Wednesday 28th December, 1960

Alec to his maternal uncle, Joe Fewings, and Joe’s wife Lydia:

Dear Aunt Lydia and Uncle Joe

Just a line to thank you both very much for the books/handkerchiefs you sent the children for Xmas. They arrived on Xmas morning – just right. I imagine you must have spent your Xmas somewhere near to Pat and her infants also possibly John and his. That being so you can well imagine the activity that went on in this camp. Two lucky girls had outsize Dolls Prams (how they came down the chimney we don’t know) and a number of Dolls and their clothes. Of course it was not long before they were proudly pushing the prams up the hill with their noses stuck up. As usual Xmas was very hectic and we are not sorry it is all over and we can slow down a bit. It is all very nice but takes a bit more energy to stay the course these days (poor old man*).

I hope you managed to steer clear of the floods. I saw something of the Somerset and Devon floods when I visited Plymouth at that time. Also a copy of your local paper found its way up from Clevedon. It must really have been fearsome at the time. We had nothing so severe at this end but on two occasions when out in car I had to divert owing to the road ahead being flooded.

The girls seem to have got over their car sickness now at least so far as local trips go. They have been none too well lately though, in fact we have been having interrupted nights due to Carol having a bad cold. She has bad catarrah and coughs a lot. During the day she seems well enough but the fun starts after she has been asleep for a short while. Susan being a bit older and more able to use her hanky looks a lot better and in fact is less affected by Winter ills. They are both growing rapidly and you would hardly recognise them. Pity you are not nearer so that you could see them, and they see you.

Susan will start school at Easter but has been going to Sunday School for about 18 months. Carol has been going to Sunday School for about 3 months. They have a Sunday School Party to attend on 21st, and that should be a short rest for Mother. Fathers are excluded so I have a rare chance to go and see a football match.

Well I hope Pat and John and families are keeping fit and yourselves, and hope it will not be too long before we meet. I read the Bowling results for the various tournaments this end and wonder if any of you get this far. Why not look us up if you do?

Love from us all, June, Susan, Carol and Alec

[*Alec would have been 38 at this point.]

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Friday 5th August, 1960

Eva to the family [on reverse of Table 152: LONDON, OXFORD, BANBURY, LEAMINGTON SPA, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, BIRMINGHAM, WOLVERHAMPTON, SHREWSBURY and CHESTER Mondays to Fridays – continued] –

Dear Alec June Susan and Carol

Many thanks for letter. We have been on the outing & had a good time. It was pouring when we left for Bristol to join Newmans but half way there it stopped & although dull most of the day was nice & dry.

It is lovely country all the way & we got there about 5.15. Starting at 2.40 p.m.* We lunched at Newmans.

Aunt Lydia & Joe had a nice time here. I told her you were enquiring about the bungalow & if you think any more about it she starts booking at Xmas. We are going down again in October for weekend when she finishes up the summer letting & has to go through the bungalow & prepare for the winter let.

Glad you are having a new job & with the old it might mean something later on.

Hope you are all feeling better & that Mr & Mrs Baker & Pauline & Peter are well.

Lots of love & kisses for girls from

Mum & Dad

*Even assuming they were in a coach of some sort, two and a half hours from Bristol to Symonds Yat is slow going; nowadays it would take about half that. They must have gone, as we used to say as children, ‘the wiggly-waggly way’.

Sunday 31st July, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Many thanks for letter, punctual as usual. Glad you liked Susan’s effort. She is always writing or cutting up pictures now. To-day I had to set out the alphabet for her to copy but I do not think she got very far. They are both pretty well now but we are having regular disturbances from carol. She is very good with her potty during the day and fetches it when in garden rather than wet herself, and we think that this business in the night is the same cause but in this case she can not get out to get pot and anyway is too sleepy to realise it.

I told Susan about the visit you paid to the cafe with Uncle Joe and she remembered the little cat. I questioned Carol about events on her holiday but already she is quite vague about it. She remembers who she stayed with but has got most of the other details mixed up. Not surprising I suppose, she is still very young.*

Pity about the weather on the occasion of the visit. I expect Joe and Lydia were glad of the break and were able to see something of the district.

Yes I thought Geoff would be writing to tell you about Insall. I cannot say I was totally surprised as he told me some time ago how serious it was. Unfortunately I do not think many people believed him when he told them how serious it was. He had told so many in the past that it seemed like just another tale. I am very sorry it has happened as a few years ago I would have said he would outlast many.

You would not have known Norman Smith I think, one of my former colleagues from Staff Section of the D.O.S.O.. he died suddenly the previous week. No record of illness or pain.

You do not say if you like the New Cafe on the beach. We did not go into it when we were down.

Further alternations to garden and precincts have involved the complete removal of the old shed and extension. Car can now back straight in and stand on the concrete in clear of the new “five-barred” gate. The stage is now set for marking out the ground and setting up the shuttering. How I am going to keep the kids off it thought is another matter. Have also removed the unsightly barricade of wood and string at the foot of the left hand back lawn. To stop kids getting at the Chrysants and the veg I have fixed a low gate at the end of the concrete path hinged on the fence guarding the veg and a short fence from the gate to end wall. All three lawns were cut this week-end and do not look too bad after all the rain we have had. The clover has grown rapidly and gives a nice dark green colour. I have written to the council for permission to erect the garage and have received from them two forms to fill in and request for two plans. The accident to the beacon occurred some time ago and the plant has had time to grow three more shoots which now have the makings of buds at the extremes. Quite an armful of beans you managed to pick for Elford. So far I have picked seven beans off the dwarfs. My tomatoes are doing well and I have cut off the lower leaves and shortened the upper ones to enable the sun to get at the fruit. Pond seems as if it may be partially corrected. Have to wait and see.

I note Geoff’s theory about applications for vacancies but I cannot wholly subscribe to it.  He may be right of course but I consider such a situation fantastic.  There must be something seriously wrong with an organisation wherein routine matters can be dealt with only when the boss is in good health.  Note the following  carefully.  I made out my application for the B.T.C. job (1095) on 26th July and placed it on Baynton-Hughes’s desk.  He was away and did not return until Friday 29th so that application stayed there untouched.  On 27th Mr Pattisson called me in for a chat. He said that the work of the Terminal Committee was now at a low ebb and Mr Barnes would be away for some time on other work. As Barnes had taken with him three members of his ( Mr Pattissons) Research Section he was in a difficult position for covering some of the outstanding work and asked how I would react to giving him a hand.  I made the appropriate replies and retired.  Later I was called again and in the presence of Cecil Moore was handed the papers of a job to do part time in addition to keeping the Terminal stuff going.  This new job is a new method of Controlling Wagons by continuous record.  It is hoped to get a tight and accurate check on all wagons eventually but for the time being the job is being developed experimentally by a Joint B.T.C. and W.R. Team who have already run two pilot tests at Tondu and now have to prepare a scheme for the whole of the Cardiff District and introduce it in January.  In connection with this job I shall be working closely with reps from the B.T.C. and have already met and spoken informally with the head of the Operational Research Section of the B.T.C. He is aware that I have been assigned to the job, but what no one has of rumbled yet is the fact that my application of the 26th was for a post in his Section.  The work will entail frequent visits to Cardiff and I may have to spend some time there. They have co-opted of the Cardiff men to assist us, none other than George Jenkyns – retired and back as a Class Four or Three Clerk.  (Be kind to your office boy etc.)

We heard to-day that Uncle Will had a stroke about ten days ago.  June’s Dad only heard to-day.  Can not imagine why he was not told earlier.  We do not now how bad it is but there is some evidence of a little mental confusion.  We hope to hear more to-morrow when Mr and Mrs Baker are expected to tea.

Sorry to learn about Rebecca’s fracture.  Must phone Geoff.  Sorry I was 20 short on the car number.  That makes us quits.  Note you have found another source of jars.  I believe that you can buy cider direct from the firms in those jars now.  Have so far had no response to advert in shop windows for car.  If nothing this week we shall have to put one in local press.

Well there it is for this week. Hope you are both feeling o.k..  Love from us all.

*27 months; probably not quite up to such a detailed interrogation.

200th post!

Crikey, this seems to have come round quickly – so quickly, in fact, that I hadn’t actually prepared anything for it. However when I was trying to sort out the mis-dating of the family photos recently I stumbled across a little snippet of family-related news which is definitely worth including here – no matter how distant the actual relationship may be.

So, let’s start with an explanation. You’ll have figured out by now that Leonard’s wife, Eva, had a brother named Joe. Joe, married to Lydia, lived in the fascinating house in Shelly Road, Exmouth, which fell a victim to the Council bulldozer in the 1970s.

Family at Tiverton, 1960

This picture, taken by either June or Eva*, shows Lydia in the centre with her grand-daughter Claire on her lap and Joe standing behind her. Joe is flanked by (left) his son-in-law Eric Shapland and (right) Eric’s father Harold Shapland. On either side of Lydia are her daughter Pat (left), and Alec (right), and on the front row are Susan, Kay Shapland, and Carol.

Harold Shapland was a bit of a minor celebrity and actually a good deal younger than he looks in this photo – he didn’t turn sixty until a few months later – and among his other achievements he was a commentator on bowls for both BBC radio and television.

Eric, although apparently not sharing his passion for bowls, certainly followed him in local politics. It was while attempting to verify the identification of the men in this photo as Harold and Eric that I stumbled across Eric’s recent obituary. Our families had lost touch over the years, but clearly Eric was a very popular man in the Tiverton area and his passing will leave a considerable gap.

I wrote a letter on 20 July which I hoped would reach a member of the family eventually, and by coincidence had a message via this page from one of Eric’s daughters a day or two later. I replied by e-mail but haven’t had any further response, although it would be nice to join up another loose end and exchange family news.

*Likely, I think, to be June, who is obviously missing from the photo. This was almost certainly a day trip from Clevedon, and if we left one adult behind everyone else would fit into Leonard’s car; Eva, therefore, despite the visit being to her brother, would no doubt have ‘stayed behind to get the dinner’. The only exception might have been if June was unwell and had opted out, allowing Eva to go instead, but Eva was not exactly a reliable hand with a camera and I honestly don’t think this is her work!

The house in Exmouth

Joe and Lydia’s house is described in the letters as 22 Shelly Road but is listed in more recent address books as 135 Shelly Road. They owned it right up until the time Exmouth Council decided to demolish everything in the area, and in fact they still owned it when all the other houses – most of which were made solely of wood – were in ruins around them. (Some time in the 1970s.) It’s likely that the road had been renumbered at some point, hence the change from 22 to 135; as far as I know they didn’t move from one house to another, but that’s not altogether impossible – maybe future letters will shed some light.

These pictures were taken in about 1970.

135 Shelly Road; Carol and Eva looking out of the window.
135 Shelly Road