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My Early Years in Rotherham

I was 8 years old when WW2 broke out in 1939. At that time Dad, Mum and I lived in Clifton Mount, Rotherham. Dad volunteered for the army in 1939, joining the Royal Engineers. Prior to him leaving, my grandfather and he, constructed an Anderson shelter for us in the backyard. After the early time of the ‘phoney’ war we used it quite often when the air raid siren went off. To keep us warm, we kept house bricks in the oven of the Yorkshire range every day during cold months, (the heat lasted longer than hot water bottles) we used these to keep us warm when we had to go to the ’Anderson’. Mum knitted wool covers for the bricks ( the war made one resourceful !).

Rotherham did not experience air raids as severe as Sheffield, but I remember quite well, the sound of of the german bombers, the engines had a distinctive, high and low pitched drone. Sometimes we heard them before the sirens went off. We could hear our ack-ack guns having a go and after awhile could distinguish the sound of bombs from the sound of the ack-ack guns, (a crack as against a thump). Being a youngster, it was all very exciting, but to both my grandmother and my mother, it didn't evoke any likewise emotion. Afterwards, I would search around the garden for shrapnel, but to my disappointment, never found any.

I attended Wellgate Primary School in 1940, Charles Dickens could have very well slotted the description of this appalling seat of learning into any of his novels. I think it was only a stone’s throw away from students using charcoal and slate. With most of the young teachers away on service during the war, old retired teachers were rounded up to fill the gap, bringing with them their nineteenth century methods of teaching and means of obtaining discipline, by wielding a ‘whacker’. I have fond memories of leaving this ‘ Oliver Twist’ institution.

We lived quite near to Clifton Park and I used to love visiting the Museum. I also remember quite well, a beautiful old oak tree In the park. The tree was so large, posts were used to support the weight of the extending branches. I do hope the tree is still there. The brass bands that played at the park rotunda were very popular.

I was born in Fitzwilliam Rd, No. 15, which I noticed on the ‘Google Map recently, has been turned into a car park. When I was 4 we went to live in St Leonards Rd. and attended a little school at the corner of St. Ann’s and St Leonards Rd. I was pleased to see the house where we lived, was still there, so some compensation for seeing the car park. I left in my early teens to live in Blackpool until 1955 when I left for Australia, where I have lived ever since.


Brian Kirk

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