My parents

William Logan Selkirk

My father, I think in Birmingham, at about the time he got married.This was my Mother’s favourite photo of him, and she kept it on her dressing table.

I was very fortunate in having two wonderful parents, who gave me a very happy start in life. My father, William Logan Selkirk, was born on September 5 1904. He was educated at King Edward’s School Birmingham, which is one of the great grammar schools — I think it was in fact a public school: Enoch Powell was a pupil at several years later. He would have liked to go on to become a dentist, just as his great friend Fred Esher, who became my godfather, went on to become a psychiatrist. But it was not to be.  The Selkirks did not go to university,  but went into the metal business, and it was decreed that he should become a foundryman. I have no idea how he spent his time at Birmingham. They lived at 82 Trafalgar Road, though I have never managed to find out where it was. I do not know how he met my mother:  I think they belong to something called the Fellowship of Youth, and she was a keen Girl Guide,  and I think they may have met through the Fellowship of Youth.

(A search on the web reveals the FOY society, which is I think, the Fellowship of Youth.  It was originally founded as a Unitarian organisation in 1924 and reached its peak in the 1930s with 24 branches. It was never specifically Unitarian, but  I gather it still exists,  though without  the influence it had in the 1930s)

They married on 3rd September 1934 which must have been two days before my father’s 30th birthday. The previous year they had been on a fortnight’s holiday together,  driving my mother’s Austin seven through the  Lake District;  they left a diary of their trip. I think they spend their time in a small tent, though what went on in the small tent,  I do not know. I hope they misbehaved! But after Birmingham, my father went to work in Luton, and I always claim that I was conceived in Luton, – I think they were living there nine months before I was born. Though where they lived or where my father worked,  I do not know

My Father holding me on the steps of the Rochester house

They then moved to Rochester, in Kent, where I was born in 1937 at the Denmark House nursing home, which now appears to be I think an old peoples home. Again I do not know where father worked, but according to my birth certificate, they were living at 233 Maidstone Road, Rochester, and my father was a metallurgical chemist.  But otherwise I know nothing, apart from the fact there is a photograph of me in Rochester Castle were the birds were threatening to peck my toes.

But by 1939 they had moved to Loughborough where Frank was born, and from this point onwards I begin to have memories of my parents and where they worked and lived. They lived at 24 Burton Street, which we revisited several years ago, and of which I have photos. My father worked at Herbert Morris, crane manufacturers.

I have just purchased a book called ‘Cranes and Craftsmen: the story of Herbert Morris Ltd”, and from this I learn  that  Herbert Morris was born in 1864 to an entrepreneurial father, but at the age of 21 he set out on his own as an import/export merchant, and soon began a importing a range of pulleys from Germany which proved successful. In 1889, he  purchased a manufacturing outfit in Sheffield, which in 1897 he moved to Loughborough, a quiet agricultural town that was trying to convert itself into a manufacturing centre. The firm expanded rapidly and continue to expand in the 1930s when it acquired a number of other failing crane  manufacturers including the crane manufacturing business of Henry Royce, of Rolls-Royce fame. At the time my father went there, it was one of the leading crane manufacturers in the world. It survived the war but by the 1970s it was suffering from foreign competition.  It suffered a bad fire in 1980 and went under soon after.  I have not found details of this.

My father worked there throughout the war. He was in a reserved occupation, which meant that he could not be called up to serve in the army,  but he worked jolly hard.  I think that for several years, he was working  seven days a week continuously, often I think an 8 or 9 or even 10 hour day so he was pretty exhausted, and my mother had to bring us up. Though in the middle of it all, Stuart was born in 1943.

Once the war ended in 1945, they moved to a bigger house, Southernhay, Charnwood Road,  helped no doubt by Uncle William’s money. However they did not stay there very long before my father got a job in Northampton.

This was with the Northampton Foundry Company which was a subsidiary of the Northampton Machinery Company which made machinery for the shoemaking firms in Northampton.  It was owned by J V Collier, who was a prominent figure in Northampton and later became mayor of Northampton. It was a flourishing business in Kingsthorpe Bottom,  which was the river valley between Kingsthorpe and Northampton proper – as you went into Northampton who came to the huge Barratt shoe factory on the left just after the hollow. The foundry company was a subsidiary of the main manufacturing company and provided it with its cast iron, though I think it did quite a lot of outside work. Indeed I think over half its work came from outside

However my father did not really get on with  J V Collier. I think my father was not really forceful enough , to be a works manager – I don’t quite know what role he had.  But there was what might be called a class problem in that we lived in a fairly grand house at Hillcroft, Boughton Green Road, a detached house at the top of the hill where Boughton Green Road debouched into the countryside. It stood in three acres of land, and he had  three sons who were being educated at private schools and I think for Jack Collier was rather put out that one of his minions should have this private money to live such a comparatively grand life. Nevertheless my father was essentially a very modest person,  he did not own a car at Northampton, and he went to work at first on the bus though later he bought a  Vespa motorcycle.

Eventually they parted company.  I don’t know why, but I think my parents had a fairly miserable time and my father was unemployed for about six months. I know that for a couple of months he went to work down at Poole in Dorset on a trial basis but again the trial clearly did not work out, and eventually they solved the problem by going farming. But that is another story.

On to My Mother


My Father’s memoirs


5th September 2012