Reminiscences of an evacuee 1939 – 1943

Pat McGinn revisits Cublington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Pat McGinn, but I was born Patricia Allen. Last week on October 16th, my family decided to go visit my sister Eileen, as her daughter told us she was ill in the hospital in London. When we left Heathrow, my son hired a car and suggested we go to Cublington, as Eileen and myself lived there in 1939 for nearly 4 years.

In September, 1939 we were at war with Germany. At the time, I was 7 ½ and Eileen was nearly 10. All we were told was that we were going to the country and it would possibly be only until Christmas. So, on the first Saturday in September, we were taken to our school where there were a number of buses. All we had to carry was a case and a gas mask for Eileen, and a back-pack with my clothes and my gas mask inside it. The buses took us to the railroad station, where we were all put on a train with our teachers. The train took us to Leighton Buzzard. Then we got on more buses and went to a place called Cublington. When we arrived at the Cublington School, we went inside and there was a meal prepared for all of us by the women of the village. Each of them had said how many children they were prepared to take and live with them. One of the women was Mrs. (Mollie) Stevens and she said she would take 6 children. Because it was hard to find a family of 6, they decided to take 3 lots of 2 sisters. So they asked us to put up our hands if we were 2 sisters. Well, they called the 2 girls Popkins, then the 2 Bonner girls , then Eileen told me to put up my hand and the teacher, Miss Hammond, called Eileen and myself. We then went with Mrs. Stevens to her home, which was called The Old Rectory. In my eyes it was a huge house. She took us to the part of the house that she stayed in and it was beautiful. I remember saying to Eileen, “Look. They have the pictures here”, as Mrs. Steven had a black and white TV, and Victor Sylvester was playing on it.

The other girls did not stay too long. I think it was because they got home-sick. So, before the end of November, only Eileen and myself were left at the Stevens. We called Mr. and Mrs. Stevens “Madam and Master”. It was a memory of my childhood I shall never forget. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens treated us like we were part of their family. Before Christmas, Madam came to us and asked if we were going to write a letter to Father Christmas. I did not know who Father Christmas was. So, Eileen said, “Think of a toy shop and all the things in it you would like and write them down on the large piece of paper.” So, we did, and then gave it back to Madam. Well, Christmas morning came and as we went out of our bedroom door, there were two pillow cases filled with all the small toys we had asked for. Then we went downstairs to our playroom and we could hardly get in the door for all of the other things we asked for that were there!

That evening both Eileen and myself were given dresses and big bow ribbons to put on our heads. Mine was red and Eileen’s was green, as we told Madam they were our favourite colours. When I look back now, it was like on a box of chocolates—the bow was almost as big as my head! We then went to Madam and Master’s part of the house, and they had friends of theirs, and we celebrated Christmas with them.

The household at the time consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Moore, who were the cook and butler, and Mr. and Mrs. Sparks, who were the housekeeper and head gardener. Then there were Leslie Gardener and Dennis Butcher, who were working under Mr. Sparks as gardeners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to Aston Abbotts to school after Cublington School was closed, as the government said there were too many children for a 2 roomed school. But Mrs. Stevens said that walking all the way to school, which was 2 ½ miles, and back 4 times a day was too much. They tried to tell her we could take sandwiches for lunch, but she still said no, as she thought we should have a hot meal at lunchtime. So, Eileen and myself went to school in the morning and then walked home at lunchtime, bringing our homework with us. Mrs. Moore prepared a hot meal for us. Then we were to sit in the playroom and do our homework and Mrs. Stevens would come over to the playroom and check to see we had done it.

We lived there until Madam and Master decided to move to Scotland as Madam had a brother, Master Dick, who was in the Air Force and was reported missing. So, they decided to go to Scotland and asked our parents if we could go with them. But our parents said it was too far away, so Eileen and I were split up. I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Sparks and their daughter Sheila, but they could not take Eileen, so she went to stay with another couple.

After the Stevens left, The Old Rectory was owned by Lady Essex. I knew this because at age 15 years, I went back to Cublington to see if Mr. and Mrs. Stevens had moved back, but they had not, so I did not see them again.

When Mrs. Stevens left, Mrs. Sparks went to work for Mrs. Gilbey. One Saturday, Mrs. Gilbey invited Mrs. Sparks, Sheila and myself to go to Aylesbury to the The Bull Hotel for a meal with her. The remembrance of that for me was when we sat down, we had six different knives and forks laid out on either side of the place setting. Mrs. Gilbey told Sheila and I how each serving started at the outside and worked in. We started with fish, and she said it was to clean our pallet. Then we worked in as each course came around. It was a very good experience for me. Still to this day I eat with the knife in my right hand and the fork in my left, unlike the Americans where I live. They pick up both knife and fork to cut their meat, then put down their knife to use the fork to eat with. (That’s how the Americans couldn’t move to Europe as spies, because they shoveled their food. They had to go to England first to learn how to eat. I found that out after the war.)

One of the things I do remember was that Mrs. Gilbey moved into the village with her daughter Susan. Every night Mrs. Gilbey would take her dog Soda for a walk towards Stewkley. To see the two together was so funny, as Soda was bandy and waddled as he walked, and so did Mrs. Gilbey. The kids in the village would stand by the church wall at 5 o’clock, just to see them come past. Do you know who Mrs. Gilbey was? Her husband owned the Gilbey’s Gin company in London.

One day Mr. and Mrs. Sparks decided we’d be going to Cambridge to visit a relative of hers. We went for the weekend and on the way back, we were stopped by some soldiers asking us to give one of the soldiers a lift to Wingrave Crossroads. He climbed in the back with me and as we were going along the road, in the distance, we could see all the bursts of London being bombed. He said, “London’s really getting it tonight,” and I started crying. I started crying because I had not heard from my family for 3 weeks. He asked why I was crying, and Mrs. Sparks explained that I was a London evacuee and that my parents lived in London. He asked what parts and I told him Hoxton, because that’s the only place I knew. He said, “No, don’t worry. They are only bombing the docks, which is a long way from where your parents live.” When we got back to Cublington, Eileen told me the next day that she received a letter from home, and that my mother and father were bombed out, but everybody was OK.

Mr. Biggs was the “Billington Officer”. He was the one who went around the village and spoke to all the families to see how many children families were going to take. He was also the one who found a place for Eileen after the Stevens said they were leaving. Mr. Sparks and Mr. Biggs got together and decided that Mr. Sparks would slaughter a big pig and Mr. Biggs would have one of his cows slaughtered. They would both give up their families’ meat ration coupons for one year, and we would have fresh beef and pork for a year.

After a while, Eileen wanted to go home to London and wrote and told my mother, who said if Eileen comes home, so does Pat.

It was 1943 when Eileen and I came back to London. For me, it was a frightening time as in Cublington we had no bombs dropped. It was a very quiet village and we knew everyone. When I came back to London, it was very noisy, and we lived with the idea that we did not know if we were going to be alive very long. At first the German bombers would come over nightly, so we were supposed to go down to the air raid shelter. But my father said no because he said he did not think the shelter was safe, so we sat on the stairs in the apartment block. As he said, when he looked at the bombed apartments during the day, the only thing standing was the stairs so it was safer for us to be there. Also, he could have a cigarette and that would help him to clear his lungs.

Listening, you could hear the “ping ping ping” every night. You’ve got these airplanes going over and it was funny to hear this “ping ping ping” and I wondered what it was. My father said it was the shrapnel from guns on the railway lines. That’s what we listened to. So nightly, we sat on the stairs and just up the road there was a large gun parked on the railway lines, so when the bombers came over, we could hear it and the shrapnel would fall in the grounds of our apartment, which kept us from getting a good night’s sleep.

Later on, the Germans sent the V1 and V2 Rockets daily. We had no warning that they were coming. We just heard an engine until it stopped and then we knew it was coming down. It was a pilotless plane with a huge bomb, and did quite a lot of damage. I was going to school at the time and quite often the teacher would shout, “get under your desks!” as we could hear them coming and just waited for the engine to stop, for then we knew it was coming down.

Eileen was 14 years old and she had to go to work. She worked for an American company in Camden Town. It was called “The Black Cat” and they made the Craven A Cigarettes. Eileen worked in the factory from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. I did not see her very much, so we were not as close as we had been in Cublington. Eileen met a woman in her factory named Rosie Reading. She had a son who was in the Navy named Harry. When he came home on leave, Eileen was 15 years old and she met Harry. They met every time he came home. Eileen went with Harry until she was 23, then they got married.

I would like to say right now that going back to see the Old Rectory was such a joy to me. Memories came flooding back and I will always remember that time in my life as I know how it has influenced my life.

So, looking back at 86 years old, I think I took the memories of Cublington and the people of the village and said that I would like my family to live like they did. It was such a wonderful time. I will never forget.

Going back to Cublington after nearly 80 years, I was so thrilled to be able to walk around the grounds the first day and see the lily pond and all the back of the garden, and the old moat that we used to slide on during the winter with master Dick, as he had ice skates and skated around Eileen and myself. I even saw the old school in Aston Abbotts where we went to school after Cublington School was closed.

Comparing the two different ways of life as a child, I can finally look back and say I had a wonderful life living in Cublington and would like to thank every one of the people that made this possible.

I’d like to thank Lucy Peck for allowing us to go back into the Old Rectory and bringing back so many happy memories.

Pat McGinn

Best Kept Village – judges’ comments

Best Kept Village Competition 2018, Gurney Cup

Judges’ comments

VILLAGE/TOWN: Cublington

The church graveyard is very well maintained – including some of the old, unremembered graves – and is in keeping with the nearby conservation area. The Unicorn pub over the road looked attractive with its flower baskets.

The cricket field was in excellent condition and an asset to community life; the area close to the green shed could have been tidier. The children’s playground could not be faulted. There is perhaps scope for creating a managed wildlife area on the slope behind the cricket pavilion.

The Village Hall looked in good condition and its surroundings neat and litter free. We liked the imaginative ‘Cublington Nursery’ notice and the village sign. The notice board gave details of local events but we didn’t see a ‘Best Kept Village’ notice. The other notice board, in Bell Close, appeared to have been the subject of vandalism since there was nothing on it but a few scraps of torn paper. Had we arrived on an unfortunate day?

The hedge on the north side of the High Street leading to the crossroads was overgrown at the time of our visit, limiting safe use of the narrow footpath. This needs attention as the path is presumably used by schoolchildren.

The pond at the crossroads would benefit from sensitive planting along its edges, particularly where it faces the road. This would not only enhance its appearance but would make it safer, as it presents a potential hazard to careless walkers. (Incidentally, your map highlighted the wrong pond!)

Generally, the village presents a pleasant and attractive impression and shows good evidence of community effort.

In the event of a power cut – what to do

The electricity network is built to be resilient but extreme weather can damage overhead power lines resulting in some customers losing their electricity supply. Where this happens UKPowerNetworks work to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. They have organised for additional staff in their contact centre to help customers whose electricity supply might be affected by the predicted weather, and they have called-up additional engineers to carry out repairs to overhead lines and poles as soon as the wind reduces to a speed at which it is safe to work.
You will be able to find regular updates on the website www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk and social media @UKPowerNetworks throughout this period.

Anyone experiencing a power cut should:
· Call 105 to report power cuts and damage to the electricity network, or 0800 3163 105 (from a corded phone or mobile phone if you have no power)
· Visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk for the latest updates
· Visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/powercut and type in their postcode to view our live power cut map
· Tweet @ukpowernetworks to report a power cuts or to receive updates

UK Power Netwroks advise people to stay clear of power lines and report damaged power lines immediately by calling 105 free from both a landline or a mobile phone. If they see electricity lines that are down or causing significant risk to the public they should call 999.
Extra help for customers on our Priority Service Register is available during a power cut. Households with older or disabled people, those with children under five, or where someone uses medical or mobility equipment that requires electricity as well as other reasons can join the register.

You can find out more information about the Priority Service on the website: ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority.

If you would like to share information about preparing for the storm or the priority service register on social media you might like to use the following:
@UKPowerNetworks has extra staff on hand 24/7 to deal with the impact of #stormEleanor
Call 105 to report a powercut and visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/powercut for the latest updates
Do you, or someone you know, need extra support during a power cut? @UKPowerNetworks provides free services to vulnerable customers. Visit ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority for more information #stormEleanor
Preparing for a power cut
Below is some additional advice:
Add 105 to the contacts on your mobile phone
Keep our Freephone 0800 3163 105 number handy
See www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/powercuts for useful videos and advice during a power cut.
• Locate a torch, check it’s working and make sure you have spare batteries. Take care if using candles.
• Charge up your mobile phone, and a rechargeable mobile ‘powerbank’ if you have one
• Use a phone with a cord if you have one, cordless phones don’t work in a power cut
• Keep fridges and freezers closed, with a blanket over as they will stay cold for many hours
• Switch off all your electrical equipment, except one light which will let you know when the power comes back on
• Remember the street lights may also be off so take care if you go out
• Dress in warm clothes
• Look out for vulnerable neighbours

Orchard Ground Association AGM

Notice is given of the AGM of the Orchard Ground Association

at The Biggs Pavilion 19.30 15th November 2017

Agenda
• Apologies
• Review of Previous Minutes
• Matters Arising
• Chairman’s Report
• Treasurer’s Report
• Election of Committee for 2017/18
• AOB
• Date of Next Meeting

Visit to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies

Members of the Book Club, plus a few husbands and friends, visited the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in the bowels of County Hall, Aylesbury. All sorts of documents and records relating to Bucks are held there, the oldest dating back to the 13th century: maps, quarter session records, parish registers, title deeds as well as a local studies library. Next to the 5 strong rooms there are banks of computers for genealogical research as well as microfiche readers – the ancient along side the modern!

At our request the archivists had rooted out lots of information relating to Cublington; we were allowed to handle the church register of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1566 (no thick white gloves like on the telly!). The life events of “Dissenters”, ie not C of E, were inscribed at the back. There were school report books written in beautiful copperplate; the headmaster had recorded a child being sent home for having “filthy hands” and the school being closed on more than one occasion for blackberrying. A more recent marriage register ending in 1991 featured many familiar names and a printed leaflet reported on a meeting of the Friendly Society, held in the Unicorn over 200 years ago, but “no liquor”was to be requested in the course of the meeting!

The Centre is open to the public from Tuesday to Thursday and there is a open day on Saturday 25th November where several history groups will be getting together. For anyone with an interest in history or local studies, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit. We certainly enjoyed it.
Find out more at www.buckscc.gov.uk/archives
Chris Jones

RESTORING THE RECORD or “FINDING THE MISSING LINKS”

pathway rightsOn 1st January 2026, it will no longer be possible to use historic map and documentary evidence to claim ‘lost ways’.   Any path, track, alleyway, bridleway, cut-through etc. not registered on the Definitive Map – or submitted for registration – could well be in danger of being lost   Even old and still well-used, but officially unrecorded, routes may be at risk.
What does this actually mean to those who walk, cycle or horse ride along our public foot-paths and bridleways?  The basic message is stark – we take our access to the countryside for granted; we use routes for recreation and as a means of linking places together without thinking but, if we don’t check what we already have or what has been used in the past and that it is legally recorded, we could lose them forever.  The ancient maxim on which many claimants have relied, in the past: “once a highway always a highway” will be history.
Simply put, a small strip of land between a highway and the start of a definitive path might be unregistered.   After 2026, a landowner could put a gate or fence across it and restrict all entry to the public – quite legally – thus permanently hindering access to the countryside because we have assumed, but not checked, that the Definitive Map is up-to-date and accurate.   It will not be just our generation which will suffer but those who follow after us and is that the legacy we wish to leave them?   It is worth the risk?
.  The ‘Restoring the Records’ project is two-pronged with something for everyone; volunteers are needed to check maps, walk paths to ensure the correct signs are in place, do research, interview local people about their memories and get new links approved – to list just a few activities and it is local knowledge that will be the key.
The plan is to recruit a volunteer [s] in every Buckinghamshire Parish and Town Council to spread the load and speed up the exercise – 10 years passes far quicker than you might think!   No previous knowledge or training is needed; the Project Team is preparing a simple step-by-step guide which will answer most of the more common questions and will supply a map of your local area showing the rights of way.
If you are interested in becoming involved in this fascinating and very important treasure hunt, please contact Ross Osborn, the Project’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, on rossosborn41@gmail.com who will be happy to answer any questions and arrange for all necessary information and maps to be sent to you.

Download the Short Step One Guide

Cublington Tennis Trek

The Cublington Tennis Trek, held on October 2nd was heralded a great success as 24 players from the club, local area and guests from Halton and Princes Risborough took part in the third village Tennis Trek. (Previously held in 2004 and 2007)
This was a mixed round robin event played on four village courts – two at the Tennis Club, Orchard Ground, and on the delightful private garden courts in the village at the Old Stables and the Old Rectory. All players got to play on all courts, trekking round the village to compete in three of the 6 rounds of matches.

The four top placed male and females then played off in semi final sets before the winning team of Will Lightfoot (Cublington TC) and Gertruud Van Dijken (Princes Risborough TC) right claimed their prize against Jean Barnett and Peter Orchard.
A sumptuous rolling BBQ feast was available during the day and many guests and supporters enjoyed the tennis as well as the sunshine. More than £500 was raised towards the potential refurbishment of the courts to an “artificial turf ” surface, hopefully next Spring.
Organiser Gary says a further event is being planned for next year by kind permission of both the George and the Peck families.IMG_4958

 

Community Speed Watch

Community SpeedWatch is a traffic monitoring scheme coordinated by Thames Valley Police in partnership with local councils and other stakeholders, but managed and run by
neighbourhood policing teams and Community Volunteers.
How it works
• SpeedWatch can only operate in areas up to a 40 miles per hour speed limit. Community Volunteers work alongside Thames Valley Police officers to identify vehicles which break the speed limit.
• Registration numbers are entered onto a database which produces a letter informing the registered owner that their vehicle has been noted to have exceeded the speed limit and asking them not to do so in the future.
• If the same registration number is logged in another SpeedWatch anywhere within Thames Valley, the owner will receive another letter advising them that if they are caught a third time, the information will be passed onto Roads Policing, who may take further action.
Volunteers must be over 18 years old, and we need a minimum of six Community Volunteers to make this work. If you would like to be involved and reduce the speed of vehicles in the village please contact Mike Bush at 14 Whitchurch Road, or by e-mail on cublingtonpc.clerk@gmail.com