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Santa Claus and the Storm Lantern.

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Alec James Morley
Location of story: 
Ancaster, Lincolnshire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 November 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Louise Angell of the CSV Action Desk at BBC Radio Derby on behalf of Alec James Morley. The author understands the sites terms and conditions.

As a very young boy during the last war I was often sent off to stay with the relative peace of my relatives in a small Lincolnshirevillage. As far as peace was concerned, this was a mistake. Ancaster, although small and rural, was situated between two wartime airfields, Cranwell on one side and barkston heath on the other. Both only a mile or so apart. However this story is about a mechanically minded bot billited with his farmer/publican uncle and his aunt and cousin.

The farm, which also served as a pub, was called The Angel Hotel. This grandly titled edifice stood three stories high on Ermine street in the centre of the village. My aunt opened the bar at lunchtime and evenings and my uncle farmed the ajoining land. Indoor conditions were promative, although it had the title of a hotel, the building had just one inside water tap in a stone flagged passageway and no interior toilets. All water for cooking, washing and such had to be carried from this tap in enamel buckets. Outside, the extensive yards were ringed with barns and lean-to's for the animals and machinery. electricity was limited to the house and so for going out at night to attend the stock or to visit the privy a selection of hurricane lamps lined a shelf in the kitchen.

One of my chores was to clean these big brass lamps, trim the wicks and ensure they were always full of parafin. I just loved this. I polished the tarnished brass until it shone. I lit and adjusted the wicks until they gave a brilliant light without smoking and I used any excuse that I could find to light one and go out into the farmyard and outbuildings at night with it. In the yard the shadows case wierd and exciting shapes on the walls, and in the summer evenings the bats swooping down on the perimeter of the light and other soft shadows of other night creatures slipping away.

It was close to Christmas and I was asked what present I would like to receive from Santa. There was only one thing that I really wanted. A hurricane lamp of my very own. One of the big ones that I could polish and cherish and all my own.

This, at first, caused some amusement among the adults, but when I persisted, the grown-up's, at last, seemed convinced and it was left at that.

Late on Christmas eve, sound asleep in the large bedroom on the farm, everything quiet, my cousin asleep in the next bed, I was suddenly wakened by a tremendous crash! Frightened at first, I was then startled to hear an outburst of giggling and see a dim form who I took to be Santa beating a quick retreat out of the bedroom.

The next morning our stockings were full. Toys, an orange, apple, sweets, a 1943 new penny, and by mine - a bright, shiny hurricane lamp. It's lamp glass slightly askew through being dropped but otherwise stil in tact. No other damage in spite of it being the cause of nocturnal commotion and hilarity that had awakened me in the night!

The big disappointment came later when it was time to go home, the lamp was one of the farm stock and had to stay there. My ownership was only temporary.

I still fondly remember the big, brass lamp and the clever way the glass lifted in order to light the wicks, the adjuster knob, the snuffer and the heavy scrw filler that I kept so bright.

My uncle and aunt are gone now, so has the farm and pub. Gone also the barns, rickyard and orchard and the outside earth closet and midden. In it's place there is now an old peoples bungalow estate.

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