On this oral history interview you can hear the memories of an x-Mayor of Dorchester talk about his early life in the town.
What did you do when you were young in your leisure time?
I went to school at the Grove and then to Colliton School. As I failed 11 plus I went to Dorchester Secondary School. I became interested in wood and particularly metal work. I loved cross country running and competed at county level. I was particularly fond of football and cricket. I also helped on my father’s allotment and helped dig the outside swimming pool at the school.
I left school at 13 years and 9 months and became apprentice to the farrier blacksmith. I went to Yeovil Art and Technical School a month at a time. After my apprenticeship I joined the army (the Household Cavalry) and became the youngest ever registered farrier. Up until then the regiment had never won the farriers national championships at the Aldershot show but I won it and placed the cup on the Officers Table.
When he was about 10 the war was on and I played football in the street. I lived in Lorne Road and we played against children from Cambridge Road on Sunday mornings after Sunday School. Two coats marked the goal – you had to get the ball between the two coats. There wasn’t a referee. The teams were mixed ages and sometimes had more than 11 children on each side because more joined it. The largest child was put in goal because he couldn’t run so fast. The school had a football and in most of the roads there was somebody who would produce a football. Mr Reg Stanfield of 37 Lorne Road produced football for them as he had two sons and wanted the children to play. There was a football team at Maumbury Rings. We had a knock out system and one of the streets in the Park would play there using four netball posts for goal and there we would have a referee
We were allowed to wander the streets. Everyone walked on the right hand side of High West Street so we could snitch broken biscuits from a shop. One boy was brought before court for stealing sweets and the Alderman told Woolworths to put glass in front of their sweets to protect them.
We would also play cricket in the street. The wickets were made out of sticks and the bats were a piece of four by two with a handle cut out and we never got into trouble. The neighbours didn’t get angry if the ball went into their gardens. We always played with a tennis ball.
I would go on walks with my father around Dorchester. His favourite was to walk was along Bridport Road taking the turning to Martinstown and come back across the bottom of Maiden Castle. We also walked around the town. The whole family would often take a walk after Sunday School or Church.
During the blackberry season I was sent by my father to pick blackberries and collect manure from the sheep fair, for his allotment. At that time the farmers drove the sheep through the town to the market. On quarter day they would meet in North Square, the shepherd would hold his crook and the driver his whip to show they wanted a job.
Taking walks with father around Dorchester.
My father would take me to football at the weekend.
Did your brother have to look after you when you were young?
Yes, he did but he was very different to me. He wanted to dig father’s allotment and grew dahlias. He joined the army and caught TB then became a signalman apprentice before joining a building firm.
[Talk on houses they have lived in.]
There were sometimes concerts in Maumbury Rings on Saturdays. Dennis Holmes who came from Chesterfield started musical events and the Durnovia Band plays once a month.
What did you play in bad weather?
We played snakes and ladders and ludo as a family and with friends. Posher people played chess. We also played card games for farthings – usually Sevens.
Did you have a radio?
Yes an accumulator drove the radio before radio relay. Mr Butcher who had an antique shop in Trinity Street lived next door and he had a TV. He was the first person to have TV near us and we were allowed to go and watch. I liked the boxing and football as well as the children’s programmes on a Saturday morning.
[Talk on what an accumulator was]
Now I like to listen to Classic FM.
Did you enjoy reading?
I only read things I’m interested in. I read comics – if you were posh you got Film Fun otherwise a Beano or Dandy. We would swop comics but we weren’t allowed to read them at school.
Did you have a favourite character? No not really but I really like the sport.
Where did you get the money to buy comics?
Most boys had a paper round. They gave a bit to their parents and kept a few pennies.
I got up 6am to put up the rounds – arrange the papers for the paper boys.
Were you involved with organised things like scouts?
There were scouts, guides and boys brigade. I was with the Boys Brigade but only for one year as it wasn’t my thing. I wanted to be active in sport.
[information about Harold Swain who flew with the dambusters and was later teacher and headmaster at the Modern School].
What did you do at break times at school?
We played football and cricket – about 50 a side. We would line up and choose players. I was never captain but was usually chosen as centre forward.
Would you go with friends to play out in countryside.
Yes we would ride the horses in fields. Grease would come out off the horse onto your trousers, we could walk any farm. Farmers would encourage children to walk the farms but we were educated to keep to the path and respect animals. We could walk passed animals, I don’t think I ever was told ‘You can’t go there’. We would talk to the farmers.
[Talk about the Coronation and his collection of china.]
We could roam freely, our parents never worried and our back door was never locked. Never took a sandwich with us. I would go down Colliton street to watch the blacksmith at work.
What would you do while you were out in the countryside?
We would get a piece of grass and put it between your thumbs and blow to make a noise or pick up a stick and walk with it. We respected other peoples property. Sometimes we built dens – children from different roads would climb up trees and make dens. We made bows and arrows and catapaults but didn’t aim to hurt anyone. We also played conkers and challenged children from other roads. There weren’t any rules but there was a story that some lads baked the conkers but I don’t know if it is true. The aim was to try to break the other person’s conker. We got the elastic for catapaults out of our mothers needlework box or from Miles the saddlers (opposite county hall). Some people put ball bearings in there but we didn’t. We played marbles on the way to school. You could buy them made from glass or clay and if you could afford it you could buy an alley which was a big one. We played in the roads because they didn’t have cars like we have today. I remember virtually the first car in Dorchester owned by a man in Icen Way. When we played marbles you had to hit your mates marble then you could take it. Some people had other games of marbles. We played both marbles and conkers in the playground it was encouraged by the teachers.
Did you ever go to the cinema?
There were two cinemas the Plaza and the Palace. The Plaza was in Trinity Street where it still is and the Palace was on corner of Durngate Street and Icen Way. I did go occasionally but not often. I didn’t go to Saturday morning cinema as I preferred to play football on Saturday morning.
[talk about Rev Jessop and cricket]
What time off did you get as a young working man?
I worked 7am – 5pm and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings I went to Weymouth Tech. I thoroughly enjoyed my young life, schooling and army life.
When you started working did you stop football and cricket?
No I still played at weekends. My parents encouraged us to help other people in the neighbourhood. When I came back to Dorchester after three years in the Army I started helping out at the football club selling programmes. I later became Chairman of the supporters club for twenty years. The football club was where Tesco is now. Prince Charles donated the lad for the new club. The cricket ground is still in the same place.
Did you ever go to the pub?
I’ve been in every pub in Dorchester but never had a sip of beer. I go there to do fundraising.
[Talk about the football club in Charlton Down]
Is there a clear division between work and leisure in your life?
I’m very involved in many groups for example for the disabled, stroke club, etc and I can give more time since I’ve retired. I feel helping organisations and public service are really important.
[Talk about family – daughter and grandchildren]