Mapperley Village

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John Martin
My Memories

Continued

Activities

No television at, first, or electronic games then but one of the ways you kept amused was by listening to the wireless as we called it then. The streets were empty when ITMA was being broadcast. Tommy Handley the star of the show died early and brought that to an end. There were two BBC stations, The Light Programme and the Home Service. Radio Luxembourg was also available, but reception was usually poor. It played popular music and at 7.00 p.m. there was an episode of ‘Dick Barton: Special Agent’ which was very popular.

The radios (wirelesses) then needed two batteries, one the high tension battery was a large cardboard covered one which lasted a long time and powered the sound part of the set, the other (the accumulator) was lead acid battery in a glass container which powered the valves and needed regular recharging. This was done by Ted Bramley who used to collect one and deliver one either weekly or fortnightly and drove one of the cars regularly seen in the village.

When television arrived it was common for children to go to one of the growing number of houses with a set and ask to be allowed to see ‘Children’s’ Hour’. I was too old to do this, but I remember walking across the fields to Stanley Common to see television for the first time on a 9 inch black and white set.

As children, all year round, weather permitting, we played out till bedtime. A lot of my friend’s and my time was spent in the fields and the woods. Apart from Shipley Wood and fields growing crops including mowing grass we felt free to go wherever we wanted. We had catapults made from ¼ inch square rubber strips and a shoe tongue for a pouch. The search for a suitable ‘Y’ shaped stick from the hedgerow was often a long process.    Also popular were spears and bows and arrows from hazel. There was a stand of hazel in one of the woods that had obviously been coppiced in earlier times and where, in season, we tightened our belts and filled our shirt fronts with nuts and then sat and broke them open with or teeth despite the warnings of damage given by our parents. There were also chestnut trees but they only gave nuts big enough to eat after a hot summer.

We also made dens and generally passed our time. We seldom went bird nesting feeling that it was wrong. We never managed to catch anything with our weapons. One skill we learned was to make a smokeless fire in the woods so as not to give ourselves away.

Photo
Mabel Martin

In the summer on the Mapperley side of the pond and near to the cow drinks when the water level was down there was a piece of dry clay land, which we called the Island sticking out into the pond from where we used to fish for perch using a cane, thread and a bent pin for a hook with worms for bait. We always had one eye on the pond house for Tommy Watchorn who would sometimes chase us off. The fishing rights were held by a small group of men who sometimes used to take a boat out of the boathouse by the house and fish from that. After the N.C.B. took over the estate I had a licence and with friends or my dad spent many happy hours fishing.

Before the war the largest carp caught in England was caught in the pond; it is now stuffed and displayed in Wollaton Hall. The record, now, is more that twice as large. At the top end of the pond there are the sides of a bridge which used to carry a road, now gone, and beyond was a small shallow pond, now silted up, where the carp used to spend the night. One evening when I was fishing alone two men, one of whom I believe was Richard Walker, a well known carp fishermen who at that time held the record for the largest carp caught, arrived, they were annoyed to see me there but after we had seen two very large carp swim through and as I was leaving they congratulated on my quietness and calmness. This I valued greatly especially from him.

We had various crazes from time to time one of which was kite flying usually from the top of the Meadow (the field at the top of the twitchell)  We mostly had home made kites flown with a bobbin of cotton thread. The kites could be made on site, you sliced a strip of wood from the field fence rail, turned and took a long shoot from “Nut” Beardsley’s privet hedge, surprisingly for a keen gardener it always seemed to need cutting, fortunately for us, the leaves were stripped off and the middle of the shoot tied to one end of the strip. Thread was tied to one end of the shoot and passed under the other end of the strip and pulled and tied to the free end of the shoot forming a kite shape with a rounded top and pointed bottom. The kite was covered with (news) paper stuck with flour and water paste and the kite fitted with tailings of grass bunches. Tailings were quite a science; the weight and length affected the performance to a surprising degree. Although we didn’t have the manoeuvrability of the modern two handed kites we had fun with them, for example by fastening a bent piece of wire to the string 3 feet or so below the kite we could send a handkerchief parachute up on another piece of bent wire along the string which would be released by the wire and float down to earth. I also had a spell of making and flying model aeroplanes from balsa wood and tissue paper. In the winter we would make winter warmers; a tin with holes in the side and bottom and a long wire handle. Filled with burning coal it could be stirred into life by whirling it round.

Photo
From top
Ron, Joe and Fred Martin

In season we would do a bit of scrumping from Hill’s orchard, it being remote from the house and easy to get into from the ‘Meadow’.

For indoor activities, as well as the wireless, we played cards and board games. I also remember that tiddlywinks was popular in our house for a good while. My dad liked it so much that he once said “The man who invented tiddlywinks must have been a good sort”. We also did things like cutting up old clothes into strips and making peg rugs with the strips. Designing and drawing a pattern on the sacking was a very serious business. Of course, particularly for the men there was the Black Horse.

Church And Chapel

Most people in the village at that time were to a greater or lesser extent ‘Church’ or ‘Chapel’

During my early years the vicar  of Holy Trinity Church was Mr Swain who had a son Robin, some years older than me but I remember once going in to the vicarage when very young to find to my amazement that he had his own room and that there were two flights of stairs. Mr Vaughan followed, coming from Lancashire, was it Widnes?  When there, his Church outings had been to Southport which was relatively near to his old parish, so we had a couple to the same place, a much longer trip! Especially on Felix buses which were renowned for going slowly. There is a group ‘photo on this web site of one of the trips. I remember Sunday school in the afternoons. 

At one time the organ needed pumping and a trick the boy who used to pump it told me was to let the indicator get right down to nearly empty and then pump like mad making the organ roar out. This trick had to be used sparingly! Later when the organ became too expensive to repair an organ with a treadle was situated at the front of the nave and it was great sport to watch the seat sway from side to side while the organ was being played and wonder when it was going to collapse. It never did!  After Mr Vaughan left Mapperley ceased to be an independent parish and the vicar was Mr Spencer also of West Hallam. The church became unsafe due to mining subsidence and was demolished and while the present building was being erected a temporary wooden building situated at the top of the field called Cow Flat, at the end of Church Lane was used.

The Methodist Chapel, situated below the semis at the top of Lodge Row, was very active with quite a few of the people in the congregation coming from West Hallam which had no chapel of its own. At one time, on the balcony, a club for the children was run by The Sons of Temperance, where we first had to take an oath not to touch alcohol, we did so, probably thinking that we would keep it. The organisation gave people the opportunity to pay a few pence a week to cover medical expenses in the pre N.H.S. days, it carried on for a while after the start of the N.H.S. and paid out to people when sick but the amounts were small and it gradually faded away.

The chapel always put on a better show than the church in their annual Anniversaries with the children on a raised stage singing and reciting and always very smartly dressed.

The man on the extreme left of the photo is my Dad, Ron Martin

NameName Name
School

My first day at school was eventful. I was keen to learn to read and write and after the first morning went home disillusioned as we had only played at our little tables. I went home for lunch and was surprised to learn that I had to go back in the afternoon. I was put through the gate by my mother and aunt and promptly ran to the other gate which was never used and tried climb over it to run away. After being put through the gate a couple of times with the same result the vicar; in those days a highly respected, slightly remote, man tried to stop me from climbing over and, 'Shock Horror', I hit him with my gas mask which I had in my mother's patent leather, shoulder gas mask bag instead of the issue cardboard and string carrier.

I was again put through the gate and Miss Hunt came towards me, put out her hand, said "Come along John" at which I took her hand and went in to school.

The headmaster was Mr 'Gaffer' Johnson who had been there since just after W.W.1. He was very strict and had, when he taught my father, been very free with the cane, but didn't use it much in my day. I have been told that when his son was a pupil he would get the cane when another lad was punished to prove that there was no favouritism. He did, however, often threaten to use it, especially a split one, which he said, was more painful. He was still very strict and would start the day by lining the pupils up and inspecting hands and shoes, back and front. The toes could be rubbed on your socks but not the backs and if the back of anyone's shoes were dirty he would say "You'll make a good soldier. A good soldier never looks behind"

On the front of his desk he had an inkwell on which he kept a hard ball which he would throw and hit the head of anyone who wasn't working properly. He never missed and would say that he was practising for the coconut shy at Ilkeston Fair. When we had to take a piece of work to his desk it was very easy to kick the solid front. You would know what was to come; but he would grab a piece of polished wooden dowel from the inkwell and hit the back of your hand before you could get it out of the way.

We learned the "Three R's and little else. I remember one attempt at drama which due to the lack of enthusiasm on his and the pupil's part was only tried once. On Monday mornings we were allowed to listen to the wireless to a programme featuring 'The Explorer' who went back in time and described the scene and then came forward hundreds or thousands of years later to describe the scene then. There was always some excitement as he often had to escape from Stone Age men or from a stampede of animals being driven over a cliff as a method of hunting etc.

Photo
Ron and Mabel Martin
The other light relief was on Friday afternoons when Gaffer Johnson did his paper work and we were allowed to read books from a cupboard, my favourites were a book of Natural history and one on Mythology. Once a week we had to copy a sentence out in our very best hand writing, on triple lined paper. Mr Johnson would then check it and any words which were less than perfect had to be rewritten three times. When we had satisfied him we took it to Miss Hunt, who was even more difficult to please. We wrote with steel nibbed pens and one of the jobs the older boys would do was to dissolve ink powder in an earthenware bottle and fill the desk inkwells when needed.

Mr Johnson had a small blackboard divided into 5 days, morning and afternoon on which he wrote the attendance figures which as I remember were always in the 30's. "Gaffer" didn't hesitate to send the older lads out of school on errands, for example, to the Post Office, or I remember on a couple of occasions being sent, with another boy, to his house, on the High Lane to fetch a large suitcase of washing to be done by someone in the village. This was after his wife became too ill to do it.

Every so often large boxes of books would be delivered to the school from the County Library.

The pecking order in the boys was shown by who got the first pick of the "Biggles" books. The older boys would go round the village on every other Wednesday lunchtime collecting the books in. We used to carry them from the full length of our arms and trapped beneath our chins. During the afternoon he would select books that he deemed suitable for each borrower and send them out. Towards the end of my time in Mapperley a Library bus came round the villages instead.

There was a verse: In Mapperley Village, round the Pool, there is a school. In that school there is a stool. And on that stool there is a fool. His name is Gaffer Johnson! He was no fool! Miss Hunt taught the younger children up to the age of 8. The classes were 'Babies', 1st Class and Standard 1. (Standards 2, 3 and 4 were in Mr Johnson's room. Miss Hunt's chair was behind a table, used as her desk, and in front of Standard 1, the stage when you learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic. It used to cause great amusement because from Std 1's position you could see up her dress when she was sitting there and see the legs of her bloomers, light blue as I remember.

She often went out of the room and left orders that no-one was to speak. If someone did some of the girls would put up their right hands and point with their left at the culprit and would hold this position in a shocked and silent room until Miss Hunt's return. Punishment would be given; a stroke of the cane on the hand for the older ones. I don't remember what happened to the younger ones. Miss Hunt left the school when I did and on the last day there was a ceremony to thank her for her long service. At the end she went to a cupboard and took out a bar of chocolate for every child. I heard one of the adults whisper that she must have used months worth of sweet rations to save that amount of chocolate.


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