Whitby By John Wright

A History Of Whitby - whitby-abbey-at-night

It was a bright sunny day in May 1951. Although I was only three years of age, I have vivid recollections of that day.

Many people tell me, at that age you only remember what your parents tell you, but we had lived in Sunderland for my first two and a half years and I knew what my street looked like and could describe it.

Certain things that happened in Gateshead in the following few months are still fresh in my memory over 60 years later so I believe I had a photographic memory, unusual for someone so young.

The train pulled into Whitby station and I was excited. Never before had I been parted from my mother and never before had I been on a train, at least not for one as long as the journey from Gateshead to Whitby.

I was with my dad and we had left our old home in Bewick Road, what must have been very early in the morning. For economy, my sister, who was 30 months my senior was to travel with my mother and the removal men in the lorry. In those days I suppose the train was much faster and Dr Beeching had not yet had his way, so as we emerged from the station into the sunlight, my Dad told me to hurry up to walk up the hill to our new rented home in George St in one of the poorer parts of Whitby.

Nobody we knew bought their own houses in those post-war years and although we were not that poor I believe my father only earned a few pounds a week.

I never really understood my father fully during my childhood as he was a very difficult and complex man but he was driven by a strong ambition to drag himself up from the poverty he was born in, and make something out of his life and I suppose I inherited some of these traits from him.

He was the youngest of twelve children and had been born in the industrial heartland of West Yorkshire in 1915. His father and his grandfather had been potters labourers before the turn of the century.

They lived and died within a few miles of their birth as was the norm before the age of travel and even in 1953 following two world wars it was unusual for families to stray too far from their roots.

Every one of his siblings was to spend their lives in the humdrum existence of hand to mouth. His last sister, three years his senior still lives in Knottingley, a grey town surrounded by power stations and electric pylons and wreathed in the smoke and water vapour from the chimneys and cooling towers.

She is nearly 101 years of age now and for whom I have fond memories.

My father was very different from his brothers and sisters.

Following my grandmothers death from TB in the mid 20’s and my grandfather’s demise not long after, he was looked after by his oldest sister, Lucy until he was fourteen. In those days poorer children left school at that age and my father left home to live in Scarborough where he was to work as a newspaper boy for Mr Hamilton Harding, the manager of WH Smith.

He delivered newspapers, swept the bookstall on Scarborough station, and did a variety of menial tasks which were going to stand him in good stead for his future career in the news business.

He lodged with Mr Harding and his wife for several years and progressed steadily and while still in his early twenties became an assistant manager with the memories of his West Yorkshire homeland fading.

That was all to be put on hold with the coming of war as the 1930’s came to a close.

He joined the army almost at once and became a tank driver/commander and because of his managerial skills soon achieved the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant and spent the first part of the war training others to drive Churchill Tanks.

It was while returning from manoeuvres that he met my mother in Co Durham and although against all regulations offered her a lift in his tank. He was a very handsome man now in his early thirties and I suppose she had no thought of refusal and gladly accepted along with another couple of fellow junior nurses.

My mother was half Welsh and Half English and had been born in 1922 in the Coal mining town of Gorseinon, a few miles from Swansea. My maternal grandmother was a Nurse who had been sent to Wales during the 1st World War to take over the duties of a male nurse who was leaving for the trenches in war torn France. She was not a young woman having been born in 1879 and it was a few years later when she married a widower who was a Swansea Business man. This man had six children from his first marriage. This new union produced two more children, Gordon the eldest in 1920 and my mother Margaret; hence with my mother having 7 brothers and sisters and my father 11 brothers and sisters, my sister and I had thirty-six first cousins.

My Grandmother gave up nursing when she discovered that she had strong business acumen and with my grandfather, developed several shops in the Gorseinon area.

It was she who chased the unpaid bills, which my grandfather would have allowed to slide but there was resentment among the older half siblings and my grandparents left for London to open a fish and chip shop in Kilburn.

This was quite successful but the marriage was falling apart and when eventually it ended in divorce, my Grandmother returned to the place of her birth, Sunderland in the North East taking her two children with her.

In her teens my mother began nursing training which was destined to be a distinguished career spanning over 40 years and it was during training that she met my father.

By this time the war in Europe was drawing to a close, my mother and father were married in May 1944 and my mother became pregnant with my sister Gillian.

It was at this time that my father received orders to sail to India with his regiment and off he went in April 1945 as VE day approached.

He was there for 8 months and once VJ day came, he was sent home for discharge and eventually he got his old job back, but this time it was Gateshead within travelling distance of Sunderland.


I was born in May 1948 in Sunderland and the first house I lived in was in Rosslyn St, off Chester road. We lived with my Grandmother who by this time was bed-ridden. I remember her as a stern old lady who ate toffees hidden under her bed in a tin.

Sweets were in very short supply as the rationing of sugar after the war was to remain until 1953 and I discovered the hiding place as a toddler.

I don’t think the old lady ever twigged on and she was becoming very infirm by this time dying in 1951 when I was nearly three. Anyway I remember those toffees, which was probably my earliest memory of all.

Now that my grandmother was gone, there was really no reason for my father to continue the daily, 24 miles round trip to Gateshead Station so my parents made the decision to move to Bewick Road within walking distance of his business. I have been back there to look at the old house and it was certainly an improvement from the single story shipbuilder’s cottage in Rosslyn St.

I think that my father had gained a good reputation for rectifying deficits in loss making WH Smith’s shops and it was not long before he was asked to take over the bookstall which was located in the centre of Whitby town.

So they moved, lock stock and barrel to a new life and a greater contrast could not be imagined. Sunderland had been a seaside town but it was also one of the largest ship-building towns in the country and indeed the world.

You cannot have a clean, busy town and at that time Sunderland was heavily industrialised, dirty and always cold due to its position on the North Sea.

Gateshead was on the River Tyne and Bewick Road almost overlooked the famous bridge copied by the Australians to span Sydney Harbour. Today that part of Gateshead and Newcastle is very stylish but in the early 50’s was very grey and busy.

Ship building, following the war was thriving but people were poorly paid. The North East was also a coal mining area with pits in every town and the average pay was about £10 a week so there was little money for luxuries.

Dad went to Whitby for £12 a week and very glad to do so. Whitby is one of the most picturesque seaside towns in Great Britain and simply oozes history having been the home of Captain James Cook when he joined the Royal Navy.

Cook became a famous explorer and was my hero when I went to junior school. The only industry was fishing and it was very popular as a holiday destination.

It is hard for youngsters today to imagine life at that time. Things were very different from today and not really for the worse. A few years after the war had ended, nobody had much in the way of luxuries and “Keeping up with the Jones” had yet to be introduced to working class society.

As a result we all had “nothing” and we felt happy with our lot. If nobody has TV or cars or computers, x-boxes and the like then it is unlikely jealousy will prevail.

Few people had telephones and domestic fridges were unheard of and there were no automatic washing machines or tumble driers.

Families attempted to keep meat fresh in a zinc meat safe outside in the yard and the family’s weekly wash was done in the sink with a wooden hand held agitator and a wash board was used for getting the grime from cuffs and collars.

We had a mangle which was clamped to the sink and I have memories of being employed to turn the handle to wring out the water from the clothes.

Thus on that sunny day, we walked up the hill to George Street to our new home to await my mother and sister’s arrival in the removal van.

First Impressions

In the months that followed everything fell into place in our new town. Although not yet at school, there were many things to do and with my mother during the day we had to find the best shops, schools, council offices and social care centre.
All children in those days were entitled to free National Dried Milk below the age of three. We had to go to an office in Grape Lane on the East side of Whitby to pick up two white tins with blue lettering every fortnight. This stopped of course on my birthday but we had a friend whose child would not drink it and so our supply continued for some time. Orange squash was expensive and to ensure that we had plenty of vitamin C, the Government also gave us highly concentrated orange cordial in a medicine bottle and this was lovely. It was more than I could say for the Cod Liver Oil, which supplemented Vitamin D to ward off Ricketts. The dosage was 2 teaspoons a day and I held my nose to take it.
Most women with young families did not work at all beyond part time employment and to make ends meet many turned their hands to cottage industries such as preserve making, wine making and the like as a source of extra cash. One of our neighbours even made fluffy toys to sell at Christmas and did a roaring trade. In my mother’s case, being a qualified nurse she took part time nursing employment. Around the corner was the Cottage Hospital and to fit in with looking after me as a pre-school child she would work late afternoon shifts. She always said that she would never put me back to nursery school as in Gateshead she had had an unpleasant experience due to me refusing to stay without her. My mother also looked after old and infirm old ladies at the end of their lives for a pittance.

My sister Gillian went to a local primary school near George Street and nearly all local children went to church with their parents and we were no exception. My Father came from a Methodist background so we of course went to a Methodist church. I loved going to church which became not just a pastime but a way of life. As time went on I joined in with many activities the Methodist church provided for families. Ever since, although I have been to many churches over the years, I have never experienced the same close attachment to the family of God that I did at Brunswick Street.
Few things spring to mind during that pre-school time except that I used to play outside in the street during those days of few cars. One of the neighbours would always give me a boiled sweet when she saw me and on one occasion it went down the wrong way. If it had not been for my mother noticing this from a bedroom window and arriving quicker than Super Woman I would not be writing this now. The sweet was red and when it popped out onto the pavement I remember crying my eyes out as I didn’t have another.
In the next street lived a very old couple who my sister and I used to visit often. Their names were Mr and Mrs Oxley and Mr Oxley was known to my father as he too had been a manager for WH Smith, probably from before the war. In those days it was proper for children to visit “Lonely old folks” on a Sunday afternoon and we were always glad to do this. They were a very gentle old couple and it was never a chore. It is something that many children do not experience these days much to their detriment.

Spring Vale

George St was a dump in those days and was not by choice the place where my parents wanted to stay for any length of time. Being a Book Shop manager in the centre of town he met many people who were his customers. Smiths supplied every paper sold in Whitby at the time and one of his customers lived at 49 Spring Vale, a desirable group of terraced cottages in lower Stakesby.
The owners of this house were due to travel extensively, being rather well to do and kindly offered to rent it to us mainly to keep it “Lived In”. Spring Vale was rather different than it is now. Opposite No 49 there was an open field, now a housing estate but even more attractive to my sister and I was a copse of trees only a few yards up the road where we could have “Adventures”. If you walked a few yards the other way there were open fields which were venues for more adventures. This then was a great place to grow up.
There was plenty of room behind the cottage to ride a bike and my father had bought me a brand new “second hand” tricycle complete with rear boot for my fourth birthday and I was in seventh heaven. Around the back of No 49 there were other cottages and here lived a little red haired girl called Frances and she was my first real friend in Whitby. We were inseparable all the time we lived there. Next door was another cottage between us and the copse and here had lived a very famous Whitby author called Mary Linskill. She had died 50 years before but now in my 60’s I will set myself to explore and read her works.
As I said there was a copse of trees close by and my sister had a wonderful idea for building a den. She collected handfuls of seeds from the rough ferns in the fields and together we planted walls to form an intricate hiding place in early spring. The seeds germinated and grew to a much greater height that us and we were able to push the tops together to form a roof. We had wonderful times in the den that summer and I was able to show it to Frances.
At the entrance to the fields was an unusual cottage that is still there. It backed onto Spring Vale and the back had no windows, rather the roof coming almost down the street level. The front of the cottage looked out on open fields and it was like one of those idyllic English “Rose” cottages. Living there were two girls called Jennifer and Wendy Dutton and they were about the same age as my sister. I remember their parents had named the cottage Wendifer Cottage for obvious reasons. We were very friendly with them and were sad when they emigrated to Vancouver. This, I believe was the beginning of many thousands of British people leaving our country for a better life in our Commonwealth all over the world.
At that time lots of people decided that there was no great future in Great Britain and decided to throw caution to the wind and try somewhere else. Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa welcomed immigrants with open arms and many people made their fortunes and never returned. There was even assisted passage where it only cost £10 for the sea passage. It was a great shame to my mind that British people were nurtured and educated by the British state and for everyone who left gave the cost of this to another state. No wonder there was assisted passage offered.
Children were always encouraged to help people, especially old folks who lived nearby and we did not have to be asked. Even at the age of four I remember sweeping the snow from the front of Miss Speed’s cottage along the road. She offered me a threpenny piece for this but it was natural for us to refuse
In March 1953, winter went out like a lion and there were record breaking floods in the Eastern side of Britain. The epicentre was in Lincolnshire and Norfolk but in Whitby there were high tides up to 12 feet above normal. Damage to the whole coast was extensive but in Whitby and its surrounding coastal villages, damage was particularly bad. When water rises to 12 ft above normal there are no defences and the centre of Whitby suffered much damage and there were boats floating where the Coop and its car park presently are situated. WH Smith had some damage done but got away with the worst. The following day after most of the wind and high tides had subsided my father took me Sandsend where he supplied newspapers to one of the shops there. This shop was quite high up above where normal wave damage could occur but this time the entire shop was smashed to smithereens and even at the age of five I was impressed with the power of the sea. What I saw that day has stayed me all my life and funnily enough all our houses have always had their flood insurance up to date.
As I said the owners of the house we rented in Spring Vale were world travellers and around the furnished house were many items they had collected over the years. There was one room however that I was only allowed to access with my parents and where they kept their real treasures. Of all of these I remember a wooden elephant with real ivory tusks and I remember loving this ornament as it was so wonderfully tactile. At times I would sneak it out and up to bed where I kept it beneath my pillow. I never damaged it though.

This was 1953 and the world’s momentous Royal occasion was about to happen, the Coronation of Elizabeth the Second who had come to the throne the year before on the death of her father George the Sixth. I cannot remember her father but I thought Elizabeth a beautiful lady. June 2nd came around and along with it a blanket of heavy rain over the entire country. Everyone rejoiced in our new queen and extensive street parties had been arranged throughout the land. Due to the heavy rain everything had to be hastily reorganised and we were taken to the Coronation Hall at the top of Chubb Hill where the most wonderful food had been prepared. There were stalls where we won such things as goldfish and books but best of all, every child was presented with two books about the lives of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, two Coronation mugs and a Book of Common Prayer. The books were annotated with our names and the date, and I still have them.

Up the Hill

All good things must come to an end. The owners of the house were due to return to Whitby and my father, after arriving in Whitby had put us down on the waiting list for a “Council House”. Thus in the middle of 1953 we moved about a half mile north to High Stakesby and to No 14 Oak Road which was adjacent to a stile and joy of joys, beyond this stile were open fields, a long copse of trees and a farm. Happiness was complete. I was not yet at school and living in Utopia. There were cows in some fields, meadows with grass which was higher than me and also golden corn. Dad bought us two budgies, Sally and Susie to celebrate. My mother in the meantime was working for two old ladies and spent several hours in the evenings away from home. One was a very dour and miserable old soul called Miss Dingle and was in her mid nineties; more pleasant was her work for a titled Lady, at Harrowing Manor. She was a sprightly old lady in her late seventies and during school holidays I was allowed to play in the Manor House garden. One day a couple of years later, I remember her daughter whose name was Margaret Harrowing coming out to pick some flowers and seeing me she asked me to come and meet her mother. She took me all round the house and into the gun room which was full of firearms and riding equipment as well as a huge billiards table. I loved that house and I am glad to see that it has survived the breakers hammer and is now called Low Stakesby House and has been converted into luxury apartments and called Low Stakesby House. The lodge is still there in Stakesby Road but the long drive has been split in two. Margaret Harrowing was also the leader of a local troop of brownies and amongst her charges was my sister.

I was now five and due to start school that September. In those days there were 11000 people living in Whitby and thus only three primary schools were required to serve the population. The largest by far was Cliff Street School which unfortunately is now a car park for a supermarket. I remember being taken on the first day and not liking it one bit. Things were rather different in those days with a like it or lump it attitude by the education system. You literally sank or swam and to begin with I sank. After the first week it fell to my sister, now 7½ to escort me to school. It was a wet autumn and we always wore wellies to school. Mine were too small and I found them difficult to remove which got me very annoyed indeed and I would not allow the teachers to help. I remember several screaming sessions ending in my sister being brought out of her class to pour oil on troubled water. Behaviour like this was never tolerated in Cliff St and it was not long before I became conditioned to this rather austere school life. I was very scared of the teachers at Cliff Street especially Mrs Appleton who was so strict.
I cannot remember being very good at anything during the first year but there was one teacher whose name now escapes me who treated me very well and I worked very hard for her when I was in the pop infants class. She had a system whereby the cleverest children were trusted to be far away from her in the classroom and the unruly and less informed placed fairly and squarely in front of her. I worked very hard for months and gradually moved up the scale eventually on one day being sent to the far row and placed second from the back. I suppose this would have become permanent except for one little girl called Adrienne who had lovely long blonde hair who sat in front of me. Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher had nothing on me and I was determined to ask her to be my girlfriend. The day came and I passed her a note requesting this allegiance but unfortunately I was noticed by the teacher who asked the young lady what was going on.
“John Wright is copying my sums” she said and my life fell out from beneath me and I was like a counter in Snakes and Ladders, almost winning the game and then landing on a snake which sent me all the way back to the seat in front of Miss. I can’t remember trying too hard after that.

Girls were awful I decided and this was just as well because in the September of that year I was due to graduate to The Mount Junior School which was “All Boys”.
Before this there were personal troubles and in April I became very ill with a severe urinary infection which spread to my kidneys akin to cystitis. I think I was quite lucky to survive this illness and if it had not been for powerful antibiotics administered painfully in my rear end by Doctor Creasey, I would not have made it. It left me very weak and I was not allowed out of the house for weeks. In those days rest meant just that, and in May my parents decided to cheer me up and buy me a dog for my birthday, which I had been harping on about getting for ages. I was taken by car with my sister to Egton Bridge where my father had arranged to buy a puppy from one of his acquaintances from the shop. I was left in the car due to my convalescing and my father and sister disappeared up a very long farm lane. Eventually they returned with a squirming bundle which turned out to be a border terrier cross puppy just seven weeks old. My happiness returned and I rapidly regained my strength and returned to school before the end of term. I wanted to call him Mitch as an old lady I knew had a dog so named. I was outvoted and we named him Bobby. Bobby was put to sleep seventeen years later when I was twenty-three and I cried my eyes out.
My mother’s brother Gordon who still lived in Sunderland came to see us about this time with news that He had decided that there was no future for his family in England at that time and he was going to emigrate to South Africa with his wife, auntie Trudy and my cousins Pauline aged eight and David aged five. We had been quite close and were disappointed they were going. Many times since coming to Whitby, my father would rent an old pre-war Austin car for ten shillings for the weekend (50p) and journey back to Sunderland to see them. This of course would end now and I remember feeling very sorry. That car JM 6140 or known as JM for short would serve us well for our holidays and sometimes also take us down to South Wales or, on one occasion to London.
There was one awful thing that happened on the few days that the family stayed with us prior to them sailing. We all set off for a walk to town and as usual, David and I would run on ahead. If you go down Chubb Hill and turn left along Bagdale, the pavement becomes elevated from the road to allow access to Pannet Park. To prevent an accident, there are railings which just asked to be climbed and swung on. Being the elder of the two I showed David how to do this and one minute he was upside down on the railings and the next he was gone and lying in the road some ten feet below and it was just a miracle there were no vehicles passing at the time. He had a very nasty head injury and for a while his parents and mine were very worried that it might have been serious but within a couple of days he was his old self again and I breathed a sigh of relief as the blame had been put fairly and squarely on me.
During the summer in Whitby after Easter, all Mount boys learned to swim and each Monday morning, first thing we were lined up in the Playground along with Mr Groves’s class and marched, come rain or shine along the West Cliff a mile to Whitby’s only swimming pool. It was outdoor, unheated and situated at the edge of the high cliff at Upgang. I remember it was eight feet deep at the deep end and about 33 yards long. It was named the Spider’s Web, for reasons which escape me. There were four badges you could earn, red which was for one length and yellow, blue and green for more advanced stroke work and longer distances. We all changed in “Saladin” type tents around the pool and then lined up shivering at the shallow end and either jumped, climbed or was pushed in. I cannot remember Whitby pool ever being anything else but totally freezing at that time of year and it was not a pleasant experience. Eventually, one by one, over the weeks we were able to float or paddle to the deep end and once we had gained our red badge, were ignored unless we wanted to do it on the back or do multi-lengths. The majority of us were just glad to get out and get warmed up by getting dressed and running about.
I remember that during the late summer from mid August onwards, the temperature in the pool became bearable. Then we would condescend to go with our parents and play about endlessly when the sun warmed our backs. The whole place always seemed to be falling to pieces and that eventually did happen in the 1980’s when subsidence caused severe leakage problems and it was finally demolished and grassed over in 1982. One very funny thing happened one day when I was playing between the “Saladin” tents. There was a large rip vertically in the canvass of one tent and as I passed by someone who was getting changed bent down presumably to dry his or her feet (I never did find out which). A large bare bottom emerged from the split and I did the only thing possible, pinched it hard and ran away splitting my sides as I went.

I have a feeling that 1955 had been a long hot summer and living next to a farm had its advantages. Just over the stile was this wonderful meadow and where we could make a den in which you were immune from discovery. The grass was cut during the late summer which was at first was a disadvantage but the grass once it had turned golden, it was made into a haystack and that was an even better venue for a den. I feel sorry for children these days who only have large cylindrical bales of hay left in the fields and these are no fun at all.
In those days you made your own fun and the year was divided into seasons. Not seasons in the normal sense but the tadpoling season, the hopscotch season, The marble playing season, the blackberry picking season, the conker season and even a season when everyone picked primroses. We didn’t have many toys to play with so we made our own fun and jolly good it was.
Marbles were cheap at five for one penny that meant you could get over one thousand for one Pound in which there were 240 old pennies. Every child whether boy or girl had his or her gingham bag with drawstring full of marbles that we gambled shamelessly away sometimes having thousands and sometimes none. When summer came round and Conkers were plentiful we had another bag for our conkers and after putting them on a string, had a wonderful time belting your friends conker into oblivion and do you know, I never met anyone whose eye had been put out by one.

When we were very young we used to get taken on the bus to Sandsend, a few miles from Whitby in March where we would walk into Mulgrave woods and pick masses of Primroses which we would tie into posies with pieces of wool. These posies would be given to every old age pensioner in the area as well as filling every receptacle in the house. In August our attention would turn to Blackberries and we would again catch the bus to local beauty spots on the moors and the whole family would literally spend hours picking pound after pound of fruit to be made into jam, wine or just bottled. Nothing was ever wasted and it is sad that these days most blackberries are left to rot on the bushes which show that people have no time for these worthwhile pursuits. We could even pick rosehips and sell them to a lady who came around the schools who in turn passed them on to “Delrosa” for rosehip syrup. We got four old pennies a pound for that.
My favourite pastime was searching for tadpoles, and I was extremely fond of Toads, Newts and frogs. In Pannet Park close to where we lived there was a pond which attracted me to it whenever I passed by. On one occasion I found a wonderful crop of toad spawn, delightful strands of jelly which just had to be taken home. The problem was that I had no container but never being one to let a thing like that stand in my way I used the only thing available to me and that was my school cap. I then legged it the half mile to my home but unfortunately the spawn sank into the material and disappeared which was more than I can say for the row which I got from my mother. She died in 2008 and never let me forget it.

When I was seven I became eligible to join the local Cub pack. Normally Cubs are known as Wolf Cubs but as Whitby was a seafaring town, we were known as Sea Cubs and felt that we far above the Wolf cub pack down the road. One of my father’s friends Mrs Timm ran our Sea Cub pack in a hut down by the stream in Factory Fields. The stream is still there, unfortunately full of rubbish. In our day, we regularly picked up all litter on cub nights. Factory Fields was the site of a factory which was destroyed by German Naval gunfire on 16th December 1914 at the beginning of WW1. It was mainly a sloping site and it is difficult to work out where the factory stood but I remember finding a stone commemorating the attack and the factory that was destroyed. I looked for the stone a few years ago on a trip to Whitby but it had long been covered by houses. Looking on line and carrying out research in Pannet Park Museum I can find details of the naval action but not the damage that was done except that two Whitby men were killed and several Injured.
We had two ways of commuting to Cubs. In the summer when it was light we walked over the fields, unescorted and none of ever got molested, in the winter my parents either walked us across the fields or we walked by ourselves around the long way through Spring Vale and then down Chubb Hill. Again none of us were ever harmed. Going to Cubs was great and we played things like British Bulldog as well as working on badges and I think we all loved it. We had great allegiance to the Queen and meant our vows. In the summer we went out for long walks and worked on our tracking skills. To this day I always know the different signs I see when the modern day cubs and scouts have been about. While playing rough we often got injuries and broken bones although rare sometimes occurred but I can’t remember anyone suing the Cub leaders.
Every year we had a “Bob a Job week and I was very keen about that. All my life, if I got enthusiastic about something then everyone had to watch out because I pursue it with all my energy and Bob a Job week was no different. For seven days in my holiday I was out at eight o’clock in the morning and knocked at almost every door in the neighbourhood. One lady who knew my father from the shop gave me a job of weeding her garden and I set about it straight away. The job was horrendous and it reminded me of the Secret Garden before it was cultivated. There were a million weeds and this lady was getting top value for her shilling – normally it was recognised that the job was very large by increased remuneration but not a bit of it. She kept me there for a full day then gave me a shilling. Not content with that, she rang my father and told him I had not completed the task and he made me go back the following Saturday and do a further few hours work and for no thanks. Mind you, most people were very generous and the jobs they gave us were nominal as we were collecting for charity.

In September 1955 the boys in my class took the road up from Cliff Street to the Mount School where the boys now carried on with their education separate from the girls. The girls remained at Cliff Street in a single sex upper school. We were all used to going to the Mount because every day all those children from Cliff Street having school dinners lined up hand in hand and were marched up the hill for lunch as Cliff St had no kitchens. In those days a school dinner cost five old pence. Or, in new money a whole week’s lunches cost just over ten new pence. There was no family allowance until 1954 and then all children except the oldest attracted a payment of five shillings a week or twenty five new pence. By 1960 this had grown to eight shillings or forty pence. My mother collected her family allowance for me from the post office and believe me it was needed.

There were four classes in the Mount School and I remember all these teachers very well. Mrs Faulkner took the junior boys on their arrival from Cliff Street; Mr Groves was next, a tall very good natured man whom I became very fond. The penultimate form was the domain of Mr Leaf and the Leaving class was taken by the Headmaster Mr Burton. It had been this way for many years and I believe it carried on like this for years after I left. I met Mrs Faulkner in her house in Abbeyville Avenue when I had children of my own and she remembered me from 30 years before. It is very strange but I think that all children look on their teachers as being ancient but when I met Mrs Faulkner in the 80’s Mrs Faulkner she was then only about 75 and very witty and with it. I was delighted to see her again though she did remind me that I had been a rather naughty boy.

At The Mount we met a new discipline from the two senior mentors. However we knew where we stood and I always thought it was a marvellous school and I was sad when it shut down years after I left. The school remains as a dancing school now, though a few years ago it was an Antiques Centre. I visited there once and was enchanted to find the junior classrooms unchanged and even found my initials on one of the window surrounds from nearly 50 years before. The upper school was conducted in two bungalow type buildings at the far end of the playground. These have been demolished for years as is the administration block. A nice touch is that the new buildings are very much in line with the old and I was very gratified to see the school bell is still in its original housing above the lower school. I remember very well running hard when late to try a beat its dreaded cessation meaning that a mandatory detention was going to be handed out.
The Mount was very much an open school in those days and because it was more or less between the beach and the town, left fantastic opportunities during our lunch hours. There were no rules regarding staying in school and most of us went out and played on the beach, clambered over the cliffs or played in the amusement arcades down by the harbour. The road from the school to the beach is called the Kyber Pass and it was here we played a really dangerous game in the bushes on the fantastically steep cliff faces. How we got away with it is a mystery and in June 2012 I walked down the hill and looked with amazement and saw myself 57 years before, swinging from bushes 50 feet above a busy road. All my lunch hours however were not wasted as I had always been very interested in my Whitby hero, Captain James Cook and I would cross the swing bridge down in the harbour to drool over his residence in Grape Lane. I knew all there was for a schoolboy to know about this brilliant seaman who had come from obscurity to become arguably the greatest explore the world has ever seen. Pannet Park Museum was also a fantastic venue for knowledge and I spent many, many hours looking at the exhibits on display. My interest remains to this day.

From the age of six I had grown very keen about attending Sunday school at Brunswick Methodist Church. For the only time in my life I think I experienced true Christianity and loved it. The ladies of the church frequently held the most exciting bazaars and there were always masses of things for us children to do. It mattered not whether my parents or sister went. I always wanted to and it was here that I learned to sing. They did not have a boy’s choir as such but some of the ladies encouraged me to use the talents I had and I developed quite a good voice. It is to their merit that I kept it up until I was thirteen and my voice broke. I sang in front of the Archbishop of York, Dr Ramsey, when he was created Archbishop of Canterbury but that was later after leaving Whitby. One of my greatest regrets in my life was losing my voice totally after the age of thirteen.
At Brunswick Church we used to have many outings throughout the year, but the best of all was the Sunday School Outing to the moors in the summer. One year we were taken to Hutton le Hole near Pickering. I remember this well, as I was playing dangerously close to the stream and fell in and was drenched through. In those days when high child mortality was still fresh in everyone’s mind, it was essential to remove the wet garments and I had to go home in a pair of my sister’s blue school knickers. My friends were all there and the shame was dreadful.

By the time I was eight my dog was beginning to take over a great deal of my life. Every day I would come home from school and run up Oak Road and yell out “Bobbeee, Bobbeee”. and my mother would let him out and he would tear down the road and almost knock me over. If it were possible to be licked to death I would have probably drowned. We became inseparable and it continued that way until one day I was thinking about something else and I arrived home without shouting for him. He was missing and I was distraught.
“Don’t worry” my mum said “He’ll come back soon” but he didn’t and he was missing for days. My father had become increasingly fond of the dog that was now a year old and all of us searched every moment we could. Eventually, he was found at the house of a lady in Upgang Lane and secretly I believe she did not want him to be found as he was a very engaging little chap. Reunited we became partners in crime and I set about training him but Bobby was his own dog and only ever did what he wanted to do. In those days on “None school days” I was able to do what I wanted and was only constrained by hunger or when the street lighting came on. I never really got into any serious trouble. Mum and Dad were working a lot and it was not unusual to come home to an empty house. Next door lived a very nice woman called Joan Aitcheson and if my mother was at work she was always willing to watch over us until my mother came home. Another memory of the Aitcheson family was they had one of only two cars in the street and they also had TV.
Television was beginning to become affordable for the masses but the cost of a 10 inch black and white set was £80. If you consider that the average wage was around £10 a week then a modern day equivalent price in 2012 would be almost £3000. This was a huge financial outlay at the time for an item of entertainment. I think we got ours in 1956 but the Aitchesons had a legacy which gave them a car and the first TV in the street. There were 14 children in the 16 houses of Oak Road and at exactly five minutes to five in the afternoon we would gather in their front room to watch children’s television which was on for one hour a day until six o’clock. I say the extra five minutes because that is when the TV station started and showed a countdown clock. Such was the novelty of television that we dared not miss a minute even to watch a clock moving.
Joan was the local organiser for all sorts of events such as the Whitby Horticultural show and the Whitby Flower show which were held just down the road in the Recreation ground bordered by Love Lane and the White Leys estate. Even at the age of seven or eight we were recruited to sell raffle tickets around the doors and very successful we were too. Years later she moved to Sleights where she and her husband bought a pub and I met her again when I was sixteen and on a Youth Hostelling holiday.
My dog Bobby was developing into a character with some disturbing traits. Most terriers will worry livestock and he was no exception and he would chase anything. He was never kept in and was normally to be found sat on the doorstep. The wall around the house was just a token height and there was no gate. If he got bored he would visit the farm across the field usually with fatal results. And Barney Hogarth the farmer would come visiting to demand fifteen shillings (75p) to buy a new chicken. This happened a lot and Bobby became quite a financial drain on the family income. I remember being present when Bobby had disappeared and Barney knocked at the door one Sunday to demand his customary payment. My father was in one of his bad tempers and asked Barney for his proof and he said he was not going to pay up unless he could prove it. At that very moment Bobby came around the corner with an incriminating feather hanging from his lower jaw. I think the farmer accepted a cheque.
You may not be surprised that Bobby was not particularly welcome on Barney’s farm and you would be right. If I wanted to go and play with the farm children I would have to leave him locked in at home. Houdini had nothing on Bobby and he frequently escaped to join me playing in the fields and barns, which was a problem, however there came a chance for him to redeem himself and become the hero of the day. Barney had two new calves that had been born a couple of months before and were always getting away from their mothers to go and play in the corn fields. Two frisky calves could do an enormous amount of damage to growing corn and they dodged all attempts to be recaptured from an increasingly angering Barney. But I knew what to do and ran home to get Bobby who I was certain would round them up for capture. Quick as a flash he was onto the task and within minutes they fled the field and ran out of the gate into the cart track towards the farm. I was standing by the farm yard as these two stampeding beasts charged towards me and that moment Barney came out of the house. “E bah gum” he said “Yon dogs dun good at last”. He spoke too soon as they charged into the farm yard, did three circuits and crashed into a new gate taking it clean off its hinges. They continued unabated with the gate wrapped round their necks in the direction of Factory Fields with Bob in hot pursuit. I hastily retired home and Bobby slunk in a couple of hours later looking rather pleased with himself.
Bobby was fast becoming a town character and lots of people knew him. My father used to take him to work at the station and he would sit outside the Newsagents shop for most of the day until he got bored. He would then walk home. One day the bus was passing him and at a bus stop the Conductor recognised him and called him into the bus and gave him a lift to the end of the street where we lived. That was that and ever after, when fed up with the town he would walk across to the adjacent bus station and queue up for the bus home. He even had his own seat. At the time Whitby for most of the year was a sleepy town wakening up for the summer when its population swelled to two or three times its size. To compensate for the extra transport requirements, United Bus Company used to replace the standard single-decker on the Town Centre to Castle Park route with a double-decker from Scarborough. Thus a double-decker in town signified it was summer. The Monday after children returned to school this bus would be returned to Scarborough. However Bobby did not know that and, happy as a sand boy he trotted across the road and jumped on this bus for its final journey but it was not the 2 miles he expected. Bobby preferred, when travelling by double-decker to sit upstairs on the front seat and thus he escaped detection until arriving at Scarborough town centre. This could have ended in disaster but we are dealing with an animal of superior intellect and he was popped back on the next bus to Whitby where he he returned to sit in the shop doorway and no one was any the wiser until over a pint of beer in the pub, a conductor laughing till the tears ran down his face recounted the story to my Dad.

My mother had a nursing friend call Vera MacCorrie. It was at this time, normal to adopt your mother and father’s friends and we called her Auntie Vera Mac and Uncle Dick who was her husband. Uncle Dick was a lighthouse keeper and he had been appointed to be the keeper of the lighthouse at Hawsker which also had a foghorn. If you lived in Whitby at this time you could not fail to notice the foghorn as sea fogs were a lot more common than they are today. I believe the horn was sounded 4 times every one and one half minutes and would awaken the dead.
One sunny Sunday we were invited to tea at Hawker and we had our tea in the lighthouse accommodation which had the horn on the roof. It was sunny until we sat down to tea and then the sea fog came in and with it the foghorn. Funnily enough it is like living on in the flight path to Heathrow. After a while you don’t notice it but I can tell you, the whole room shook but of course being children it was great fun. Uncle Dick went on to bigger jobs and eventually retired from senior lighthouse keeper at Portland Bill.

Food and Clothes

In those days our eating habits were vastly different than those of today. We lived day by day and bought food accordingly. The exception was my mother would put an order to a local shop and which would be delivered by a delivery boy on a bicycle. This order would be the staples such as butter, sugar, rice, and tinned food, other long lasting foods and cleaning items. Fish, meat and most vegetables would be bought daily. Everything was seasonable and you never ate a tomato or lettuce in the winter. You ate old potatoes in winter and new potatoes in summer. Fruit was either apples, oranges or bananas and I can never remember eating fresh peaches or strawberries out of season. We also ate everything that was put in front of us and waste was taboo. We always ate quite well however and that was down to the skill and imagination of my mother. We rarely had expensive holidays or fashionable clothes but mum insisted we ate well and she was a wonderful baker. I suppose if anything our diet in those days was a bit boring and the food on the table was dictated by the day of the week. We had a roast dinner on Sunday and the meat although tasty, was generally quite fatty. Pudding was jelly and mum mixed it with evaporated milk which produced something that looked like little red frogspawn but we loved it. Sometimes we had milk jelly or rice pudding and a particular favourite was bread and butter pudding.
Chicken was reserved for Christmas and if you had chicken anything during the year is was generally chicken paste. On Monday we always had leftovers from Sunday and potato was fried and served with tasty gravy and peas and whatever meat was left over. Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday were where a skilful housewife came into her own and my mother produced wonderful stews which were very inexpensive. Fish was reserved for Friday and unlike today was very inexpensive. Living in Whitby, we had a good supply of fish fresh from the boats and this left me with a lifelong liking of all types. On Saturday my mother always baked and produced a fabulous array of cakes and pastries and was enough to last the entire week. Talking of fish, every summer the Dutch herring fleet would visit Whitby for several weeks and there would be a glut of fish caught by drifters. I remember watching the fishermen in their yellow clogs as the full iced boxes of herring from the Dutch fleet were winched onto the quayside. Now and again a fish would fall onto the quay and there was an unwritten law that the town boys could take them home for tea. I became very fond of cold rolled herring.

I remember going with my mother, father and sister to a guest house called Thistle Bank off Bagdale for Sunday Tea because my father had done a favour for the Wilkinson Sisters who lived there and ran the business. I had never eaten food like it as everything was out of season and I suppose, flown in by air. I often dropped in to see the Wilkinsons after that and ran messages for them. One day I was collecting jumble for our Methodist Jumble sale and they took me up to the attic and I could take away all I could carry. I remember an old cine projector from the 20’s, a brass captain’s telescope and several sets of antelope horns still in the bone. Treasure indeed as I bought the telescope myself for 3 old pennies.
Many tradesmen visited all streets at that time and one would never buy milk from anywhere else but the milkman. Milk would always be on the doorstep in time for breakfast and the milkman must have started work at an unearthly hour. If we ran short of milk my sister of I would go to Hogarth’s Farm to await the cows being milked and then we knew it was fresh. Coal was delivered by the hundredweight and all houses had a coal house where up to a ton could be stored. Central heating was very rare in houses and gas was used for gas fires and cooking. The gas we used was coal gas which was incredibly smelly and dangerous too. The vegetable and even the fish and butchers man visited twice a week and did a good trade. The ice cream man in Whitby was an Italian immigrant called Mr Trillo and his father drove a horse and cart chilled by slabs of dry ice to bring us the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted. Imagine my shock years later when Trillo’s went over to horrible soft ice cream but now they have reverted to the original recipe. We didn’t buy our bread from the bread man as Bothams in Baxtergate made the best bread around and everyone went there.

Clothes were definitely in short supply and quite expensive and we all had three sets of clothes as a maximum. These were Play clothes, School clothes and Best clothes and there was definitely only one set of each. Most of us combined our school and best clothes so only had two. Trainers had not been invented and instead we wore plimsolls. Everyone had a gabardine Mackintosh for wet weather and we all wore wellies in the rain and snow. Clothes would be worn until they were worn out or became far too small. Hand me downs were common and nothing was ever thrown away. If stuff had to be got rid of it was exchanged with the rag and bone man who was a frequent visitor to all areas. Little boys never wore long trousers or even jeans. Dungarees were the only covering I had for all my legs. We wore garters to keep our socks up and all boys had a permanent elastic marks on our legs. If it was cold we put on another jumper and in winter children wore Liberty Bodices to keep out the cold.

Every year in August was carnival time. Whitby harbour was host to a weekend of boat races, fun and fireworks and everyone went to the show. It was called the Whitby Regatta. The regatta proper was from Friday to Sunday but there were many other events leading up to it that were enjoyed by all. On Sunday night in the 50’s about 9.30pm was a spectacular firework display up on the East Cliff and it made our puny attempts at private displays of fireworks on bonfire night look sad. I looked it up the other day and Whitby Regatta is now in its 167th year and more than 20,000 visitors pack the town to see the oldest seaside regatta in the country. At the start of regatta week you bought a program and carried around the town trying to find your program number displayed in a shop window. Those who did could claim a prize from that shop. Unfortunately I never did.

My introduction to the arts

I got on very well at Junior School and was very fond of Mrs Faulkner my first teacher. I was quite arty and loved drawing poetry and singing very much. I found learning long poems very easy to do and was word perfect on adventure poetry such as “ Lochinvar and “The Wreck of the Hesperus”, to name but two I could speak clearly with expression and it was not long before I was noticed. I was entered twice by the school in The Eskdale tournament at Whitby Spa and I won First Class Merit Certificates. Looking back at the poem Lochinvar I surprise myself that I could learn this complicated work at such an early age. I remember being at home one evening when Mr Burton, my headmaster called at our house to see my parents and to ask whether I would like to recite it at the Wesley Hall in Church street the following day. Despite severe stage fright I did it and enjoyed very much the experience for one, just turned eight years of age.

Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott
Young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none.
He rode all unarmed and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He stayed not for brake and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none,
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love and a dastard in war
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,–
For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,–
‘Oh! come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?’–

‘I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied;
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide–
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’

The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup,
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand ere her mother could bar,–
‘Now tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride — maidens whispered ”Twere better by far
To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’

One touch to her hand and one word in her ear,
When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
‘She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ‘mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Fosters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

The Wesley Hall is now Flea Market which is a shame.

I made many friends while at The Mount School but sadly am no longer in touch with any of them. I probably remember them better than they remember me as I was to leave Whitby before completing my junior education in my final year. My parents also moved several times again, so it was rarely that I returned to what I now consider were my spiritual home until much later. Like many people I have spoken to over the years once having lived in Whitby, I am drawn inexplicably back. (01947) 601599

My best friend was a boy who was three days older than me called Martin Hart, whose Mother knew my mother well and whose father was a well known Whitby butcher. His shop was called simply “Harts of Whitby” and was situated in Skinner Street not far from The Mount School. Martin and I had started school on the same day together and would go to secondary school together in 1959. Others I remember well were twins, Howard and Stuart Russell who lived down the back of St Hilda’s Terrace, and Martin Hamilton who lived in Beech Grove. Fred Lorrain was another who lived near me in Oak Road. We had great fun together and I remember him with affection.
Everyone went to Saturday morning Pictures and one would never miss this three hour show starting at 10 o’clock as Batman, Superman, Nyoka the jungle girl and other adventure films were shown as a serial and you were always left with a cliff-hanger. There were loads of cartoons and comedies such as the Seven Little Rascals and Denis the Menace and we laughed until our sides split. I still wonder what happened to Batman when he fell into a bath of acid in the last show I saw. Saturday morning pictures were shown in the Coliseum Cinema in the town square and I truly loved it. We also saw many films of the day at this cinema. When a blockbuster came out nobody would ever miss it. I believe Saturday morning pictures cost three old pennies to get in for children. Adults were never admitted and corporal punishment was dealt out by a harassed uniformed Commissionaire to offending youngsters usually without complaint.

Around the corner from my house in Oak Road, was a family called Coates. They had a son called Peter about a year older than me, a daughter called Eleanor but known as Frankie and also other older children. The oldest daughter Elizabeth was in her mid twenties and worked for my father. Frankie was the prettiest girl I had ever seen but she a little older than me and I don’t think I spoke to her much. I used to see her running home from school and she wore her hair as a single plait wound round on top and I admired her a lot. One day when I was about seven I watched her as she came around the corner from her home in Laburnum Grove into Oak road, running as she always did. A couple of minutes later there was a squeal of tyres and a sound of a collision which I thought nothing of. I continued to play then there were the bells of an ambulance and lots of activity at the bottom of Oak Road. Poor Frankie had been knocked down and had been fatally injured by a police car. It was the saddest time of my young life and I remember it clearly to this day.

Time was passing quickly but as a child I did not notice it. Every day was endless and full of fun. A week was like a year and to look forward into the future was something we never did. I knew every street in the West Side and the East Side of Whitby intimately I loved to climb the 199 steps to the Abbey usually with my dog. My mother always trusted me to come back home when I was told to but she left me on a long leash and that is something that we had then, that children do not have today. I never had a bike, mainly because of shortage of money but also because of the hilly terrain in that part of Yorkshire.

It was now 1958 and I was to be 10 years old in May and this was in my mind a fantastic milestone. Also my mother had promised me a birthday party and said I could invite all my friends. My circle at that time consisted of around twelve little boys all of whom has procured very powerful plastic water pistols. To my immature mind on my birthday I would be able to get away with anything without punishment so the gang all decided to bring our new weapons to our house carefully hidden to prevent premature discovery. This resulted in a re-run of the Battle of the Bulge and everyone including my mother, father, sister and the dog were soaked. The kitchen and front room resembled Whitby Harbour after the great storm and our weapons were confiscated. Needless to say whenever I was naughty in the future, this misdemeanour was offered as incriminating evidence that I must be guilty.

My mother used to pick both me and my sister up from school if the weather was warm in the summer and take us down to Upgang beach for a swim on summer evenings. The hospital had a Beach hut and we were able to use this for changing and sheltering from rain showers. It was a lovely June afternoon in 1958 and as we climbed down the cliff something was very different. This beautiful Blue and white ship had anchored about half a mile off the beach and from all the bunting and flags that festooned the upper deck it was soon realised that it was the Royal Yacht Britannia. There were boats all over the place and we soon found out that it was possible to get a trip out to see this beautiful ship up close. We eventually got our trip and had our circuit. To our delight there was a lady who waved at us as we chugged slowly by and the children aboard were convinced this was the Queen. This has never been proved or disproved and I recently read the Whitby Gazette report from that date 28th June 1958 and someone probably the Queen did wave. The royal couple were definitely aboard so it is logical this happened.
A couple of months later there was another story in the newspaper where I was involved, almost too much. I was helping my father in the book shop, probably to keep me out of trouble in the holidays. I was tidying up some magazines on a shelf at the back of the shop when there was an almighty bang and I ended up on the floor covered in an avalanche of books and periodicals. Had there been an earthquake? I managed to clamber to my feet and as my last order had been to tidy up the shelves I thought it must have been my fault as usually everything that went wrong normally was so I carried on tidying up. My father had been out front talking to a customer and I was in the shop with his assistant so when he came back in I am sure he thought I had done the dastardly deed.
Then there was ambulance bells and the police came in and it turned out that the Darlington to Whitby diesel train had hit the buffers at 20 mph and 79 passengers had been injured, fortunately none seriously. The crash had cause a great crack across the platform and transmitted the shockwave onto the back wall of the shop. We swiftly tidied up the pile of books and there did not seem to be any lasting damage. The station was made from thick sandstone blocks which had absorbed the collision.

I looked forward to my senior year at The Mount because I was desperate to play sport for the school team and most of the teams were selected from the top year. After the summer holidays we had the team selections but quite honestly I was useless at football and it was a very disconsolate 10 year old boy who went home disappointed.
“Never mind”, Mr Burton told me “I am sure you will make the cricket team next summer. This was never to be.
It was November and Christmas was coming up and one day my father came home very excited, saying he had to go to London for an interview for a new job with Smiths. I don’t think he was very pleased with the stony sullen silence he met from my sister and I. When we went to bed that night we talked and were slightly mollified that London was perhaps a great place to live and the Queen lived there. Like most unpleasant things we children put them to the back of our minds and it was weeks before we had any news.
“Hull, we don’t want to go there”, I protested. We had come home from school to find that father had been successful at his interview but the job was not in London but Hull. I had never been there and never wanted to. I loved Whitby and was doing quite well at School. My eleven plus was due to be sat shortly and apart from Maths where I was weak it was expected that I would pass. I frequently took part in drama at school and was expected to be picked for the cricket team. The last place where I wanted to go was Kinston upon the River Hull. My sister was moved to write a poem about the impending rout.

The move came closer and closer, and with it total misery. We paid a visit to Cottingham near Hull and although our new home was to be in a large village near Hull we did not relish the thought of the move. We looked at the syllabus in my new junior school where I would take my eleven plus and it was not reassuring. The intelligence test which made up the first part was pretty much the same but the maths papers and English papers seemed to concentrate on different aspects than I had learned in Whitby. Gillian was well set as she had passed her eleven plus two years before and was already at grammar school. She was therefore assured of a place at Beverley High School, one of the best schools in Yorkshire.

It all ended like a damp squib really. My father’s move was bought forward and we moved during the Easter holidays of 1959. There was no time to mope or say goodbye to our friends properly and we made the last trip, this time by taxi from home to the Station. As we drove down into Spring Vale we looked longingly at the wonderful view of the Abbey and St Mary’s Church overlooking the harbour and I vowed someday I would return.

So fifty-three years later I look at my lot and see what I have, a wonderful wife and three successful children with their lives pretty well set. I live in Plymouth, a lovely part of the country and all my children are close by and I have four beautiful grand children. We are ten minutes from Dartmoor and have all the advantages of living by the coast. I am retired and we have enough money for our needs and more importantly have all the opportunities we need to travel. I like Plymouth and all I love is here but my heart belongs in that wonderful seaside town in the County of North Yorkshire.

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7 Responses to "Whitby By John Wright"

  1. Jackie Roe-Lawton  October 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I loved this! It is a very gentle, very sweet, and reminiscent of a slower more innocent time! Thank you for sharing…

  2. J.G.Harston  October 2, 2012 at 1:43 am

    Very nice. I read it with a map in one hand, following them around :)

  3. Michele Nickolls  August 31, 2013 at 5:14 am

    Hi John, my late husband, also john was born in 1949. He was born in Cliff Cottage at Whitby Cricket field. Moved to Elm Grove in late fifties. Attended Cliff St and the Mount school too.
    We married in the Unitarian Church in Baxtergate, 1983. I love Whitby and the surrounding area. There more recently. returned Johns ashes May 2013. He rests in St Oswald’s church yard on Lythe Bank. Would be nice to hear from you.

    Michele Nickolls

  4. Rose Helm (nee STANFORTH)  November 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Lovely to read your story, it was like living my own childhood. I think you would know my brother Tommy STANFORTH he was at Mount School at the same time. Would love to hear from you and I will pass on this info to Martin and Howard Russell who I see in Whitby. I have returned to live in the area although. Spent 20years away Whitby is always in your blood. All the best Rose

  5. kevin wadsworth  December 22, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Amazing to read your story (I was born in 1949)
    I am drawn back to my Whitby days ,it has been a constant reference to me throughout my life and i can see that we share so many memories;Cliff Street School,trips to Sandsend.What a brilliant place to be a child.I also moved to the Beverley area as a teenager and later in life lived in South Devon.

    In recent years i have been rediscovering Whitby,the Cleveland Way and Ryedale;the magic is still there blessed to be a Yorkshireman.

  6. kevin wadsworth  December 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Lived in Whitby in the 1950′s and share so much of John’s memories.Cliff Street School and walks to Sandsend and so much more.
    The sound of the herring gulls is there forever and the herring fleets from Holland ,Germany and Denmark sqeezed in to the harbour with the local fleet.
    In my dotage i return and absorb the special atmosphere and relive my special childhood.

  7. Elaine Rollins  February 22, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I am born and bred in Whitby, all the people you mention I knew and know. I remember Eleanor and Elizebeth Coates I went to school with them. I was only talking to Martin a few weeks ago. I lived on the railway and was born on Elgin Street. Do you remember a sweet shop on George Street?. You probably knew my dad he was an inspector on the buses (Les Maud) I always remember Barney Hogarth he was delivering milk once to my mums and he ran over my dolls pram. Happy days.
    Elaine Rollins


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whitby photography by glenn kilpatrick