Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal
Come along with me on an atmospheric walk around the winding ways of this ancient city where I utilise forty years of experience of hosting ghost walks around York. I shall write as I recall and be as true to the recollections of witnesses and to my own innate abilities as for accurate representation of historic events you may feel the need to go check such details out for yourself.
Oh yes, As we wander I shall try to remain true to my major influence for I shall be explaining as we go along the details of my claim to fame; Son of York’s first ghost walker.
Heralding a Great Show
You don’t tend to notice any metaphysical atmosphere in these particular passageways you are where you wished to be; you are a thespian. Carrying large holdalls of make-up and costumes up the steep twisting stairway here is more about destination. It is a convoluted route to being on the stage; for you are climbing to the theatre dressing rooms. The excitement of your prospects tends to lift you; you are climbing to dizzy heights.
This is the Theatre Royal, York and it is a tennis court. Plays take place in this tennis court but that is what it is. Back in the year which in this modern age you can look up for yourself it started out that way.
“Can we have a theatre here?”
“OK then we will have a tennis court.”
The population of York and far and wide were invited to the tennis court to watch King Lear.
“You are putting on plays.”
“This is a tennis court.”
(NB I chose King Lear as it is often described as impossible to stage in a theatre but this was in a tennis court.)
The winding stairs were built afterwards.
Some of the rooms those stairs lead to were there already it seems. The reader is leaping ahead now and deciding we are about to hear all about the existence of the Theatre Royal’s Grey Lady, well the reader is wrong, there are two ghosts in the theatre, both are Grey Ladies; yes there are two of them.
Pray for a good death, live a good life; a fair one, even so a trick of fate, a cruel wickedness, can lead to centuries of wailing.
What quite leads to age upon age of mischievousness is not so clearly understood unless it was loving a building too much.
‘The’ Grey Lady roams the place and is seen often and word is out on her that if she is seen there will be a full house; that the show will have a successful run. This legendary advantage is evidence in itself that she is seen quite often, not because there are regular full houses, but that when a member of the acting profession is upset because of the sight of her the joke is on you to be told, “Don’t worry it is a sign of a good show.” Thus the legend continues in an unhelpful way by making fun of the poor sobbing thespian who is scared to go backstage; to stand in the wings, or to look out into the audience.
For this is where she is; if you are stage left you will be wondering, as you await your cue, who the mature lady is, so still in concentration upon you from the distant stage right.
If you are due to come down on a wire she is in the rafters, (do not go down a shoot from centre stage whatever you do), if you look out at the audience seeking to meet the eye of a safe looking face don’t be too sure that they are still alive.
For these are places she is often seen, by actor or audience member alike, (or perhaps I am being over inclusive simply to increase interest), no, it is so.
Marie of the theatre staff told me of seeing the Grey Lady in all of these places and a guy in a pub told me too.
To bring you back into the realms of believability this is a ghost tale which goes back in popularity to well before ghost walks. It is as old as the theatre, well no, as old as the Grey Lady.
I sat at that pub, in the beer garden, telling my sister of a commission to collect ghost stories for broadcast when a guy across the way overheard. He had been in the post of Domestic Services Coordinator for the theatre and he had seen the Grey Lady.
There had been a huge response to their advertising for more cleaners and it was decided they would all have to sit in the stalls. They set up an interview area on the stage and worked their way through. At last mid-afternoon his assistant said they had finished and being a thorough chap, he pointed out that they hadn’t finished as there was still the lady in grey who was sat further back. His assistant said everyone had gone and he insisted the lady had been staring at him from the back all afternoon.
“There is no one there.”
“Yes there is,” he stood up and pointed, no there wasn’t.
She is mischievous though, which leaves one wondering on her reason for haunting; if there is a reason for the sight of a ghost. Perhaps yes, she loved the place too much and could not bear to move on upon her death.
For she is seen at performances and rehearsals and makes her presence felt; lights go on and off quite frequently. Staff will be extra sure they have made every safety check upon locking up for the night. As they look back upon wandering away there is a light shining. (I note there are never reports of taps running or doors unlocking or anything which may endanger the fabric of the building or the surety of future shows.)
Yet when they plod back up those narrow stairs they find that the light in question is no longer on and as they work their way back down another light now is.
There is a more definite reason for the other famed haunting – she doesn’t know she is dead.
For those of us with an awareness of spirit there is a blatant sense of despair. Most of us are sensitive in such places and are affected though not all people know why they react the way they do.
I would like to think that I knew that the story behind the experience was true but I knew the tale before I went in there and picked up upon it though.
The walled-up nun. Several different folks who may each describe themselves as clairvoyant mediums have reported the same or similar.
Well they all match up to the long-told story; she was bad.
Actually she may well have been a victim; a modern view might well have seen a situation thus. Even in some present day societies the dark ages concept of a woman being ‘tainted’ by the actions of a man still have currency – the word ‘despoiled’ comes to mind.
You can tell your dates and places, you can look at the history of consensual respect – she had sex.
The man, for it was a man, doesn’t seem to be haunting anywhere, so probably wasn’t walled up or castigated – she was.
They may have slipped tit bits through a crevice to prolong her existence but be assured she was in the dark, her ability to move was severely restricted, there were no facilities, no warmth and there certainly was no hope. This was a dead woman breathing.
She is dead now, she is not breathing, she is still in existence. Admittedly, as a ghost she is steadily, very slowly, dwindling. There is as nothing of her left in fact except the despair and (multiply those type feelings a tenfold and then you come up with a word for it): She is bad.
It is just a story.
Go in that dressing room then.
The one next door is identical; rows of mirrors with lights:
The acting profession are famed for being protective of their space. Their ‘slap’ is laid out and this is their mirror with a chair demarking their area – Do not go near. Now go next door.
They are all down one end and they are sharing one or two mirrors. They may not be fully aware of why they are so close together and do not feel too comfortable being expected to have to explain to you.
Hey, you go up the other end beyond where the old wall of so long ago crosses the room.
Let us leave the Theatre Royal behind us and go seeking some fresher air – and possibly some hope.
Hobb’s Tale of the Time of the Normans – (some of it is a bit grizzly) – (Please share, like and add comments).
There I was sat in the centre of the park by the river in my Hobb outfit, (which is basically a dress and tights), with a huge black cloak with a huge black hood; waiting. I was waiting to suddenly start in a deep scary voice. ‘Long long ago!’
I could not see ahead of me because of the big hood, but eventually I heard a group approaching and saw their feet gathering around, ‘Long long ago!’
Luckily it was the right group!
Jules Montgomery of Barmby Moor School had asked me to be there to meet her group, or rather groups. They had teamed up with Garton on the Wold School for a trip to York to go around Cliffords Tower.
There was only room for one of their groups at a time, so they were to split up and spend an hour in there and an hour with me.
Life with the Normans was Jules’ suggestion and, as they had been studying the topic, plus would be hearing the relative history of the tower, I thought I better be a bit different to all that. Jules suggested tales of the Normans from the local perspective.
Hence Hobb’s view.
Long long long
Long long long
Long long long ago (the hood was off)
There used to be a great tower here upon a hill.
Do you know where it was?
“There!” “There!” There!” they all point.
Oh, no, you’ve got a new one.
In my-a-days it was over there. I point to where the Eye of York is now.
This one wasn’t there in my-a-days. It must be from your-a-days. What do you call it? “Cliffords Tower.”
Oh no, what did you call it that for?! You have called it after the enemy.
Clifford was one of the nasty bad guys from that horrible place over the mountains; the place of the red rose.
Ah, I think I know why it got called that. It is a joke.
When they caught him they hung him. They hung him from the tower and left him there.
For a long long long time, is that enough longs or should there be more?
For a long long long long long long long time, is that enough longs, er, yes perhaps so.
A long long time he hung there, and people would look up as they passed and say, ‘Hello Clifford.’
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ha…
Well perhaps it isn’t funny now-a-days, but it was then.
‘ Ha ha ha ha ha ha,’ is that enough ha ha’s or should there be more?
“No!” “No more!”
After years of folk saying, ‘Where are we going fishing?’ Down past Clifford’s tower ha ha ha ha ha – it all wore a bit thin, but the name stuck.
That is what I say about it and I should know because I am Hobb.
Let me introduce myself I am Hobb, Hobb the pigman.
Not that I have got any pigs, but you know how you all have a pig in your house don’t you. “No.” “Yes.” “No.” Well some of you have. Everyone did in my-a-days. Not in your-a-days but in my-a-days. And you know how you would get fed up of them around your feet? And would push them out of the door, so they were all wandering about in the street. Well I felt sorry for them all and I have them all round at my house. I am always warm on a night, and I am never short of company. People don’t tend to like me very much, because of the smell, but the pigs like me, so that’s all right.
They was a tower here, a big castle on a hill you know, long long long before that-there William feller came here. The Saxons built it, or the Angles or both of them. That one was destroyed. The Vikings came and the Vikings destroyed it. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Is that enough Viking laughter? “No.” Everybody then; “Ha ha ha ha ha ha.“
Well there I was in The Globe in Shambles having a glass of porter, and then I went across the street to a pub called The Globe and had a glass of porter. I like the Globe, but the porter isn’t as good, I don’t like The Globe but the porter is far better there and it is only across Shambles so I popped back into The Globe for another, while my pigs waited outside.
It wasn’t so bad. We all got nattering and chatting and we got onto the Vikings. There was Ragnar you see, long long long long, shall I? No, OK, just the one long then, long ago there was a Viking king called Ragnar. Ragnar Hairy-breeks; he of the hairy trousers. He stormed through Europe taking town after town, city after city. He came to Paris, oh, he took his army with him of course, he didn’t do it all on his own. Paris was a bit trickier. A big strong city. So he put the place under siege. That’s where you don’t let anybody out and you don’t let anybody in. It tends to make you hungry does that, but more on that later. For now, let’s just say that they had a lot of food in there; they managed to survive for two years. Eventually they gave in because they were very very hungry, very.
They gave in, and they gave him all their treasure; gold, jewels, crepe recipes, everything.
Trouble was, most of his Vikings said, ‘We quite like it here, we have got used to it, we think we’ll stay.’ That left him with a smaller army when he came to Britain and it left France with a load of Vikings who would later turn into Normans, or their off-spring would many many years later. Many.
So along here came Ragnar and died terribly at the hands of a Saxon king, but that is another story for another time.
Those ones he left behind though, many many years later their children’s children’s children’s ch, you get the idea. The king’s army, the king of France (as we call it now).
Along came a Viking, well a few. The leader of this army was a big guy, you might call him Rolo, or Rolf, he said he was called Hrolfr. Ganger Hrolfr in fact. Ganger means walker.
He ran mainly, very fast, and right at you. He was so big that no horse would carry him; his feet trailed along the floor when he sat in the saddle. So he ran, with his army riding behind him. Well, not when they were on a ship, then they sailed. There were ships full of them. A hundred ships they say, with a hundred men in each one they say. How many is that? “A thousand?” “Ten thousand?” “A hundred thousand?” I will tell you how many and you will repeat it after me. How many? A lot! How many? “A lot.”
They went in by river and then they travelled the lands. Till presently they came again to the great river around a great bend far from their ships. There across the waters was a huge army. The king at their head. His army was far larger. He was about to call for a charge to ride across the river and kill these invaders with their tall leader when he heard his own army talking behind him. ‘Those fellers over there are from the North.’ ‘They are Northmen.’ ‘That is where our forefathers were from.’ ‘We are kin.’ ‘Family.’ ‘We can’t fight them.’
The king heard this and thought that he had better change his plan. ‘What is it that you want?’
Ganger Hrolfr replied, ‘All this. All the land at this side of the river.’
The king was not happy with this but felt he had no choice, ‘This you can have as long as you swear allegiance to me.’
‘How would I do this?’ called Ganger as he strode across the river with his strongest few.
‘You must bow down and kiss my foot.’
‘I will bow down to no man,’ cried Ganger. He turned to his mightiest warrior, ‘Would you do this duty for me my good friend?’
Tor Eric stepped forward with a wry grin, (that is a bit of a smirk if you didn’t know). He walked forward towards the king who was sat before him on his horse. Tor Eric took the king’s foot, he didn’t bend, he lifted the foot quickly to his mouth and kissed. The king flew off his horse. As he crashed to the floor Hrolfr laughed loud, as did his warriors, their whole army behind them across the river could be heard to be laughing wildly. The king’s men were not laughing; his close knights were reaching for their weapons and stepping slowly forward. The king laughed. The king stood, and laughed and laughed. His knights looked, looked back at Tor Eric and Hrolfr, and then they laughed, a whole army behind them laughing and laughing. Both banks of the river were filled with wild loud hearty laughter.
Hobb laughs, the teachers laugh, the children laugh – a timeless hearty laugh.
So that is even more descendants of the Norsemen settled in France. No wonder the Norman invasion fought so well!
Anyway I went for a walk. To be more correct, I took my pigs for a walk (Oink, wheet wheet wheee), they were fed up of being in the house, well, the hovel actually. Anyway, we went for a walk.
So there I was in the ale house on the street of stone, the pigs were in the front yard and I was sat with a glass in the inne: Yee Newe Starre Inne. You might know it better as Yee Olde Starre Inne, but this was a long time ago when the Starre Inne was newe.
Sipping away at my porter and listening to my friend who was a porter, lending a tanner to my friend the tanner, and… – that’s quite enough of that, let’s just say there were a few of us. Then I was asked what I thought of the news, I wasn’t able to think about the news, because I hadn’t heard the news. Then I heard the news; the king was dead. My friend the Crier was quite upset about it, yes he had been crying about it all over town. I didn’t know. The pigs are so noisy you see. Edward? The King? That Edward feller? I asked. Yes I was told. Well, I asked, did he confess anything in the end, but nobody knew.
Anyway I wasn’t worried, he was from down there and it wouldn’t bother us up here I reckoned. Some of my friends agreed. The one who was a Wait said we would have to find out in the end. Mostly though they were worried, because, it turned out, there were many coming who thought they ought to be king and there would be trouble. There would be trouble mainly round here, fighting and that, they reckoned. (One of them-there would-be kings is buried under that great big church you have, a Viking feller.) They were all going to be coming over here they said.
What did it matter I wondered, as a king is a king is a king is a king, but I was informed I was wrong. The one that worried everyone was coming over from France to conquer. What was he called? “William!” No. Guillaume. That is French for William or any rate maybe William is English for Guillaume. We maybe should end up calling him William but for now he was Guillaume I was told. One of my pals said he was called Guillaume le Rude-word. I wanted to know what the rude word was and it was whispered in my ear. Goodness me that’s a shock. We can’t call him that. We had better call him a conqueror. Yes that would do it; William the Conqueror. Any way there was going to be trouble.
It was true. In no time there was talk of a big battle raging over a bridge just a little way from here. I was told I had to go, not to fight, but because I had pigs and they might need pigs. I couldn’t guess what they might need my pigs for, but I went anyway.
It took a while; these pigs of mine are slow to shift. I had a switch and I switched it, the new one wasn’t any better but I switched with it anyway. There was a lot of noise and a lot of wandering off but eventually we got there. It was too late. It was all over.
I made the mistake of looking around, I shouldn’t have done it, I looked around. It was terrible terrible. You can be sure that when we meet in person for me to tell you all this there will be a lot of stabbing and crying and groaning and dying going on. For now though, just imagine. I wish I hadn’t looked.
Then suddenly there was an army running at me.
They ran right past me, ‘Come on, come on.’ What? ‘Come on, come with us.’ ‘We are running all the way to a place called Hastings, it can’t be far.’ That was going to be their downfall I thought, but I didn’t say anything. What do you want me for? ‘We don’t need you, we need the pigs.’
I had no idea why they might want my pigs but I set off anyway. It was a long slow journey. Oink, oink, oink – switch, switch, switch – wheeet wheeet wheeee. We got there. It was too late. It was terrible, terrible, terrible. Slashing, and stabbing and crying and groaning and dying. All that was over. Well except for the odd bit of groaning maybe. It was all over. Imagine my face as I look around for a very long time. Imagine. That is how horrible it was.
We all know what that battle was called. “The battle of Hastings!” No. The battle of Hastings which isn’t the battle of Hastings because it didn’t happen at Hastings did actually happen at Battle. So it is the battle of Battle. Except if the village of Battle is only called battle because it was where there was a battle then it was just a battle. Then again if battles before the battle of Battle weren’t called a battle and they only started being called battles after there was this one in Battle it isn’t even the battle of Battle. It is called .
That’s where I was anyway .
There ahead of me was a huge army running right at me, this was a horrible terrible army and they were running right at me as I said. I hid. I hid behind my pigs. But because by now I was starting to get an idea of why they might want my pigs I hid the pigs. Once I had hid the pigs in the ditch I hid among the pigs. The horrible army hurried past. They were led by William somebody… “William the Conqueror!” No. The Malet. Him and all the knights and their retinues were a great army and they were being sent north.
It is said they went and crushed York. Crushed it. Then they went back down a bit (which was rather a long way round to do things, but they were new to Britain) and they went to Nottingham.
They went there to crush that place too but I don’t think they managed very well because Nottingham has another name. What is it? “We don’t know.” The City of Caves.
By I got there with my pigs people were starting to come up out of the caves blinking. I was glad they were alright. I was also glad they were blinking because they didn’t see my pigs.
I did meet someone else, someone interesting; the Pig Woman, but that is another story for another time when you are older. She did tell me something though. She said that Malet had been ordered back to York to take charge (See I told you they did things in a long way round sort of way).
So I went back to York. It wasn’t so bad. There was plenty of work. Well there was mainly plenty of work because there weren’t that many people left. The people who were left were very very cross. That Malet feller got us all working though. Well except for the one or two who ran off to send messages about the terrible horrible things that had happened.
There were walls and gates around the town, but not across the river. The river was surrounded by marshland as well. So we had to dig in it and get all the muck and mud and rocks and clay and pile it up. We didn’t know why. Well not until they started building on top of it. A castle, a great big castle. Now there was water all around it. That water would become known as Kings Fishpond in later years.
There was a huge draw bridge to get in and they all lived up there looking out at us.
Some of those quietly cross people who hadn’t stayed to dig mud had gone to meet other people and make them cross; livid might be a better way of putting it. They all came here for a fight. Out across the Vale of York they were steadily gathering. The farmers, the Northumbrians, the Scottish, the boy king, so that’s Saxons and maybe Angles too, maybe even three or four Jutes, and one or two Picts perhaps, some Celts or Irish anyway and at last – the Danes. And we, snigger, were all set to let them in. They all were in this together and they were far more than cross or even livid.
William was worried but it took them all so long to get together that he had time to send for William; the other William.
He turned up with a huge army and he saw them all off. We were all alone again (oink).
He was horribly cruel, torturous even, you can be sure that if ever you invite me to your group to tell this I will be torturous to be sure.
For now just imagine the screams.
He built that tower over there at the other side of the river in eight days flat! “What tower?” It’s flat! Well it was over there back then in the back-then-i-days.
The Danes came back!
We all joined in!
3000 Normans died.
King William is said to have said something about God’s Splendour, but what he meant was he was going to kill us all. And he did. Well, no or I wouldn’t be here to tell you. That’s what he said though.
Next thing we know, we can’t get out and they are all around the place.
We got very hungry.
This is the bit where I got to find out just how horrid children’s imaginations can be, because I asked them what they would have to eat. Yes there was sausages and chicken nuggets and Macdoodles (we only ate the box actually), and pigs – No, I hid the pigs on Barmby Moor just in time – we raided all the butchers on Shambles, we drank everything in all the innes and wayside places, we caught birds out of the air and ate them whole (we won’t mention the puppies and kittens because we don’t like to talk about it). Mud, leaves, grass, slime, there was nothing left.
I asked for volunteers and a few came forward. To be eaten. I crept up on them from behind all ready to kill them and eat them, well we had been hungry for like a year or something. I was baring my teeth and raising my claws to swoop and there was a shout. It was coming from outside the walls. ‘If you surrender we will be nice.’ Well something like that. ‘We have lots of scrummy things to eat.’ ‘Come on out it is all alright really.’
We went out and it wasn’t alright. They were horrid, more horrid than you can imagine. Screams and mess and chopping and stabbing and burning and searching. I don’t think there was anybody left.
That wasn’t enough for him.
He sent troops all over the place. Took all the food, broke all the farming things, burned all the farm houses; the land around here and as far up as Durham was a desert. Nothing grew, everyone starved. It all turned wild. Imagine if you will all the weeds and hedges and trees taking over and nobody anywhere. The Harrying of the north. A wilderness was all that was left and a wilderness is nothing.
William built two new castles here, filled them with troops, and then left and never bothered to come back here again. There was nothing to come back to.
Everyone listening to this – lower your head – turn – and slowly quietly walk away.
Hobb’s Tale of the Time of the Normans – by Adrian Spendlow
This story follows research of history and folklore and is told as Hobb would understand it.
I hope to recreate the live atmosphere of dramatic storytelling, but of course a whole lot of the acting out, the facial expressions, the sound effects are a little lost – for instance, the moment of the child who volunteered to be eaten will be forever lost on you unless you see this live. Thank you to the child I hardly met.
There were, at one point, two inns on Shambles opposite each other and both called The Globe.
Porter was a strong dark beer.
Tor Eric is a popular Norwegian name rather than the actual name of the warrior. Pronounced approximately as Tour Eeirik, Tor is of course the root of what a British person would describe as Thor.
A Wait was a musician, they marked the hour and sometimes called the news in the way a Town Crier would.
To this day there is a whole network of caves under Nottingham and you can go on a tour. Perhaps they were a good place to hide even in the days of William.
My art work is intended to illustrate the story in an impressionistic way.
A more complete story in an historical format will shortly be available as a download, for now we do have a history download relating to York…
Also try the Viking Comic Book and History links at the top.
Navy Blue Knickers and Things That Go Bump in the Night – 1930’s memories as told by a 8 year old who is now 89
“I dedicate this book to my grandchildren.”
“I write this book for Lucy on her 8th birthday.”
“Thank you to Jane and Harry for their encouragement and to William for his help; and Lisa my young reader.”
Chapter 1 – Having My Picture Taken
am Connie Staveley, I live in a nice village called Burton Fleming. I am seven and three quarters years old. I have just done quarters at school so I know thats right.
I am taller than most of the other girls in my class, and I have long fair hair. I know a lot of things that happened when I was only two or three years old. My Mother says that I cannot possibly remember, but I truly can.
When I was two, or maybe three I went to a proper place to have my picture taken. It was a bit like a house, but when we opened the door, a bell started to ring. It kept bumping into the back of the door and going ding ding ding, until my aunt Ada closed the door. My aunt Ada always came with us when we did important things, like dentists and doctors and things.
The man seemed to know we were coming. I think my aunt Ada had been in to see him before. I didn’t like the man very much, because he lifted me up on to a table, and he gave me a big grey ‘elifent’ to hold. It was really heavy, and the table was all slippy. I kept nearly sliding off, with that silly ‘elifent’ in my arms.
It was too heavy to hold and it made me cry. I cried a lot and the man got cross. He went to hide under a big black table cloth. My mother and auntie had to go and sit on a sofa. It was a long way away. Then the man peeped out and said, “Say cheese,” I nearly cried again. I don’t like cheese, well I do just a little bit now, because I am a big girl.
I don’t know why I had to say cheese, we had fish and chips at my aunt Ada’s before we went to see the horrible man.There was a big light went ‘flash’ just like when it thunders, then the man popped out from under the table cloth, and said. “That’s it then, I will send the photos in the post.” It was not a very nice day to remember, but I did have my Sunday dress on and my best boots, and it was only Saturday.
Chapter 2 – A Terrible Thing Happened
hen I was four, we had a very terrible thing happen. It started off very exciting. It was called a feast day, and all the men went to a feast. My Grandad collected all the money to pay for the beer and things, and the man at the Star Inn let them have the feast in a room above the stables.
All us children and mums and Grannies and aunties and some of the men went to *Southwells Field. We did all sorts of things, like egg and spoon races and games. I was only little when this terrible thing happened so I was in the baby race.
Our house was filled with aunts and uncles and cousins. I was too big for my cot so my cousins Cicely and Zilla slept in it. I was in between my mother and aunt Ada, so I didn’t fallout. All the beds were full and there was even beds on the floor in every room.
The bedroom window gave a great big crackling noise and broke just like ice does when you walk on it. We all jumped out of bed, well my mother lifted me out. I was still a bit asleep.
Everybody crowded into the living room. They were all talking at the same time and made such a noise, and I wanted to go to sleep again. Everybody wondered whathad happened. Grannie said we all had to go back to bed and stop causing such a commotion.
She said it would be that silly lad that lives up the lane, “He will have bumped into our front steps with his lorry, I’ll sort it out in the morning”.
Grannie always sorted everything out…
The next morning we heard that all the houses had been shaking at the same time, and Boynton’s lorry couldn’t have bumped into them all at the same time. The Sunday papers said it was an ‘Earthquake’. Something like thunder and lightning but worse.
Chapter 3- A Wonderful Thing
remember a wonderful thing, from when I was five and a half years old. We all ran out of school and Mrs Ashton told us all to look up into the sky. We saw this really big thing floating past. It was bigger than the chara* that takes us to the seaside. It was on its wayback from america. There was a German inside but we couldn’t see him.
Mrs Ashton said he was a friendly German not a bad one.
Chapter 4 – My New Sun Hat
he next summer was very very hot. My uncle Joe told me it was better than he had ever known, and he was a big man he was 28 years old. We had our summer dresses on and we had to wear sun hats everytime we went out.
Mrs Ashton was my teacher and she was my mother’s friend as well. She brought me a lovely sun hat. Her little girl was too big for it. It had ribbon round and little tiny tiny daisies on. We all got our legs brown and my Grannie said I looked the picture of health.
Chapter 5 – May Queen Day
am seven and three quarters now. I will tell you about another picture that I had taken. I will tell you about that later.
When we have a cold we use a hankie. It is a little square of cotton and it is nice and soft.We have a nicer one for best for Sundays. It is very soft, and it is made from fine lawn, not grass lawn sillies, a kind of cotton, but thin. Some of my hankies have C for Connie in the corner and some have flowers stitched on. My auntie Bessie does them for me. I have hundreds in my hankie drawer.
If I don’t have a pocket in my frock, I never know where to put my hankie. Sometimes I put it up my sleeve, but it falls out. I once felt ‘awful’ because of where I put my hankie. I will tell you about it.
It was last year, 1934. Every May time we have a maypole in the school yard. It is as tall as the school, nearly.
Some of the fathers help to put it in a hole in the middle of the school yard.
Then they hang all coloured ribbons from the top, and we all take a ribbon and dance round it.We wind in and out until we make a pattern with the ribbons. sometimes it is plaited, and sometimes like a cobweb. I can plait my hair now, all by myself, but not very well.
Even the boys had to dance, they didn’t like it very much.There was a May Queen as well, even when my mother was a little girl in the olden days there was. All the children are given a piece of paper to write the name of a girl they like best. It has to be a girl from the big girls class. The girl with the most votes is the May Queen.
A bit like when we have an election to get a new Prime Minister or Queen. This year I was the May Queen’s attendant. We vote in the little classes as well for attendants. I was attendant last year as well; the time I felt awful, about where I put my hankie.
I had a pretty yellow taffeta dress, all sticky out like a ballerina. I had a head-dress made with little bunches of buttercups. It was like a golden crown. My hair was all hanging down in ringlets.
The bedtime before May Day, my mother twisted my hair all round long strips of rag. It hurt when I was going to sleep. My Gran said, “Ah well prides painful mi lass.” I think she meant, if you want to look pretty it has to hurt you first. I had to sleep with the rags in all night, but I didn’t cry or anything.
On May Day when we took the rags out, my hair had gone shorter. I did cry then, but Gran said it was because it was all twisted in corkscrews, and it would be long again tomorrow. Isn’t that funny!
I looked ever so pretty. Well, my auntie Bessie said I did anyway.
The AWFUL thing that happened was a man came to take photos.
It hung on the school room wall with last year’s May Day pictures, and my sticky out dress was all tucked in my knicker leg. Well I had nowhere to put my hankie, so I tucked it in my knickers. I always feel AWFUL everytime I look at the picture. Well, everybody knows, I had my hankie up my knicker leg don’t they.Oh my gosh I feel AWFUL.
Chapter 6 – Navy Blue Knickers
fter the Awful thing happened my aunt Ada bought me some knickers with a pocket in. White ones for Sunday and navy blue for school days. I showed them to everyone at school. Not the big boys though, they always laugh at us infants. I showed Geof Wells and Maurice Pickering cos they’r our friends. Geof Wells said I could keep my money in it. So if I don’t spend my Saturday penny I put it in my pocket to keep it safe. I am always doing handstands and cartwheels and things. I can’t do them properly like Ellen Brambles. Sometimes my penny falls out and hits me on the nose.Chapter 7 – The Jubilee
his year was the Silver Jubilee. It was in May after May Day. Jubilee means 25 years since King George V was made our king. His wife is called Queen Mary. Everyone loves them both.
My uncle Joe says they are kind, and bother about the working man. I think they bother about the women and children as well, if they are kind, but uncle Joe doesn’t know about that.
The King George V is the first King to talk to people on the wireless. V means 5 I think.
On Christmas Day in 1932 he said, “This is a message to all my people throughout the Empire.” I was only six years old so i can’t remember what the message was, but I think he said, he loved us all.
We just got our wireless, it had an accumulator that made it go, and uncle Joe took it to the shop every week to have it charged.
That means put more stuff in it. It was called a wet battery. We all sat around the wirelsess to listen to the King. He is on the wireless every Christmas now, after we have had our Christmas pudding. I haven’t to talk for ages until he finishes his message.
On Jubilee day nobody went to work, we didn’t go to school. the King said we could have a day off. In London where the King has his palace, all the people had a picnic in the street.
They put tables up and had jelly and custard I think. It was called a street party. The dads put up ribbons and flags all over the fences.
The King liked it all, when he rode down the street with the Queen in a golden coach. We didn’t have a picnic in our street, but I had a really nice day.
At the top of our lane there is a tiny little house and my friend Mrs Bott and Aud Tommy Bott. My mother says their real name is Burt, but Gran talks proper North Button. That’s what Burton Fleming was called in the old days.
My mother won’t let me talk North Button way. I wish I could because I like the way my Gran talks.
Anyway! I sometimes go up the lane and Mrs Bott comes out to play with me.
She is a round lady like a cuddly ball.
She sometimes comes into the lane and we both skip.
Mr Bott holds the rope when he is at home. Mrs Bott is a very good skipper. She can even do salt and pepper. That means skipping faster and faster. When she skips she wobbles all over. when I giggle she says, “See if you can do better mi lass,” and I can’t. I always trip over the rope when it goes fast.
Mrs Bott has a really, really big fat thumb on one hand. She told me that when she was a young woman she worked in the cotton mill. It was at Bradford. That must be near London, cos its a very long way away. Her thumb grew big with pressing on the machine all the time. She used to wriggle her fat thumb at me to make me laugh. Sometimes she drew a little face on her nail. When it wriggled it looked like a little fat man.
Mr Bott is always in the fields working. He wears corduroy trousers that whistle when he walks, uncle Joe calls them his whistlers.
Mr Bott ties a piece of *Massey Harris band round his trousers just under the knees.
He says it is to stop mice running up when he is harvesting.
He has a great big coat. He wears it when he goes out after tea, it is very old and scruffy, but it is the most wonderful coat I ever seen.
Mr Bott calls it his magic coat. He shows me into his pocket, and it looks empty, then he puts his hand right down to the bottom of his coat and pulls out a rabbit. He has another pocket at the other side. When he opens his coat you can see two enormous pockets that touch the floor, and he finds a pheasant in there or maybe a partridge.
Mrs Bott says, “Them birds will do us a good dinner or two.”
Gran says Mr Bott is a poacher, and he’ll be getting wrong one of these days.
Mr Bott is round as well.
There is another round one in their family. They have the biggest fattest cat that I have ever seen. It is called Tiger. He has his own chair, and a big soft cushion on it.
When Tiger sits in his own chair he fills it all up, but he lets me squeeze in besides him. His purr is so loud, it sounds like an engine going inside him.He purrs like mad when I sit with him and hold his big paw in my hand. I went up the lane to Mrs Botts on Jubilee day.
We all, that’s Mrs Bott, Mr Bott and Tiger Bott, we all sat on stools round the wireless and heard the King’s people all cheering as he rode past.
We had a little glass of tonic wine and a piece of coconut cake with icing on. Mrs Bott went to the drawer in her sideboard and took out a red, white and blue box, with red, white and blue ribbon round it, all tied in a funny bow. she said, “Noo then bairn ev ya ivver seen owt lake this affoor?” and she untied the ribbon and lifted off the lid. Inside the box was three pieces of soap and one was red and one was white and one was blue. I said that I had never seen anything like it before. Mrs Bott said, “You can have one to take home so you can remember Jubilee day for many a day”.
Her little fat fingers hovered over the soap as she wondered which one to give. The pinky one was pretty, but it was supposed to be red. The white one was just like Grannie has in the front bedroom in case the doctor comes and wants to wash his hands. Mrs Bott said the blue was a very special soap, “It is very hard to make blue things because dyes are made from plant’s leaves and roots and you don’t see many blue leaves do you?” She took the blue soap out of the box and gave it to me wrapped in a silk hankie, “A special soap for a special lass”. Although the blue was not properly blue, it was like a bird’s egg colour. I ran straight home to show it to my mother. I still have it in my hankie drawer. I shall keep it for ever and ever.
When my uncle Joe came home for his tea, he brought me a special Jubilee present. It was a real silk hankie, with a Union Jack on it. I wrapped my soap in it and I will keep it for ever and ever and ever.
Chapter 8 – Betsy
had a lovely Grandad. He was very tall. Mrs Bott said he was a real gentleman. He was a very gentle man. He used to tie a cushion on to the bar of his bike with a long red scarf and lift me up onto it when he went to look at his sheep. Sometimes he took me to see his brother in Flixton.
I liked going with my Grandad but it was a bit scary when he went over a pothole in the road. It made the cushion wobble and sometimes it started to swing round under the bar.
I nearly went with it, but my Grandad always help on very tight to my coat.
When my Grandad went for a walk to meet his *cronies; that’s what Gran called them, I used to put my arm round his long legs. I couldn’t reach his hand very well. His ‘cronies’ were Mr Newlove and some more Grandads. They all meet at the Post Office corner. There is a square at the end of Milsons Lane.
Some of the ‘cronies’ squat down and play a game. They called it shuv a’penny*. Shuv means push and they had to shuv the other man’s a’penny off the board. The board was a patch they marked out with a stick on the ground.
Mr Newlove sometimes brings his little girl with him. Ruth is her name and she is one of my best friends.
I think the ‘cronies’ are all best freinds. They tell each other funny things and they all laugh at the same time.
Me and Ruth used to play with our dolls until it was time for tea. Our dolls are both BIG rag dolls, and we both have very ‘little’ doll’s prams. Our dollies just fit in if we sit them up.
My doll is made with cloth and it has a black face and black curly hair. Gran says it is astrkn*. Her eyes are stitches and mouth is as well. Blue for her eyes and red for her lips. Her nose is a stitch as well.
I am sure she can see me. She often smiles when no one is there. I talk to her a lot. She doesn’t answer, but I know she is listening. I tell eh rall my secrets, and she never ever tells anyone becasue she can’t talk at all. She hasn’t got a tongue you see. I love my doll a lot, her name is Betsy.
When Bessie was a little girl, Betsy was her doll. Now Bessie is grown up. Betsy is mine, but I promise to always look after her properly. Bessie is a lady now, 17 years old.
Ruth lives across the pond. Her Grannie and Grandad live with her just like mine.
They have a lovely garden, like a secret garden. There is small hedges all round patches of flowers. The hedges have tiny leaves and only come as high as your knees. It is called box hedging. The little hedge makes a box for the flowers to grow in.
Chapter 8 – Great Aunt Mary
hen I was nearly five my Grandad was very poorly. I went to stay with aunt Mary at Hunmanby. It was my great aunt Mary really. She was my Gran’s sister, not a little girl sister, you can have big lady girl sisters as well.
Aunt Mary is a big lady. She doesn’t talk North Button like Grannie does, she is a bit posh. Her house is a lot smaller than ours. It is all cosy and warm.
She has *antimassas on the settee and chairs, and there is a big aspidistra on a stand in the corner.
Everything is pretty and shining bright. There is a polished clock that hangs on the wall.
It has a very loud tick. When aunt Mary goes into the back garden I go as well.
If I stay in the house I get frightened of the TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK.
Aunt Mary is a seamstress, she sews lovely dresses with all satin bows and lace on. The real LADIES come and try them on and give her a lot of money for making them.
When they come aunt Mary talks all posh. Mum says she is refined but Gran says, “She puts it on to be all fancy.”
I love to stay with aunt Mary. She says if I don’t behave myself she will throw me up into one of those little white egg cup things at the top of the telephone post. There is just one outside her cottage. But I am not scared really, she is only pretending I know.
I heard her tell my Gran I was a grand little lass and ‘does as she is bid’.
When it is a sunny day she will say, “Come on bairn, we will go and see one of my ladies”.
When we go to the big house a lady in a cap and apron and a black dress comes to the door, and takes us to the lady’s room. Then she comes back with a shiny tea pot on a tray and china cups and saucers.
There is a lacy cloth on a little table and small buns to eat. The cups are very thin. Aunt Mary said when you hold them to the light, if you can see through them, they are real china.
Don’t hold them up with the tea still in, like I did, or you will spill it, like I did. Aunt Mary wasn’t cross she said I was a good little lass for not crying at the lady’s house.
I stayed at Mary’s for a long time.
When I went back home, Grandad wasn’t there any more. My Grannie said he had gone to heaven, he wouldn’t be hurting anymore.
Jesus is looking after him. I think it would be better if my mum and Gran looked after him still, and he could take me for rides on his bike again. I cry when I go to bed because I can’t see Grandad anymore.
Bessie comes and sits on my bed and tells me stories to make me stop crying. I don’t call her auntie Bessie she is like my big sister, she is only ten years older than I am. Bessie is my mother’s younger sister.
She makes new clothes for Betsy sometimes.
Chapter 10 – The Kid Catcher
know about Jesus, cos I go to Sunday School. It is different to weekday school, you don’t have desks with lids and pencils and things. Mr Story and Mr Southwell tells us stories about god and we sing a lot.
Our Sunday School is called *Primitive Methodists. Primitive means Mr Southwell doesn’t like pictures and fancy crosses on the walls. He likes simple crosses and things, so he says.
Ruth goes to Sunday School as well and afterwards a few of us best freinds go for a walk up Back Lane.
We sometimes go back down Mr Southwell’s garden. We get the gate open very quietly, and creep down the path, past cabbages and rhubarb.
We sometimes have to hide under the rhubarb leaves when we hear Mr Southwell come out of his back door. It is a very long garden, so he doesn’t often see us.
I think he hears us cos he stands ever so still, and he looks up the garden. One day he started to walk across the lawn, then, he went back into the house.
The rhubarb leaves are like big umbrellas, they are taller than us. If we find a young stalk we pull it out and eat it. It is quite sour, but we pretend we are on an island and have had no food for a year.
Mr Southwell has a little girl the same age as me. She is my Sunday froend. her name is Nan, it’s Nannette really, but I am her best freind, so I can call her Nan*.
Everybody calls me Connie but my real name is Olga Marie.
In Burton Fleming when tiny things are cute the old people say, “What a conny little thing.” Mt Grannie says I was cute when I was newly born. Auntie Bessie says I still am. My mother’s name is Mary, but she was called Connie. A week or two after I was born they called her Mary again.
When I went to stay with my auntie Mary I had just started school. There is a man called the Kid Catcher. He isn’t at school all the time, he only comes if any of the children don’t go to school.
He goes off on his bike and he finds out why they aren’t at school. When he went to our house they told him I was in Hunmanby because my Grandad was very poorly.
The Kid Catcher went to my aunt Mary’s and asked if she knew where Olga Marie is and aunt Mary said, “I have never heard of such a name in my life.”
The Kid Catcher thought I had been kidnapped or murdered. There was a lot of people looking all over for me.
When I went back to school Mr Dukes laughed, Mr Dukes is the head master and teaches the big class. He is a friend of our house. He said, “Don’t worry, nothing will come of it.” Connie isn’t even five yet, so she won’t be put in prison because she hasn’t been to school.
Chapter 11 – What Shall I do? – or, The Tiny Gold Pin
used to like to help my Grannie tidy out her little drawers when I was a baby, before I started school. One day when I was older it was raining and I couldn’t go out to play in the garden. Gran said, “It’s a bit since that there lartle drawer had a good sort out. We’ll ev a go at it shall wah?” There was alsorts of lovely things in it.
Shiny blue buttons from aunt Hannah’s wedding dress, some pennies from France and a tiny gold safety pin. Gran said I could have one thing before we put them back and I chose the golden safety pin.My friend Nan and I are always having brainwaves, and then we count how many others in the class copy us. We had this brainwave for our hankies, because Nan didn’t know where to put hers either. We pinned them onto the front of our frocks and then they floated down. We looked like actresses, as they floated as we walked.
We couldn’t use them though, it would spoil them if they were dirty. I used Gran’s golden safety pin for mine. When I went home from school, my mother said it looked silly and “It will make a hole in your frock.”
So I put it on when get to the gate at the side of the house, but I have to remember to take it out again before I go home for my tea. One day we all had to keep our hair tidy all day. A man came to take pictures of us. He took a really big one of all the class and then one of us all by ourselves. We got our pictures taken today and we can take them home. I don’t know what to do about mine.
I think, I will just take the one with everybody on, because Ruth is right in front of me and you can see my face. Well that’s alright I kept my face clean except for a crayon mark near my nose, and my hair ribbon has only slipped a bit. But the other picture will get me in trouble for sure. There right in the middle of my front, for everyone to see, is my little golden safety pin, and a BIG FLOATING HANKIE.
Oh my gosh!
What shall I do?
*Southwells Field = as it is a name of a place rather than a statement of ownership it no longer has the appostrophy
*chara = Charabang a name for a typ eof bus used for bus trips.
*Massey Harris band= a kind of rough hairy string much like sisal
*cronies = an old term for friends you hang out with, it infers you are a bit suspect as a kind of joke, but I am unsure of theorigins. Perhaps you know…
shuv a’penny*= knocking an old half penny piece across a board to settle in the best spot – a gambling game no doubt.
astrkn* = I would say this as, astrakahn, and I recall a fur coat of mums which she said was this that I thought was wonderful. Possible cos it had no spikes, it was fur woven into itself so it was lovely to look at and felt very smooth.
*antimassas = antimacassar, as in a protection against stains from macassar oil; a hair treatment made from coconuty and ylang-ylang. Initially they were a practical thing in the previous century but they became a decorative fashionable thing.
*Primitive Methodists – I was also told of Bush Baptists and a terrible place called chapel when mum talked about the old days when I was little. She also recalls seeing Catholics!
Nan* = Nannette still calls upon mum regularly, it is good to see they are still friends, and I understand Nannette continues to work at her cafe on the coast at Scarborough.
I am very proud to be able to republish my mum’s book. She sold thousands in hard copy and will be pleased to see this online version.
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Mum is known throughout the north of England for her presentations , publications and entertainments.