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Memories of the Past

by Roland Bateson

I was born 13th April 1924, and lived at 11 Trafalgar Street, Bolton, which was located near the top of present day Waterloo Street. St James Church and school which I attended in the infants class were also in this locality. My father was a seaman in the Merchant Navy and rarely home; mother was a housewife. 11 Trafalgar Street was a 2 bedroom terraced house with living room and kitchen, no bath, shower or electricity. We paid rent. Light was by gas mantle in the living room and kitchen, but candlelight for us going upstairs at night going to bed. The lavatory(toilet) was located outside at the bottom of the back yard in a stone building, centrally situated between 2 terraced houses, with a door entrance to the lavatory from each end. As a little lad I shivered at the thought of having to go out to the lavatory in the dark on a cold winter's night. My mother had to push me out. We lagged the cold water tank and pipe in the lavatory with cut offs from an old army great coat and fastened then in position with string to avoid the water freezing. A central dividing flag wall separated the two back yards.

The main mode of transport was the tram with conductor to issue tram tickets to passengers. Upstairs on the tram was nearly always blue with cigarette smoke, and coughing and spluttering from quite a few. Some thought it could harm your lungs. But most men smoked and said that was rubbish and nobody could prove it anyway. I remember now and again on Saturdays getting a free ride hanging on to a packed tram going to and from Burnden Park along Manchester Road. The tram being full to almost bursting capacity with Bolton Wanderers supporters and the conductor finding it impossible to take fares, and move about in the tram. The tram just crawled along, stopping and starting, almost pushing packed crowds in front of the tram walking along Manchester Road.

Also on a regular basis when Bolton Wanderers were playing at home some of us pinched our way into the ground without paying. This was done by crawling on our hands and knees by the side of a paying customer's legs and feet. As he paid his fee and the turnstile moved round allowing him to go into the ground so did I, getting into the ground for free! I'd shout for joy. On about 2 occasions I climbed the high board hoardings at the Bolton end of Burnden Park on Manchester Road to get in the ground for free. A neighbour who saw me told my mother I could break my legs if I fell. She asked me to promise not to do it again. I promised.

Later we moved into a rented new 3 bedroom corporation house at Top o'th brow Breightmet. It was marvellous to have electric lights, a bath, hot water and plenty of space to move round. We couldn't believe it. I went to Harwood School Stitch-mi-lane up to 11 years old. I was happy there. Money was very short and around this time I went caddying for golfers at Harwood Golf Club at week ends It was a 9 hole course in them days I got sixpence for 9 holes and a shilling for 18 holes. In the day sometimes I made two shillings and on the odd occasion half a crown. I gave the money to my mother - it all helped.

At 11 years of age I went to Folds Road Central School. I only have a hazy recollection of taking an exam, I think it must have been for grammar school. If I did then I must have failed. Tommy Lawton the famous footballer went to Folds Road School, but left the school before I arrived. I'd previously watched him a number of times playing football for the school. He dominated every match I watched. With him in the team they won the Stanley shield for football year after year. Folds Road was a well disciplined no nonsense school. You were there to learn - or else! I got the 'stick' a few times. The teacher with force brought a bamboo cane down on your oustretched hand for misbehaviour. Oh Lord how it hurt. It had the desired effect, peace in the classrooms, everybody learning. The stick had a language of its own for those who misbehaved.

At 14 years of age I left school. No advice, or help from anyone telling me what was involved.

One minute I was at school and the next at home wondering what to do. I was in a quandary. I walked round Bolton asking at various firms if 'they had any vacancies'. With jobs so scarce and unemployment rife, it was a waste of time. There was no chance. However, as I learned in later life, 'its not what you know, but who you know' that counts. My father home on leave from the sea, in a pub at the bottom of Waterloo Street, spoke to the foreman at Thomas Ryders machine toolmakers on Turner Bridge Tonge Moor, and over beers, hey presto I got a mechanical engineering apprentice job at Ryders.

Thomas Ryders was a busy firm working night and day in the machine shop. Apprentices were recommended to go to night classes 3 times a week to study Workshop Technology or the Lower and Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering. I had a frightening experience in the first week I was there. I was put to work on a simple small machine milling keyways in steel shafts. There was a scream like shout. A boring machine operator working on a large boring machine near me was trapped between the main headstock of the machine and a big cast iron casting being worked on which was being traversed along slowly, and which was being cutter bored. His life was in danger. I was in shock almost paralysed. Fortunately a senior milling machine operator realised the danger and rushed past me and switched off the main electric switch to the machine. The man was released in a state of shock but came round OK.

At Thomas Ryders at that time we were working on a 47 and a half hour week and Saturday mornings as well. I had a good apprenticeship and worked on various machine before eventually finishing up in the tool room on a precision tool room grinding machine.

We had no canteen when I started work (it came a few years later). We ate our dinner (lunch now) by the side of our machines. We were provided with a cold water tap and alubricant to wash our hands.

Older still and approaching 20 years of age most of the lads went to the Palais de Dance in Bridge Street at the corner of St George's Road on Saturday nights. Most nights I was busy with homework.

On 21 December 1944 I was called up for the army. I had the opportunity of becoming a Bevin boy and working down the pit. I considered the pit worse than the army - so in the army I went. In the army I trained as a wireless and morse code operator in the Royal Signals at Whitby in Yorkshire. After this our unit sailed to India on the Empress of Scotland, a liner which had been converted to a troop carrier. The war had ended with Japan before we sailed in 1945. Previously the Americans had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, and Nagasake bringing war with the Japanese to a swift end on the 15th August 1945. We disembarked at Bombay the main port in India. We travelled to a British post in the Central Provinces . Stayed there about 3 months then a long 2 days or so journey by train to Bangalore in southern India. Later being posted to Bombay as a corporal cipher operator in the signal office. It was a cushy job.

In July 1947 came the partition of India. Pakistan came into being. India in the main being predominantly Hindu, and Pakistan being mainly Muslim. This was the start of chaos and terror for some. Generally lots of Muslims moving north to Pakistan, and lots of Hindus moving to Hindu dominated areas. It was a time of mass movement of people moving in different directions in the Punjab with terrible carnage and slaughter of lives between Hindus and Muslims. Since I was in the cipher office at Bombay deciphering and enciphering code messages from and to British HQs up and down India the whole scenario opened before my eyes on deciphering messages. I was glad when we embarked back to England on the liner Georgic towards the end of 1947. On January 30th, 1948 Mahatma Ghandi India's 'great soul' was assassinated, still weakened from a lengthy fast to urge peace between Hindus and Muslims.

I was discharged from the army in February 1948. Back home I continued as a tool grinder at Thomas Ryders in the tool room, and continued with night classes three nights a week. Febrary 28th 1953, I married Ada Elliott. We had two children, David and Jean. I subsequently got jobs as a draughtsman at Metro Vick, Bennis Combustion, ICI, and for 18 years with CEGB(Central Electricity Generating Board ) at offices in Agecroft Manchester, Cheadle Hulme Cheshire, and Gloucester. At the Gloucester office I was promoted from Draughtsman, to 3rd, 2nd, and eventually 1st engineer with qualification of CEng MIME. At 55 years of age I came back to Bolton and got a position as a mechanical engineer with Kennedy and Donkin Consulting Engineers Manchester working on power station projects. At 60 years of age Kennedy and Donkin had a cost cutting exercise and along with others I was made redundant. I got a job with Nuclear Power Risley as a Technical Author working on Operating and Maintenance Instructions for nuclear power stations.till I was 64 and hence retired.

I've spent my retirement years up to the present day writing books and poetry for my own interest. I've written the following books:


100 Short, Short Stories
They Knew Their Place
The Marathon Runners
Short Stories
Children's Stories
A Little Bit of This and That in Word and Windows
Think on These Things
100 Poems - book 1
100 Poems - book 2
100 Poems - book 3
A 200 Poem Summary - book 4 ( a repeat of my preferred poems from books 1, 2 and 3)
100 Poems - book 5
An Old Man's Thoughts, Interests, Stories and Poems

I'm still writing at 83 years of age - how long for, I wouldn't like to guess!

20th May 2007