- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Elizabeth Manifold
- Location of story:
- Rock Ferry (Merseyside)
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 03 February 2004
I was born in Birkenhead to an English father a southern irish mother and was their seventh and last child, they had four daughters and three sons. They had met when my father was in the army and was stationed in Co. Kildare in the army barracks overlooking the Curragh racecourse, my mothers family had two sons and four daughters and they lived and owned a farm on the Curragh an was so named Curragh farm. The family took in washing for the troops and that is how they met, fell in love and married, this was during the first world war, and when it was over they came to England with my sister and brother, sadly their elder daughter had died tragically through smoke inhalation and shock from fire and though my father loved Ireland it held too many painful memories for both him and my mother to stay and they set up a home in Birkenhead where my father was born. He had suffered during the war as he was in France in water filled ditches overun with rats and the awful gas inhalation. They went on to increase their family two more girls and two more boys and my father opened his shop in the town as he was a shoemaker and saddler. There wasn't much call for saddles to be made nor handmade shoes but he was able to repair them. I was born in Birkenhead in the shop but 1930 was the start of the recession, jobs were thin on the ground and so in the end he had to close the shop as people couldn't afford to have shoes repaired he then drove a taxi to earn a living for a while. Then moved to Rock Ferry and later to Tranmere whilst i was there the second World War was looming and my eldest brother had already joined the army as a regular due to the lack of work. When it broke in 1939 i was eight and attending the st. Anne's Roman Catholic school having previoulsy attended the infants school in Birkenhead, Holy Trinity. My parents were concered about living near the town and docks and it was suggested that i could be evacuated to Wales and they aggreed my sibling brother was 14 and had left school and the other siblings were adults. I remember going through a rehersal at school for the real day of evacuaton and was a bit worried about leaving my family behind and also a new puppy called Peggy. I was somewhat relieved when it didn't happen that day and we all went home.
However the day did come and it was very emotionful parting from my parents, siblings and Puppy and of we went on the train to Welshpool in Wales, It seemed a long journey and was late afternoon when we arrived tired and worried at the station. One small case with my few belongings and the hated gasmask its smell reminded me of my infrequent visits to the dentists. As any extractions i had were by gas. I really don't think there was any in depth organisation as we all stood huddled on the platform with out label pinned to our coats with name and age on. I'm not sure if we were designated in advance to a particular family but as it all thined out after a considerable time or so it seemed to me, i began to think no-one wanted me but i was wrong and at last i had the good fortune to be placed with a nice family called mr and Mrs evans and they had a daughter called june. I guess i was older by about two years though i was tall for my age. For me and probably the family it was a bit of a shock as we were a working class family sharing a very small terraced house and here i was a little like Eliza Dolittle arriving at this beautiful detached house with a garage and land around it and a garden. It was up a long drive, on a hill and of an A road but nothing like as busy.
Despite being tire and disorienteated they made me welcome and fed me and what a treat to hava a whole banana to myself. The house inside was lovely as were all the rooms including my bedroom first time i'd had a bed to myself, never mind a room. I said my prayers, got into bed and cried myself to sleep. Next day was sunday and we got to know each other better and June and i hit it off very well, she had a wonderful playroom full of wonderful toys. A huge coach built dolls pram and a large dolls house and i was mesmerised as my toys at home consisted of a teddy bear costing five shillings, todays moneys thats 25p given to me when i fell ill, i was about 4 and a half. I had measles followed by chicken pox and wooping cough and then a kidney infection. I wasn't able to go to school until i was well over five years of age. My other comfort during those childhood illnesses ws my fathers torch, you could move a button and change the light from white to red to green -magic. Curtains you see were drawn in the bedrom all day as of measles the light can damage your eyes, so the torch was good. Later on in life toys and books were thin on the ground so you can imagine my joy at being able to play with someone elses. Next day, Monday i began the small school as the area was rural and i remembered that it wasn't far away as i walked there. The thing that upset was we passed the slaughter area and children just stood and watched the sheep, pigs and cows also i remember them baiting a bull in a small pen before killing it, pretty horribl seeing that happening. The evans family were certainly middle to upper class and junes father had a traveling sweet and grocery shop, it was a single decker bus that had been converted inside and once or twice June and i went out around customers and we were able to have sweets - what a treat as they were in short supply though this family had no problem getting food or meat living in the countryside and i settled in though i don't know how long i was with them. They had a radio and at teatime each day there was a prgram called Uncle Mac and it was for children everywhere when the program finished he sang a song to us all which reduced me to tears it began with "goodnight children everywhere you mummy thinks of you tonight." One day i was moved to another family and the reason given was the evanses were having a niece from London to sta as the city was under threat. I was very upset having to move and especially as the family were much poorer than my own. It was a very small teracced house i don't even remember the family's name they had a son who was in the army and a son at home a couple of years older than me, i wasn't there very long. My parents came to visit me as they had a motorbike and sidecar and on one of the visits we went into Delamere forest and my mother, as she had done on previous visits sat me down and dad gave his newspaper to her which she unfolded and took from her handbag the dreaded nit comb and proceeded to comb through my thick long hair. I was not allowed to have my hair loose on school days it was in plaits or bunches. This lady hadn't a clue about girls hair and so my parents were horrified to find my hair was alive with nits and lice my mum spent ages combing and killing and wanted to just take me home there and then and would risk the bombing raids and dad persuaded here to go through the correct procedure and then return as soon as possible to collect me. Knowing my wonderful caring mother i feel sure she would have told the lady a thing or two that day when she reluctantly had to leave me with them. They came back to collect me with clearance with the school authorities i assume, i was so glad to be home again. Sad to find the Puppy was lost we found her in a dogs rescue compound and brought her home.Unfortunately she had several fits probably due to being in the compound with lots of dogs barking continueally and the vet said she was so traumatised she had to be put down.
After returning home i also had to have my long hair cut very short and that only meant one thing as girls didn't have short hair styles, very embarrasing. At every opportunity my hair was washed, ofte twice a day with derbac soap and then my mother and both sisters would fine tooth comb it. My poor scalp was so tender from the constant raking through it, my parents decided to move from the village of tranmere to the village of Easthan and what a joy it was to leave the small terraced house which backed ontothe railway electrified with its huge dark brick wall with the trains running above it. The house was modern with three bedrooms and a bathroom the first we had ever had and electric lighting instead of gas, open fields behind us and my new school up the road with field and woodland beyond. We also had a lovely garden and my father and brothers made an air raid shelter down below the garden level during this time the house and shop we had lived in, in brikenhead some 5 miles away had been bombed and the only thing left was the sandstone step of the once corner front door. It had been a corner shop with part of the house in the side street and workshop and front door was in Elden Street. I think the people living there perished, my fathers sister also died horrifically in that same raid blown from her bed and impailed on railing. My grandmother on my fathers side ws bombed out of her home and came to live with us for a time. Before going into R.C retirement home in the village as we were already overcrowded with 6 of us and grandma. The war continued and we were very near the loch at eastarm the river mersey and the boats used to go across to liverpool at one time just as pleasure trips. At Eastarm loch there was a large hotel and they held dinner dances prior to the war. People cam across from liverpool to them and there was woodland full of bluebells and they would picnic and walk, 5 miles away from Eastarm was Shell Mex oil refinery and about three miles away at hooton there was an RAF camp. So we were still venerable as regards bombing raids. In the road we lived a thousand pound bomb dropped some 12 houses away and we were evacuated to the school up the road near the woods and field for safety fortuately it was unexploded and after several days of living in the school and sleeping in the air raid shelters on wooden benches we were able to go back to our homes. My eldest brother had joined the army during the recession and signed on for long term but as war came along he was invloved and in the prince of wales regement. He ended up wounded and shell shocked and he had contracted malaria in india. He was reported missing but returned some 12 months later very early one morning and had come in on the mail train from london. He stammered badly and told us he had been in a hospital in Sussex and had lost his dog tags and didn't know who he was when asked he said call me Jim weird because that was his younger brothers name he had also married and his wife is still alive now aged 82 we were overjoyed at him being alive he was the eldest brother.My second brother Edward was exempt from the war having contracted pneaumonia at 16 and subsequently was in hospital for two years and lost a lung. My younger brother James joined up when he was 18 on March 28th 1943 and was killed in the normandy invasion on June 28th 1944, 19 years of age. He was in the first battalion the tyneside scottish black watch royal highlanders the awful part is that it was right at the end of the war my parent nor my remaining four sibling hd ever visited his grave in France, but in 1999 a friend located his cousins cemetrey in Caen who was also killed the same day in June 1944 as my brother. They were kind enough to locate my brothers cemetry in St, Manvieu War cemetry in September 2000 my elder son took me to see it. My father always wanted to take my mother but i don't think she could accept te fact that he had died and i think she hoped that he would just turn up on the doorstep as my elder brother had. She had visited many Clairvoyants and were always given the hope that he wasn't dead and would return to us. None of us ever recovered from his loss.
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