I am part of the Marshes (1930s-2016)

Location : Marshes, Halvergate

Gloria was born in Halvergate in the 1930s. She talks about the way of life on the marshes then and now.

I was born in Halvergate, which is right on the edge of the marshes, in 1934. I lived in one of three cottages down the bottom end of a road called The City and I lived there until I was five years old, by which time my father had built us a bungalow off Squires Road, but the bungalow had a nice view out across the marshes. So the marshes are part of my being; I am part of the marshes. Actually my father’s family and some of my mother’s family were marshmen, who looked after the mills. My father’s uncle Tom was at Ash Tree Farm and Uncle Jimmy was at Lockgate Farm, which is on the Yare. Ashtree Farm is on the Bure.

As children we spent a lot of time on the marshes especially in nice weather, poking about in the dykes, which were an absolute paradise of wildlife in those days. The boys used to be fishing for sticklebacks and there was some hope at one stage of catching a great big pike, who was resting, I suppose, in a dyke. Quite close to land; it wasn’t down near the river end, but the boys never could get anywhere near him; he was too quick.

The Fleet Dyke

There were a lot of quite big fish in the Fleet Dyke, which flowed from springs which came out of the ground by the side of the Carrs – a wet woodland just on the edge of Halvergate – and that water all flowed round a corner and alongside a winding road called Stone Road. In those days this was just rough gravel and things which led down to a fairly major farmhouse down at the far end, which for some reason was rumoured to be the Manor House. That was one of our favourite haunts down there and there was a turning off, which would take you through to Wickhampton and all sorts of places if you knew the way.

You could follow the Fleet Dyke for quite a long way and there was a nice sandy piece at the bottom round a bend, where the boys used to go and swim. We girls used to torment them, because they didn’t have swimming costumes; people couldn’t afford that sort of thing in those days. So we girls used to go and torment them by hanging about, so they couldn’t get out of the water with any sort of modesty. But there were some lovely big fish in there; really big ones, you know, about 18 inches long; what sort they were I don’t know. But there was a plank bridge, a ligger, which went across and we used to go and stand on this plank bridge and watch these fish.

But this one was quite special, because it had a handrail as well. Because Fleet Dyke was quite wide just there; it wasn’t just the sort of two or three steps and you’re over; you really had to walk across it. Because I haven’t got a very good sense of balance it was rather disconcerting, because it bounced rather. You always had the feeling you would be bounced off into the water. The handrail wasn’t fixed to the bridge; it was fixed to posts stuck in the bottom. That was one of our favourite adventures.

The Stracey Arms and River Bure

We used to go down to the Stracey Arms after school, because it was a nice old-fashioned pub in those days and we used to go to the back door and we could buy a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps.

Stracey Arms. Photo Ian Russell

We used to sit on the river bank and have our feast and if the tide was getting towards coming back up again, we used to sit there hoping it would come up while we were still there. If the water was nice and flat and there wasn’t any wind kicking up the waves, there was a definite doorstep of water which came up the river as the tide came in. I learnt later it was due to the fact that Breydon Water had to fill up before the Bure started to fill. So a whole lot of water in Breydon Water suddenly started coming up the Bure.

We used to sit with our feet on the flat surface of the river and then as it came up our feet would be submerged; that was great fun. I don’t know whether a tidal bore comes up or down the river, but this one came up the river and it was quite fascinating. We weren’t often there with the right conditions, so it was a great treat when it happened.

But it made us late sometimes and we had to run all the way home, which was about a couple of miles. We had a system for getting home quickly. Depending how much time you’d got, you either walked to the first gate along the Stracey Road and then ran to the next, or you did it the other way round, because gates weren’t evenly spaced. But we’d got it all worked out and there was a shortcut across the marshes.

That involved I think going over a ligger, which I wasn’t very good at. I used to have to sort of run over, because I’ve got such a dreadful sense of balance, and across one marsh and then across another one, which had a bull in it with his cows. We used to look from the road to see if the bull and his cows were safely over the other side of their marsh. I think he was quite a harmless bull actually, but we gave him due respect. We used to run across the edge of his marsh and out the other end and that took us into a lane in Halvergate, which wasn’t too far from home; that saved quite a long way round.

The Carrs, Halvergate

The Carrs at Halvergate were a favourite haunt as well. But during the War, of course, you had problems about military activities. They certainly mined a bridge, which crossed a little bit of water on the way to getting to the branch road. There were sandbags and barbed wire and things and we used to get down on our hands and knees and try to see what was underneath the bridge.

Army Camp, Marsh Road

There was an Army camp halfway down the Marsh Road and they had an anti-aircraft gun so, of course, they were responsible for firing at all the Germans, who came over in the middle of the night. Actually down on the marshes beside the branch road, there was some beautiful big barrage balloons tethered and we used to long to be able to set them free and watch them float away.

On at least one occasion we met some of the soldiers coming down the road as we were going back home. One of them very quietly tucked a packet of sweets into my hand and he obviously didn’t want his mates to know, so I just sort of whispered thank you. Sweets were really something in those days.

Plane crashes on the marshes

We had a lot of planes crashed on the marshes during the War, because they tended to get damaged on a mission and when they realised they weren’t going to make it back, sometimes they got so far and turned round to the marshes; sometimes they only got as far as the marshes and they’d come down. We used to see them fall out of the sky and we always knew how many crew should be on which plane, you know, and we used to count them all and cheer if they all got off and boo if they didn’t. A sort of childish view of warfare I know, but you’re like that when you’re a child, despite what people think.

Various personnel used to come and clear up the mess; it was mostly Americans, but one plane that came down was French-Canadian and the people who came to sort that out stayed with my grandmother. So we did sort of come into contact with them, but they could read English, but they couldn’t speak it, which was a bit difficult.

Interactions with the American airmen

Mostly they were Americans and one party of Americans gave us a packet of cookies once. Well because we were perpetually barraged with war propaganda and ‘don’t pick up tins; they might be butterfly bombs’ and ‘don’t say anything that might give things away to the enemy’ and all that sort of thing, we were highly suspicious of these cookies. We counted the cookies in the packet and there were six of them and there were five of us and we’d got our friend’s dog with us, so we gave the spare one to the dog. The dog survived, so we decided they were safe and ate the rest. Oh dear, horrible children I suppose really, but never mind.

Yes, the Americans were very impressed by a big picture we’d drawn across the Chapel Road once. There was hardly any traffic, because no one had any petrol apart from delivery men. We used to use lumps of chalk off the fields and old bits of broken brick and bits of burnt wood and we’d done this great big picture, which depicted children playing down at Stracey Arms – reeds, river, swing, everything – and these Americans came along. We were very shy; we were terrified of talking to anybody. So we dived through the hedge and they stopped and looked at this and said ‘oh gee that’s great, gee, come on, come on, you come out of there’. But we wouldn’t. Partly we were always nervous, because one of the older girls had told us that the policeman would be after us if we drew things on the road; you weren’t supposed to draw things on the road and, of course, we were always drawing hopscotch patterns on the road to use as well, so we were always in fear of the village policeman. I don’t think the village policeman would have been bothered in the slightest, but you don’t know that when you’re a child do you. You always believe what older children tell you rather than what your parents tell you anyway.

At school during the war years

I started school in September ’39 at the village school when I was five and I finished at the end of July 1945 aged eleven. So my village school days coincided with the War exactly.

The head teacher wasn’t allowed to blow a whistle, or bang anything, apart from clapping her hands. So when she came in to call us in from play, she had to clap her hands. The school windows all had crosses of sticky brown tape on just in case of a bomb blast to save the glass from going everywhere. We had a special drill for air raid warnings. It was just a two class school and in the infant room we had to pretend we were bunnies and hop under our tables. In the junior room we hadn’t got tables, so we had to all repair to the corridor, collecting our coats from the cloakroom, lie down and cover ourselves with our coats. What sort of protection that would have been if a bomb had hit the school I don’t know. They might have found us more easily by finding the coats I suppose. We all thought it was fun really; you don’t realise the implications.

It was only towards the end of the War that I began to worry about relatives who were in the Army, particularly one who was serving in the East and the Far East and you suddenly began to worry about what was going to happen to them. I actually had a nightmare once, in which a contraption like one of those cylindrical oil stoves was hanging from the sky with a German in it, who was aiming a gun at my uncle on the ground. I don’t know why I had such a fantastic notion, but I think the War was beginning to get to me at that stage.

Slubbing out the dykes

Chiefly I mean it was a case of spending all our time wandering on the marshes and in the War particularly nobody did very much; they still slubbed the dykes out, you know, cleared out the surplus mud and dumped stuff on the side. They had a thing like a giant soup ladle, which was called a ‘dydle’. My father always called any sort of ladle a dydle. They had rakes, including a ‘crome’, which was a big rake with curved tines, also cutting implements to cut long vegetation if they needed to. They wore waders and they actually stood in the dyke and just scooped out mud and swung it up and dumped it on the side. So all the dykes had an automatic little raised bank around the edge. It just had to be done every so often; it wasn’t done very frequently.

We liked that, because as the mud dried, you could find seashells; being estuarine mud it was all full of cockleshells and things like that. We used to collect them. We never did anything with them; we just collected them.

Cattle and sheep on the marshes

They had to leave some passageways as they built up the edges of the dykes, as the cattle had to be able to get through. They usually left just one place preferably where there was a natural slope, because sometimes cattle did blunder into the dyke and then it was a grand performance. They had to get the Fire Service, or whatever, and put slings on them and haul them out, because I mean they’ve got small feet, which sink into deep mud very easily and they’re rather heavy beasts a well. Sheep as well used to fall into the dykes sometimes.

My aunt told me once, because she was rather naughty when she was a child, she and her friend chased some sheep and one finished up in the dyke. So they felt a bit worried about this, so they went and told the farmer, ‘please Mr.’ whatever, ‘one of your sheep is in the dyke’. So he gave them a shilling for being good girls to come and tell him.

They didn’t keep a great many sheep on the marshes when I was young, because they’d found that they tended to get foot rot with the wet conditions, because I mean you associate sheep with chalk downland and that sort of thing rather than wet marsh land.

I suppose sometimes the marshes were nice and dry, but if you did get a lot of wet weather, they could get very wet indeed. In the wintertime I can remember seeing the first marsh that you came to when you went down the Marsh Road across, it was just sort of shining water with just little plants sticking out. Sometimes in the summer if there’d been heavy rain, there’d be just a few little plants sticking out the top of the sheet of water. So obviously it wasn’t suitable for sheep just there.
It was mostly cattle. I understand they used to bring store cattle over from Ireland actually on purpose to graze them on the marshes to fatten them up again after their journey, because I suppose they didn’t get fed very well coming over from Ireland on a boat and trains and lorries and all sorts and they used to fatten them up on the marshes to sell on. But there were cows kept down there as well.

One of the friends I played with lived on a smallholding and they had some cows. Her uncle Jimmy used to ride down to the marshes on an ancient bicycle with no saddle, which was what I learned to ride on. We all had a go on Uncle Jimmy’s bicycle. We just stood on the pedals and being a tall bike we couldn’t sit on it anyway. We just stood on the pedals and learned to ride that way. Well people didn’t have much in those days, so they didn’t complain.


Cattle on the marshes. (Broads  Authority.)

Home grown vegetables and fruit/produce and flower shows

There was rationing and we used to grow our own food. Most places in the village had a decent sized garden that your fathers carried on – or your mothers if the father wasn’t there – but not many men in the village were called up, because they all had a reserved occupation, being farm labourers.

So people shared what they had as well. If somebody had got a good plum tree they’d give friends and neighbours plums and perhaps receive some parsnips, you know, whatever you hadn’t got, somebody else might have. So there was a sort of interchange of produce and a bitterly contested produce and flower show.

My great aunt had a very fancy pelargonium, in fact, I’ve still got it. It has very large pale pink flowers with maroon markings in the centre and it’s one of the regal pelargoniums. It used to have a huge mass of flowers on and she used to win a prize with it at the flower show every year, but she wouldn’t let anybody have a piece. After she got too old and had to give up her home, she gave me this pelargonium and ever since I’ve been trying to spread this pelargonium around to make up for Aunt Lizzie’s failings.

But it’s a very hardy thing actually. I had one outside here in a hard frost one winter and it took the leaves off, but the bottom parts hadn’t died, but came up again in the spring; it was in a pot.

There was a lot of bitterness about unfairness in the flower show, chiefly because people didn’t bother to read the schedule properly and if it said something had to be a certain size, they ignored it. Then they complained, because they didn’t win anything. Gardening and country things were just part of our lives.

Myrus Sutton’s farm and Percherons

Myrus Sutton’s farm used to turn their carthorses; they were all Percherons, out to graze at the end of the day and the women in the village were terrified of these great horses. There’d be half a dozen of them at least; they used to come clomping through the village and down the Marsh Road and they used to find their own way to where they belonged and the gate had been left open for them and they’d go straight onto the marsh and start to graze and enjoy themselves. The man who looked after them would follow on his bicycle and shut them in.

Several times I stood and watched them gallop down the road, but the women were terrified. Why the horses would want to attack them I don’t know; all the horses wanted was to get to their nice grazing and have a nice rest; they’d been working hard all day. They’d hardly want to bother about attacking people. But grownups have very funny ideas.

Gloria on the Yare track near Buckenham Station, 2011. Photo: Adrian Read.

Gloria’s father and mother and their families

My father was more attached to Halvergate and so on than my mother was. Father was actually born in Halvergate.

His name was George William Hurry Forster, but the Forster bit was because his mother hadn’t got married in time. His father was Hurry, just to confuse things. But I’m a Hurry as well. My sister and I have each got a Hurry and have that as a middle name. He was born in Halvergate and brought up mostly by his grandmother, because his mother I think when he was about five years old had another baby – my father’s sister. But she was married by then. She married a few months after my father was born actually. I suppose it was just a question of her age, or something, you know, and she just had to wait until she was old enough to do what she liked.

She kept having epileptic fits and that was regarded as a form of insanity in those days, so she had to go into the mental hospital and father stayed with his maternal grandmother in Halvergate and his sister Ruby went to live with his paternal grandparents in Ashby St Mary. His father, George, who was actually called George William Hurry, took himself off to Canada in the hope of being able to make a new life and to send for his wife and children once he got settled.

But unfortunately by the time father’s mother was cured of her epilepsy, she caught a fever in hospital and died. They had written to George William Hurry in Canada saying that she was fit to be discharged, but she couldn’t be discharged without the say-so from him. So he had to sign a paper and send it back again and, of course, we didn’t have airmail, or rapid communication in those days and by the time it got there, it was too late; she’d gone. I think she was probably quite young when she had my father and he was about 11 when she died, so she wasn’t very old.  So that was most unfortunate.

Father’s Uncle Jimmy Banham was a marsh man and the Banhams at Ash Tree Farm were his relatives. But my mother also had a relative, who was a marsh man, called Scurrell Youngs. He was a man with immense whiskers; sort of two long beards down either side of his chin and he had a huge moustache, which was drooped as well.

Mother’s name was Barbara May de Ville before she was married. Her mother’s family were local people – the Youngs. Her mother Lucy was in service in London, where she met a Thomas de Ville, who was a joiner working in London and they were married.

Tom de Ville was sent to do some sort of work in France and I think it was probably because of the First World War. They moved up to Halvergate to be near grandmother’s sister Lizzie and stayed there, because Tom de Ville had been sent to work on making aeroplane propellers out of wood, because in World War I they had wooden propellers, in a place in Lowestoft I think it was. They gave him some bad wood to use, which it had what he called a ‘shake’ in it and he said ‘I can’t make a propeller out of this; I’m not going to be responsible for a pilot losing his life, because his propeller is broken; I’m not going to do it’. They said ‘you’ve got to do it’. So he walked out. He was sent to probably do some sort of construction work, either patching up behind the Army, or working at the camps, or something, but he wasn’t actually Armed Forces. I’ve no idea what he did, because no one ever did tell me. Perhaps they didn’t know, because he didn’t talk very much. He was profoundly deaf and it was very difficult to converse with him. You had to shout at the top of your voice and preferably say what he expected you to say; if you said anything different he wouldn’t be able to hear it.

She had two sisters, one of whom lived in the village and was married to a Willemot, who was in the building trade as a labourer, but he was the one, who was out in the Far East during the War. The other sister was in service in Freethorpe and she used to come home to see grandmother on Sunday afternoons and she was also allowed home for the best part of Christmas Day. I think she had to prepare the vegetables and things for Christmas dinner and then the old lady with her guests, who she’d got with her finished cooking the dinner off themselves. So that was a great privilege.

The old lady had cats and she used to talk to these cats and Auntie Kate used to have to cook up smelly old bits of fish for these cats, or rabbits and things and the old lady used to trot over to the barn where the cats lived to feed them you see.

I can remember they were both called Kathleen; they used to call one another Kathleen. They used to have silly conversations, you know, ‘put your galoshes on Kathleen’. ‘Yes Kathleen’. ‘It’s wet out there Kathleen’. Auntie Kate used to boss her about as though she was the boss, but she was very old. This old lady was about 93 I think when she died and she was so frail. She always dressed in black; looked like something out of a Victoria photograph always same old-fashioned clothes, long skirts and shawls and funny hats and things, you know, and Auntie Kate used to order her around alarmingly, but she was a nice old lady.

She let Auntie Kate have me and Shirley there to tea and to play in the garden; it was a nice big garden and she used to like to join in. If we played croquet on the lawn, she used to say ‘what’s your score Gloria?’ So you had to tell her. ‘Oh it’s better than mine; I’m going to swap’. She used to play cards with us on the kitchen table sometimes and she always cheated, or again swapped scores. She always had to win. We didn’t mind.

She was a nice old lady, but I mean she was in straightened circumstances, because her husband had died fairly young; I don’t know what of. I think he was in his 40s and the house had been left entailed to the family for her to live in for as long as she needed and she had this small allowance which, of course, was a good allowance in the 1920s/30s but, of course, by the time you got to the 40s and 50s it was getting a little less useful and I think by the time the poor old lady died, she must have been hard put to make ends meet at all.

She employed a gardener come chauffeur called Payne as well and he was a funny man. He used to grow chrysanthemums and cucumbers in the greenhouse and sell them and she was allowed to have some, if she asked nicely. She was also allowed to have the use of the car if she asked nicely, otherwise he used it himself. He really took advantage of her, but I mean Auntie Kate never did.

He offended her once though, because one of her old cats died on the hearth rug and she ordered Payne to take the cat away on the mat and bury the cat and the mat as they were in the garden. So Payne did and then Payne got into trouble, because he’d failed to take the cat’s collar off. Whether he’d buried the mat as well, or whether he’d kept it, I don’t know. I wouldn’t have put it past him to have kept it.

He spoke with a stammer and you always felt he stammered, because he wasn’t certain, or he was hiding something, you know, it wasn’t an honest stammer. But I think children are sort of sensitive to that sort of thing, because I mean some of the children in the class stammered, chiefly brought on by Miss Wheeler shouting at them. One of them had a natural stammer, but at least one boy started to stammer I think in his class, because she frightened him so much.

My mother when she was young used to be sent to take food and drink down to the man, who looked after the pumping station that used to be down at the bottom of Marsh Road. So she used to take his elevenses down. Whether she took his ‘fourses’ as well I don’t know.  That was probably in school holidays and at weekends.

There wasn’t much of the pumping station left when I was around. It had been demolished, because once they started to drain the marshes more thoroughly, some of these things became redundant. But she told me she used to love going down there, because the old man kept his pumping station inside so beautifully clean, you could eat your dinner off the floor and that it had a tiled floor and the brasswork was all polished and it was probably much cleaner than people’s homes were.

My grandmother was always there. She lived just down the lane from us and I used to spend a lot of time with her.

Halvergate Village School

My mother moved to Halvergate when she was about 11. She had been to quite a decent school in London and the village school was an awful shock, because the old headmaster, he just taught the 3 Rs and nothing else and if you got the answer wrong, you got thrashed and she actually hated it.

But later on they had a woman take over and towards when she was due to leave, it was decided that they needed a pupil teacher and it was a toss up between mother and some other girl, but mother got the job as a pupil teacher and she learned to teach by teaching with the staff there and that was her training.

She took over from old Miss Beck, who actually taught me at the infant stage, because when mother got married, of course, she had to stop work, because they didn’t employ married women. But after the War started, old Miss Beck retired and mother had a plea from the Education Committee to go back. They wanted her then, because they hadn’t got anybody else. She said well she’d go back on condition she could have time off when her husband was on leave, because he couldn’t choose his leave times and it wasn’t likely to coincide with school holidays. So they agreed to that and one of the supply teachers, who took over after the person who was there left before mother finally retired, showed her the logbook in which Miss Wheeler had written ‘Mrs Forster off’ underlined, ‘because of her husband’s leave again’ underlined exclamation mark!

She wasn’t a very tolerant person; she used to shout at everybody who got the answer wrong. ‘Oh you stupid boy.’ Since she never bothered to tell us anything; she never taught us anything, why we should be expected to know where Johannesburg was, for example, I don’t know, but she’d never told us and we hadn’t got any textbooks to read it. I mean we were just supposed to turn up knowing all these things but, of course, we didn’t know. I thought I wanted to be a teacher, because I thought I’d do a better job than she did. But I changed my mind later on.

I should think there was about 40 children at the most at the village school. There were two classes – infants and juniors and they varied a lot. Normally the infants were there ’til age eight and then they went to the juniors, but I moved up to the juniors when I was seven, because mother had taught me to read and write and everything before I started school. This made me a bit of an outcast, because I never worked with the others when I was in the infant room. I mean I’d get things like ‘please miss, Gloria Forster ain’t reading, because she ain’t saying nothing’.

I read every book in the school I could find. I think I told Miss Wheeler I had read all the books in the silent reading cupboard; there was a nice big cupboard full of little slim books, which you could take out and read if you had finished your sums and were waiting to have them marked, or anything; any sort of period when you had nothing to do you could read these books. Well I’d read the lot and there were hundreds of them; I’d read them all you see. So she said ‘well then you can take the keys of the storeroom and go and find something in there to read’.

So I took the key to the storeroom and I went and I was horrified. There were all these history books, geography books, textbooks, you know, full sets for a class. We’d never set eyes on them.

The only geography we ever had, you know, was a system whereby you stuck a label off a tin in a book and then you wrote about the place it came from. Well being wartime, they all came from either Australia, or Canada, you see, but she never told us anything about these places; we didn’t know anything about them except what we managed to sort of pick up. So we all kept writing ‘Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is part of the British Commonwealth.’, or British Empire it was in those days wasn’t it? That’s about all we knew you see. We just kept writing the same thing time after time and you weren’t allowed to write it straight in the book. We had to write it out in pencil until you got it absolutely perfect, then you could copy it in the book and there was all hell to pay if you made a blot, because they were old-fashioned pens you dipped in an inkwell. Children these days don’t know what life is do they.

Miss Beck was my grandmother’s landlady. She was a funny old dear. She was a great cat lover and she retired while I was still there, which was why my mother got called in. We had a woman called Doris Carter, who had been at the school and she’d taken teacher’s training and she hadn’t yet been appointed anywhere, so she did sort of an odd time. Mother decided to work for five extra years, so she retired when she was 65 rather than 60 and she enjoyed teaching really.

There wasn’t much formal education, in fact, none at all really. I mean, as I say, my mother taught me. I can remember when I was quite small, mother and I used to play a game and I would say to her something like ‘what’s seven?’ and she’d say ‘it’s four and three’ and I’d say what else is seven?’ She’d say ‘it’s four, five and two’ and things like that. Then we’d swap over and, you know, she’d ask me.

So I had a good knowledge of numbers quite young. I was never good at learning anything off by heart though. I never got beyond my five times table until I was grown up. All the rest of the time I was having to take off eights, or add on nines to what I’d got, because that was as far as I’d got, which slowed me down doing my maths.

I couldn’t learn poetry either. Terrible. I once tried pacing up and down to learn it, which helped a bit, but then I felt I couldn’t really pace up and down the form room when I came to recite it, so I just couldn’t remember it.

Just occasionally Miss Beck would have a test and she’d sort of read out these questions and we had to write down the answers and they were more like a quiz than anything and the other children used to copy my efforts. It didn’t mean very much.

In the junior class there was a group of four of us, who used to sit in one corner. There was two boys and two girls. It was a big age group my particular one. For some reason in 1934 there was a lot more children born than other years. So sometimes there would only be three children in an age group, but I think there was about 10 or 11 and we were the four brightest ones and we sat in a corner at the back. Heather, who sat next to me, was a very practical sort of person and she used to sort out my knitting. I was always getting my knitting all tangled up.

Well the trouble was you see I was very short-sighted and nobody knew. I got shouted at for being stupid when I was ten years old and couldn’t tell the time. I mean actually I couldn’t see the time, so I had a wild guess you see. Anyway it wasn’t right. ‘You stupid girl. You’re ten years old and you can’t tell the time’. I was always in trouble.

If I did knitting, I had a tendency to stick the needle in the wrong place you see and it used to get all tangled up and Heather used to take it back and sort it out for me. So in return for that I used to let Heather copy my sums, so Heather’s sums were always right as well. Then the boys used to buy the answers sitting behind us either in return for chestnuts they’d scrumped in the lunch hour, or if there weren’t any chestnuts, or some other favour. If the worst came to the worst Ronnie, who’d lost an eye in an accident earlier on, would take his glass eye out and show us.

These chestnuts came from the woodland surrounding the little bit of parkland and the house called The Rookery, where Mr Den Englese lived. Mr Den Englese  was suspected of Nazi sympathies and interned during the War, so the only inhabitant of the house was his housekeeper. So the woods weren’t exactly supervised and, of course, people didn’t bother about such things during the War anyway no one had got the time to worry about them, but there were lots of sweet chestnut trees in there. So the boys used to sort of climb through the fence and gather all the chestnuts they could you see, so we had plenty of chestnuts.

There was also a walnut tree, which stood in the parkland and we used to watch out for the housekeeper and if she wasn’t about we’d hastily scurry across the grass and gather walnuts from the ground. On one occasion she came out of the front door, so somebody hid behind the tree and somebody hid behind him, so there was a whole tail of us and I’m sure she would have seen us if she had looked. She probably wouldn’t have cared a damn anyway. We had some good fun; we really did.

For one Christmas my mother bought my sister and I an atlas each and so we used to play a game challenging one another to find places on maps. We also took our atlases to school and the head saw us using it and thought it was a good idea. So then she found out a world map out of a cupboard somewhere or other and pinned it up on the blackboard and we played it as a class game.

So the children did get some sort of geography, as a result of this game we played. But I mean Scripture it consisted of a children’s edition of the Bible and she would allocate somebody to read a piece and this child would stand there and read it while she did something else and then when they’d finished, that was it; that was Scripture over for the day.

We had prayers at the beginning of the day and the end and I remember, because one lad, who stood behind me, one of the prayers said officially ‘we lift up our hearts unto thee’, but he used to say ‘we lift up our hats unto thee’, which made sense, because it was the done thing wasn’t it for boys to lift their caps up. So it made sense to him.

One girl had a bad sense of balance and she used to fall over. We had to stand with our hands together and our eyes shut and poor Nellie used to start falling over and blunder against a desk, so in the end she had to be given permission to keep her eyes sort of half-closed, so she could still see and she wouldn’t fall over.

But the latter part of the time I was there we spent all the afternoon on the playing field. We’d have these prayers, then we’d do sums and you did four sums and then you stood on your seat and waited to be called and have them marked and she called people at random. After standing for what was more or less half a morning one day on my form, I thought that was a mug’s game and so I gave up standing on my form. I just used to get one of these books out of the silent reader cupboard, which is how I read so many of them and just sit and read and when there wasn’t anybody standing on the form, I’d leap up and stand on mine, so I’d get called to have my sums marked.

But doing sums used to take most of the morning and we used to have, as I say, this writing thing where we wrote things about labels off tins and that only happened occasionally.

We had this wretched knitting and sewing. Because I couldn’t see really, I made a mess of my sewing as well and in the end she gave up and said I could do drawing with the boys instead. The boys had drawing and the girls had knitting and sewing you see. So I was allocated a drawing book and did drawing with the boys. So that occupied part of the morning as well.

I can’t remember when they started the school dinners. They certainly didn’t have them when I was first at the school. Everybody went home, except for children, who lived in Tunstall, which was quite a long walk; they just brought sandwiches, or something. I lived near the school and so I had no need for school dinners, because mother was going to cook an evening meal anyway.

On one occasion there was some sort of disaster and the juice out of the beetroot had run into the pudding, whatever it was, and Miss Wheeler detailed somebody to go to the post office and telephone the school dinner people and tell them this disaster and tell them the juice from the beet had run into the sweet. They called that a disaster.

Because the school didn’t have a telephone, if there was any sort of disaster, a child needed attention, somebody had to go to the public phone box, which was on a party line with the post office. So 10 to 1 the post office was using the line anyway and so you had to go round to the post office. Fortunately nothing really awful happened. When Ronny Mallet lost his eye it wasn’t in school time; that was holiday time I think. They were playing Robin Hood, or something, with bows and arrows, homemade bows and arrows and he got an arrow in his eye. Fortunately it was fired by his cousin, so there were no great bitter recriminations, but it could have made a sort of rift in the village forever.

Post Office/GeneralStore/Smallholdings

It was a post office and general store and they were related to us; they were part of the Youngs family. They had a shop and a sort of smallholding and Eddie kept cows, which he used to milk twice a day and the milk was cooled and bottled and taken round the village. Things like that were supposed to be on ration but obviously Eddie wasn’t going to waste milk and so any spare bottles of milk we often had. Mother said to him one day ‘I hope you’re not giving me favourite treatment Eddie, you know, make sure other people…’ He said ‘I leave the milk where I know I’m going to get paid for it’. So mother got extra milk just because he knew she was going to pay for it.

They had an old gander up there and it used to strike terror. They had a dog, which had a tendency to chase people and try to bite them as well. This old gander it used to chase people. There was a Miss Beck, who was a very little old lady, who lived in Tunstall. She was tiny; she was elderly, you know, looked as though she was sort of frail and she wasn’t frail at all. My father told me once this old gander came for her one day and he said she grabbed him by the neck and she spun round and round and round and round swinging this gander round and round and round in a circle and when she sat the gander down again, his head was still going round and round. He never went after her again he said. I think he was a bit doubtful about going after other people as well.

There was a man known as Pie Beck; his name was Alfred actually; I don’t know where the Pie came from. He had a sort of smallholding; a lot of greenhouses. He grew cucumbers and tomatoes and he had a big grapevine in the one nearest the house, but he had problems getting coal to fire the boilers during the War, so they weren’t heated like they had been, but he could still grow the cucumbers and tomatoes reasonably well. That was an old house and there was a whole range of buildings, sort of small units. There was a blacksmith’s shop with a forge in it and there was a carpenter’s shop, you know, various things. So it would have been completely self-sufficient, if they’d used it all completely, but then they tended to sort of gradually give up I suppose.

They were the grandparents of the girl I played with and she lived with her grandparents, because it was quite a big family and she was born one of a pair of twins. So they decided it would be easier if grandmother looked after one of the twins, because they were only a little way away from one another. It was just a matter of sleeping separately really; they weren’t really separated.

Then, of course, some of the other sisters used to play as well. We used to climb the apple trees in the orchard and we were allowed to have the windfalls. A particular pride, they had one big William pear, which was a really nice eating pear and we were allowed to have a pear if one fell down. So all the time we were playing in the orchard, we had our ears pricked for the sound of a pear thudding down, because that was in a different part. You had to run through the orchard and onto a sort of slightly different level to get to this pear. That was just an occasional treat of pears, but there were quite a lot of apples for windfalls and we were always eating windfall apples. We were allowed to climb the trees in the winter before the buds began to form. Once there were sort of fruiting buds showing on the trees, we weren’t allowed to climb up them anymore.

She had an old goose as well, a gander. I think they’d intended to have it for Christmas and they’d got so fond of it that they couldn’t bear to kill it. So they just kept it and he was about oh 25 years old I think. It lived in what was known as the top orchard, which was a slightly higher piece of ground they’d taken in and we used to tease this old gander and get him to chase us. He chased me one day so closely I had to actually leap up into one of these trees and sit there until it had gone away before I got down again.

Gloria’s love of nature

I’m sure it was growing up on the marshes that’s inspired my love of nature. I mean there was other nature in the village as well, but I mean it was the dykes and all the wildlife in the dykes. Watching the water spiders go down and collect a bubble of air and took it down and caddis fly larvae and various small fish. The boys always called them tiddlers, but I think they were mostly sticklebacks and, of course, there was frogs’ spawn.

There were the water hens’ nests, which the boys always looked for so they could take the eggs and the water hens would gaily go on laying eggs and the boys they never took the whole lot; they just took some you see and, of course, the water hens generally lay on one another’s nests as well.

I mean you might find a nest with about 25 eggs in. Well they’re never going to hatch out in the normal way, so the boys might just as well take them anyway, but they didn’t sit on until they’d got a clutch to sit on. I don’t think water hens are very well organised. Also, of course, looking for watercress. That was before they took to spraying the marshes with weedkiller. That was after the War. They’d got to improve the marshes after the War. So they took to spraying out weedkiller.

So they killed off all the nice wildflowers, nearly all the nice things that grew in the dykes. They completely failed to kill the nettles and thistles and, of course, since then they’ve found that the natural flora, which grows in grass, is much better for cows and cattle generally than just plain grass. So I mean they wasted their time and I mean the people in the village were annoyed, because it used to be a thing to go down to the marshes to gather mushrooms. The men in the village would go down to the marshes to gather mushrooms early in the morning and they used to go down to get watercress and, you know, you couldn’t do it anymore. It didn’t achieve anything. Just left stands of thistles and nettles, which weren’t much in evidence before they started to spray.

My mother taught me some of the names of the plants and I don’t know if they were just Norfolk names, or what, but because we used to walk along what was known as the Stone Road down towards what was known as The Manor House for some reason, beside the Fleet Dyke, and there were lots and lots of things growing in that dyke. We used to sit down beside it sometimes and mother used to talk to us about the plants. I mean there were King Cups, which are otherwise known as Marsh Marigolds and some of the things I discovered the names of later I think. There was a flowering rush, which mother said was called Apple Pie I think and the Greater Hoary Willowherb was called Cherry Pie. It had sort of dark pink flowers on, so that was fairly logical I suppose. I mean there were things like Water Docks and, of course, on the marshes themselves there was the Cardamine Pratensis. I’ve forgotten the name now. Of course, there were all the usual sort of buttercups and things.

Marsh marigolds (Broads Authority)

I remember a plague of goat moths one year. They’re big caterpillars. They’re about the size of my finger. They were sort of beetroot-coloured on top and carrot-coloured underneath. I think it was probably in holiday time, because I’d left the Halvergate school by then, and on our way down the branch road there were all these great big caterpillars crawling down the road. I gathered one up, because that was a great treasure and I took it home and put it in a cardboard box . Well I had two of them actually and they both pupated and hatched out. I think one of the boys had some as well. He gave me one of his moths later, because mother went and sprayed flies in the wash house and killed one of my caterpillars, which I wasn’t very pleased about. We had a big row about that; killing my caterpillar. I said she only had to move the box out, you know; she didn’t have to.

They were fairly dull-coloured moths; greyish sort of thing, but I understand from reading later that they actually spend three years growing and they came out of the trees every year, or at least pupated, or rested in some way inside the tree. So they actually spent three summers eating before they came out and they made a case for themselves with bits of bark. They were very spectacular. But why there should have been such a plague of them that particular year I don’t know.

Yes, Everett Gibbs gave me one of his caterpillars after mother had killed mine and that actually turned out to be a female moth. But mother killed several of my caterpillars accidentally actually. It finished up by I kept my caterpillars in a shoebox in my bedroom. I stretched a piece of net curtain over the top, so they could breathe, but it was rather distracting when you’re trying to go to sleep hearing a large caterpillar chomping.

Mother didn’t like my caterpillars, but Auntie Kate quite liked my wildlife. When she was visiting one Sunday, she went into my bedroom to fetch something, because a lot of odd things were kept in my bedroom and she came out one day, ‘oh Gloria’ she said ‘Gloria’ she said ‘one of your lovely moths has hatched out and sitting in the box’. So, of course, I rushed to the bedroom and I can’t remember which one that was now.

My favourite reading matter was natural history books. I didn’t like stories much at all; I thought they were soppy. All these princes and princesses and magic spells and things I didn’t go a bundle on that. It was alright when you were about three years old, but you grow out of that sort of thing don’t you.

History of the marshes

A long long time ago in Roman times the marshes were an estuary and I think they began to silt up naturally, because Scroby Sands, as an example, the sandbank sort of built up. Yarmouth also began to build up, so sand began to stretch across the estuary and slowed down the sea a bit. I think it was round about the 16th/17th century; I don’t know exactly, Dutch engineers were called in to advise on draining them. Channels were cut; windmills built. I think most of the mills are probably 18th/19th century ones.

Presumably the channels were cut by hand. It was probably a bit like the peat digging on the Broads, you know, they were beginning to dry out naturally; they weren’t wading about in water to do it obviously. It was just rather over-wet, silty ground by then and the windmills actually lifted the water and into dykes, which carried the water into the rivers. There are various places along the rivers where the dykes enter the system.

Marsh Mills

Lockgate Mill where my father’s Uncle Jimmy Banham lived had a mill, which actually took water straight into Breydon Water rather than into the river, because it was that far along.

I suppose with the Ash Tree Farm Mill, there’d probably be an ash tree and they’d have named the farm after that. Very often they were just named after the man, who lived there. So it would be something like Doggett’s Mill, or something like that, and sometimes a name stuck regardless who was there; sometimes it got changed when somebody else was there.

Mutton’s Mill was practically in Halvergate and there was a Mutton family living there. In fact, there were Muttons and Malletts and Carters all over the village. They didn’t all seem to be related; I suppose they were, but they didn’t know the connection if they were.

There were some people called Mutton, who lived just down the bottom of Marsh Road; they weren’t attached to a mill at all. Some more Muttons lived in the house down there on the marshes and I think one of the village parsons decided it was the actual Manor House, but it seems a peculiar idea to me.

Of course, all the mills had to be maintained. I suppose the steam pumps must have been installed later as being more efficient. But when I was a child I can remember standing in our garden and watching windmill sails turning all over the place. I suppose gradually, as they wore away, wore out, people left the mills, left that particular job.

Electric pumps take over and bores supplying piped water

Electric pumps took over, so they didn’t need them anymore. Then when they decided to supply the area with piped water from Strumpshaw, they sunk a bore down at Strumpshaw. They carried the water out to places like Acle and Halvergate and Freethorpe and Wickhampton and so on. My father said ‘they’re going to dry the marshes up’ and they did. Because my father was a bricklayer and had worked on making a lot of the wells, or mending, or repairing, or generally had a lot to do with the various wells in the village, he knew the depth of all of them. I just wish I’d written it down, because I can’t remember now.

When he built our bungalow, he sank a well down and didn’t like the look of the water and decided to bore down into the chalk. So even during the War in dry summers very often we were the only people in the immediate neighbourhood, who had any fresh water and people used to come and pump water for drinking water. Father would do it for elderly people, who couldn’t do it for themselves if he was about. Otherwise they had to get some other man to do it.

Impact on the marshes

The marshes did change a lot after they started extracting the water, because they just lowered the water table and there was never the same wetness again. The dykes were much lower and much more murky and, of course, they’d destroyed so much of the greenery.

We had a talk in the village a few years ago; somebody sent by the Broads Authority to sing the praises of the work the Broads Authority had done to bring the marshes back to life and this girl didn’t know anything at all actually. She was obviously some poor little office girl who got palmed off with this job and she showed us slides; she didn’t know the names of anything. But she kept showing us slides of dykes, which are supposed to be restored. Well admittedly they weren’t murky; they weren’t filthy, but there was nothing much growing in them. A little bit of a reed sticking up, or something, but there was nothing like the plant life there used to be.

As a teenager I used to wander about on the marshes in my spare time and I used to walk as far as Berney Arms going via Wickhampton and I mean there were all sorts of wild flowers that you don’t see now. I’d see sea bindweed, marsh mallow, and things, you know, but I’d be hard put to find anything like that down there now.

Also the Marsh Fleabane and all sorts of things, to say nothing of all the Sheep Sorrel and Lady’s Smock that spread about the marshes and the buttercups and the daisies and all the Watercress in the dykes. What with spraying it, it was poisoned and then draining it too much; they just ruined the whole setup.

There’s other bits near Acle now where the dykes are more like I remember them, you know, the sort of interesting bits and pieces of wildflowers and plants and things. But I mean they turned the marshes into a desert one way and another.

During the War I suppose there was a sort of feeling that this land was being wasted and some of the farmers started ploughing it up, but I think there was too much salt still in the ground for it to be really successful. I mean I think some crops are more fussy than others and after the War they tried tulips and thought they would do alright, as they did in Holland, but perhaps because the climate wasn’t quite the same, they didn’t seem to do very well.

There was a farmer somewhere near Yarmouth took to keeping cattle intensively, so all the effluent from his wretched sheds went into the Fleet Dyke. Fortunately they got it sectioned off, but I mean from being a sort of beautiful flowing stream, it sort of is that for a while and all of a sudden it comes up against a lot of boards and there’s all this foul water on the other side. I’m afraid I rather gave up on Halvergate Marshes after a while.

There was a big move to save Halvergate Marshes and I said you can’t save Halvergate Marshes; they’re ruined.


Marshmen’s jobs and marsh letting

The marshmen normally had a cottage beside a mill. If it wasn’t beside the mill, it would be in the near vicinity. It was their responsibility to keep the mill in working order, keeping the water being pumped up, as necessary, and also to keep an eye on the cattle. They had to look after the farm stock on the marshes as well. They had their area. It was also their responsibility to look after the drainage dykes and the dykes and everything. So it would be the marsh man who would say this dyke needs drawing out and a gang would get together and do it.

I should imagine this tradition goes back generations. I think from reading some of the bits and pieces that Sheila Hutchinson has published talking to all these people, you know, they tended to take over from their fathers and grandfathers with these jobs. Of course, the actual ownership of the marshes it was all a bit confused. Some people actually seemed to own one. A lot of it was Glebe, or church land, which was let on an annual basis and there used to be a sort of a grand marsh letting every year. I don’t remember seeing any notices about marsh letting these days.

When I was much younger you’d see big posters up everywhere about marsh letting, you know, the date and the time and all that sort of thing, but I suspect these days it all gets done on computers and through telephones and that sort of thing, rather than people going to a big auction sale to sort out the marsh lettings.

Of course, as children we knew who was in charge of some of the marshes. One on the corner by the wooden hut we knew belonged to Eddie Youngs. So we knew he wouldn’t tell us off if we went on there to look at the wildflowers and it was one with a lot of nice wildflowers on actually. But some of them you weren’t certain about, because some farmers got very irate, sort of waved their arms about and got excited if you got on their fields.

There was wildfowling on the marshes, but I didn’t know much about it. The Uncle, who served in the Far East was keen on shooting and they used to go down early in the mornings; they’d go down there so they could catch the birds as they flew off for the day.

It was mostly ducks and geese. But he shot a green woodpecker once and he apparently said to my aunt ‘do you think Gloria would like to see this woodpecker?’ She said ‘no, if you show her that, she’ll shoot you; she won’t be best pleased if you show her the woodpecker; you better keep quiet about it’. She told me about it later.

Wherries on the Boat Dyke and the Coal Staithe

The wherries used to be able to come up as far as Tunstall on what was called the ‘Boat Dyke’, but first the railway and then the Acle New Road put low bridges in the way, so they couldn’t. There is an area in Tunstall labelled on the ancient maps as the ‘Coal Staithe’, which is where the wherries used to bring the coal up, but I suppose you could sort of tow a lighter along, but you’d still have to get it under the bridges somehow or other.

Gloria at Gorleston in 2010. Photo: Adrian Read.


I think a few people might have done eel-catching, although I never knew anybody who did. I suppose the boys would probably have known more about things like that than I did. I know people used to sort of eye up likely looking eels in the dykes hoping to catch them, but it wasn’t sort of anybody’s job as such. It was like killing rabbits on the harvest field; it was an extra. You know, if you could get an eel out of a dyke that was just an extra thing. Most people didn’t actually like them very much. ‘All bones’ my father said, ‘they’re nothing but bones’.

Gloria’s grandmother’s gold ring

My grandmother had a little gold ring, which was bought by her mother with the proceeds of wool which the sheep had shed partly by getting tangled on bushes and things on the marshes and generally in other fields in Halvergate. She’d gathered all this wool and sold it and got enough money that way to buy herself a little gold ring. It’s made in the form of a little belt and buckle and I used to wear it for quite a long while until my joints got too knobbly and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get it off again. I can’t get my wedding ring off; that’s totally jammed. I never could see why I had to have a wedding ring. I couldn’t see why women had to go around being labelled as being married, you know, people said it was status. It was just to show you belonged to somebody. Somebody had bought you basically; it was a slave bangle I called it.

A more modern marshman

Bill Lacey was one of the more modern marshmen. His wife actually taught at school for a while while my mother was there.

Where there were reed beds they had to be kept cut, otherwise they just got all straggly, but they had to be cut at the right time, of course, for the thatching. There were sedges and things as well to be cut. But Bill Lacey had cows and sheep and various things to look after on the marshes he looked after. He was in bad odour with a lot of people in the village, because he had a lot of fairly ancient willow trees cut down and he said well he had to cut them down, because they might have fallen on the cows, or something, but no one was very convinced. But I fancy it was just a general sort of agricultural tendency to chop everything down in sight if it’s not productive.

I expect there were thatchers in the area, but I didn’t know anybody, who was actually a thatcher. There were thatched buildings in Halvergate, so they would have been thatched at some stage, but I don’t know whether thatchers would have been a reserved occupation or not, probably not. They probably went off in the War, so I wouldn’t have been aware of them.

Use of willow trees

But, of course, in the old days I mean the Acle New Road was lined with willow trees, because they had to do that to hold the soil together to keep it reasonably dry, I mean for the railway line they used heaven knows how many faggots and things to stabilise the ground, particularly near Acle. It was really boggy there and they just piled stuff in and piled stuff in until they filled up whatever void there was at the bottom of all this mud and onto that lay a railway line across.

They had to do similar things for the Acle New Road, especially the Acle end, and all these willow trees were planted to use up some of the surplus moisture, so they kept the soil a bit dryer either side of the road. Every year somebody used to come along and cut huge quantities of willow off, because they’d be pollarded willow; they just grew all these long straggly bits of willow every year and they were all harvested and taken off to use for basket-making, or whatever, you know, whatever use they could find for the things.

C of E and methodist villagers

Once I got to the high school, I was home quite late every day and after that I was at the art school and I was home even later. I lost touch with my friends in the village and I also lost touch with the village people quite a lot, apart from the church and since Halvergate wasn’t a church village; it was a Methodist village, that was still a fairly limited acquaintanceship.

We were C of E as a family and were the other end of the village from the church. We used to walk to church saying good evening to all the people walking to chapel in the other direction.

There were a few children used to come to church Sunday school for a few weeks just before the church Sunday school treat was due. The parson never objected, because he always hoped he was going to make a convert. We were a fairly tolerant lot really.

Scholarship for High School

It was all organised so you did an exam in your primary school, but we had to go to Freethorpe to do ours. It was a triumph for me, because I actually sat on a bicycle and rode it for the first time, although I’d learned to ride this man’s bike with no saddle standing on the pedals; I’d never sat on a bicycle. My father borrowed somebody else’s bicycle for me and I rode to Freethorpe school and so I was very pleased with myself.

There was some sums and what they called an ‘intelligence paper’, or something, and an English paper, you know, you had to sort of know the meanings of words and all that sort of thing. I had a slight blow to my self-confidence in the break after the thing about the sums. One of the sums I think might have been to do with somebody’s wages per year and how much did they get per week you see and I was the only one who divided it by 52. The others thought it was divided by 53 and for just a few minutes I had a slight sort of no, no, there’s definitely 52 weeks in a year. It was slightly unnerving. I was so gung-ho at having managed this bicycle ride, I wasn’t nervous about doing the exam at all. I was the only one who passed it that year.

Then, of course, the children from Halvergate school went on to Freethorpe school, the senior bit, and they were issued with bicycles by the county council, by the Education Committee, and I was to have a bicycle. But because it was an extra big year intake, they’d only got one very rusty old bicycle left, which they sent round to the bungalow and, of course, father was still in the Army and mother didn’t know what to do. She didn’t think it really looked like a fit thing for anybody to have to ride, so she got one of the men from next door round, who said ‘ you can’t let her ride that missus, you know, that ain’t safe’. So mother complained and they sent me a brand new one. It was a lovely bicycle; it was a Hercules. I loved that bike, but mother tried to buy it off them after the War after I’d finished with it, but they weren’t having it. So she had to buy me another one.

Great Yarmouth High School for Girls

I used to cycle to Reedham and catch a train at four minutes past eight. There were some people, who worked either in Norwich, or Yarmouth, that mother asked to just make sure I got to the station okay to start with and once I knew the ropes, I was okay. There were several other girls, people from Reedham, boys, who went on the train too. Felicity Brown whose father kept Reedham post office she took me under her wing and got me to and from school to start with; she was older than me. Then there were some younger ones later on, but there were some rather nerve-racking dashes to catch the train.

The train used to come in from Norwich and they divided it at Reedham. The front bit went to Yarmouth and the back bit went to Lowestoft. The train had I think normally about seven carriages and the guard used to say to the porter four and three, or three and four, according to where it had to be joined up.

Well on one occasion he said four and three, so we got in the middle one, because the middle one tended to be avoided by people, because they weren’t sure if that was the front, or the back of the train. Unfortunately they seemed to change their mind and they took the front three out to Yarmouth, leaving us sitting there. Because the next train was some time after nine o’clock, I arrived at school in the middle of the morning. This was in the middle of a French lesson, and I had to explain in French, ‘en Français s’il vous plait’, why I was late. So all this rigmarole about there was this train. in the end it was too much and she said ‘oh for goodness sake tell me in English; I can’t understand; what’s all this about dividing a train up?. We always had to speak in French you see. To begin with, of course, there was a certain amount of English, but towards the end the French teacher explained all the grammar in French and it was all in French; we weren’t allowed to speak English. But she got a bit confused.

Flooding in 1953

I was attending art school in ’53 at the time of the flooding and I suffered a culture shock. I was reading The Grapes of Wrath on the train and there was all this desert dust and everything and I looked up and there was all the marshes at Whitlingham a sheet of water and I just couldn’t get back into the book again. That was strange. I was so deeply in the book and the desert and the dust and suddenly all of a sudden seeing all that water it was too much.

My sister was working at the Yarmouth newspaper office and one of the reporters came in and said ‘Shirley, I think you ought to try and get back home quickly’ he said ‘I’ve just come along the Acle New Road and it looks to me as though Breydon’s burst its banks’. He said ‘water’s beginning to spread across the road’, he said ‘I think you best catch the train’. So she put her bike on the train and got as far as Auntie Kate’s in Acle, where she stayed the night, because it was blowing a tremendous gale and she said she just couldn’t have cycled home in it. Fortunately it was a weekend and so she didn’t have to get back to work again the next day.

Trees came down. My sister was riding her bicycle home from Acle and there was a strong wind blowing and she heard an enormous creaking noise, so she put on a spurt and a tree crashed on the road just behind her. It is a good thing she was a country girl and knew creaking trees might be going to come down.

Building and repairing wells

You’re curious as a child and I asked my father how did you build a well. I assumed you couldn’t dig a deep hole and start at the bottom. He said no, you dug a hole the size across you wanted and as far down as it was safe to go. You built the brickwork up and then you dug out underneath it and let it down and gradually built on top, just kept letting it down and building on top. So I was rather surprised at the performance Fred Dibner went through on the television digging out underneath what he’d built and putting scaffolding up and trying to build underneath what he’d put there already. I don’t know whether people do it that way, but that wasn’t the way my father used to do it.

Father had to do quite a lot of repairing of wells and things as well as building them. I think he was about 17 years old he said he was an apprentice bricklayer. He had to clear out a huge quantity of sand, which had fallen into the well up the top of the road here, which was very deep, because we’re on the top of a hill and I think he said it was about 180ft deep. He was sent down there more or less on a sort of harness I think, you know, with a sort of bucket and a shovel and the bucket had a piece of string on, or whatever. They were hauling it up and tipping it out and the man, who owned the house, came along and asked him was he being paid extra for doing that and he said no. So Mr Neave gave him ten shillings, which was worth something when father was 17, and sort of extra for doing this dangerous job. Well father said there could have been another landslide of sand; it could have buried him, you know; it was dangerous. But father never minded being down wells and down holes.

Gloria’s father’s war service

He volunteered for the mines at the beginning of the War, because they were going to need mine workers, but they wouldn’t have him, because he had a bad chest. Well it was bad; it was due to smoking really.

He still went into the Army and because he was too old to be called up straightaway, he was called up in 1942. Because he was a bricklayer, he was in the Pioneer Corps and the Pioneer Corps got all sorts of odd jobs and he was sort of shuffled around from pillar to post.

At one camp he was very annoyed. They were supposed to have one egg per week, but all the eggs went to giving the officers one egg per day at least and the officers sold the rest of them in the village. The ordinary soldiers never saw an egg and father didn’t have much respect for some of these officers.

Later on he was sent to a prison of war camp in Scotland and they put him in what was called the Special Police. I think he said there were about a dozen of them and it was their job to mingle with the prisoners. They weren’t on the outside; they were with the prisoners and they could choose where to eat – the British canteen, NAAFI, whatever, or the German canteen, or the Italian. Well my father was highly suspicious of Italian food and the British cooks could only ruin food; they had no idea how to cook it at all according to father, so father always had his meals with the Germans. Father liked his Germans, because they weren’t Nazis. When they had a new intake they sorted them all out and all the ones, who came in saluting and bawling heil Hitler got packed off to somewhere in the Highlands to some vastness where they weren’t going to get out very easily.

All the rest of them, all the mild-mannered Germans, who never wanted to fight in the first place, you know, there were all sorts of people – orchestral conductors, Bavarian toymakers, clockmakers, all sorts of people – you know, who just never wanted to be involved in it at all they went out to work on the local farms and everything during the day and quite a few of them stayed after the War. They’d lost their families in Germany and they had nothing to go back to and they just stayed.

But my father was sent out to Algeria on troop ships on two occasions to collect German prisoners. So that was the sum total of father’s foreign travel, which he found quite fascinating really. Not in the best of circumstances. The first time he went they weren’t told where they were going and the British soldiers were all in full battledress and they were landed in Algeria and they had several miles to march on an open dusty desert road to camp. Quite a few of them passed out. Some of them died.

My father was used to extreme temperatures, you know, working out in the open, the sun beating down, I mean he survived alright, but he said, you know, it was absolutely ridiculous. That’s the sort of thing that doesn’t get told to anybody in histories of the War. But he said on one of those trips one of the German prisoners was a very good swimmer and they used to take them down to the sea, so they could have a swim. It was a regular thing you see and this chap always said to father ‘I promise I’ll come back’ and father said ‘I used to stand there and watch him’ he said ‘until he was a little dot on the horizon and I used to think I’ve lost him this time’. No, he always turned round and came back.

When father came back after the War, he didn’t do any work at all for a while. Like a lot of discharged soldiers he just couldn’t settle. In fact, father liked the Army. He liked being told what to do. Father was never one for making decisions and he upset mother, because he told her that they’d wanted him to stay on; they offered to make him up to a corporal, or something, if he’d stay on and he said no he’d got a wife to get back to. She took that as meaning that she had hampered his Army career, which wasn’t what he meant at all.

He knew he was a good bricklayer and people knew he was a good bricklayer, so he tended to sit about at home and wait for people to come and offer him a job you see, which people didn’t. But after a while I think it was Douglas Everson, who was in partnership with somebody called Turner and Douglas Everson was connected to father’s family, offered him a job, so he worked for them for a while. But father always had a tendency to fall out with people and so things would last for a while and then, you know, something would go wrong and he suddenly refused to go to work and he also refused to go and get any dole money. So even when he was laid off for bad weather, which bricklayers were in those days; if you couldn’t work you didn’t get paid whether it was the weather’s fault or what.

Bad winter of 1947

So father never would go, except in the ’47 winter, because everybody couldn’t work. None of the farm workers could work; nobody could work; all the building workers couldn’t work; everybody was in the same boat. So he felt there was no disgrace in going and collecting the dole. They all used to tramp across the fields through the snow to Acle to collect their dole and buy some bread and that sort of thing, because there weren’t any deliveries to the village, because the roads were all full of snow.

I think I was at school for three weeks, then the snow came. I was at home for six weeks and then they got the road between Halvergate and Reedham open. They dug it out so you could get there. While he was on the dole father was sent with all the other off work men in the village to try and clear the Branch Road to get through to the Acle New Road. Of course, it was fine, dry snow with a steady easterly wind and the Branch Road runs north/south, so it took an awful long time, because they dug their way so far, then they turned round and dug their way back again. Not quite as much snow as there was when they started, so they made a slight progress every day, but not very much and the wind just kept blowing all this snow back in again all the time. Anyway it wasn’t until the weather got a bit milder and you got a little bit of a thaw and then freeze, so it was set more in a sort of crust on the top that they actually were able to get on and get the roads clear. Otherwise they were just redoing the same work all the time. So it did take a long time.

Construction of Cantley sugar beet factory

Cantley sugar beet factory isn’t all that far from the Buckenham Marshes and I can remember when we used to take our dog for a walk down there, he used to run up and down beside the dyke to frighten the cattle and the cattle used to start stampeding up and down and all the ground used to shake. It was sort of like jelly underneath, you know, it’s not proper firm ground at all and it’s probably even worse further downstream at Cantley.

Apparently they put in a big concrete raft to build the factory on and they started building one end and it began to tip up. I’ve never read it, or heard it anywhere else, but that’s what father told me. I mean father just thought they were fools for starting at one end. I suppose they had to go and put something at the other end to balance it. I don’t know what they did, but it wasn’t a total disaster.

It was very much an out of season job for the farm labourers, you know, when there wasn’t much doing on the land, they used to transfer to Cantley factory. I suppose the farmers were quite glad of it in a way.

Father told me when they first started growing sugar beet, it was treated with kid gloves almost. Somebody had a steam traction engine and he had a trailer and it used to go round to be loaded up with sugar beet and they were all laid in carefully, pointed end inwards. So they made a nice neat sort of pitched roof shape on the top of this trailer and then the steam engine trundled down to Cantley and it was all unloaded by hand very carefully. Of course, they hadn’t got the quantities then you see. They were just starting, you know, they were just beginning to grow it and it was a valuable crop.

The Sugar Beet campaign

Then, of course, when I was a child they put sugar beet lorries through the village in what they called the ‘campaign’ and odd beet used to drop off and we used to pick them up and take them home for the rabbits and the chickens as well. I think all the village fed their pet animals of that sort on the odd sugar beet that dropped off the lorries and the boys used to run along behind the lorries and try to hang on behind. The sugar beet campaign was part of village life, you know, it was a season you went through like the marble season and the skipping season and all the others. It was the sugar beet season – chasing after sugar beet lorries and so on.

There was one unfortunate lad, who had a stammer and wasn’t all that bright at school. He was so fascinated by sugar beet lorries he used to keep jumping up in class and looking out of the window to see these things go past you see. Miss Wheeler suddenly decided she’d had enough and she said ‘if you’re so interested boy, you can go into the staffroom and count the things’. So he went into the staffroom and he had a stammer, a natural stammer poor John did, and when he came back again she said ‘well boy, how many were there?’ ‘Wellll wellll wellll please Miss Miss Wheeler’ he said ‘there was there was there was three. E W Turners and there was four.’ ‘I don’t want to know.’ . He took it quite seriously counting these lorries. He’d been keeping a mental track of who owned the things as well. He was a Methodist like most of the village and my Uncle Billy told me that apparently when he grew up, he took to preaching in chapel and when he preached he never stammered. He carried on stammering the rest of the time, but when he preached he never stammered. Nobody could understand it; John could stand up and preach.

My Uncle said he found him once, he said he’d somehow got his tractor into a ditch and so Billy stopped to help him and he said he was in tears; he didn’t know what to do; his tractor had gone into a ditch. So Billy helped him get it out.

But he was never really up to the rough and tumble of life and he was always in trouble with Miss Wheeler. She made it worse. She made him more of a nervous wreck than he was and he would have been. She was always getting on to him. She didn’t do me any good. I mean I went through school I was terrified to say anything in class, because I was so used to her shouting, you know, you had only had to make the slightest excuse and you got shouted down.

Art School in Norwich

My art teacher at Yarmouth said she wasn’t very keen on Yarmouth Art School, because she felt that the headmaster there was a sort of advertising man rather than an artist and it tended to be rather regimented and she didn’t feel it was a sort of free and easy student life that people needed in art. So she recommended me to go to Norwich. She helped me get a portfolio of my works together; I’ve still got some of them. I trotted off into Norwich with my mother, who decided she would wait downstairs for me; she didn’t want to be in on this interview. I saw Noel Spencer on the top floor. I needn’t have been worried, because he told me he had a policy that if people felt they wanted to do art, they needed to get it out of their system. So unless people were obviously absolutely hopeless, you know, if they were they wouldn’t have wanted to do it anyway, but he always took them on. He said that after about a year they soon realise whether they’re up to scratch or not and they’d leave of their own accord and that they’d been given the chance and they weren’t going to be griping about for the rest of their lives ‘I could have gone to art school, but nobody let me’ sort of thing. So anyway he took me on.

Gloria meets her husband David

I met my husband there. While he was doing National Service, because they had time off and he’d started off as a printer’s apprentice in Harvey’s of Watton because he was near enough to Guildford to get to Guildford Art School and Printing College for his learning time off. So he’d learned quite a lot there and he wanted to carry on learning like that rather than just doing the sort of manual working and printing works. He had a natural talent for drawing and they didn’t do that sort of thing the printing department at City College, you know, there was no sort of design involved; you did the actual job. So the art school took him on and so that’s how I met him.

We were sort of thrown together to a certain extent, because he lived in Watton; I lived out in Halvergate. A lot of the students lived in Norwich and we had a two hour lunch break, which was time enough for a lot of them just to get on their bikes and pop home for lunch and then back again, whereas there was just a few of us, who had got further to go and we were sort of stuck in the art school amusing ourselves and, of course, the same with the blank between half past four and seven o’clock, you know, evening classes started at seven o’clock.

The start of married life

We started off in a converted bus, a single decker bus, because one of our art school friends, who was a particular pal of David’s was doing the same thing. He had his bus parked near Norwich. So David and I bought one of these; it had been used on the caravan park in Yarmouth. So David and I bought one of these things. It was utterly filthy. I think I scraped an inch of grease out of the cooking compartment. The cooking arrangements was a couple of Calor gas rings with a grill underneath. Well how this lot didn’t catch fire I don’t know. Anyway I spent ages cleaning all this lot up.


David asked some land agent recommended by his friend Gerry where he thought we could park this thing and he sent us to Dunston. Of course, we should have had planning permission, but this land agent didn’t tell us that. So we were paying rent to this farmer for this little bit of a corner of a field and I think the rather posh people, who lived in the house next to the field objected to this ancient bus being parked next to them, so I think they were probably the ones who complained. She was one of these women, who talked with a mouthful of plums, you know, so all the words came out with half a dozen vowels where one would do. Anyway the planning people came to see us. By that time I was expecting a baby, so they said well we’ll let you stay there until the baby’s born; we won’t upset you now, but you have to move then, which was very nice of them really.

The farmer said well we could park in the farmyard. So we got planning permission to have it in the farmyard, which was pretty untidy; they could hardly say it would make the place untidy. So we then moved to the farmyard and we put a bit of fence up round our bit and we were able to go to the farm for water after that.

Well while we were in the caravan, we had to do what a lot of people in the village did, which was to go to the village pump, which was in a corner of a field next to the one our bus had been in and everybody had to go and pump their drinking water; well all their water. If you hadn’t got any rain water caught off the roof, you had to go and pump water up from this pump. But the farm had water, which got pumped up somehow or other.

When we moved to this piece of land, there was a lot of rubbish lying around, you know, stones, bricks, bits of old metal and stuff and I decided to bury it all. So I dug this big hole straight down. It was quite sandy soil, but fairly firm, not difficult to dig at all, but when I got in up to my armpits, it started to fill up at the bottom. I was down to water level. I mean Dunston’s down a hollow; there’s the river there, you know, and I suppose it was this river water that people were drinking, I don’t know. Perhaps the pump had something sunk down further, I don’t know, but I had to haul myself out. A lot of suction; I actually left one of my wellies behind. I had to lie on the edge and haul my wellie out and I just dumped all the rubbish in and filled it up.

Moving to Strumpshaw in 1960

Then after we’d lived there; I think it was when my son was coming up to two and a half or three, I think, David wanted his own house. He didn’t want to live in a rented place, because my father said there’s no good putting in for a council house, because you won’t get one anyway; they ain’t got any. So renting wasn’t really much of an option either.

Mother hadn’t given us a wedding present at all, because she hadn’t really approved of me getting married, because she had her mind set on me being a teacher. So she wasn’t best pleased when I changed my mind about it, but I did do half a term’s teaching fill in at a primary school and decided I didn’t really want to be a teacher. I liked the teaching; I didn’t like the effort of keeping the kids in order. I was quite happy teaching children, who had difficulties. I helped several to be able to achieve things they couldn’t do before, because the teacher said they couldn’t do them, but keeping the little wretches in order didn’t appeal to me at all. But anyway mother said she’d pay for the piece of land and we decided if we came here father could help us build it, whereas if we were the other side of Norwich that would have been difficult.

So David came out this way and just started looking. He went and enquired of the sort of odd job/junk merchant come blacksmith, who used to live in the village; my friend christened him Steptoe, who was an old pal of my father’s, where he might find a bit of land. One piece was apparently up for sale down in Lingwood, but it wasn’t very big. If we’d put a house on it there wouldn’t have been room for any sort of garden, so we didn’t really want that. Then he was told that Harold Scott, who had a sort of smallholding affair down the road, wanted to sell this piece. Harold Scott wasn’t a very good agriculturalist; he was noted for going round and chopping the heads off the thistles after they’d set seed and it was a bit too late. He survived basically by just selling bits of land off and then once he’d used up that money he’d sell another piece.

He’d planted some apple trees up here, which weren’t doing very well. It’s not good land for growing fruit trees; it’s just too gravelly. So he wanted to sell that and he wanted £210 for it. Mother said I didn’t give you a wedding present, so I’ll pay for it. So that was very nice of her and then we moved our bus here.

We paid Mann Egerton to mend a puncture, so it was on the road alright and then they towed us here. Father’s neighbour fetched me and Adrian and the dog in father’s A35 van. The cats with David were in the bus. Very slow progress all through Thorpe and Jimmy, who was driving me and Adrian turned off to come through Postwick and Brundall while this thing continued to trundle along the main road and you could see this thing sort of proceeding along the main road with all these vehicles behind. It was a Saturday morning in May and there were lots and lots of traffic, of course, so it held up an awful lot of traffic.

We parked it behind the front hedge and it wasn’t long before somebody complained about this bus. So the planning people came to see us and we agreed to put it down the hole at the back, which was part of an old gravel pit. So there again we got somebody with a digger thing that could lift the bus and push it backwards down and round the hole and park it. So that was parked there and that was alright.

I dug a nice deep hole out the back of the bus for the water in the sink to run into, so we could wash up and wash fairly normally, you know, and we had a chemical toilet in the thing. David dug a hole elsewhere to empty that into.

We were supposed to renew this planning permission every year apparently. They sent a whole batch of forms to be filled up and I said to David ‘it’s my bet if they don’t get the forms back they’ll forget all about them’ I said ‘so we’ll give the forms to the guy on bonfire night. We’ll dress him up as a council official’ I said ‘and we’ll give him all the forms to hold and we’ll burn the lot and if there’s any questions asked, we’ll just plead innocence that we never got them’. Nobody said anything. Never heard a thing.

I mean just after we got set up somebody did come round and make enquiries, you know, and where did the waste water go to from the sink and I said ‘oh we dug a huge hole out the back there’. ‘How big?’ ‘Oh it was a huge hole’ I said sort of playing a wet woman, you know, I knew perfectly well how big the hole was; I dug it myself most of it; I think my husband did help a bit. ‘What about the tree roots?’ I said ‘no, there’s no tree roots; we had to dig underneath the tree’. We did, we dug underneath the tree. We scooped out the soil underneath the tree roots, you know. It was a big hole. It was genuinely a big hole, but I wasn’t going to give him a figure, because he’d have decided it wasn’t right. I thought that would give him an opening to say it has to be a minimum of so much and I wasn’t going to leave him that opening, so I just pretended to be stupid.

Building their own home

So we just proceeded to gradually get the house built. We got the plans passed. Well we’d made plans and David took it into somebody’s office in Norwich; I don’t know where and asked them how much it would cost to build and that was too much, so we chopped a piece off. It was going to be a sort of an L-shaped thing, so we just chopped off and just built a piece of it, which was less convenient. It meant we had passages through our bedroom into the boy’s bedroom. So when he was a teenager and wanted to go fishing, he used to get up at three o’clock in the morning and clump through our bedroom in his boots and wake us up.

Then, of course, later when David’s sister was due to retire and she had some money and she wanted to build something. If she’d got to buy the land, she couldn’t afford it; she hadn’t got that much money. But she could afford the bricks and mortar bit, so we built this extension.

David’s work

David had a job to start with at Page’s in Norwich, but they lost the regular job they had printing the Electricity Board’s house magazine, which was really why they had David there, because he was responsible for laying this thing out every month. It was a fairly regular job and they had other regular things as well like the RAC Continental Handbook, you know, things that occupied quite a lot of time, but with the magazine gone they hadn’t really got enough work for a full-time designer.

So they said if you’d like to take the equipment you’ve been using, you know, and everything it’s okay by us. So he brought drawing boards and all sorts of stuff home with him and he did their odd jobs for them from home. Then at one stage they said they’d got a spare printing machine they didn’t want; a small one used for proofing, you know, it could do a run of print; it was a vertical Miehle and offered it to him for £75, so he bought it and we had it moved here.

Then he went from just trying to do the design work to printing as well, which was easier because you can get much more work. If somebody wants a letterhead and you say you can design it and print it, rather than just design it and they’ve got to go off and find someone to print it. So it made life that much easier, you know, you got a lot more work that way. Until they brought in the Selective Employment Tax, when half the under-employed hangers on in the newspaper industry got the sack and they all came up to places like Norfolk and set up as designers and snitched all the work.

We had another financial setback with computers, because they could do it, people started setting up their own letterheadings. They were fairly dreadful some of them, I mean considering what David could print for them, you know, they were badly laid out. Some of them took up so much space with the letterheading there was hardly any room for the letter, but they persisted. Perhaps they learned better in time but, of course, they just left off having things printed. I mean that sort of basic commercial stationery things was most of what David did. So we got to the point where we hadn’t got any money coming in; he’d got about another year to retire.

So I went to the bank and said can we have some sort of an overdraft or loan until my husband retires and gets a pension, because work’s dried up. She said well you’ve got this flexi loan account, which you took out at one time for a special project; it’s still there; use that. She said we’ll just fix a sum and so that’s what we did.

Gloria’s work

I was able to get some work, but I stayed at home until after my son had taken the 11 plus exam. Then I felt after that he was able to fend for himself and David was working at home anyway, so there wouldn’t be any question of having to come home to an empty house, not normally anyway and he’d got plenty of friends in the village he could go to if his father wasn’t there. So that wasn’t a problem.

But I just did whatever came up really. I’ve always been a restless individual. I rapidly get bored with jobs. I started off I answered an advert in the paper for somebody to work in the work planning office in Norvic Shoes. So I sent off a letter and I got a reply asking me to come on Monday, or Tuesday next week in between the hours of and so on and the first time being 9.30. So I turned up at 9.30 on Monday morning, the first one there. I had this little interview and this man said he’d liked my letter and he thought I was suitable and there was no question of being able to do the job, because it was just a job on its own, you know, you had to learn it, so that wasn’t a problem. So he gave me the job there and then, which was very nice. Gave me some money to pay my fares that I’d spent getting there and all very nice. So that was all settled.

I did that there until they decided to move up to Cromer Road; they’d got to close the works down in Colegate and they’d got to move up to Cromer Road. I didn’t want to trail out to Cromer Road. I mean what are you going to do in your lunch hour at Cromer Road? Also I didn’t know whether the new place would have a canteen. I mean the old one it only had a once a week canteen down Duke Street somewhere; the rest of the time you had to fend for yourself and you had to clock on and clock off and you couldn’t just wander in and out of the place. So I didn’t fancy staying in that job and so I left.

Then I got a job with one of David’s customers. They were looking after accounts for various people. So I had this job doing wages and ledgers on a machine for various people and all sorts of things, but I got fed up with that, because I didn’t like the accounting machine. It hypnotised me. I tended to start making mistakes, because this blooming thing kept doing this, you know. I was kept on doing just clerical work for quite a while, but then I left there.

I applied for a job down at Broom Boats; a part-time job it was supposed to be. So I went for an interview and oh yes, you know, I’d do sort of thing, but because the other girl had got the work a bit behind hand, they’d rather I started off full-time. So I didn’t really want to work full-time, could I have this one afternoon off a week, because I’d got David’s bookkeeping to do, you know, apart from all the housework and all the rest of it. Well yes, that’d be alright.

So I stayed there a number of years. But I then decided enough is enough. She said I could go part-time later. I’d caught up with all the work this other girl hadn’t done. I was only really needing half a week to do the job itself and so I said could I go part-time, so she said no. So I left. She said Mr Broom had said no. Well I don’t think she had mentioned it to Mr Broom at all. She was a devious character. She didn’t like me. One of the other girls said it was because I was more brainy than she was, which was no great compliment because she wasn’t very brainy anyway. But she said that Mr Broom had said no; that was a full-time job you see. I spoke to Mrs Broom in the kitchen one day and she didn’t say a word about it and I’m quite sure if the Brooms knew, she’d have said something. Because my work had always been perfectly satisfactory, so there was no need to get rid of me surreptitiously. Mr Broom didn’t like firing people. He was a terribly kind-hearted man and he used to have to sort of spend some time steeling himself to tell people they were fired.

After that I went to help my son with his boatyard. He took on a boatyard in Thorpe down behind The Griffin, down at the far end and I helped him with that for quite a long time. But he took up computing. He taught himself to program and studied all sorts of manuals on different programming methods and one thing and another and then got himself a good job in programming and bought into the firm. He’s going into semi-retirement after Christmas; he’ll be 60 in February and he’s sold most of his shares in the firm, so he’s got a little bit of capital and done very well for himself.

Gloria Fagg (b. 1934) interviewed for WISEArchive in Strumpshaw on 15th December 2016

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Gloria 2012. Photo: Adrian Read

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