Saturday, 7 July 2007

Thoughts and memories

I was born on Monday 28 October 1957 in Whitehaven hospital in West Cumberland the only child of a farmer and a factory worker both of whom had married for the first and only time at the age of forty. Consequently I had a childhood surrounded and fussed over by aunts, uncles and other adults in their forties and fifties and spent much of my time with them on the family farm. My earliest memories of what was then "Grandma's" are of a farmhouse without electricity, of oil lamps and candles, stone floors, cows milked by hand, an outside "dry" toilet and a radio the size of a modern TV on which they listened to the home service and, in the evenings, Radio Luxembourg.

My parents and I didn't live on the farm but in a small terraced house in a village a few miles away and we did have electricity. We also had a TV - purchased especially to watch Coronation Street in 1961 - and during my first ten years acquired a plumbed in bath, a fridge and a washing machine to replace the dolly tub I remember peering into as a toddler.
I have a lot of vivid memories from those times and one in particular strikes me as being something today's children simply wouldn't be allowed to experience. Visiting the local butcher one day with my Mum, he was loading his van with deliveries and jokingly asked me if I wanted to go with him. Apparently I said "yes" and got in his shiny new Morris Mini van and off we went, with my Mum's full agreement. We visited shops and factories delivering sausages, mince, chickens etc and, on the way back, called at the Abattoir to collect a large vat of blood with which to make black puddings. Minis were still a bit of a novelty and we played a game of counting them during the journey! Wherever we went I was fussed over and given treats and for a while "helping" the butcher in this way became a regular two or three times a week, pre-school, job and my gory tales of what I'd seen in the abattoir entertained everyone at home! I got to know people at all the places we visited including the man who seemed to spend his day stirring a large tub of tripe. Karl, as he was called, was elderly and spoke with a foreign accent - when I asked about him I was told that he was a german prisoner of war from the first world war who had just never gone home. No doubt that would prompt even more questions from me but I never found people reluctant to talk to me and explain things and I picked up lots of snippets of knowledge at a very early age. Perhaps because I had relatively old parents I heard a mass of stories from both world wars but particularly the second one during which my parents had both been adults.

In 1962 I started school at the local Church of England School, St Paul's in Frizington. It was a victorian school building with outside toilets and a rectangular playground next to a small stream into which, inevitably, children often fell. I was a reasonably well behaved and reasonably bright little boy among some fairly tough characters some of whom weren't too keen on those who they regarded as "swots" - I survived by developing and employing a keen sense of humour! By the time I was eleven the comprehensive system had been partly introduced and the 11 plus had been abolished. There was however no comprehensive school and we all transferred to a secondary modern where, two years later, the brighter children were "recommended" to transfer to the grammar school. I was the first member of the family to go to a grammar school and I remember it being quite a talking point with the adults - almost all of whom had left school at 14 to go into farm work or domestic service. I enjoyed school and made a number of lifelong good friends but it was the farm and my Dad's family's involvement in the Lake District sport of Hound Trailing which occupied most of my spare time right up to my late teens.

In 1965 my Dad's two unmarried brothers and a sister had moved to a traditional lakeland hillfarm in the Ennerdale valley and Dad travelled to work there each day. Throughout the next seventeen years I went to the farm at every opportunity - rules were few and far between and I had the freedom to explore, play and learn. Few children, it seems to me, have that to the same degree today. Health and safety was considered but not allowed to interfere with my fun - I rode on farm machinery, climbed on haystacks, played with calves, pet lambs and sheepdogs, splashed around in farmyard puddles and learned the hard way that cows kicked and hens pecked. As soon as my legs were long enough, 1968 I think it was, I was allowed to drive a tractor. (on the strict condition that I didn't tell my mother!!)

We trained hounds to follow an aniseed trail and, during the summer, travelled the length and breadth of the Lake District to take part in races, or trails as they are known. My Uncles were quite successful at the sport and occasionally I'd get my picture in the local newspaper smiling with a winning hound! In 1971 a TV crew from the BBC "Nationwide" programme filmed the family as part of a feature on the sport but unfortunately my mother insisted I go to school and I missed my chance of stardom! The programme wasn't transmitted outside London, I believe, and we never did get to see it.

There were also occasional unexpected moments of excitement - like the day in 1970 when a large red and white hot air balloon crashed nearby. (see "up, up and away") I ran to the scene and, along with half a dozen other people found a dazed Canadian called Ray Monro who had just become the first person to cross the Irish Sea in a balloon. He refused to leave the field where he'd crash landed until his balloon was safe and I was sent to run for someone to come with a tractor and trailer. We took him and his balloon home where he was given tea before being taken to hospital for checks! Incredibly, I later found out that his flight that day, lasting only four and a half hours, was, at the time, the longest balloon flight in history.

By the time I left school in 1976, with a reasonable crop of 'O' and 'A' levels, I had developed a real attachment to Cumbria and its traditions and had no real desire to leave. The choice for most leaving Whitehaven Grammar School that hot summer was either University or a job at Sellafield. Sellafield was, and still is, the largest employer in West Cumbria and has dominated the news here for most of my lifetime. Never one to follow the crowd however, I had no enthusiasm for either and, as I'd counted out becoming a farmer, replied to an advert for a trainee Chartered Accountant with a firm in Whitehaven. I eventually passed all the exams and qualified and settled into a happy, carefree, single life - I stayed with the same Accountancy practice, becoming a partner in 1992, enjoyed walking and cycling in the Lake District and took regular foreign holidays. After a trip to California in 1984 I developed a real interest in North America and have returned a number of times, particularly to the western states of the USA. I've also travelled in various parts of Europe and have a particular fondness for Italy after making some friends there and learning, rather badly, to speak the language. I love travelling and exploring places off the beaten track but still believe that nowhere quite matches Cumbria for sheer scenic beauty - coming home from Manchester airport I always take a look at the fells as we turn off the M6 at Kendal and wonder why I bothered going away!!

At the start of the new millennium I was pretty settled and still enjoying my single life. Although accountancy as a subject can live up to its Monty Python image, the people I meet at work and the situations I get to deal with can certainly be both interesting and challenging and I have no regrets about the career I've chosen. Technology of course has altered the way we work tremendously just in the course of my working life but perhaps the most significant changes I've seen in the last fifty years are the opportunities and the choices available to people from relatively "ordinary" backgrounds - the opportunities for work and travel, the choice of lifestyle, the availability of information and opportunities for continuing education, even the ability to regularly eat out in restaurants are things our parents would have regarded as being close to fantasy fifty years ago. These opportunities, together with the high quality education we received make us,I'm sure, a very fortunate generation.

I'm really looking forward to my next fifty years (I've always been an optimist) particularly as my long held single status changed two years ago when I married Pamela. Pamela, sadly, lost her first husband to cancer in 2002 – both had been friends of mine since school and he was the first of my close friends to die - and we began spending time together during the subsequent twelve months. We were married in July 2005 at St Michaels Church, Lamplugh and moved to the village, which lies on the western edge of the Lake District, shortly afterwards. We are right on the edge of the National Park - if we open our front door and run we'll be inside the boundary in less than 10 seconds! Also with us are Pamela's two children - Charlotte who is studying at Oxford and James who is heading off to University in London in September. They seem to have a more pressured life than we had at that age although the opportunities available are much greater - I do wonder though if they will see the same degree of change in their first fifty years and, given their relative affluence now, whether they will look back with the same amusement at how things used to be.

"Today" listeners might recall that Lamplugh (pronounced "Lampla", by the way, not "Lamplooo") hit the news earlier this year when entries in its Parish records revealed that parishioners in the seventeenth century had died after being frightened by fairies and poisoned by Mrs Lamplugh's cordial water! Assuming such a gruesome fate can be avoided I expect to be here for some time to come!


Neville said...

Hi Roger - were you aware the Beeb are broadcasting our stuff 25-27th instead of next week as promised? It's on Listen Again anyway.

Keith said...

Hello Roger, I don't know whether you know it but you're not the only Roger Troughton to have lived in Whitehave. My father (Roger Troughton) moved the family there in 1961 to run what was then Smith's wax paper company. I, like all my family bar one were born in Knutsford, Cheshire. We lived for five years in Harris Moor, just outside Whitehaven until we moved to Dublin in Ireland, where I've been pretty much ever since.

Keith Troughton

Roger Troughton said...

Hello Keith, thanks for your message, I had no idea there was another Roger Troughton around when I was young. Troughton is definitely a Cumbrian name - did your family have links to the area before your father moved to Smith's?



Keith said...

Sadly not, my paternal grandfather came from Clydebank. I did some research
into the family and it seems that we originally came from Belfast and that my great grandparents moved to Scotland in the early nineteen hundreds. My grandfather, Jim, was one of about 11 to 13 children. His parents both died before they reached 41, the children being put in various orphanages/workhouses. He ended up in Cheshire, met my gran and stayed. His surviving siblings all emigrated to the USA and Canada. My own father (Roger) died two years ago.
Incidentally we're about the same age, I was born in January 1956. I was five when we moved to Whitehaven, ten when we left.

Regards. Keith.

Anonymous said...

I went to St Paul's in 1939 and left in 1945 to go to Whitehaven Grammar School.

St Paul's does not seem to have changed much by the time you got to it. I can remember it was a tough school very strictly run. I can remember the wonderful Mrs Williams who taught me so much.You were lucky at home, you had electricity, we had only gas and one cold water tap with an outside dry lavatory. I can remember visiting friends at a local farm who had only oil lamps.

My people came from Workington and Chester. I left Frizington in 1957.
I can remember hound trails, going to the top of Dent Fell, walking to St Bees, playing in the woods, the excitement of the 1950 and 1951 elections.

I greatly enjoyed my time at Whitehaven Grammar School and can still remember many of the people who taught me. Mr Kenneth Armstrong the English teacher, and MR JA Smith, who inspired in me a love of History which has given me a livelihood and an interest which endures to this day. That school was run with an iron hand by MR J W Lawson. I had free school dinners but did not feel out of place. An excellent school in which I made many friends who by now are dead.

Frederick Jones

Anonymous said...

A further comment on St Pauls - I can remember during the war the school raised funds to support a Motor Torpedo Boat.

Once a week we went on Nature Walks to study the local fauna and flora. The column of children was led by whoever had performed best in class.

Once a year we had a coach trip to St Bees to spend time on the beach. We were all greatly excited.

Anonymous said...

I cannot resist making another comment on St Paul's School. I can remember the names of the different class teachers during the period 1939-1945 - Mrs Crosthwaite was in charge of what we called the "baby" class, the next one was taught by Miss Sumpton, the next by Mr Spedding, the next by Miss Williams, then the Headmaster, Mr J.T. Moore.

Mr Spedding had one of the few cars on the road and I remember the huge excitement of once being given a lift home. Frederick Jones

barbara rees (hayhoe) said...

Hi roger, I attended st pauls school up to summer 1963 when the family moved to Doncaster. I remember clearly st pauls, teachers Miss Crosswaite, Mr Tears, who taught my father, Mrs Hilton, and Mr Moore the headteacher. Happy days, queuing for church, dinner in the tin hut, outside toilets, but the summers were great, garden parties at the vicarage! Happy days! I lived at 2 Rheda Terrace, and we walked to school everyday unless it was raining! We loved to play on Donaldson farm and they still farm to this day. Wonder what happened to all the neighbours? Thanks for all the happy memories!

Roger Troughton said...

Thank you Barbara - nice to see people are still reading my blog!
Miss Crossthwaite taught me when I was an ankle biter the year you left. Mr Tear too for short while before he became ill and died. JT Moore retired either the year I left, 1969, or the following year just before the school closed for the last time. I also remember the garden parties in the vicarage as well as the outside loos and walking over the road to the canteen for Cheese Pie followed by prunes! Happy days indeed!