1933-1940

Think the top photograph must have been taken in the early 1930s, probably 1933. Tom had joined the 1st Barlow Moor Scout Troop, acquiring a natty uniform and a Baden-Powell Scout hat, and Walt had become a Cub.

Dad is so thin that he was clearly still suffering from the aftermath of the operation to remove the Turkish Gallipoli bullet.

Since I'm not about, I was probably by that time starting my various hospital stints. When I was about 11 - I'd sat the 11+ and thought I might be going to Chorlton High School - I developed a left leg limp. It became so severe that I was taken to Pendlebury Children's Hospital where they fastened me on to a frame and hung a weight on my left leg. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, I then went to another children's hospital at Rose Hill, Marple, where after a spell in bed I was allowed up, wearing a calliper - a kind of metal splint - on my left leg, designed to reduce weight on the foot and then, still wearing it, went home.

However, it seemed this was not the answer so off I went again, this time to a children's hospital in the hills above Abergele. They kept me in bed for a long time, then let me up with crutches and a built-up right shoe, telling me not to put any weight on my left leg. Finally, I got rid of the crutches and built-up shoe. Apparently cured, I was allowed to go home again and back to school, this time to Chorlton Park. That must have been around late 1935 or early 1936 when I'd be 13 years of age.

In later years I learned I had had Perthes disease. This affects the joints of children but can often be cleared up - only to return, as I was to discover.

The two other photographs would be after I had returned from Abergele. I promptly joined the 1st Barlow Moor Scouts, which were sponsored by Barlow Moor Methodist Church, and must have been trying out the family tent in the back garden. The bottom photograph indicates that I had either discovered the delights of Brylcreem - or, more probably, a mixture of bay rum and tragacanth gum powder, which was cheaper.

I followed brother Tom to Chorlton Park Senior School. He, having reached the ripe old age of 14, had left to go put into the big wide world to earn his living. In fact, his first job was as an office boy with the Rubber Regenerating Company in Trafford Park. He had been a top pupil in Form 3A, already displaying artistic talent by becoming the school's best book-binder.

The first question I was asked, in fact - much to my puzzlement - was whether I was any good at book-binding.

Having missed a lot of schooling I was put into Form 3B. That's me, third from the right, middle row. I must have been at least nearing 14 because I'm in long trousers, the age you had to reach to achieve this honour.

The balding man on the right: headmaster 'Pop' Mason; the distinguished chap on the left: form master Mr Barber.

Looking back, both were good to and for me. They put me on the cricket team (I wasn't very brilliant) and on the football team (a bit better), as well as helping me to make up for the educational years I had lost.

Big lad second from left, back row, was the class bully. He became a fairground wrestler!

Just before I left school, Gilbert Holliday called in, told 'Pop' Mason he was moving up from office boy to junior reporter at the Manchester Press Exchange (run mainly by his dad, Old Bill), to junior reporter so there was a vacancy. For some reason Mason sent for me, asked if I wanted to be a journalist - and that's how it all started.

Mother was not pleased. I had passed a Co-operative Wholesale Society examination to become, I suppose, an errand boy at 10/- a week. Instead, here I was taking on a job with a mixed bag of freelance journalists at 7/6 a week - and use your own bicycle to pedal round umpteen newspaper offices in Manchester twice a day with what was known as 'copy'.

Lower pix, later teenage years: me in a new suit, taken at the Jack Whitelegg homestead; a sombre Tom (on right), no doubt back home after a session regenerating smelly rubber, and mop-haired Walter. Bottom; me posing enviously beside Walter's motor bike and Walt tuning it up.



On returning to home and school I promptly joined the 1st Barlow Moor Scout Troop - and made very good friends, one of whom was to save my life. Wilfred Airey was really Tom's friend. They hiked together in the Lake District, staying at YMCA hostels.

The top two photographs show me with Jack Whitelegg, boating at Sandiway Scout Camp. At an earlier camp, with Tom and Wilf Airey, we found a leaky punt on the lake, climbed on to it and went to the other side. It took in more water on the way over. 'Back again before it goes down,' we said, got into the middle and down it went. I couldn't swim so I just bobbed up and down, looking at muddy bubbles going up, getting a glimpse of Tom - who could swim a little - holding on to the punt, looking for me each time I surfaced, but being unable to grab me.

Wilf had swum to the side of the lake Looking back, he realised I was in trouble. He had just passed his life- saving badge so, courageously, came back and told me to lie on my back with hands on his shoulders. I did and he got me to the side by doing the breast stroke. Tom managed to swim to the side.

Wilf should have got a medal - but we didn't tell anyone. I then joined the school's swimming class at Chorlton Baths

Believe Wilf, many years later, was thrown off a horse and killed.

Pie second down of right is Andy dark at a Peover camp. He became my best friend - and best man

When camping at Sandiway around 1938/39 we took 'civvies' and cycled to Chester. That's where Jack Whitelegg and Andy are pictured I'm on the clock bridge over the main street.



Top two pix - more camping with Jack and Andy, this time at Brynbach Scout Camp near Denbigh It was rather hilly. Jack's father drove us there in his new (to him) Ford 8 (eight horsepower), which rattled and banged and nearly broke down on the way. Still, he owned a car - which was quite something in those days.

A bit nearer home, the bottom photographs illustrate pioneering skills - putting a rope suspension bridge across the Mersey in Chorlton Think Tom and I are helping to put a bit of tension on a support. Bottom right: Eddie Povah (known as Bos'n') our pioneering expert. Just visible in bottom pic, a brave soul (looks like Bob Graham, Assistant Scout Leader) being hauled, across the river.

Somewhere around this period. Jack and I set off from Chorlton one day on our bikes and, a bit to our astonishment, reached Rhyl It dawned on us we would have to cycle back, so we treated ourselves to an ice cream and pedalled, more and more wearily, home again

The war was just over the horizon at the time Jack became a sergeant pilot, survived the war, became a salesman but died sometime in the 1980s. Bos'n, fairly naturally, went into the Royal Navy. Andy, who always had to wear 'milk bottle bottoms' specs, joined the RAF but because of his poor sight and ear problems was soon discharged back to civvy life. Incidentally, he was a marvellous and very strong swimmer, and was the main reason why 1st Barlow Moor always did well in Scout galas.



From the age of 14 to 16 I pedalled my cycle around all the Manchester newspaper offices twice a day, from Monday to Friday, delivering 'copy'. I also went into the office on Saturday mornings. In winter I attended Manchester United and Manchester City football matches, rushing out of the grounds from time to time to telephone Bill Holliday's match reports. Sometimes also cycled round the newspaper offices on Sunday with Bill's soccer and Reg Pullin's Rugby 'reviews'.

There were plenty of newspaper offices: The Mirror, Dispatch, Sketch, Evening Chronicle, Telegraph and Times - and one or two more - at Withy Grove; the News Chronicle up Cheetham Hill, the Express in Great Ancoats Street, Manchester Guardian and Evening News in Cross Street, the Mirror and the Mail in Hardman Street and the Daily Herald on Oxford Road.

During the day I taught myself four-fingered typing (two fingers on each hand!) so that I could take down stories telephoned by Press Exchange members - sometimes having to do four or five carbon copies - before cycling round with them. I learned shorthand at night school, also taking English and French lessons. My weekly pay was increased to ten shillings!

Then I graduated to reporting, augmenting my income by doing a part-time stint with the Middleton Guardian, mainly reporting the doings of churches in Moston, Harpurhey and surrounding areas, not to mention obituaries - again, pedalling around the whole area.

Obituaries? Mr Bagot, Middleton Guardian editor, combed through death announcements in the Evening News and shipped me off to interview widows, widowers and other relatives to write a piece about the departed.

When the war started in 1939 some Press Exchange members were promptly called up - so I graduated at the early age of 17 to doing reports from what were then known as Police Courts. Speed and accuracy were essential. I learned a lot very quickly.

As the Battle of Britain raged in 1940, I was accepted as a member of the National Union of Journalists and had to have a portrait taken for my NUJ card. That's it, at the top. I was also accepted into the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers, or Look, Duck and Vanish), later called the Home Guard - or later still Dad's Army.) Our Headquarters: Chorlton Golf Club.

Posing for a newspaper - think it was the Daily Dispatch - we 'captured' two 'spies'. That's me, bringing up the rear.


Tom was also a Chorlton Home Guard, as was Walt when he reached 17 years of age. Tom is with three comrades, probably in what we knew as Bluebell Wood on Chorlton Golf Course, keeping a look-out for enemy paratroops. Up-ended rail sleepers had been planted on the golf course to stop German glider troops.

Tom was soon to change his khaki for RAF blue. He had volunteered for aircrew. On 17 September 1941 he got his papers to report to RAF Padgate on 29 September.

Another Barlow Moor Scout was John Ankers, who later also became a Sunday newspaper journalist, in Manchester, on The People. I hadn't realised it at the time but his Dad was in Dad's Army and we marched together on a parade. John sent me the bottom picture, duly marking his Dad and me. I was glad to note that I was in step this time!

John included the quote (below) with the photograph.

John's wife, Joyce, became secretary to Gerry Dawson, Editor of The Melody Maker - and for many (post war) years Chairman of the Manchester Press Charities Committee, on which I also served.

Top three and middle pix - taken during a farming holiday in Anglesey in August 1941. Top left: the farmer, Jack Whitelegg, Andy dark, Tom Edwards. Suppose I took the photograph. Don't know the lad in shorts.

While there we met Kathleen and Joyce, from Manchester. That's me in the middle. Tom met a Welsh girl called Cainwen who liked his red hair and chased him round the island.

Bottom left. Carmen Sylvia Meese, a fellow classmate learning shorthand at Oswald Road night school, Chorlton. We became friendly. However, on the right is a lovely girl I didn't know at the time this portrait was taken but whom I was destined to marry.




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