Sunday, January 13, 2013

Where Is It? By Sheron Watson

Where is it ?

A photo was posted on Northampton Past.
A picture of where I am frightened to ask.
Welly Road or Kettering the debate lingers on
The location of a place from a time bygone.

There is mention of a chimney proving its place
But others they said it is mentioned in haste.
The roof’s are all wrong came another’s reply
It’s Welly Road I swear the resounding outcry.

Racecourse said another the houses were there.
They accommodated the police of that I swear.
The bend in the road confirms it’s Kettering.
Cannot see why you’d all find it so baffling

Look at the Tram it’s going to Kingsley
Cannot understand why you find it a mystery.
Just look at the shadows, they’ll confirm where
I will take a new photo for you all to compare

Tree’s by the Picturedrome, there isn’t the room
So it must be Welly Road, or so you’d assume
There were four house’s that stood on that spot
I will show you the map that confirms it you lot.

Can’t be Kettering their windows are curved
Welly’s are straight you must have observed
Look at the chimneys, they must have increased
On Welly they match and changes the least

From Mary to Frank and Ruth to Steve Kelly
The site took a vote and decided it’s Welly
So to all Northampton Past including our Lawrie
I am still not convinced, for that, I am sorry

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


I don’t recall the type of weather we experienced on that particular day.

I do however remember a feeling of nervous excitement which started when I lay in bed, just prior to getting up.

For the previous five days we had been cruising on The Norfolk Broads, on holiday. Unbeknown to me the producers of a Radio Four programme had been trying to contact me. They apparently wanted to talk to me on a programme called (I believe) See Hear, a programme of news and features for listeners with sight problems. As the programme was being transmitted, we were travelling back to Northampton from Norwich.

We arrived home around teatime so that I could make some phone calls. The Cobblers were at Wembley the following day. Radio Nene Valley, Northamptons’ hospital radio service, was to become the first hospital radio station to provide a dedicated hospital commentary from Wembley Stadium. Not only that but we were going to be the first service to provide a specialist commentary for supporters in the stadium suffering with sight impediment. This was the reason the Radio 4 producers were keen to speak to us.

The landline for the hospital commentary was being sponsored by the Nationwide Building Society and was due to be connected by BT during the Friday afternoon. A couple of telephone calls soon told us that things were not quite running true. Somewhere along the road the order number for the job had “gone astray” and the land line had not been connected. Our contact at Nationwide, in Swindon, really went the extra mile and after he had been in touch with BT it was agreed that the connections would be completed on Saturday morning.

Saturday eventually came and the morning was spent decorating our car. Claret and white streamers were tied to the door mirrors and the cars’ radio aerial. Flags that had been given away by The Chronicle and Echo were stuck to the rear window and laid over the rear parcel shelf while a poster picture of the Cobblers was affixed between the flags in the centre of the rear window.

Jan had prepared some sandwiches for us to take for lunch. I keep saying “us” as our son Steve was my co-commentator. We were giving a lift to a friend and his son. We had decided to leave home around eleven o’clock to travel the sixty miles to the home of British football, the scene of over sixty F.A. Cup finals, the venue of Englands’ World Cup victory in 1966, the stadium that would bear witness to the Cobblers match against Swansea City in just a few short hours.

It turned out to be about a quarter past eleven when we left our home. The atmosphere was building, not only in the car but outside as well. People waved, who they were, I’ve no idea and it wasn’t just us that they waved at, any car bedecked in Claret and White was waved at. Traffic seemed particularly light travelling in the opposite direction. As we travelled along Park Avenue, more cars came into view, flags and streamers fluttering from their windows, mirrors and aerials, just like ours.

People in those vehicles waved to us, we acknowledged them. We waved to other cars, they acknowledged us. We were all making a pilgrimage to THAT place.

Park Avenue South, through Abington Park, the number of people waving increased and then decreased as we travelled into Rushmere Road, heading toward the motorway.

On through Brackmills and there it was, the first bridge and hanging from that bridge an enormous Union Flag with NTFC across the centre of the flag. The car went quiet. That was what you see when the big clubs are around, not us, not The Cobblers. We continued our journey and when we approached the bridge at Wootton there was another banner hanging from the parapet. Virtually all the cars heading South were now sporting “those” colours.

We joined the motorway M1. Cars passed us, many with claret and white scarves flying from the windows. In many of those cars that passed us and were not showing any colours, the occupants looked at us with a bemused look on their faces. We simply smiled back at them and continued on our way. Bridge after bridge that we passed under bore greetings and good wishes for the the club. If I remember correctly it was at Luton the flags stopped appearing on every bridge only to reappear as we approached Hemel Hempstead.

The rest of the journey into that footballing citadel was pretty uneventful other than being absolutely astounded at the number of vehicles bearing Cobblers fans.

On arrival at Wembley we followed our directions to the car park.

There were hundreds of fans there, not only Cobblers supporters but those too from Wales.

This was Wembley, the fans had been singing, talking and dreaming about Wem-ber-ley ever since the play offs’ had begun to loom on the horizon.

A short walk and there they were. It was a sight I shall never forget, indeed, shall never see again.

The twin towers of Wembley stadium. I had seen them before, having been to Wembley on business but never like this. I must admit to feeling awestruck. The Cobblers were here. MY club from MY town. After 100 years existence, Northampton Town were finally here at Wembley. My team would tread the hallowed turf.
Steve and I parted from our friends and walked to the media entrance.

We showed our tickets and were allowed entrance to the bowels of the stadium. We walked a short way into the media reception area where we were given our souvenir programme and offered a welcoming drink along with a buffet luncheon.

We accepted the drink but decided to go to our allotted seats so that we could check that everything was ready to go. We found our seats in the press box. Every seat had its’ own television monitor. We set our equipment up and endeavoured to dial the number to connect us with the studio here in town. There was no dial tone. We double checked our set up procedure. We had done everything correctly. Our hearts and our spirits sank.
I went back to the reception area and enquired as to whether there was a media manager on duty. Asked the reason for my query I explained the predicament to be told that a guy behind me was the BT engineer. I spoke to him. He laughed, carried on eating and told me not to worry, that someone would be along to sort things out.

Half hour later and things were still the same. I found the BT man and this time his face changed. He would have to ring his office. This he did. It transpired that the Job number had only been raised about thirty minutes ago but as he had the relevant number he could connect the line for us. This took him all of about thirty seconds. He stood with us while the studio connection was made. The studio people were relieved to hear from us but, it must be said, not as relieved as we were to speak to them.

All set up and ready to go we decided to enjoy the hospitality of the stadium and enjoyed the buffet.

While we were relaxing, albeit nervously, two gentlemen with Welsh accents, made themselves known to us. They were from the Swansea Hospital Radio Service but they were there as reporters, not commentators. They would be filing reports through the afternoon while we would be providing a full commentary. In the preamble before the match we had a chat with them so our listeners in hospital, here in town, would get a Swansea view of the game in prospect.

We chatted with Mike Sewel and Tim Oglthorpe from BBC Radio Northampton, with Andy Roberts from Chronicle and Echo, there was a a tangible feeling of nervousness about the place.

The master of ceremonies conducted a singing competition between the two groups of supporters.
From our position in the press box, it was difficult for us to ascertain the loudest group. We were told that the Cobblers supporters had easily won that completion.

As the teams entered the arena the roar was deafening.

The game started, there were few opportunities for either side and I must confess to feeling the slightest bit let down. Half time came, we all went into the reception rooms for refreshments. Sheets of paper were being issued to members of the media. They contained the first half match statistics.

We returned to our places, all acutely aware that it could be a single goal that decided the result.

The game wore on, nerves jangled, 89 minutes, 90 minutes. There were to be 4 minutes extra time. 91 minutes, 92 minutes, the Cobblers win a free kick just outside the Swans penalty area. John Frain takes it. The referee has spotted an infringement by Carl Heggs. The free kick must be retaken. Swansea players protest, the referee is adamant, it must be retaken. Once again John Frain places the ball. IT’s now 93 minutes. Frain takes the kick. Roger Freestone in the Swans goal stretches for it but he can’t reach it. The crowd are stunned. Freestone lands on the ground a fraction of a second after the ball has hit the netting inside his goal. Unbelievable. The Cobblers had taken the lead. Realisation rapidly spread thought the Cobblers end of the stadium. The Referee blows his whistle once, twice, three times. It’s over. IT’s over. It’s over. They’ve done it. The Cobblers have won and not only have they won, they’ve won AT WEMBLEY. Cobblers Manager Ian Atkins was on his feet. Cobblers Chairman, Barry Stonhill was on his feet. The directors were on their feet. The Directors wives and sweethearts were on their feet. I was on my feet, so too was Steve.

I looked to my right, and saw the two guys from Swansea Hospital Radio still seated, a look of disbelief on their faces. The Cobblers had beaten Swansea and now we had to wait. Eventually it happened. I freely admit that tears were streaming down my face as I described Ray Warburton, the Cobblers skipper climbing those famous steps towards me. After 39 steps he turned to his left and approached the Royal Box where he was presented with the victors trophy. Then he turned and in the time honoured tradition of winning captains, he turned toward the pitch and held the trophy aloft.

We wrapped up our commentary and just couldn’t comprehend that The Cobblers, THE COBBLERS had come to Wembley and won. Mike Sewel called to me asked me to go to him where he interviewed me for Radio Northampton. We eventually decided that we should start packing away our equipment. We did so with a feeling of sorrow in our hearts. We didn’t want to leave the site of arguably the greatest victory in the one hundred years existence of the club. As we turned our backs on the pitch and made our way back into the reception area, one of the young ladies who had been on duty in that area called us over and handed Steve and I a commemorative pen and pencil set.

I still have in my possession my ticket, programme, both first and second half match statistics sheets and of course the official programme. I also still have that pen and pencil presentation set.

Little did we know that twelve months on from then we would be back but that time would not see such a glorious ending for us.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Prostate Problems by Ann Amos

Prostate Problems

By Ann Amos

I decided to write this in an attempt to help any of you guys with prostate issues as it is a big problem for some men as they get older and sadly there is no screening for prostate cancer. I am no expert but I am basing this on what I have learned and through my husband’s personal experience of prostate cancer.

This paragraph is NOT about cancer but as a man gets older, his prostate usually becomes larger (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) and most of this enlargement takes place after the age of 50 sometimes causing urinary problems (poor stream, dribbling of urine and incomplete emptying etc). This is because the prostate surrounds the tube from the bladder (urethra) and as the prostate enlarges, it causes restriction. There is a very successful and common operation to correct this called a TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) or sometimes drugs may be used if the condition isn’t too bad.

If a man goes to the GP with urinary related problems a PSA blood test will normally be done. This determines the amount of Prostate Specific Antigen in the blood and, if the reading is extremely high, it normally indicates that cancer is present (but not always). A digital examination and a biopsy usually confirm whether cancer is present or not and, if it is, effective treatment can begin (the actual removal of the prostate is only usually done in younger patients).

Radiotherapy and hormone treatment is usually very successful in treating prostate cancer. The radiotherapy shrinks the tumour and the hormone treatment (usually 3 monthly tiny implants of Zoladex in the abdomen) greatly reduces the testosterone which is what causes the cancer to grow. 6 monthly PSA blood tests indicate how things are progressing.

This is just a brief outline of what it’s all about so I would urge any of you blokes with worries to see the GP as soon as possible because the help is there for you if needed. Also, if anyone wishes to discuss any problems with me then by all means send me a personal message. As said before, I am no expert but I might be able to answer questions or point you in the right direction.

Monday, November 26, 2012


My first recollection of Christmas was as a three year old and I was living in the Police House at Roade with my mother, father, older brother and paternal granddad. I suppose to say that Christmas for me was magical is an understatement and, hopefully, something that we can all identify with.

Although we are talking 64 years ago, I can remember the living room in perfect detail including the corner in which stood the magnificent Christmas Tree! Now, my father being in the Police was not without his contacts so he was able to access the tree (complete with roots) from Salcey Forest, which was placed in a large soil filled barrel and covered in red crepe paper. Next, came my favourite thing – the beloved lights which my mother had proudly managed to buy from a shop in Towcester (things were still in short supply after the war). They weren’t just bulbs, they had little shades on them in different colours and each one depicted Disney characters which I would spend hours looking at with total awe.

I have to say, at this point, that those lights were brought out year after year (as were all the decorations) until I was 20 and left home. I didn’t want anything new! – I just wanted everything that was reminiscent of Christmases past....... The glass baubles of all colours and sizes, which reflected the light beautifully, were kept in a well worn greyish cardboard box with little compartments and had the words ‘Christmas Decorations’ scrawled across the lid in pencil.
The baubles were fragile but I can’t remember any being broken...... There was silver tinsel which was a bit thread bare but it didn’t seem to matter and the Lametta frequently fell off but that didn’t matter either. The best part was the switching on of the lights when it was all done and, because the tree lights consisted of quite large pear shaped bulbs, the whole room would light up – It was truly wonderful and I have a vivid memory of looking right up at the tree which seems to go on for ever (but I guess that’s because I was tiny). We had paper garlands across the ceiling, paper bells and on the mantle piece there was a cardboard Santa Claus. The setting was complete when my mother, who was an accomplished pianist with a good voice, played carols and Christmas songs, my favourite being ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas’ which had been recorded and released in 1942.
Christmas was not without it’s worries when I was small....... Although I would stand on tip toe and look out of my bedroom window on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh in the sky, I was not at all keen on the idea of him coming down the chimney and into my room which had it’s own fireplace. I can remember feeling frightened and sliding further and further down the bed in an attempt to hide.
Even worse, when I awoke in the morning, before it was properly light, I was scared half to death by a strange shape in the room which was actually a blackboard and easel!
I didn’t have a stocking – I just had a few simple gifts in a pillow case but it wasn’t the Christmas presents that were important, it was the whole atmosphere of Christmas and why it was being celebrated which I understood (in simple terms) even as a small child.

I loved all the festive food items, such as they were, but we didn’t have a turkey in those days – It was always a chicken which was a treat and not something one would eat on a regular basis. Our chicken came ‘complete’ and my mother would have to draw it and pluck it over an old tin bath, with some of the down flying around the room and getting up her nose making her sneeze. Mum also made her own stuffing with home grown herbs which tasted wonderful and her recipe was unique to her. She also made her own Christmas Cake and her own marzipan which was at least half an inch thick under crudely applied royal icing liberally sprinkled with silver dragees. To finish off, a fancy paper band was pinned around the cake. To this day, I love rich fruit cake and I adore marzipan!

Of course, Christmas eventually came to an end and I was very sad. The decorations and lights were put away carefully in their boxes until the following year and the tree unceremoniously dragged out into the garden followed by a trail of dropped pine needles. Oh woe! However, twelve months later the whole process began again and I was very happy.

Does one ever recapture those magical feelings experienced as a very small child? I don’t think so......

Thursday, November 15, 2012

IN MEMORY OF NORMAN AMOS 1933-2011......


My name is Norman Amos, I was born in 1933 and these are some of my recollections as a boy on the wartime years in Northampton.

My first memory is actually as they used to say – the day that war broke out. It was a Sunday morning & I was at home, my father (who was a Boys Brigade Officer) was on Boys Brigade duties and I was at home with my mother, and I can remember that the radio was on and the famous announcement that I can remember quite clearly was made that we were at war. My mother had gone through one before in the First World War- all I can remember her saying was “Oh my god, and then life carried on as normal.

The memories that I give you are a little jumbled, so I hope that you forgive me.

One of the early memories was when the Luftwaffe decided to drop a stick of bombs on the cemetery on Billing Road.

I was living in Adams Avenue which was not far away; the explosion caused my mother, father and sister to wake up but not me. Mother and father took my sister down to the cellar where they stayed there until the noise abated, and I was left in bed the; reason being that I wasn’t awake and my father (who was a First World War veteran) believed that if your name’s on it then there was nothing you could do, and if your name was not on it you were OK. 

As regards school it all went on as usual the difference being that there were air raid shelters built on the school playground. I was at Stimpson Avenue School at the time, and it was strictly prohibited to go in the shelters unless it was an alert or on an air raid exercise. Unfortunately being a boy like other boys we decided to go down there and we were caught. Which meant visiting the Headmaster, Mr Smith, who proceeded to give us six of the best on the palm of our hands, but such was life.

Once a week at Stimpson Avenue School they had what was called the ‘Penny Pictures’, where children could go along and for the price of one penny there was films, Charlie Chaplin ones, Laurel & Hardy, which I presume lasted an hour and a half before we made our way home. Another thing that the schools were involved with was salvage, particularly paper salvage. A scheme was set up, and depending on how much you collected you achieved a rank. If you only collected a little bit you were made a sergeant, and it gradually went up, and some of us collected round the streets with our trolleys, knocking on doors, getting books.
Some of us achieved a high rank of Field Marshal, and we had a little paper badge that we put on our coat, we were very proud of this. However carrying heavy volumes, even though we had trolleys was quite hard work, but that was what boys did so we did it. 

I think that it was just after Dunkirk that it appeared to us children as hundreds (whether it was or not I don’t know) of French or Belgian soldiers. They came to Northampton and were allocated to St Michael’s Church hall, and they used to lay about the grounds of the church.
Of course this was marvellous for us boys, we used to go over to them. We couldn’t speak their language, they couldn’t speak ours but we used to collect money from them (small silver coins with a hole in the middle) and take them to a little shop in Whitworth Road which was just round the corner (owned by a Mr Wilford). Now Mr Wilford used to take these coins from us, which were possibly worthless and give us packets of 5 Woodbines. These we took back to the troops who were laying on the grass outside St Michaels Church and hand them around, and then we would go back for some more.
Looking back Mr Wilford has been a real wartime hero, it must have cost him quite a bit of money because he would not get anything back because the coins we gave him were worthless, but we never went to that shop without getting some cigarettes – usually Woodbines in a packet of five that were handed out to the troops.

When word got round that oranges were available on Northampton Market, a plan then swung into operation whereby my mother, myself and my sister would immediately go to the market where we would take up a position in the queue but leaving plenty of space between us. This meant that all three of us could probably get two oranges and then we would meet up again afterwards and come home with half a dozen oranges and think ourselves very clever for doing it.

At the beginning of the war a long trail of children appeared at the top of Adams Avenue and my mother had to go along, and she came back with two East Ender children named George (who was my age), and Rosie (who was a bit younger) they stayed with us for a few months and to their amazement found out, or thought, that we had a coal mine under the house, which was the cellar where all the coal was stored. Also the first Christmas, a favourite expression of my family was ‘mince pies & castad’ they didn’t know anything about Christmas pudding, as far as they were concerned a special treat at Christmas was mince pies & custard. They were quite disappointed when my mother did not serve up mince pies & custard. They did not last long with us as they went back pretty quickly. Later on we had two other evacuees, two girls from Kilburn and Bronsbury High School, I remember their uniform was red and white bands around their panama hats; they stayed with us some time, before they went back. Unfortunately none of the four have ever contacted my family again, the only contact we had was some years after the war when the police knocked on our door and asked us if one of the girls (Sheila) had been in touch with us as they were looking for her – we don’t know why.

In addition to evacuees my parents also took in a couple of Canadian soldiers. A convoy of Canadians were parked in Bostock & Stimpson avenues, supposedly to sleep in their lorries, but many of the people like my parents invited them in, so we had two of them. They left us badges etc but unfortunately although they promised to keep in touch we never heard another word. We presume that they were both killed on that big Canadian massacre on the coast.

Boys used to be taken with their fathers to Northampton Racecourse late at night where if you looked up in the sky you could see the shadows of the enemy bombers coming over. From the Racecourse you could also see Coventry burning, you could actually see the flames, not just a glow, but the actual flicker of the flames. We did not realise quite what it was.

Most boys during the war collected badges and buttons etc, which they fastened to the various types of belts which they wore. I was the envy of a lot of the boys because I had this huge Royal Marine badge attached to my belt, how I got this badge I do not know – probably swapped some shrapnel for it . It was great to get hold of shrapnel because, unlike London, it wasn’t very plentiful in Northampton.

During the war youth organisations were not allowed to go to the seaside camps, so the Boys Brigade Company that my father was an officer in used to go to a little village near Stowe called Lillington Dallow and spend a week under canvas in a huge park that belonged to Robarts who I believe was the Chairman of the National Westminster Bank. One of the perks of going there was that we were invited to spend a day with the RAF at Silverstone where the airmen would look after us and we would have a meal in their NAFFI and have quite a good time. We also found a lot of Perspex from crashed aircraft which we brought home and carved in to various items.

In 1945 I was riding home from school with a great friend of mine called John Parsonson (of the furniture shop in Northampton) when we suddenly realised that there were buntings and flags being put out, and we suddenly found out it was VE Day. Of course we didn’t go back to school in the afternoon and we just joined in the celebrations in the streets.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


This photo of my great grandmother used to be in a frame by my grandma's bedside when I was a little girl. Sometimes I used to curl up on her bed and and look at the photo and grandma would tell me that about her mother and about her brother Jack who stood behind his mother in the photo wearing his soldier's uniform. I though that my great grandmother looked very old and cross in the photo, but I knew that my grandma loved her very much. Now as an adult I look at that photo with more understanding, my great grandmother wasn't old, she was barely 60, but life had been a struggle for her. She wasn't cross either, she was afraid of what the future may hold, afraid that her sons would be taken from her. Today, I will remember, I will think of my great grandmother Elizabeth who lost three precious sons in the First World War, two of them died within a week of each other. I will remember Will, the only son who survived the war, his physical wounds healed in time but the war had robbed him of his strength and his love of life. 

Jack Buswell, Elizabeth's youngest child was just 21 when he was killed in action on 8th October 1917. 

Newspaper report 3.11.1917

"A snipers bullet caused the death on October 8th of Sergt. Jack C Buswell of the Beds. Regiment. Youngest son of Mrs and the late Mr J Buswell of 24 Campbell Street and fiancĂ© of Miss Ivy Bellchambers of 30 Balmoral Road. Twenty-one years of age the deceased joined up in January last year and went to the front in December. He was a member of St Sepulchre's F.C. and a member of St Sepulchre's Young Men's Bible Class, the eighth member of which he is to be killed. Three brothers are serving in France" 

Edward Tom Buswell was killed in action at Poelcappelle, Belgium on 10th October 1917. He left a wife Ada and three young children, Billy was 10, Elsie was 8 and baby Jack was just a week old. 

Newspaper report 10.1917

"A well known figure in Trade Union circles, Pte. Tom Buswell whose home is at 29 Compton Street, is reported killed in action on October 12th. Deceased who was 34 years of age leaves a widow and three young children, with whom much sympathy will be felt. He was the fourth son of Mrs and the late John Buswell of 24 Campbell Street, and joined up last February going to France in June. He had worked for many years for Mr A.E. Marlow of the Oceanio Works. His youngest brother Sergt. Jack Buswell was killed only four days previously, and two other brothers are serving." 

Frank Buswell was age 24 when he died in action in France on 18th August 1918. 

Newspaper report

"Great sympathy will be extended to Mrs Buswell of 24 Campbell Street Northampton in the sad loss she has sustained by the death of a third soldier son, Driver Frank Buswell of the R.F.A. who died in hospital in France from pneumonia which was supervened on mustard gas poisoning. He was gassed on August 8th and died a week later, his mother, who was sent for, reaching him two days before he passed away. He had seen sixteen months service, fourteen of which had been spent in France. A fourth son is in hospital at Plymouth. Driver Buswell was 24 years of age and fiancĂ© of Miss Hester Slater of 44 Great Russell Street, he previously worked for Messrs W. Barratt and Co."

My Grandmother like the rest of her family was devastated by the loss of her brothers and she still spoke of them often when I was a little girl and she was in her 80's.  I cannot imagine how she felt when the Second World War came and her only son (my father) was first in the Home Guard and then as soon as he was old enough he joined the army. Her son survived, but one of his cousins was killed and another was badly injured. This photo shows my dad Frank and his cousin Jack (both named after uncles killed in WW1). They both survived WW2 but Jack was badly injured. 
Sadly almost every family has a similar story to tell, real people, real lives and an enduring sadness that touches successive generations.  Yes, of course we must remember, and we must learn, but we shouldn't just remember with flag waving or with pomp and circumstance. All the poppies in the world cannot take away the pain and the sorrow. It is up to us to make the present a fitting tribute to those who sacrificed their future. 

There are times when war is unavoidable and there are occasions when it could perhaps have been avoided, but our leaders take us to war anyway.  War is never glorious and those involved may or may not be heroes, but to a greater or lesser extent they are all scarred forever by their experience.  Some time ago my work brought me into contact with a lovely man who had been a medic in the Falklands War.  His life had been devastated by post traumatic stress disorder ever since, but he got precious little care or support from the army or from the various charities who support service personnel and their families.  It is a sad indictment that so many years after the 'war to end all wars' we have still not achieved peace.  As far as I am concerned the most fitting tribute to those who have died would be treat those who survive with greater dignity and care - whatever it costs.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

'Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.'

My dad died over thirty years ago, I was only 6 when he became ill so there were many things that I wish I had been able to ask him but didn't have time to. I knew that he had been in the army during the latter years of the war, I even had a few pictures from that time  but I wished I knew more about what he did and where he went. It was just one of the many things that I thought I would never know. Then completely out of the blue I was contacted by someone who told me that during the war the Post Office in Northampton produced a monthly newsletter called Northampton News sharing letters home from post office workers in the forces or doing war work. My dad had been a Post Office messenger before going into the army and his letters home were among those published in Northampton News.

The newsletters have been made available as scans, it is hard to read some of them, but I have picked through them and found the ones showing letters from dad, they start in 1943 when he was 17 and go on to 1945. It is a little glimpse of his army service in his own words so it tells us much more than his service record would show. My dad told me very little about his time in the army but I remember him telling me that he was in the Home Guard before he joined the army. He said that he was like Frank Pike in Dad's Army, but I don't think I really understood what he meant until I read his letters. When he wrote the first few letters he was still a boy, he wrote about food and what he has seen at the cinema, but as time went on it was clear from the letters that he had grown up and he was painfully aware of the grim reality of war.

"On receiving the 'News' yesterday with the first mail I have had for a few days, it woke me to the fact that beside not getting any mail I hadn't had much chance of writing. We have bags of work now with our lads advancing so fast and have very little time to ourselves. I am now in Germany although I am glad to say that much of my work takes me into Holland. It seems to me that there won't be much left of Germany to occupy after the bashing it's had. I thought Caen (Normandy) was bad but it is nothing compared with some German towns. In some towns there is not one civilian left and not a house standing. Not just one or two places like this, but town after town. 

Yesterday I got into camp at 4 o'clock after a week on the road and took my truck into 'shops'. I collected it at 10.30pm. Then first thing this morning I was off again and this letter is being written in one of my few breaks on the road. That's keeping the wagon rolling isn't it?" (early 1945)

The editors of Northampton news must have made a very big difference to to all those people so far from home, but they could not possibly have known what a difference their hard work has made to me so many years later. They have given my dad a voice over thirty years after his death and they have made it possible for him to tell me about himself in his own words. I wish I could thank them, but of course it is far to late for that. I would like to thank David who realised the value of the old copies of Northampton News and not only took the time to scan them, but also made an effort to share them with relatives of the letter writers. It has helped me to understand my dad a little better and I think I have a better understanding of how worried my grandma must have felt. When he joined the army at 17 my dad was the age that my son is now, that is scarily young, she must have been so frightened for him especially after the horrors of the First World War when three of her brothers were killed in action

Northampton Post Office WW2 Newsletters By Dave Thacker

'Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.' - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Autumn Months by Mary Grant

I have always loved the autumn months. Seeing the leaves on the trees change into the most beautiful colours is still a joy for me.

As a child I loved going to the parks, whether it be the big Rec, Thornton's or Abington, once the leaves had fallen and searching for the perfect shaped leaf to take back home with me. I also used to look out for the pinecones as well. Salcey Forest was a great place to go collecting too.

I was always encouraged to make things from what I had collected on our walks. Invariably the pinecones would become Christmas decorations, once I had covered them in glitter, of course. Making Christmas cards was always a favourite past time of mine too in the dark evenings when I wasn't allowed to play outside. I would use anything I could lay my hands on...different coloured bits of paper, the leaves I had collected etc. I remember finding some sheeps wool one time and using that.

There would always be a lovely smell wafting in from the kitchen, while I was making my "masterpieces". Beef stew was always a favourite of mine in the colder, dark months. Mum would also do a lovely dish that consisted of pork chops, potatoes, peas and carrots in gravy, with a suet crust around the edge of the tin. Soaked peas with lashings of vinegar and a sprinkle of salt was also a favourite in our house.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Guildhall Northampton by Darren MacKenzie

The Guildhall from a low angle

The Guildhall was completed in 1864 and opened on the 17th of May of the same year.

It was designed and built by Edward Godwin of Bristol and has stone carvings around its facade that depict the history and life of Northampton's inhabitants, including the cobblers trade. Fourteen statues stand high above the street under their canopies, one between each first floor window. Many are of Monarchs and famous people who have had close ties with the town. Also represented are the patron saints of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the patron saint of corporations, St Michael, who can also be seen standing on the peak of the gable above the town's coat of arms. The clock tower stands 110ft high, it's sloping roof is finished with a crest of lead.

Princess Diana, was made an honorary Freeman of the Borough in this building in 1989.
A new extension was added to the building in 1992, which is very sympathetic to Godwins work, and a plaque to commemorate Princess Diana has been added to the extension by her brother, Charles Spencer.