Day out with Kids Askrigg England

As some of you may remember, in 1939 the British government made an effort to evacuate as many children as possible from industrial areas which they felt would be targets for German bombers.

I was one of those "evacuees" as we were known to the locals. My sister, Maureen and I were loaded on a train at Gateshead station complete with a rucksack containing a few bits of clothing, something to eat on the journey, and the proverbial Gas-mask in a little cardboard box, destination Askrigg, Yorkshire

Upon arrival at Askrigg we were taken to the village hall where the people we were to be billeted with collected us and took us away. Our stay in Askrigg was probably a year and I have vivid memories of the School, the village, a waterfall that was close by, the cross in the village square, and some of the people there.

I never went back to Askrigg nor had the urge to until one day while in England on holiday from California with my 18 year old American born daughter I decided to take her there and show her the place that played a part in my growing up days. It was 1989, 50 years since I had been shuttled to Yorkshire in the big evacuation of the war.

When we arrived in Askrigg it looked exactly as I remembered it. There was a little shop in the village square that I remembered being there and I went in with my daughter to ask for information and directions to where I had been lodged.

The lady behind the counter waited until I had finished asking and then said, " I know who you are, you and your sister were in my class at the village school". She told me my name, my sister's name and then told me to wait a minute and disappeared into the back of the shop.

When she came back she had a photograph taken at the school and she pointed out my sister, herself, and me, and all the other local kids and evacuees. She gave me the photo on condition I took a copy and send her the original back, which I did.

Askrigg School 1940, Evacuees from Gateshead: Noel Kelly (2nd Row 6 from left) Maureen Kelly (3rd Row, 2 from right) Pat Cree (2nd Row 2nd from left) Topsy Cree (3rd Row 4 from right). (If you know the names of anyone else please contact us)

To be recognised like that after 50 years was amazing, my daughter was flabbergasted and talks about it to this day. She contends I must have been a bit of a bugger to be remembered like that but I contend it was because I was a Geordie lad who was a bit of a novelty to the local yokels and all the village girls were daft over me, after-all, I was eight years old and growing.

All joking aside, it's not often that one can make a nostalgic journey as I did that day and realise that you can go back to the past.

As I related earlier my sister and I were evacuated to Askrigg, Yorkshire in 1939.

Our first billet was with a lady who already had two evacuees from Liverpool who were somehow related to her. Unfortunately she took ill and a new billet had to be found for us and one could not be found that was prepared to take the two of us so my sister and I were split up.

My sister was sent to live with a cheesemaker and I was put in a place that took in boarders and it didn't prove to be a suitable place for children so I was moved once more to live with a large family who were very good to me during my stay with them.

My sister and I saw each other every day at school and everything seemed to be going smoothly until once again we were on the move. In their efforts to keep families together as much as possible the authorities had found a place where my sister and I could be together again.

The move this time was to take us out of Askrigg and put us on a farm in the nearby village of Bainbridge and this was to become a terrible experience for both of us. It started out just fine, as in Askrigg the school in Bainbridge had a lot of evacuees from our school (Chester Place) in Gateshead so we did not feel like newcomers and felt right at home.

Our troubles began with the farmer, apart from our time at school we were not given too much free time on the farm, the farmer gave us chores to do and if we didn't do them fast enough or to his satisfaction he would take his belt to us. My sister did not escape his punishment but as a boy I bore the brunt of it. The farmers wife was not happy with his treatment of us but there was precious little she could do about it.

Somehow the word must have got around about how we were being treated as after a while two of my mother's sisters from Gateshead showed up at the farm as mad as hell and bundled us out of there. The language that these two Geordie lasses used in a tirade at the farmer wasn't fit for my young ears bi gum!!

Next stop Gateshead??, No-no-no, Great Houghton, further south in Yorkshire, one of my mother's sisters had committed a cardinal sin, she married out of her tribe, got hitched to a pitman from Darfield who was working and living in Great Houghton. She was never forgiven for that until she persuaded the pitman to move to the land of the Prince Bishops, Co.Durham.

My sister and I had a good time in Great Houghton until we returned to the Tyneside in 1942 and only then were we told that our mother had died in December 1940.

We made some good friends in Gt.Houghton but we never went back, well my sister didn't but I did, but not until 1997, 55 years later to meet up with one of the friends I had made there and had no contact with since the day I left in 1942.

As I related before, my sister and I were evacuated to three places in Yorkshire during the war, first there was Askgrigg, then Bainbridge, and finally Great Houghton and this final episode relates to Gt.Houghton and events that followed many, many years later. As I said in my earlier story, my sister and I were removed from a farm in Bainbridge because the farmer was beating us and our next billet was to be with an aunt who had married a pitman from Darfield and was living in Great Houghton, a far cry from her native Gateshead.

Our stay in Gt.Houghton was as I remember it, quite pleasant, and I seem to recall that we were the only evacuees in the village which appeared to be in our favour. It seemed that the women in the neighbourhood were determined to make us feel at home and not feel as though we were not welcome. The children, well they were a little different, with them I think it was status, I think they saw us as people they needed and wanted to be friends with before others beat them to it, and we were never short of someone to play with.

Unlike Askrigg & Bainbridge where I can only remember the names of the people I was lodged with, there are many names of the children I went to school with and made friends with in Gt. Houghton that are etched in my memory even today. However, there was one particular tyke that this story really revolves around.

Terry Mynett, how could I forget him, or actually how could he forget me, I'm the Geordie lad that broke his bloody leg!! Playing in the backyard of the local pub I decided to climb one of the drain-pipes to get on top of a high wall and in doing so, the pipe became detached from the wall and as it fell struck Terry on the leg and broke it. As for me, well I was always...

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