Chapter 4:

The family expands and we move on….


Continuing on from Chapter 2……

My Mother then gets pregnant again which is probably the downfall of her relationship with her Mother, my Nannan to whom she wasn’t to speak to for the next 20 or so years.

So, I am guessing in mid/ late 1958 when my Mother is pregnant for the second time with my sister Elsie May known as May – she hates Elsie with a purple passion actually probably as much as I hate football – my Nannan keeps her promise of throwing her out of the house to fend for herself.

The story goes and this maybe the point at which it happened that my Nannan offered to adopt me. But, she was refused. How different life would have been.

I suppose I was to become a kind of substitute for my Nannan’s lost son, Cyril.

Now, my sister May is born on March 21st, 1959 and as far as I remember we are living in Mrs Kelly’s boarding house somewhere in Huddersfield, maybe Phoenix Street, which I think is pulled down now.

I think May’s father’s name was ‘Keegan’ – I know nothing more than that.

What I remember of Mrs Kelly’s is that I slept in a room with a lot of workmen – I can’t remember how many but there seemed to be a lot. I remember you had to stand on the bed and stretch to reach for the light-switch so, we had electricity. It was basically a doss-house. But it was a roof over our heads.

There were lots of cold, stone steps to climb up to the bedroom and down to the kitchen. Half-way up or down stood the huge tank-like Silver Cross pram which was used for my baby sister. They don’t make prams like that these days I can hear my Yorkshire voice saying! I can remember peeing behind it one day – why, I have no idea, but I remember it.

The only other memory I have is that one evening I locked myself inside the bathroom or washing area. It had frosted windows and the wooden partition was painted a horrible pale green colour. My Mother was banging on the door for me to open but I refused and carried on putting on lip-stick – whose, I have no idea! This must have carried on for quite a while because the boyfriend, maybe ‘Keegan’ apparently was climbing the drain-pipe outside to try to get in through the bathroom window. Perfect timing – just as he got there I opened the door. Pure coincidence because I was not and I am still not that clever or dastardly enough to plan that sort of thing.

All I can remember of Mrs Kelly is that she wore one of those pudding cloth turbans and a wrap-around pinny (pinafore/ apron). I don’t remember if she was a nice woman or not.

After my sister May was born and Mr Keegan went on his merry way my Mother was to meet a man whom she would later marry and who made my life a misery. I apologise to my brothers and sisters for having to say this but it is true. I must warn them that there is something below which they might not know and is very shocking. I am publishing it because it gives an idea of the man and my circumstances and I would have never published it if he were still alive.

What I know about the man before he met my Mother in the early 60’s is what he told me himself and I will try to remember to the best of my knowledge. If I am not sure about something either I will not say it or say I am not sure.

The following I was told a couple of times the few times he and I went out for a drink together. So, I was an adult. I was never ever at ease around him even as an adult but I tried my damnedest to get on with him. I believe this is why I am never at ease with men at all even now. I suppose I feel as though they are always judging me and looking down at me because that’s what he did to me. He whittled me down over the years.

Anyway this is what he told me – he had been married before and he had a child, a son. This was the blond-haired boy I had seen in a photograph. In the photograph himself was in his army uniform and this little boy was sat on his knee I seem to remember. I was told that the boy was his nephew when I was a child. But, now I know it was his son. I am not sure if there is a woman stood behind them because I haven’t seen the photograph in many years and I maybe mixing it up with old photographs recently lent to me by my Auntie Sandra and Uncle Peter.

He is in his uniform and a blond-haired boy are for sure. If there is a woman I am guessing she was his first wife.

He and his first wife’s Mother did not get on at all and he hated her. He hated her so much that he tried to kill her by burning down the house she was in with his wife and his son too.

They survived and he was arrested and sent to the local mental institution in Huddersfield called Storthes Hall.

I have actually been inside there on several occasions when with the school choir we would sing Christmas carols to the patients as well as at the local Infirmary at Lindley.

He told me that he was experimented on with LSD and his memories of what happened are that one day he went to the loo and as he was stood there peeing the whole of his lower half burst into flames. I am not sure whether he said he could ‘feel’ pain but he was frightened – as one would be!

The other memory was that on a walk through the grounds of Storthes Hall there was a house in the distance and all of a sudden he could see through the windows of the house and see every detail of the room or rooms inside.

Since he told me this story I have always had a film version of it…there would be a park with a ridge – all green – the camera would see a line of patients all in white staggering along the ridge – the shot would be a distant shot. The patients would enter the screen on the left and on the far right would be this solitary detached house which we would then see from the patients’ point of view – then the special effects of what can be seen from a distance…….

He was assessed and believed to be safe to go back into society. But, even he knew he wasn’t. So, he was let out to attempt to murder all three people again but this time by holding on to them whilst burning down the house so, including killing himself.

He failed and was institutionalised again.

Now, I have no idea when all that happened but it must have been in the 50’s because he met Shirley sometime in the late 5o’s. My eldest brother Stephen, his eldest to my Mother was born on February 19th 1961 so at the latest it is safe to say that they met in June 1960 when Stephen must have been conceived.

My Mother’s partner told me he was living with a prostitute who was a very good friend and took care of him.

One evening they were out in their local pub which I think was The Fleece in Huddersfield.

The prostitute (I am sorry I don’t know her name) went to the loo and he said he looked across the bar of the pub and ‘my world turned upside down when I saw your Mother’. He said he went over to speak to her and bought her a drink which was a gin & orange…..

(Gin & orange  was the fashionable drink of the time. I remember my Mother telling me a story of when she went to ‘The Polish Club’ in Huddersfield with my Father, I suppose. She was, as far as I know a very good-looking woman but having no photographs of her at that time I can’t comment. But, she said that a lot of the club members bought her so many gin & oranges that she fell into the band that was playing that night and the next thing she remembers is waking up in hospital having her stomach pumped.)

….when the woman came back to find him she saw that he had bought this other woman a gin & orange and said something like ‘Oh, she gets a gin & orange, does she? – All you ever bought me was half a fucking bitter!’

I am not sure what happened after that but it is safe to say that he was 30 when he moved in with Shirley (24), Barry (5) May (15 months), embryo Stephen and around this time.

I suppose it was magnanimous or desperate of him to take on two other children as well as the one on the way.

I am not sure if he lived or stayed at Mrs Kelly’s doss-house – I doubt there was any room and as it was a business I doubt she would allow sleep-overs anyway.

From Mrs Kelly’s on Phoenix Street, Huddersfield I was told that being homeless all four of us slept rough in Greenhead Park, Huddersfield. My baby sister May in her Silver Cross pram and the rest of us on park benches. I am not sure if my Mother was pregnant at this point but I don’t remember my brother Stephen being born by the time we rented a room in a house on Bradford Road, Brighouse which was situated almost next to the Martin’s Nest pub which still does trade today.

In this house were a foreign couple who I think could have been the landlords who lived in the front room. The lady I can remember vaguely had an Audrey Hepburn type hairstyle and was very kind to me. She used to give me these huge chunks of chocolate which I found out was cooking chocolate hence the thickness of the bars – but it was delicious!

Upstairs with us there was an Irish lady who was very nice and one day I was in her room and she left to go to the kitchen or somewhere and on her wall was a large painting of Jesus Christ and it felt as though he was watching me; staring at me and he scared the be-Jesus out of me so much so that when the lady returned she found me wedged out of the sight of the painting in between the wardrobe and the wall. And, no I don’t have 666 etched on my scalp – as far as I know.

We had bed in a room in which my sister and I ‘top n’ tailed’…not sure if he and my Mother slept in the same room. I am guessing that they did.

We had use of the kitchen at the back of the house as a living room but the other residents used it too to cook, etc….so there always seemed to be queues of people waiting to use the sink and the cooker.

I remember one day my Mother back-combing her hair or piling on the lacquer in front of the mirror as she was wont to do and, she caught me playing with my willy. I was sat on the couch behind her coiffing herself when she saw me in the mirror. She didn’t half hit me with her comb which stung like hell! I am sure there was some invective hurled too – that was par for the course. That was to happen many times in the future, not me playing with my willy but being hit with a comb only with a bigger almost ‘clown-like’ comb.

The only other thing I can remember from living here is that there was a tortoise in the garden from which I thought, at the time, I had caught the chicken-pox. Silly Billy! But I had imagination, I suppose!

When we moved from Bradford Road our next port of call was Gooder Lane, Rastrick where we lodged with ‘Auntie Lizzie’ (Hurst).

She was a fabulous character. She was about four feet tall. And, had a wizened face – I think she had some kind of syndrome not dissimilar to the comedian Jimmy Clitheroe. She, like most folk smoked like a chimney and swore like a trooper.

No matter how warm it was she always wore a coat; a head-square and I remember later on in the 60’s or early 70’s those white PVC boots normally reserved for ‘dolly birds’.

She used to call round all the time when we moved away from her house to play cards with my Mum afor coppers. It was very competitive. If I ever joined in my Mother would bait me and tell me to hurry up and say I can’t play it properly. Really boost my ego – not! Thanks Mum! You would have thought that they were playing for thousands – but as Robert Browning said ‘It’s not the winning it’s the taking part’.

So, she always wore all this clothing and boots in spring, summer, autumn & winter and we would see through the window her arrival and would mouth ‘Ooh, int it fucking cold!?’ – she would enter and exclaim ‘Ooh, int it fucking cold!?’ and we would all laugh amongst ourselves.

So, Lizzie Hurst took us in as lodgers in this small house on Gooder Lane which was probably a worker’s cottage originally built by and for the brick-yard at the rear which was a place of wonder for us children. More of that later too!

Living in this small house besides us and Lizzie was her son – John, I think his name was.  He used to pretend to fight with me and sit on top of me and hold my arms to the floor and tell me to submit. I don’t think he meant any harm but it did hurt. Maybe Bob Eatwell lived with her too. Not sure he was on the scene at this point.

Around this time and certainly while we were living at Gooder Lane I started nursery at Longroyde Junior & Infants School which I think is still a functioning school all these years some 51 years later.

The nursery was run by Mrs Blackshaw and we had to climb up all these outside steps to our classroom which was at the bottom of the playground.

My memory of this period from about 4 or 5 was probably for a year before I moved onto the Infant’s section of the same school.

My memories of Mrs Blackshaw’s class are probably what every other child remembers – sand-pit, clay & plasticine to play with. Janet and John books. I remember the first reading cards we had were ‘C-O-W’ – ‘Cow’; ‘P-I-G’ – ‘Pig’, etc….

In fact, when I hear or see those Joyce Grenfell sketches set in a school classroom it reminds me of Mrs Blackshaw’s class.

We also had these huge pine-coloured speakers brought in and hooked up and we used to listen to a Children’s Programme on the radio and whatever the posh lady said to do on the speakers, we did ‘Be a fairy!’ for example…..

I am not sure whether we learnt about planting flower bulbs in nursery or infants but the school garden was near the nursery at the back of it next to the caretaker’s cottage.

But, we had to plant bulbs in the winter before the snow and cold came and we would see our flowers in the Spring. And, what joy when we did! Hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils – the lot!

One bad experience happened to me whilst in nursery too – I remember going to pat the caretaker’s dog and it bit my whole face! It scared me more than hurt me I think but I was allowed to go home and we still lived on Gooder Lane, Rastrick because I remember John Hurst opening the front door which opened straight into the living room and probably kitchen area too all-in-one.

From Lizzie Hurst’s Gooder Lane house we moved a hop, skip and a jump to our own place at 36, Rastrick Common which was rented from a Polish man named Julian…..

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6 responses »

  1. Odalys Amion says:

    Wow, Barry! If you don’t carry on blogging soon, I’ll burst! Very intriguing family stories you’ve got here…especially your recollection of Frank ‘s familial homocidal tendancies made me shudder-
    Yet, looking forward to more!
    p.s. little Barry homeless : ( …and sorry about JS not writting back…

  2. Hi Odalys….I want to get on with it but it will slow down soon because most of what’s already here was prepared. I know the more I think of Frank doing what he did the more awful it is. But, he must have been pushed and pushed and pushed….
    I don’t remember that incident of homelessness but the more recent one I do….it’s not pleasant.

  3. Kellie says:

    I really enjoyed your blog so far Barry. The great descriptions you give along with the pictures plays out like a movie in my mind. Looking forward to more.

  4. katie moran says:

    Well Sir, you have moved me to tears… I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed my Sunday morning read. PLEASE keep going with this memoir. To know you in the later years has been my good fortune. But for you to share your youth and background – I feel moved, intrigued, and left wanting for more. Keep going Barry it’s brilliant!
    xoxo

  5. Thanks Katie girl!

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