I was born in my grandparent’s house in a little seaside village near Skegness in Lincolnshire, England. My mum had me with the help of a midwife and her closest older sister P. My big sister P had come along 18 months earlier. My grandma and grandad and lots of young aunts and uncles lived there and often came to stay with us wherever we lived.
Dad worked in mining and as mum did not like being without him we lived in a caravan on various job sites. I do not remember much at all of my life before I was seven but a few things I do remember were Uncle J who was only in his middle teens staying often. Mum told me the story many times of how he saved my life when the kitchen caught fire. Mum had left a chip pan on the burner and there was an incredible amount of acrid smoke. Panicking, she grabbed my sister and ran outside with her. When she turned to go back and get me the smoke was too thick for her to enter. She screamed and Uncle J ran right into it and found me and brought me out. As this is one of the few things I remember being told I have locked it into my memory banks! That such a young man would be so brave and clearheaded as to go in and as my mum always said, “save your life.”
There are a few other memories from my childhood that I recall clearly. My dad had gone over to Australia to prepare ahead for us to migrate there. He found work on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Mum and my sister and myself stayed with her parents in the house where I was born. My grandmother ran a boarding house and was very busy cooking and washing lodger’s work clothes. I used to help her. And while I helped her I asked her lots of questions and chatted to her, barely drawing breath.
Grandma told me if I did not stop asking questions the Boogie Man would get me. I was so frightened of this Boogie Man but I had to know who he was and how he got inside the house. She told me he was big and black and was watching me. I was truly terrified but had to help my Grandma and there was so much I had to know! I cannot remember what my sister did during this period, I was told our mum went back to work in the Pop Factory where she worked before she married. She was known to sing with the most glorious voice which could be heard outside the factory.
After two years my mother became dreadfully ill with a burst appendix, she then survived peritonitis and returned to her parents house and promptly nearly died of a Pulmonary Embolism. The priest was called and performed the Last Rites and the Doctor told the family she would not make it through the night. Mum always told me that in the middle of the night a statue of The Virgin Mary lit up and she heard voices. She said she heard “her children need her, she cannot go yet.” She made it through the night and over a few months returned to good health. Meantime dad had booked a bunk on a ship back to England. He always told me how several workmates had to hold him down to stop him going crazy when he was told mum was likely to die.
After dad returned we moved to various job sites while he saved the money for us to get a good start in Australia. I do remember starting school at a Catholic Primary School. That was in Buxton in Derbyshire and there was a really steep hill to climb. It kept us all quite fit. I was a bit mischievous in those days and got into trouble for putting salt into my lunchtime glass of water. I was imagining it was lemonade. However Sister M was not amused and made me drink it, salt and all!
One other memory that is crystal clear and always has been is of me meeting some really fun friends whose parents became friend’s of mums. I must have been quite forward as I went outside their caravan and started to do my exercises. Perhaps we did them at school, no idea why I would choose that method to introduce myself. But it worked! One of the boys declared his undying love to me and asked me to wait to marry him when we were grown up! Later on that family migrated to Australia too and we visited them and they came to stay near us at Christmas each year