Thursday 2nd June, 1960


Dear Alec June Susan & Carol

Many thanks for letter to hand on Tuesday – Mum has already replied to the one she received at Tiverton. Very sorry to hear about Stanley Baker*. I only met him at the wedding but had quite a lot to do with him in the Control days about Rolling Stock matters especially at holiday times.

Saw on TV last night you had had some excitement at South Ruislip with a Northolt plane down on Express Dairy roof – could have been another Southall tragedy.**

Yes we had a very nice weekend at Tiverton and Exmouth and weather was ideal. As Mum has told you we went out to John’s place at Chettiscombe on the Friday evening and over to Pat’s on the Saturday morning before going to Exmouth. The bungalow is quite nice and well furnished. Two double bedrooms – lounge in which is a ‘put-u-up’ which could be used as another double bed – living room, kitchen (electric & gas) and bathroom etc. Situated on what is known as the Docks but in fact is on the estuary of the river Exe and as tide was out on Sunday afternoon we went gathering cockles which Aunt Lydia cooked in the evening and they were much enjoyed for supper.

We arranged for a half pound cream to be sent each to June’s mother & Father and to you, remembering that last time we sent you some from Exmouth you said it was ‘off’ by the time you get home hence the posting on Friday this week assuming you will be home Saturday morning.

Uncle Joe & Aunt Lydia will be coming up here for a weekend 22nd July, that is as far as can be stated at the moment.

Glad you have now all got back to normal health again and hope you will keep fit for your holiday also that all the nice weather will not have left us by then. We do badly need rain now and crops already are being affected by the prolonged dry spell. We picked broad beans yesterday – very nice and lettuces are still holding out.

Mum and I are going down to Lyng on Sunday leave here about 10.0 a.m. and depart Lyng I expect after early cup of tea in afternoon. Although it will be Whitsunday the route over the Mendips will not be so heavily occupied as the main road.

When you have finally settled the route you will take from Ruislip to Clevedon please let me know and also approximate time of starting. I quite agree there will be very little about at Bourne End if you pass that way early in morning. Our next door neighbours (Heel) went to Dittisham (on River Dart) yesterday – started about 7.0 a.m. and stopping for one night only so sometime later this evening they will be back. Expect you remember Dittisham from a river trip on the Dart – it is a very pretty place.

Note position re: Work Study Dept. – not very satisfactory – but can only wait and see what happens. Expect your knowledge of work on Paddington terminal committee will have a bearing on matter. You had a nice trip last Sunday to Chessington – this is where you were doing Work Study with a private firm for a few weeks.

So Peter likes the sloe wine then – pity I did not make a larger quantity. Perhaps can have another try this season. None on hand here not but plenty of other varieties.

Have nearly finished cutting the hedges around the garden and today got the scythe out for the first effort on the rough grass – my word it was hot. A little of that goes a long way. Water carrying too is a problem. Last evening I took down 24 gallons to runner beans alone and then had quite a lot of other plants to water. Could do with a good pump to get water up from river.

The people who bought Cummings house continue to be very busy both inside and outside – somebody is there for a short while most days.

John’s place at Chettiscombe has a walled-in flower garden – shrubs and lawn – with a stream of spring water running right through the middle of it. The stream is about 4 to 5 feet across and depth of water about 1 [and a half] feet. Water is crystal clear and you can see bed of stream easily. This is the actual stream which runs through some of the streets in Tiverton. We did not see any of the folk in the shop at Bampton St***. but as Mum as mentioned ran into Aunt Bessie in Exmouth before we had been there a couple of hours – amazing isn’t it? I had just ordered the cream to be sent off and was then looking for a stationer’s shop to get the views [postcards] of Exmouth to send out before returning to bungalow.

So Susan & Carol both busy with bucket & spade. Don tells me that the people who share their house at Lyng have made a sandpit for their two young children and it keeps them busy for hours – but the tide never comes in. Anyhow we shall see this ‘contraption’ Sunday & will report further.

Well I think this is all – three weeks today and you will be with us – we are looking forward to your visit and perhaps I shall be in better condition this time.

All our love to you both and our darling little girls with lots of kisses.

Mum & Dad

*June’s Uncle Stan had died on 23 May aged 72.

**An Avro Anson made a ‘deliberate emergency landing’ on the roof of the Express Dairy building on 1 June 1960 with the pilot and co-pilot being seriously injured but the two passengers walking away unscathed. Apparently one of the passengers, a BBC cameraman, hitched a ride back to work and acquired a camera before coming back to film the aftermath of the incident for that evening’s news! ( Fascinatingly, this was not the first forced landing on top of a building in South Ruislip; it had also happened in 1946. There was also another incident with a much less successful outcome near South Ruislip station in 1942. The nearby ‘Southall tragedy‘ occurred in 1958.

***I don’t know the significance of Bampton St unless perhaps it was a monumental mason’s. A large portion of the family was in the stone quarrying business in that area; further investigation is warranted.

N.B. a previous (?) letter from Alec to his parents, presumably breaking the news of Stan Baker’s death, has only survived in part. The only way to identify it as belonging to this period is that it mentions Peter and his girlfriend arriving and drinking sloe wine. The rest of the contents are about parsnips, tomatoes, slugs, beetroot and Doug Matthews – not in order of priority – and it does not seem very sensible to include it here.


Friday 17th July 1959

Alec to his parents:

Dear Mum and Dad

Just the expected letter to let you know that we arrived home safely after a very good trip. I suppose we got indoors about 12-30 p.m. We were delayed a while getting one of the bags into the Left Luggage Office due to a queue. Unfortunately the automatic machine was full. We travelled back to Paddington with Ernie Iles. He says that his eldest is now 21 and youngest is 13 and doing very well at swimming. Carol went to sleep for about 50 minutes so that helped to pass the time of the journey very well. Susan was quite good which was not surprising as I read the whole of one Noddy book to her on the way up. I am afraid that she was very naughty after we got back and continually got herself into trouble. I expect that it was reaction after the long journey. They are all talking about the storm last Friday. It appears that it was extremely severe lasting for about eight hours. All the earth has been pressed flat where the raindrops fell. Most of my stuff seems to be still alive although slugs have had more than half of the young French Marigolds that I planted out in the front. Oddly enough they have left those at the back alone. Three of the Dahlias are out in flower and the rest are well budded. All the flowers so far are red. Three of the Mesembryanthemums are out, one is pink while the other two are a salmon colour. As a result of the heavy rain one more of Geoff’s missing Dahlias has come up, this time one of those I planted out the front. That makes 100% of those put in front garden and 0% of those planted in the rockery at the back. Have cut the lawns which are looking quite green. I expect that It is due to the spread of clover which certainly seems to cover a larger area than hitherto. The new people moved into Whites house to-day. They appear to have two children a couple of years older than Susan. I took them ( Ours ) down to the park this afternoon while June was shopping. We took the horse for Carol and the Bike for Susan and of course the Push Chair. Carol was pushed, all the way to the park by Susan. When we got there I gave Carol the horse and pointed her in the general direction of Ruislip Manor and let her loose. She scampered over the grass and had a whale of a time. After about five minutes of this, she dropped down on the grass then picked herself up and tried to walk on her own. She took about three half steps then fell on her face. This was repeated about four times and again on the way back. It will not be long before she can stay up for a step or two. Susan had a go on the swings and on the big horse. When we were down in the garden to-day Susan called me over saying “whats this Daddy?” When I arrived I found it was a large white caterpillar which was towards moving her. I told her what it was and said “did you see one of those at the Zoo “ to which she replied “No, but I saw a Snakelider ” What that might be Ileave to you. Have planted out some Petunias and some Gailardias to-day. Found a Petunia about to flower in the middle of the lawn. Of course I transplanted it as it was far more advanced than any of the ones that I brought on from seed. Had a taste of the Blackcurrant wine I made in 1958 ( May ) If you remember, I gave you some when you came up last ‘Summer and again when you came up this Spring, The taste has changed again and is even more palatable than before. I am also getting through the Rhubarb wine that was made last June. I think you have finished up the lot that I gave you. I have another quart bottle of it under the floor boards. Well I cannot say much more now as have not had time to do much since returning. Must of course thank you once again for the most enjoyable holiday and for fixing up the Parson and for putting up Pauline. The next visit unless anything untoward occurs will be you to us, and will leave you to decide when that will be. Apart from the assumption that you will not want to travel in dead of Winter due to possible weather conditions, the choice is open to you. If you feel It too early to be definite you may like to hint at a possible month when you would like to come up. Will close now with love from us all.

Sunday 21 June, 1959

Alec to his uncle and aunt

Dear Don and Joan

Regret your last inadvertently destroyed since reading but will endeavour to answer the main points. Yes definitely we would like you to stand as God parents in spite of advancing years, It was always our intention to ask you in view of the fact that you were geographically barred from Susan’s. We have moved the mountain to Mahomet and are also arranging for Pauline to come down for the week end to act as a Godmother. June of course will make the third. The difficulty of providing young Godparents from my side of the family is that there are no young people who would be qualified for the job. I should not worry two hoots about it if I were you because we would like you to attend (if convenient of course) whether as a participant or as a spectator.

Again yes, the typewriter is my own, purchased second hand a few weeks ago. It is a portable. Olivetti ( Lettera 22 ) I confirm that July 12th at 3-30pm., is the date and time of Christening service. Sorry to sound a bit disjointed but am putting these things down as I think of them.

I hope that you have been having this good weather your end. It has been really enjoyable and the only time I have regretted it was when carrying cans of water for the garden. My gosh does it need rain. Apart from a few spindly weeds nothing appears to have moved in the last month. I understand that most of the farmers round the outskirts of London have got all their hay in already. I expect it is the same your way.

The roads are pretty well jammed with cars at week ends. It is quite some way to the coast from here and I should not like to do much driving under those conditions. Next door neighbour has gone off to Broadstairs in Kent for weeks holiday. He motored down but does it in easy stages.

Both children doing well. We all went to Chessington to day to see June’s cousin and small son (8 months). Journey took from 9-30am to 11-45am and had to start back at 3-30pm. Two changes and about four escalators to negotiate. Not a trip to be taken regularly. Shall have to pack up now or shall need cats eyes, hope to see you with more news soon.

Alec to his parents

Dear Mum and Dad

Just the usual line to let you know the events of the past week. Still no rain and continuing sunshine. Doug and family to Broadstairs yesterday for one week. From the look of it the weather will continue fine for them for a while yet. I hope we don’t use up all the good weather before we get down to Clevedon. Glad to hear that paths as good as completed but sorry to learn that you found it very tiring, I expect the ready mix took the worst out of it though. Susan was invited out to tea by a neighbour last Friday and gave away all our secrets as usual, and asked for a boiled egg for her tea. Carol got four teeth all at once, no wonder she complained about it. We all went over to cousin Joan’s at Chessington to-day (what a jaunt) – left here 9.30 a.m., arrived South Ruislip station 9.45 a.m. Susan to Ladies – missed a Central Line train and had to wait for the next – arrived about 9.55 a.m. Arrived Waterloo via Tottenham Crt Rd, at 10.50 a.m. and caught the 11.5 a.m. arrived Chessington at 11.35. At the house at 11.50 a.m. Of course we had to start back at 3.30 p.m. and repeat the dose. Oh for a car, could have been there and back in an hour. The girls were quite good on the trains. On the Southern we travelled 2nd, on privs but had compartment to ourselves each way. Good thing too Susan used her pot at Vauxhall, did not fancy carrying loaded pot out of train at Chessington so slung contents out of window. (Non corridor stock). Two of Geoff’s Dahlias have now come up making four in all including the two which already had shoots on them. No sign of the rest but have watered them well and not given up hope. Have planted out French Marigolds, seed of which I bought when you were up. The seedlings were about 1.25 inches long. They flopped at first but soon recovered and about 95% have taken and grown on well. Clematis now on the point of flowering and there are a great number of flower buds. Am going to bud a few roses next month. The briar stock I have will be just the thing to provide a vigorous base and I must select a good bud from one of the better roses. The big rose which we all thought was dead was severely pruned about a week ago and I see that there are quite a few leaf buds forming so all is not yet lost. The apples are getting bigger and now are attracting the attention of Madam who keeps on saying that she must not touch them but I see one or two about on the ground where they could not have fallen. Must give her the benefit of the doubt though as they do fall at this time of year. Third lot of Mesembry, doing well. They are about in fourth leaf and very sturdy, I think the first two lots must have been killed by leaving them out in the rain. Still one or two buds on the Syringa. Quiet last week with Barnes away but very busy, did not get as much done as intended. Wilkinson has been appointed Development Assistant to Divisional Traffic Manager B’gham and Cecil Moore has got Staff Assistant to Ditto at Cardiff. It is rumoured that John Allen (Chief Clerk Paddington D.O.S.O.) has got Staff Assistant to District Traffic Manager Bristol. It is also stated on good authority that neither Baynton-Hughes nor Barnes have got anything. Shall have to persuade them to apply for other jobs. Wilkinson job may not be advertised if it disappears under the new set up. Shall await events with renewed interest. Must point out that although we looked could not find a letter for Susan with your last, Thank you both for your letters, Dad need not worry if he cannot compete with typewriter, it does not have to run into several chapters. Clock gained about 10 minutes last week, shall make a small adjustment when winding. Well shall close now and until next week.


P.S. Thank you for making the arrangements with the Vicar, and note that all as planned. At the moment of going to press, Pauline will be coming down for the week end. Probably having Monday morning off to travel back.