Early days – Loughborough
I was born in Rochester, in Kent, in Denmark House nursing home. According to my birth certificate, my parents were living at 233 Maidstone Road: I must go back and visit it some time. But it is ironic that I was born in Rochester, for this is a county, a part of the world, with which I have had no connections, before or since. My father was brought up in Birmingham and that is where I think they got married, and began their married lives. They then moved to Luton, where I think I must have been conceived, and then my father got a job in Rochester, so they move to Rochester, spent a couple of years there, had me, and then my father got another job in Loughborough which is where I have my earliest memories.
At Loughborough my father worked for Herbert Morris, who will crane manufacturers. The eponymous Herbert Morris set up a small engineering company originally in Sheffield but then moved to Loughborough and set up a factory, but it was the next generation who built it up to become a substantial factory, employing hundreds of people and one of the leading crane manufacturers in the country if not in the world. But then the war came along. My father being in a manufacturing industry was in a reserved occupation, when he was not eligible to be called up into the armed forces, so he spent the war in Loughborough tied to Herbert Morris. It was hard work, working very long hours, six days a week, indeed for much of the time seven days a week, with not a day off – and long hours too. They were making cranes, many of them apparently for Russia, being sent on the convoys to Murmansk, to equip the Russian factories. Sadly in the 1950s, Herbert Morris went bust– I don’t know the details.
I don’t remember much of the war except for the air raid sirens. Loughborough was never directly bombed itself, but it was on the route to Coventry and whenever the German bombers went for Coventry, the sirens would sound and when the all clear came, the sirens would go up and down, up down and we were able to go back to bed. Though I can’t remember where we went for protection.
We lived in 24 Burton Street which I revisited in 2007 and took these photos. It is certainly a rather grander house than I expected, double fronted with steps going up to the door and cellars underneath. It reminds me that housing was rather easier in the pre-war period than it is today, for even people of very modest means could afford a very suitable house. I think they even had a maid, a young girl (Phyllis?) living in, whom my mother trained. They also had a dog, a Pekinese called Tzo. Next door at number 25 was an old lady called Mrs Agar who my parents were quite fond of.
In due course I went to my first school, Emmanuel School, a name I shall never forget. The headmistress was a Miss – or was it Mrs – Stapleton, and the teachers of the lower classes were Miss Brown and Miss Kirk. My mother in her usual way did her best to make friends with them and to bully them, telling them that her son was a genius. All I remember was the case of the gold watch. I had already learnt to tell the time and so my mother bought me a watch, a rather nice ladies gold watch – far too good for a young child. At the school they said I couldn’t wear it – there was a danger that it would be lost or stolen and anyway it was pointless, because I couldn’t tell the time. My mother proudly said that I could tell the time and made me demonstrate, which I did. As a result I was allowed to keep it – and my mother had triumphed.
Both my brothers Frank and Stuart were born in Loughborough. The only drama I remember is when Frank was very ill. He got measles which turned to meningitis and he almost died. I remember he was rushed into hospital by ambulance to Leicester where he eventually pulled through thanks to a new drug called M & B. But the specialist who dealt with him, himself died soon very soon after, so my parents never knew whether the disease was mastoid, meningitis, or general septicaemia.
But then the war came to an end, and my parents took the opportunity to move to a new house, Southernhay, in Charnwood Road. This was a bigger house altogether, semi-detached, with a modest garden at the back. I think this was thanks to Uncle William who had begun to disperse his money to his grand nieces and nephews and my parents devoted the money to buying a new house. However they did not live there long, for my father got a new job in Northampton, which is where my story must continue.
On to Northampton