We played a lot on the High Street, we used to play with our hoops from St Peter’s church up to the town hall and then another part of the year it was tops. There were two kinds, one they called road racers and the other they called window breakers, there were no cars or anything in those days.
One of my great interests when I was young was the Marlborough Town Band. This I joined as a trainee in 1946 and a year later I was admitted to full membership of the band for which I paid the grand sum of five shillings entrance fee, I have still got the receipt for that and the set of rules they gave you. It used to play with about 25 members and in those days we played at little fêtes and parades. Remembrance Sunday was another good thing there and the Marlborough carnivals. In them days the carnival started from Elcot Lane playing fields came all along London Road, the bottom side of the High Street, along to the top side, Kingsbury Street, Silverless Street through into St Martins, up Blowhorn across the top of the common and down Herd Street and that was a long, long walk and you were playing all the time. When I first joined the band the conductor of the day was Eric Free, our six times Mayor of Marlborough, a very knowledgeable musician, a violinist really although he didn’t obviously play that in the band, and then when he was not available or when he was out on council engagements the band was taken over by Fred Pike. He was a GWR worker, used to work up in the sidings up at the station, a good cornet player. When he retired a person who took over then was Bob Ashley a former Royal Marine Bandsman, another good musician, trained originally with the Kennet Band at Lockeridge. The band at one time had green uniforms and this was always reckoned by some to be an unlucky colour for them, it seemed that when they had the green uniforms their fortunes gradually faded away and in the end nothing was left of them and when it finished in the late fifties one day the band room fell down into Barn Street and that was it full stop, amen.
I used to love to go along at the old Police Station because on the bank just inside on the right hand side was this lovely big dolls house affair and the bees did go in and out underneath the front door, I was fascinated with these bees going in and out, it was a sight. Dad kept his own bees when we were down Herd Street, there was no Pipers Piece or any of those houses, he kept them in the meadow belonging to Phillips.
In those days we made our own pleasures and I found most of mine in Savernake Forest, a place called Puntwick, a lot of people probably haven’t heard of it, well it’s over where the entrance to the tunnel used to be, there were a lot of fields there and we used to get good fun over there.
Something in my life that I think has given me most pleasure was running the town choral society but I was very dependent on people like Peter Godfrey and Elma Friend, but I did it for about ten years, I took it over from Jean Burrows. I eventually had to give it up because it was getting too physically exhausting for an old lady. We did all sorts of big works and I nearly always had some kind of instrumental item. It’s changed a couple of times but it is still continuing and many people go and sing and enjoy it too.
I had a pet pony called Sherry and I could talk to him, and he knew what it was all about, everything I said he understood. SHERRY and that’s what my bungalow is called on the common, Brown Sherry and behind there was the stables, eight ponies, I kept buying them. I had some marvellous riders, the kids were good.
We used to go up in the college fields to play but we had to be down when the curfew went at 8 o’clock, the bell used to ring in St Peter’s church for the curfew.
We used to get a ride on Dapper’s car up the High Street then that was something, she had a tiny Morris car with a dickey seat at the back and we all used to rush out to get a ride up the High Street. And old Doctor Maurice used to take us out for rides in his car too, you waited there on a Saturday morning when you weren’t at school and he used to go round and see his patients and we used to get in the back and go round with him, he was nice Dr Walter, and he had a punt at the bottom of his garden and he used to let us boys punt up and down the river.
I remember when the raspberries were about on the downs, year after year we took our cups and mother took her milk can. We did pick the raspberries and when we had a few in the cup, tip then in mother’s can and go on again. Mother always made enough jam to last all the year round, put a bit of rhubarb with it, that helped it to set you see, lovely.
My mum used to do a lot of wine making and she was using the copper to boil up the dandelions, she made dandelion wine, ‘cos if its made properly its like whisky and I thought she was washing you see, I’d seen her washing there. She gave me some soapy water to play with and she turned her back and I was left on my own for a minute or two and I tipped the soapy suds all in the dandelions.
The field above Isbury Road, the bowling green was there and of course they had a barbed wire fence, and I think we had enough rope to do three sides of the ring, so one side of the ring was a barbed wire fence. I can remember Freddie Chessel and I were having a scrap, it was all in good fun there was no animosity amongst us, just good fun, and he knocked me and I caught my eye against the barbed wire and I and I’ve still got the scar now.
Marlborough Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society MADOS, I first got involved with MADOS soon after I came out of the army in 1951. Wonderful sort of atmosphere, big cast, full orchestra of about 18, immense amount of pleasure I had there.
I was a member of MADOS, but by the time I joined it, which must have been 1959-60, it was just a dramatic society, the opera side of it was no longer functioning. We put on plays in the town hall, we did it once a year, we took the town hall for a whole week, the first two or three nights of the week being used for preparation and dress rehearsals and then we did three nights of performance. Quite an active society, had great fun, unfortunately gradually with the loss of producers and directors and people moving on, we gradually found we could no longer put on a full time production.
In the yard between what was then Hurds Shoe shop and Midland Bank there is a little yard there called Ironmonger Lane, half way up that yard there were some rooms. MADOS owned those rooms and you could erect a stage up there or erect scenery up there which was exactly the same size as the town hall. It’s now called Nafferton Hall but I don’t see that used very often.
My father started cleaning the white horse and he did that for 28 years and Mr Bambridge was the organist at Marlborough College and he gave my father five pound a year to keep it clean and every year he took off the top layer and re-chalked it from the top of Granham Hill. There’s a chalk pit up the top so he did it from there and he used to go up every Sunday and cut the grass round the edge so that it didn’t grow over and spoil the horse.
I couldn’t wait to be eleven so that I could join the guides. I particularly remember our great hike, this was a very special occasion, we walked to Avebury and cooked our lunch on the way. I have done that since with my own guides many years later, but on the occasion when I was a guide we not merely walked to Avebury we walked back again along the main road. We also did something which you couldn’t do now, we had tea on the top of Silbury Hill. And I think I actually took on as Guide Captain, as she was called in those days, in 1960. By that time we were meeting in the scout hut, there had been a short time when we’d been meeting on the green in what I think is now an adult education room, it was called Toc H in those days. The scout hut was much better because not only did we have all the scout-hut grounds round us anyway for quite a lot of games and things, but we could also go along Treacle Bolly and play all sorts of games and treasure hunts and light fires and cook our supper, that was fun.
We had a church club on a Friday night which was at the rear of the Ivy House hotel and I’ve got an idea now that where we used to hold this club is where they’ve got their dining area, they were known as the Parish rooms but I don’t know if the church owned them or rented them. It was a good night because we used to have the usual pastimes, table tennis, darts, sitting on a game of cards, a game of pontoon and when the vicar used to come round we used to hide the money and start playing snap.