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15 October 2014
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Some memories of life on the Home Front

by ritsonvaljos

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Cumbria

Contributed by 
ritsonvaljos
People in story: 
Edward McCrickett ‘Ned’, Francis Savage ‘Frank’, Bridget Philipson (née Savage) ‘Betty’, William Philipson ‘Billy’, Cecilia McCrickett (née Savage), Michael McCrink, Mary McCrink (née Cowley), John McCrickett, Sarah Jane McCrickett (later Ritson) ‘Sally’, Franklin Derek Tyrer, Maureen Tyrer (later Lewin), Maud Savage (née McMean), Sarah Jane Savage (née Kinsella), George Kinsella, Harold Tyrer, Sarah Jane Tyrer (née Savage), Mary Ann Savage, Susannah Rogan (née Savage), Hugh Rogan, John F. Rogan, Francis Rogan ‘Frank’, Thomas Rogan, ’Seagull’ the railway porter.
Location of story: 
Whitehaven (Cumberland / Cumbria), Preston / Blackburn / Southport (Lancashire).
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7734260
Contributed on: 
12 December 2005

A photographic reminder of a happy visit to Pleasureland, Southport, summer 1939: (Left to right): Betty Philipson, Ned McCrickett, Billy Philipson, Frank Savage. Even during the grim years of the war to come, there were happy family ‘get togethers’ [Photograph from collection of J. Ritson]

Introduction

This article deals with a few of the wartime experiences of some of my mother’s relatives who served on the ‘Home Front’. It is based on information from written and pictorial sources, plus family recollections of various relatives, including some of the things my mother’s relatives told me when I was a young child. So far as is possible, I have tried to cross check the information is as accurate as it can be in the circumstances.

A little about each of the following is included here: Edward McCrickett, Francis Savage, Bridget Philipson (née Savage) and her husband William Philipson. The reason for selecting these four is because they are all on a family photograph. Although there is no exact date on the reverse of the photograph, I believe it was probably taken in the summer of 1939, or if not that particular year, it was taken in 1940 or 1941. I have written a separate article about Edward’s wife Cecilia McCrickett (née Savage), who unfortunately is not on the photograph that goes with this account.

All of this group of people have passed away since the war, so I can no longer ask them for their personal testimony. However, when I was a child, all of them told me something of their wartime experiences. Edward and Cecilia McCrickett are my maternal grandparents. Granddad McCrickett was usually known to most people as Ned, and that is the name I will use for the rest of this article. Francis, or Frank as he was known by most people, was Cecilia’s younger brother. Bridget, known by some as ‘Betty’ or ‘Biddy’ was a sister of my Grandmother Cecilia McCrickett. I will refer to her as Betty for the rest of this article to avoid any confusion about names. William Philipson, known as Billy, was therefore my the brother-in-law of my maternal grandmother.

Holidays in Lancashire and Cumberland

In the late 1930s and during the war, Ned and Cecilia lived at 57 Fell View Avenue, Woodhouse, Whitehaven in what was then the county of Cumberland (now Cumbria). Until he married Maud McMean during World War Two, Frank lived next door at 58 Fell View Avenue, with his widowed mother Sarah Jane Savage and some other relatives.

At this time Betty and Billy lived in Blackburn. Another sister and brother-in-law of Cecilia and Betty, Sarah Jane (Sally) and Harold Tyrer were then living in Preston. I can remember my Grandmother, Grandfather, mother and uncle telling me about their visits to Lancashire, when they would stay either with Sally and Harold or with Betty and Billy.

Working in the Cumbrian coalmines in the late 1930s, the miners were earning a little more money than during the Depression a few years earlier. In the summer, they had a week’s holiday and some of the family, at least, were able to travel to Lancashire where they stayed with their relatives. I know from what I was told, plus the evidence of numerous photographs, that while they stayed in Preston or Blackburn they had daytrips to Blackpool or Southport. The photograph that goes with this account is one of two taken on a daytrip to Southport, probably in the summer of 1939.

The four people seen in the photograph taken at Southport are my Granddad Ned McCrickett, Aunt Betty, Uncle Billy and Uncle Frank Savage. Probably only these four had taken the train to Southport that day, while the other relatives met up in Preston. Although there were other visits during the war, these days in the summer of 1939 were probably the last real carefree days for years to come.

I remember my Granddad McCrickett telling me some of the other miners he worked with at Haig Pit were in the Territorial Army in 1939. A lot of them had joined because of the attractions of various sporting activities, such as football and boxing, and especially because there was an Annual Camp for TA soldiers for which they didn’t have to pay. In the summer of 1939 some of these friends went away to Summer Camp, and they never went back at the end of Summer Camp as it became increasingly likely there would be a war.

Seaside visits to Seascale and St Bees

The relatives living in Lancashire also paid visits to West Cumberland before, during and after the war. Franklin Tyrer, the son of Harold and Sarah Jane Tyrer, has kindly written out the following anecdotes about visits made as a large family group to the Cumbrian seaside resorts while they were staying in Whitehaven:

“I remember occasions when we were staying at Grandma’s house and all our families went on the train to Seascale or St Bees. I can remember that Uncle Ned was a very good swimmer. There was this one day when he had left us on the beach and gone swimming in the sea, placing his clothes on a rock.

Whilst he was out in the sea, the tide came in very fast and washed his clothes off the rock! There was pandemonium, as we all furiously endeavoured to rescue them from being washed away with the tide. There wasn’t any danger, as the beach is very wide and the water was shallow and it was really hilarious! So we got all the clothes back, but he had to try and dry them off before coming home.

At the same time, I remember my cousin John Rogan and myself on the platform at Seascale. John found the Station Master’s keys, which he then hid at the back of the Ticket Office! Such things lads used to do, much to the consternation of our parents. Also, at this time we used to go to Ravenglass and then got on the small train known as the ‘‘La’al Ratty’’. These were really enjoyable days out, war or no war. Wartime memories like these were always happy ones. I am able to look back on them with fondness.

At St Bees station, there was a Railway Porter called 'Seagull'. Whether he was just a good friend of the family, or even a former gentleman friend my dear mother ‘Sarah Jane’ or not, was always a mystery. Every time the train approached this particular station just south of Whitehaven, Mother and Auntie Betty would hang out of the window and they would exchange First names with this fellow they called ‘Seagull’ and always with much humour and familiarity. They were good old days!’’

Frank, Ned and Cecilia

Ned McCrickett was born at Cleator Moor in what was then Cumberland (now Cumbria) on 27 November 1901. Cecilia Savage was born on 21 December 1898 at Whitehaven, a port on the West Cumbrian coast. Frank Savage was Cecilia’s youngest brother. Ned and Cecilia were married at St Begh’s Church, Whitehaven on 26 December 1925. The Best Man was Hugh McCrink, a friend from Cleator Moor. Cecilia’s sister Betty was the Chief Bridsesmaid. After originally living in Cleator Moor, where their daughter Sally was born, Ned and Cecilia moved to Whitehaven some time in 1928. It was at Whitehaven, in December 1929, that their son John was born.

Originally, Ned worked in the iron ore mines at Cleator Moor but after moving to Whitehaven, he worked as a coalminer at Haig Pit, as did his brother-in-law Frank Savage. Another, older, brother of Cecilia by the name of Michael McCrink was another relative who worked at Haig Pit before, during and after the war. Michael’s father had died when he was very young and his mother remarried. This is why Michael had a different surname to his mother, stepfather and siblings. During the war Michael McCrink and his wife Mary lived at 87 Fell View Avenue on the Woodhouse estate in town, only a few doors from most of Michael’s relatives.

John McCrickett, son of Ned and Cecilia McCrickett, has kindly given the following contribution about what he remembers about some of his relatives during the war:

“In the early part of the war, Uncle Frank Savage lived with my Grandma Sarah Jane Savage and some other relatives at 58 Fell View Avenue, Woodhouse. Later on in the war, he married Aunt Maud and they got their own house at Kells. Aunt Mary Ann Savage, Frank’s sister, lived there and for some of the war at least, so did another sister, Susannah Rogan and her three boys. Her husband Hugh Rogan worked away a lot. Their three sons were John, Frank and Thomas.

Uncle Michael and Aunt Mary McCrink lived further down the road at 87 Fell View Avenue. During the war I remember my Dad going ‘Fire Watching’ at Ladysmith Pit. All the men did some Civil Service or were in the Home Guard.

Aunt Mary Ann worked at Haig Pit as a ‘Screen Lass’. They sorted the coal from the stone after it had been brought up the mineshaft. All this work was done by hand at the Pit Top. Aunt Mary Ann did this all her life until she retired in the mid-1960s. A photograph of some ‘Screen Lasses’, including Aunt Mary, was on the front cover of a recent book.

Uncle Frank Savage worked underground at Haig Pit although exactly what work he was doing in the war years I couldn’t say. He also worked at Haig Pit all his life, until he retired. Like a lot of pitmen, Uncle Frank was a good all-round sportsman, especially football, boxing and swimming when he was younger.

I lived at 57 Fell View Avenue with my Mam and Dad and sister Sally. My Mam looked after her Uncle George Kinsella as well. My Uncle George used to work at Drigg in the munitions factory. In December 1940 he reached 65 years of age. I’ve looked this up and that must have been when he retired. Uncle George wasn’t in good health for the rest of his life but he was well cared for. Rationing was on then, and after the war as well. I remember Uncle George seemed to spend a lot of time talking over old times with other retired fellows at the British Legion. As it turned out, Uncle George lived until 1953 when he was 78 years old. That was a good age for a man in those days.

There were occasions when we went to stay with our relations in Lancashire. These were usually Aunt Sally and Uncle Harold in Preston, although once or twice we stayed with Aunt Betty and Uncle Billy in Blackburn. I remember they used to show us various places. One thing that stands out was going to the fair in Preston, but I don’t remember the exact dates.

Sometimes, Uncle Frank and my Dad went to see Aunt Betty and Uncle Billy and more often we went to stay at Aunt Sally and Uncle Harold’s. They had two children, Franklin or Derek as some folk knew him, and Maureen. Aunt Sally used to take in boarders, mostly ‘theatricals’, so they were well used to people going to stay with them. I’ve been looking through a lot of our photographs from those times and they bring back a lot of happy memories of times we had together. Having your photograph taken when visiting the seaside seemed to be one the things everybody did, even during the war.

When our relations from Lancashire came to stay in Whitehaven we sometimes used to all go together to places like Barrowmouth, Saltom Bay or St Bees. So, in spite of the war and all that was going on, our family shared many happy times together. Like all of us that grew up in the war, we owe a lot to our parents, aunts, uncles and other relatives for giving us all so much when they had so little”.

Billy and Betty

During the war, Billy was a Fitter at the Star Paper Mills in Blackburn. He had been born in Darwen near Blackburn. He had married Betty on 5 September 1931, with the Best Man being Harold Tyrer. Betty’s sister Sally was Chief Bridesmaid. Sally in her turn became Mrs Harold Tyrer. In the late 1930s and during the war, Billy and Betty lived at 'Clydeholme, Livesy Branch Road, Feniscowles, Blackburn.

Franklin Tyrer, son of Harold and Sarah Jane Tyrer, kindly wrote the following contribution about his Aunt Betty to use in this article:

‘‘During the war Aunt Betty was in an Organisation called the WRVS (Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) while they were living in Blackburn. It was at this time that Betty started doing 'War Work' for the war effort, as they had no children. One day, Aunt Betty was operating a press, when she had the misfortune to get her hand stuck and she suffered quite a serious injury to her hand. Unfortunately her hand was disfigured for the rest of her life.

Aunt Betty was my Godmother. She was a very kind woman, especially to my sister Maureen and me. I think that in many ways Aunt Betty was almost a Saint, a truly great lady, and she did her bit for the war effort’’.

Conclusion

I would like to thank John McCrickett and Franklin Tyrer for sharing some of their memories for use in this article. While I have been able to establish the exact date of some events referred to, John and Franklin’s contributions have been invaluable to establish the finer detail of their personal memories of their relatives during the war years.

Clearly, as someone born after the war I have had to rely on the memories, photographs and other written evidence of those who were present when the actual events took place. Putting together the bigger picture and the telling detail depends on building knowledge upon other knowledge. Hence with the combination of evidence from family records and some personal memories, I have tried to ensure the information I have written is correct.

While I have tried to discover the surname of ‘Seagull’ , the porter at St Bees Railway Station, but unfortunately without success. From what I have heard, at this time ‘Seagull’ lived in a house on Lakeland Avenue, Whitehaven.

Both John and Franklin have assisted me with a number of accounts for BBC “People’s War” accounts about some wartime family experiences. These, and the article I have written about my Grandmother Cecilia McCrickett, are listed below.

Related “People’s War” stories by John McCrickett or Franklin D. Tyrer about some of their wartime family experiences:

1. Remembering the “Sleepy little town of Whitehaven” during World War Two
(Article Reference: A362346, posted 5 February 2005)

2. Staying at Grandma’s house in wartime Whitehaven
(Article Reference: A6368222, posted 24 October 2005)

3. Daytrips to Blackpool during the war.
(Article Reference: A6368673, posted 24 October 2005)

4. ‘‘My wartime travels as a child gave me a grand start in life”
(Article Reference: A6368132, posted 24 October 2005)

5. "A secret, mythical place" in wartime Preston, Lancashire.
(Article Reference: A6367430, posted 24 October 2005)

6. Carefree times of a young lad growing up in wartime Preston, Lancashire
(Article Reference: A6367575, posted 24 October 2005)

7. Memories of schooldays in ‘Proud Preston’, Lancashire
(Article Reference: A6367809, posted 24 October 2005)

8. Some things Grandma told me about the war
(Article Reference: A7734684, posted 12 December 2005)

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