My earliest recollection, at the age of three during World War I, The Great War, is of seeing Doctor Felton standing by the back door of our living room holding the bag in which, the previous day, he had brought my new baby brother Stanley. I can see the picture clearly; the Doctor, a little chubby man with a small white moustache, talking to Mrs. Ravenscroft, a neighbour who had come in to help a little, with me peering round the table leg.
After he had gone, she gave me that most interesting and intriguing piece of information about my brother's arrival - first lesson in the perfidy of Woman. All this took place at the rear of our house as we had no front, or at least no livable front. In common with a large part of the town, the street in which we lived consisted of terraced houses, although ours was a corner one, a shop. As the downstairs front was taken up by the actual shop and storeroom, we lived in a room at the rear; this overlooked the sidestreet and our sole entrance was here as well. Like most houses, the loo was outside, but at least we bad a bathroom; most didn't. Originally, the living room had been intended as a kitchen and still held an old fashioned Yorkshire cooking range, a coal-fired affair with an oven at one side and two boiling rings on the other. These could be adjusted in size by concentric rings, while the heat of the oven was controlled by pulling out a sliding plate. The centre of the room was taken up by a large square table and in addition there was a sideboard, sofa and a rocking chair that is still in use today. Further back still, there was another kitchen that contained the sink, gas stove, mangle and a coal-fired copper for boiling the clothes. As there was a stable down at the bottom of the yard, the coal was kept there, which allowed the original coalhouse to be used as a larder as it opened on to the kitchen. An unusual arrangement no doubt, but a practical one. Upstairs over the actual shop there was a best room, the Sitting Room. Except at Christmas time and other very special occasions, it was hardly ever used and always smelled slightly fusty, not an unusual odour in people's Best Room. For in those days, Best Rooms were really 'For Best' and used only for special visitors.
In Grimsby, sailing smacks giving way to steam trawlers had brought about a great boom in the fishing industry, and new docks had been built to cope with the increased activity. Consequently the town had expanded. Starting near the docks, this had carried on into the neighbouring Cleethorpes, then a small watering village at the end of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The new streets had been laid out in a more or less rectangular block pattern, a most irritating arrangement because to get from A to B meant a trail along dreary straight streets with right-angled corners and no possibility of a short cut or a choice of route.
Latterday New Towns are just as irritating, although their fault lies in the proliferation of round-abouts, so that one can never reach the Town Centre, despite frequent notices to the contrary.
Although the expansion had spilled over into Cleethorpes, it had not fully joined up with the old part of that place, but had formed a separate entity: New Cleethorpes. Not, I hasten to add, to be confused with New Clee. This is in Grimsby on the main road to Cleethorpes, Cleethorpe Road, which changes its name to Grimsby Road at the town boundary, still heading for Cleethorpes but first reaching the football ground - the Grimsby Town one, not the Cleetborpes Town one. For some obscure reason, this seemed to confuse supporters of visiting clubs, but what could you expect from people who probably came from Yorkshire, or worse still, from Lancashire.
So New Cleethorpes was physically tacked on to Grimsby, and as the livelihood and social activities of its citizens were centred there, they consider themselves to be more or less Grimbarians. Even the postal address was the same. In any case, they certainly were not Meggies, the local sobriquet for the natives of Megs Island, Cleethorpes proper. And if the truth were known, most of those also worked in Grimsby, or GY as it was known from the port registration of the trawlers.
The separation was quite distinct and I cannot remember as a child, ever really knowing anyone who actually lived in Megs Island. A true Meggie family, it was said, still owned some article of clothing made from red flannel, a waistcoat, a pair or bloomers or suchlike. This followed a story that in Victorian times, a sailing ship had been wrecked on the foreshore and when the police and customs officials had searched it, the whole cargo of red flannel had mysteriously disappeared overnight. At periods of very low tide the rib remains of a wooden ship were exposed, and this was supposed to be the very wreck. Whether it was true or not, all we youngsters believed it, especially as there was weed- encrusted evidence on which we could play before the tide rose again.
Of the two towns, Grimsby was the grander, although in retrospect there was nothing grand about a town that was as flat as a pancake and possessed no notable buildings to speak of. But it is an ancient place, founded it is said by one Gryme, a Danish invader or perhaps a local fisherman who found a baby Danish Princess adrift in an open boat. However, whatever the true origin, it now had a Mayor who wore full robes and a gold chain, its own police force with real silver knobs on their helmets and a Chief Constable, Mr. Stirling, who, when the enrobed Mayor walked to the Parish Church in the annual procession, actually rode a horse at the head. And it had a Silver Prize Band, not a Brass one. And a boat train that met the weekly steamer from Hamburg. And a train that left the docks at four o'clock each afternoon with ninety nine fish wagons. Ninety nine - almost a hundred!
The great landmark of the town, indeed its only one is the Dock Tower, a brick built edifice several hundred feet high, located near the lock entrances to the docks. Its original purpose was to provide hydraulic power for the lock gates and the cranes. Reputedly it was built on bales of cotton in order that it could sway in high winds. Many generations of small boys, myself included, must have unsuccessfully examined the tower for evidence of this. We could never prove the swaying theory because, when looking upwards, the cloud movement always gave the impression that it was falling down on top of you.
Cleethorpes, on the other hand, was a mere Urban District Council - no Mayor, just a miserable Chairman; the County Police Force with black knobs on their helmets, and even the dust carts were the subject of some merriment. They were known to the small fry as Cuddy Carts, from the initials on the side - C.U.D.C. But Cleethorpes is marked as my birthplace on my passports and I am proud of it.
In both towns in the style of the times, the new areas had been built up mainly with terraced houses, some with miniscule front gardens, some without. At the end of each terrace near the cross street would he a narrow passageway that led to brick wall- enclosed back gardens, often of considerable length, with a central alley to give access to the rear entrances. Sometimes, where the terrace was extra long, there would be a central passage, often actually a tunnel formed by overhang of the upper rooms. Many of our games were played in these passageways which could be turned into anything that fitted, a railway station, a football ground, Wembley even. It only required a modest imagination. But best of all was their eminent suitability as places in which to make a noise, especially where it echoed, much to the annoyance of the residents nearby. That is providing that you did not do it near your own home where you could be recognised, with resulting dire consequences. A succession of small boys rushing through one of these tunnels stamping their feet and shouting at the tops of their voices was enough to drive anyone on to tranquillisers, if such things had existed in those days. Most of the back gardens were put to utilitarian uses, to grow vegetables, to repair bicycles, keep chickens (very popular) and in one case, to keep a penguin.
By the facts of life, all families have a lineage. Some also have well documented records, with reputations not always unbesmirched. But I know little of my own family beyond my grandparents. My mother was a Western from a village just outside of Grimsby and her mother became my Grandma Locking. On my father's side, both his parents came from Essex and had come to Grimsby in the fishing boom. Grandpa Finch seemed. to have done well, skippering and owning his own smacks - one, the Arthur Pelham, giving its name to a villa in Grimsby Road. It is probably still there. But he had sufficient sense to leave fishing and return to Clacton as part owner of Finch and Arnold Bathing Machines, horse drawn at first so that the ladies' modesty could be preserved by pulling the machines right into the sea. I can just remember the machines at the age of six, but by then sadly horseless. Presumably the Great War had made the ladies immodest! He also owned some other houses in New Cleethorpe, and in one of these, at the other end of our block, lived Grandma Finch and Nellie, the el- dest child. Grandma had emphatically not returned to Clacton! Dad was the eldest son, and Wilfred the second son lived in the centre of the block. There was also a younger one around, called Arthur.
The purpose of this boring family recital is just to record a maxim of my mother. Don't get too thick with the neighbours - or your family. For I cannot recall a time when all four, or five if you counted Grandma separately, were on full speaking terms. There always seemed to be two who were not. The causes of the various squabbles were never very clear and the attitudes rather surprising, for none of them seemed particularly unequable, except perhaps Grandma who was more than happy to be a little domineering at times if she could get away with it. Even at his death at the age of ninety two, Father was not on good terms with Arthur, or perhaps it was the other way round. But I digress; all this came later in life. Father had been apprenticed as a grocer and was able to call himself a Master Grocer. Eventually he opened his own shop which was a exacting business, more so then than now. Opening hours were from eight o'clock in the morning to seven at night, eight on Fridays and nine-thirty on Saturdays. In the twenty odd years of the shop's existence, not once were Mother and he able to go away on holiday together. In fact, I do not think that they ever had a holiday during that period.
But more interesting to me as a growing lad of three in those war years was the fact that he was a Special Constable in the Lincolnshire Police Force. Stalwarts such as he were issued only with a peaked hat, an armband and a truncheon; the latter is still kept by my bedside in case of burglars. In later years he transferred to the Grimsby Force, serving before and after the Second World War and on into the fifties. The story is told that his Super (all policemen have a Superintendent somewhere in the offing) said George, we are going to give you a medal. That's all right. No need to bother replied Pa I've got one already and the matter was dropped. But some months later, the Super confronted him with the statement that he hadn't been believed, and so they had checked with the Home Office. Not only have you got a Long Service medal, but two bars as well. And we didn't know! George, you are improperly dressed. Get that ribbon up at once! When he retired with the rank of Sergeant, Dad had no less than five bars! And talking of those times, on one occasion Father told me that during an air raid when there was much aerial activity and AA fire but no bombs dropping, he and a Mr. Bird, another Special, walked up to the Police Station at the Town Hall. As they entered, the desk Sergeant looked rather startled and exclaimed How did you two get here ? How do you think, down Sixhills Street and over the crossing. At this the Sergeant went pale and nearly fainted. You should have been killed he managed to gasp, there are no bombs dropping but there's people being killed by small explosions all over the town. Apparently this was the first time the so-called butterfly bombs had been dropped. These were small explosive devices dropped by the canister load, that armed themselves as they fell and exploded on touch. There were thousands of them around.
One Saturday night near the docks at pub throwing-out time, according to my brother Stan who had been told the story, a bit of a fight started between a couple of seamen. A uniformed constable, seeing the crowd gathering around the contestants, looked over the heads, decided that discretion was the better part of valour and walked away. Then Father came along, probably out of sheer curiosity, elbowed his way to the centre of the crowd and then much to the horror of the onlookers, came up with the classic Now what's going on here? At this, the drunken fighters just turned and walked away. Even as a boy, he never put so much fear into me as that!
During the period of the Zeppelin air raids in the First World War, the warning system operated at a fairly leisurely pace, and sometimes a warning of a possible raid somewhere over England was received by the authorities during the afternoon. Many years later, I read that this was a very early use of new-fangled wireless. He had a very good friend, Charlie Wilkinson, a regular policemen and who by some happy chance, always seemed to pass our shop at tea-up time. Should one of these warnings have been received, Charlie would drop a quiet word to his cronies. This was enough for Mr. Hoff, another Special who also had a shop just up the road, to leave a few empty wooden boxes outside the front. If a full warning was received and the Specials went out, these were useful for the boys to sit for a natter and a smoke, for there was a blackout of sorts in force. Even the regulars were not above making use of Mr Hoff's thoughtfulness. On one of the raids, on 1st April 1916 I believe, bombs were dropped near the Council House at Cleethorpes where soldiers were billeted. Unfortunately, quite a few were killed. I cannot actually remember the raid, but can remember being taken to see the wreckage. But one fact remained in my mind. I clearly remember Charlie sitting on the chair in the shop and recounting how one of the rescuers, seeing a soldier sitting on a chair, placed a hand on his shoulder to ask how be was. Sadly, the soldier had been killed, but according to the story, at the touch, the body fell to the ground in pieces. Or that is how I recalled it and I had vivid thoughts of the arms and legs rolling over the floor. It haunted me for a long time.
A few other picture-like memories of that war period remain with me, two very distinctly. Near where we lived was a piece of waste land, and I recall walking across this holding my father's hand as be went to the station on his way to Lincoln for his medical. I didnt know what that was, but it sounded awfully important. And important it was. He had joined the Derby Scheme, a sort of stand-by volunteer force propagandised by Lord Derby, and he was off to be declared fit or otherwise. It must have been about the same time that we had a family photograph taken by Mr. Bullan at his shop in Freeman Street, presumably just in case. We walked there, Father having to carry me part of the way. At the shop, there were stairs to climb to reach the studio, where we were suitably posed and our heads held in position by an adjustable neckrest stand. Suffering from the discomfort of this, I was more than aggrieved at not actually seeing the birdie pop out when Mr. Bullan told me to look. Quite soon after this, Father must have been called up for service in the Royal Garrison Artillery, going to Catterick Camp to be trained as a signaller. Later, he went to the Front, again something very important, but I knew not what.
Once when he came home on leave, or leaf as believed it to be called, he was to arrive rather late in the evening and I was allowed to stay up. He emptied his kitbag on to the kitchen floor to show his treasures and handed me a piece of black rye bread, taken he said, from a German prisoner. The story goes that I wolfed this down with great enthusiasm, but whether it was because I thought it better than the dark muck of our own or because it was a novelty I do not know. The most likely explanation is that I was simply hungry from being up so late. When return time came, my mother and he stood behind the back kitchen door, while she had a little weep. This place for ever more was an unhappy memory, for it was also to here that we boys were banished as a punishment for being naughty. On another occasion, he sent me a personal letter, but I refused to have it read out as I claimed to know how to read myself. So having been placed on the kitchen table, I looked at the letter and moved my head from side to side as I had seen adults do. I never did know what he had written to me.
Some months later, I was stood on the same table by Uncle Wilf while he tied a small roll of clothing on my back, just like a soldier's pack. For I was off to stay with Grandma Locking at Louth, fifteen miles away. I went on something called the Motor Train, a single carriage affair where the passengers sat around the sides with a table in the middle. During the journey a soldier gave me a piece of chocolate to eat, which pleased me as chocolate was a bit of a treat. For years afterwards I boasted of going to Louth by train, all by myself at the age of four, in-charge-of-the-guard. It was the latter bit that was the most impressive.
Sometime during this period, Auntie Bertha came to live nearby. She was Mother's second cousin by marriage, or some such thing, and had four children. Ted, the youngest of the two boys, was my contemporary and it is he that I remember most. The first public warning of a possible air raid was a temporary lowering of the gas pressure so that the lights dimmed for a moment or two. At this, Auntie would come over with her family. An Attack Imminent warning was a permanent lowering of the pressure. I can still visualise the gas light dimming for these warnings, and remember crouching under the table as the guns went off or the bombs fell, for once or twice we were actually the subject of a raid. These zeppelin raids were the first time the civilian population had been attacked, apart from the shelling of Hartlepool and Yarmouth. One day, and the date can be fixed precisely as the eleventh of November 1918, we cousins were put to bed early, Ted in with me. Of course we didn't go to sleep like good little boys, and when our mothers returned, ran to the top of the stairs demanding why they had been out. It's the Armistice we were told, and we have been out to see the light, a reply that didn't satisfy us in the least. What light ? Where ? The next day we were told that to celebrate the Armistice (what's that), a light had been put up in Riby Square and most of the town had turned out to see it. The two of them had not been able to get anywhere actually near the square, but were content just to have seen the light from a distance. This of course still mystified the street. What for? But our mystification turned to outright disbelief when we were told that the metal posts with cross bars standing in the streets used to have lights on them. It wasn't until a very time later, perhaps a year or more, that we actually believed this story when some workmen come around with a reddish-brown painted handcart and proceeded to install a large square light on each pole. After that, we were fascinated with the lamplighter who came around on his bicycle each evening at dusk, and turned on the light with a long pole. Sometimes a really clever one could do it without actually stopping to clutch the lamppole; a very fine example of a cyclist's art.
NaturaIly, as the conditions of the war time carried on into the immediate years following the armistice, many memories must also refer to the whole of that period. One of the worst of them is the awful food, especially the sour tasting dark coloured bread, black-dark not brown-dark. No wonder I had gobbled up the rye bread! The sausages too were really vile and I was quite unable to eat them again until I was in my teens. Eggs were a rarity and at one period, my brother and I shared a single one as a special treat. Another recollection is of the buses that appeared to have a barrage balloon stuffed into the open top deck. This was in fact a balloon fabric bag filled with ordinary coal gas on which the engine ran. Around the town, there were a number of filling stations where the bag could be topped up from a standpipe leading from the gas mains. Buses and trams had lady conductors, but these seemed to be quickly replaced by returned soldiers. Although I had reached the advanced age of six when Father was demobbed, I cannot actually remember his return. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I was then at school. He just seemed to be around again. I'm sure that no such things as demob suits were handed out, but it is interesting to realise that the relatively smooth return from the Forces after the Second World War, indeed the whole rationing system as well, was due to the experiences of 1914-1918, an administrative miracle not experienced by our Allies or the other side.
Both Cousin Ted and myself were sent to the Elliston Street Elementary School in Cleethorpes, situated about three quarters of a mile away at the other side of Sydney Park. My couple of years in the Infants Department is recalled only by the teachers getting into a panic because some man had been seen giving sweets away to children. As this seemed a quite excellent idea to us, no could understand why they were anxious to find out who had been approached. A year or so later I moved up, literally, to the Senior School - for the boy department was on the top story of a typical Edwardian monstrosity, while the girls were on the ground floor. We had separate playgrounds and apart from a shelter, no other facilities. As school meals had not been invented, we went home for dinner, thus having to do the double journey twice. Mothers taking their broods to and fro by car must take away much of the fun these days. An amazing thing was the time required to complete one leg of the journey. If you were short of time in the morning, somehow you could do it in about eight minutes flat without getting into trouble for being late, or so you told your parents. On the other hand, the return home in the afternoon could take up to half an hour if the weather was fine. This was due entirely to the fortuitous fact that there were so many interesting things to do on the way. One could try a new combination of back passage ways, worked out on a supposedly mathematical basis. Or visit your friend to see his penguin. Or play marbles in the gutter which was a particularly good way of wasting time. Or go through the park and see the model yacht racing, or watch a bowls match. Maybe spend a while climbing up the howitzer gun, placed there like hundreds of other wartime guns and tanks around the country because no one knew what to do with them. For after all, it had been the War to End War. Of course, by 1939 a good use had been found for them. They had been melted down to make new ones. Such is progress!
My tenure at school was quite undistinguished, punctuated only by the occasional caning by Mr. Jackson the Headmaster for minor rule infringements and a total and permanent lack of interest in Shakespeare, poetry, and stories that all boys simply enjoy and love to read, such as Stalky and Co, Wind in the Willows and other patronising works. William and the Outlaws of course were different. The school hours were unusual, nine to twelve and one thirty to four Monday to Thursday, when we had to trot home for dinner. But on Friday we went at a quarter to nine and left at one thirty, with a half-hour lunch break at eleven o'clock. For this, we took our own sandwiches which were eaten in the playground when fine, and in the classroom when wet. But why these odd hours? It was all to do with the races. Not that the Lincolnshire Handicap was run every Friday. Not that there was a local race- course with a weekly meet. For these were the Fish Dock Races, a Friday afternoon spectacle that was a nuisance to some, a chore to others, and an enthralling outing for the elder boys.
A large number of menfolk spent most of their time away at sea and their wages had to be collected from the owner's office 'Down Dock', to quote the vernacular phrase. Some wives did, but some couldn't, and some wouldn't go down, and this is where the boys came in, most of whom were more than eager to go themselves. This meant that half the school could be missing, and so the Educational Authorities had accepted the inevitable and closed shop on Friday afternoons. It did have the advantage that sports and games could be held then without cutting into learning(?) time. So the lucky one whose father was away at sea went Down Dock into what was normally a closed area requiring a special pass for entry - and these were not usually issued to small boys. For the unlucky ones it was necessary to have a pal whose father went to sea, or else the ability to swear with a straight face that you were collecting your uncle's wages if you were stopped by a. policeman at the gate. Actually it wasn't a gate, but at that time there was only one roadway into the docks, and that was at a railway crossing, hence the term. But there was a footbridge at the end of the docks which was cunningly utilised by us boys. We would never go in by this route, for undoubtedly you would be stopped by a sceptical po- liceman. So our entries were always by the busy road entrance. Coming out didn't matter ! Looking back at things, I wonder how the cashiers knew if the cheeky looking lad asking for his father's pay was genuine.
After collecting the wages, leaving by the far footbridge at Humber Street was an excuse to pass through the dockside area which provided plenty of scope to nose around. But there were some parts where they were more than discouraged from visiting - the pontoons. These were those sections of the quays where the fish was handled; unloaded in the early morning, sold by auction to the fish merchants who had their stands there, split, filleted, and washed and packed in ice ready for shipment by train to all parts of the country. The pontoons were wet, slimy-underfoot places, vastly noisy, and where you were liable to be hit on the head by a piece of filleted cod as it was thrown into the washing water. So, if you ventured there, you would be quickly shooed away by the first patrolling policeman. But in other places, you could peer into the trawler stores, watch the coal hoist, getting pretty filthy in the process, or perhaps gaze at the ship repair gangs; a wonderful time wasting occupation. If a ship was in dry dock, more than likely some of the bottom plates would have been removed for replacement, and it would be possible to see right inside. That view of a ship's bowels was quite revealing. For these repairs and others, a riveting gang would be required. Rivets, brought up to white heat in a brazier by an apprentice working foot bellows, would be extracted from the fire with a pair of tongs and thrown through the air to the riveter's mate, caught in a most casual manner and rammed into the hole. There, the riveter himself would hammer it in while someone held the dolly the other side. Sometime there would be a dogleg in the throw, requiring a third man to relay round the bend. Very rarely was a catch missed; a hot rivet is not to be trifled with. Another fascination was the sight of blocks of ice shooting along an overhead rail track to the iceing station at the end of a longish jetty. Any stranger was always mystified at the sight of white objects shooting along at speed on the high track.
Down Dock, Tuesday of each week was Settling Day, the day when the fish merchants settled their bills. During the week, they would have bought fish at the auctions, resold to other merchants, bought from others, and dispatched their stocks to customers, all part of a vastly complex operation. So on Tuesdays, dozens of office boys could be seen wandering around with hundreds of pounds clutched in their hot little hands. Maybe people were honest in those days, for I cannot remember any snatch and grabs. In any case, even a fast car would have been of little use, as the roads were always a shambles from the horse drawn drays, for some reason known as Rullies. Even if a car could have got out of the dock, and at that time there was the only one possible way, the town was such that a level crossing straddled each of the main exit roads. And small boy lore had it that further out the roads could be quickly blocked. Certainly one near our house had a group, of tar barrels, supposedly for that purpose. Sad to relate, as much as we hung around waiting for something to happen, nothing ever did.
Why this Grimsby-Cleethorpes conurbation remained two separate towns I do not know, for the logical thing to do was to combine them. Several attempts to do this were made by Grimsby I believe, but all were frustrated by the Cleethorpes Council. Which was surprising when it's understood how the smaller one was dependent upon the larger, and indeed many prominent citizens were prosperous merchants there. Finally, Cleethorpes did a one-upmansbip by getting themselves turned into a Borough with a Mayor of their own. There was a distinct boundary between the two towns of course, and near us it ran down the middle of Park Street. So one half of this street was swept by a different set of cleaners to the other. I had been told that one day, it rained in Grimsby and not in Cleethorpes, and I clearly imagined the rain stopping along the line down the middle of that street, where indeed two types of surface joined. Unfortunately I never did see that interesting phenomenon.
But although the two towns were separate, they had a joint tramway service owned by one company. It was one long winding route from the promenade in Cleethorpes, right round the main streets of the towns, finishing up in a better residential area of Grimsby. There was also one branch line, down a busy shopping street from near the docks entrance. In Grimsby, the fare was one penny for any distance, but over the border it was a little more. So when travelling by tram, we had to alight at the boundary so as not to pay more. In any case, it made little difference to the walking distance. Another advantage of the two towns was that on Sunday midday, the pubs in Cleethorpes closed half an hour later than those in Grimsby. The consequence of this was that merrymaking fishermen would leave a pub there, board a tram, and looking rather glassy-eyed, ask for a ticket to St. Aidens. But the conductor knew very well that they really wanted the Imperial, the pub opposite the church!
Grandma Locking had come to live with us after Alfred, her second son and my Mother's half-brother, had been killed on the Somme. We all seemed to live amicably together I recall. Rules were strictish, for we were all Nonconformists, but not excessively so. The only real one was in the prohibition of the Demon Rum! There was one other, not related to religion or beliefs. No one, but no one, was allowed to use my own special knife, spoon or fork, for these had been Dad's army issue, each stamped with a number I shall never forget - 158169. If any one disbelieves me, consult the Army Records Department about Gunner Finch, G.A., Royal Garrison Artillery.
As a whole, life was fairly placid. I went to school five days a week, Stan went to school five days a week, Dad went to the football match on Saturdays. The three of us went to Sunday School on Sundays (twice) - Dad because he was the Secretary and had to keep the register, and Stan and I because we were told to! Mother went to the evening service and we usually had to go as well. All the Sunday activities were at, and most of our social activities were centred around, our rather distant Arlington Street Methodist Chapel (Wesleyan of course). Grandma was also a Methodist, but a United one, and her chapel was only a few minutes walk away. Whether she was United by conviction, or because the distance was shorter and she was a little lame, I do not know. We even had friends who Primitives, but all considered themselves good Methodists and were resolutely against papacy. What the differences were between the three groups I never did find out. Although Father had been brought up as a Non-conformist by his parents, Grandma Finch had lapsed almost into idolatry by attending the Anglican Church. Her Vicar, the Rev. Piggot-Smith, always seemed to us to be a bit of an odd character. Firstly he had a funny name, two joined together, and he always wore an unusual hat. It was something like a low-level bowler with a touch of the boater as well - hard felt in the winter and black straw in the summer.