More memories by David Adams

by janet on 7 December 2012 · 0 comments

More memories by David Adams

An article that first appeared in the October 2007 issue of the Walkern Journal

The sun shone on the gilded numerals of the clock face on the tower of St Mary?s Church as it struck 11am. It was a beautiful April morning, the birds were singing in the trees and the daffodils in the churchyard swayed gently in the light morning breeze. I was feeling content, at peace with the world around me. I stood at the gate looking up at our magnificent ancient church, the memories flooding back of that day fifty years ago, when I proudly walked my lovely new bride down the aisle. Happy memories of the christenings, one by one, of our four children. Loving memories of those family members who had sadly passed on. As I dwelt on these things, it occurred to me that I now knew more about the people in the churchyard, than I did about the present villagers.

Making my way slowly up the steps leading to the main door of the church, I decided to walk around the graveyard, looking at some of the memorials of long lost friends and acquaintances. As I wandered slowly amongst the headstones, the ghosts of bygone villagers became a reality in my mind. Faces appeared as if by magic, as my memory conjured up visions of each individual as they were when alive. In my imagination I could hear them talking to me, as if it were only yesterday that we had met in the village street.

All around me were memorials to the people, who had shaped the history of the village over many years. Reminders, of the history, the lives, loves, hopes and the sorrows of bygone days. If only they could talk now, what a wonderful tale they would have to tell.

There were so many names familiar to me, Fred Dunn, a jovial former test rider for the now defunct but famous Stevenage motorcycle manufacturer, Vincent H.R.D. I recalled the many times when walking home from Stevenage after work, that Fred, returning from his day?s work, would kindly stop and offer me a ride home. Hair-raising stuff, riding pillion on the powerful Vincent H.R.D. motorcycle, there were no helmets required by law in those bygone days. I could still feel the thrill of speeding along the lanes on the pillion of such a powerful machine.

Then, without at first realising it, I came across the grave of someone I had long forgotten but a village character nevertheless, Mr Dennis. One time, mine host of the Robin Hood and village postman, who passed away in 1955. Could it really have been over 50 years ago? Mr Dennis was, I recalled, a gnome like figure with a large bulbous nose. Riding his red Post Office bicycle, his sack of letters on the handle bar carrier, he was the veritable Postman Pat of his day.

The famous but no longer existent “Brooklands” racing car circuit sprang to mind as I recognised the name on another stone. It was that of James (Jim) Clark, one time proprietor of the High Street garage. Jim raced cars in the 1930s? and all his garage advertising proudly proclaimed that he was a winner at “Brooklands” in 1936. Whilst I obviously didn?t know Jim in the 30?s my imagination drew a picture of a proud Jim acknowledging the accolades that day long ago.

I next stopped at a memorial that brought back happy memories of Saturday night old time dances. That of Alf Hale, a respected member of the community and a local magistrate. He and his wife, Ivy, were always present at those Saturday evening dances, held in the village hall. The nostalgic memory of Alf and Ivy, energetically dancing the Gay Gordon?s to the music of Mr Lowes? gramophone records, brought a wry smile to my face.

The job of keeping the village roads and verges clean and tidy fell to Geoff Stockbridge, who along with George Hatton, always took great pride in their work. They kept the village roads and verges in pristine condition for many years, far more immaculate than they are today I thought. This was all achieved by using hand tools, brooms, shovels and sickles, there being no mechanical sweepers or machines available for keeping grass banks and hedges trimmed in the 1950?s.

Standing before the grave of Eva Savage, the long time local schoolteacher, I recalled how she, as an elderly lady, was our neighbour in the High Street for the first seven years of our married life. Long retired, she had still retained that somewhat stern but kindly approach that she had as a schoolmarm.

The old pavilion in Totts Lane. H Warner, B Swain, A Young, Sonny Aldridge, M Dean and Billy Winfield

I recalled the happy days of my youth when Billy Winfield allowed we older teenagers to play billiards in the pub games room. Billy was the jovial landlord of the Red Lion public house, now the private house known as Redlyn. Recalling those carefree days of my youth, I wondered just how different my young days would have been, if we had been graced with the facilities the youth of today have. I very much doubted that they would have been as happy.

A vision of winter, and the roads out of the village blocked by snow, entered my mind as I read the epitaph on the stone in front of me, that of Fred Savage. The roads could be blocked for a matter of days, as the strong winds blew the snow off of the fields in between the high banks each side of the road. The only way to clear the snow was by men using shovels. There being no snowploughs available to clear it away in those days long gone. The person responsible for clearing that snow was Fred Savage who organised the village men into working groups and issued shovels to use. Fred was the local coal merchant and agent for the council when it came to snow clearing. I recalled that his office and yard once occupied the land on which Wenham Court now stands.

Slowly I continued to walk among the graves of the many long departed friends and acquaintances, too many to mention here individually. The sun shone warmly and the church clock was striking noon, bringing me out of my reverie. Time to leave the many memories behind. As I left the churchyard, I paused for a moment on the footbridge over the river, to watch the ducks bobbing around in the water. I thought that maybe many other villagers must have memories of those long departed. I wondered of whom or what, those memories would be. I might make a few enquiries, some day perhaps.

Leave a Comment