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.]


Sunday 7th August, 1960

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad,

Thank you for both your letters arrived Saturday. Please do not be scared at change of paper – happened to be in Woolworths on Saturday morning and spotted some.  Just the job for business letters and small epistles but probably not so good for long ones as too much shifting carriage on typewriter. 

I seem to have got mixed up with the Cafes at Clevedon, I thought someone said then we were down there that there was a new one somewhere near the middle of Marine Parade.

Susan is doing quite well with her alphabet but of course it goes in fits and starts. She is taking a keen interest in being able to tell the time and has now got a toy alarum clock.  She has a go but we seem to be getting some odd times.  What little I have heard about Uncle Will’s progress is not very definite, it does not seem to change and I think they are a little worried about him. 

Glad you were able to go and see Griffiths but pity the Rose Gardens were closed.  It seems always the same these days, we had similar trouble at Kew if you remember*.

Note also Mr and Mrs Newman’s visit but you do not say how he is.  Last time you said he had lumbago or sciatica etc. which was getting him down.  Suppose this now over.

I went to Ross on Wye and Symonds Yat with London D.O.S.O. on Office Outing in 1951 and we were fortunate to have fine hot dry weather. It made all the difference and we were able to appreciate the countryside.

Have marked out the boundary of the New Garage with string and driven in a few large pegs as levels.  These latter project up to 10 inches from ground and together with the string have become the target for meddlesome hands.  I may put some of the shuttering up this afternoon but if it gets pulled about during the week I shall have to postpone any further action until a few hours before the concrete arrives.

Re – job. Cecil Moore is the Head of the Research Section. He got a job as Staff Assistant to D.T.M at Cardiff as I think I told you in one of my earlier letters but he did not take it up as they were not ready to go with the new set up there.  Subsequently his own job was re-advertised at a higher salary and including Organisation and Methods.  Of course there could be only one suitable applicant as he was in charge of O and M.  I think he gets 16 or 17 hundred. 

Sorry about your crack about Littlewoods, I don’t feel quite able to Cope**. 

Re – application, it has gone forward in the usual way but no comment from anyone yet.  On Wednesday in company with Mr Bennett and one other from the B.T.C. Operational Research Section I went to Dartford to put our problem to the International Computor and Tabulator Co***.  We are asking them to devise an Electronic Computor to digest and store details about wagons as they become available at yards and stations, and to give any details at the press of a button.  We wanted this to be available to kick off in the Cardiff District by January next, but we may hare to make do with temporary machines until our own can be built.  The most fantastic cost is involved – a figure of £50 per hour for hiring only has been quoted.

I felt sure you would have known George Jenkins. He was Chief Controller at Cardiff when I was last in Freight Train Section ( Prior to ‘55 ) and he subsequently became the Productivity Assistant.

Have not picked any runner beans yet but have picked about twelve dwarfs for to-day.  There should be enough for meal by next week end as there are a lot of small ones coming on.  The tomatoes are moving well. I have provided tall stakes for the largest and have as many as six trusses forming. I am not surprised you found the soil behind the Green house to be good.  If you recall we had many bonfires there, mostly of Cupresses Hedge clippings, and there was considerable growth of nettles that we kept burning. 

Note Mrs Drewett has put house up for sale.  It sounds a reasonable price but I do not know what state it is in.  I would have thought that Drewett might have fixed up extra cupboards and things that would have helped to sell it.  As a guide what did they get next door.

The insurance people have payed up Junes claim but at their offer.  This has been accepted.  Still no response to advert for car.  Have listed it at £39 and do not particularly want to reduce any more.  I doubt whether there will be much movement for cars of this age until after the effect of the tests becomes apparent. 

We will note that Lydia starts her bookings for the Bungalow at Christmas and if we intend to do anything about it we will let her know at that time.

The men are very busy over in the field where school is to be erected but nothing rising very high yet****.  Think they must be still on the foundations.  The church at bottom of Queens Walk is nearly finished. 

June and I have had a good clear out of the front garden It looks quite neat now although mostly earth. I suppose if we take everything out it will look tidier than ever. Had to use mattock to break it up though.  Well that is all for week, hope you are both keeping well.


*Even in those days it was possible to telephone and find out when a place would be open rather than just rocking up and being disappointed. What’s the old saying? ‘To ASSUME makes an ASS of U and ME’? Or, indeed, an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure. I have no sympathy whatsoever.

**There’s very little information online about Cope’s Pools except that they were based in London and active in the 1930s. According to Wikipedia they were still operating in 1947, but the likelihood is that they were later absorbed by one of the bigger players in the industry.

***Note that Alec spells ‘computor’ with an ‘o’. This is the first indication of any contact between him and a computer; later in life he was known as ‘Gadget Man’ and was a relatively early adopter of technology, buying himself a ZX Spectrum with a pen-writer instead of a printer and learning to program ‘sprites’ and play games like ‘Jacaranda Jim’.

****This would be the St Swithun Wells Catholic Primary School.

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’.

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