We are southerners really, and went to live with our
paternal grandmother in 1941/42 because my father, a soldier, was sent to
Scotland after returning from Dunkirk. Yorkshire being easier to get home to
than Devon, especially since war time rail travel was a bit chaotic.
He was a Yorkshire man having being born in Cudworth, near Barnsley, in
1905. His father Humphrey Nixon was a coal miner and I do not know very much
about him. My grandmother was called Mrs. Burgin. Mr. Burgin, who I never
knew, was my fathers stepfather. He was a timber contractor to the mines,
and he forced my father to leave school at 12 (1917) to work down the pit.
My father had to crawl into worked out seams to recover still useable
timber, so that it could be used again. Later on he became a pony driver
before joining the army (Duke of Wellingtons). My grandmother had previously
been married to a man called Humpherson, with whom she had two sons. George,
whose memorial I sent you previously, and Edward (Ted).
Ted was a miner and pigeon fancier. Teddy married but his wife left him
sometime in the 1920`s. She left him with three children, Monica, Gwen and
Kenneth. Monica kept house for her father, Gwen was training to be a teacher
but gave it up to join the Land Army, and Kenneth was away in the army
(1941/42). They all lived at 17 East Vale Drive Thrybergh. Gwen and her
father were still there in 1961. Monica had married and lived a short
distance away. I do not know what happened to Kenneth.
This photo is of my cousins Monica (left), and Gwen Humpherson,
We lived with my grandmother at 33 Whinney Hill. This was a terrace of
houses with the backyards shared by two families. They had two rooms
upstairs and two down. I think there was some attic space. The fronts faced
Whinney Hill and the backs faced the backs of similar houses on Doncaster
Road. In between was some waste ground where we all played.
The houses were very basic. There was no electricity, only gas. The kitchen
had only one cold water sink, there was no hot water. There was a kitchen
range and a copper with a little fireplace under it so the water could be
heated on washday (Monday). The outside toilet was beside the midden in the
backyard. This must have been a recent addition as my grandmother used to
tell us that the toilet used to be a box and bucket affair.
She used to rub her back step with a piece of sandstone that could be picked
up on the waste ground. When it dried it was a lovely clean cream colour.
All the women used to follow this procedure. We used to listen to the
wireless in the evenings. There being no electricity, the wireless was
powered by a battery and two accumulators, Grandma had four , two were
always at the shop being charged up which cost sixpence. It was my job to
take them to the shop and collect the charged ones.
When the Germans were bombing Rotherham and Sheffield the air raid siren
would sound, and we had to go in grandma's pantry which was under the
stairs. My mother was deemed available for war work, as we had a grandma to
look after us. Mum worked in a munitions factory over in Maltby, where she
operated a capstan lathe making rifle barrels.
Outside, Whinney Hill led down to Dalton Brook. Down there were some shops
and the cinema known as the Bughut. If there was an air raid while you were
in the cinema, a notice was put on the screen telling you to remain in the
cinema. However when the film finished they chucked you out anyway.
There was a pub in Dalton called the Grapes. My Grandma used to like to go
there sometimes where she drank Red Biddy Where Doncaster Road and Whinney
Hill met there was the Police Station right on the apex. Opposite The Police
Station, on the Whinney Hill side, were some more shops one of which was the
barbers. Going on up Hill, just before the church, were some more shops.
There was a fish and chip shop there, and a Co-Op (I think). If you wanted
to go into Rotherham you went on the trolley bus, which everybody called the
I used to go to Whinney Hill School. This was up the top on the right hand
side. Opposite the school was a Post Office and the Working Men`s Club.
There was a path beside the school that led down to a stream where we often
went to play. You could find flints in the stream that made a spark when you
knocked then together. I remember playing in the water. We had nothing as
grand as swim suits; we just left all our clothes on the bank and played in
the stream with nothing on.
Later we moved from Whinney Hill to Silver Street, it was the same kind of
houses and we had the two rooms at the front. The family that lived in the
back were called Liston. Two families living in one house may sound strange
now, but this was wartime and you just had to make do as best you could. We
lived in the second house up, number 2 [ I think.] I remember the Knocker
Up, who used to tap on windows to wake people up in the mornings. I think
you had to pay him for this. Nearly all the men worked in the mines, and
mornings you could see them all walking to work.
Pithead baths were in use in the mines when I was in Yorkshire, so the men
did not come home covered in coal dust. My Father used to tell me how dirty
they would come home before the baths were introduced.
The houses up in East Vale Drive were more modern with an indoor toilet and
a bathroom, but I do not know when they were built. I am sure that my Uncle
Ted would have only been renting it, but I do not know if they belonged to
the mines or the local authority. I donít know if there is much more I can
tell you about those far off days, I havenít been back there since 1961 But
I expect it has changed a lot. I think those old houses on Whinney Hill are
gone now, but Silver Street is still there as is East Vale Drive. I donít
know about the school as it was old then, so perhaps now itís gone.
Two things I always wanted then was to be like all the other boys, and have
my hair shaved off with just a fringe in front. Also to wear clogs with the
iron on the bottom. My mum would not let me have either. Lovely memories of
those far off days.
©Roy Nixon 2006