9 April 2014

Barmby

Cattle grazing on the banks of the River Derwent at Barmby
My father Philip came from a poor family in Norton, North Yorkshire but as an eleven year old boy he managed to get a scholarship to Malton Grammar School. From there, he moved on to St John's College in York where he trained to be  a teacher. This was back in the nineteen thirties. His first fulltime teaching post was in Hessle to the west of Hull but then the second world war came along and he joined the Royal Air Force as a meteorological officer. He was posted to India in 1940.

My mother Doreen came from a poor coal mining family in Rawmarsh near Rotherham. She was mostly raised by her maternal grandparents on Quarry Street, not far from the pit where my great grandfather worked. She was a vivacious child - good at singing and dancing and she dreamed of a better life. At sixteen she would catch two buses and then a tram to get to Broomhill in Sheffield where she had secured an office job but soon the second world war came along and at the age of twenty she had signed up for the WAAF - Women's Auxiliary Airforce. She was posted to India in 1941.

Why were they both in India? Simply because British military forecasters and politicians anticipated a concerted attempt by the Japanese to invade the Indian subcontinent. It was the jewel of the British Empire (sorry any Australians and Kiwis reading this!) and had to be protected. In the event, the Japanese never reached India so my parents enjoyed a lovely war and were married in Delhi in December 1945 before returning home to begin their married life together.

Back in war-ravaged England, Dad secured a teaching post in Uxbridge, Middlesex but can't have been in that post very long before moving to Laxton in Nottinghamshire. That post didn't last long either and with Mum heavily pregnant with my brother Paul they moved, in 1947, to a small Yorkshire village called Barmby on the Marsh where Dad had secured the position of headteacher in the little village school. Along with the job came a Victorian schoolhouse with big draughty rooms and a view over flat, often windswept farming land towards York.

Yesterday, having driven over to Hull to pick up our tickets for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final, I made a detour to Barmby on the Marsh. It is three miles from the main road through the villages of Knedlington and Asselby which also help to populate Barmby's little school. Barmby is at the very end of that road close to the point where the River Derwent (from Malton) meets the Yorkshire Ouse (from York). On the other side of the Ouse the massive Drax Power station rises from fields. It was opened in 1974.

Mum and Dad lived in Barmby on the Marsh for four years. After Baby Paul, Baby Robin came along in 1951. They always spoke about Barmby with great affection. They were young and the war was over and there were years of life ahead. Dreams to fulfil, service to give and a family to raise.

Naturally, as I walked around the area, I thought of them and how it would have been there in the austere years of the late nineteen forties when rationing was still in place. I thought of them in the now disused St Helen's church and by the "King's Head" pub and by the rivers that dictate the character of  Barmby and its sister settlements. And I thought of Dad teaching the children of agricultural workers in the little school and of Mum making friends with local women. Many of the villagers would hardly ever leave the place even though a branch railway track ran across this landscape right up to the late nineteen fifties. It seems so long ago.

In 1952 they left Barmby for the village of Leven - a bigger school and a better salary and the following year they had a third son - the person who has created this nostalgic post.
Barmby School and the schoolhouse
Stone carving over the church porch - St Helen's
Church, Barmby on the Marsh (now disused)
Drax Power Station from Barmby Barrage
On Barmby Marsh - once a watery and forbidding
landscape - now rich farming land.

11 comments:

  1. I love the shot of Drax cooling towers.

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    1. Thank you Adrian. I know that you have discerning tastes when it comes to photography so again I am honoured to receive a morsel of approbation from you.

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  2. Why didn't you call in for a cup of tea on your way back from Hull?

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    1. I was going to knock Molly but when I saw the postman's bicycle propped against your wall, I realised it was best to beat a hasty retreat. Was it another special delivery?

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    2. Don't worry, I will not tell Roberto. Do you still use a cheque book?

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  3. Good to know the village school is still used as such. Your parents did not stay very long in one place, at least not while they were young - can't have been easy for your mother to move house with a baby, and then two babies and a third on the way f, and starting afresh at a different school for your father.
    I enjoyed reading this nostalgic post, and the new pictures made it all the more interesting.

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    1. Yes Arian - the visit to Barmby also made me think about those things. I wish I could have stayed longer. Perhaps I would have met somebody that attended the village school in the late 1940's - someone who remembered my mother and father.

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  4. Interesting family history. They struggle from the start to make a good life and had to be alert to stay there.

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    1. Red - Oddly, I think that World War II lifted their expectations of how life might be lived.

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  5. I can imagine some of your thoughts. A virtual hug; that's all.

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