œAUTOBIOGRAPH OF DAVID MARSDEN
Spending the last five years tracing my family history and making a regular statement
of “I wish I had asked the questions when they were still alive” coupled with the
information Pam obtained from a short seven year autobiography of one of her
ancestors, I decided to put my thoughts of my life down on paper. I have not
researched this, relying on memory for the information but it will give an outline of
growing up in the middle of the 20th century in a working/middle class family.
I was born in The Springfield Nursing Home in Blackburn on the 11th November
1942. My father was Albert Marsden, a Police Constable and my mother Elsie
Marsden (nee Swaits). I had an elder brother, Edward who was born 30th January
1939. The family were living at 31, Norfolk Street, Morecambe.
We moved to 56, Water Street Great Harwood, in January 1942 and it was here we
were living when I was born and I have my first memories.
Edward and David 1944
Sheila was born on January 7th 1945.
I remember the parades at the end of the war and going to nursery school the day I
was 3 years old. I was told I was not happy with having to have a lie down to sleep at
school so when being made to do so I kicked the teacher and ran home. Not a great
start to my education.
We moved to 23 Collins Road, Bamber Bridge, in February 1946 but were only there
for a few months before my father was transferred to Leigh as Detective Constable.
We moved in April 1947 to live at 11 Beverly Avenue, just off Holden Road.
The authorities in Leigh did not take children into school till they were five years old
so I had to wait six months before I could be enrolled at Leigh Church of England
Primary School. I gather the long break made me reluctant to return to my education
having got used to home life with mum and Sheila. However big brother Edward
looked after me. He was frequently ill having developed severe asthma when about
five years old. He was as I remember always thin and used to do exercises to try to
build him up. He was not one for kicking a ball about or the play of the streets but
stayed indoors with a book. I gather he was very bright.
It was while a Leigh that my education really began. In no particular order I became
interested in cricket, woodwork and gardening and had a number of friends who were
like-minded, the Threllfall brothers, David Berry, Michael Carr and our next door
neighbour Allan Bray are names which spring to mind.
My teacher was Miss Hudson, now a faint memory but it was she who praised the
boats I made from wood to sail on the local “Avenue Lake”. She was also responsible,
together with my father, for introducing me to gardening. The school had a number of
gardening plots that were allocated to groups of pupils to look after, this was just after
the war when there were shortages.
Leigh C of E Primary Class 1949. David back row 5 from the left aged 6.
In Beverly Avenue we had a garden. I am not aware of our previous houses having
one. My father built a chicken run and we had a number a chickens and one white
Bantam which was Edward‟s pet. We always had eggs and the odd bird ended up on
the table. I did my gardening for a retired couple who lived next door, Mr and Mrs
Cricket was played in the street using a dustbin for wickets. My father managed to
obtain a real cricket bat for me. It was a bit big at the time but I was always in demand
since I had the bat and if things did not go right I could take my bat home! The first
feeling of power. We eventually graduated to a field, just up the road where the first
proper games were played. At this time I started to read about the game and could
recite the Lancashire team in batting order. It was still to be a number of years till I
saw my first real game.
I had two spells in hospital while in Leigh. I had scarlet fever and was in an isolation
department for three weeks and also had my tonsils removed. There are other
memories, the winter of 1947 with the very deep snow. Bonfire nights were a special
occasion. There was a basket maker living in the house that backed onto ours and he
saved all his waste for burning on November 5th. Sheila slipped and broke her leg in
1947 and was walking about with a „pot‟ leg for several weeks. I got the blame for
pushing her but I still deny this.
While at Leigh I spent many summer holidays with my grandparents in Blackburn.
Grandma was short and dumpy and always seemed to wear the same navy dress with
white spots. Though my grandfather had worked in the cotton industry he was
working night shifts in a bakery and I remember the fresh bread at breakfast time with
the traditional bacon and egg. It was my grandfather who played with me, read to me
and taught me to play cards. Grandma would take me out into Blackburn but most of
her time seemed to be cooking, cleaning and shopping. Looking back it must have
been quite a problem managing a very tight budget.
The house was a traditional mill workers „back-to-back‟ house, sadly now demolished
and the area redeveloped though several have been preserved. From the cobbled street
and pavement there was a step up to the front door of 5 Curzon Street into the rather
dark front room with a large sideboard and a couple of chairs. Through to the living
room furnished with a scrubbed table and chairs, a sofa and two chairs, one a rocking
chair which was my grandfather‟s and an upholstered chair for my grandmother.
Cooking and heating was from a black range, a coal fire with an oven heated by the
fire and a stand on which to place a kettle. My grandfather had built a wooden
extension, which did give some extra space, and here was a two-burner gas ring, a
luxury compared to other houses. In the yard, reached from this small extension, was
a coal house and, at the end of the yard, the toilet. A back gate went out to a narrow
back lane, also cobbled. Upstairs, accessed via a door in the living room, were two
bedrooms. Each was sparsely furnished; the one I used (and I suppose my father
before me) had only a bed and a wardrobe. There was a small bedside table on which
to stand a candle. There was no electricity upstairs and toilet requirements were
served by a “jerry pot” under the bed.
In my early stays with my grandparents there was an air raid shelter in the street. At
the end of Curzon Street was Griffin School which my grandfather and father had
both attended. I have book prizes awarded to them during their time there. My
grandfather left aged 12 and my father aged 14. Two other houses were owned by the
family. In number one lived aunt Lizzie (Elizabeth Lightbown) my grandfather‟s
sister, a widow. Next door at number three was aunt Alice the second of my
grandfather‟s sisters. She never married. She was the jolly type, always smiling and
always giving me a copper or two, which she kept by her radio in the back room, to
spend on sweets. Not an easy thing to do with rationing as it was. My trips to
Blackburn always ended up with me making a profit on my visit.
We played in the street, front doors were only locked at night and neighbours walked
in and out without knocking. Even as late as 1966 my grandfather left his door open
for visitors. It is since starting family history research I have found a second cousin,
David Lightbown, with whom I used to play in the street. In conversation we
remembered identical events and people though we had not seen each other since
about 1954. We remember playing marbles; cobbled streets made the games
interesting, the melted tar on hot days forming bubbles waiting to be burst and the ice
cream van, horse drawn with cone at 1d with a dash of strawberry juice if wanted.
It was at this time I was introduced to the pleasure of watching Blackburn Rovers. I
must have been taken when I was about eight years old, lifted over the turnstile (no
payment) and then to the line of boxes in front of the wall of the paddock side. Large
standing crowds and no trouble that I was aware of. This was a male family outing,
granddad, dad, me, and uncle Lawrence with Philip. We would walk to the ground
from Curzon Street only about a mile. In the early „60s I would park the car outside
granddad‟s and do the same walk to watch the team I have supported for over 50
It was while we were living at Leigh that my father bought the first family car. It was
a 1939 Singer, registration number HG 7139. A wooden garage was built for it at the
back of the house. This made transport and visiting much easier. The money for the
car came from a legacy to my mother from Agnes Knowles. I have a copy of the
disbursements of her will. There was a connection to the Swaits family, a connection I
have not yet found. Money was left to four of the Swaits children of my great
grandfather, William Swaits and my great grandmother Elizabeth Bigland. Why the
other two children were left out I do not know. Since my grandfather, Edward James
Swaits had died, his share was divided between his four daughters each receiving
£629. Again, I do not understand why the children received the money and not my
grandmother but I assume it was a condition in the will.
This brings me to my other grandparents Lily and Edward James Swaits. They had
retired to a rented house in Heysham when my grandfather left the police force in
1939. I am aware of visiting the house, playing on the beach in Heysham Bay and
going into Morecambe. My memories of my grandfather are quite vague. I am aware
of him owning a car and being taken out in it while a very young child and of him
playing bowls in Regent Park but little else. He died in 1948 on my mother‟s 35th
birthday when I was only five. I do remember her tears when she received the news in
Leigh. I think my mother and grandfather were close. My father said he was a real
gentleman and it is obvious from the press notices of his retirement and his death that
he was held in high regard.
My grandmother continued to live in Heysham, for many years, then took a flat in
Morecambe near Regent Park where she also played bowls and was a very well
known figure in the town. She re-married Harry Wood in 1965 when I was best man.
Not many people can claim to have been the best man at their grandmother‟s
wedding. She died in 1971 and is buried close to my grandfather in Torrisholme
Edward James Swaits in 1917 and 1947 receiving the Visitors Cup
Wedding of Lily Swaits to Harry Wood in Morecambe
My grandma Swaits and I were never close. She spent a lot of time with Edward and
my cousin Josephine, her first two grandchildren. I suspect I was a bit loud and „wild‟
for her. She had never had to deal with young boys. She seemed to mellow in her later
years and I probably saw more of her in her last ten years than all the previous years
put together. I do know that she and my father did not see eye to eye, I gather that she
had not considered him good enough for her eldest daughter.
Life in Leigh continued. We had a cat, Buntie, who reached the local papers when she
had kittens in a car. The car was in Timm‟s garage a local repair and sales garage just
round the corner from Beverly Avenue. We got Buntie and her kittens back.
I remember fishing in the Avenue Lake for „tiddlers‟, taking them home and keeping
them in glass bowls. There were also lots of newts which once taken home always
seemed to escape overnight.
It was while at Leigh I saw my first Rugby League game at Hilton Park. Dad and I
became quite regulars. Dad knew the Leigh full back Jimmy Ledgard and I think we
got in free! I do know the excitement when Leigh signed Macdonald Bailey, the
Olympic sprinter and it was a full house the day he played. I never saw him again! I
gather he only ever played the one game and left.
While at Leigh I am reputed to have broken Sheila‟s leg by pushing her over and I
deny this! I do remember her falling and subsequently her walking around with a pot
Edward passed his 11 plus exams in 1950 and started at Leigh Grammar School. His
health was not improving in the fog and smoke of south Lancashire so he spent a lot
of time in Morecambe with our grandmother and went to Morecambe Grammar
School in late 1951 and into 1952. I have a number of letters he wrote home from that
Other memories are seeing my first TV, not ours. We had to wait till 1960 for that. It
was in the home of David Berry, his father had a transport firm, and I can even
remember the address of 16 Moss Avenue.
The snow in the winter of 1947 being piled high at the sides of the roads.
Blackberrying on Warton Craig near Carnforth, a day out for all of us with lots of
cereal boxes to fill with those berries. There are a number of photographs to record
the event. These must have been annual visits for a number of years. The blackberries
were turned into blackberry jelly, a year‟s supply for one day of picking.
There was a local fish and chip shop and next to it a sweet shop.
Fish and chips were a treat to be had after a trip to Blackburn. On the way back, in
Atherton, was a shop. Dad would park under a street lamp and send mum to buy the
food. I fell in the Avenue Lake one day while fishing. I went up to my waist, hence
was very wet. I could not swim (and still can‟t) but managed to haul myself out.
My father asked for a transfer to an area where the air was „better‟ and in July 1952
we moved to Ulverston, 39 Victoria Road. I remember the enthusiasm shown by my
parents for the house, the area, and the fact that there was a stream/river running just
in front of the house. This was indeed the case. Across the road were the Grammar
school playing fields, a huge area to run about in although it was private land. We had
to climb a wall to get into that area. Built at the bottom of the field were „squatters
huts‟. These were prefabricated buildings, probably used as temporary
accommodation during and just after the war and now abandoned. A great play area
for us and the friends we were making and for Buntie since there were mice in the
field, during what was a ten week summer holiday. There was also a park with tennis
courts, a bowling green and a play area with swings at the bottom of Victoria Road.
I was to start at Lightburn Junior School, Edward at Ulverston Grammar School and
Sheila at Dale Street Junior School, in the September of 1952.
My form teacher was Geoff Fox, he seemed a nice bloke and played rugby. I did a
match report on one of his games for the class newspaper The game was played on the
local pitch at Dragerly Beck. I had already made some friends in the area and they
also attended Lightburn. Fifty plus years later I can still meet some of them in
On the night of September 14th 1952, Edward had a heart attack and died. We had
been only a few weeks in our new home, thinking this would help Edward‟s health,
but it was not to be. His room was tied closed and Sheila and I were told of the death
the next morning. The funeral was held in Morecambe and Edward was buried in the
grave of his grandfather Edward James Swaits. Though only nine at the time, I have
vivid memories of that day. All the family, grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins
and friends of the family were at 1 Eardley Road in Heysham for what must have
been a terrible day for my parents. My cousin Josephine still remembers it as I do, the
grave covered in flowers and then the children playing outside away from grieving
parents and grandparents.
Edward Marsden 1939-1952
Edward‟s clothes, scout uniform and his “children‟s newspaper” collection were kept
for years afterwards though his death was never discussed with us as children, a
situation which would not happen today. Though I missed Edward, because he had
spent a lot of the previous year away from home, the loss was not so marked at that
time as it was later in life. He would have been 65 years old in January 2004 and for
many years I have wondered what our relationship might have been and what he
would of made of his life. Pure speculation.
Back in Ulverston we got on with our lives. Back at school it was the football season
but it soon became apparent that though I was enthusiastic I was never going to play
for the Rovers. Sheila had her eighth birthday in January 1953 and all the guests at the
party were boys! It was then January 30th, Edward‟s birthday, and a visit to the
cemetery in Morecambe. We always visited at least twice a year, close to the dates
January 30th and September 14th, we did go at other times as well but always for these
two anniversaries. It was always my job to collect a watering can, fill it from the
water tank and carry it to the grave and later return it to its hook. It was during one of
these visits that my mother mentioned that her grandparents were also buried in the
same cemetery and showed us where. It was while starting out on our family history
research that I rediscovered this grave, the only one in a long line with no headstone.
Easter 1953 was the start of a new cricket season in a new town and a new school.
Lightburn School had sports teams and I was soon playing my first competitive game.
Our pitch was across the football pitch, leaving very short straight boundaries so a
straight hit was only two runs. It was the start of what was to be over forty years of
Ulverston had a cricket club though I did not become a member there. My friends
John and Glen Ireland‟s father was a player so we made trips to the ground. It was
here I first started to learn how to score, not officially but it helped to concentrate on
the game. I had my own score-book! We had to walk through a number of fields to
the ground but it was worth it for the picnic we could have once there.
I started to become interested in making money! We had two little businesses on the
go. One was cutting up wood and chopping it for firewood for sale to the neighbours.
The wood came from the huts across the road and no one seemed to mind us
removing planks. The second business was in conjunction with Donald and Dennis
Rogers. Behind their house was a plot of land in which we used to sow seeds and then
sell on the plants raised.
My grandparents came to stay about this time. It is the only occasion I can remember
them being at any of our houses until the final years of granddad‟s life when he was
with us because he needed looking after. In the back garden was a huge overgrown
hedge. I think granddad was invited to cut it down to a more manageable size. This he
did with me working as his labourer. All the cuttings I carried across the road, over
the wall and deposited them at the base of the hedgerows round the playing fields.
There are photographs of Sheila and me with granddad taken at this time in the
garden. As usual, no pictures of grandma. I have only three photographs of her, one
taken about 1915 with granddad and the two children, Lawrence and Albert, the
formal one of my parent‟s wedding and another of poor quality taken about 1930.
They were not photograph people. Family members I have managed to find also seem
to have a lack of pictorial evidence.
Granddad Marsden with David and Sheila in Ulverston 1953
In September 1953 I moved into the top year of Lightburn School with a new form
teacher, Jack Butterfield. He was an interesting teacher who would from time to time
tell us about his experiences of the war. It was only eight years since the war had
It was also the year of the 11 plus exam. All the adults seemed to think this was a “big
deal” but as far as I can remember we just got on with it. I do know I had some
practice papers sent from Uncle Lawrence which I had to do in the evenings.
Homework was not the done thing in junior schools. We took the exams in February,
sitting them in the hall of the local secondary modern school. The practice papers
must have helped since I passed. Even now I don‟t know how someone who was so
poor at spelling as I was (and still am) could get to the grammar school. I must have
done well on the arithmetic paper, which I was good at, and the general knowledge
The next step was my father being promoted to sergeant, back into uniform which I
could not remember seeing him in before, and him being transferred to Dalton-in-
Furness, a move of about 5 miles. The new house, 2, Cleater Street was yet another
police house. This one was just behind the police station but, unlike Ulverston, had no
garden, just a back yard and the front opened virtually straight out onto the street. I
assume dad took the post partly for the challenge but also because it would not affect
my school, I would still be going to Ulverston Grammar School. The difference was
that I would have to catch a bus there and back instead of walking to school and
would have to make yet another set of friends. A number of Lightburn pupils had
passed the 11 plus but not many of them were in my friendship group.
Sergeant Marsden in Dalton-in-Furness
Travelling by school bus in a brand new uniform with a group who I did not know
was quite an ordeal. However there were others who were new like I was. Once at
school the 96 new students were allocated forms, half girls and half boys and taken to
our form rooms by our form teacher, Mr. Jackson. No longer just one room and one
teacher but a huge building and lots of different teachers. Would we ever find our way
round and learn all the names? We did of course, like every new group every year,
and settled down to the routine of a seven period day.
Lessons were routine chalk and talk, not at all like school today. Homework was
provided every day and detentions arranged for those who failed in this department.
Pupils were bussed in from miles around and there was even a group who came by
train from Grange over Sands. The school day started at 9.00am and ended at 3.40
pm. Considering the distance some pupils had to travel it was amazing how many out
of school activities there were. Boys‟ and girls‟ sports, winter and summer, various
clubs and societies including scouts, cadets, stamp club, chess club and every
Christmas a Gilbert and Sullivan production. I joined the scouts but gave it up after a
couple of years for the cadets. It was here I learned to shoot on the TA rifle range and
was awarded a marksman badge for the arm of my uniform. The cadets ceased at the
end of my fourth year, I think the staff who ran it retired and there were no
Boys‟ games were the province of Bill Ferguson. He was a county rugby union player
so it was rugby union we played. In the summer a range of teachers took cricket, some
who could play, most could not though without them we would not have had the
chance to play. I played rugby without any enthusiasm or skill. My sight had suddenly
deteriorated; I was short sighted, and you can‟t play rugby in glasses. Wait for the
cricket season to start.
Woodwork was taught by the deputy head, Sam Gawthrop. What he said made sense
and it was not long before other pupils were asking for my help with their woodwork.
This made change since I was finding some of the subjects very difficult, particularly
The school ran sports teams at U13, U15, second team and first team levels. There
were only about 45 boys in each year so the best in the first year had a chance of
playing in the U13 team. Net practice was the order of the day; the cricket square was
so small that practice matches were difficult to fit in. We played some mid-week
games and Saturday afternoon which was going to create problems for some of us in
later years when there was a conflict between school and club. I was on the team
fringes in the first year and a regular in the second year. It was not until the fourth
year when I was 15 that Fred Pilkington who ran the senior teams saw me play. The
first team nets were short of bowling so I was asked to bowl at “the big boys”. These
were young men not boys and I was probably equal to them in height. The first team
captain was batting and I gather I caused him considerable discomfort with my
bowling. It was no surprise to me; I had been a regular player for Dalton colts for a
couple of years and I could not understand why my talent was never recognised at
school. A case of a face not fitting? The following year I was in the second team and
playing occasional first team games. Once into the sixth form I came into my own and
had two years of success. It was while in sixth form I made my first ever 50 with the
bat, opening against Barrow Grammar School. Our regular opening bat was late so I
volunteered to go in first. From then I was an „allrounder‟ not just a bowler.
I joined Dalton cricket club in the summer of 1955. Several of us spent most evenings
at the ground, playing our own little games on the outfield. Senior players noticed
who could play a bit and when we were about 13 we were asked to bowl in the nets
and occasionally were allowed to bat. I was getting known because I was scoring for
the second team on a regular basis. Dalton ran one colts side that being U17 so we had
a few years to wait to be old enough or good enough for this team. The club did
however run three senior sides and by the time I was 15 I was playing regularly for
the third team and was top of the bowling averages in 1959, my first cricket award. At
16 years of age I was in the second team and by 17 playing first team cricket. Teams
in the North Lancashire League each had professional, some of whom were test
players. Here I was at 17 opening the bowling against Sher Mohammad who the
previous winter had taken hundreds off the MCC touring side!
It was in July 1960 I had my first serious back injury, not while bowling but batting in
a school match. The damage was bad enough to prevent me from walking, it took an
hour to get changed, my father came to get me and on arrival in Dalton I could not get
out of the car unaided. The doctor said „rest it‟, not good news for someone just
breaking into senior cricket. I did not play again that season.
Dalton also ran a table tennis section and during the winter I played for the club junior
team in the local league. I was one of the team which won the league in 1959 for
which I still have a trophy.
I was awarded my cricket colours in the form of the school cricket cap, I had made it!
The next year, 1961, saw me in Dalton 1st team, opening the bowling but still not
regarded as a batsman at this level. I was picked for Lancashire Schools but was again
suffering from back problems. It was during this season I made a move from Dalton
to Lindal Moor, a village club a short bus ride towards Ulverston.
Back at school in 1955 I was in form 2A, the top form out of three. I was finding
much of the work quite difficult and at the end of the year after a discussion with the
head, G. F. Longbotham, when he put to me “Would you rather be at the top end of
3B or struggling at the bottom end of 3A, you were 90th out of 96 on entry”, I chose to
drop down a level. I was still doing very well at woodwork with a new teacher Rob.
Quine. It was about this time I decided that I would like to become a Woodwork
teacher and play cricket. I had no idea what it would involve but I knew the long
summer holidays would give lots of time for sport and I was regarded as being good
I managd to cope well enough in the new form and my reports showed good progress.
At the end of the third year we had to think about GCE exams. The classes were
rearranged again, into two top groups one taking Sciences the other taking Arts and a
lower group. This was now a problem for me. The top science group did not do
woodwork but French, the lower group did woodwork and not French. Try as I might
I could not get out of French and do Woodwork. There was a compromise, I could do
woodwork in addition to my other subjects by dropping out of PE. This I did and did
much of the O level on my own.
O levels came, as did the results, I passed all but two. French and English Language
were my failures, English by a very small margin. I did pass my woodwork and was
awarded the school woodwork prize.
Into the sixth form to do Maths, Physics ,Chemistry, none of which I was to find easy.
I was also having to retake my English Language at Christmas. In addition I was
allowed to continue with woodwork in my own time, fitting it in in place of games
and PE when possible, with a view to taking this also at A level. I had been good at
Maths at O level but pure and applied maths was totally different and I could not
adjust to this “abstract” form of maths, it was another language. Chemistry I enjoyed
particularly the practicals and felt I could manage this. Physics was all chalk and talk,
take notes and learn them. There were very few practical applications of what we
were being told and so much of it seemed learning it for learning‟s sake. I retook O
level English Language and failed it again by the same margin. In the summer I took
it for the third time when I passed with a good mark. I had changed my question
selection and it paid off. During this year I had the first operation on my fingers. Hand
operations were to become regular occurrences, five more were to follow over the
next forty years.
It was at the end of the lower sixth that I had by back injury. On my return to school
with only a few days of term left I managed to persuade the Head to allow me to drop
one of my subjects if favour of continuing woodwork for A level. I wanted to drop
Maths but was persuaded to drop Physics since “you will need the Maths for
Into the upper sixth as a „prefect‟ and a badge to wear to prove it.
What to do next was uppermost in people‟s minds, where to go what subjects to do. I
was determined to go to College to train as a woodwork teacher and sent off for
details to a number of them.
I applied to St. John‟s, York, had an interview in November and was accepted by the
college in January 1961. The offer of a place at St. John‟s was “for either the Heavy
Craft department or the Science department”. There was never any question of me
wanting to do science as my main subject so my reply was to accept a place in the
Heavy Craft department and if there was not one available I would apply elsewhere.
A place to do Heavy Craft was confirmed.
There was now no pressure on me for A level, I was in college on my O levels alone.
The first part of the A level was assessment of my woodwork coursework by an
external examiner. After seeing the work the examiner asked to see me and asked me
what my intentions were for the future. I told him I had a place at St. John‟s and he
replied that if there was any problem with the place to contact him and he would give
me a place at his college. It happened to be Alsager which was on my original list. It
was a nice gesture, and gave me confidence for the future in York. A levels came and
so did the results. Not good. I passed Chemistry and Woodwork but failed Maths very
badly, but they were only the stepping-stones to other things.
Away from school and cricket I did have a life in Dalton. Very early on we lost our
cat, run over by a car on the main road outside the police station. Buntie had been
used to wandering across the road in Ulverston but it proved fatal on the busy road in
Dalton. The only pets I had from then were rabbits, five in all at one time. Three of
them were brought home by mum and dad as baby rabbits which they had picked up
in the road one night. It was my job to rear them which I managed to do. Some years
later I gave them all away to a friend of the family where they continued to thrive.
Mum had taken a part time job in a baker‟s shop in Dalton, very casual and it lasted
for a year or so. She then got a full time post with a local firm of solicitors, in the
office. She had trained as a shorthand typist and had worked as a clerk for the police
force till January 1938. This is when she became one of the first police-women on the
Lancashire force. As a result there was a bit more money in the family but not a lot to
I found a job delivering greengrocery goods on Saturday mornings. Start at 9.00 and
finish about 12.00 all for five shillings. The shop owner was Tommy Townson whose
main occupation was running a market garden, produce was then sold in the shop. He
had a brother, George, who had another market garden close by. Tommy offered me
work in the garden, washing plant pots, pricking out seedlings while George wanted
me to water his greenhouses on a regular basis, a 6.00am start! This carried on for
some time till George died and the garden was sold. I continued with Tommy until
about 1960 when my father took me to help him doing some work for a friend of his,
Gordon was a bookmaker. He and his wife Dorothy had been friends of my parents
for some time. He bought a large dilapidated house in Ulverston and dad said he
would help him „do it up‟. I was taken along to mix concrete for laying paths in the
garden and other bits and pieces. This led to being offered a job on Saturdays and
some evenings at local shows and hound trails. The £1 a day I was paid was a small
fortune so I left my market garden and shop for the excitement of assisting an on-
course bookmaker. Seeing the life-style Gordon had and counting the money after
meetings I never bet on horses or dogs until years later when we went to a few
The winter months some evenings were spent playing table tennis. Dalton cricket club
had a junior table tennis team in the local league. Lots of practice and I eventually
made the team. In 1959 I won my first ever sports trophy, a league winners cup for
Saturday night was dance night at the local Methodist Hall. A very mixed age range
attended but the group I was attached to went along. It was here I was taught the skills
of ballroom dancing! We had been taught some dances at school as part of the PE
programme. This was put to use at Christmas dances, always well-attended with, in
the early years, boys ranged down one side of the school hall, girls down the other.
We only met up to dance!
Sundays was church day. I was confirmed in 1956 and always attended the church
youth club. There were a variety of activities, always an outside speaker and a dance
session. Trips away were organised and I will always remember one trip to Blackpool
and dancing in the Tower ballroom. I eventually was elected to the committee and
became treasurer of the club.
Easter 1961 saw me at the wheel of a car for the first time. One of dad‟s former
colleagues had started a driving school so I was booked in for a series of lessons.
These I did as a crash course in just three weeks, took my test and passed first time. I
did not drive a car again until I bought my first one Easter 1965 and promptly took it
onto a motorway!
When we moved to Dalton, dad was one of two sergeants and above them was an
inspector. Soon the other sergeant went and later the inspector, leaving dad in charge
of the town. He rapidly gained a reputation for standing no nonsense. This was the
fifties, teddy boys and the start of rock and roll. He had many friends in the local
community but, as in any society, there were people who resented his way of policing
the town. The „yob‟ element was scared of him and some of this did rebound onto us
as a family. His answer was simple, “There are some people who matter and some
who don‟t. Don‟t take any notice of those who don‟t.” After he retired some people
who had caused problems in Dalton grudgingly admitted he was always fair in his
dealings with them.
In September 1961 I took the train to York. My luggage was coming by road in a
trunk my father had used when he was first away from home. Dad was a friend of Bob
Brady who owned the transport firm. There were student rooms on the first floor, set
round a quadrangle in the main college building. There were two other residential
areas, The Croft and the Limes set a short walk away from the main building. My
accommodation was to be in College. My room was „Nottingham 1‟, a small room
with a bed, a table and chair. Having found the room it was time to meet up with
others on the corridor and then down to the pub!
After a few days I was in a tutorial with the Vice-Principal, Chris Chapman. He asked
if I had any problems and looked quite alarmed when I said “Yes”. Asked what the
problem was, I said my bed was too short! Within days a new longer bed arrived for
me. When I moved rooms at the end of the year my bed went with m,e much to the
amusement of others.
The group I was to work with for the next three years in the Craft Department was
nine strong. We came to know each other very well, a set of interesting people a
number of whom I am still in contact with. Our tutors were Jack Edbrooke and
George Cramer. Jack was the boss and dealt with woodwork and technical drawing,
George was metalwork and a silversmith by trade.
The Craft Group, York,1964
The department was housed in an old school building behind the college building, lots
of space but by modern standards poorly equipped. We had to buy our own tool kits,
no bad thing, but machinery for wood was restricted to a lathe. We had more
equipment in the school I had just left. Metalwork was just as poor.
The group of ten had come from a variety of backgrounds, many of them had been
taught three craft subjects to O level and a number had two craft A levels. I quickly
realised I was at a disadvantage having come from an academic grammar school.
There was going to have to be a very steep learning curve to keep up with the rest of
the group. Woodwork posed no problem but Metalwork and Technical Drawing
meant lots of extra effort. Both tutors were used to the wide starting range and quickly
made us comfortable in asking for help.
I took General Science for my second subject. Having done the A level this posed no
problem since the academic standard was not particularly high. Education lectures
dealt with a range of subjects many of which we considered a waste of time but they
were part of continuing education; we were only 18 years old. We were instructed and
demonstrated lesson planning and class management. There was a model school
attached to the college for this purpose.
We were thrown into School Practice in the first term. I missed the first week, being
in the sick bay with German measles! I made the rest of it, an introduction to the real
world of being in front of a class. The school was Selby Technical School and just
one week was not a lot of time to make an assessment of my potential.
During the winter I played for the college at table tennis. There were eight teams in
the York leagues, I made the second team. The format was different from my previous
experience, each team was of three players not four and there were nine singles and
one doubles games to a match. The College first team was composed of three
Yorkshire county players and there was no way I was ever going to be of that
standard, so I was happy to play second team out of eight, itself a very good standard.
I became great friend with a fellow student from the year above and fellow team
member, Neil Randerson. We practiced for hours and had much success in our league
matches. I remained in contact with Neil and his wife Ann until Neil died aged just 49
In the summer I joined the cricket club. As it was a short term, we were restricted to
about eight matches. I was still having back problems so I concentrated on batting and
only bowled a few overs a game. I played mainly second team, with some success
with the bat.
These sporting activities continued for three years. In my third year I captained the
Table Tennis Club having been awarded College colours the previous year. I was also
asked to captain the College second team at cricket; though I had been playing a
number of games in the first team I had not had much success. I found I enjoyed
captaincy! I also took the Cricket Coaching Course under the guidance of the then
Yorkshire coach, Arthur Mitchell. This was a qualification I was to use for many
years to come.
Work at College continued, we were expected to produce an exhibition at the end of
each year of all the practical course work we had done so there was always an
incentive to do well. Work was also assessed and there were practical and theory
End of 1962 .
My pieces in the craft
The first year passed very quickly with the work and sport and so into the second
year. This included a month‟s teaching practice. This I did in Scarborough, staying in
a holiday hotel. The school arranged for us to work on about two-thirds time-table.
This was negotiated successfully and my education tutor gave me very positive
feedback. The rest was a continuation of lectures, practical work and the sport, with
some time for a social life.
The third year was the year for the “final job”. Mine was the dressing-table and stool
which over 40 years later is still with me. There was also a woodwork thesis, a
metalwork thesis and an Education thesis to complete. At the end of it all were final
exams and a six week final teaching practice which I did at Acomb Secondary
Modern School.. This was a real workload.
My theses were “The life of William Morris”, “The production of iron and steel” and
“Examination at eleven”. These took hours of work both in term and over the
Christmas and Easter holidays. My mother then did the typing for me. She borrowed a
typewriter from work in order to do this for me in evenings and weekends. She even
made a carbon copy of each these “just in case”.
Dressing Table and Stool.
Final Assessment of
practical work May 1964.
It was also time for applications for jobs, writing a CV and hoping. I had two
interviews, one in York the other in Lancaster and was rejected at both. I then applied
to The Royal Wolverhampton School, an Independent school with both boarding and
day pupils. It had been an Orphanage in earlier times and still took a number of
children in this category, fees paid by charitable foundations. I was offered the job
and accepted. It had the attraction of living in, accommodation and food provided for
some duties and a payment to the school of £50 a year. All my work was completed,
exams taken and passed and in June 1964 I left St. John‟s College as a qualified
teacher of Heavy Craft with General Science as my second subject. I did manage to
obtain a credit for my final teaching practice.
Back in Dalton my parents had bought their first house, 1 Market Place. For this stone
built house with large garden they paid £1950. Dad had organised a job for me for the
holiday periods. It was at a brewery in Barrow, Case‟s Brewery. It was a privately
owned concern. I was to work on the delivery side, not driving but a “dray man”.
Loading and unloading lorries and delivering to local pubs and clubs. Case‟s
delivered to quite a wide area of Cumbria. Work started at 7.30am sharp. This work
played some part in strengthening my back! It certainly taught me how to drink.
Every pub we delivered to would present us with a pint after our efforts. It was hard
work but as with all jobs there was a technique for getting barrels down cellars and on
to stillages. A hogshead was 54 gallons, a barrel 36 gallons. A gallon weighs about
10lbs plus the weight of the wooden container. Getting them off the lorry was a skill
in its own right! I did this for three years and was paid cash in hand of £10 a week.
I had split cricket seasons, College and Lindal Moor. In the North Lancashire League
we only played on Saturdays. All games were league matches, no such thing as a
friendly. I was now bowling regularly again though not as quickly as I was at the time
of my injury. I was used as “first change” and my batting improvement gave me a
place at number six in the first team. At college I had experimented bowling off spin
and used this style on my return to Lindal to bowl off spin at medium pace.
My Grandmother died on April 2nd 1963. I attended her funeral at Pleasington
Crematorium, the first cremation I had been to. A very sad day for us all. I had been
very close to her in my childhood. I gather she had a stroke and was just worn out
through her hard life. She was 76. Granddad was devastated and never fully
recovered from his loss. When I now look back I wish I had listened to what she had
to say about her family. If I had done so I would not have spent the many hours trying
to work out her father‟s very complicated families. Her saying of “thine, mine and
ours” might have made sense now I know of the eleven children, three step-children
from one marriage and a further three step-children from another marriage that my
great-grandfather had. He had died when my Grandma was only 15.
I set off for Wolverhampton early September 1964, the start of a teaching career that
was to last until July 2001. A train to Wolverhampton and a taxi to the school. The
Royal is an imposing building from the Penn Road. It is set on a slight hill and the
front has formal gardens and a fountain. The building was built about 1850 and the
inside has sweeping staircases and lofty ceilings. I was shown to my accommodation,
a study in a block with three other staff studies. My bedroom was separate – by about
150 yards through what was then called “the long dormitory”. It was about the same
size as my first room at college, but at least I had a separate study, probably about 10
The boys were to start arriving in a couple of days‟ time. I was also to be a form tutor
to a fifth form group as well as teaching woodwork, technical drawing and games.
The school was quite small in numbers, about 350 pupils in all. This was divided into
two forms each year plus the sixth form. There was a small contingent of girls, housed
in a separate building and under the watchful eye of Miss Wright.
Being a small school there was a small staff. Some were living in like me but others
hade a life outside the school. Given these conditions a rapid „get to know the ropes
and people‟ took place. I received help and advice (not always taken) from my
experienced colleagues. Stan Henley was my Head of Department. He had served in
the Navy during the war and had been torpedoed several times. Quite a character. A
good metalwork teacher, full of concern for the welfare of the pupils, his great love
was producing the annual school play. Not only did he produce it, he ran all
rehearsals, built the sets and with help was instrumental in costume design and
making. Craft lessons at school play-time became make all the bits and pieces time.
Stan taught me a lot. He could have his moments regularly storming out of rehearsals
with his often used expression “I‟m going home”, only to return minuets later to carry
on as if nothing had happened.
Dr. Donald Cole was in charge of Science. An intense Liverpudlian, with a string of
letters after his name. I had to work with him when dealing with any science lessons
and he always had advice. I was only expected to deal with the first three years but he
was always there to help. He was able to boost confidence and I will always
remember after one series of lessons that he asked if I had ever though of doing
science full time and he would be delighted to give me a reference to do a crash
degree course. Don also lived in and had rooms across the school.
Roy Lymme was in charge of games, not the PE teacher (with whom I had been at
college though he was two years ahead of me). Roy was the Geography specialist and
I later learned he was a qualified football referee and cricket coach. He had also
played for Warwickshire.
Eric Pope was the “second master”, deputy head. He had been on the staff for many
years. A Cornishman, ex-boxer and county rugby player. Known to generations of
pupils as “Bull”, he was a Maths specialist. He was also a boxing referee and he took
me to a number of tournaments. He also ran boxing as one of the school sports and
there were regular house competitions in this and other sports.
The Head was Peter Howard, a science specialist.
Martin Brown joined the school at the same time as me. We had studies next to each
other. He was an RE specialist and had a great interest in rowing. He was to be the
best man at my wedding and we remain in contact to this day.
In January 1965 a new PE appointment was made, David Holliday. We worked
together closely on games over the next three years. We also remain in contact.
The other member of staff with whom I had a friendship was Brian Kingshott. He
was a historian, had a love of canal boats and remained at the school till he retired in
2002. We are also still in contact.
Being an Independent school, there was a wide ability range amongst the pupils.
There are a number who I came to know very well over the next three years. There
was very little of “us and them”, we were all in it together.
I ran woodwork groups in the evenings, games teams and encouraged table tennis to
be taken seriously as a recreation activity and organised matches against other
The workshop I was in was newly built and equipped, thanks to a fire the previous
year. The room was a good size, good hand tools but only a basic circular saw bench
and a lathe as machinery. There were no hand power tools.
The drawing office was alongside. Some aspects of the Technical Drawing syllabus I
had to work on before teaching but there were no real problems.
At the end of the first month I had my salary paid into my newly opened bank
account, a shade over £36 for the month. This was a salary of £630 a year less £50 for
food and board. It was £1 a week less than working in the brewery and for longer
hours since we were in residence 7 days a week, taught on Saturday mornings and had
evening and weekend duties. Staff ate in the evenings at 7.30 pm unless on duty.
There were regular “come and have a sherry before dinner” requests from the senior
resident staff which we would accept. Behind the school was the “26” club, an RAFA
club which we used. It had a couple of full-sized snooker tables that we could use, not
that I ever became proficient at the game. I think my highest break was 27.
During the Easter holiday 1965 I bought my first car. It was a Morris 1000, black,
CEO 330, made in 1957 and it cost me £150. Dad‟s friends were useful, the car was
part exchanged in a local car sales department where one of dad‟s friends, Arthur
Chapman, was the sales manager. I don‟t think the car went through the firm‟s books.
The front seat was re-positioned for me and bolted in its new place. It was often said I
drove the car from the back seat but that was not the case. I set off back to
Wolverhampton a few days after buying the car, 150 miles and motorways! I made it
safely but I‟ve always wondered what my parents were thinking during my journey.
The summer term was my first experience of having pupils entered for O level. The
results of my pupils were fine, I had only had them for one year so it was difficult to
know how much influence I had. The following two years showed good results so I
was on my way. I did some cricket coaching in the summer term. It was then I started
to upset some people, particularly the head who fancied himself as a cricketer. My
brash Northern league competitive attitude did not go down well! I was coaching to
get results and not „public school technique‟. I was prevented from taking charge of
teams in the future!
There was no sense of a career structure „three years here, move on, another two years
and move‟. There was certainly no career development plans within the school
management, no advice at all. Living in a closed community was a recipe for conflict.
I was only 22, I thought I knew it all. I did not.
The first year negotiated I went home for a well-earned break.
Not having played any cricket, except in the nets, I joined a Lindal team which was
well into its league season. I was only going to be available for six matches that
summer but I went straight into the first team and made a contribution.
September 1965 saw the start of my second year at Wolverhampton. Just prior to
going back Sheila was married to Bill Mackereth. This left Mum and Dad on their
own for the first time since 1939. Dad retired from the police force in 1965 after 30
year‟s service. He found another job working in the office of a local brewery in
Ulverston for a short time and then became a court officer in Barrow for the following
nine years to his 65th birthday in 1978. This then gave him three pensions! Mum
carried on her clerical job till she was 60 in 1973.
My second year meant I was no longer the new teacher. I had made my mark with
pupils and teaching was easier with a greater knowledge of the syllabuses. I was
doing the same subjects but after a year of practice, the second time round was much
better, not as much learning before delivering! The car gave greater freedom at
weekends. I rarely went out after a day of teaching, far to much to do.
The summer term came round and since I was not going to run a school team I joined
Wolverhampton Cricket Club. The club ran four teams, net practice (in whites) was
compulsory if you expected to play at the weekends and they played Saturday and
Sunday as well as occasional midweek fixtures. It was a far bigger club than I had
been used to. It did not take long to work out they were very serious about their
cricket and I was only going to be available for the first half of the season.
I started in the fourth team, rapidly moved on to the third team and then into the
second team. The second team was a very good standard and had two minor county
players, unable to make the first team. I was bowling more regularly and my batting
had improved a lot. The work at the brewery and careful use in bowling had done its
job. My elevation to the second team came after taking 8 for 7 in one match, taking a
catch to remove the ninth and running out the other! I can‟t claim to have taken all 10
(I never achieved this) but I had a hand in all of them. I then opened the batting and
we knocked off the 36 runs needed in 5 overs.
The following season I played second team, I never did make a first team appearance
but they knew I was only there until the end of June. In my final game in June 1967 I
scored my only 50 for the club. Had I been available all season I‟m sure I would have
made the first team.
Summer holidays 1966 was World Cup year. When the final was played I was with
Lindal playing in the wilds of Cumbria (Penrith I think). We batted first and were
dismissed for a very low score. Some players seemed more interested in the soccer
than in their cricket, a great lesson in concentrating on the job in hand.
Back at Wolverhampton I decided that this would be my last year. I was unhappy with
the Head and some of the other staff. The pupils I got on with very well and it was
going to be a wrench to leave them, but I wanted a „normal‟ life. Stan Henley and
Don Cole were upset at my decision and tried to talk me out of it. Martin Brown was
also of the same opinion as me and he was also determined to leave. David Holiday
also left to move into junior education a subsequently became a headmaster. (He was
also an international athletics judge).
I started to look through job vacancies in the early spring of 1967, looking for ones
advertising a promoted post (scale1 as it then was). This was usually second in a
department, taking responsibility for a subject within that department. I found one
advertised for Francis Bacon Grammar School in St Albans. I had no idea where St.
Albans was but I put in an application, was asked to go for an interview and was
offered the job which I accepted. This was late April/ early May. This was my first
meeting with Ted Locke who was to be my Head of Department, and Ralph Sexton
who was to be my Head for the next 20 or so years. The interview was rather more
them trying to sell me the job rather than me try to persuade them that I was the right
person for it. One other person I remember from the interview time was Tony Bailey,
the head of PE with whom I talked cricket and football in the staffroom. I had stayed
overnight in St Albans, it seemed a nice place and the school was only seven years
old, set in extensive playing fields, and surrounded with what looked like good quality
I returned to Wolverhampton and resigned my post as from the end of August. Martin
Brown had also been applying for posts and he obtained one in North London.
I had learned a lot about teenagers at Wolverhampton, living and working alongside
them seven days a week for forty weeks a year. Most of the staff had been helpful and
though I made a number of mistakes these were brushed aside and I left a far better
teacher than three years earlier. I had realised I did not know it all and that education
was a never-ending series of changes. There was no party, no drink session, I just
walked away having said goodbye to those who I would miss.
Back to Dalton to pick up cricket with Lindal in what was to be my last season for
them (though I did not know that at the time. My grandfather had come to live with
us, as he was becoming unable to look after himself properly.
I had to find accommodation in St Albans. I never even thought of buying a property,
that was what older people did. I placed an advert for a room to rent in the Herts
Advertiser and got a number of replies, some of them rather odd! Dad soon pointed
out which ones I should look at. I eventually settled on 7 Elm Drive, a nice semi not
far from the school and owned by a retired couple. I had a furnished bed sit with a
small side room which they had made into a kitchen diner. There was a shared
bathroom and I could use their fridge to store any bits and pieces. The rent was £16 a
month. There was a reduction for school holiday times. I had accommodation, a job
with more money, and a car. September 1967 was the start of the next phase of my
life at the age of 24.
I had made a couple of visits to Francis Bacon School before I started that September,
though as yet I had no time-table I did know what I would be teaching and to whom.
Woodwork and Technical Drawing would be my responsibility with Ted Locke
watching. I was also to do four sets of games a week, a situation that had been
negotiated with me. September 3rd was the date of the start of term staff meeting. This
was a morning session only and I had arranged with Martin Brown to meet up for
lunch after the meeting. He had found a very nice flat in Islington to rent so we were
only an hour away from each other.
The following day was the start for the pupils.
It was a totally different life from Wolverhampton. No pressures of duties in
dormitories and dining halls from 7.30am. Just get to school by about 8.45.
I became involved in games, not only in school time but running a football team after
school and refereeing on Saturday mornings.
On September 14th I got the news that my grandfather had died, the same date that
Edward had died 15 years earlier. I returned home for the funeral in Barrow
crematorium. I was never to visit Curzon Street, Blackburn, again. Granddad‟s house
was sold for not very much, about £500 I believe, the whole area was due for re-
development and in the early 1970s whole streets were demolished and re-built. Some
of the terraced houses were kept but Curzon Street and surrounding areas including
Griffin School and St. Philips church were demolished. The replacement buildings are
named Curzon Place. Marsdens had lived in that area for over two hundred years and
in Curzon Street since it was first built; four generations had lived there, but no more.
It was the end of an era.
I joined St. Albans table tennis club and played for the town for some of that season.
Other events were becoming more pressing and practice time was limited so I
dropped out after Christmas.
By about half term, the Head was asking for a set to be built for „his‟ production of
the Mikado. This I did with the help of pupils. Other staff were involved in painting
the set, costume making and make-up. It was during this time I became aware of Miss
Pam Robinson, teacher of French. Pam had joined the staff at the same time as I had.
The staff was about thirty five in number so we all quickly got to know each other.
The younger staff had occasional parties at their homes and an invitation to dinner
came from some. Living in a bed-sit, it was difficult to reciprocate this hospitality. As
well as meeting in the staff room I met Pam at a couple of these functions. We were
involved in the school play and shared in the organisation of the staff Christmas party.
I did invite her back to „my‟ place for a meal and arranged to take her out for dinner
on our return from the Christmas break. Both sets of our parents said in later years
that they knew ‟something was in the air‟.
On my return to St. Albans in early January I booked a table at the Crooked Chimney,
Lemsford. I picked Pam up from her lodgings in Battlefield Road and drove to
Lemsford. While eating the lights went out, candles were lit for the diners. By the
time we had finished and went back to the car it was snowing. Within a month we had
been out several times and by the end of January we were engaged. I had so little
money at the time Pam even paid for her own engagement ring! It was then a case of
telling the families from a phone box. We later drove down to Wales for me to meet
her parents. I was made most welcome and always had the same reception for the next
thirty-seven years. I gather that Pam‟s father had told her not to bring back „an
intellectual‟; this she successfully managed!! We went up to Cumbria to meet my
family and I know they took an instant liking to Pam. Trips to Wales and Cumbria to
visit parents and other relatives have been a feature of our lives since that time, at
least three times a year until now when we no longer have parents to visit.
Our announcement to the staff caught them all. No one it seemed had any idea. Events
now required planning. A house, a wedding.
Out first move into property investigation left us both wondering if buying a house
was the right thing to do. The first agent virtually laughed at us when we said we
wanted to buy a house in St. Albans with a maximum price of £4,500. To us this was
a small fortune and the maximum a building society would advance to us on our joint
earnings. Fortunately another agent was more sympathetic and took us to see 28,
Sadleir Road. The house was a centre one of a block of four, built in the 1930‟s, two
bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, and a lounge and kitchen diner downstairs. There
was a small garden front and back and a detached garage. The area was quiet and so
we bought it for £4,450. We were still paying our rent for our bed-sits so as soon as
the purchase went through I moved into the house. Our mortgage repayments were
£29. 10 shillings a month. Mortgages were rationed at that time and we were lucky to
get one through the Civil Service Housing Association, administered by the Burnley
Building Society. The interest rate was 7.125%.
The French department were running an exchange trip to France. This was for three
weeks at Easter 1968. Pam was to lead the party and I was to go with her. This would
be my first trip abroad and I had to apply for my first passport. A long trip by sea and
train to near Grenoble. The pupils were to stay with families and Pam and I were
given a farm-house outside the village. It was very quiet. No TV, I don‟t even
remember a radio. The noisiest things were the sheep in the fields. We walked each
day into the local village for food and newspapers and to check that pupils were OK.
At least the weather was good. We did have a meal with the host staff family and
were taken out by car on roads which seemed to hang from the mountain sides. There
were no real problems on the trip except for a very late arrival by one pupil at the
station for our return journey. Back in Engand I knew that if we could survive that
trip, we could survive virtually anything.
While looking for a house, we had driven through Redbourn and seen the cricket club
on the common. I had been warned off joining St. Albans and with hindsight this was
probably an error on my part from a cricketing point of view. I approached the club
with a view to joining. A totally different cricket set up than at Wolverhampton and
Lindal. All games were „friendlies‟, the club ran two teams each Saturday and
Sunday. A new pavilion had just been built and the ground was in a lovely setting so I
joined the club in May 1968.
The playing structure was to change over the next five years. Hertfordshire were
introducing Saturday league cricket. The „senior‟ clubs formed the Herts league and
the rest who wished to play league cricket formed the Herts competition. The two
were not to combine for many years but now the Herts league has 12 divisions with
promotion and relegation.
This was Pam‟s first experience of cricket and cricketers‟ wives! The first question
she was asked was who she was with and the second was when can you do teas.
The first weekend I was selected I opened the batting at 2.30pm and was back in the
pavilion after two balls! The following day I batted all through the innings for a very
boring 65 not out but I had made my mark. I soon establish myself in what was a very
good team, opening the batting and coming on first change and doing a lot of
bowling. Eventually I dropped down the batting order and concentrated on bowling.
I played for fourteen years for Redbourn, was club captain for the last six years or so
and also took on the club secretary post. I scored my first ever century in 1970,
batting through an innings for 127 not out. In the early 1970s I had my best bowling
return of 9 for 16 against Leighton Buzzard, coming on at 43 for 1 there were only
nine to get! I regularly topped the batting or bowling averages, on occasions both. I
scored over 1000 runs in two seasons and took over 100 wickets in a season on a
number of occasions. There were regular reports in the local Herts Advertiser of our
games, a number of the more favourable cuttings I have!
When I started with Redbourn I was one of the younger players, as time went on some
of the good players left, retired from the game or stepped down to a lower grade. Few
of these players were replaced with ones of similar quality and so it became a battle
trying to maintain a high cricketing standard. Often teams had far too many young
players in them, youngsters with real talent and ability but not ready for first team
league cricket. Secretary and captain meant selection meetings every week, committee
meetings at regular intervals, correspondence to deal with and groundwork to do.
With this and a disillusionment with the playing standard I decided to leave at the end
of the 1981 season and join Dunstable Town Cricket Club.
My first year at Francis Bacon was coming to an end. I was called to see the Head
who informed me I had successfully completed my probationary year! I replied I was
of the opinion I had done that three years ago while at Wolverhampton. His only
answer was that perhaps my teaching in a public school did not count.
Our wedding had been organised for August 24th in Trebanos so once term had
finished this was the next event on the horizon.
I had met most of Pam‟s relations who lived near to her parents by the time of the
wedding. Some of these kindly accommodated some of my relations and best man for
The day was fine and warm and I was faced with how to spend the morning! The
wedding was in Pam‟s local church followed the reception in the church hall.
Although used to teaching I had never made a set speech in my life so some of the
morning was spent going over the details of what I had to say. I was never very good
at learning poetry or set works while at school and so it was with a speech script.
Lunch and then dressing for the occasion. Martin managed to keep me reasonably
calm and so to the church.. I know you are supposed to remember all the fine detail of
your wedding but my memories are restricted to worrying about Pam turning up, the
music starting and her coming down the isle on Bill‟s arm. I think we both managed
the vows without a problem with the „obey‟, a requirement of the Church in Wales.
Then to the reception. The new Mr. And Mrs Marsden greeting family and friends.
The cake had been made by Pam‟s Uncle Haydn, a partner in the bakery business.
Cake decoration was a speciality of his and this wedding cake was quite spectacular.
Pam‟s Uncle Tudor, a headmaster, made a speech which I had then to follow. This I
managed without embarrassing anyone (I hope).
Then off on honeymoon for a few days in the Feathers, Ludlow. We then returned to
Sadleir Road and had only a few days before starting our second year at Francis
Bacon. Pupils were then faced with Pam‟s change of name, some of them, nearly 40
years later, still (in jest) call her Miss Robinson.
Another year of teaching, school play, exams and sport. At Easter 1969 we
accompanied Ted Locke and a school party to Switzerland, near Interlaken. This was
my first time flying and though I can‟t stand heights there was no problem, I was
pleased to find. It was to be many years before we were abroad again.
There was lots of marking and preparation but nothing like as restricting as it was to
become in later years. There was time for a social life with staff from school and
some of the people we had met at cricket. There was now a house to look after – what
to do when water comes through the ceiling or damp patches start appearing on walls
in one of the bedrooms. It was a learning curve.
The terms seemed to fly by. Both of us were promoted onto the next pay scale for our
„services to the school‟. It was not a big increase but it did make a difference at the
time. We travelled to Cumbria and Wales at the end of each term, Christmas was
always in Wales and New Year in Cumbria, a tradition which continued while our
parents were alive.
We changed the car to a Ford Cortina about 1970 and then again a year later to a
Vauxhall VX 490. There then followed three Hillman Avengers, a Vauxhall Astra (for
13 years and 120K miles), a Hillman Imp (for Pam to run about in), three Vauxhall
Cavaliers, a Nova, a Corsa and a Vectra.
At the end of January 1971 my final living grandparent died. Grandma Swaits had
become a very well-known person in Morecambe even featuring on the cover of the
tourist brochure in the 1960s. Her second marriage to Harry made her final years very
happy. I did not attend her funeral, something I now regret but I have visited her
grave. She is buried close to my grandfather and her grandson, Edward, with a
headstone bearing the simple inscription „Mother of Elsie, Lily, Eva and Edna‟.
In early 1971 Pam became pregnant. This was to be a major change to our lives, more
so for Pam since this was still a time when women were expected to give up work and
look after children. I think maternity leave and child -minders were a few years in the
future. So Pam resigned her post as from August, a teaching career just four years old.
When our first child was due there was a problem with high blood pressure, a difficult
birth and Rhodri, born on October 1st 1971, then had jaundice and had to remain in
hospital for several days. We did all end up at home and a new routine had to be
developed. Pam‟s mother and father came down to help out for a few days. It was
Pam whose life changed dramatically. I still went off to school every day, refereed
football matches on Saturdays etc. I did pick up yet another promotion, the problem
being that pay scales were constantly being changed and even though I had three
promotions I was still low down on the scale. There was an annual increment plus pay
rises so we did manage on our single salary, but there was little to spare.
We were grateful for our bit of lawn at the back, a space for Rhodri to start to learn
about a bat and ball before he could even crawl.
Christmas 1971 and New Year 1972 saw our parents with their first Marsden
grandchild, a scenario to be repeated till the Christmas of 2005.
Rhodri‟s growing up was rapid and well-recorded by camera! From a baby in a pram
being pushed round the lake in St. Albans park to entertaining us in his baby bouncer
suspended in a doorway, he was quickly mobile, not crawling but shuffling on his
backside. Sleepless nights for Pam were almost forgiven! The next stage was walking
and into everything. By the summer of 1972 Rhodri was attending cricket matches as
a regular supporter of his dad and Redbourn C.C.
Spring 1973 and we felt it was time to try and find a larger house with an extra
bedroom. It quickly became clear that St. Albans was out of the question so we started
to look further out. A number of the school staff lived in Dunstable, a sixteen mile
journey from school. Car sharing would reduce travelling costs and property was
considerably cheaper. We looked at a number of properties and settled on 25 Radburn
Court. It was a modern open plan house with a very small garden/ courtyard at the
back, a small garden at the front but open to a large paved play area suitable for young
children. We made an offer of £11,700 and it was accepted. We sold Sadleir Road for
£10,750. There were problems with the sale and we needed a bridging loan for a
period. Fortunately my mother was still working for „our‟ solicitor; the firm gave us
the loan and mum did all the work for us, reducing our legal fees. This was to be her
swan song before retiring. While negotiating for the new house we found we were
expecting a second child. We moved to Dunstable in the late spring of 1973 and the
„car club‟ to and from St Albans started. This was to continue with a variety of
colleagues for years to come. In the last few years only me, which is probably a good
thing given the early start I was then making to the working day.
On the 21st February 1974 at 9.00pm I rushed Pam to the Luton and Dunstable
Hospital where Susannah was born an hour later. This time there were no problems
(as I remember). My mother was staying with us at the time to give a helping hand.
Rhodri was now just over two years old and the arrival of his sister threw him a bit.
He was an early developer in speech but the new arrival caused him to develop a
stutter for a time. When the 1974 cricket season started I had three supporters!
Easter 1974 I stopped smoking, a habit I had started as a teenager since both my
parents smoked. At one time I must have been smoking over 20 cigarettes a day as
well as a pipe. Not an easy time for me or the rest of the family but I did manage it
and have never smoked at all since. I‟m sure it was this and other pressures which led
to me ending up in Walsall hospital in July 1974. We were travelling to Cumbria
when I felt ill, pulled onto the hard shoulder of the motorway and collapsed at the
wheel. An ambulance was called and I was taken into hospital with siren going. I had
tests, nothing was found and was discharged without an explanation of what had
caused the problem. It was only months later after being prescribed tranquillisers that
a comment about hyperventilation and what it can do to the body made me understand
what had happened. The pills went down the toilet.
1975 and 1976 were the hot summers and the years I took on the captaincy of
Redbourn Cricket Club. First the Saturday side and then added the Sunday first team.
Rhodri was growing up quickly and was showing signs of playing the game. He was
very quick to learn and took to scoring when about five years old, working with the
regular scorer, Roy Crask. It was not long before he was doing the job on his own and
producing charts of scoring shots for each batsman, genuine multi-tasking. Pam was
still doing her turn on the tea rota so the job for Susannah was to carry the collection
box round the ground. There was a significant increase in revenue when she did this!
Both the children had gone to Linden House Nursery in Dunstable and Susannah also
went to a mother and toddler group founded by Pam and others. This gave them a
start to mixing with other children in anticipation of starting school. They both went
to Ashton Lower School, to Ashton Middle School and then to Manshead Upper
School. Once Rhodri had started at school, Pam was offered a part-time job as an area
supervisor for a jewellery firm founded by her cousin. I was asked to make display
stands for the jewellery and this additional income was very welcome at a time when
the children were becoming more expensive in their demands. Rhodri was showing
musical talent and started piano lessons when about six. Within a few years he had a
second instrument provided by the school, a bassoon. This led to us buying him his
own bassoon, though these lessons were provided by the school. Susannah followed
into piano playing and then took up the violin and again needed her own instrument as
her ability increased.
Francis Bacon School was changing rapidly. When I joined the staff it was a three-
form entry Grammar School. The changes in education policy raised the school
leaving age to 16 and comprehensive education was introduced. The school first
moved to „wider ability‟ before becoming a five-form entry comprehensive school.
New building went up including a new craft block to house the Art, Pottery, Domestic
Science, Needlework and Woodwork rooms. The original Woodwork and Metalwork
block was converted to two Metalwork rooms and a heat treatment room. This was
the start of changes and re-location of rooms and facilities which were to continue for
the next 30 years. At no time was there a proper suite for Technical Drawing.
The increase in numbers also led to temporary classrooms being erected and a new
„business studies‟ block built with funds provided by the parents‟ group. At this time
funds were also being raised to build a swimming pool, a facility which is still being
extensively used today.
The other major change was in the examination system. Out went the O level exams
as the single qualification and in came C.S.E. exams to cater for the full range of
pupils. The C.S.E. exams had course work elements and a range of „modes‟. Some
syllabuses could now be internally written, written at county level or still follow a
national scheme. These exams then became „16+‟ when the C.S.E. and O level were
amalgamated and in turn G.C.S.E. as they are today. It was a major task working out
which exam board provided the right syllabus for school, pupils and teacher!
The change to comprehensive education allowed for examinations in all the practical
subjects in the school. As a Grammar School, woodwork had been a recreation
subject though metalwork and Technical Drawing had been exam subjects. With an
increase in pupil numbers (nearly doubled) more staff were needed and more
responsibility posts available. The craft department doubled its staff from two to four
and I was promoted again.
Two other changes occurred at this time; students asked for A level Geometrical and
Engineering Drawing to be started, and a different pastoral system of year heads was
instigated. The A level drawing was going to be my responsibility. My O level results
had always been good but A level was different altogether. Part of the syllabus was
based on the O level but the Geometrical side went into areas I had never seen before.
This was to be another steep learning curve but by using old exam papers and a
couple of very good text-books I managed to obtain very good results with the first
group. This set the standard for future years when there was always an A level group.
In all the years there was only one student failure at A level Geometrical and
Mechanical Drawing and that in the final year I taught it. The student was from
another St. Albans School, part of a consortium of schools and he should not have
been in the group! It did rather spoil an unblemished record.
The change to the Pastoral System was one I looked forward to. I was selected as „a
super form teacher‟ to become one of the new year heads, with responsibility for 160
pupils. This was eventually to lead to my becoming Head of Upper School and finally
Director of Pastoral Care. My final post was in charge of all students in years 7-11,
their form tutors and year heads. All this was some years ahead.
Back in 1976 I decided that with a growing family, a commitment to Redbourn CC
and the increase in the scope of work within the Craft Department, I could no longer
divert my energies into school sport. I decided that I would not teach games within
school (though I could still be told to do so) and I would take no further part in after
school football and cricket. I had given up nearly every Saturday morning, many
lunchtimes and countless evenings after school to coaching, umpiring and refereeing
for a period of eight or nine years. I thought I would be thanked for the effort I had
made in these areas and was quite dismayed to be told by the Head that I could not do
that. I replied that I could and followed by saying (probably not very wisely) “Watch
me” and was I expected to continue to give up my own time for the rest of my
teaching career?. Ted Locke also made representation on my behalf and the following
September I was not down to teach games. It was quite sad since although there were
staff to take football there were none to continue the standard of cricket which had
been established. Cricket within the school died. This would have probably been the
case anyway since all other schools were finding it increasingly difficult to finance
and staff the sport. The county were also cutting back on ground maintenance and so
the whole scenario was one of a downward spiral. Any pupil with an interest in
cricket I told to join a local club.
The late 70‟s moved into the 80‟s. Rhodri and Susannah were well-established in
school and we made a decision to move within Dunstable, hoping to find a house with
a proper garden. This we did by finding 14, Beacon Avenue. The house was on the
market for £31,300 and we were able to sell Radburn Court for £27,750. Teachers‟
salaries had increased and with the extra that Pam was earning we could afford the
increase in mortgage. We moved in September of 1980. The place needed rewiring
and the whole heating system had to be changed. Central heating was installed during
one half-term holiday by Ted Lock,e with me working as his assistant. The rewiring
was done for £500, I chased out all to walls for the cables and boxes. Mum and Dad
came to do the decorating, including papering all the ceilings. The old kitchen had
been in since the house was built and this was soon removed. I built a set of base and
wall units in pine, the theme of that time which gave adequate storage and looked a
lot better than the thirty year-old shelves and bases. These units were to last for
twenty years and some of them are still being used in the garage.
I started to clear the garden and after a few months found the bottom! There was a
swing which had been hidden for ages. I removed what I seem to remember was 120
sacks of rubbish to the tip. Dad then came and helped lay a concrete path from one
end to the other and he paid for a greenhouse which we erected. We also made a
number of concrete slabs to be used to lay as paths across the garden, many of which
are still in use some 25 years later. As with all houses changes have been made over
the years to the inside and to the garden. The house was further away from the
schools, not a major problem when Rhodri and Susannah were at the same school. In
1980 Susannah was at Ashton Lower and Rhodri at Ashton Middle.
Francis Bacon School was going through troubled times. The local secondary modern
schools had closed with the introduction of comprehensive education. A lot of the
intake was now from London Colney, an area that the school had drawn upon for part
of the grammar intake but now had the secondary modern set as well. It took some
time for integration to take place and the „us‟ and „them‟ culture to vanish. Parents of
our previous catchment area started to look to other schools to send their children.
This led to a fall in numbers. At this time there was a significant movement of
families from Bangladesh into St. Albans, and Francis Bacon was quite close to the
area where they were housed. It was logical that the school would take the children.
The problem was the education level (in English terms) of the Bengali children. Many
of them could not speak English or only had a smattering. This placed enormous
pressure on the staff and the existing pupils. Specialist staff were appointed but only
one was bi-lingual. No Bengali parents could speak English so there was little
communication from home to school and from school to home. The sight of what
seemed so many „‟foreign‟ pupils coming to school caused even more of the local
parents sending their children to alternative schools. Numbers dropped even further.
At one point it was down to an annual intake of less than 100, a point which would
make the school vulnerable to closure. When the head teacher, Ralph Sexton
announced he was to retire in about 1986, the local authority did not appoint a new
permanent head but promoted the deputy head, Edward Lederer, to be acting head. To
many in the local community this was a statement that the school would be closed in
the near future and even more parents were reluctant to send children to a school were
their education could be interrupted.
Twelve months later the authority did appoint a permanent head, Bob Marshall, who
was to lead a fight-back against the LEA. He appointed his senior management team,
roused the staff and parents into action and took the school down the path of Grant
Maintained Status, a move which placed the school as the first school in St. Albans to
achieve this status. There was new hope in the school; closure was not now possible
so all students and staff felt secure. The second generation of Bengali students were
coming from the primary schools, most were bi-lingual and the girls in particular were
excellent students, most of them determined to make the most of their chances. Many
of the boys, sadly, did not show the same commitment to education. There was now
more communication with home and the appointment of a bi-lingual EWO was of
great benefit to all.
It was Bob Marshall who asked me to take on more pastoral responsibility. This was
to be to our mutual benefit. My subject area was changing out of all recognition.
Woodwork and Metalwork as separate subjects were to be abandoned and grouped
under „manufacturing‟ in a subject renamed „Design and Realisation‟. Technical
drawing had already gone, to be replaced with „Design and Communication‟. These
were GCSE subjects. At „A‟ level, Woodwork as a subject was abandoned in 1990
though the Geometrical and Mechanical Drawing syllabus did continue into 2000.
Since there was no „O‟ level to base the „A‟ level drawing on then, I had to teach the
„O‟ level syllabus in half a year and the „A‟ level in the remaining year. This with a
combined group of years 12 and 13.
I frequently asked the question, „Where will the next generation of craftsmen come
from?‟ and never received a satisfactory answer. Schools are now producing students
who have never experienced woodwork and metalwork, do not understand the
materials and have never mastered drawing instruments. The whole discipline of
„craftsmanship‟ is rapidly disappearing. Even teachers now going into schools to
teach „Technology‟ have no appreciation of tools, machinery and materials. Is it any
wonder this country has lost 1m manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years? Very soon
most, if not all, craft skills will be lost since there will be no one left to teach them.
Noises are being made in some quarters regarding these issues but unless there is a
dramatic change of emphasis in vocational education and a move away from „a degree
for all‟ then the downward spiral will continue. It had been obvious to many „craft‟
teachers what was happening and its consequences, but in the world of education to
speak out against the „new ways‟ is a sure way to be passed over for promotion, no
matter how good teaching skills and knowledge might be, in favour of someone who
has the PC philosophy. The career-orientated county advisory staff were the worst of
them all. They were in a position to see what was the long-term consequence of these
misguided policies but their own careers would always come first.
Bob Marshall knew the way I felt about the craft situation. He also knew there was
nothing he could do about it, but what he could do was to give me pastoral
responsibility, an area in which I had proved myself over many years. I was asked to
take over as Head of Upper School, initially years 10 and 11. This later extended to
include year 9 with an assistant head and finally to my becoming Director of Pastoral
Care. This gave me responsibility for all students in years 7-11, their form tutors and
their year heads. I was responsible directly to Bob Marshall, though worked very
closely with the deputy heads. My teaching responsibilities were down to about 15
periods a week, some of this was „A‟ level. I could be called upon at any time to deal
with situations. I worked with all the outside agencies, social services, police, EWO,
and parents. It was a demanding, tough, highly rewarding post.
There were other sides to this post, presenting assemblies, organising PSE
programmes, involvement with OFSTED, and presentations to parents and staff. The
hours were long, I would try to be in school by 7.30am and leave after 5.00pm.
Evening preparation was required most nights and weekends. I did work it out that a
60 hour week was quite normal.
My new position allowed me to make innovations within the school. Home visits
became a normal course of action, direct involvement with parents led to a marked
improvement in discipline. My office door was open to all, particularly at lunchtime,
And both students and staff knew where I could be found. Assemblies were formal
and I introduced a rota for senior staff, and all year heads and form tutors were
expected to play their part. Assemblies were not religious but would have a moral
theme and staff presenting them could use the theme in their own way.
Personal and Social Education became a „hot potato‟ during this time. A compulsory
part of the curriculum and hated by many staff and students as a waste of time. With
careful planning of topics and some imagination we gradually won over most staff
and students to see there was some value in the idea. I took on presenting a number of
topics, my main ones being „smoking‟ and „bullying‟. These were developed from
ten- minute assemblies into a full one hour presentation. The assemblies and PSE
demanded a lot of preparation of material for my own presentations but also for other
staff to feel confident with topics for their classes. I said that when I retired I would
turn my notes into a text-book for secondary school use. This I have still to do!
I also introduced a scheme for recording every student in every lesson and within that
a chance for staff to refer any student to me for praise or criticism. The system was
described by one OFSTED inspector as „foolproof‟ in student monitoring. It would
have been if staff were foolproof in their efforts to return all the information
everyday. Schools in the future will use swipe cards for every lesson and teachers will
communicate via networked laptops for student referral but in 1990 it was a good
OFSTED was always a worry for schools. The first one for Francis Bacon went very
well. I presented the opening assembly on the theme of „honesty‟ as no other senior
staff wanted to do it. They then had to follow mine for the next four days. I gather my
effort was very well received by the inspectors. I also delivered a PSE session which
was observed and the inspector‟s comment to the class teacher on leaving was, “Now
that‟s what I call real teaching”. Nice to impress outsiders! The school received a very
good report, few weaknesses were identified and it was felt all the effort had been
worthwhile. Some of the very positive comments we were able to use in advertising
and for this period in the mid 1990‟s the school was oversubscribed and expanded to
six -form entry. Quite a change from being considered for closure only a few years
About 1982 Rhodri had graduated to the County Second Youth Orchestra. They were
to play at a youth orchestra festival held at the same time as the Edinburgh Festival
and off he went to spend his first period of time away from home. We followed him
there to watch the concert, spending two or three days in Edinburgh. It was here I saw
small wooden items being sold to the tourists and thought that this could be a little
earner if I could make a few different things and sell them through local outlets. I had
made small furniture for friends and family since my teenage years but had not
seriously thought about it as a money-making venture. To start with I had the use of
the school workshop and while making for friends I had no problem with the moral
aspect of using these facilities. When it came to a money-making venture I knew I had
to have my own facilities.
We visited craft fairs, I wanted to see the range of goods, their quality and price in
order to get a feel for the business. I started by making by hand in the garage and at
times in the kitchen but it became obvious very quickly that this would not pay.
In early 1987 I bought some machinery, a small lathe, a band saw, a scroll saw and a
pillar drill. This was quite an expensive outlay on what was a hobby. I had converted
what was the old coal-bunker into a small shed some time before. This was to become
the turning shed and has been ever since, though the lathe is now a much better one.
The other machines were at the rear end of the garage and consequently dust was
always going into the house. Pam did not complain too much! It was not until about
2000 that I built a second „workshop‟ alongside the turning shed to house the
machines and provide a permanent workshop set-up. I reconstructed the bottom of the
garden to provide a large enclosed timber store and an area for a new garden shed.
I approached a couple of local craft galleries to see if they were interested in taking
my work on a „sale or return‟ basis. Nearly all the people I saw were prepared to give
it a try and some were quite successful over a number of years. Sadly for me, owners
retire and sell up for the shops to be turned into different business and this happened
to three of the more successful places. Some shops tried the work but felt they could
not sell enough to warrant the space it took. It was all trial and error. As I write this I
have three outlets as well as a number of „private clients‟ who know what I do and
where I am! I have been making steadily now for twenty years and nearly all I have
made has sold. Timber supplies have been helped by salvaging trees, taking off-cuts
from a local firm and buying when there is no alternative! I now make about twenty-
five different items all of them small so timber waste in minimal.
In 1981 I made a change to my cricket career. Rhodri had shown signs af being a
good player even at the age of 10. I rang the cricket coach of Dunstable Town CC
with a view for him to have proper coaching sessions. Reluctantly, coach Pat Feakes
asked me to take him along to winter nets, which I did. His reluctance was generated
by the number of parents who thought their offspring had real talent! He was
impressed with Rhodri and we were invited back to the next session. There was a
shortage of bowlers so I asked if I could have a go. After three balls he turned and
said “Alright, who do you play for and why have you brought Rhodri to me?” I
explained that I wanted another coach for Rhodri and said I was unhappy with the
attitude at Redbourn and his response was to say, “Join Dunstable.”
This I did at the start of the 1982 season. I was asked by one senior player which team
I hoped to play for. My response was, “The first team, but I play where I am picked.”
I played a number of games in the second team, took a few wickets and then scored a
century when the team was in a difficult position. I well remember Rhodri leaning out
of the score box shouting his head off as I passed the 100 mark. This was my second
and final century.
The following weekend was a Bank Holiday and I was selected for the first team to
play an all day game against St. Albans. I was well known to the St. Albans players,
the club had been trying to get me from Redbourn for years! We batted first, obtained
a good total and declared. Coming on very early in the St. Albans reply, I bowled over
thirty overs and took four wickets for sixty-four runs. This established me in the first
team for the rest of the season and, as it transpired, for a few more to come.
Dunstable CC toured South Wales in late July and August. All the games were local
to where Pam‟s parents lived and so our summer holiday to Wales would for several
years include the tour. About 1985/6 Rhodri was part of the playing side of the tour
and we played in a couple of games together. One famous occasion at Mumbles he
took five wickets while I only managed to take one. The tour venue was changed
some years later to tour Devon and this only lasted a couple of years before the idea
of a tour was dropped completely. Changing times.
The Dunstable club was friendly. The first team were of high quality, all of them
having played some form of representative cricket from first class to minor county to
junior county. Pam was soon involved with making teas within the club, helped by
I joined Pat Feakes in coaching the colts‟ teams. This continued for about six years
and involved a lot of evenings each week. I was playing both days at a weekend,
senior nets were on Thurdays, colts nets on Tuesdays plus mid-week and colts
matches. I also took it upon myself to extend the practice area from one net to four
and prepared and repaired these pitches. All the work within the club at that time was
on a voluntary basis and for the most part helped to create a good atmosphere. All
good things come to an end. Pat left the club for some reason to join Luton as coach. I
was required to put in more time with my changing role at school and I was not
getting any younger. Susannah and Rhodri were now teenagers and were not as keen
to follow Dad around at weekends to cricket. I withdrew from the colts coaching and
the net area preparation. I was regularly asked to return to coaching but I always
1983 and 1984 were super seasons for me. In both seasons I took over 100 first team
wickets and in 1984 was awarded the bowling prize for seven wickets against
Southgate. The 1984 season was shortened by a severe back injury, a slipped disc,
which also resulted in a couple of weeks off work.
Dunstable Gazette 1984
Prior to the 1985 cricket season I had the first of my finger operations in Mount
Vernon Hospital, a place I was to return to for three more operations over the next
fifteen years. It took some time to regain full use of my hand and when I went back to
cricket I was aware of an initial reluctance to stop a ball with the „damaged‟ hand.
Nevertheless I was straight back into the first team and my playing days continued.
It was about this time I took the umpire exams. A ten-week course and a written exam
with a 75% pass mark. I managed over 90% and was now „qualified‟ to umpire.
Although I had played and coached for many years it surprised me how much about
the laws of the game I did not know and even now I refer to the laws frequently to
check up on details.
Dunstable CC also had a table tennis section and I was persuaded to take up the game
again after a break of more than fifteen years. It was as if I had never been away! The
club was in the second division and we had several good seasons and I always
finished in the top group of the league averages. I kept me reasonably fit during the
By the end of the 80‟s it was becoming more difficult to recover from a weekend of
playing and by 1990 I had just about given up net practice. In the early „90s I started
to choose games to play rather than be available for all of them. I stopped playing on
Sundays to concentrate on the Cherwell League games on a Saturday. I was on the
point of retiring from playing when Dunstable moved to their new and very
impressive ground and were elected to the Herts League after many years of trying.
The second team captain knew I was thinking of retiring and asked me not to do so
but to play „for him‟ in the second team in an attempt to gain promotion in the new
league structure. This I agreed to do and so started the final phase of a forty year
Dunstable Town 1992
During the 1992 season I was asked to play for Bedfordshire (over 50s). This I did for
the following four years. A very high standard of cricket was played even though age
had diminished the pace of the game! Dunstable second team obtained their
promotion in 1995 and I was awarded „player of the year‟ by the club. I took sixty
wickets in the league and did not miss a game. I had another very successful season
the following year, not quite as many wickets but it was a higher division. It was
starting to take even more time to recover during the week from the Saturday game. I
was bowling twenty-five overs in many of the games. I made a decision to make this
season, 1996, my last one. I played my final game for the county against Staffordshire
in July and my final club game in early September. I bowled through the innings and
took three for thirty-two. It was a good way to end. The family was there to see this
event. Despite many requests to return to play I have resisted the temptation and now
restrict my activities to regular umpiring.
Having not played for nine years as I write this, it is nice to reflect on comments made
on my cricketing ability. “He was something special; under the right conditions he
could bowl out any side,” George Blair, former captain of Redbourn. “No one bowls
like you. Come and play for St. Albans and you will play for Hertfordshire,” Micky
Dunn, Herts minor county opening bowler. “You are one of the best cricketers I have
ever played with,” Colin Ennever, captain of Dunstable. They can‟t all be wrong!
Back at school I was taking on more and more responsibility. I was appointed
„Director of Pastoral Care‟ which gave me responsibility for the whole pastoral
system in years 7-11 via the form tutors and year heads while still being the Head of
Upper School. In early 1997 the government proposed a change to teachers pension
regulations. It had always been the case that teachers could take early retirement with
a slightly reduced pension and I had been looking at working full-time to about the
year 2000. The new law would prevent me from taking a pension till I was sixty. The
last chance to retire would be Easter 1997. I put in for early retirement, Bob Marshall
obtained four years added to my time through re-structuring. I had a break of one day
and returned after Easter to continue to do my old job but was only paid as a part-time
teacher working 0.9 of a week. None of the staff knew this and so I officially retired
at the end of the summer term. I returned in the September as a part-time teacher
working two days a week (all I could do with the pension I was receiving) and
teaching Technology and Science. This I did for four years and then had my second
retirement in 2001. I have not been into a classroom since in spite of a number of
requests to do so. I taught for thirty-seven years, enjoyed the vast majority of that time
and I believe had an influence on many students and a number of staff. I have been
asked by a number of people why I never became a head teacher. My reply was
always „no degree‟ but the truth is that I know my limitations. I was a very good
„second in command‟ but I was a teacher and not a politician.
During my final year of teaching I took part in an investigation into Human Resource
Management which involved taking Psychometric and Personality Tests as part of a
team. The report back from these tests was interesting and stated,
“ Serious, quiet, earns success by concentration and thoroughness. Practical, orderly,
matter of fact, logical, realistic and dependable. Sees to it that everything is well
organised. Takes responsibility. Makes up own mind as to what should be
accomplished and works towards it steadily, regardless of protests or distractions”. An
observation was made that though I came out as being an„Introvert‟, I was by no
means that at work!
A second set of tests gave my strengths as “Organising ability. Practical common
sense, hard-working and self-disciplined. Drive and a readiness to challenge inertia,
ineffectiveness ,complacency or self-deception. A capacity for contacting people and
exploring anything new. An ability to respond to challenge”.
On the other side of the coin were comments ”Lack of flexibility, prone to
provocation, irritation and impatience.” I think the tests were about right!
Back to the family. My mother and father celebrated their Golden Wedding on 16th
April 1988. There was a family celebration in a local hotel and we managed to spring
some surprise guests onto Mum and Dad. I made a speech to the gathered family and
friends. It is not as easy as doing it to a hall full of students! I managed without notes,
I had prepared it in the car while driving to Cumbria. Over the next 18 months Mum‟s
health deteriorated though I was not aware by how much. Christmas 1988 was our last
one together, though we did visit them in the summer. Mum died on November 2nd
1989 following a heart attack. I did manage to make it there in time to visit her the
afternoon before she died. The funeral service was in Dalton Parish Church followed
by cremation. Some of her ashes were scattered in Swarthmoor and some on
Edward‟s grave in Torrisholme cemetery. Dad continued to live alone in Swarthmoor.
Sheila and her family were close by but Dad only went out to collect his pension from
the post office and to do a weekly shop in Barrow. He was quite proud of his ability to
cope with the cooking, washing and cleaning. Hid did miss Mum very much; they had
known each other since 1930 when he was working in the men‟s department of
Blackburn Co-op and Mum was living at the police station in King Street. I missed a
great opportunity to find out more about his early life for fear of upsetting him. It is
only since I started our family history that I have found out how many relatives we
could have and he could have solved some of the problems I now face. Dad lived next
door to his grandfather for seventeen years but I can‟t recollect him ever mentioning
him or any other of his relations, including his cousins I have subsequently found.
In January 1998 I had my third hand operation and it was at that time Sheila rang to
say Dad was not well. He was staying in bed, most unusual for him. She sent for the
doctor and there seemed to be no real problem but he did not improve. Just before
Easter an appointment was made for him to go to hospital and I drove to Cumbria, my
first major drive for 10 weeks following the operation. Dad was still in bed but was
chatty enough and so we managed, with some effort, to get him to hospital the next
day for his tests. He never came out. While in there it was his Diamond Wedding
Anniversary on April 16th. The family visited him throughout the day. The next day
Sheila and I were told of his scan results; he had lung cancer. We did not tell him and
never had to since he died on 18th April. At least he did not have to go to a hospice but
I wish he could have been returned home where he had spent his retirement years with
Mum. Clearing the house was not easy, but he had organised all his paperwork in one
small file and had few belongings of any monetary value. The house sold very
quickly; perhaps we should have kept it and rented it out since it is worth three time
as much today as seven years ago, but the sale managed to set up Sheila and Bill in a
business for a few years.
Dad‟s funeral was at the crematorium in Barrow. There were a few friends together
with the family but I suppose that at 85 and being quite a self-contained person there
were not many left who knew him. His ashes we took to Morecambe to be scattered
on Edward‟s grave. I promised both Mum and Dad years ago that I would look after
the grave and I have made a couple of visits to it since Dad died.
I still miss them both very much as I do Edward. I regularly wonder what he would
have done in life and what difference it would have made to our family life had he not
Pam went back to part-time teaching at a local middle school in October 1988. Rhodri
took his „O‟ levels in 1987 having gone to upper school a year early. He passed his
„A‟ levels two years later and started at City University in October 1989, obtaining a
degree in Music in 1992.
Susannah took GCSE in 1990, her „A‟ levels in 1992 and started in the Music
Department at City University in 1992. One followed the other and I gather it took the
staff there a year to find out they were siblings.
Both Rhodri and Susannah had worked their way through the county music system
and were both in the County Orchestra. This gave them an opportunity to travel to
various countries as well as take part in countless concerts in Bedford which we
attended without fail. We even have taped recordings of most of those concerts. Their
playing together continued in the City University Orchestra when Rhodri was asked
back to play as a guest player for some concerts and again we were regulars in the
They continue playing together, Susannah being the keyboard player in Rhodri‟s
band. We have not yet had the pleasure of watching them live but do have copies of
After four years of retirement, I wonder how I found the time to work. Woodwork, the
garden, family history and regular trips to Rhodri‟s and Susannah‟s flats in London
seem to keep me fully occupied. Researching my family history has been an obsessive
activity for the last five years or so and I have a considerable quantity of information
as a result. The easy part has been done and it is filling in as many gaps as possible
down a number of branches which will continue to keep my working at it for some
time to come.
I have restricted these memories to direct family. I have many other memories of my
uncles and aunties and my nine cousins. Though my parents‟ generation have died, I
am now in contact with all my cousins in one way or another. Details of the wider
family can be found in the family history that I am still compiling. I hope that my
efforts will be of some value to the „family‟. Some details have been distributed to
branches in Canada and Australia as well as many areas of this country and all my
cousins have a copy of the parts that affect them.
Our house in Leigh
Our house in Bamber Bridge
Leigh Parish Church Leigh C of E Junior School