I was born in August 1946, a baby boomer, an only child. I lived with my parents (Sidney and Joyce Green) and maternal grandparents (Hugh and Florence Carson) at Hall Farm, Clifton, until the council estate in the village was built, I think in 1948. There is a story that during the war my family lost the chance to buy Holly House, next door, so we all lived in Hall Farm.
|Ayah and Punch, the Guard dog
My grandad was known as 'Ayah': I christened him that because he was always saying 'Ay lad' to me. My grandmother was 'Meah' because she was always saying 'come to me'. My father and mother were both teachers.
My grandfather, Ayah, was a wood turner. He and his brothers had a small factory in Balby, powered by a gas engine, next to a place which made boiled sweets. It was near Scarborough barracks. He and family moved from Balby when he rented and subsequently bought Hall Farm in 1933, for £150.
|Off to War in 1916
In the Great War Ayah was in the RFC, later the RAF. He was a 'fitter' which matched his skills with wood. He got interested in early aviation when he and his brothers were involved in repairing the planes at the famous ‘First Aviation Meeting in England’, held at Doncaster racecourse in 1909. He had wonderful tales about experiences in France. This stimulated my interest in aviation and then in space.
It's astonishing how much Ayah did, and the range of skills he had.
At Hall Farm Ayah had his own workshop, powered by a 1922. He continued his turning at home after retiring from the factory. Indeed, he was still working into his 80s, when he could barely see. There were no safeguards on the machinery and my grandad smoked a pipe, continuously, with embers dropping from it. He made ash tray stands, bases for table lamps, staircase spindles and the like. One Christmas he made a tractor for me. There's a photo of me sitting on it.We still have the Tractor!
Me, My Tractor, and Scamp
|The Workshop, The Engine Room and Pig Styes
The Workshop contained many secondhand machines, including some that Ayah didn't use!
|The Lister Diesel Engine
In addition to his turning, Ayah would cut up railway sleepers for fence posts, gates and the like. There must have been a way of buying up sleepers which were no longer needed by British Rail(ways). They were full of preservative and heavy. At one point there were about 50 and I was charged to get them moved from one side of the yard to the other. Charlie Wilkinson and Dave Brammer helped me. The Lister lived in the adjacent room, known as the ‘meal place’ because it was also used for mixing up meal for the pigs. A drive belt connected the Lister to a pulley on a horizontal shaft which took the power into the workshop. There was an upper room full of bags of corn and a corn grinder underneath. After grinding by the Lister the corn was mixed, by hand, with other ingredients such as maize for the meal.
At one point, much later on, some friends and I tried to get the workshop functioning again. The Lister started first time, we’d bought a replacement drive belt and had a piece turning in the lathe when we realised it was turning the wrong way! To fix this you twist a belt, but the expensive drive belt we’d bought was too rigid to twist. If you ever have this kind of job to do, first check directions of rotation..
|A new Hen Hut on the hillside
On the 2-3 acres that came with Hall Farm Ayah had 300 hens and grew vegetables. We had 100 ‘day old chicks’ in May, about 3 of whom would turn out to be cockerels and went for Christmas Dinner. In those days eating chicken was a luxury. There were 4 ‘hen houses’ of varying age and condition. The had to be cleaned out every week: not a pleasant job. When I was small we had some hens stolen, and as a result got Punch, a huge Alsatian dog.
There was an orchard with around 20 trees and a garden with a greenhouse and soft fruit. I think Ayah planted most of the orchard himself. When I started gardening in around 1972 all this had been left untouched since he died around 1968.
Ayah drove a motor cycle combination, a 1936 Royal Enfield, 990 cc, with its gear stick on the fuel tank and a sidecar with a Dreadnought Bow. Once a robin nested in the sidecar.
In Hall Farm yard there were 40 pigs, scattered across around 5 sties. There were 2 or 3 sows, always in litter. The litters were separated by stout wooden barriers: pigs are strong. They were fed on a mixture of pig swill and meal.
Every year a pig was slaughtered for our own use, and my aunt Het, who was married to a butcher (uncle Fred) and lived in Worksop, came to help butcher said pig, a process which seemed to take a fortnight and involved pork pies, brawn and so on. I got the bladder to play with.
Hall Farm is stone built but in those days it was small - 2 up and 2 down. Later on we extended it. There was no central heating and only the living room/kitchen generally had a fire going, in a Yorkshire range with a back boiler. Into that living room (maybe 4m square) went, at least, 4 adults, 2 dogs, around 6 cats, a piano, a sink and primitive electric cooker, dining table and chairs, 2 Windsor chairs, a Welsh dresser, a painted dresser, a side of bacon hanging up, my dartboard and me. Sometimes there would be a poorly piglet keeping warm in a box by the fire.
On Sunday evenings sufficient of this stuff was somehow moved to one side so that Ayah could play billiards with Mr Proctor, a teacher in Conisbrough who walked the 2 miles uphill for the event. There was a 4' by 2' billiard table which went on the kitchen table. You could easily poke my mother or Meah in the eye as you lined up a shot. Embers from Ayah's pipe would drop onto the green baize. Ayah wore hobnail boots and rough working clothes all the time except on Sunday evening when he changed, for the billiards, into black, polished boots and waistcoat.
|Meah in the morning
My grandmother Meah also had a wide variety of skills: I suppose you had to when you were, in modern terms, largely self-sufficient. In the war she made soap and Ayah grew tobacco. She was a seamstress by trade and always had a tailor’s dummy in the front room. That room, of course, was never used: it was supposed to be kept neat and tidy ‘in case the queen drops in’. Like the living room, it was so full there was hardly room to walk. No piano, but there was an organ. Piles of women’s magazines, some dating back to the 19th century. One Christmas day, exceptionally, a fire was lit and I sat there reading a book I’d been given – John Wyndham’s ‘The Chrysalides’.
At Hall Farm there was a cellar with a well in it. It suffered from damp and cockroaches. There was a meat safe, but you couldn’t keep any food for very long.
Meah cooked nearly the same meals every week. In the week we ate in the evening because Mother and I had to come home from Doncaster. There was a joint on Sunday, of course, and cold cuts on Monday, which was wash day using a Hoover washing machine, and very steamy. Meat pie was on Tuesday I think, fish on Friday off a fish van from Cleethorpes that turned up in Clifton on that day. In fact there were several such vans: Malcolm Milnes (ironmonger) on Mondays, the travelling library (also Mondays), the Coop on Thursdays.
For Meah it was very important to go to Doncaster Market on Tuesdays, taking advantage of the extra buses (later) - and she would dress up for it - visiting the Aunts as well as shopping. In fact, I think she got changed around 4pm every day.
Joyce, Phil and Sid Green entertain children from Mr Green's school, at No 7
My first memory at No 7 Council Estate (or Beacon Square as it is now) is asking my father what year it was. He said 1952. He died in 1953, from Hogkins disease and that’s my only memory of him. I can remember the bad news arriving at Hall Farm, though I didn't understand what it was. I didn't go to the funeral: instead I was sent to play with my cousin Libby. My mother, who like me was an only child, never recovered from this: she didn’t marry again or even have any serious suitors as far as I know. She continued to teach, in Doncaster (see below). She was an excellent teacher: junior school, 8 year olds, classes of 50. Before she retired she’d started to decline, cognitively.
The council houses were top-of-the-range for their time: 3 bedrooms, sizeable gardens and 2 indoor loos. There was no gas but most people bought electric cookers to add to the range: think there must have been some sort of promotion.
I was always different from the other kids growing up in Clifton because my mother had somehow got permission for me to go with her to the school where she taught, Beechfield in Chequer Road, Doncaster (see later). Everyone else went to school in Edlington or Braithwell.
When I was growing up in it, Clifton was in the process of turning from a farming village (6 farms) to a commuter village (1 farm). There were several large families & I grew up with their kids. As I said, I was something of a misfit: for instance, I was interested in space travel, before the first sputnik made it fashionable. This was the subject of much teasing - 'that Greenie, he's mad on space'
I spent a lot of time on my own but I did have a few mates: one was big lad a bit older than me; Roy, younger than me, natural sporting talent and was always up to mischief and Charlie, 4 years older than me, a 'wag' (a wit) who introduced me to pubs, dirty jokes and local sport. Roy and Charlie are both dead now and Dave is not well.
Dave lived at No 1 council estate, Roy at 4, Charlie at 6 and us at 7.
We played out whenever weather permitted, and not under any kind of supervision. At the end of the Council Estate there was a kind of hammerhead which formed a natural wicket, though somewhat short of 22 yards. That's how I learned to play cricket, mostly with Roy and/or Charlie. Roy and I had a complicated scoring system which penalised the batsman for putting the ball (usually a tennissee, never a hard ball) into gardens it was difficult to retrieve from. That's why I was strong at hooks and pulls and useless at cutting. I was lousy at football though - too left footed. Charlie was a left winger who played in local leagues. Roy was outstanding as a schoolboy but his legs were weakened by a fall down a quarry and he turned to cricket, where he was an outstanding captain of Conisbrough CC in the Yorkshire Council.
Colin Yeomans, Mick Conolly, Jimmy Conolly, Colin Davies, Brian Davies, Peter Garrett, Charlie Wilkinson, Joey Conolly, Graham Davies.
We would also join with other kids .. there were around 12 altogether .. to play games like 'hot rice' - tig with a ball and ‘iddie’ - hide and seek. 'iddie ran’t village' meant you had 5 streets & 6 farms to hide in and could never be found. You'd be called back by a shouted 'all up, the games broke up'.
We were in and out of each other's houses, particularly Roy's, which was always full - he was one of 6 children. We'd just walk in there without knocking and sit around with the family. You couldn’t do that at other houses, for instance Dave's. My mother thought this kind of thing was 'common' and other kids had to be invited in to our house, except when she was out!
Sticknife was an interesting game, played with penknives (your 'chivs'). 2 players stand facing each other, feet together. Throw your chiv & if it sticks in the ground your opponent has to move his leg to the chiv. Then it's his turn. Winner is the last man standing.
Clifton is surrounded by fields and we spent a lot of time outside the village. The Beacon was the highest point around. with a great view to the North over Conisbrough and the Dearne Valley. For a few days per year there was very good sledging. A sledge would take off at the bump, which Trudy thinks was a Roman road. The fastest sledge was a piece of rusting corrugated iron someone had left around, maybe 10' by 4', with a rope threaded through holes to pull it with. We called this 'the tin' and all the village kids could get on it. At the bump we'd all fly off, but no-one ever got hurt. Then the big kids would force the little kids to drag the tin back up the hill.
In warmer weather we would walk down the fields to a brook called 'froggie island', or go bird nesting: in those times there were a lot of livestock in the fields and thick hedges. Now the hedges are all gone. You could also get the other way, down the lidgets', past the holly field, to the rat quarry.
Indoors I had our front room all to myself, apart from a few days when we had visitors. There were 3 options:
I grew out of the train set pretty soon: couldn't afford electric.
I could beat Roy (and everyone else, but mostly Roy) at table tennis.
We invented our own games using the given kit, so Roy & I had a game played on the table tennis table where the aim was to score a goal by hitting the window behind your opponent. You could lay on a chance by bouncing the ball off the wall above the window. Another table tennis game involved trying to knock a matchbox off the table.
I was on my own a lot: I was an only child and my schedule was different from the other kids'. I invented a lot of games I could play by myself, both indoors and outdoors. An indoor example, on the table tennis table, was to hit a ball into the net, tap it back onto the table when it dropped back and hit it into the net again. I would try to break my record for how many times I could do this in succession.
Outdoors I tried to improve my batting on a bit of path with a wall at the end. I'd throw the ball against the wall and play a stroke as it rebounded - made more difficult because the garden next to the path had a slope, so you could simulate a spinner by 'bowling' into it.
Apart from Christmas, Bonfire Night was the biggest event of the year for us kids.. we looked forward to it for months and went round scavenging wood for the village bonfire, which moved around from year to year. Just about every school day in October I would come back from Doncaster with a few fireworks. In the evening I’d get them out and line them up in the order I intended to light them. I should have saved up and bought a few more expensive fireworks, because the cheap ones were very boring. One year I went to the bonfire with all my fireworks in a case and someone threw a match in. That display was good while it lasted but I was very upset. Charlie got the blame but always swore that it wasn’t him.
The night before bonfire night was mischievous night, maybe a corruption of Walpurgisnacht, the devil’s ride. We would do one or 2 things, nothing outrageous, but legend had it that our predecessors were more daring, riding pigs for instance (face its rear and grab its tail).
It's a good job I did go to Beechfield because it had an outstanding record in getting kids through the 11+, which at that time determined whether you got to grammar school, technical school (Doncaster had one of the few there were) or secondary modern. I think around 90% wound up in secondary modern, but Beechfield got around 50% of its pupils to Grammar School. They didn't just do cramming either, they got you interested in learning. There were 8 classes, 2 per year: Class 1 was 4th year, clever; class 2, 4th year, less clever, class 3, 3rd year, clever and so on. Class sizes were up to 50, all boys. My mother taught class 5.
In Clifton 'going to town' meant going to Doncaster. There was 1 bus each way per day (No 39, 0808 in the morning, 1740 return) except on market days, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Another service from Doncaster ran every 30 mins to the 'lane end' from where it was 15 minutes walk to the village. Going for Saturday night out meant catching the 6.30 to town and the 10.20 back. This didn't fit well with cinema timings - often you got in for the last 30 minutes of the afternoon showing and had to leave 30 mins before the end of the evening showing. It was necessary to leave time to go to the 'chip hole' before catching the bus: fish, fish cake and chips - 2 shillings.
You could also walk to Conisbrough, to the North of Clifton – 1½ miles with 2 major hills up on the way back. From Conisbrough you could get a bus to Sheffield (45 mins, every 20 mins). That’s mostly how I travelled to the Blades, but on Saturdays there was the alternative of getting the No 39 to Bramley and a Sheffield bus from there.
I had a lot of relatives in Doncaster: Aunt Nell and Uncle Dick, Aunt Rose and Uncle Maurice, Aunt Joan and Uncle Jock, Aunt Mim and Aunt Marion, who was the only genuine Aunt; my father’s sister. She and uncle Harry lived a bit out of town, in Armthorpe, and had 2 sons, Sid and Harry. Nell and Rose lived within 4 houses of each other on Alderson Drive, backing out onto the town fields. They were sisters of Meah, though you wouldn’t think so: Nell was jolly and cheerful, Rose was always miserable. On Thursdays my mother was on dinner duty, so I went to Aunt Nell’s for lunch. I got to know the kid next door, John Merryweather, and played a lot of yard cricket with him. Doncaster Town CC played close by and we used to watch them. Eventually we scored for them, once at Bramall Lane.
Summer holidays were in a caravan at Hornsea. There were 2 vans in a field to themselves, with a loo block. They were the furthest pitch out on the North side of town. My mother and I had one, John and his mother the other. John’s father was rarely to be seen. We could play cricket outside the vans. At Hornsea the cliffs are crumbling and the 20 minute walk into town along the cliff edge was perilous. Nevertheless we did it, even at night, to ‘the slots’. We couldn’t afford many goes though. Holidays lasted up to 4 weeks.
When I passed my 11+ I was sent to Maltby Grammar School: my mother failed to get permission for me to go to Doncaster. MGS was big - getting on for 1000 pupils drawn from a wide area, all the mining villages. It was co-ed. To get there I went on the 08.08 with my mother and got off in Edlington to wait for the school bus, which left me at the end of the lane on the way back. For the first year or so Ayah would come out on the Royal Enfield to get me.
MGS was streamed, with 5 forms per year, A to E in decreasing perceived ability. On the very first day all the new boys and girls were assembled and assigned to their forms. My name came out first, for the A form. I later realised that must have meant that I had the highest mark.
After the first 3 days Asian Flu hit and I was one of the first to get it. I was off school for an age - maybe 4 weeks - which meant I never assimilated well into 1A and at the end of the year was demoted to 2B. Because I was the only kid at MGS from Clifton (apart from Charlie's sister Pat, who was in the upper 6th when I joined), village mates and school mates were completely different. My first close friend was a kid called Mick Sheeran, but his family emigrated to Australia.
A bit later on I teamed up with Graham Cherry, from Dinnington, who I started going to football and cricket matches with. 'Chez' convinced me to switch allegiance to the Blades rather than Donnie Rovers. This was an important choice because at MGS allegiance was divided pretty equally between Sheffield United, the evil Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers.
We would always stand by the same crush barrier at Bramall Lane, which meant getting there an hour early, so I would leave home around 11 am for a 3pm kick off. At the time the Blades were settled in the first division with a remarkably stable side, which hardly changed for around 10 years. We also followed them to away games. On one memorable occasion we saw the Blades win 3-1 at Arsenal (Joe Shaw scored), got some food in Soho and went to a show - Frankie Howard in 'A funny thing happened on the way to the forum'. We must have got the last train home. We were 14, on our own with no means of contacting our parents!
We also followed Yorkshire Cricket - at the time the strongest team in the land, led by Vic Wilson and later on by Brian Close. Like every other Yorkshireman we idolised Fred Trueman, who came from Maltby. Yorkshire played on 'out grounds' in those days, so besides Bramall Lane we went to Headingley, Bradford, Hull and Scarborough and away games at Chesterfield, Nottingham and Old Trafford.
I was also playing cricket for the school: under 14, under 15 and eventually for the first team. I should have played more, but again living in Clifton made it difficult - there was no local club. I was a left hand bat and, in those days, pretended to bowl left arm spin. Chez was a promising cricketer too, a bowler, and good at football, playing inside left in the school under 14 team that was undefeated in a complete season. Tragically he contracted leukaemia and, after fighting it for 3 years, died aged 18, soon after I went to University.
My greatest friend at school was Willy. He had rare talents, spotted by my mother but not by the school: he languished in the D stream and left, age 16, with few qualifications. Willy had:
Together Willy & I created a fantasy world, full of monsters, for instance Slaverick (a Western Vampire), Flobs (like wombles), Sluffs and so on. We read all the horror and fantasy literature we could find, and sneaked into X-rated movies when we could. We were devotees of Mad Magazine. The monsters lived on an island in the shape of a skull, Monsters Morgue. There were monsters inspired by our mates, like Big Nosed Pete, Babbling Bezz and Merv the Perv. Together they formed the Rabbits Eleven, which played in the Monsters Morgue league, along with Doncaster Rovers. Willy was ‘Goal Lagging Willy Workman’, because that’s what he did in the real rabbits – when we had games there were enough kids for 3 matches – 1st, 2nd and rabbits. We would write pretend newspaper reports of games in the MM league – I still have a couple.
We wrote most of the monster world up in a notebook we called 'the project'. Willy has it now: we never finished it. On Saturday mornings we’d meet in Doncaster to look for comics and books in the market place. Some Saturday afternoons Willy would catch the bus to Clifton, we’d work on the project and then go down the fields with my catty. We never hit anything.
The way they organised school dinners at Maltby was interesting. There were too many kids to feed in one sitting so there was first and second dinner @ something like 1215 and 1. You normally went to the same one each day and to the same table. It was also segregated … lads didn’t eat with lasses. A table sat 16 kids, divided into 2 ends which were always at war with each other. The most senior kid at each end was the head of the table, then there were next-to, next-to-next-to and so on down to bottom. The smaller kids got bullied and rotated the clearing up jobs – plates, dishes and glasses, to be collected up and taken to a serving hatch. Food arrived for each end and was cut up my the HoT and the NtHoTs. If it was a pie there was a clever way of dividing it into 8 even pieces such that the best ones had no crust.
Academically, there was still, effectively, segregation although it was a mixed school. Lads did Science, Lasses did Arts, with only a few exceptions. Thus 6th lower science was 90% male, 6 lower arts was 90% female. IMHO this had a lot to do with the way arts subjects were taught, which embarrassed you: for instance in English you might be studying a novel. You took it in turn to read the next paragraph out loud. No-one except Willy liked doing this. On the other hand there was a kind of machismo attached to being able to solve problems in maths.
From age about 16 the highlight of my life was to go out with Charlie, who by that time had wheels – a scooter and later on his sister Pat’s car. Charlie was a popular guy and had a lot of friends in Denaby. They called themselves ‘Tom Hill Old Boys’ after a youth club they had frequented. Denaby Main (the village was named after the pit) was about 45 minutes walk North from Clifton, down in the Dearne Valley. It was a classic mining village with back to back houses, a miner’s welfare and several well-frequented pubs and Working Men’s Clubs. I would tag along with Charlie whenever I could, though I was younger than his mates and, again, a bit awkward.
Weekend drinking in those days was a serious business, done standing up in wide circles, starting at 8pm & going on till 1030. In one place a fresh pint would arrive every 20 minutes or so, whether you’d ordered it or not. Dirty jokes were an art form in their own right, and I’ve put a bunch of them featuring Denaby together, making Charlie the centrepiece.
If you were in the welfare or a WMC you could also go and watch ‘the turn’ – there was live entertainment most nights, and the inevitable tombola. The welfare was a real social centre – it ran many sports teams and had excellent facilities: I played cricket for them briefly and was surprised by the care taken of the wicket and the kit you could choose from. You weren’t expected to have your own bat, as you would in an ordinary club.
When I was in the lower 6th (I think) MGS merged with the neighbouring Maltby Hall Secondary Modern to form a Comprehensive with around 2000 pupils. Therefore I can say that I went to school with Fred Trueman. Having got only 6 O levels (I failed English Literature and I don't know why) and an ordinary year in 6th Lower Science I got my brain in gear and worked hard in the upper 6th as I wanted to get off to University whereas many of my contempories did a 3rd year in the 6th . I applied to do maths at several places and found that they all needed double maths A levels - that would have required the 3rd year. Someone at Reading, though, spotted that I might fit their new degree in Cybernetics, because I'd expressed an interest in Computer Programming (just for something to say, I think). I got decent A levels and Reading made me an offer. This was in 1964 - the letter actually arrived on my 18th birthday, so I walked to the nearest pub, with Rip the Labrador, to think it over and decided to go for it!