Full Story as pdf file HERE
LAST TRAIN OF
THE DAY FROM GRIMSBY
I was born in a small house on the corner of Brigg rd Barton-on-Humber Lincolnshire
England on the 23/5/21. Wyatt Earp died in 1929.
But while still an
infant our family moved to a remote farm cottage near Thornton Abbey
about eight miles from Barton. I lived in a farm labourer's cottage
with my parents and sisters, total of five kids, also we had a lodger
and we called him Uncle Jack .and like my Mother he was a Geordie.
My Father was a Lincolnshire man.
Uncle Jack Rickerby worked on the farm with Dad and the other labourers. We
had another lodger called Big Tom and he worked in the signal box down
at the railway station. I suppose everyone in the house called him Big
Tom because my name was also Tom and I was referred to as little Tom. I
was also grateful for the fact my Mother had not called me Richard.
Our address was No 2 Station road, probably that was because the road led from
the railway station to the village of Thornton Curtis, in Lincolnshire,
England. No1 station road was where the farmer lived, down near the station
and on the opposite side of the road. Our nearest neighbour was the farmer,
his name was John Davey. About a quarter of a mile away from the station
in the opposite direction to our house was Thornton Abbey supposed to have
been burnt down by Henry the Eighth.
In 1927 or thereabouts the land was flooded between the Abbey and the railway
Some of the old people in Thornton village said they could not remember
it ever being flooded before and there was no record of it being so and
think it ever happened again. Normally there was never anyone near the Abbey
but on that particular Sunday it was different. Most of the village people
had walked the mile and a quarter from the village to look at the water that
was between the Abbey and the railway station. They were gathered at the edge
of the water. I remembered thinking "I wonder if they are all waiting for an
arm to poke out of the water holding aloft a bright shining sword?"
Comments like "app'n wiv ed more raa-en 'an usual Fred" (perhaps we have had
more rain than usual)
And Fred taking out his pipe, spat, just as a bumble bee was passing, and replied, "yis" Near
a tussock of grass an old lady was carefully laying out a tablecloth, patting
it where the taller grass was causing bumps in the cloth. Then calling to some
children who were paddling in the water she poured lemonade into two small
cups and brought forth a packet of biscuits from the basket on the grass near
her. Two youths were kicking a rubber ball about the same size as a football
and the old lady told them in no uncertain terms what would happen should the
ball fall on her nice clean table cloth. They moved further away and everyone
was at peace again sitting there watching the water while munching on their
sandwiches. I pondered the situation and wondered why so many people had nothing
better to do than sit and watch a body of still water stagnating in a field.
Perhaps they thought Jesus might suddenly appear and walk on the water for
them just to prove he could do it. 'Nah' I thought he won't have a road map,
fat chance of him finding this place wi' out one.
About three hundred yards away was the railway station. When the three o'clock
Grimsby to New Holland train pulled into the station Fred pulled out a
fat silver pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket and said to George, "e's
near on foive minits layet". George not to be outdone plucked his watch
out and scrutinised it "aw dunno, ah mek it three an' a 'aef app'n". To
cap it all a young bloke stood nearby pushed back his sleeve with a delicate
gesture of his forefinger and read the time from his wrist watch, then
said to both blokes, "actually you are both wrong, the train is one minute
early." Then sauntered off with his nose in the air George looked at Fred
who was now red faced and puffed up, " cheeky young bugger" he snarled.
In front of our house we had a small garden usually full of flowers, and along
the front of the house close to the wall there were lots of wallflowers
and sweet peas, the hawthorn hedge stretched as far as the eye could see
in either direction along the road. Across the road was a small pond containing
newts, tadpoles and stickleback fish. At the back of the pond was a collection
of bushes about seven feet tall.
Usually at five of the clock in the morning a pony and trap could be heard
clipperty clopping past the house as it ran to catch the milk train to Grimsby,
but in winter the noise would be muffled by snow.
I can remember one winter the snow was so high, well I was five or six years
old and it was over my head so I would guess it to have been four to five feet
high. Anyway it stopped everyone doing what they normally did, outside that
Mind you in those days 1925-26-27 there was hardly any traffic except for the
farmer's small car a bicycle or two and the rest were horse and trap or
wagons. Some days we got no traffic at all past our house except for the
milk float at five in the morning. Those were the days when Mum would put
a house brick in the oven and when it was bedtime in winter she would wrap
it up in a bit of flannel and we would put it in the bottom of the bed
and put our feet on it. Sometimes an iron oven shelf was used.
If the cloth had been rubbed off and you put your feet on it the following
morning it would be icy cold and you pulled your feet up quick smart. Sometimes
a bloke would come round with a horse and dray, a flat cart with a metal loop
over the top and a green canvas sort of tent draped over it. He would be selling
tea sugar and coffee, oranges, bananas, cotton, buttons, and lots of other
stuff you would not find on a farm in Lincolnshire.
Most other foodstuff was obtained from the farm, but the man with the cart
was always welcome to us kids because we got the odd mint humbug or whatever.
One day I was in the back garden and I thought I heard a horn blowing.
Suddenly over our back hedge came a pack of hounds followed by red coated
people on horse back who galloped across our veggie patch smashing down
the canes holding up the beans and other greens. Dad was furious when he
got home after work and saw the destruction but like everything else you
learned to live with it. I used to go into the barn, which was a large
brick place at the side of the house and I would turn the handle of the
butter churn so mum could have a rest from it.
I would watch fascinated by my Mothers deft hands as she shaped and patted
the butter in to an oblong shape, and the boards not unlike the ping pong bats
of today. If my mother turned a bat over and patted the butter, the bat would
leave a square netting pattern on the surface of the butter. The walls of the
barn had the odd nail here and there and hanging from these some times would
be pelts from rabbits or a fox.
The pantry was a place where food was
kept, and was on a lower level to the rest of the house.
I think it was the coolest place in the house, inside were two long benches
of brick and someone had skimmed the tops of these with a mixture of sand cement
and lime to make what looked like a grey slab of marble on each. One could
usually find sides of bacon encrusted with salt curing on these two side benches.
There were also shelves held to the wall by iron brackets. On the shelves would
be stacks of bottles containing preserved meats and brawns. Also dozens jars
of home made jams and marmalade.
Jars containing pickled onions, pickled red cabbage, plums in heavy syrup,
greengages in syrup, strawberries in syrup, the list goes on. If it grew in
our garden one could find it in our pantry.
That is if us kids didn't get them first.
In the living room oak beams supported the ceiling Heavy-duty hooks had been
screwed into the wood beams and from these hooks hung numerous hams salted
and encased in snow white pillow cases The centre of the ceiling had a
hook with an ornate brass kerosene lamp hanging from it. This lamp had
two wicks and the glass had to be cleaned and the wicks trimmed about once
a week. The same kind of lamp adorned the front room ceiling. Anywhere
else in the house at night was illuminated by candlelight.
So all in all we were more or less isolated in those days, little traffic,
no radio, no phones, nearest phone was down at the railway booking office,
and that was usually closed. Only time it opened was when a train was due.
If I remember correctly there would be the milk train at five, another
train at seven thirty, one about eleven o'clock, another at three o'clock,
then one at six and the last train a ten o'clock. I hope some one does
not write to me contradicting these times because I am writing this from
memory and since this was some seventy odd years ago I cannot remember
which train arrived on time and which train was late on a given day. But
I vividly remember how they used to shine in their green livery (paint)
and brass work used to gleam also a big L.N.E.R. (London North Eastern
Railways), was painted in gold letters on the side of the coal tender (that's
the bit immediately behind the engine with the coal in it).
My father's name was Charles William Barker. I know what suddenly flashed through
your mind, and yes I am a chip off the old block, a right Charlie. Be that
as it may, to continue with this illuminating bit of rubbish, my father
was wont to go a hunting, albeit it was illegal to shoot certain game out
But Dad had got into the habit of going out at night with his 12 gauge double
barrelled shotgun, and he couldn't care less about 'you are not allowed to
do this or that. Bear in mind there was no radio to listen to and no t/v and
I didn't know there were policemen till later on in the piece.
However it was not long before Dad got a fly in the ointment so to speak because
he came home from one of his forays and found mum in tears. What happened
was Dad went on his usual safari out the back door, and down the garden
path, through all the fruit trees, past the little house out back with
a crescent moon cut in the door, and the swing hanging from a big old tree.
The big moon was shining and Dad was whistling 'Carolina moon keep on shining',
And a dog that had wandered from the village on hearing the whistle came
running. Only to receive a quick boot up it's rear from my Dad's boot accompanied
by a verbal "git'aht'ov'it ya flea ridden mongril" and the dog limped off,
stopping now and then to inspect and lick it's reproductive gear and give
Dad a reproachful look. Having got over the style in the back hedge and
into the shadow of the hedge he made his way along it until he was half
way across a field, then he would squat or sit and wait for what ever came
his way. He usually came home with a rabbit or hare, a treat would be a
Then Dad found out what was bothering Mum. It seems she had put us to bed after
dad had gone out on one of his evening sorties. Later on in the night mum
was pegging a rug.
In those days when clothing got to the stage where it was cheaper to buy new
rather than repair the old, the old clothes would be washed, cut into strips
and saved in bags until there was enough material to make a new rug or mat.
To make a mat you would select a hessian sack and cut it along the seam to
open it out. One or more persons would get round it and with a peg of wood
would push through the hessian the strips of different coloured cloth to make
a pleasing pattern. When the pegging was finished another sack the same size
would be cut open and sewn onto the now finished top and serves as a backing
for the mat. It was not uncommon in those days for a big mat to take months
to finish and neibours who dropped in for a chat would sit and peg over a cup
of tea and a yarn.
Mum was pegging one of these rugs because she had put us to bed and Dad was
out with his gun.
Sitting on your own can get a bit boring so mum passed the time sewing or making
jam, but on this particular night she was rug making. Then Mum heard a noise
at the front window. A funny eeeee aaaa eee eeeee kind of noise and at first
she took no notice, she thought maybe the wind making the tree groan, but then
it happened again and because it was moon light out side and the paraffin lamp
was not equal to the moon mum thought she saw a shadow of head and shoulders
on the blind of someone out side. Realising Dad always came in through the
back door she grabbed the poker and rushed upstairs to us kids and locked the
bedroom door and stayed there petrified until she heard Dad come in the back
door about an hour later.
Dad said he would stay home for a couple of nights to see if it happened again,
and it didn't until the following Thursday, then Dad was again greeted
with tears, "it was worse than the last time "sobbed Mum. Dad must have
been sharp in the thinking department because he put the time together
and the days together and came up with Thursdays last train from Grimsby.
Made sense he thought because no one would come a mile from the village
just to rub on a window, and the farmer was not suspect he was the last
person my Dad suspected. Anyway Dad kept going out at night and the following
Thursday mum implored him to stay home but dad said "yer 'ave nothin' to
worry aboot just don't go ootside if you hear anythin'" and over the back
style as usual went Dad.
To quote my father this is what happened. "ah gor ower the style at bottum
of oor gardin an worked ma wayer roond until ah wus a'hind t' bushes in front
o't pond in't front o' oor 'oose then ah got doon inter the bushes an ah waeited,
an then ah eerd the last traen from Grimsby cum in an it weren't long afore
ah eerd footsteps cummin up't road, then ah seed this shadder (shadow) in't
moonlight go inter oor front gardin then ah eerd 'squeek squeek' as 'e rubbed
'is finger up an' doon winder, so ah gits up an shahts, "na then, what yer
up ter" an this shadder is oot the front gaet(gate) an off up rooad like t'
devil is arter 'im.Ah waetid 'till e were fur enough awaer then ah let 'im
ev both barrils an yu should 'ave seen 'im jump."
About two years went by and my father got a piece of twig in his arm whilst
hedging and he had to go to Barton to get it looked at by the doctor, and
the doctor remarked " we don't normally get people in here from your part
of the world, you must be a pretty healthy lot, let's see the last chap
we had from Thornton was,---- yes here it is," and he had thumbed through
a book on the desk and was now pointing at a name, "yes two years ago I
remember that now , unusual in that he had a backside full of buck shot"
My Dad kept his mouth shut.