school friend whose father was the caretaker of the Brick Lane Synagogue,

where, if his Dad was not around we would sometimes go and play after school.    It was interesting to read that this particular building was first, a French Chapel catering for the Huguenot Immigrants who started settling in the East End to escape the religious persecution in France, which commenced in the 1500s.   With the decline of the Huguenot community it was taken over and became a Wesleyan Chapel and then in 1701 it became “The Great Bevis Marks Synagogue” and was said to be the oldest place of Jewish worship in the UK.   When they moved on, in 1975 it became a mosque for the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants who settled in the area.    I mention these facts because I believe the true ‘Cockney’ is the least racial person in the world.    The desire of most East Enders prior to the second world war was to try to get out of their rut and move elsewhere, and whilst endeavouring to achieve this goal, which for most was an impossible dream you learnt to live with your neighbours and accept all races and creeds with the knowledge that in many cases their plight was far worse than your own.

For many years I had a yearning to take a trip and have a walk down ‘memory lane’.    That was until I heard that it is now almost impossible to recognize the area.   Apparently the whole area between the Highway and the Wapping river front has been redeveloped.   The old Western and Eastern Docks have all been filled in  and the biggest single activity now is newspaper production - News International (Rupert Murdoch’s empire) has its United Kingdom Headquarters there.


The great evacuation of Londoners started a few days prior to the 3rd September 1939.   My father decided that Elsie and Steve could stay in London but the rest of us would be better off in the country.   It all began as an adventure, something similar to a school excursion when we were once taken for a day trip into the country by charabanc.   ‘Into the country’ for us was a drive to an outer London suburb called Blackheath but it was a day out of school and we were all happy .   This time we were all issued with gas masks and identification labels and given an inventory of clothing and other incidentals we had to take with us.   It is rather strange how events bring awareness into childrens lives.    When I looked at the list of clothes  it came as a surprise to learn that you should have things called pyjamas, underpants, four pairs of socks, two jumpers, mackintosh, slippers, etc, etc.    It was then I realised that I could never remember having a new piece of clothing or footware.    When I questioned my father about it he just said that all our clothes were ‘hand me downs’ supplied by the church.    Hence when we arrived at the school all we had was our brown paper carry bags with a few ‘odds and sods’ to make it appear that we were properly outfitted.   But it did not cause us any undue worry as many children did not have a carrier bag.   The only problem, which did worry me, was my footwear, just before leaving home it was found that the soles of my shoes were completely worn through - one of our previous pastimes was running a few yards down the street and  sliding the rest of the way - it was decided that I could not wear them so father found a pair of boots, two sizes larger than my shoes, and I was told they would have to do.    I always remember when I arrived at my billet they questioned me about my footwear and I told them that they belonged to my elder brother and in the rush I had put them on by mistake.    Not surprising that we did not get off to a good start!

We were transported to the railway station in buses and then checked onto the train.   Nobody had a clue as to our destination.    ‘Had to be kept secret just in case there was a German spy in the station’.    The good thing about the trip was the issue of a packed lunch - sandwiches, fresh fruit and dried sultanas - it was the first time I had ever tasted dried fruit and I still enjoy it.      Being grouped in classes I had no idea how Jim, John or Dorothy were faring, but as I had always been a loner, this did not worry me.   When the train eventually pulled out of the station our spirits were high and the teacher encouraged us join in singing songs like “We’re going to hang out our washing on the Siegfried Line” which referred to the German front line - the French had built the Maginot line opposite the German defences - it was claimed to be impenetrable - which proved correct because it was never put to the test - when the Germans attacked in May 1940 they invaded Belgium and the Netherlands and just went round the side of the French defences.    Another song was ‘Run Adolf, Run Adolf, Run, Run Run..   The train eventually arrived at Eastbourne and we were all told to assemble in lines of three on the platform.    The teacher called the roll and we were marched out of the station and boarded a fleet of buses which transported us to a Hall .   When we entered, led by our teacher, still formed up in lines of three we were surprised to find the room almost full of people.   As soon as all the children had arrived one of the local dignitaries  made a speech which I doubt if any of the evacuees listened to, or ever remembered.  It was then ‘open sesame’ for all the would be foster parents to walk through the rows of children and take their pick.   At the time it was hard to comprehend what was happening, but a few years later when I started attending cattle auctions I immediately remembered our reception at the Hall - the main difference was that at a cattle auction you had to pay for the stock you selected whereas you picked your evacuees for free and then the government paid you a weekly sum for feeding, clothing and a little bit of TLC.    Knowing the English class system I think the procedure was for the local dignitaries to have first pick, then the local upper class and the working class to take what was left.    At this stage I was unaware what had happened to my sister or brothers.   Eventually, when there were only a few children left, we were taken by organisers and driven off to be deposited with would be Foster Parents, who had not been able to attend the gathering at the Hall.    I was delivered to the kitchen entrance of a big house, this really was a Mansion, and placed in the care of the housekeeper, who was very kind and offered me some milk and biscuits.   She then showed me to - my bedroom - it was bigger than any room we had at home and in my childhood language could only be described as ‘posh’.   There was even a washstand in the room and the housekeeper had brought in a jug of hot water and told me to wash my face and hands and comb my hair and then come back downstairs.   When I did return downstairs she took me into one of the front rooms and introduced me to my foster parents - who was a clergyman and wife - having enjoyed my freedom from all things ecclesiastical for the past few months this put me into a state of shock and I was completely tongue tied - a most unusual experience for a born and bred Cockney.     As events proceeded through the following weeks I started to  convince myself that this was a punishment for not attending Church after our Mother had died.


The regimentation at the Vicarage was something completely foreign to my upbringing.    I ate in the kitchen, the housekeeper fed me well and tried to make me feel at home.   I caught the bus to and from school, but was instructed to come straight home and following a glass of milk and biscuits to go up to my bedroom until dinner time.     On Saturdays’ I was allowed to mix with local children nominated by my foster parents.    This was not unreasonable but I really missed the companionship of my school friends.  On Sundays’, the Vicar decided that I would attend his Church to pump the organ at the morning service, attend  Sunday School in the afternoon, and return again to the Church in the evening to pump the organ.   He ruled that as it was the Sabbath I would walk to Church, as it was wrong for fit and healthy children to ride in buses on the Lord’s Day.    I always thought that his Church, which was in the town of Eastbourne was probably some two and a half miles from his residence, but having recently made a few enquiries  it was most likely less than a mile.   This would still have been over five miles walking every Sunday.


It was whilst we were at church that the outcome of the  British ultimatum to the German Government that its troops should leave Poland was delivered at 9 am on Sunday 3rd September 1939.   It expired at 11 am without a reply and the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain made an announcement on the radio sic I have to tell you that no such assurance has been given and that therefore we are at war with Germany   The British people accepted without complaint, that they were at war with Germany.   The Phoney war was over.


Needless to say the Vicar did not have me as a guest for long.   I was given pocket money every Saturday, I believe that this was part of the sum paid to the foster parents by the government, and fortunately due to my restricted life style, after a couple of months I had saved up enough to buy a train ticket to London.    So one Saturday morning, at breakfast, I told the housekeeper that a friend and I were going walking on the Downs for the day    So after breakfast I went up to my room and packed all my clothes, I should really say their clothes because they had disposed of everything I had arrived in and replaced them with ‘second hand’ garments and footwear of which I was most proud  and had no intention of leaving behind.   I managed to get clear of the house with my shopping bag and caught a bus to Eastbourne Railway Station and arrived home in the early afternoon.   You could say I went from the frying pan into the fire.   There was no family welcome, no sisterly love, just a long tirade from my father who had to contact the Vicar and let him know that I was back in London.    While my father negotiated with the authorities for my return to Eastbourne I tried to adapt to my previous life style until I realized that the evacuation had finished that forever.   My old friends were no longer around, people were worried about possible attacks  by the Germans, bombing, rationing, where their children were and especially how their loved ones, husbands, brothers and sisters who had joined the Services were managing.    They were certainly not interested in a stupid evacuee who had decided to return to the danger zone.    At the outbreak of war my father had become a special constable.    These were appointments for the duration of the war created to replace the regular constabulary who had joined the services, consequently when my father had finalized the arrangements for me to return to Eastbourne, he accompanied me, in uniform.    This caused me considerable embarrassment and when people on the train stared at us I just said to them ‘No I am not under arrest he is just my Dad’.


When we arrived in Eastbourne my father took me to the address of my new billet and met the Foster Parents, who were a Scottish Lady and her son, who was an Electrician, they both seemed very old to me, but I had my own bedroom and they were very kind.   They were Methodists and we went to Chapel every Sunday morning, first to service and then Sunday School.    I was not there long enough to comprehend their religion but found it boring.    They had a Boy Scout Troop, which met at the Church Hall and I was allowed to join and made friends with the other scouts.   On Saturdays we went out on the Downs blackberry picking or down to the shore picking winckles, little snail like creatures, which you took home and boiled and had to use a needle to extracted the boiled flesh from the shell.


Eastbourne is a town, in the County of Sussex, the population in 1939 was about 50.000.   In those days it was classified a country borough with three miles of promenades above a shingle beach.    When we first went there the beaches were all open but early in 1940 huge rolls of barbed wire was stretched along the foreshores in case of invasion by the enemy.   The town had several theatres and a pier.   Beachy Head is a row of steep chalk cliffs, a very prominent landmark, about three miles from the town centre and overlooked  by a lighhouse erected to guide the ships navigating the English Channel.   The South Downs rise to the west and north of the town.


Having settled into my new billet, enjoying the scouts and all my new friends it came as a shock to be told that I would be moving.    Maybe my ‘foster mother’ found that having a child in the house was too demanding or maybe her health was not good, or it could have just been a temporary home until a permanent billet was found, anyway I was on the move.   The one outstanding memory I have is of the fantastic Yorkshire Pudding she used to make when we had our Sunday roast dinner, and very often when it was not a roast she would make a sweet Yorkshire Pudding and serve it with custard.


My new billet which was situated in the Old Town area of Eastbourne and just a few minutes walk from the school was into a home of seven children and three evacuees and it was  a very happy experience.   Our foster father, who was shorter that his eldest son, was an upholsterer by trade and had a shed in his backyard where he worked on the furniture.    He was Mr Friendship and we all got on well together.   He was always happy to have us in the shed and gave us lessons on upholstery.   The one thing I have never forgotten was that as he worked he would fill his mouth with upholstery tacks and when he was tacking the webbing  as he hammered each one in he would spit the next one out onto the webbing almost on the spot where he wanted to insert it.    Needless to say we were fascinated, but no matter how hard we tried it we never mastered his skill    At this time the government introduced the ‘Dig for Victory’ Campaign  and all Councils were encouraged to divide up their parks and recreation areas into allotments so that the residents could grow their own vegetables.    Our family acquired about  four allotments and we spent many hours digging and breaking up the soil and putting in the vegetable seeds, sad to say we never saw the fruition of our labours but it certainly melded us together as a big happy family.     Due to the changing circumstances of the war, German had successfully invaded France and the invasion of England was said to be Germany’s next goal our happy family was split up as we prepared and waited for out next move. 


This occurred in May 1940 when the decision was made that we were to leave Eastbourne for a destination, unknown, and eventually after a journey which we began to think would never end were told that the train was in the County of Pembrokeshire, South Wales.   At each station the train stopped and a group of children disembarked.   Following many stops our group were put off in a small town called Clarbeston Road and were transported to a village hall.   It had been a long journey and it was now dark.   The next thing I remember was being surrounded by the local people, and disposed of as if we were in a cattle market to be claimed by the highest bidder.   ‘Any two brothers’?.   ‘Two girl friends’?.     When allocated, our classmates and school friends, disappeared with persons unknown and we knew not where?   These proceedings seemed to go for hours until there were only a few of us left and obviously nobody to claim us    The organizers then had the problem of placing us in temporary billets.



Wiston Sign 2007

Wiston Church

Wiston Church 2007

Wiston School

Wiston School 2007


For my first couple of nights I was lodged at the Vicarage, in the village of Wiston, which comprised of a church, a school and a shop.    About a quarter of a mile away was a blacksmith shop other than that the area  was just small farms.   The vicar and his wife were very kind, however once the sorting out took place I was fostered with my brother John on a farm called ‘Woodlands’, about five miles by road from Wiston, or three miles across fields.    Our new family were called Morris,  Mrs Morris and two children, Cissy was the eldest, and John who was 21, this I well remember as his birthday was the same day as mine. Mrs Morris had two other children, Bill, the eldest son who was married and lived about three miles away and Nella who was no longer at home.  Once again we were faced with a changed lifestyle and although our new foster parents were kind and very concerned with our welfare living on a farm meant assisting with the many chores and because of the distance between the farms, being isolated from other children.   Once we arrived home from school playtime was over.   John and Cissy encouraged us to feed the fowls and animals, bring the cows in for milking, showed us how to milk,  taught us to ride the work horses, drive the pony and trap and acquaint ourselves with a way of life which would have seemed unbelievable a few months early.     ‘Woodlands’ had no electricity and no water, for lighting in the house kerosine lamps were used in the main living areas and candles in the bedrooms   In the stables and cowsheds outside hurricane lamps were in standard use.    Using the pony and trap after dark the lamps had candles in them.  When I eventually  got a bicycle I had what was known as a carbide lamp.    Carbide was a chemical which was placed in the lower chamber of the lamp and an upper chamber contained water.   When the water dripped into the carbide chamber it created a gas which exuded through a jet in the front of the lamp and when lit, with a match, a jet of flame controlled by the mixture gave a varying degree of light from fantastic to hopeless.    If the flame was too high it would soon use up all the carbide and if the flame was too low it was better to turn the thing off and just hope there were no animals on the road.     Our household water supply came from a well about three hundred yards from the house and this was carried in buckets twice a day.    It was often several trips before there was sufficient water for the household requirements.    Fortunately there was a stream that ran through the property so it was not necessary too haul water for the animals.   The kitchen range was fueled by a mixture of coal dust and clay.   The coal dust was delivered by truck a couple of times a year and the clay was dug from the river bed.   It was then mixed, a much harder task than mixing cement, until the clay and dust was a slurry, as it began to dry it was rolled into balls, about half the size of a tennis ball, and then stored for use.    This fuel maintained a continuous fire, twenty-four hours a day and three hundred and sixty five days a year.     As life evolved around the kitchen the only time a wood fire was lit in the ‘front room’, what we now call a lounge, was on special occasions during the winter.     Our only other form of heating was a hot water bottle for our bed during the winter months.


Woodlands Farm

Woodland Farm Gate


Our evacuation to South Wales in early summer was a pleasant way to be introduced into rural life as the weather was pleasant and there were a multitude of new activities to become acquainted with.   Hay making was a busy time.    John would mow the grass with a machine pulled by a pair of horses and his brother Bill would be kept busy sharpening the mower blades which were frequently being changed.   We were shown how to rake the mown hay into heaps and after a few days it was loaded into hay carts and taken into the farmyard and built into a rick, the size of a large shed.    When it had settled down it was then necessary to cut reeds from the river bank so that John and Bill could cover the top with a gable type thatch roof.    At the end of the war it was not long before machines became available which mowed the hay and trussed it into bales and they were stored in sheds with tin roofs.   Progress cannot be stopped but it did bring to an end some of the community effort and fun of the old ways.   Raking the hay was hard work but Cis and the girls would make regular trips with home made ginger beer and fresh made scones to keep us motivated and the luncheon spreads out in the meadow were the best picnics I have every experienced.    At the end of the day there was always a good dinner with a glass of home brewed beer and off to bed so that we would be up early and ready for more of the same.      Harvesting the corn was an easier task for us as the harvester cut the corn and automatically tied it in sheafs so we did not have any raking to do.     The sheafs were carted into the farmyard and stored in ricks.   When the corn had all been harvested the threshing machine contractor was booked and eventually the date was booked for our threshing day.


Re Country Life:   Milking - The main income from the farm was milk and cream and I believe that every farmer had a cow called Daisy.    We had an average of fifteen milking cows    Milking was a twice daily chore.     The cowshed was certainly the warmest place to be in winter but rather hot and smelly in summer.    The cows were milked by  sitting on a three legged stool with a bucket between your legs held secure with your knees, just in case the cow should kick, not an unusual happening, it was also wise to keep your head pressed against the animal’s flank as a cranky cow could give you a severe clout with her tail.    By squeezing the teats and pulling the milk would flow.   This was fairly easy with the old cows who had large teats, but a rather tedious task with the first timers as their teats were small and rather thin.     When the milking was finished the milk for market was placed into ten gallon churns for collection by the daily milk run.   But it was always necessary to keep sufficient for cream and butter making. The milk was poured into a machine called a separator, this was a device that used centrifugal force to spin the lighter cream from the heavier milk.    It was manually operated and by turning the handle the milk from the upper chamber divided the cream from the skim milk which were directed into their separate outlets..   The skim milk was used for the feeding of calves and pigs.     The cream was used in the kitchen for cooking and also for making butter.   The cream was placed into a large wooden urn which was fitted with a handle that had to be manually turned until the contents became almost solid, it did not require any inspection as the handle would begin to jam and jerk and would be very difficult to turn, the raw butter would then be separated from the buttermilk.  After adding salt the butter would be shaped into small blocks with two wooden spatula type utensils.    


Bread baking was another routine chore.   The flour was placed into a large mixing basin and with a dash of milk and water was mixed into a dough, yeast was then added and the mixture placed into the open oven overnight.   In the morning it was divided into loaf sized pieces and then placed into the baking oven and in a short time the freshly baked bread was ready for consumption.    Following the bread baking it was standard practice to place  whole freshly caught, skinned and cleaned  rabbits into the oven which were always a popular luncheon dish.


It was customary for all farmers to breed a pig for home consumption .    The slaughter of the creature was almost a ritual.     Firstly it was necessary to have a keg of ‘home brew’ ready for the occasion.   The pig killing always occurred in the late afternoon, after the milking was completed and a few neighbours came to assist.    The brass ‘brewing pan’, which was large enough to hold twenty gallons of water and sat on an iron frame under which a fire was lit.     A gallows was  erected with hook spreader and endless chain was alongside the ‘pig block’ a solid timber bench, six feet long, three feet wide and raised about three feet above the ground.    The animal had to be manhandled from the sty and placed on the block, requiring plenty of manpower, usually between six and ten men would lie on the screaming pig whilst the nominated butcher would stick a knife into the pig’s throat and all hands plus bodies holding the pig down until it had bled and given a last grunt.   It was impossible to keep pig killing private as the creature’s squealing could probably be heard for a radius of five miles    The next task was to cover the exposed side with cotton sheeting and pour the scolding water over the carcass.   The sheeting was then removed and we all got scraping with rather rustic type scraping tools.    These were normally curved hoop iron gadgets with a metal bar welded across the top under which the fingers fitted to clasp the outside edge.    They were kept razor sharp and very efficient.    When the skin was clean and white the carcase was turned over and the other side was given the same treatment.    On completion the carcass was attached to the hook and with the help of many hands was pulled up rear end first on the gallows.    The animal was then gutted, the offal was taken into the house most of it being usable.    The heavy work having been completed the keg of beer was tapped whilst the women cooked up the ‘fry’ which was usually served with freshly baked bread, etc.    The carcass was left hanging overnight to cool.   The following day it was cut down the centre, from tail to head and when dissected into manageable sections was taken into the house for butchering.     The hams and sides of bacon were rubbed with salt and placed on a timber slat rack suspended from the kitchen  ceiling, above the dining table and operated by  pulley. The smoke from the kitchen range cured the meat on the rack. The offal was used for sausage making, brawn, etc.    It was customary for neighbours to rotate their pig killing so that an exchange of fresh meat was standard practice.


To be continued – when I find the time (-;)












St. Paul’s C. of E. Primary School was opened officially in 1870.   It was called St. Paul’s Church of England School for Seaman, and was attached to St. Paul’s Church in Dock Street Whitechapel, itself a Church for sailors and their families.   The building of the school was the plan of the Rev. Dan Greatorex, who pioneered many social reforms in the East End of London until his enforced retirement in 1897, when he had become partly paralysed by a stroke.   Part of the cost of the school was raised from subscriptions.   The school was built on the site of a Danish church in Wellclose Square, serving the needs of the Danish merchants who traded in timber for the rebuilding of London, after the Fire of London in 1666.   The church which had become in effect redundant, was, according to the Rev. Dan Greatorex, in too great disrepair to be converted and so it was demolished, all graves having been duly removed from the crypt.   The school was opened on 30th June 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales.   Four years later, an Infant Nursery was opened in a new house next to the school, and on this occasion the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh attended the opening, with a grand flower show and exhibition of caged birds.   The school initially was divided into three separate schools, Infants, boys and girls.   Until 1897, the Vicar was Manager of the schools.   One of the first intake of pupils was Margaret Doyle.   She became a pupil teacher and later Head Mistress of the Infants School.   Margaret Doyle resigned in 1897, when the Rev. Dan Greatorex also resigned his ministry.   In August 1897 they were married at Dover, where they lived in Castle Street.   The Rev. Dan Greatorex died in 1901.   The school still has a collection of large photo albums from the 1860’s onwards, showing scenes from the Vicar’s world travels.       Hugh Sinclair  1994.






Wellclose Square is situated in the dockland area south of the Tower of London and St Katherine’s Dock

adjacent to Cable Street, Dock Street and The Highway.   St Pauls School was in the centre of the square.

St Pauls Church was in Dock Street.   History records go back to the 9th century - in the 1600s there was a factory  in Salt Petre Bank to the west of Wellclose Square.   In the nineteenth century a stone cistern containing the remains of two children was unearthed in the Square.    “Robert Mutton who died in 1669 was one such he had houses , yards and wharves near Execution Dock  and lived there himself.     Francis Hooper who died in 1692 had four sixty-pound houses in the Highway and eleven smaller thirty pound houses in Wellclose Square.  In the 1660s’ John Knight, gent, had a timber yard and a fine house: the lease was worth two hundred pounds (the equivalent of some 500.000 pounds in 19th century money.   Parades of solid sea-captains residences intermingled with sailors cottages and lodging houses, interlaced with drinking establishments of every variety.  


In Wellclose Square was the home of the formidible Dr Mayo an ‘independent’ pastor held in high esteem by Samuel Johnson, while in Stepney an organised pressure group of Protestant Dissenting Deputies had links with the East India Company.


‘Garricks departure marked the end of good theatre in the East End for at least half a centruy.   The patentees at Drury Lane and Covent Gardens were so powerful that they even secured the closure of the playhouse Shepherd had built for Giffard.   Odell’s converted shop in neighbouring Leman Street survived for another nine years as it provided what were, in effect, burlesque music-hall turns rather than plays..   In December 1885, six years after Garrick’s death work began on a new playhouse, off Well Close Square to be called the Royalty


The Royalte Theatre, Wellclose Square was opened in 1787 and burnt down in 1826.   The Brunswick was built on the site in seven months - rather too hastily, as it turned out.   During rehearsals three days after it was opened on  28th February 1828, it collapsed, killing several actors, technicians, the proprietor and a passing team of horses!.   Wellclose Square third theatre, Wilton’s - named after its owner, a former Bath publican called John Wilton - was opened in 1859.   Its foundation stone declared:


                                To Great Apollo, God of early morn….  We consecrate this shrine of gentle music.


The East End had long attracted threatre-goers from the West End, ‘slumming it’.   On Wilton’s opening night, lines of cabs filled with West End toffs stretched back to StPauls.   They marveled at the luxury of Wilton’s - its was ‘Sunburner’ chandelier had no fewer than 300 burners and 300 crystals   Great music hall entertainment’s of the calibre of George Leybourne appeared there; he earned the then staggering amount of one hundred pounds singing such songs as ‘Champagne Charlie’ - about a chap who drinks only champagne with friends  from Dukes and Lords, to cabmen down, and From Coffee and from Supper Rooms/From Poplar to Pall Mall - songs that emphasized the Cockney’s disregard of any sort of class barrier.


Like other East End music halls, Wilton’s developed a reputation for drunken and bawdy behavior - prostitutes were said to lure sailors there, get them drunk and rob them; their victims were then dropped through a trapdoor, dragged down a passage and dumped in the neighboring streets.   Following a fire, it was closed in august 1880 - and rather incongruously, became a Wesleyan mission, then in the 1950s a rag warehouse.   In 1965 it was acquired by the Greater London Council and was used for various purposes, including the BBC filming of Bleak House and as a setting for the video of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s song Relax.   An appeal launched by the London Music Hall Trust, with the support of such stars as Liza Minnelli, Lord Olivier and Roy Hudd, aims to restore Wilton’s as part of a $10 million theme park, a national variety centre with London’s oldest music hall at its heart.


There was, however, in the early eighteenth century one enclave in the Tower Hamlets where it seemed as if the pattern of development might run parallel to Holborn or Marylebone, Wellclose Square, elegantly centred on a Danish church and prospering from a timber trade boosted by the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, actually antedated Mayfair planning.   But Wellclose Square was less than half a mile from the walls of the Tower, and the combination of an enterprising foreign community and speculative builders was able to take advantage of a charter granted by James 11 in 1686 which extended the autonomous ‘Liberties of the Tower’ to the immediate vicinity of the fortress.   Even Nicholas Barbon, the most roguish builder-financier of the age of Wren, had an interest in the leases of Wellclose Square, although it was for his ventures around Fray’s Inn that this proto-tycoon son of  Praisegod Barebone MP became notorious?   There was a parallel development a few hundred yards east of Wellclose Square, in what is now called Swedenborg Gardens.


                Off Wellclose Square there was  already, in Defoe’s time, one of the foulest districts in London.   A warren of alleys ran northwards from the Ratcliffe Highway to Cable Street in which bawds offered insalubrious lodgings to seamen too dring-sodden to care where they fornicated,   Throughout the eighteenth century the cheapest and most pox-ridden prostitues in London plied their trade around Wapping and St Katharine’s, a class of whore too low to satisfy the rakes who frequented Hogarth’s’houses of ill-fame’ off the Covent Gardens piazza.


                Whitechapel parish had a Danish chapel in Wellclose Square


                The East End also had London’s first Co-op, established in Leman Street in 1879.

                (My family lived in Goodman Street which ran parallel with Leman Street, nearest

                cross street was Alie - we walked down Leman Street, crossed Cable Street to our

                school in Wellclose Square.   Our Church, St Pauls, was in Dock Street, adjacent

                to Wellclose Square).


Goodman’s Fields Theatre in Leman Street, Whitechapel, was converted from a shop in 1729.   In 1733 it was moved to new premises in Ayliffe Street - it even had the same architect as Covent Gardens.   The famous actor David Garrick’s debut was at Goodman’s Fields, where he appeared as Richard 111 in 1741.


The way in which the immigrant groups changed, almost from one generation to the next, is exemplified by a single building on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street in Spitalfields.   It was built in 1742 as a Huguenot chapel.   With the decline of the Huguenot community it was taken over by Methodists in 1809.   In 1897 it was converted into a synagogue, and in 1975 it became a mosque for the Bangladeshi community.


The Fanny Waxman’s Yiddish Theatre operated in Adler Street from 1936.   Adler Street, off Whitechapel Road, was itself named after a prominent Jewish East Ender: Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler.   Many Jewish artists and intellectuals grew up in the East End, such as Israel Zangwill , author of Children of the Ghetto, and Jacob Bronowski, as well as many notable left-wing politicians, among them Mannie Shinwell.   Arthur Morrison, who was born in Poplar in 1863, published two East End novels: Tales of Mean Street in 1894 and A Child of the Jago  in 1896.   He stayed with the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Shoreditch,Arthur Osborne Jay, and was introduced by him to Old Nichol Street, the area with the highest incidence of crime  and infant mortality in London    Calling it the ‘Jago’, Morrison used it as the setting for his ‘story of a boy who, but for his environment, would have been a good citizen’.   Jay had been battling for slum clearance for years, but is was due to the popularity and impact of a Child of the Jago that the work was finally done and in 1900 a new housing estate was opened by the Prince of Wales


Clement Attlee was Secretary of Toynbee Hall before becoming mayor of Stepney, and MP, succeeding George Lansbury as leader of the Labour Party and becoming the first Labour Prime Minister in 1945.   Clement Attlee wrote the following poignant poem:-


                In Limehouse, in Limehouse, before the break of day,

                I hear the feet of many men who go upon their way,

                Who wander through the City,

                The grey and cruel City,

                Through streets that have no pity

                The streets where men decay.


                In Limehouse, in Limehouse, by night as well as day,

                I hear the feet of children who go to work or play,

                Of children born of sorrow,

                The workers of tomorrow

                How shall they work tomorrow

                Who get no bread today?.


                In Limehouse, in Limehouse, today and every day

                I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away:

                Poor, tired mothers, trying

                To hush the feeble crying

                Of little babies dying

                For want of bread today.


                In Limehouse, in Limehouse, I’m dreaming of the day

                When evil time shall perish and be driven clean away,

                When father, child and mother

                Shall live and love each other,

                And brother help his brother

                In happy work and play.


                The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor still exists in Brune Street near Petticoat Lane


The Cable Strret Riots   There was always some envy and resentment of the success of certain hard-working Jewish families - despite the fact that many Jews were just as impoverished as other East Enders.   To capitalize on this fairly limited anti-Semitism, the British Union of Fascists, known as the ‘blackshirts’ and led by Oswald Mosley, set up branches in the East End where they ranted against Jewish residents and their sworn enemies the Communists.   In 1936 they declared their intention to march through the East End on Sunday 4th October.   An attempt to ban the march was unsuccessful, and fearing trouble, 6,000 police were mobilized.   In the morning, a barricade was set up in Cable Street to obstruct the Fascists, but was soon cleared by the police, and the anti-Fascist crowd that assembled was charged by mounted police - all before Mosley had even arrived near the Tower of London.   By mid-afternoon, the disturbances were so serious that Mosley was asked to cancel the march, and under protest did so.   The following Sunday gangs of thugs- probably including Fascists - stormed through the East End, smashing shop windows, attacking Jews and looting shops.   The Public Order Act passed soon afterwards outlawed political uniforms, such as black shirts, and the police were given the authority to ban processions.


Leman Street was developed in the late 17th century by Sir William Leman, however the history of this area goes back to Saxon times and was said to by an area of thieves and robbers at the time of William the Conquerer.   At the time of the Great Plague 1603 -1647 and 1665 the top end of Leman Street was known as Red Lion Street  and close by, in Aldgate was the Great Plague Pit.    Goodman Street, which runs parallel to Leman Street was named after Mr Thomas Goodman one of the local well-to-doos’ and where he probably had his residence.   In the 1860s’ there was a temporary shelter and soup kitchen for Jews.   Between 1870 and 1914 120.000 Jews came to England most stayed, at first, in the East End.   Those who did not have relatives to take them in went to the Jews temporary shelter in Leman Street then off to mean lodgings in the surrounding streets.


St Pauls Church and School   Extracted from ‘Faces of London’ by H Clunn (1970 rev. ed).

“Eighteenth walk, (in part) p. 331…..In Dock Street is St Pauls Church for Seaman, with a fine weathervane of a three-masted ship,and just off the Highway is the church school in the middle of Wellclose Square, erected on the site of a Danish church which stood here from 1696 to 1869, .     Thomas

Day, the eccentric author of that deadly classic ‘Sanford and Merton’ lived”.


                                                From Tower Hamlets, Local History Librarian:-   St Paul’s C. of E. Primary School was opened officially in 1870.   It was called St. Paul’s Church of England School for Seamen and was attached to St. Paul’s Church in Dock Street, Whitechapel, itself a Church for sailors and their families.   The building of the school was the plan of the Rev. Dan Greatorex, who pioneered many social reforms in the East End of London until his enforced retirement in 1897, when he had become partly paralysed by a stroke.   Part of the cost of the school was raised from subscriptions.   The school was built on the site of a Danish church in Wellclose Square, serving the needs of the Danish merchants who traded in timber for the rebuilding of London, after the Fire of London in 1666.   The church which had become in effect redundant, was, according to the Rev. Dan Greatorex, in too great disrepair to be converted and so it was demolished, all graves having been duly removed from the crypt.

The school was opened on 30th June 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales.   Four years later, an Infant Nursery was opened in a new house next to the school, and on this occasion the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh attended the opening, with a grand flower show and exhibition of caged birds.

The school initially was divided into three separate schools, Infants, boys and girls.   Until 1897, the Vicar was Manager of the schools.   One of the first intake of pupils was Margaret Doyle.   She became a pupil teacher and later Head Mistress of the Infants School.   Margaret Doyle resigned in 1897, when the Rev. Dan Greatorex also resigned his ministry.   In August 1897 they were married at Dover, there they lived in Castle Street.   The Rev. Dan Greatorex died in 1901.   The school still has a collection of large photo albums from 1860’s onwards, showing scenes from Vicar’s worldwide travels.   Hugh Sinclair   1994.


Whitechapel St Mary) was originally part of Stepney, as well, but became a separate parish much earlier

in 1338.   At that time is stretched right down to the river, but in 1694 the parish of Wapping (St John)

was created from it.   Wapping covers the area  South of The Highway and West of Shadwell.   White-

chapel never recovered its riverfront.   When the new Registration Districts were formed in the 19th 

century, Wapping (along with Shadwell and Limehouse) became part of Stepney Rd, not Whitechapel.


St Paul’s, Dock Street entry in ‘Genealogical Research in Victorian London’ by Cliff Webb.   This shows that it was one of the many new parishes  created in the mid-19th century to cope with population explosion.   It was carved out of St Mark Goodman’s Fields, St John at Wapping and St Botolph, Aldgate: in 1877 the population was just under 9000.   The baptism register runs from 1848 so it can be assumed that this was when the church was opened.   The later registers are with the incumbent (or were five years ago, when GRVL was published.


Note from Stephen T Moseling <>   I have found reference to St Paul’s,

Dock Street.   It was built 1846/7 as a Missions to Seaman Chapel, but eventually became a parish church.

The church closed in 1990 and the parish has been amalgamated with St. George-in-theEast.   As far as

I can tell, the church hasn’t actually been demolished, but is is no longer used.   The Revd, Charles Davey

Weekes was the Vicar of St Paul’s from 1918 until his retirement in 1948.   Upon retirement he moved to

Sunbury-on-Thames and died sometime before 1963.


Note from Alan Fleming <>   You would not recognise too much if you went there today.   The whole of the area between The Highway and the Wapping riverfront has been redeveloped.   The old Western and Eastern Docks were filled in some time ago, and the biggest single activity now is newspaper production - News International (Rupert Murdoch’s empire) has its United Kingdom Headquarters there





East End My Cradle - Willy Goldman   “The Gentiles deteriorated perhaps the most alarmingly.   Many in our street had made ends meet with ‘hopping’: supply exceeding demand there too.   Jews who had previously taken in a Gentile for the washing applied their own hands to the tub.   They also saved a penny by getting their own children to light fires on the Sabbath, hoping God would understand”.






                When I, a little urchin was.   To the country I was sent.

                Oh, the awful silent country, with that milky cow muck smell.


                I could see no cowboy pictures and had lost touch with my gang.

                Country people never had ice-cream and they could not speak my slang.


                If ever a kid was homesick.   He was never as bad as me.

                But eventually I found a cure to return my forsaken glee.


                I chased the ducks down to the pond.   I loved to hear them quack.

                Or to make the cow upset her milk.   Or strike matches near the stack.


                But soon these childish tricks did cease, as I was taught to understand,

                The life of nature and of the beast, and how the beauty was so grand.


                Now after years of youth have passed, the years of manhood I do fill.

                I love the air and solitude of any meadow, vale or hill.


                The secrets which I have been told of natures untold realms and themes.

                Were spoke to me some years ago by those guardian parents of my teens.


                This book of beauty to them I pledge to pay respects, for what from them I gained.

                And also for their care and love of two young urchins, whom they trained.


                To Mrs Morris and Family   From John and Arthur   With Thanks     2nd April  1951






In 1941 I reached my 14th birthday and it was time for me to leave school and go out and earn my keep.   Mrs Morris and her family had secured me a position with a Veterinary Surgeon who had agreed that I would work for him at his farm where he nursed sick and damaged animals.   He had also agreed to assist with my further education and instruct me concerning the care and attention with regards to sick and ailing creatures.   I was very excited and looked forward to the future.   Unfortunately he was located a few miles distance from the Morris farm and several months passed before I was able to make further contact with Mrs Morris.   I was happy in my work and was accommodated in an outhouse adjoining the animal sheds.   It was fortunate that the Housekeeper was a very friendly person who prepared my meals and I dined with her in the kitchen.   But after a time I became disappointed that the Vet had done nothing concerning my further education.   Eventually I requested time off so that I could visit Mrs Morris, this was reluctantly given and when I told Mrs Morris of my concerns she and he family agreed that I should give the Vet my notice.   I returned to my job and advised that I would be leaving.   He accepted my decision, I left and returned to the Morris family.   They had made a few enquiries and found me a new position on a nearby farm.


This position was with Jimmy and Eleanor Rees, they had three young children and were within cycling distance of the Morris farm.   Jimmy was about five feet in height, with one leg about eighteen inches shorter than the other.   He had a special boot with a built up heel so that when standing his problem was not noticeable.   However, this was a serious handicap for him and he travelled everywhere on a pony.   The pony was just under for feet in height and therefore ideal for him to mount and dismount.   Although he tried to be actively involved with the farm his handicap was an impediment, so he became a rabbit catcher.   Having access to his neighbours properties , his habit was to rise at daybreak and ride round his traps, collecting the trapped rabbits and resetting the traps.   He would then take the rabbits to the local butcher who purchased the catch.   Every Sunday he would bring home a few rabbits for me to skin and clean ready for Monday “Bread Baking Day”.   After Eleanor had baked the bread she would roast the rabbits and we would enjoy them for lunch.   I saved the rabbit skins, stretching them on a plank and putting tacks in the corners.    When the skins were dry I had a contact who would pay for them.   Work on the farm was very satisfying.   There were an average of fifteen milking cows all year round.   This involved early morning and late afternoon milking sessions.   This was done by Eleanor and myself.   During the Spring, Summer and Autumn, the cows were sent out to graze, whilst I had the daily task of cleaning out the cowsheds.   However, during the winter season the cows remained in their stalls and in addition to the milking and feeding I had the task of cleaning the sheds, with the cattle continuing making their mess.    I had my meals with the family and my bedroom was above the stables.   This was not a problem as the horses were out in the fields overnight, except for the winter period, when they were quartered in the stables below my bedroom.    Apart from the animal noises and manure smells, the body heat, from the horses was appreciated in mid winter, and the experience stayed in my dreams for many years.   I was very happy working for Jimmy and Eleanor.   We used the horses for ploughing, cutting the hay and corn at harvest time.   Our mode of transport was also by horseback or by horse and cart for collecting supplies, etc.   On Sundays’ we used the horse and buggy for going to church or visiting friends.   At harvest time we had a group of neighbouring farmers who would arrange, subject to weather, when they proposed to bring in their harvest.   All the neighbours would turn up on the given day and we would slave away until the harvest was in, hopefully before nightfall.   Each farmer would brew beer which was stored in Kegs and when the harvest was finally in, a keg would be tapped and the beer would flow, and thanks to the ladies in the kitchen there was always plenty of good country tucker.


Time past and eventually the Second World War ended and the evacuees were returned home.   My brothers Jim, John and sister Dorothy  were back in London, but I was happy to stay in the country.

Then the unforseen happened, my favourite horse “Roun” died of colic and I was devastated.   I went into the field where his body lay and I stretched myself across the carcass and just cried – I had never wept so much in my life.   Eventually Jimmy came and took me into the house and he and Eleanor tried to console me.   After a few days I told Jimmy that with “Roun” gone I could no longer work there.   When I went to bed at night, above the stable, knowing I would never see him again, the torment was unbelievable.   However I searched around for another job, and when I had been accepted, I told Jimmy I would be leaving and he wished me well.


My new position was a stable hand and ‘Jack of all Jobs’ with Mr Ward, the General Manager of the Milford Haven Dockyards.   He owned a small property, approximately two miles from Haverfordwest.   His hobby was horses and fox hunting and my main tasks were exercising the horses, feeding and grooming them – certainly a change from my previous activities – the only problem was that it was not a live-in situation..   Luck was with me, I had made contact with a couple, and their young son, who had a spare room in a house at Uzmaston, very near to Mr Ward’s property.   Mr & Mrs Dowling were happy to have me as a boarder and the terms of agreement included all meals, when I was at home.   This house was a church property, situated along side the church – so no excuse for failing to go to church on Sunday.   This was the first time for me to live in a house since leaving the Morris Family, and it was sheer heaven.   No animal noises, smells or overnight problems.   As my new position included cycling too and from work, I was able to purchase a secondhand AJS motor cycle for a reasonable sum.   Petrol rationing having ended, I was happy being mobile and also spending evenings in nearby Haverfordwest.   However, no matter how much I enjoyed my new job and felt at home with the Dowling family, I had itchy feet and felt the time had come to make a radical change for the future.


After a few months I approached Mr Ward and told him that I had a desire to go to sea and if he were able to get me a position on a ship I would be extremely grateful.   Mr Ward, in his executive position at the Milford Haven Docks, was in a position to find me a position on a fishing trawler.   He was very sincere in his reply when he told me that he would never assist in placing a young person on a fishing trawler.    He explained that it was a hard and cruel existence and he could not be a party to my suggestion.   I continued in my job, but I am sure he was concerned about my future.   Eventually he called me in and told me that the Pembrokeshire Fox Hounds were seeking a replacement ‘Whip Groom’ to fill a recent vacancy and he would be happy to put my name forward.   As they say “A change is as good as a rest” so I jumped at the offer.   Sadly as the position was ‘Live in’ I had to explain to Mr and Mrs Dowling why I was vacating their very comfortable home, but they understood my desire to progress.


A ‘Whip Groom’ is an employee who assists in caring for the fox hounds and exercising and grooming the horses.   It was also our responsibility, on Fox Hunting Days, to control the dogs and lead the charge after the fox – if found??.   Talking of the fox hounds, we had 90 couples = 180 dogs,  always referred to as couples.    The dogs were also named in pairs, ie. Romeo and Juliet, Cressider and Cradle, etc, etc,   Thinking back, what amazed me was that we soon got to know the names of the pairs and recognised them out on the hunt.   However, on reflection, a teacher in a school knows the names of all the students and they only see them a few hours a day, whereas we fed, trained and cared for our hounds 24 hours a day!.   Once again I was out of a private home, with my own bedroom, and back with horses and dogs, however, as staff we did live in a house on the property and could retire to bed away from the animals.   The life was great and caring for the animals extremely fulfilling.   There are usually a few problems in all walks of life and I found my greatest problem was communicating with many of the people who rode after hounds on the organised Fox Hunting Days.   So many of these people were snobs.   We would assemble at an early hour, on our mounts, keeping the dogs under control, waiting for the members and their friends to arrive.   Rarely did we receive a “Good Morning” as they assembled waiting for the Master of Hounds to blow the bugle and start the hunt.   As far as the majority of these riders were concerned we were just part of the hound pack, just serfs, and not worthy of recognition, acknowledgement or comment.   Although I enjoyed my work the attitude of these people irked me and eventually I decided it was time for me to move on.


It was with some regret that I left the position, as during the summer season, when the fox hunting days were reduced, the practice was to hold cross country point-to-point races.   With permission from the country property owners a course was marked out and the competitors enjoyed the events.   Our job was also to ride the course, at the rear of the field, just in case there was an emergency.     I well remember my worst emergency, when I was enjoying the gallop, arrived at the next hedge, spurred my stead to jump, he had other ideas, stopped abruptly at the hedge and I somersaulted over, crashing down on the other side with a very painful spinal injury.   Over the years I received a few injuries.   Like the time I was using a sickle up a Hazel tree, cutting off suitable shoots to make into pipes for smoking tobacco.  On the down stroke the sickle caught on an offshoot above my head, veered in the line of flight and cut across my right hand.   Fortunately the offshoot I was holding reduced the force of the blow, but it was severe enough that I had to be taken to the nearest Doctor for stitches. It did not put me off pipe smoking.   Another time I was pruning a bush, unaware that there was a hive of bees lodged in the bush, however this need not have been a major disaster if the breeches I was wearing did not have a hole just above the left knee.   The bees, instead of attacking my exposed parts, decided to enter the hole – and all hell broke loose.   I dropped to the ground and dropped my pants – too late – the damage was done!   However these events were soon forgotten, but with the point-to-point disaster I continued having massages, sauna baths, and other treatments I heard about for many years.   The best cure has proved to be ‘old age’.   I cannot recall any serious pain during the past few years???.


Having made the decision, I submitted my application to join the British Regular Army, and was accepted in October 1947.   There is an old English saying “When one door closes another one opens”. Maybe I jumped the gun and opened the next door prior to the past one closing.   However I have never regretted taking the step.


I enlisted at Swansea on 24th October 1947.   The contract was for five years in the Colours and seven years in the Reserve,   Colour was full time service and the Reserve was the period of time that an ex serviceman  could be recalled into the Regular Service should the military deem it necessary    Hence, I boarded a train for Brecon, Breconshire and presented myself at the Welsh Regiment establishment, for my six weeks primary training.   I was not alone however as most of the recruits were fellows of my own age, but were recruited under the Conscription Act.   All males reaching the age of eighteen years were, subject to health, required to serve two years in one of the British Services.    Whereas I was enthusiastic in my future prospects in the British Army, many of these recruits were reluctant, having been taken away from their continuing education, employment and life style.    However we all accepted our individual situations.   Needless to comment that those first six weeks were certainly tough.     On arrival and confirmation of our documentation, we were taken to the clothing issue depot, where we were issued with the  complete military attire ‘drawers cellular or woollen’ underwear, nightwear, caps and uniforms, also toilet requirements.   I well remember  having been issued a toothbrush – first one I had ever owned – Military Rules and Regulations that we brush our teeth daily.   We also received a backpack, boots and boot cleaning gear.   The message was ‘You are now in the Army, forget the past and attire yourself in your military uniforms and try to look like soldiers.   From there we were taken to our barrack room.   These shacks accommodated 24 beds, with a shower room and toilet facility at one end.   At the other end was a private room where our platoon sergeant resided.   His job, at first light was to get us out of our beds, showered and shaved and ready for bedroom inspection, before breakfast.    The room inspection required every recruit to be attired in his new uniform, brass polished and boots shining.   Our beds had to be perfectly made not a crease to be seen and not a hair out of place’. When this ordeal was over we were marched off to the canteen to participate in breakfast.     I was amused when I thought back at my past bedroom facilities – animal noises, animal smells and other handicaps – here I was, little had changed – human noises, human smells and many additional frustrations.   This was our morning routine for the ensuing six weeks.   At the morning inspection the officer in charge announced the programme for the day.   Each day was varied – such as route marches with full pack, cross country runs over several miles, walking treks up the Brecnock Beacons or Black Mountains.   Instructions on how to march, how to salute, how to address officers, Yes Sir, No Sir, Three Bsgs Full. The more enjoyable part of our training was rifle practice, shooting practice (After weeks of practice I only received a mark of 56).   Light machine gun practice (My course score was 70).   Needless to add that having had exhausting mornings, we had to attend afternoon lectures on most things military.   After our evening meal we were confined to barracks and expected to shine our brasses and and polish our boots which were closely inspected each morning.    Sunday was the only day with a slight variation and that was a morning military church service.    There were many other military educational activities and the six weeks passed very quickly.   I can honestly say that I enjoyed the experience.


My stay at this camp was from the 24th November to 17th December 1947 (55 Days) when our future fate was announced.   Because of my limited vision I was excluded from any Infantry or Artillery Regiments or the Frontline Forces.   The decision was to draft me into The Royal Corps of Signals.   In the History of the Army it is recorded that “The Royal Corps of Signals is the agency by which a commanding general keeps in touch with the units of his army.   It builds and operates telegraph, telephone and wireless apparatus, and is also in charge of all other signalling methods, such as the pigeon service and the motor cycle dispatch service”.    I believe that was written at the start of World War One?.   From my viewpoint to be attached to such a distinguished service was something to be proud of.


I was transported to Catterick, in Yorkshire and joined the Royal Signals ‘User Trials Squadron’.   Here we had another period of training, ie.  Signalling, Semaphore, Wireless Operations, Security, Coding/Decoding messages, use of teleprinters and perforators, etc and most importantly a minimum of our time devoted to military parades.  Having passed several exams and tests I was then part of the unit and carried out the work that was given to me.    Our main operation in this squadron was to test new equipment and put forward suggestions for further improvements.    It was my wish that once I had proved myself in these duties I would apply for an overseas posting, however I discovered that there was an Army Educational Corps in Catterick and if I wished it was permissible for me ‘to go back to school’ in my spare time and further the education, which because of the war, I had never had.    Unfortunately, this did not happen overnight.


I passed my Army Certificate of Education, Second Class, at Catterick Camp, on 28th November 1950, and continued my studies and was awarded my Army Certificate of Education, First Class (Matriculation/University Entrance).   Subject Part 1. English, Mathematics, Current Affairs.   Part 11. History, Citizenship, on 22nd March 1951.


I was appointed Lance/Cpl on 12th April 1949 and attached to the administration department of the squadron.   On 24th October 1949 my rank was elevated to Corporal.   Having achieved my educational goals in March 1951, I immediately applied for an overseas posting.   This occurred in June 1951, when I was promoted to Sergeant.


The time served at the User Trials Squadron had been very rewarding.   Admittedly the discipline took time to accept – Saluting Officers – Yes Sir, No Sir, Three Bags Full Sir, was a new way of life and failure to obey the orders resulted in an immediate charge under Rule No: 252 of the Army Rules and Regulations “Detrimental to Good Order and Military Discipline in the He……..etc. etc.”  resulting in a variety of penalties.   Lady Luck was on my side and I was never put on a charge – maybe my experience working for the Snobs and Toffs at the fox hunting  stables  taught me to be cautious?   However life was good to me.   We were given leave passes about five times per year, ranging from 48 hours to eighteen days.   Some of the troops in our squadron were keen cyclist and I joined them.    We usually spent our leave time touring the country.   On short leaves we would normally cycle across to the Lake District, which is a very scenic part of the British Isles.   On longer leave breaks we would tour Scotland or travel down to the southern counties.   A wonderful pastime and a refreshing break from Military Rules and Regulations.   Every Christmas we had the usual special rank and file dinners and celebrations, but prior to the 1950 Christmas celebrations we suggested to the Officers that we have an ‘all ranks’ dinner and entertainment night.   They approved the suggestion and the planning began.   I was nominated to compile the Entertainment Programme:-




Monday 11th December 1950.


To you our members we present some 30 minutes merriment.

It may be dull, it may be crude. But Gentlemen – do not be rude.

Refrain from noises, jeers and sneers,

To murder boredom, drink more beers and if you are not entered on this Bill

And you desire to show your skill.  Do not be shy – just have a go,

Get up in front and give a show.

Oh Yes – you all have met our wee MC.  Tis Haggis Mac Vicar – ‘wee ken he wi dee’

And if you canna ken his discourse, please try to sleep until he ceases.

First on the programme this merry evening is Lavender Evans – Pianoforte.

We do not know what he will play?  Maybe Handel, Bach or Gay.

Then we have the Mimotic Mochs.  Who are singing a song of unknown text.

Jimmy Greenwood is next on the Bill  A recitation of Goodwill.

Following this we have a short recital by Domcoration Hatton – I believe that is his title?

Then Merthyr Tydfil, Taff will give us a song.

He will be relieved with a sketch by Gripper Ron.

Then Gunner, Spindle and Chit are to try and do their bit.

What they will do they have no clue.  The Ballot “Swan Lake” has had a review.

There to my regret the Bill must end, as no more artists we could rend.

But Greasy Grey will play some tunes and all the boys we ask to croon.

Songs, Carols, Shirty Shanties.

Flog your shirt or flog your panties, let yourself go and have a good night.

If you have the money you may get tight.

You will be posted this time next year, so Drink, Eat and be of Good Cheer.

And before you leave this Hallowed Hall MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL.


The reason I have included this item is to show what a terrific group of fellows they were.   We could shyack and waffle on with each other without end, but the comradeship and loyalty with each other was beyond reproach.    I had served three years and 192 days with this establishment and it was a very happy time.


The time, at long last, had come for me to take up an overseas posting.   Destination West Africa.   Departure Date: 28th June 1951.   The British held four areas in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gold Coast and Nigeria.   The main past of the Continent, French Sudan and French West Africa was under the control of France.    The British had created The Royal West Africa Frontier Force and were assisting the local forces in taking over from the British.   The British troops stationed in these colonies were attached to the RWAFF, and were there to assist them until they were prepared to operate without outside assistance.


Our journey to West Africa was a new experience.   We boarded a plane at a UK Military airport.   The aircraft was a Dakota, a craft that was very well used during the Second World War for transporting troops and equipment.   Our baggage was taken by the aircraft crew for placing in the storage area and we were ordered to climb aboard.   We were taken by surprise to find, that apart from the pilot and his crew, in the cockpit section, there were no seats in the passenger area.   We were instructed to sit on the floor with our backs against the outside walls of the craft and then told to strap ourselves in with the straps affixed to the floor.   This appeared to be the standard form for conveying troops in these old aircraft.   Our one stop was at Timbucto, near the southern boundary of the Sahara Desert.   As this was only an overnight stop we did not have the opportunity to see the place in detail, but it certainly appeared to be surrounded in mystery.   The following day we landed at Freetown, Sierra Leone, our final destination.   We were transported to the barracks and welcomed by the local military.   My appointment was to assist the staff in the administration centre and guide them in the methods of the British Army Signal Corps.    It was a surprise to be shown the sleeping accommodation – I actually had a bedroom of my own – just one bed, above which there were nets, which you dropped at night to keep the mosquitos out – at last my own bedroom, no animal smells, no sharing with heavy snorers and no overnight disturbances – my stage of bliss was quickly terminated, when on the first night, having dropped the nets and switched out the light I discovered that outside the nets the mossies kept up a continuous racket throughout the night.   I quickly settled into my new duties and found the British and West African troops very friendly and helpful.    During the first few months I had to make a trip to Accra, on the Gold Coast, and to Lagos, in Nigeria, to learn about the possible problems that could arise in our respective areas.   The job was proceeding without any major problems until, after a couple of months I became very sick and ended up in the Military hospital for a couple of weeks.   The problem was Malaria – although I had always dropped the nets when I went to bed the mossies managed to get me.   When I was released from hospital and returned to duty it took some time to overcome these setbacks.   I eventually came good and began to enjoy life again.   Sadly to say it was not for long, as I was hit with a second attack and this time it took longer for me to recuperate. A few weeks later I was hit with a third dose.   The Military Rule in West Africa was that a soldier who suffered three attacks of Malaria was to be returned to the UK, ASAP.     So my dream of  long service in an overseas establishment came to an immediate halt.   After only having served 167 days in West Africa, I was returned to the UK on the 11.12.1951.   This was a very disappointing time for me and I was still suffering from the after effects of the malaria.   Having enjoyed the West African climate it was an unpleasant experience to be dumped back in England in mid winter.  


 I was posted to The Regular Army Commisions Board, Leighton House, Westbury, Wiltshire and appointed Deputy Chief Clerk in June 1951.    The operation at this establishment was dealing with applications from people who were seeking officer rank.   For me this was just a routine administration position.    My one wish was for time to fly and the day of my departure from the army to come quickly.   This was held up due to the Korean War.   Having served 1 year, 108 days at Westbury, I was eventually transferred to Section ‘B’ of the Royal Army Reserve with the rank of S/Cpl, and my Regular Army Service ended on 29th March 1953, having served a total period of five years and 157 days.


Fortunately the Army had a service available to regular army personnel reaching their termination date to assist them in finding a job in civvy street.   I had submitted my application some time previous advising that I would be living in London.   In due time they found me a position with an Insurance Company, Arbon & Langrish Ltd, situated in the City, therefore I had no immediate concern regarding earning a living.   So here I was looking for digs in London, after an absence of fourteen years.   I soon found suitable accommodation within reasonable distance of my place of employment.   Unfortunately the month was March and as far as I was concerned, after time spent in tropical West Africa, the weather was atrocious and the daily temperature ‘below’ belief.   I had to chuckle, as prior to leaving the army, I had made application to The Royal Geographical Society asking about the possibility of joining an expedition.   One of the replies, dated 14th March 1953, expressed an interest from a proposed small Artic Expedition.   I did not get this letter until after I had settled in London and due to the temperatures I was experiencing in London I contacted the Royal Geographical Society and withdrew my application.   However I had to start my new job.   The staff were very friendly and the Boss advised me that training was necessary and my first task would be to collect a number of newly contracted policies each morning, go to the Insurance Brokers Exchange building and find brokers who were prepared to accept the individual policy in total, or accept a proportion of the total sum insured.   Rarely was a policy accepted for one hundred percent cover.   i.e.  Brokers preferred to spread their risks.    As an example, I had a proposed policy which was for the cover of a well known ballerina, the cover was extremely high.    It was my job to go round the insurance brokers seeking their cover, needless to mention the cover was not accepted in total by any individual broker, it was therefore necessary to seek brokers who were prepared to accept a portion of the total sum.  i.e.  5 per cent, 10 per cent etc.    My task was to make myself known to each broker and continue seeking cover until I had fulfilled the one hundred per cent cover.   The job was not easy and certainly became extremely boring.   Hence, during my lunch hour, mainly due to the miserable weather, I created the habit of going along Leadenhall Street and making myself known in all the Shipping Company Offices, seeking acceptance for a Trainee Purser position.   I had decided to make it a habit of calling into each office once a week – my hope was that one of the companies would get so cheesed off with my weekly calls that they would find me a seagoing position just to get rid of me – in the second week it worked.   The New Zealand Shipping Company staff advised me that the management wished to interview me.   Having passed the interview, things fell into place swiftly.    I advised Arbon & Langrish management and the owner of the house where I had my room that I was leaving and going to sea as I wished to get away from the English weather.   It was then necessary for me to seek permission from the Army Reserve to join the Merchant Navy.   On the 11th April 1953 I boarded the passenger vessel “Ruahine” as a Writer and on our way en route to New Zealand.


Name of Vessel                Engagement    Discharge        Rating             Voyage         Reliability – Conduct


Ruahine    P                      11 Apr 1953    11 Aug 1953   Writer              Foreign       Very Good Very Good

Ruahine    P                      29 Aug 1953   23 Dec 1953                                                                   

Ruahine    P                      19 Jan   1954   1   May 1954   2nd Stores                                                 

Ruahine    P                      9   Jun   1954   3   Oct  1954                                                                 

Otaki        C                     29 Oct  1954   17 Nov 1954   2nd Stwd          Home                               

Rangitiki  P                      20 Nov 1954   18 Mar 1955    Stores              Foreign                             

Sussex      C                     8   Apr  1955   14 Oct 1955    2nd Stwd                                                  


This was the conclusion of my training for the position of Purser/Chief Steward


Hinakura              C         3   Dec  1955   6   Jun  1956    Chief Steward  Foreign                             

Tekoa                   C         20 Jun   1956   1   Jan   1957                                                                  

Northumberland   C         8   Jan   1957   18 Jun   1957                                                                  

Essex                    C         19 Jul    1957   23 Dec  1957                                                                  

Essex                    C         4   Jan   1958   8   Jan   1958                                                                  



Whakatane           CP       23 Apr  1958   17 Sep  1958                                                                  

                             (New York)     (Montreal)                                                                                  

Whakatane           CP       18 Sep  1958   25 Feb   1959                                                                 

                             (Montreal)       (St. Johns, Nova Scotia)


P = Passenger Vessel                   C = Cargo Vessel.       CP = Cargo Passenger Vessel.


The first seven trips were all part of my training programme to prepare me for the position of Purser.   Life on the “Ruahine” as a Writer was great.   In shore language I was an office employee.   We carried 350 passengers and during the voyage their communication source was through the ship’s office and we were there to deal with their queries.    In addition, it was our responsibility, in conjunction with the ship’s Radio Officer to receive and deal with all New Zealand Shipping Company communications in reference to the ship’s progress, etc, these were referred to the ship’s Captain or Chief Engineer and their replies transmitted to the Company Office in London.   We were also responsible for the preparation of data for each port of call on the voyage, such as passenger numbers, store purchases, proposed departure times, the next port of call, etc.   On my third and fourth voyages I was classified as Second Storekeeper.   This was a training exercise to teach me the accounting and control of purchases, control and usage of all stocks, food, alcohol, cleaning, medical and general usage supplies required during the voyage    It was also the Storekeeper’s responsibility to prepare the lists of replacement supplies required at the next port of call so that they could be cabled through to the Providore prior to arrival.   However this was not a priority on the passenger vessels because the Shipping Agents, at the ports of call en route were well aware of the restocking of these vessels.    But part of our training was to be able to foresee the ship’s requirements when on cargo ships’ travelling irregular routes and stopping at ports which were not on the standard routes of New Zealand Shipping Company.    My time on the “Otaki”, was a short one in home waters for the Management Staff to spend time with me and assess my progress so far.    I was then drafted to the RMS “Rangitiki”, another NZS Passenger vessel on the New Zealand route.   My position was “Storekeeper”.    Giving me control of all stocks, keeping records of all purchases, usage and additional purchases en route.     The final posting was on the MV “Sussex”, a cargo vessel, on which the Chief Steward just let me carry out my duties whilst he took the position of advisor, guide and mentor should I do the wrong thing.    He was always willing to give me advice and point out errors with the minimum of fuss, and when we docked in London he submitted a favourable report to the Head Office Hierarchy.


Our voyages were very interesting and a great improvement on my domicile in West Africa.   The regular  route for passenger vessels bound for Australia and New Zealand – depart from Victoria Docks, London, down the river Thames, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Panama Canal, through the canal into the Caribbean Sea, a stop at Curacao, (on the tip of South America) a stay of two days to give the passengers time ashore, then across the Pacific Ocean, destination New Zealand.  


Our stay in New Zealand could be a few days or two weeks.   From my point of view the longer the better, because during our first visit and having met our shipping agents and customs officers, they agreed that on my next voyage, subject to time, they would take me fly fishing for trout.   Needless to add – I really got hooked.   After the second voyage I would cable one of my fishing acquaintances a few days prior to arrival so they could arrange a trip.    At the conclusion of the four voyages on the “Ruahine”, I joined the “Otaki”, this was a cargo vessel and although I missed the passenger activities, when we arrived in Wellington my shipping agent friends advised me that at the conclusion of discharging cargo at Wellington, we were bound for the South Island, stopping at Christchurch and the Bluff, discharging and loading new cargo.   They had advised their colleagues in both ports suggesting they arrange some fishing for me.   This was fantastic, as the best fly fishing was in the South Island and having experienced how great it was I decided that when I gave up my seafaring life I would settle in New Zealand.


However I still had one obstacle to overcome.   Before I could reach the Purser/Chief Steward status.  Under the Merchant Navy Act, written in the early 1800s’, all vessels were required to have a qualified Ships’ Captain and a qualified Ships’ Cook  (This Rule applied in sailing ship times, when Ships’ Engineers were something in the future).   Hence it was required that I go to Liverpool, UK, and attend The Maritime School of Catering for a six week course of cooking etc, to fulfil this maritime requirement.   The course was highly educational and I enjoyed the experience.   Unfortunately, near the end of the course, we were receiving instructions from a very long winded instructor on how to make an omelette – he had waffled on for so long prior to getting to the point of making the omelette, that I remarked to my mate something on the line “that if he does not get a move on the eggs will hatch and we will be inundated with chickens”.   Unfortunately he heard my comment and only gave me a second grade mark for that part of the course.   However I did pass the examination and obtained my Ship’s Cook Certificate.     Fortunately during my future sea going appointments my cooks kept fit and healthy, so my newly acquired knowledge was never put to the test.


Having obtained my Purser/Chief Steward Qualification I was appointed to the MV “Hinakura” on the 3rd December1955.    A cargo vessel bound for Australia and New Zealand, via the Suez Canal.   This was another new experience.   Being a cargo vessel the number of ports of call were increased .   Time for the round trip on passenger vessels averaged four months, compared with an average of six months on cargo vessels.   This was mainly due to the increased number of ports of call, where cargo was delivered and new cargo collected.    During the ongoing trips we called at several ports en route.   i.e. Gibralter,  Port Said,  Port Sudan, Aden,  Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Lourenco Marques.    Including most ports in Australia and New Zealand, Pitcairn Island  Kingston, Jamaica. and Trinidad.   Another interesting fact of life was that all my time on these vessels ship’s officers and crew worked well together and very rarely was there any major disharmony.    The one disadvantage with having so many ports of call was that the off duty crew members went ashore for an evening out and more often than not were rather under the weather the following day – they usually blamed the food???.     During my time on cargo vessels I found the evenings long and boring.    The ship’s officers, engineers and other staff were divided into three shifts and served four hours on duty and eight hours off duty throughout the voyage.   Once we had our evening meal the officers and other hands that were rostered on duty went to their stations and the off duty crew went to bed as they were scheduled for the second or third shift.     As for me the time was my own so I took up making tapestry pictures.     I made a practice, whilst in London, of purchasing a couple of tapestry kits.    After our evening meal it was my routine to work on the tapestry for a few hours, and for company I made a habit of enjoying a liqueur whilst I worked.    I found that I could purchase a case of Tia Maria at some of the ports of call duty free.    So this became my nightly ritual and more often than not when I had finished the bottle I was very happy to turn in for the night.      I did make several tapestries and where I had created close friendships with shipping agents and port officials I was happy to give them a tapestry as a gift.    Fortunately I still have two of tapestry.


It was unusual for Chief Stewards to change vessels each time they returned to London, however this was at my own request.    I had advised the management, that due to my phobia concerning the English weather the less time I spent in the country the better, so I was registered as available for a new appointment immediately on docking.    However, when I arrived in London 23rd Dec 1957 they advised me that they wished to appoint me Chief Steward on the MV “Whakatane”.   This was a cargo passenger vessel (12 passengers) that sailed between Australia, America and Canada.   I accepted the offer (A change is as good as a rest).    I served on the “Essex” on home voyage from 4th Jan to 8th Jan 1958 while Head Office arranged for my trip to New York.    I was eventually booked, as a passenger on the RMS “Queen Mary”.    Another new and interesting experience, but the vessel crossed to America in a few days and life on board was almost like a madhouse after the peace and  quite of the cargo vessels.


I was met by the shipping agent who took me to where the “Whakatane” was docked, so I was able to board immediately.    The agent introduced my to the Captain and other officers    I took over from my predecessor, who was then returning to England.    The term of agreement with the Company was that the contract was for three years, at the end of that time I would be given the option of continuing on the vessel or a replacement Chief Steward would  take over from me and I would return be to London.   I did not take long settling in and our 12 Passengers came on board the following day.   

We sailed on 23rd Apr 1958 en route for Australia.   The weather was fine and the passengers settled in with the minimum of fuss.   Our scheduled route for Australia, with ports of call at Boston, Massachusetts,  Charleston, South Carolina and Cristobal, Canal Zone, Panama..    This was a great experience following on my past service on passengers ships and cargo vessels.    On the passenger vessels we were virtually floating hotels.    Far too many passengers for personel service or communication.    They came aboard, made the most of their voyage experience and walked off at the final port of call, with very little comment, good or bad.    However the new situation was very much a hands on situation.   A small group of happy voyagers, looking forward to the trip and happy to join  the Chief Steward and other off duty officers for the evening meal and any activities that were organised for them.    Through communication with these passengers I learnt so much about individual people, their experiences of life and desires for the future.    I considered this as part of my education to stand me in good stead to eventually become a fully fledged Purser/Chief Steward on a passenger liner.   However time passed quickly and we arrived in Australia, our passengers departed and we did our calls at various ports, discharging cargo and reloading for our return trip to Montreal., arriving there on 17th Sep 1958.


We were scheduled for a quick turn around.   Immediately we discharged our passengers, the new passengers, scheduled for Australia came aboard, or should I say eleven boarded.    What had happened to the twelth passenger was a mystery?.    She arrived two hours later, I called her into my office to check her passport etc    Her name was Margaret, Johnina Maclean-Jones, a small petite  and

and charming Australian young lady.   I casually mentioned that if she had been much later we would have sailed without her.    She said she was sorry, but it was not her fault, as her booking had been made with Port Line, and she got the surprise of her life when earlier that morning she received a call from the travel agent advising that she was booked on the “Whakatane’ and it was essential that she board as soon as possible as we were scheduled to sail that evening, 18th September 1958.   The young lady explained that she was very disappointed that her booking with Port Line had been changed as she was completely unfamiliar with The New Zealand Shipping Company and sincerely hoped that the destination of the “Whakatane” was Sydney and not some New Zealand port.     However our vessel was able to sail on time with the twelve passengers safely on board.    Out trip to Sydney was uneventful, the passengers were happy with our service and efforts to make their journey pleasant.   Miss Maclean-Jones formed a close friendship with a Canadian couple, Peggy and Bert Back, who were heading for Australia to escape the Canadian winter weather.    During the voyage I had become very attached to Margaret Maclean-Jones and just prior to our arrival in Sydney I proposed to her.    She was somewhat taken aback, but prior to her leaving the ship she told me that that she wanted time to think about it and would give me her answer when we returned to Sydney.    Being a cargo/passenger vessel, we were bound for Freemantle, then returning via Adelaide and Melbourne.    When we returned to Sidney, we had a date and went out to dinner.    During the evening I asked her had she made a decision and she said Yes, she would marry me, but I would have to give up the sea and settle in Australia.    I was 100% in agreement with the proposition, so we announced our engagement and met her mother and friends.  I had discussions with the executives of Birt & Company, our Sydney Shipping agents re the prospects of employment as a Hotel Manager in Sydney.   They were very helpful and arranged an interview with Ushers Hotel.    This was successful but could not be confirmed until I could advise them of my return to Sydney date.    The word had passed around and I received an offer in a leading Melbourne Hotel as Assistant Manager, and also at the Hampton Court Hotel, Kings Cross, Sydney..    I had cabled the Head Office in London, submitting my resignation, and requesting when I would be relieved of my position.    They advised that as I had joined the “Whakatane” in Canada I would therefore have to return to Montreal at which time a relieving Chief Steward would take over and they would then be able to arrange my return to Australia by plane.     So we had to accept their decision and I departed Sydney  en route to the Queensland port of Brisbane where we discharged and loaded cargo   In January 1959, with twelve new passengers aboard  sincerely hoping that there would be no delays in our return journey to Canada.


Leaving Australia was a very sad moment for me, whilst in Brisbane I had received two letters from Margaret and I know that she was feeling similar.    She enclosed a Dear Lyn letter,extracted from some magazine “Dear Lyn I’m to be married shortly and I’d like your advice on this.   Do you think a husband and wife should breakfast together?.   My family has mixed opinions on this – BRIDE-TO-BE.   Don’t start something you can’t finish.   During the honeymoon you won’t be much interested in eating anyway.   But once you really set up house together, life is real and life is earnest.   Your husband has a schedule to keep – and he’s going to do it much more efficiently without the various distractions of a wife seated constantly across from him at the breakfast table.   The most priceless asset to a man at this time is a “silent partner”:  a wife who ensures that everything goes smoothly without any time obtruding herself. – Lyn Barrie.     So Margaret got her first lesson re Marriage Bliss


When we reached Panama there were seven letters waiting for me.   It appears that Margaret was keeping herself busy making arrangements for our wedding, having purchased an Arrow Glen shirt and a wide silk tie for me and is searching for a suitable tie pin and cufflinks.   Her friend Elaine has purchased material for the bridesmaid frock.    Prior to leaving Sydney, Margaret and I had discussed plans for our honeymoon and we had agreed that we would hire a launch on the Hawkesbury for a week.   Unfortunately when Margaret rang Halvorson’s they were completely booked out for February.   So will book a room at the Wentworth Hotel for the Saturday night and try and make a seven day booking at the new hotel in Terrigal.    Everybody seems to be raving about this big new hotel.    In Margaret’s next letter she confirmed that we were booked into The Florida Hotel at Terrigal for a week.    In her letter dated 16th January Margaret confirmed that the wedding invitations had been sent.    Last comment Four weeks next Saturday till we are married.   Received one letter on arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, plenty of news and all is proceeding to plan.    When we berthed in Boston. Mass. I received a further newsy letter.


Having departed Boston we were advised by radio that the  upper reaches of the Saint Lawrence

River was completely frozen over and our final port of call would be St John’s, Newfoundland.    This was not an unusual occurance during the winter season.    I immediately sent a cable to Margaret stating “Cancel Wedding for two weeks” and received a prompt reply “Wedding arranged March seven letter New York Love Margaret”.      During our forty six years of marriage, whenever we had a tiff or disagreement she would say ‘I should have cancelled the wedding altogether’.    When we arrived in New York, Margaret’s correspondence was able to confirm that the Wedding Ceremony was booked for 5.45 on the seventh of March and the changing of details was being attended to.   Also had  to pay David Jones for the wedding cake which had been made, they promised they would try to sell it.   I never asked did they succeed.   They made a new cake for the 7th March.    I felt really sorry for Margaret, her mother and Matron Davis having to bear the responsibility or notifying all the wedding guests that the date had been changed. Cancellation of the Florida hotel booking, change of date re hire cars, etc, etc.


We departed New York and the weather was a disaster all the way to St. John’s   So, at last this was journey’s end.    It was great to find six letters awaiting my arrival.    What I read in the first letter took my by surprise – quote ‘First I must tell you that I had a dream two nights before I received your cable and I dream’t that I had to cancel the wedding, altho’ couldn’t remember the reason why, when I woke up.    Secondly, I know we were going to have to postpone the wedding about ten days, as one night, Iris, Glad and myself, had the table rapping session going and the table said that I would have to postpone the wedding till March.   We were all mucking around a bit, I didn’t take any notice of it. Because I thought, if we did have to postpone the wedding it would only be for a week, which would mean the 28th  - thought you would pay off in St John’s, on the 17th .   Well Darling you can set your mind at rest, as Mum, Iris, Glad and I went to the table again last night, and the table said we would be getting married on the 7th March, we are going to have a very happy married life and we are going to have four children – all boys which I think is most unfair, reckon we should have at least one girl.   The table also said that we would be going to Melbourne, but we would only stay there seven months, then come back to Sydney and buy a home.


The “Whakatane” eventually docked at St. John’s.   Although the weather was shocking my replacement was there ready to take over.   Within a couple of days I boarded a plane for New York and was then booked on a direct flight to Australia.    Thus ended my Merchant Navy experience.