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15 October 2014
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"Salford and Manchester docks were always attacked and we lived nearby"

by ritsonvaljos

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
ritsonvaljos
People in story: 
Winifred Hogg (now Feeney) 'Winnie', Harold Hogg, Mary Hogg, Josephine Hogg 'Josie', Granny Shanahan, Granddad Shanahan, Kate Lee, Terrence Lee 'Terry', Joan Lee, Mary Cummings, Robert Cummings, Marilyn Cummings, William Cummings 'Bill', Mr Dewhurst, James Feeney 'Jim', Mary Feeney, Anne Feeney, Cathy Feeney.
Location of story: 
Salford / Manchester, Lancashire.
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4248542
Contributed on: 
22 June 2005

June 2005: Winnie toasting some of her happy wartime memories, her family, and friends. During the war, Winnie used to toast the King and Queen with a small glass of lemonade while delivering the beer with Mr Dewhurst, 'Ark Royal' and 'Hood'.

Introduction

This article is submitted on behalf of Mrs Winnie Feeney (née Hogg) who grew up as a young girl in the Salford / Manchester area during World War Two. It uses Winnie's own words as told to me at her home on Sunday 19 June 2005. Winnie fully understands the terms of the "People's War" website.

I have known Winnie and her family for many years. It has been a great honour to listen to some of Winnie's wartime memories and I would especially like to thank Winnie for her kind hospitality on the day of our conversation.

Family and home

"I was born on 31st October 1929 so I was 9 years old when war broke out, almost 10. My parents’ names were Harold and Mary and I had a sister Josie, short for Josephine. Our family name was Hogg. We lived in the Ordsall area of Salford, near Manchester, about 10 minutes walk from the docks.

When Josie and me were young we had no electricity in the house. We had gas lighting downstairs, but upstairs we used candles. There was an outside toilet and we had a tin bath to bathe in. When I think back on it now, we've come a long way since those days. When we did eventually get electricity in the house we thought we were really well off!

My Dad worked at Metropolitan Vickers, in the iron foundry I think. A lot of the men who lived near us worked there. Working there meant my father didn't get called up to the Forces in the war. He was also in the Civil Defence rather than the Home Guard and I think part of his duty was as an ambulance driver.

As well as looking after the house, my mother worked through a lot of the war as a Chargehand in the mineral department at Cornbrook's brewery. Everybody seemed to do hard physical work in those days. There were no washing machines in our area so washing and wringing out the clothes was done manually. All the women used to take a real pride in scrubbing the stones around their houses and everything was spotless.

War is declared

I can remember the outbreak of war. As children I don't think we really understood it at all. The Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came on the radio, or the wireless as we called it then. I think we were all together listening to it, my Mum, my sister Josie and my Dad. Everyone listened to Mr Chamberlain and I remember what he said:
"...The British Ambassador in Berlin has handed the German Government a final note that unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany."

At that time, I went to Mount Carmel Catholic School on Sussex Street in Salford. A lot of our friends were evacuated further north, to Garstang, Silverdale and Bolton-le-Sands. However, my father wouldn't let us be evacuated. He said it would be better if there was any bombing, that we were all together. So that was what we did.

Staying away from school

There was such a lot of disruption at that time, they didn't know who was left in Salford and who had been evacuated. As a result, I didn't go to school at all after war was declared in the September of 1939 until the February of 1940. But it was an exciting time for us as children.

While we weren't at school, we ran errands and helped my Mum in the house. We played in the street, all sorts of children's games such as hopscotch. We all used to play with marbles, and even against the boys. There was this one boy who was a little bit older than us we played marbles with. If you hit the other player's marble then you won it. You also won the marble if your marble was within a 'hand span' of your opponent's marble. After your shot, if your thumb touched your opponent's marble and you could touch your own marble at the same time with your little finger when you spread your hand out then you also won the marble.

This older boy used to let his fingernails grow longer so it gave him a bigger 'hand span'. His hands were already a bit bigger than everyone else's, so he used to always win. Anyway, after a while, we all stopped playing marbles with him!

Sometimes we used to play in Ordsall Park and did a lot of roller-skating. I really loved doing the roller-skating. We spent many happy hours playing in Salford's Ordsall Park. That was how we spent our time, especially in this early part of the war.

Going to school

I only went back to school in the February of 1940 when a friend told me there was an exam for a scholarship. So I went back that week. Somehow, I passed the scholarship examination. They must have been the right questions for me.

Passing the examination meant that I went to Adelphi Girl's School, near Salford Cathedral. There's a pub now where the school used to be on the corner of Adelphi Street and The Crescent. Although it was a scholarship, my mother's family pitched in to help her buy my uniform. I wore a gymslip, which you very rarely, if ever, see girls wearing for school these days. Parents used to buy the uniform a size or two too big so you grew into it. They used to pin up the straps over the shoulder to make it fit right. As you grew a little taller, the pins kept being adjusted.

We had to carry a gas mask all the time, even for school. George Formby used to sing this funny song about his gas mask. In fact, at school, we competed to see who had the funniest gas mask case. They were all sorts of colours and different shapes. But the gas mask was really important.

At Adelphi School there was an Air Raid Shelter next to the gym. It was part of the school but went below the ground level. Every time an air raid siren went, we had to go in the air raid shelter until they sounded the 'All Clear' siren.

I was 15 when I left school in 1945 and in fact I didn't take the 'School Certificate' as it was called then. My mother needed me to go to work because my father became ill and couldn't go to work for a while. I had to work to bring some money in. It turned out my Dad wasn't as bad as they thought and he eventually went back to work.

Religion

My mother came from a strong Irish Catholic family so we were steeped in it. My mother's maiden name was Shanahan, a real Irish name if ever there was one! My grandparents had come over from Ireland but my mother was from over here. We used to go to the church regularly and pray for all those away, or had been killed or wounded. There was a very strong religious belief in those days, as was the sense of community.

My father wasn't really a Catholic. He'd been brought up a Protestant, but had turned a Catholic when he married my mother. But he never really bothered much with the Church, even during the war.

I've always gone to church, even to this day. Going to Catholic schools we were taught religion at school as well as at the church and at home. Religion was an important part of many people's lives in the war. That was the way we were brought up.

Being bombed

After the war began, to begin with it was very quiet with hardly any bombing. With us being children, it was quite exciting in a way when we did eventually get bombed. Wherever there was a bombsite we would go and inspect it. In fact it was a little bit like an adventure playground. It was our playground in a way.

Salford and Manchester docks were always attacked and we lived nearby. German bombers dropped stray bombs on the docks, probably on the way back from bombing Liverpool. I remember there was one landmine the Germans dropped from an aircraft. It devastated about six streets near us. Unfortunately a lot of people were killed.

There were other bombings I remember. One that stands out happened at Christmas 1940. That seemed to be the start of a difficult time. We were told, or advised, to evacuate the house. I went with my mother, sister, Aunt Kate Lee and her children Terry and Joan, to stay with another cousin in Withington who was called Mary Cummings. My Dad and uncle stayed at home during this time. They would go to work and help out with the Civil Defence I suppose.

For Christmas dinner that year we had a rabbit. There was no chicken and definitely no turkey. That year, I also remember I got a doll's cot for Christmas. I carried it all the way to Withington in the south of Manchester, with the doll in the cot, naturally! It was quite a walk for all of us to go from Ordsall to Withington.

The Withington relatives

Auntie Mary Cummings had two children, Robert and Marilyn. Mary was married to Bill who was in Egypt with the 'Desert Rats' then. They used to write letters to each other so they kept in touch.

A little later on we heard that Bill had got blown up in a tank while he was in the desert. He wasn't killed, only wounded. They sent him to South Africa to recuperate. The Government wanted his family to go there, but Bill refused. He said it was too risky for the three of them to go there in one ship. So, Mary and the children stayed in Manchester.

Bill only came back home in 1946 and they only gave him 10 years to live. But, he lasted a long time after that. I think he was something like 75 when he eventually died, so he proved them all wrong.

Shopping

Everybody had a ration book and you could only buy things at certain shops. I went with my sister Josie for the rations, and in particular to a certain grocer's shop. The people there were friends of my Dad and I think we got one or two things extra.

There were lots of 'corner shops' where people could buy things. A lot of the time you had to queue! Some things weren't on ration and we also 'made do and mend' with many things. There was a Woolworth's store where everyone went and nothing cost more than 6d. The British Home Stores had things a little more expensive, but I think they sold nothing more than 2/6d.

School Holidays

Some days when I was off school I went to my cousin's at Withington and helped her out. Although it was difficult for everybody in the war we helped each other out and never even thought about it.

With my mother working at Cornbrook's Brewery sometimes I went there for the whole day and went out with the drays delivering the beer. There was a Mr Dewhurst who used to take the beer out to all the pubs, even into the countryside. I liked the horses and he let me ride with him while the beer was delivered. The weather seemed to be so much better in summer then, but that may be just as I remember it.

When we got to each pub, Mr Dewhurst got a pint of beer from the landlord and I got a small glass of something to drink, maybe a lemonade or cider or whatever. They used to talk over what was going on in the war, everyday things, family and so on. It was a really good day out meeting all those people and making a toast to the King and Queen or those serving in the Forces.

All the horses were named after Navy ships. I used to help put them away into the stables. The horses Mr Dewhurst used for his deliveries were 'Ark Royal' and 'Hood'. My favourite of all the horses was 'Hood'. He was 17 hands high, but a really lovely horse.

End of the war

I can remember the celebrations we all had for VE Day and VJ Day. We had street parties, put flags out of the windows, put up bunting and pictures of the King and Queen.

One of the streets near us made a really memorable effort for the celebrations. At the entrance of both ends of Armitage Street they put up trellises, bunting, and had flags draped across the street. They even painted some of the walls in red, white and blue. It was quite a showpiece really. I think everyone who lived nearby went to look at it. Everyone celebrated the end of the war, even if they still had family away from home.

Reflections about the war

Overall, the war years were exciting for those of us who were children, despite the bombing and difficult times. Mostly, it is the good times I remember. The hard times that we remember make us appreciate the important things we have now: friendships, family, a comfortable home and things like that.

After the war, I married my husband Jim in 1952 and we were married for a few weeks short of 50 years when he died in 2002. We had three lovely children: Mary born in 1952, Anne born in 1957 and Cathy born in 1962. Jim was a schoolteacher and he eventually became a headmaster. We always encouraged the girls to read and study.

Despite me not taking my School Certificate in 1945, Jim and the girls encouraged me to do O-Levels and A-Levels at night school. I then went on to study full-time at the University of Salford between 1974 and 1977 and then went back to work in the Civil Service. I made a lot of good friends from all over the world while at university and we meet up and talk things over. Growing up in the war was an important part of my life and I think the experiences from those years helped me during the things I have done later in life".

Conclusion

Winnie now enjoys a contented retirement and a happy family life. I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of Winnie's dear husband Jim, who sadly passed away in 2002.

Jim encouraged generations of children and adults to achieve many things in life. As Winnie explains in the above account, Jim was very supportive of Winnie becoming a university graduate after she had to leave school during the war and before she was able to take her examinations.

It has been a pleasure to write this article about Winnie's wartime memories. At the end of our conversation about "Winnie's War" we toasted some of the good memories of the war years and in particular, some happy summer days delivering beer from Cornbrook's Brewery!

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