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Courtesy of his daughter Pam Rice, 2018
Francis Leech
1905 - 1999
Francis & Bertha 2nd August 1930

Francis in 1993 aged 88

Francis was born at the 8 houses, Bedford Road, in 1905, son of William and Clara Leech.
[William was born at Missenden, BKM, and Clara and the older children all at Earls Barton NTH, and Francis at Rushden]

Francis worked in the shoe trade, ending his working life at Sargent’s in Glassbrook Road.

He married Bertha (nee Gadsby) in 1930 and they lived at 144 Highfield Road.

His sister Alice married Alfred Cox, and they emigrated to America in the 1920s.

His elder brother Fred Leech was killed in WWI.


He played cricket with H E Bates, the author, in 1929.

Rushden Town Cricket 2nd Team in 1929

Front row: Francis Leech aged 24 far left, Claude King-Underwood 5th from left, Angus Watson scorer – far right.
Back row: A Gramshaw 3rd from left, H E Bates 5th from left.

Other names Laurence Beeby, Risky Bull, Norman Wright, Albert Adams.


Francis & Vera Mary Ann in 1976
Francis & Vera Mary Ann in 1976
Francis went blind in 1964, and he had also been interviewed then.

Bertha died on 12th July 1968.

In 1976 Francis married Vera Mary Ann Cooke, and they moved to 17 George Street, Higham Ferrers.

Francis died 12th April 1999 aged 94. He and Bertha are commemorated on the Memorial Walls in Rushden Cemetery.


Interview in April 1990

A: Ronnie B: Vera C: Dorothy

Autobiography
[It seems they were looking through a photo album and talking of memories and then family history]


B: They couldn’t find a name for him! What about your name Francis?

I were the eighth one you see, they couldn’t think of no names.....

Interviewed by nephew and niece, Ronnie Cox and
his sister Dorothy Janicke from America.

A: They should have thought of Henry.

The baker named me! [Lots of laughter here]

B: The baker.

A: The baker?

The baker and his daughter, Daisy, she drove the van, a horse and cart, they couldn’t find a name, so she said, I think it were Francis Cecil. I’d a threw the loaf at her if I’d have knew....

B: He was Francis Cecil and I was Vera Mary Ann.

Vera Mary Ann, Edna couldn’t have swallowed the pan. [Lots more laughter here]

Are you going up North? There’s a lot of snow up there ’ent there?

A: Well we’re going up to Kendal, up into the lake country next week.

Do you know what day?

A: Tuesday.

Not Monday?

A: No we’re going up Tuesday.

Well we’ll perhaps give Peter a ring tonight. To tell them, you see they don’t hardly know, both the mum and dad have died, you knew that?

A: Well, we have a place, we’ve got a reservation in the hotel Fairfield, which is in Windermere, which is only about ten or 15 miles....

It’s only 9, from Windermere. They used to fetch me up every year, you know, since I lost me wife. I lost Bertha, my first wife, in ’68 and I’d lost my sight you see. Brian and Sheila used to come down every year and fetch me up, and I used stop there about 3 weeks in June, and in the finish I went by coach, you know. Somebody took me to Luton, or Bedford, and I got on the coach and it took me right through to Kendal. You can’t do it now, there so much changing, you know. You have to change at perhaps Preston, and then Lancaster and all that. But Peter, .... you see Brian only died last Christmas you know.

A: Yes.

Yes only 62, and Sheila, course it were terrible. Sheila, she were a lovely girl. She’d help anybody, she were a proper church woman you know, done everything for the church and other people, and then she had cancer like that.

A: Yes.

We went and saw her once at Christies up Manchester, she were in New Christies, that’s a cancer hospital, .... Well we went up for the funeral, but it upset me, and I had a stomach bug, and I had to stop in bed. Vera went to the funeral, a lovely funeral, and her friend sang “How great Thou art” at the funeral, but .....

A: Well we’re going up and we thought we’d call and get in touch with her.

Well I phoned and told them, I told Hazel, 'coz Peter phoned me when his dad died, and i mentioned you was coming. He couldn’t remember you, he was thinking of somebody in Canada, on his dad’s side, you know. It’s his mum’s side. And they’ve got 3 children, and I told them and they said they’d put you up bed and breakfast.

A: Oh they don’t need to do that – with 3 children that would be a crowd. We’ve got four people in this platoon.

Yes, I think they’ve got..., I’ve never bin to this house, ...

A: We thought we’d give a good visit with them.

Has Janet told you much about ’em?   

A: No Peter and Christine are still up there, Michael moved.

Well Peter’s moved, he doesn’t live in Kendal now.

If you rang up in the time day I think you’d catch him. They’ve got a business up there, he’s a photographer you know. It’s called the Lakes Studios. Yes, he’s bin America. When I founded them to tell them, they said “we’ve all just bin Disneyland.”  Peter and Hazel and three children. So they’re doing alright. I think Peter’s one of them, they don’t worry, he’ll spend every ha’penny he’s got...  I think he’s got a manager that runs it, a couple of gals work for him. But he loves photography.

A: That’s good.

He were a teacher for a start. He packed that up and he went in to photography. But I like him, you can’t help but like him. He’s happy-go-lucky, you know. He’s different to Michael, he’s serious, the other boy, at Colchester down the south, Essex. With a horticultural, seed firm, you know. He’s got a doctor behind his name.

B: He’s a nice quiet lad, is Michael, and his wife. Peter’s different, full of beans.

Peter, when he was a teacher, used to take some boys on Windermere, in boats, for their school lessons, climb there and have breakfast up there......

A: Now do you remember what Grandpa Leech did with me once? When I didn’t behave well, when Mum told me I was not being such a good boy, and he picked me up. “Alright Alice, I’ll take care of him.” He put me under his arm and carried me upstairs. This was up on Bedford Road. And they told me that I threw my shoes down one at a time.

Oh? No, I couldn’t say. I know he’s took me upstairs and smacked my arse more than a few times!

[Lots of laughter here]

What do you say [meaning Vera his wife] “You’d like to do it now, would you?”

[Lots more laughter here]

But Grampy Leech, oh he did work, you know, when he were young. When he lived in them 8 houses, up above, when I were about 5, he had 40 pole of ground, you know what a pole is do you? The old measurement.

A: No. A rod?

Rod, pole and perch, well a pole were about 5¼ yards long and wide like... [actually 5½ or 30¼ sq. yards] Well he had 40 with the house, pole, and 40 in the allotments ’side of it, and they won’t got no plough, they dug it all, ’cos Uncle Bert said he’s bin, moonlight night in the winter, him and Fred, out digging, all of um digging. ’Cos he used have pigs and ducks, they used to waddle down to Bayes’ field, there used to be a little field, you know the baker, he had a little field below them 8 houses, and there were brook and a wide bit of pond like, and the ducks used to waddle down this little hill, and then come back. And we used to play football in that little field, and there used to be 2 trees about 10 foot apart, for goal posts you see, won’t there Vera? And that chap if he’d see me down street, and I didn’t see him, he used to come up and whisper Bayes’ Field, and I knew it were – Reggie Vines, he used to play goal......

B: France, there’s a cup of tea there, on the back....

I needed that!

B: They always say I make a good cup of tea!

A: Dad used to make tea: 3 scoops, with his hands, never measured anything. 3 scoops, boom, boom, boom, just put it in, let it brew.

That’s how they made it in th’Army I ’spect.

[Lots more laughter here]

B: Any more questions.

C: Where is Grandpa Leech’s grave? Where was Gramp Leech buried?

B: Earls Barton?

No, no. Grampy Leech, he were cremated.

C: At Kendal?

No, not at Kendal, at Blackpool. The nearest crematorium, when he died, that were ’63, was Barrow-in-Furness, and that’s right up the north, Buck-end, about 50 mile. Well Blackpool’s a bit farther, but it were better roads to Blackpool, you see, them days, when he died, you’re gotta goo winding roads, it took you longer. So he were cremated at Blackpool, ’cos I went to the funeral. It poured of rain; we started Easter, don’t know whether it were Easter Friday, or Saturday, something like that... I think we got there about 5 minutes before we were due, timed it just right, you know, Blackpool at half-past ten. Yes, that’s where he were cremated, at Blackpool.

B: How old was he? 89?

Yes 89.

B: Cos when Bert got to 89, he kept saying “well .....

Bert kept saying.... want to outlive our Dad, I’m passed our Dad now....

B: He seemed as if he’d finished when he got to how old your Dad were, didn’t he, Bert?

He did seem to, that’s when he cracked up, ent it?

B: He said “I’ve got to Dad’s age now” and that were it....

Well he’s 85. Don’t you do that! Don’t you give up when you get to 89.

Do you think I shall get to 89? I dun’know. I’m in Ash Abbott’s funeral club, anyway...

I’ve joined his Christmas club! [laughs]

B: He’s 85, and I’ll be 80 in October.

A: It would have been Mum’s birthday this Friday.

Mum’s?

A: Yes, April 6th.

No, I didn’t know when Alice’s was. Oh, April 6th, well how old would she have bin?

A: Nearly a 100.

Yes ‘cos she must have bin 15 year older than me.

A: Maybe 101.

When were she born?

15.00

A: Must have been 189[6]. She’d have been 99 this year.

Fred got killed at the Battle of Loos in First World War, well he were missing – is your Dad ever said anything about it?

A: Yes Dad did.

Well he were in Kitchener’s Army, directly the war started, there were a Lord Kitchener and his photo used to be everywhere. He’d got a moustache and peaked cap, and they got the photo so that he looked at you where ever there were a poster like that and it said “Your Country Needs You!” – ’cos it were all volunteers in the First War you know, until 1917. They never conscripted them till 1917. Perce had to go then, September the 18th when he were 18, and he were in France the next year ’cos I remember he wrote home, and he were in a shell hole on his birthday. He were like Vera’s brother like, he wonn’t built for the Army. Not like Bert or your Dad. Your Dad, when he got back, he said “I should never have made a soldier, like when there wonn’t a war.” He were alright in the war, but he said he couldn’t have stood the discipline, you know, not in peace time. When he were in the army, like they come up our house to live for a week, up Irthlingborough. I ’spect he told about that dinn’t he?

A: No!

Din’t he tell you ’bout stopping at Beats?

A: No. Now I have to ask a question. Oh, in ’57?

No, not – oh, yes and then. But when he come up Rushden that week, I happened to be going up Fireside [men’s fellowship] and I were talking to me friend aside of me, and the man behind said “Did you say Alf Cox?” and I said “Yes.”  And he said “Do you know him?” and I said “Yes, he’s my brother-in-law.”  And he said “Were he in the army, were it the 7th Northants?” I said yes, and he said “Well I were a sergeant in that.”  And it were Bill Jaques, and when I told your Dad he said “I knew him, we were both in the same lot.” And I said I’d take him down to meet him. And I took him down the Sunday af’noon as they come - your Mum and Dad, and caught the bus back to Rushden. Dunn’ow if your seen a picture of Wheatsheaf?

A: No.

Your mum took a photo of the Wheatsheaf, Bertha and your mum took a photo. They said where were France and Alf? I said they were inside the pub. I said one of Arthur Folwell’s sons kept the Wheatsheaf and your dad were a big friend of Arthur Folwell at Irthlingborough, and he kept the Compass and his son kept the Wheatsheaf. So we went in there, see.

A: Oh the two pubs?

Yes. That Sunday arf’noon I took your dad down, your mum wouldn’t come, she stopped with Bertha and Pamela, and I took him down to see Bill Jaques, and as we walked up the yard, they’d got a yard, you know, and as we walked down Bill Jaques could see us out the window, and do you know when they got in, they both cried, and they couldn’t help it, they put their arms round each other..... Mrs Jaques she said leave ’em a minute. Then they were talking and I heard your dad say to Bill Jaques “Did you see Colonel Mobbs that morning he got killed?” Colonel Mobbs were over there. They have a big rugby match every year up N’th’ampton, they played it, were it last week?

B: No. About a fortnight ago.

Yes they played East Midlands Barbarians, they’re all internationals, the Barbarians, and this is for Mobbs’ Memorial. He were over their battalion, and he got killed. They recon he were a daredevil, you know, he’d stand on the step of the trenches, and look over, but I ’spect that’s how he got killed.

A: Yes ’cos Dad’s nick name was “the Tank” – mum said they used to call him The Tank, ’cos he never got cut, except when he played football.

Yes, yes, he were lucky wonn’t he? And he went right through it, he were out there, I don’t think, did he come home on leave?

A: I didn’t think he did, but I was reading a write-up where they said he did.

I didn’t think he did, but he come home 6 months afore the war finished, didn’t he. Yes he told me that, they sent him home – I think he were at Weymouth then. Did your mum talk about Weymouth?

A: Yes.

I know he said to me there one sergeant down there – and he said when Armistice were declared, that were the first war, if some of them soldiers had have caught him they’d have murdered him, they’d have killed him, you know, he were rotten – a blighter.

B: A rotten bugger say.

Yes that’s Artleboro’ language ’enn’it.

[Lots more laughter here]

A: We were talking nick names. I asked her if she’d ever heard of a Cloddie King.

Yes that ... were our favourite.....

C: Do you remember Cloddie King?

A: Well I don’t but Dad told us a story about Cloddie King being in one of the bars, one of the pubs, and someone came in and told Cloddie that his wife had died. He had his drink and finished his drink, and he said “Bugger me, I never knew here to do that before.”

Yes that’s right.

C: He’s the one that also said “Your nose need blowing......[ lots of laughter here!]

A: Your nose need blowing, you blow it you’re closer to it than me”

B: Another one, you know, he went horse riding, and got a ladder to get on the horse, and he got off to take it away again before he .....

He went up the allotment. He said to me “If you can tell me how many cabbages are in this bag I’ll give you all 5.”

C: I remember Dad saying that!

B: There are lots of funny bits like that.

Oh Yes. I worked with a chap up Sargents, he were called Cloddie King; I recon his Dad were the original Cloddie King from Irchester.

B: Raunds is not far from here. Yes were bin here over 50 years you know.

C: Is that where Welsfords are from?

[The talking now gets confused - about lots of people and comings and goings from foreign parts]

A: Our daughter Margaret is going to meet us in London. We’ll be seeing her two weeks from today.

B: And you’re going off from London?

A: Yes.

Well you had an aunt up London didn’t you?

A: Yes, aunt Lily.

Her husband were a policeman. When we met your mum and dad that were 1957, and we were standing by the airstrip, and Air Glad said “that couple standing a bit further up look familiar. She looks like a Cox, like Alf, I’m gonna ask him.” And Glad went up to him and said “Do you mind if ask you who you’re waiting for to come?” And she said “I’m waiting for Alf Cox and his wife to come.” And of course we got talking, and he told me if you come up London come up our house. They lived up Stepney then, PC Lock, but we never did see them no more. They’d arranged to stop up Stepney for about a week, and then they come down to Irthlingboro’ and they stopped at Beat’s didn’t they. Did she ever tell you about it, your mum? Bet she had to clean it up.

A: Did she clean it up for you?

Oh, your mum would have clen it up! They’d had a dog sat in the armchair, you see! And your mum weren’t none too good then were she? She’d had cancer then hadn’t she?

A: Yes but it was in remission then. [some chatter here] That was Beat Dawson, now I want to ask, was Beat Dawson the woman that Mum saw when she was walking down the street?

Mum said she had seen this one woman, and they hadn’t seen each other for years, and she crossed the street, and they both started singing to each other!

C: I think it was Lizzie Shorter or something like that. My mother said when she came over in ’57 and she said she was walking down the street, and she looked across the street; I don’t know which town she was in...

A: I thought it was Irthlingborough.

C: And she crossed the street, and evidently the two of them had been friends when they were young.

A: Close friends.

C: Close friends, but they hadn’t seen each other in years, and they used to sing, and they both started walking towards each other and started singing. I can’t remember the name of the person, I don’t know if it was Liz....

A: I don’t know but it makes a lovely story.

[a discussion of who it might have been]

They all knew Beat in Irthlingborough, they young uns all called her aunt Beat you see,

B: Oh yes, Robert – my brother’s boy, she used to make ever such a fuss of him.

And Jean’s boy, he worked in the bank, at Irthlingborough, and he knew her, Aunt Beat they used to call her.... Did you remember anybody coming from New Zealand, a cousin, Billy Blackwell?

A: Billy Blackwell, yes!

Well he’s bin here two or three times before, and he took a chap there to Aunt Beat’s, course Aunt Beat, how she is, said “Come on in my duck, do you want some bup?” And this man from New Zealand, he said to Billy “What’s bup?” Course they used to call anything to eat “bup” years agoo. But you couldn’t help but like her, Aunt Beat.

B: They come here didn’t they, Billy and his wife.

Yes, they come here before they come to America.

C: Is he still living?

B: We don’t whether he’s still alive do we?

I don’t know. Had they both had cancer? And they travelled for this, health like organisation.

B: They were trying to bring it in, the kind of treatment. He was telling us all about it.

He had bad luck, you see his son got killed ....

C: On a tractor....

On a tractor, motor tractor on a farm. He turned it and it got tipped over. Killed him, when he were 21, you know. It’s nothing to do with us I know, but then his first wife went a bit queer, but I dunnow what happened, but he left her I think. He were married to another one. And I dunnow whether it’s this one or the first, but one of um were a relation to Lord Wakefield of Kendal.

A: Oh!

B: Were that his first wife?

I can’t think if it were his first wife or second, but ..... I remember Lord Wakefield, he used to captain rugby for England, 1920s and he lived at Kendal. Have you heard of Wakefield Castrol Oil?

[lots of chatter here - then back to talk about Billy]

He come here you see, he enquired, he said i know how old you are France, you’re 12 months older than me! When the First War were on, they lived at Barton, the Blackwells. That were Gramma Leech’s sister you see. Billy Blackwell were cousin to me you see, that were mum’s sister, and at the finish of the War the dad, that were Jim Blackwell, had to go in a like naval sea base, on a ship. He were helping, you know they’d got sea planes at the end of the first World War, yes, and he wore a blue uniform. I always remember him. When he used to come home, his mum and Billy and Bernard, the boys, they come to live with us while he were in the forces, at Rushden, and then they went New Zealand you see. He used to bring, it were like a block of chocolate, but it were cocoa and sugar like, that they broke up to make a cup of cocoa, in them days. And we used to eat it like chocolate, cos there were no sweets in the war you know.

A: We had durations you know.

We were only learning on the radio the other day, that clothing rationing in England never went orf ’til 1953. That were 8 years after the war. And sugar, that didn’t goo orf ‘til about 1953. I heard the question on a quiz panel, you know.

A: Now Billy Blackwell, he made a radio. That’s what he went into, electronics.

Yes, are your heard of Plessy’s, a big firm? Well were got 2 or 3 in England and Australia, and Billy, he were chairman of them once.

A: I thought it was Phillip’s?

B: Perhaps they changed over?

C: I was going ask about the Tebbutts – where did the Tebbutts live? Where was Grandma Leech born?

B: Where were the Tebbutts, were they Earls Barton? Your mother, were she...

She were a Tebbutt. Mum Clara Tebbutt, there were Beat Jones’s mum, Aunt Emm, and this one in New Zealand, with Billy Blackwell: she were Liz, mum’s sister. Then there were Herbert Tebbutt, that were the one that used to go round with the bakers, that were his son, then there were one at Higham here, that were Uncle Joe, and Aunt Clare. Air mum were Clara, and her name were Clare.

C: And where did the Tebbutt family live? Where did your mother live before she was married? In Rushden?

No Barton, Earls Barton, I were the only one born up Rushden, all the others were born at Earls Barton.

B: We didn’t really know – until we had our wedding and he said that was where I was born. I thought Bedford Road.

[chatter here]

Air Dad, Grampy Leech, he come from Chesham or High Wycomb. I didn’t know me grandparents, I only met me grandfather once. He come here once when we were up Bedford Road. Do you know, he lost half a sovereign up the allotment, he went with air dad up the allotment and lost half a gold sovereign. And do you know, about ten year later air dad were digging and he found it and it just shone as bright as when it were dropped. That were the only time I knew him. I don’t know no grandparents from Barton. All I know, Uncle Perce said there used to be a man went up Bedford Road when I were a little tot, Grampy Warman they called him. And he used to play the fiddle, that’s all I know.

C: There was someone named Wyman in the family. Someone said, a Tebbutt, may be your mother’s grandmother, was married three times. And one of the names was Wyman, and one the names was Rice.

Yes that’s right. I dun know whether Janet told, in one of your letters, Janet come over here, and let Vera read it. Something about Rice, but om never heard it, nothing about Rice.

C: I think I remember that.

A: Pamela Rice.

C: I remember Bill Blackwell was at our house one time, he and my mother were talking, and they said something – she was married three times and one of them was Wyman and one of them was Rice. One of them, Wyman got into showbusiness.

Mum knew more than us, she were the first one born at Barton.

A: I just learned from Janet that Mum was baptised in Earls Barton. Yes she and Fred were baptised at the same time, All Saints Church in Earls Barton. I never knew too much about Earls Barton. I heard all about Irthlingborough and Rushden and Wellingborough, but never much about Earls Barton. And then in 1957 a picture taken of it....

Well your mum never lived with us a lot. Not at home. Did she live at Irthlingborough?

C: Yes.

What, with Aunt Emm?

C: That’s right, she went to live with Aunt Emm and Harry Jones. That’s who she lived with, because she went to work at Irthlingborough.

Yes I remember her talking about working at, were it Tower Boot Company? I know she used talk about the Trade Union bloke, Langley.

C: Yes she went live there and then she went to work. Then granny asked how did they meet. He was living in Irthlingborough and she was living and Irthlingborough, and they went to a 21st birthday party, I think it was May Jones’ or Flo Jones’.

I kent remember her living with us much. Bedford Road, the cottages down at 20 Bedford Road, again’ Ash Abbott’s. Well, you kent remember, there were only one big bedroom, you see they called it Factory Place, they reckoned John Cave, he used to be a big shoe manufacturer, they reckoned he began in air house. Cos Uncle Perce used to say there were oak beams through the roof. That were the clicking room , where they cut the uppers, and these clicking knives had a point on them, and they used to throw up into the beams, at night when they were going home. Used to be two double beds , one up one side and one up there, you could have got three double beds in that room and still had plenty o’ room. But the other ones, you see, you used to go up stairs, and there were a little window on the landing, and you went that way to the big room, and then up that way there were a little bedroom  there, where Glad and Flo slept, and then another one there where mum and dad slept. So there were only that one big bedroom and one ordinary small one. And this small one where Glad and Flo slept, the tiles from the barn went down there, and over the little window, they’d only got a little window, got bars across; damn cats used to get in at night. Glad used to go up, and say a cat lay on the bed, and she used to be frightened to death.

A: Dorothy didn’t like cats.

B: That’s Sheila up Kendal – she had cancer.....  That’s Michael, but they’re all alter from this, that’s Peter and Hazel.

Peter’s wife, she were a nurse up there, she comes from down south. Bournemouth. She were a sister in the Kendal hospital when she picked up with Peter. They used to fetch me for three weeks, when Bertha had died, and they used to do their courting in the house while I were sat there. But she’s a nice gal - I like her.

[chatter]

But the name’s Thornton. If you get through Kendal, you ask for the library, it’s somewhere opposite the library, if you asked - I dun know if the shop’s on the front or if you go round the back somehow. They used to have one down Stramongate, but I think they packed that up and come in the High Street.

A: It’s called the Lake’s Studio?

Yes – he loves photography.

A: That’s good.

I’ve got a tape for you. From the church.

A: The church where mum and dad married?

Well I don’t know whether they married there, Frank don’t know, he said the records are up N’thampton somewhere. They took it for the organ fund, they had to buy another organ, and they got one from somewhere £15,000. They got the Rushden Salvation Army Band to play, and they sang all these hymns, old ones. We’ve got one and we orften have it on Sunday nights.

A: I scared Joan yesterday. She told me they were gonna sing on Monday after Palm Sunday, in Irthlingborough Church, St Peter’s Church, the choral society that Joan is in.

When are they gunna sing?

A: They’re singing Monday night, over in Irthlingborough, St Peter’s Church. Now they’re doing John Stainer’s Crucifixion. I think I scared her, I said “maybe you could ask the conductor, I know the solos”.

Oh!

A: But I would never do that. This has been a bonus, ’cos I thought I wouldn’t hear anything, so I’m going in the church where mum and dad were married, but Janet looked this up and found out they were married there. I thought that would be great to go in that church. The more I was thinking about it, the more cheeky I thought I’d get. So I went over to Joan, and I started to sing a couple of things from the Crucifixion, and she looked at me with her eyes up, and I said “Don’t worry, Joan, I wouldn’t do that to anybody.”

Course, she’s a shy sort, Joan.

A: She’s good.

Yes. I like her, she ever so quiet. Can she walk alright now?

A: She’s walking better.

She’s had her knees done?

A: Yes she’s had one knee done, but she was getting in and out of the car, but not too fast.

Have you seen Doreen yet?

A: No, no. We’ll see her.

She’s on crutches ent she?

A: Yes.

She fell out the Land Rover didn’t she?

A: Brian said. She forgot there was no running board.

Course I ’spect she forgot it were a Land Rover, she’s used to Bill’s car, and they’d gone to see Joanne at Bromham, she’d got something in her hand and she fell. 

B: Have you drunk your tea France?

I dun know, I’m still dry. I’ll have another cup.

A: We bin going at a pretty good pace! Back home they’d call us a couple of motor mouths!

B: I know, they say women can talk!!

A: This fellow can talk!

[laughter]

Well I don’t get a chance other times do I?

A: Now do you have a cassette player?

You see them who went, that were Vera’s brother, he can talk more than Vera can!

[laughter]

Did you say going to the church?

A: Yes were going next Monday night. This coming Monday, the 8th, no the 9th.

You’re not going til Tuesday up north? Was you thinking about a Sunday service at all?

A: Yes, we’d like to go Sunday service.

What, Easter Sunday when you get back?

A: Easter Sunday when we get back, we’ll be in Irthlingborough.; we thought we’d go the Irthlingborough church.

Are you stopping at Irthlingborough?

A: Yes.

Well who’s this Joyce?

C: Joyce and Jean, they live up Wellingborough Road, they’re grampa’s nieces.

Was her mother a Cox?

C: Yes. Nellie Cox.

Were there a [Drew] Cox? There’s a picture of him in that book.

B: He was a very good cornet player, and a band director.

Oh! I didn’t know many of em – I always remember air mum taking me up to see Aunt Flo, me sister, did they tell you about her? She were in Berrywood, it’s St Crispin’s now, up th’other side of N’thampton, you know, like a mental home. I always remember when I were about 11 mum taking me up there. The buses then were hard rubber tyres you know, double decker and hard rubber tyres, and I always remember mum saying that’s Elsie’s, Polly, the conductor were. She always worked on the buses.

C: That’s right. There might have been Nellie too.

She died didn’t she? Were she TB at the finish?

C: That could be Polly. All three and they died of TB.

Yes I remember air mum saying to me, that’s Polly Cox, that’s Alf’s sister. You know, I think she spoke to her, but I were only a kid then. But I remember Art, he were on the gas wa’n’t he?

[laughter]

I remember em saying, well his wife, were she a bit of an invalid?

C: Yes.

Well Arthur died first din’t he?

C: Yes.

People said after he died she got up and got about better.

[laughter]

We used to go down Beat Dawson’s, when Glad come down from Kendal. She lived up Manton Road, the second house on the left up Manton Road you see, and we used to go and visit her. She’d say “Come on in! Do you want some bup, or a bottle of beer?” No I said, not this time, I’d sooner have a cup of tea.

A: That must have been a good time for you all?

C: [talking to Vera - B] So your brother knows who Joyce is?

B: Yes, well when we first asked him he said he’d look it up in the records, the register, the Electoral register. He said there’s “somebody up Wellingborough Road called Joyce, she’s named Gavin.”

[chatter]

C: You asked who Winnie was. She’s the oldest Cox grandchild. But she lives in Essex. We’re gonna try and get there to see her. Polly was her mother. And we hope to go to Surrey too.

Does this Joyce live along Wellingborough Road?

C: Yes.

B: By the Weetabix.

I used to goo along there, since we were blind, we had a friend who come in hospital to us, Steve Warner, and he said there was Cox, .........  but they’re both dead now.

Further on the row of cottages, they always used to be covered with white, see the cement works used to be down there. Did your dad work there once?

A: I don’t know.

Course there’s Thomas and Baldwin, I don’t know whether that opened later, the iron works, whether he worked there.

C: What sort of mine did he work in.

A: He worked in the pits.

C: But it was strip mining wasn’t it. Open pits?

A: No they didn’t go in the shafts. It was open pits, ’cos he used to run across the top.

Planks, won’t they, ’cos they used wheel a barrow across.

C: And they used to call my father Blandon, ’cos there was a Blandon that walked across Niagara Falls.

Oh, I thought I couldn’t dare do that.

C: I don’t how my father would have done it, you know. I don’t think he was ever afraid of much.

B: He was a proper worker wasn’t he? Alf.

C: My father, Alf.

Didn’t you get him a job in Kodak?

C: No he went to work at foundry there. Oh he did, it was part of Kodak.

I thought Alice told when she come, that it were too easy a job, and he packed it up there, and went back to the foundry?

C: I don’t think it would have bin Kodak. Oh, wait a minute, Rich Construction. Part of Kodak.

A: He went to work for an outfit called Rich Construction, and it was part of Kodak. And he left, he went back to the foundry! Come here to find that bit out. How do you remember all these things?

B: He remembers everything.

I can remember them better than I can now.

[discussion about a book they are looking at]

A: Do you remember a story about when I was all dressed up, one Sunday morning, and I fell in the horsemuck?

Yes you fell in it.  Me and old Beeby got the job on Sat’day mornings for so long, to clean them horses out, clean the stables out. There was row of stables, and heap of horsemuck there, you had to pack it all up there you see. Course the old yard, it were holes and that, it were supposed to be asphalt, it had broke away. When it rained all the puddles with horse muck and all that, I ’spect you fell in one.

A: Yes.

I think Bert remembered and Granma Leech said “little bugger!”.

[laughter]

A: I remember off the back end of grandma Leech’s house, there was, what was his name, oh Snoddy Brittain. There was a boy, and that was his name, and we were little kids. We were hungry and went into Grandma Leech’s, went in the back door, to make jelly sandwiches.

[laughter]

A: And mum said Granma Leech was ever so mad for a minute. Now do you remember the story about when the tramp came to the house? And Granma Leech gave him a pair of pants. She always did this, mom said she was very generous.

Oh she were. You see we were the last house in Rushden nearly, ’til you got nearly right to them 8 houses, where we were all born. You see them days there used to be lots of tramps walked from Wellingborough. There only used to be a workhouse at Wellingborough, and they used to walk from Wellingborough ’n they were going to Bedford. They’d goo up air yard, and goo in air back gate and ask air mum. Oh air Dad used to get on to her. “They only come for money” he said. “I’ve bin up the allotment wi’ me truck and seen the bread and dripping you give them in the ditch”. He had an allotment up there, and he had a truck, a Tate and Lyle box, a wooden box, and bought two wheels and put it on, a bit of wood for a step. A’ter I come from school air mum ‘ud say “Are you bin horsemucking? Goo on, your dad’ll get on to you if you ent bin horsemucking.” Used to goo horsemucking, in the streets and pick it all up, and put on the garden. Good stuff won’t it?

A: You see I remember the story mom used to tell us. One of these tramps came, and Grandma Leech fed him, and she decided he looked like he needed a pair of trousers, so she went and got him a pair of trousers. So a couple or three days passed, and one day, right then, Uncle Perce came down stairs and he asked Grandma Leech if she seen his tennis flannels. And she’d given away his tennis flannels.

Now that’s, er, Glad used to have a white tennis jacket when she used to play tennis, she played up the Baptist Chapel grounds, and she went to put it on one Sunday, no, no, she said to Gramma Leech, “Mum I see Florence Mason up street with a coat on just like mine”,  and do you know, she went up and looked for her’n and it won’t there. She’d given this Miss Mason it, that woman up Wymington Road, and this gal thought she were the belle ‘o the ball. She used to swank about Rushden, you cou’n’t touch her with a barge pole. Yes sh’ed give her it.

[laughter]

Then we had second hand clothes, we did!

A: So did we! The first concert I sang in High School, I needed a sport coat, so mom went down to a place called, it was after work, this place called the Opportunity Shop, remember that Nancy? The Opportunity Shop, and she went in and got me a sport coat, I think it was two dollars, and I wore it at concert, either that night or the next night. If I had to have it, I got it!

Well there’s a lot of shops like that. Oxfam here like, they’re for charities. There’s one up Kendal. Sheila and Hilda Gardner always used to goo there, and we used to goo along there with ’em.

A: Listen now, we’d better get headed back. I’m gonna feel like Columbus.

C: Maybe we ought to go see Uncle Perce.

A: Uncle Perce, no, Uncle Herbert.

He played the piano you know, not me.

A: I know – I had that mixed up.

I never played.

A: They used to make me dance.

I only played a comb with a bit o‘ paper on!  I used to learn the songs like. Perce used to have a music club. He used to pay so much a week and there were a – Horacio Nicholls, his song, it were Lawrence Wright at the finish, I don’t know whether you’ve heard of them, and they used to, up Blackpool there used to be music centres, and it only used to be a “tanner” – six pence, for a bit o’ music then, and he used to have um come every month, from this club, you know. Cos there were a chap, Bruno, Vera, up the club, can you remember? He were only saying about two year ago, can you remember? When we were young I used to sing em, well not sing, hum all these tunes to him, and he used to play em on the piano, this bloke played the piano a bit, by ear. He learnt a lot o’ the tunes like that, you know, out Perce’s club. Glad’s got a lot of them old music, you know – them popular ones.

A: Some of the songs – I don’t whether I learned them there or not, was Barney Goo-Goo, with the goo goo googly eyes...

Oh Yes, Barney Goo-Goo.

A: Horsey keep your tail up, cos ....

Yes, that’s Abbott’s brakes, that is! That’s Abbott’s brakes, that is – when we used to go Bedford in them, Asher Abbott used to have a funeral, and used to have brakes, and wagonettes. Well a brake - did you know? It were a long thing, people sat 5 aside – and the driver up there, two aside of him, we used to goo to Bedford, Free Gardener’s outing when we were young, we‘d have to get off and walk up hills, you know, and it had two horses. And then when we come home and if it got dark you know, we used to get off up these hills and look up the banks, and you could see these glow worms. You never see ‘em now. They were like insects, you know they used to glow at night.......like a light ....

A: We called them fireflies and the kids put them in jars. (America)

B: That’s it. But they do so much spraying now.....(Suffolk)

That’s it down here they’re spraying. Cut the hedges down, and ditches and that, and makin’ bigger fields. Never see a cowslip now, you see we used to make cowslip wine, and dandelion wine and all that you know.... I remember ‘gramma’ made some, don’t know whether it cowslip wine or ... parsnip wine....

Can you remember, just as you got in our back door, we used to have a horse shoe over the back door, ‘ant we, can you remember?

A: I think I can...

B: .... upside down, it were above the door to keep the luck in.

It wan’t above 4ft high ’cos I used to hit my head on it times, you had to go down and then it were a little kitchen, there were a black stove there, and then were a door for the stairs and door went along the passage, right along the passage and you could goo in the front room into the passage. Well under the stairs she used to keep a lot of stuff. And she made this parsnip wine. She put it them in them big brown and grey jars, stone jars, and she screwed the tops down and put them under the stairs.... In the middle of the night they exploded. She orften left ’um sometimes 3 or 4 days....and they blew, broke...  Frit us all to death. If you know what frit means – fitters..... That’s Artleboro en it??

A: Yes I think so.

Vera had a teacher lodge here once, years ago, he were a Welshman, and he come home one night, he’d bin Artleboro, he said “one chap met another and he said ‘bugger en it mairt’ all in one word – I don’t know what he meant. I couldn’t forget it.”  Some bits in that book –

B: There’s one down the bottom. (Finds a book on the shelf)

Air Ada – he worked in the Evening Telegraph office and he heard women talking outside, and he put it down there as it sounds.

Hello gal, Hello Air Ada, how’s your old man? ..............  I shall atta goo gal.....

And Reg Norman wrote all them, and his mother used to take us at Band of Hope.

A: Ah! Yes mum used to talk about the Band of Hope.

His mother used to take us for Band of Hope....  Every Tuesday night we used to go Band of Hope. It were somewhere to goo them days – they used hold it up the Baptist Chapel up the ’ssembly rooms. We used to goo up the fields [garden fields or allotments] and pinch a khol rabi or summat to eat, you know, or a turnip...., and then goo there. And Mrs Norman used to preach, talk about it.... and Billy Desborough used to – did she ever talk about Billy Desborough’s cough drops on the green? Selling um?

A: No.

He used to show the Magic Lantern, that’s all there were then a Magic Lantern, you put a slide through on the screen, it showed a man coming home drunk. You know .... Temperance Society....Well I signed the Pledge then, well we all did I expect..... That were when we were little.

A: Oh yes.

They used to atta goo back up the 8 Houses, and we used to be frit to death when we went under that oak tree. There used to be a oak tree opposite Bayes’ Field, a big oak tree stand there, and there used to be a seat under it, and a sometimes a courting couple sat on there, and you din’t know... when we were kids we used to frit to death when we gooing home, ’cos there were no lamps beyond air house, up there no lamps there, up that other quarter of a mile ..... 

She learned us once, a bit about Rushden, about a bike.

Riding Down the High Street,
Down Old Skinner’s Hill,
Straight along Duck Street,
And up Fitzwilliam’s Hill,
Go along the Moor Road,
You’ll see Old Bennett’s shop,
You see a bike you think you like,
And in you have to pop.

That’s what she used to learn us. And that were right, you see you went down High Street, and down Skinners Hill, then Duck Street, then Fitzwilliam Hill, you went along Moor Road, and then .... Old Bennett’s used to have a bicycle shop. He used lend bikes out, 3d and hour. We used perhaps have 3 pen’orth, and we’d have it for about, and we’d had it for about 4 hours and daren’t tek it back. We used to look along and see where he were, then just lay it against the window, and poor old Bennett you see, he were deaf as a post, deaf as me, he used have a ear trumpet..... I’d be better with one o them, this ’earing aid, I kent hear some o what you say, nothing sounds the same. Music’s same, some o this music on here sounds awful, wi’ this ’earing aid.

A: Do you have a cassette?

B: Yes. We’re got a nice cassette player.

I’ve got a little cassette, what the blind give me, for Talking Newspapers. We have a Talking Newspaper every week.

A: Are you able to use earphones with that?

Yes, Ron bought me some good earphones, about £14 I think, about six months ago, and I can hear better with them.

A: What I shall do is to make a copy of this and send you one. I’ll send you two ’cos it’s taken nearly two!

What’s this, I ent bin talking in that all the while??

[laughter]

B: I told you not to swear!

A: Oh he didn’t, he was very well behaved! You see, Uncle France, I can’t write that fast.

I ha’n’t better say what I think of Maggie on there had I?

[laughter]

A: What we were doing this for is for our kids. The older ones, they’ve heard some of the stories, from mom and dad.

B: He used to get on to me about writing, but I’m every such a poor writer. And not knowing you.....

[chatter]

B: I used to say that with Sheila, and I used to say “I don’t know what you make o' my letters?” and she said “Don’t worry about them, cos you put the news in and that’s all I want, I enjoy them.”

I used to tell her to write how we talk.

A: That’s the biggest compliment you can give anybody.

We had a ‘vacuee when the war were on, well he wo’n’t write home unless a bomb were dropped. Well that worried his mum and dad to death di’n’t it!

A: We’ve told other people this. In World War I my dad was a sergeant, and he had access to carbon paper, and dad used to write one letter, and he used to put caron paper underneath, for all the relatives.

Oh I see.

A: And he had seven sisters, so he’d write them all, and he’d rip them off and address them, each one. And I don’t have one letter!

Did your dad ever tell you about his D.C.M.?

A: Ya, I got copies...

How he won it?

C: Not for sure, go on – you tell us.   

He never said nothing to me; he never spoke about the war, did he?

A: No.

All he said to me were “I should never make a soldier in peace time. Too much discipline,” but Bill Jaques told me afterwards.... this Bill Jaques he were a sergeant  but he were a Sergeant Major by the finish. I said well what did he get the DCM for? He said that - that morning, he’d heard as his brother had bin killed. He’d got a brother killed in the war, hadn’t he?

C: Tom, our boy’s named after him.

Tom. That’s right, and Bill Jaques told me, don’t whether it were Col. Berridge, or Captain Berridge, he was under him wasn’t he?

A: Yes.

At Barnwell weren’t he, where they visited. He asked him, there were some place, a dug-out or something, high up, and they were snipers shooting a lot of air men off, you see. And they asked you dad to getere true, and he told me they went, he took 2 or 3 men, and they went round and they captured ’em. Got ’em in the dug-out, and he said, I don’t know if it were true or not, and he reckoned he bayoneted one or two on ’em. Cos he were in such a temper over Tom dying, being killed that morning. And some little bloke, they kicked him up the behind, and took him prisoner. That’s what Bill Jaques told me. But I know your dad never did talk much about the war, did he?

C: Well, mom or somebody told me he’d killed so many Germans. I heard one, once they said, either go this way or that. My father said I’m going this way, so whoever wants to come with me come this way. The ones that went the opposite way were killed. I remember that story.

A: Well I have the citations. I have copies of Dad’s citations at home, and one of them was that he was the last non-commissioned officer, the rest had all bin killed. And so he rallied some men and they held their position, and then went on and took the enemy’s position. Whether he got the D.S.O. for that, or the D.C.M. for that, I’m not sure.

I know he got the D.C.M. were it, and he got the M.M. didn’t he? Military Medal, and Distinguished Conduct Medal.

A: He got the D.S.O. too. But he never talked much about the war. He was at a place, one day, and he didn’t like anybody else talking about it, if they didn’t know what they were doing.

B: I don’t think many of ’em did.

Not who went through things, they didn’t talk about it so much, did they?

A: Dad was in a place one night, and I heard this from somebody else, Frank Whiting, and a guy was talking about the war, etc. etc. etc., and he’d bin there. And Dad asked him “Did you like walking on the duck walks there?”  And he said “Oh, that was pretty tough,” and Dad said, “you’re a bloody liar! We didn’t have any! You were never there.”

B: They caught him out.

A: Yes. Dad used to say “I am what I am, and can’t be any other.”

A: Well, listen we gotta go. I gotta pick up a tyre, well they close at 5.

C: Can you pick it up tomorrow?

A: I can pick it up tomorrow.

[a long discussion about where they are going and when and who they will visit]


Maureen, Vera, Francis and Pam at Francis’ 90th Birthday in 1995.



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