Keith Butcher

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I was born in Dover, in Kent two years after World War 2 ended in 1947, under the white cliffs, near the M

ilitary Docks. The road was called Finnis’s Hill and is no longer there. What I can remember is near to where I was born there were caves in the cliffs at the back of the house. They used to store bombs in them through the war and they belonged to the M.O.D.

My mother told me the caves were used as air raid shelters and people lived in them through out the war – they called them cave dwellers.

Growing up around Dover in them days was hard as all the buildings had been demolished by the German Bombs. You can image how many bombs were dropped on Dover. The place was a pile of rubble; I can remember playing in the bomb craters and the bombed buildings.

School days were very welcoming. I went to Archers Court Infant School at Aycliffe. This school was situated near the gun turrets on top of the cliffs. I can remember the teachers, they very kind and always made you feel secure. I can recall the Queen´s coronation; we had union jacks in the classroom.

In 1955 when I was eight my parents decided to move to West Riding of Yorkshire, My father was born in Denaby 1903 and the place we went to was called Conisbrough. I can remember getting off the train at Conisbrough railway station, walking from the station with my father holding my hand and walking up a cinder path along Elm Green Lane and then along Northcliffe Road until we reached Athelstane Road. We opened the door of number eleven and as we walked in I thought were what have we come to! No electric lights, no heating, no hot water; toilet at the top of the yard and a tin bath at the back of the door. There was lino on the floor and gas mantles for lighting. I just wanted my mum!

As we settled in the new life became a reality. We all clustered around a old black Yorkshire range fire place, the coal was stacked to the back of as we tried to keep warm. We listened to an old radiofusion wireless and Michael Mills with `Take Your Pick´ and the Billy Cotton Band Show.

The house had old sash windows with draft blowing though, the gas mantle meant it was hard to read my comics books. We also had to take flat irons to bed and use old army coats over the bed.

Not like the place we came from in Dover! There we could switch on the electric lights and have plenty of hot water for a bath and a toilet up stairs.

I noticed that outside there were no cars on the street. The only car this was at Mr Mason´s shop halfway up, the first motor car I had seen in Conisbrough. It was a Ford popular. I saw several horse and carts; at Dewhurst the butcher, at Harrisons the milk cart and Mr. Barber´s the Coalman cart.

There were plenty of shops around our street. At the bottom Mrs Yedens shop, a general store – her sweets were always very nice! Jack Clark´s general store had a mobile shop. Reg Simkin´s shop sold fresh meats and bread, another general store, at the top of the street Mason general store. Also there was Mr Knight the pork butcher and next to him Mr Mills the green grocer. At the other side of the street was Swifts Fish and Chip shop. On Rowena Road the Co-op Store across from the Ivanhoe Club. Round the corner on Ivanhoe Road was Mr Watson off licence shop. It was a close community back then. As things progressed these shops disappeared and made the way for the larger super stores.

We made friends with the neighbour´s, Hill’s family at number thirteen. Then the Harrison family at number nine. These neighbours were very friendly people and they welcomed the southerners from Dover into their homes.

In June 1955 I started school at Morley Place on Old Road. My mum walked me down to my new school and I was introduced to Mr Proctor who was a nice man and welcomed me to Morley Place. As I settled into school I made lots of friends. I used to call for Lenny Hill and we went to school together.

I can only remember one nice teacher, Mrs Marshall who was very kind and caring teacher and lived on Ellershaw Road near the Canyon. The only thing that sticks out in my memory at Morley Place School was the lollipop lady, Mrs Smith. She lived on Athelstane Road. I can remember I had a mishap in the outside toilets at Morley Place and Mrs Smith walked me home!

As I settled down I soon lost my cockney accent, replaced by the Yorkshire dialect. My friendship with Lenny Hill continued. I found out that he was the Grandson of Tom Hill, the founder of the community youth club in Denaby.

When we broke up for the school holidays we use to run errands for the neighbours and we thought we were rich with the pennies we received. We use to run straight down to Appleyard´s shop near the Globe Cinema to buy penny jubbly´s and penny arrows.

We started a paper round at the Royston Confectionery shop on Old Road, just across from Westlake´s Furniture and hardware shop. We didn’t like Mrs Royston because she followed you around to make sure the papers were delivered properly. This was Len´s fault because he had one delivery all the way to the Water Tower on Doncaster Road; he put the paper in the drain because he said it was to far to walk for just one paper! Then we decided to work for Martin´s paper shop on West Street Chris and Ester Martin were lovely people and we were paid fourteen shillings (70p) a week – not like Royston´s who had paid ten bob (50p) a week.

We also worked for Ike Thompson the local green grocer on New Hill. The very first job on Saturday morning started at 6.00 walking the big shire horse called Prince from a field near Highfield Road. It leads down to Kiesley brook, now called Brookside on Doncaster Road, arriving at the back of New Hill next to Albert Cod´s corn mill. It was a fair walk with Prince. We then coupled the horse to the cart ready for the morning rounds.

We were unaware that Ike Thomson had a handicapped daughter that was locked away under the house in a cellar at the back of the shop. I went to pick up a box of bananas near the cellar steps and she appeared through the bars on the door. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me and didn´t stop until I arrived home. That was an experience I will never forget and we didn´t stopped long after that.

When I was 11 I started another job for Albert Code’s corn mill. This was repairing the hessian corn sacks. Every sack we repaired we earned a penny; we mended the bags by cutting out patches out of old sack’s to mend the holes. This was a process by painting copydex glue around the hole and banging it flat with a hammer.

When the weekend came we loved the Globe picture house specially the threepenny (1 1/4p) Matinee on Saturday. We sat on the planks at the front of the picture house watching Flash Gordon, Tarzan and Zorro.

Still good friends with Len we left Morley Place School in 1958 for the great hall of learning, the cane and warm lughole school – The Middle School on Northcliffe Road. I can remember Arthur Young the head teacher. In those days all of the teachers had some sort of weapon for punishing students.

Mr Charlton punished with the wooden bat and this was applied to your bottom.

Mr Steele had a smaller wooden bat but the same punishment.

Mr Chadwick kept a size eleven black running pump. He made a cross with chalk on the sole and asked us which side of our bottom we required the cross printing.

Mr Peck liked the board rubber as a missile and also the split cane which produced spinsters.

Mr Hook was another cane user and a slap around the head teacher.

Mr Philips was the best teacher of the bunch. He was a teacher who would listen to you about your problems, get to know your back ground He understood the difficulties your parents had.

Mr Bowes was our form teacher. His punishment was a slap around the head and twisting our sideburns.

Bob Bowes was most famous for the role he played in the 1960’s film `Kes´

Bob played the Headmaster Mr Gryce in the film about a young Barnsley lad who trains a young Kestrel. His portrayal in the film reflected the gritty reality of a Secondary Modern education and his acting was true to form. The short time Bob was there at the middle school they named an old Army lorry after him we called it Admiral Ben Bow after his naval days!

People then didn’t have much money but the spirit was always there. I can remember going to all the shops in Conisbrough and Denaby collecting and running errands to sponsor the Army lorry project. The lorry was for school outings. All the hard work me and Len put into collecting for the lorry came to no avail. Only families with money could afford to take their children to go on these trips!

With little money we had to entertain our selves. Len and I loved wild life and outdoor life. We walked for miles to Langold Lake at Workshop. It was a prime location with everyone in those days. It had a swimming pool and a big Lake with a diving board in the middle. This was part of colliery and is still open today.

We always went camping in the school holidays to Ravenfield Woods. All of Len’s brothers, my brothers and half our street camped there through the school holidays. It was like a little medieval camp site. We lived of the land, snaring rabbits, shooting wood pigeons and making camp fires. We cooked the fish we had caught. We really enjoyed ourselves in the summer. The best thing about camping is the freedom of the land. In those days the Farmers only bothered you only if your dogs went astray. They would shoot any dogs that worried their sheep. I can remember my brother trying to sneak off for Sunday dinner to go home – he wasn’t the one for outside camping life.

As we got older and started jobs Len and I bought push bikes! This was an adventure and we started to visit other places.

When we left The Middle School in 1962 most of the lads that left school worked in the mines – like their forefathers before them.

Me and Len decided the mines were not for us and we looked elsewhere. The first job I started work at Mexborough Garages at the bottom of Adwick Road as an apprentice mechanic. Ernie McCall was the head mechanic and Jack Woodhead was the manager. All I was doing was serving petrol and under sealing cars

Len’s first job was working for Barnsley British Co-op at Mexborough. He was a delivery boy with a butcher´s bike peddling around Mexborough with groceries.

We peddled from Mexborough to meet up for dinner at Denaby Main Colliery canteen. A mug of oxo and a plate egg and chips – threepence (1 ½p) that´s all we could afford! Mrs Bellamy worked at the canteen and some times she never charged us – she must have known we had little money.

I started a Painting and Decorating apprenticeship and Len did similar in the building industry, then he became a training instructor.

When we were nineteen we both married girls from the Fairway Supermarket in Doncaster in 1967.

I worked in London some years , painting a few sites Lancaster House, St James Palace, Stable Yard Horse Guards and Buckingham Palace.

I travelled around the Country worked on the Channel Tunnel Project for a few years Dungeness Nuclear Power Stations, Menwith Hill, American Spy Centre, and many more places I can mention.

I lived in Edlington for 39 years and came back to Northcliffe School as the Caretaker and still there working to this day.

We both are coming up to sixty-four now and still with the same girls from the Fairway supermarket and still together as best friends!

Len is retired now and living in Denaby with his family.

Keith Butcher and Len Hill in the sixties

Keith Butcher


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