THIRD of JANUARY, 1981 (a Saturday)
It was a sunny day but cloudy in the evening, so we saw none of the Quadrantid meteor shower, which peaked that night.
For breakfast we had bacon, beans and potatoes. I was growing things in the greenhouse, so I had a heater on which needed refuelling. There was a card from Pearl, she is on holiday in Madeira for Boxing Day (not that they call December the 26th Boxing Dayt over there); I wonder what the weather is like in Madeira at this time of year? (Pearl was the optician’s receptionist in Norwich.) On the way to Holt wwe bought some shallots in Magdalen Road, I think these were for planting rathr than for eating straight away.
We drove to Edgefield, where I had a glass of Adnams Stingo Tally Ho at the Three Pigs. (This pub, now called just The Pigs, is mentioned in Parson Woodforde’s Diary.) As we were near the Holt Lowes we took the dogs (Fido and Suki) for a walk there. We went the usual way, so as not to tax Suki’s brain. We had lunch of beef sandwiches and mince pies. At Larners of Holt we bought a bottle of wine (Reisling). Next we explored the Spout Hills, where I had so much fun with Jerrry Falkus’s on his toboggan back in tne snowy winter of 1963.
Next we drove to Field Dalling, where Great Aunt Hilda Wace (née Rivett) and her husband Ralph were living in retirement. During their working lives they had a farmed at Walsingham – a farm that was, in 1981, in the hands of their eldest son Richard. (It is still the Wace family farm in the twenty first century.) Field Dalling is only five miles east of Walsingham on the way to Holt.
Ralph and Hilda had been married in 1928 when she was thirty. She was a sprightly 88 year old in 1981 (to be 89 in April of that year). We had never met her before but she immediately connected me with my painting of a counytry scene which used to hand in Aunt Maude’s flat. She much reminded me of her sister Maude, but even more bright and very charming. Ralph too is very spry, though a year or two younger than his partner. He still drives and prunes his apple trees. We spent an hour chatting and swapping family news. Before we left their son Richard called in to see his parents. I am so glad to have met her, as she died in June of that year at the age of 89.
The visit must have been arranged by my sister Tig because I had no idea that they were still living, let alone that it was near Holt. Of the five daughters of Henry Rivett I knew Aunt Maude the best; we often dropped in on her and would have her over for tea sometimes. Aunt Mabel had also been lliving in Earlham House after her husband’s death, before she herself died in 1970. She had a bigger flat than Aunt Maude’s tiny place. I visited Mabel fewer times than Maude. Another sister, Olive, moved away and seems to have lost touch with the other members of the family. I do not know much about the other daughter Florence, She seems to have been unmarried.
Their were also five boys in the famuly. Their father gave the boys the choice of being farmers or drapers. Reggie and Charles (my grandfather) were drapers. Harry (Albert), Fred and Ray were farmers.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF THE PAST
I can only find this saying as “Go to Bungay to buy a new bottom” in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. The fact that it is recorded in such an august source proves it is genuine, but the wording is a bit more coarse. No one would have said bottom, even in the 19th century (when Brewer was writing the book which is the pre-eminent work on the subject of sayings), but no one would have written bum, unless it was unavoidable in, for instance, the term bum-bailiff. I have seen some crazy explanations of the origin of the phrase (including one concerning the need to restore the bottom of the river Waveney that runs through the town), but Brewer’s is obviously the correct one. (He was a native of Norwich, so he should have known all about the saying.) He says it goes back to the time when Bungay was famous for its leather goods, and any East Anglian who need a new pair of breeches would think of going there to get one made.
The town is no longer namely for its leather, and I don’t think I have ever seen a pair of leather breeches. They sound rather sweaty to me, but for working outdoors in the winter they must have been ideal; they would have kept out the worst of the cold and wet, and would never have been punctured by thorns. They did wear out in the end though, and that was when your thoughts turned to Bungay! The last remaining firm in the leather trade is Nursey’s sheepskin. They traded on-line when they had to close their shop in Olland Street, though what the current position is I am not sure. They were once famous for their sheepskin coats (TV’s Del Boy had one, and so did I) but these are no longer fashionable. The firm, which was founded in 1846 by Samuel Nursey, now only makes sheepskin accessories. I was at school at St Mary’s in the town when the current MD (Timothy Nursey) was also a pupil there. We left for our respective boarding schools in around 1960. That was longer ago than I wish to contemplate, and the school has been closed for over 50 years.
Is the phrase ‘Go to Bungay’ still familiar to local people? It was to my father’s generation, and he had lived all his life fifteen miles away in Norwich. It is so long since I was part of the Bungay community that I no longer have any connection with the town. In the days when I caught the daily bus to Bungay steam engines still puffed their way into the town Th double decker bus made its way up narrow Bridge Street into the town centre. St Mary’s Perpendicular church was still a place of worship then, and I went there for the annual school service. An old lady with a hook for a hand emerged from a door into the tower as were singing Onward Christian Soldiers; no wonder I remember the occasion as clearly as if it was yesterday! We marched in a crocodile from the school past Roger Bigod’s twelfth century castle to come out opposite the church. You still get a strong sense of history in Bungay, even today. The seventeenth century market cross is on a human scale, but it still dominates the town centre.
THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Part of this line remains open (now called the Gainsborough Line), but in this post I will deal with the part of the line north ot Sudbury that was closed in 1967 under the Beeching Axe. I hope to deal with the part that remains open at a later stage.
Sudbury is now the terminus of the line, as it had been in 1849 when it was first opened. In 1865 the remainder of the railway was finally opened via Haverhill and beyond. By then the line had become part of the Great Eastern Railway. At the time Haverhill was a minor town, but since then it has been greatly developed and is now desperate for its own railway connection with Cambridge. The town was targeted as a London Overspill town a full ten years before the line was closed, but this had no effect on British Rail’s decision. Sudbury was not destined to have any major new develment, yet it and not Haverhill retains its railway station. If a railhead at Haverhill were ever restored a major civil engineering construction would now be required to cross the A11. Since the closure of the line the dualling of the A11 has obliterated the site of Pampisford station. Another candidate for reopening to Cambrige is the Wisbech line, and with that even the track is still in place. Yet no progress is being made on that line either, so it is no wonder that progress on the line Haverhill has stalled.
At the time Dr Beeching thought that only lines that directed people to London were worth saving, and the line from Haverhill would have sent its passengers north to Cambridge, away from London. Sudbury directed its passengers to the capital, and this may have saved it. Nevertheless it cost the town coucil dear, with a huge subsidy going to B.R, to keep the line open. The closure of Haverhill station was a dreadful decision, but only par for the course. Both Sudbury and Haverhill should still have a station of course. In that case there would have been little point in depriving the intervening stations of their railway either.
In 1922 there were four trains a day northbound and five southbound on the Stour Valley Railway. It was not a frequent service, nor one that began very early in the morning (the first train to leave Sudbury going south was well after 8 o’clock). The volume of traffic on such a rural line would not have justified a more frequent service, but an earlier start would have been beneficial I am sure.But there were undoubtedly goog reasons for things to have been done in the manner in which they were.
Shelford was until 1967 the junction of the mainline from Cambridge with the Stour Valley Railway, and was in existence well before line to Haverhill was built. Shelford remains open today, though naturally unstaffed. There were three more stations en route from Shelford to Haverhill. First came Pampisford and then Linton; these wee stations with two platforms – this part of the line was double track. The next station at Bartlow had three platforms; an up and a down line, and a third platform to serve the branch line to Saffron Walden and Audley End. This line closed three years before the Stour Valley Railway.
Beyond a third plarform, Haverhill had a complete second station called Haverhill South, and although a connection with the Stour Valley Railway existed passenger trains went no further. From there the trains went to Chappel and Wakes Clone station en route to MarksTey; it was called the Colne Valley line. This was opened in 1860, five years before the line through Haverhill North on the line from Cambridge to Sudbury, and closed to passengers in 1962. Freight services were withdrawn two years later and the line closed completely. The Colne Valley line seems a minor branch compared to the Stour Valley Railway.
On the Stour Valley Railway south of Haverhill there were other villages served by single platforms, with double track through the stations to accommodate goods traffic. The village of Sturmer (next from Haverhill North towards Sudbury) was in Essex, and then the line crossed again into Suffolk. After passing through Glemsford the line met yet another branch, this time at Long Melford. This line carried trains from Sudbury to Bury St Edmunds and indicated the return of two platform stations (and by implication a double tracked line). Opened at the same time as the Stour Valley Railway, this branch closed in 1965, having lost it passenger services in 1961. The sixties were a depressing time as far as railways were concerned.
The Stour Valley Railway also ran a short spur from Colchester to Hythe Quay, the destination for sea going vessels which navigated the river Colne up to Colchester. Only small vessels could make the passage from the sea, and this quay for sea going vessels no longer exists. It is possible to trace parts of the railway’s route to the waterside. This line was for freight only. It now forms the first part of today’s passenger lines to Clacton and Walton on the Naze.
FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
Do you want to come back forty years with me? You do? Then read on.
Monday August Bank Holiday was the last day of the month in 1981. My sister Tiggie and I were on holiday, visiting my schoolfriend Bill in North Yorkshire near Whitby. The day was warm and mostly bright, with a little drizzle at times. For breakfast we had beans on toast. Bill had rigged up a device to stop Fido going into his bedroom and waking him up betimes.
After breakfast we walked down the path to Littlebeck with the dogs (Fido and Suki). We got in the car and drove into the wildest part of the North Yorkshire Moors. As it was that time of the morning we had a drink or two at the Postgate Inn when we got to Egton Bridge. That part of the moors really is the back of beyond, we had to keep opening gates to get onto the high moor. We found a place to have our picnic lunch by a ford. It was on the way to the hamlet Stape. We had bacon, egg and tomato sandwiches, followed by Kiwi fruit.
We saw the Roman road up there in the remote wilds of North Yorkshire. We had come from Caistor by Norwich which had been the capital of Roman East Anglia – the Romans got everywhere! The length of paved way had been uncovered by a gamekeeper in the early twentieth century who was interested in history. Unlike the historic way the road we were following was completely unsurfaced. We went along a track called the ‘Forest Drive’.
We stopped at Levisham, Although this is a tiny village of under a hundred souls it has a station on the line to Pickering. The line closed under BR in 1965. Trains still run there however because it is now on the Heritage Line the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. We saw two trains pass through the village while we were there, one diesel and one hauled by a steam engine.
When we got back to Sleights we called in on Eskdale Antiques. From there Fido and I walked back to Bill’s house at Iburndale. After a rest Bill washed the car, which was very dusty – this was the effect of going along the unsurfaced road (see above). My sister Tiggy put the lamb on for dinner. This was delicious, served with beans and leeks, and followed by chocolate blancmange. We had gooseberry wine too (I wonder who made it? It certainly is not commercially available). We went out for a walk again, but both the dogs were too tired to come with us. I did not think we had done a particular lot of walking, but apparently they had done enough. The human contingent got in the car and drove to Sandsend, where we walked along the beach. I bought an ice cream before we drove home.
Then it was music hour; first I played Bill’s pianos and then his double bass (this used to be mine, but I gave it to him when I bought a older model). He plays in musicals like me. Then I copied out the two ‘Flower Dances’ for Bflat clarinet – though why I did this I do not know, because I have never been able play the clarinet or any woodwind musical instrument.
Of the dogs Fido had recovered enough to accompany me to the beck again, but we were surrounded by cows. Fido was able to run away, but I had to face them down. Before bedtime we saw some of Bill’s movies projected.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
It was a bright and frosty couple of days. After a morning walk through Howe, where we met a man painting a watercolour (he was accompanied by a rather cold dog at his feet) we drove to Suffolk.. We did not go the diresct way through Bungay but through Beccles instead, At Southwold my sister bought a brandy at the Kings Head – it was that sort of day. We parked the car by the comon and walked to Sutherland House for lumch, celery soup, scampi and loganberry sponge. We walked on the common where one of my shoes collapsed. From the common we drove to the harbour at Blackshore. We then drove to what had been the pier, but was by then just the Amusements at the landward end, all the rest had .been washed away, Since then it has been rebuilt and now goes right out to sea once again, which it had not done since the1953 flood.
On Sunday it was off to Rugby, 140 miles away, so it was an early start (5.30 a.m.). We drove along the A47 to Uppimgham. We had the dogs wth us and stopped in Peterborough to walk them, but only along the verge. We got to the Benn Hall in Rugby at 9.45 and set up our stall, We sold £60 worth of Dinky toys before the public were even admitted. These were all army vehicles. lt was just as well that the dogs were getting old because they had to spend most of the day in the car, although my sister did take them for a walk round the park during the day. Her stall had the magnifying glasses on display and she sold over £50 worth of stock. I sold over £100 worth of Dinkies once the public were admitted – the rocket alone fetched £42! We sold a lot of magazines too.
We took it in turns to go out for a drink at the Saracen’s Head. We had a look round the other stalls. Despite feeling rather tired after a busy day we were naturally rather pleased with the result of the day’s business. The Dinky toys were what was left from my childhood, so what we took for them was all profit. Athough they had no boxes (this would have greatly increased their value) they were in good condition.
We left just affer four and I drove until I was too tired to carry on. By then it was dark and my sister took over from Peterbrough. I had recovered by the time we got to Wisbech. We got home in under four hours – quite good goinng. We got two gallons of petrol in Rugby which was plenty to get us home.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
Although he had played in the Norwich Philharmonic as a teenager and continued to play as a young man, he had not played at all during my childhood, nor through my teens. When I was in my early twenties however he got out his cello again. We played pieces together. Luckily I recorded a sonata – Vivaldi’s cello sonata No. 5 in E minor. This had me on the guitar accompanying my father on the cello. I would play the recording to you now, but my WordPress blog will not allow me to do this without an expensive upgrade. I do not mind paying, but it seems to me that while I stick to the free service the posts will remain available as long as there is a readership for them. Once I start to pay an annual fee the blog will perish with me. So to give you an idea of what it sounds like I will include a link on Youtube, but it will of course be played by others.
My Dad only played one instrument – the cello -but my own playing history is more complicated. I started to learn the violin at the age of six (I had a beautiful little quarter size instrument made in Czechoslovakia) but that didn’t go very well, so I switched to the piano. My teachers were twin spinster ladies, one a pianist and the other a violinist. At the age of twelve or so I had another go at the violin. This time my teacher was Sydney Gould, leader of the Norwich Phil. again I switched back to the piano, this time under David West. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I found the ideal instrument for me – the double bass. I played bass in the school orchestra for a couple of years, but this instrument is not so good for playing solo; it is best when it is part of an ensemble. So lacking others to play with once I had left school, I gave it up. In my a twenties I taught myself the guitar. Thie guitar is often played as part of a group, but it is also a good solo instrument. I got quite good at playing this, quite adept enough to accompany my father in VivaldiI for example. I was nearly thirty when I joined an orchestra, and took up the bass again. This led me on to semi-professional playing (i.e. I got paid for doing it) and incidentally it also provided me with a wife, Molly.
I hope that my son will pursue a similar late start to his musical career. His school days were spent in learning the bassoon, but he never put in the hours of practice required. He strummed the guitar as a teenager, but like most young people who pick up the instrument this was the steel stringed variety, which does not lend itself to playing the music of classical composers. (It is true that the young French guitarist Tina Setkic plays Beethoven on the electric guitar, but she is exceptional.) Now, in his thirties, my son has bought himself a cello. He never knew his granddad, but I do hope the cello proves to be his instrument too. He is taking lessons, which is a start. I would like to buy him a good bow; my Dad had a pretty standard German cello, but a W. E. Hill bow, and these are acknowledged the best in the world. It helped him to get a beautiful tone from the instrument. I don’t think I could afford to buy him a Hill bow though – they now cost up to £15,000! They did not cost a fortune in the 1920s when my Dad got his.
I do not remember when I first learnt to read music; it must have been when I was six. Reading the notes has never been the problem for me, it has been playing them that has caused me more issues. Reading music is not a common skill however; among the members of the choir that Molly sings in she is the only vocalist who can read music.
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
The collapse of my flourishing business making magnifiers resulted from the huge increase in VAT that was introduced by Mrs Thatcher when she came to power in 1979. This affected the whole community Her approval rating dropped by over 20% and many people (me included) resolved never to vote for her again. She was saved from a one term premiership by General Galtieri of Argentina; he unwisely decided that weak old Britain would never dare to try and retake some sparsely populated islands in the South Atlantic once he had seized them. Mrs T’s firm resolve in recapturing the Falkland Islands meant that her reputation was safe thereafter. The public would continue to vote for her as long as she stood for re-election. It was only maneuvering within the Parliamentary Tory party that led to her downfall in the end. Anyway, when the orders for magnifiers dried up my activities had to change; I began to buy at auctions all sorts of bargains; books, music and musical instruments, all for resale. I also did a further bout of publishing articles on local history subjects. These changes are seen in this extract from my diary.
TUESDAY 20th October 1981 .
For breakfast I had a bowl of porage and a boiled egg. We took the dogs out and got soaking wet in the rain. We went to work, where there were no orders by first post. I did have a request for my latest list of violin music, and by second post I had an real order, worth all of £3.55. (less overheads). I spent most of the morning putting my books back on the shelves I had painted. I swept the workshop floor, it looks much better now.
My sister had a found a job distributing newspapers and leaflets to the the people who delivered them dor to door. The newspaper was the Norwich Mercury, which by 1981 had declined into being a mere free sheet. There were two leaflets to go out this week, which should swell her pay packet.
For lunch I had cold chops, my sister had soup. We took the dogs out; her dog is very old, but when we took her for a walk after lunch she even started to run. This was a mistake, because she fell over. The poor old thing is literally on her last legs, but she lasted nearly another year.
We went to the preview of the items that were being auctioned at the corn hall in the livestock market. There was a lot made up of of Dinky toys, but they were all in bad condition. On the way back we bought a can of white emulsion paint, it was really cheap. I had to fill in my VAT return, despite the low volume of sales and that took me most of the afternoon. Now I only have to find the money to pay it!
We were restoring the rooms on the second floor, and I was taking old wooden trunking down that had once carried the DC wiring round the property (about a hundred years ago). I also removed a length of leaden gas pipe. Then it was time for tea; we got it from Valori’s in Timber Hill. We also got a couple of bottles of Guinness. My sister had her Guinness before she ate, I had mine with my fish and chips. We had our meal by candle light, it must have looked rather cosy from the street. My sister went to her evening class while I had a snooze.
I was writing an article on the reuse of old ship’s timbers in buildings; it is about 750 words long. There was a shed at Acle market place made of the timbers of an old drifter. This even included the vessel’s name, she was called MOUNTAINEER. [This area of Acle has long since disappeared under a housing estate.]
THE BLOG FOR THE STORY OF EAST ANGLIA
William Crane was the local blacksmith of Hevingham. This village is a few miles south of Aylsham in Norfolk. In 1841 he had a son, also called William. After learning the blacksmith’s trade from his father William junior set up in is own right in the village of Fransham, equidistant between Swaffham and Dereham. He was an enterprising young man, and he develop a new type of horse rake for farmers; he also made cart wheels and wagons. Later the business expanded further and was registered in the 1883 White’s Directory as ‘William Crane – Agricultural implement maker, joiner and builder, blacksmith , wheelwright and church bell hanger’. As a result of a bad debt he was given a quantity of timber in lieu of payment. Thereafter in the census returns he describes himself as a timber merchant, so this obviously became a major part of his business. Fransham had been provided with a railway station in 1845 and this enabled this small Norfolk village to have a global reach. Timber could be imported and the implements sent out by train. His bi.g breakthrough came during the Boer War, when the company won a contract for the manufacture of gun carriage wheels.
William died in 1907. By then he was living in semi retirement with his married daughter in Gorleston. Under his sons Edward and Walter the company of W. Crane expanded further. In 1913 the company acquired an agricultural equipment factory in Dereham. During the First World War the firm expanded with the great need for gun carriages and field ambulances. This trade ceased after the 1914-18 war but Cranes began to build trailers instead. To begin with the production of trailers still involved the use of timber, but in 1929 the company produced its first trailer for Pickfords, capable of taking 100-ton loads. This was made under the supervision of Walter’s son Guy. It seemed the ultimate in trailer production at the time. The company had been incorporated as Crane (East Dereham) Ltd.
Meanwhile in America August Charles Fruehauf was pursuing a similar career. He had begun his working life in the Detroit area as a blacksmith and carriage builder. In 1914 a local businessman asked him to build a trailer which could be towed behind a Ford Model T. This was to carry a boat. Fruehauf successfully built the trailer, and the businessman requested that he build additional trailers for use by his lumber yard. These were of the type that became known as semi-trailers, and proved to be popular. In 1918, he incorporated his business as the Fruehauf Trailer Company. In 1961 Cranes (Dereham) Ltd formed a partnership with Fruehauf International Ltd. and became Crane Fruehauf Ltd.
At the same time Crane Fruehauf decided that they needed an additional factory to maintain their output of vans and trailers. North Walsham was chosen because where there were existing engineering firms. in the town. Later vacancy notices outside the works attracted the attention of people from the Midlands who were holidaying in the area; this produced a small crop of men with special engineering skills who were provided with houses by the Town Council. Another source was the RAF; many finishing their time settled in the area and provided the basis of the Quality Control Department. Strangely, one of the town’s assets appears to have been overlooked – the railway connection. It is known that the initiative for moving containers by rail came from the very top of the British Railways board.
The new factory opened in early 1962 with a 7-man team from Dereham. Other workers were recruited from the local area and by the end of the year the labour force had grown to 36. In 1963 the workforce grew to 70 and the output to 4 trailers and 1 van per day. In the following years the factory expanded by adding 60ft wide bays on the side, ultimately 5 bays. Following the introduction of container shipping, in 1965 the first containers were constructed to Fruehauf designs at North Walsham. The first order from Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) was placed in 1967 and in 1969 Seatrain placed an order for 3,400 dry freight containers, which was more than the total UK production the year before. In 1972 the labour force had grown to 800 and a particular milestone was the handing over of the 20,000th container to OCL. In the late 1970s production peaked at 200 units a week. The last container was built 1982. Trailers continued to be made in North Walsham until July 1999. The labour force had dropped to about 100, of which 50 were offered jobs at Dereham; that in turn closed in 2003. So ended Norfolk’s involvement in the trailer making business.
Although the trailer firm has now moved from Norfolk and the name of Crane has long been abandoned by the trailer makers, there remains a flourish blacksmith’s forge in Fransham. There is working museum there, and you may buy ironwork at the shop. If you need proof of its connection with William Crane’s family the place it occupies is revealingly called CRANES CORNER.
What is my personal interest in Crane Fruehauf? My great aunt Mabel Rivett (1880-1970) married Edward Crane in 1901, She had been born in Beeston (near Fransham) so they were close neighbors. The story goes that the firm was so inundated with timber following a tremendous gale that they turned to making trailers as a way of using the wood! They prospered greatly after the First World War, as the growth of motor transport produced a huge need for road trailers. The company used to have factories at Dereham and North Walsham, but these closed years ago and now Fruehauf trailers is based at Grantham in Lincolnshire. Mabel and Edward Crane had three children, the eldest of whom was daughter Winnie (Winifred) 1901-1989. She lived latterly at Drayton near Norwich. Winifred had qualified a midwife but never married. She exercised her little terrier dogs in Ghost Hill wood in the next village of Taverham. She died a year before I moved to Taverham. My sister Tiggie and I visited her in her superior white-painted bungalow about ten years before she died.
FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE
My introduction to First Aid was as a schoolboy. I have forgotten most of what I learnt in those tender teenage years, but I still remember the dummy on which we practised our CPR skills. I can even remember her name – it was Resusci- Anna! Luckily I have never had to revive anyone who has stopped breathing, but I still know what I should do in those circumstances; mouth to mouth resuscitation. We were instructed in First Aid by Harold Smith, He was not a teacher, merely a handyman, but he was very involved in St John Ambulance and anything to do with First Aid. He even drove the ambulance that carried my friend Bill to hospital when he got appendicitis. Harold had been in the Royal Norfolks during the war and was sent to the Far East, so he must have suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese when Singapore fell. I do not know if his experiences as a PoW influenced his interest in First Aid. There was certainly no practical medical aid of any sort available to the working parties on the Burma Railway.
However the other First Aid techniques that I must have picked up at the same time have now left me entirely. As this was over fifty years ago this is not surprising, but I have been taught First Aid more recently than that. This is when I was trained in First Aid in 1986, when I took a course given by St John Ambulance. I even passed their examination. This was done in Aldershot, as part of my training as a Combat Medical Technician in the RAMC. I was in the TA at the time, so my attendance as a soldier-medic was short term. Nevertheless this should make me a super efficient First Aider, but as this is now over thirty years ago (and I have done nothing in the field since) the knowledge has deserted me.
The history of what is now known as First Aid goes back centuries. Roman legions had the specific role of capsarii, who were responsible for bandaging the wounded legionaries, and these were the forerunners of the modern combat medics. In 1774, the Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned was formed, which later became known as the Royal Humane Society, This spread the knowledge of basic First Aid. In 1859 a military engagement in Italy led to the formation of the Red Cross.
Apart from CPR, the only First Aid I now feel competent to administer is putting a sticking plaster on a cut finger. A tourniquet would not be something that I would be confident to apply any longer- how tight should it be, to stop the bleeding without cutting off the whole circulation? This is something I would once have known, but no longer, I might just manage a sling for a broken arm, but even in that case I might do something awful that made the injury far worse. Anyway, where would I find the cloth to make a sling? No, much better I leave such things to others. In fact at my stage in life I am far more likely to be the recipient than the administrator of First Aid. That is fine by me, but best of all would be to avoid the need for medical attention in the first place.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF THE PAST
I became a blood donor in my twenties. I was only just under thirty however – by about a fortnight. Quite why I decided to join the blood donating fraternity I do not remember, but I have the impression it was done to curry favour with a young lady I was rather keen on at the time. It was certainly not because I had a sudden rush of concern for the community, although I am glad that many people are much more selfless than me. The first pint I gave was in January 1979. The place where I gave blood was in the Chantry, a building on the same site as the Assembly House. It was only a short walk from my place of work, and the whole process took less than an hour out of my day.
The Chantry is a modern building, but the name goes back to the thirteenth century. A secular college and chapel known as The Chapel of St Mary in the Field were built in the area which is now the Assembly House. The park known as Chapelfield Gardens gets is name from this medieval chapel. The college was closed in 1544 during the dissolution of monasteries, and was surrendered to the Crown under Henry VIII. Two years later the site was demolished, although the undercroft to the Assembly House dates back to the time of the secular college. Above ground level the Chantry consisted of six buildings, the sole survivor being Chantry Cottage, which abuts the Assembly House.
My blood group is A RH positive, which is common one, although the most common in the UK is blood group O. I gave up donating blood long before I had to. It must have been after I lost interest in Heather, the girl I referred to earlier, that I ceased to donate blood. Still I kept it up for several years, going once every six months or so. My wife Molly started donating blood a few years after I met her, but continued until her age dictated that she stop.
Here is what I said about my visit to the clinic on Wednesday the 16th of January, 1980: “…Mid morning I went off to the blood donor session at the Chantry. There were so few people there (and most of them seemed to be called Mason – a good chance to form a clan) that I was stabbed in my finger straight away (my blood was full of iron). I was sent through to the hall. I had my left arm done this time. The nurse who dealt with me seemed only about 17 but she is married. However she seems but loosely attached to her husband if at all. She told me that the time they do spend together takes place in hotels around East Anglia. When my pint had been drained I was put to lie down next to a lady who turned out to be one of the two flautists in our orchestra. She is not coming to our meeting this evening as she is rehearsing for a pantomime at Brundall. She lives in Acle, near Liz the cellist. I felt only slightly tired after the blood was withdrawn from my body, and I was soon back to normal.”
I believe the blood is only kept for a matter of months before it must be thrown out. I hope that at least a pint of my blood was used in replenishing that of some patient or other.