The continuing adventures of my paternal grandfather, as he recorded in 1974 at the age of 70.
My early days in Leeds, Yorkshire, where I was born, I remember waiting on the school steps for my older brother Alex, before I was old enough to attend. I recall the time that I was with him when I found a two-shilling piece, and the decision was made to buy a new jug for my mother. The one we were using had a small chip out of the spout and did not pour properly without using extreme care. We had to walk some distance to get home and I nursed the jug very carefully all the way. When I got to our front door I was so nervous with haste and excitement that I banged the jug into the door and broke the spout. It was now just as useless as if it had a hole in the bottom. I remembered the way the two of us used to walk to visit our two aunts on Saturdays. At Aunt Edith’s, Alex used to clean the windows and I cleaned the silverware, for which we received a small welcomed remuneration. Also the walks through the woods on Sundays with the family, picking primroses and bluebells. Although I do not recall the actual incident myself, I later heard my father say many times, that on one of our walks someone handed me a small trumpet for a moment, and all the way home I kept crying, ‘I wanna trumpet, I wanna trumpet.’ I never did have one, but I did get piano lessons later. I remembered my grandmother and the exciting stories she told me about India, where she spent many years of her life as the wife of an army man, who was then deceased. I remember asking on many occasions just what the brass plate meant on her front door, with the words, ‘Certified Midwife,’ but I did not get the answer until several years later. I was told that when my grandfather died, the authorities trained my grandmother to be some kind of nurse. There were many gaps in my memory at this time, as I do not remember anything about our move to Barrow, until I first went to school there.
Barrow-in-Furness was strictly an industrial town situated on the west coast of England about eighty miles north of Liverpool an across the Irish Sea from Belfast in Ireland. The production of steel from ore which was imported from Spain, and shipbuilding were the major industries.
The shipyard built just about everything in ships. Cargo and passenger ships and all types of naval ships such as submarines, battleships, and battle cruisers. After the war ended Britain confiscated the German naval and merchant marine ships which resulted in severe unemployment in Barrow. Fortunately, several naval shops were ordered by Japan and I saw Japanese people for the first time. These were the men who arrived in town in their capacity as inspectors and they must have done their work well, as is evidenced by the fact that Japan leads the whole world in shipbuilding tonnage.
I remembered that during the war, a huge building was erected adjacent to the shipyards docks, and it was a well guarded secret as to what was being built inside. When the war ended, it then became known that a huge airship had been constructed and was actually ready for testing. Great publicity was given to the day when it would be towed out to open water and given the trial run. I felt fortunate to be part of the large number of men and women who would be the first to see its ascent and take off. It was towed out alright and then we waited an extremely long time. Finally, the centre portion of the airship began to rise quite high into the air, but the two ends did not move. The centre went higher and higher while we gazed in wonderment at the peculiar sight. Then the huge dirigible collapsed and flattened out on the water, a complete failure. This must have been a severe blow to the pride of hundreds of men who had worked so hard and enthusiastically on its construction.
Only two more small parts left… I keep forgetting to ask my mom about the good luck piece my grandfather carried…