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Archive List > United Kingdom > Kent

Contributed by 
Kent Libraries- Shepway District
People in story: 
Ivor Bail
Location of story: 
Chepstow
Article ID: 
A1112103
Contributed on: 
17 July 2003

This is an extract from the memoirs of Ivor Bail added to the site, with his permission, by Byron Whitehead of the Folkestone Heritage Team. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I awoke next morning and looked out of the window to a very peaceful scene. The river Wye was drifting silently by, glistening in the sunshine, a slight mist lifting from lifting from its waters. I had never really seen a river like this before, and I was impressed by the tranquillity of it all. In complete contrast to the urgency of the days before, when we left Folkestone, to the sound of heavy gunfire across the channel. That morning we returned to the village hall, where our headmaster handed us all post cards with strict instructions to write home, with our new address. We went on to the village school, to a classroom set aside for our use, desks were taken, and post cards written.
Mr Jelly, the local headmaster, made arrangements with our headmaster, Mr Hoskins for our class to use the school facilities, which worked very well considering the extra numbers involved. Local children and evacuees soon started to get to know each other. Finding out how their way of life differed, accents for one thing, the local lads greeting, I found, was “Ow-be”, not “Watcher”-as in Kent.
Gradually we settled in to our new surroundings. I walked every day to school and back with Ken, and Barbara, (I think Maureen cycled) the distance being well over a mile each way, also to and fro at lunchtime (12 to 2pm) no school dinners in those days!
In the light summer evenings, we played ‘long ball’ in the roadway outside ‘Prospect Cottage’ (no traffic then) a game I’d not heard of before but it was good fun. In the winter evenings we played cards, usually whist, by the light of oil lamps (only the pubs had generators for electric light) and everything stopped on Saturday evenings for the favourite radio show – “Happi Drome” with comedian, Harry Corris, and his two stooges, Enoch and Ramsbottom. Later on in the war I.T.M.A. became the favourite, with comedian Tommy Handly (I.T.M.A. Its That Man Again). Sunday evening, the BBC news, commenced with the playing of the national anthems of France, Belgium, and Denmark, the fallen countries at that time. Anthems of other nations when overthrown were added. As the weeks went by, eventually there were too many anthems to continue the practice as Europe had been engulfed.
One requirement by our school, was to attend the local church on Sunday morning, and like all the others, I found this quite tedious. The sermon was always long and uninteresting, difficult to follow. This fact was borne out by a browse through most hymn books. They contained drawings and witticism’s written on the blank back pages, by anonymous authors, some likenesses of the preacher being remarkably accurate. Budding artists in the village maybe?
One day an opportunity arose which
gave me the chance to opt out of the morning services. A paid volunteer was needed to pump the church organ, I offered myself for the position, and got the job, for payment of two shillings and sixpence a month.
I pumped the organ for morning services, at the church by the river, and most Sunday evenings at the church on the hill, the other end of the village. Services alternated between the two. The church by the river was easy pumping. I would stand behind the organ in the vestry and operate a handle up and down, thereby filling the bellows, the organist was then able to play. Just above the handle, hung a led weight. On a long string, notches on the wooden partition marked the volume of air in reserve. Should the weight fall below a a lower mark, lack of air would distort play, and ultimately terminate it. I must confess, I was unable to resist the temptation to experiment with this device. I gave the organist a few tense moments, prompting him to frantically rattle the foot pedals, signalling an urgent need for air. During the sermon I sat outside the vestry door secretly smoking! And listing for a signal call of the pedals.
Regarding the church on the hill, here the organ bellows leaked rapidly, serious constant pumping was required to keep ahead of the leak, no time existed for school boy pranks, intervention from above maybe? Left the organist reigning supreme!

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