In the May of 1948, I was to be married. Not to the traditional ‘girl-next-door’, but near enough. As we were still on strict rationing, I was fortunate that a kind lady who had a bakery on one of the beats, said she would make us a wedding cake. As they opened early, it was always a place for a warm up and a nice cup of tea.
The Marriage – 13 th May 1948
We were married in the local church, where we had both been confirmed by, coincidentally, the Bishop of Jarrow. On leaving the church, the children outside would shout ‘shabby wedding’ until I threw out a handful of ‘copper coins’. This was followed by a short journey to the local Miner’s Welfare Hall where the bride’s mother, and her many friends, had come up with a magnificent spread, especially considering the rationing difficulties.
My younger brother was the best man and he did all the usual official duties. When it was my turn, I thanked all our guests for their special efforts and many presents at a difficult time, and then told them this story which seemed appropriate for the time:
“This man in Jarrow saw this sign ‘Soup and bread for one shilling’ so he went in and had some, after which the owner said ‘How was that?’ he replied ‘Fine, but only two pieces of bread’. So the next day when he came, the owner put out four chunks of bread. ‘How was that?’ he replied ‘Lovely, but not much bread, was there?’. The next day when he came in the owner got a whole bloomer, cut it in half and stood it on end on a plate. After the man had finished, the owner said ‘Well, how was that?’ The man replied ‘Fine, but I see we’re back to two pieces of bread again!”
the reception to go to
After the honeymoon, I had to stay in lodgings in Jarrow from May to December. My roommate was Tommy, who happened to be on the same shift as me, but our days off were different. I helped him with our fortnightly education papers of English and Maths and he said he would be my driver when I was made Superintendant! I saw him years later, still on Tyneside but a very good sergeant. He had served in submarines, and one night he woke up shouting ‘We’re sinking’ [in submarines] and put his fist through the window. The window was duly repaired, but the landlady was pretty scared by the incident.
pm, reporting for duty on the 21st December 1948, I was told I had
been allocated a flat at
The van picked me up,
went to Sunderland for some basic furniture, then to my new wife’s home for
some more and then on to
The FLAT! was a large room above a shop, then a bedroom on the next floor with a tap and sink on the way up. The toilet was on the ground floor down an alley. The removal man said ‘I wouldn’t put your bed up there’, When I asked him why not, he replied ‘It will go through the floor!!’ So everything went into the one large room above the shop.
The property was old, with walls about three feet thick and on going to bed on the first night with all our new cooking utensils in the gas cooker, we had only just put the light out when there was a lot of scratching. MICE - and lots of them! We set numerous traps but it was mostly a question of sitting with our feet up.
There was another flat above, which was occupied by two women, who seemed prepared to entertain some of the 15,000 troops in the area. The property had come about because the police officer intending to use it had been divorced and was remarried. At the last minute, he had been allocated a house in another station. Usually the property would have been vetted by an inspector but this had not been done so after six months I submitted a report suggesting it was not a suitable place for a police officer. About a month later, a house became available and this flat was given up.
Our new property was an end of terraced house, with no hot water, a lift up top bath and an outside toilet – but a palace in comparison to the previous place. My wife got a job as a clerk in the local Glaxo drug factory, earning as much, if not more than me, although I did have free accommodation. Thinking back I think there should have been compensation for those houses that were below standard.
became acquainted with some of my wife’s pro-police colleagues at work and went
to many of the local country dances. Eventually we became quite expert at the
intricacies of the Eight-some Reel and
When her friend became pregnant, and now 25 years of age, my wife wanted to join the clan. The early forecast was probably twins. We should have known as there were numerous such cases on both sides of our family. Her weight was such that it became necessary for her to go into hospital at Bishop Auckland one month before her due date.
In 1951, it was the early days of the NHS and to encourage a birth, it became necessary for her to take caster oil, have a bath (where the nurse forgot she was there) and an enema. The babies arrived within 20 minutes of each other, beautiful twin girls – eight pounds one and eight pounds two!
Time off for me to go to the hospital was not allowed. So I finished duty at 6pm and dashed to get the 6.30pm bus to go the hospital at Bishop Auckland where I found that all was well. There was no such thing as Paternity leave in those days.
I think they came home
by ambulance, and we had managed to get a cot. We could not afford a pram but
my wife’s brother, who lived on Tyneside, bought us a second-hand Silver Cross
and brought it down from Tyneside to
Jean with the twins in the Silver Cross pram
twins in their pram were put outside on the front step, well meaning passers-by
would knock and say the babies are crying – very helpful. The house was very
close to the
I would regularly come off duty about 6pm to find my exhausted wife with one baby in each arm, all fast asleep in the armchair. The twins were quickly removed to the upstairs cot. At night, one would wake up the other and had to be carried about until I managed to get both of them off to sleep. I had to do the floor walking as their mother was pretty shattered.
We did have an unusual situation one day. There was a knock on the door about 7pm one night. A man who I knew had a large restaurant in the town, said he would like to see us. He said ‘We are not able to have a family and my wife would not rest until I saw you’. He said ‘We know you have had twins and are young enough to have some more. We wondered if you would give one up?’ Half asleep and dreary eyed I said ‘Would you like two’? However I was taken aback, wondered about the legal position, especially as I was a police officer. In any event we would never have been able to decide which one, so I told him “Sorry” but, difficult as it was, we would keep our twins.
We were constantly stopped when taking them out as they seemed to be the only twins in this area. I remember one farmer acquaintance on looking at them saying ‘Well, stock is as good as money’. It did not seem like that at the time. The twins were a very demanding, healthy pair and we had to buy a second cot from the local sale room.
When they were about 6 months old, their maternal grandmother took ill with a severe heart attack and my wife had to go and look after her. The twins went up to Tyneside to be kindly looked after by my wife’s elder brother and his wife. After about a month, the grandmother died although at least she had seen her grandchildren. Normal service was resumed but only after my wife became quite distressed because the twins hardly recognised her. It was not for long.
In about 1953 I was posted to Division headquarters at Bishop Auckland to man the counter for visitors, do court files and expense claims from Divisional personnel. The house allocated did have hot water and a bath but was bought cheaply because it was in a slum clearance area. One man along the street, a notorious criminal, had 99 convictions. We had a small grass garden which was ideal for the twins, who attracted the local children when looking through the gate. Our daughters got head lice.
I got a council allotment for a small annual sum and it provided us with potatoes, lettuces, cabbages and other vegetables. My sturdy cycle became useful again and I came home laden with produce. My wife would sometimes sell a cabbage to the woman nearby whose husband did not work. This lady was referred to as having produced 12 children “twice” since her first ‘number twelve’ child died and subsequently the second number twelve survived.. Two of her many girls would babysit for us while we went, very rarely, to the cinema.
I was selected to go on a Civil Defence
instructor’s course at
film of the atomic bomb was fascinating. Each student was given a certain
subject on which they had to lecture and I was given the parachute mine. Having
done the background talk, when most of my audience were yawning away, like a
magician I produced a matchbox, loaded with chalk attached with string to a
handkerchief and I threw it in the air. With a bang on the desk for the
explosion, it illustrated the parachute mine perfectly and certainly it woke
them up! I got a Special Instructor’s certificate. Subsequently I was used in
Civil Defence for many years, going to courses in Yorkshire and
In January, 1955 I was posted to a detached station – Hamsterley – House no 5. It was a 24 hour beat with a large forestry estate and I had a 500cc Norton motorcycle to get around it. There were no street lights and these country folk were a cagey lot. My wife used to make all the clothes for the children including dresses and coats on an old Singer treadle machine. We therefore had to go to Bishop Auckland market for material on my day off. The locals, taking advantage of my absence, would then get out their unlicensed tractors etc. However, I would put away the noisy motorcycle in the garage behind the pub and then go out again in soft-soled boots!
The twins caused a furore by picking the daffodils off the war memorial and bringing them to their mother, much to the hilarity of the old village codgers sitting nearby. They were duly thanked and the flowers replaced on the war memorial in a vase.
I issued a summons to one of the least liked persons in the village for allowing his pigs to stray on the highway and stopped a man at 5am in the morning who had no lights on his bicycle, saying – ‘Show me it next week, properly equipped’.
In these ways, I was rather like the officer sent to a detached station and was determined to make a name for himself. He reported the local GP for leaving his car unlocked with access to drugs, and also the local publican for drinking after hours. His problem was the local priest. The vicarage was at the top of a steep hill while the church was at the bottom just after a ‘Halt’ sign. The vicar would come flying down the road on his bicycle with his cassock blowing in the wind like angels wings. The policeman, who had been hiding behind a hedge, then stepped out. With a screech of brakes, the expectant miscreant always miraculously stopped. After a couple of tries at this, the vicar said ‘I am sorry officer, but the Lord is with me’. The officer replied ‘Aha got you! Two on a bike’!
However, for me, it was a case of, if you can’t beat them -join them. The area had been used during the war as an Italian Prisoner-of-War camp and there was a hall and a disused swimming pool. With the help of a local businessman, I had the pool renovated and filled with very cold spring water and had the hall was decorated.
The hall was to be used for a Youth Club and I managed to get Eve Boswell of South African and Sugar Bush fame, then performing at the Sunderland Empire to officially open it. The hall was also used for a demonstration by a team of roller skating experts.
Eve (Sugarbush) Boswell – Hamsterly 1956
Bishop Auckland I started a 3 year criminology course at
The system of detached stations was such that one covered the area for 24 hours a day, with the exception of a weekly day off – midnight to midnight. You were allowed one night off after 6pm when you could leave your station although with no car and no bus service it was not much help.
Equally, this did not prevent a local farmer, for instance, knocking on the back door about 9pm with a Tilley lamp saying ‘I have come to report a case of anthrax’, or an anonymous telephone call at 10pm ‘Joe is just leaving the pub car park and has had too much to drink’. The public did not know you were supposed to be off-duty, so as far as they were concerned you were the village bobby who was always available.
have a lot to do with anthrax as there was a large knacker’s
yard on the beat. The owner had contracted anthrax himself and survived. He was
extremely conscientious and when dealing with fallen stock knew immediately if
it had died of anthrax and would contact the Ministry who would place a
destruction order on the animal and any others on the premises. This entailed
digging a large pit, to be filled with old railway sleepers, oil, paraffin etc
and in this case cattle and sheep [to the total of 12] had to be burned. The
whole process had to be supervised by the village bobby 24 hours a day until
eventually the pit was covered with lime and staked out with notices saying ‘not to be used’. In fact
during the First World War, Anthrax was used with little effect by the Germans
on mules in
next detached beat to me was manned by Joe, where the usual working hours
applied. He had been detailed for duty at the Assizes [as they then were] in
Joe did this duty for two weeks, and accrued many hours of overtime for which he was never paid. He requested a day off in lieu, but this was refused. Instead he was told to take an extra night off occasionally. At the time I was, as they say, the ‘fed rep’ or Federation Representative i.e. a police constable representing the constables. Sergeants and Inspectors dealt with their own ranks and conditions of service. Joe asked me to deal with his issue.
Federation Reps 1954. H.E. top right
brought it up at the next County meeting. The regulations at the time stated
that a constable should work 8 hours, but did not say which 8 hours. I asked
for the word ‘continuous’ to be inserted and this was recommended and forwarded
to the National Meeting. Police Forces such as the MET, Liverpool and
The eventual outcome was a plethora of notices ‘This station is not manned 24 hours – contact Telephone number xyz’. Did my well intentioned action prompt the demise of the 24x7 village bobby?