I liked living at Burton Grange, but my mum hated it, she had never really wanted to live there, but the opportunity to have a council house was too good to miss.  It was very hard for her when we did move from 4 Court one, Church Lane, Barnsley, but as I have said earlier, the tiny cottage in which we lived had been condemned just before the start of the War.  It was very damp and unhealthy, any building programmes had been stopped because of the air raids, the bombings made many people homeless, these poor people had to be housed first.  Sheffield had suffered dreadfully from the bombings and quite a few people, from that city, made their homes in Barnsley.  At the start of the war, dad, being a bricklayer was sent to work in Grimsby, to work on re-building, at that point his work, was classed as essential, it wasn’t to be long before he was “called up”.

When my mum got the opportunity of a council house, she dared not turn it down, as she would have been put to the bottom of the list.  Flitting to Burton Grange was a trauma, the house which we were offered was dirty and had bugs, coming from a real “fettling”* family, she was horrified when she first saw the state of the house.  Surely it wasn’t normal to keep coal in the bath!!!!  I must say at this point, that a very old couple lived there, they had no any help whatsoever, in keeping the house clean.  The garden was really overgrown, with a massive hedge of privet, which blocked all the daylight, the windows were so grimy I doubt if daylight would have been seen anyway, but that hedge certainly did not help.

My mum’s sisters and sister-in-law pitched in and helped us to move, I can’t remember much about the actual move, but I do remember going into the dark and gloomy house.  The walls were painted bottle (dark) green, and the house smelled dirty.

The plus side of all this was the fact that we had electricity, hot water and a bathroom, which was fine once the signs of coal had been obliterated. 

We had enough furniture (just) the best thing of all was the fact that we could now use our radiogram, which had been stored at my dad’s sister’s house (more about that later).  Eventually with lots of elbow grease, the use of washing soda, soap and disinfectant the house was ready to be moved into.  My mum’s eldest sister, painted the walls of the living room a cream colour and then very painstakingly she stippled it, with all different colours.  Stippling is not heard of these days, a square of old net curtain was folded into a pad, dipped into some light coloured emulsion, or the equivalent of that time, and gently dabbed onto the walls.  There were three colours used on top of the cream, blue, pink and pale green, it really looked very pretty and clean.  It was a long slow job, but well worth the effort.

The first night that we slept in that house was really strange, nothing frightening, but it felt so different and I could sense my mum’s distress.

I soon settled down, but as I have said, my mum hated it.  It was better for her, obviously when my dad came home from the army, but she always had it in mind that she wanted to go back to Wilthorpe.  She had lived at Wilthorpe for four years and was married from there.

The flood in November 1946 put the tin hat on it, from then on she tried her best to get an exchange, but no one seemed interested in coming to live in Burton Grange.  In the Spring of 1951 a miracle happened, a lady knocked on our door and said that she had heard that mum and dad wanted to live at Wilthorpe, and would they consider exchanging houses.


John Feeley was born on the 20th February 1947, during a bad bitterly cold winter, 3 months earlier, we were flooded out. I remember that night, our furniture was submerged under 28 inches of water, all the baby clothes I had amassed with such loving care were soaking in dirty water and our poor little Mary, stood so patiently, still in her nightdress, and when the police sailed up the garden in a boat, she was the first to be rescued. The flood water was swirling round the houses, bring with it, dustbins, cold frames. Even ducks from the houses in Harold Avenue, where the canal bank had burst due to the heavy rainfall which had caused a breech in it’s banks. It was an absolute nightmare!!!. Jim took me up to my sisters’ but we did not know where Mary was, she had been rescued in a boat and there were many willing helpers to take her to their homes and care for her.

I stayed at my sisters’ during the weekend but back home on the Sunday evening - it was devastation all over the estate. Our furniture was covered in mud the firemen had pumped the canal water out, but everything was soaked in muddy water. Baby clothes, vacuum cleaner, camera, personal belongings were all ruined. I contacted bronchitis and the matron at Pinder Oaks Maternity Home, where I had arranged to have my baby was so concerned that she arranged for me to have a check up. The matron said that the baby was fine, but they were worried about me.

I remember that first Christmas so well, I was feeling so ill and depressed, we had only the floor boards - the black leaded range was so rusty and neglected, and I didn’t feel I had the energy to tackle anything, but for Mary’s sake chiefly, we did, I black leaded the stove and Jim got on his knees and scrubbed all the floorboards and covered them in newspapers. We felt better for making the effort, and thank God, we were together, which was the main thing. We had a happy Christmas, but the weather turned very bad. The council allowed us extra coal, (we had 28 inches of water pumped out of our house and the walls were very damp).

Would they consider it!!!!!! Blimey I had never seen my mum so happy,

She lived in fear and trembling that something would go wrong and that the other people would change their mind.  Thankfully that did not happen and on the 5 May 1951, much to my mum & dad’s delight, their dream came true and she was back at Wilthorpe.  In those days we even had to take the light bulbs with us, things were so scarce, I was given the job of unscrewing them from the sockets.  I wasn’t very tall and it was an enormous responsibility for me as I wobbled on a stool.  I can remember feeling sad, my little sister had been born there, only eight months earlier and all in all I had enjoyed living at number 39 Lang Avenue.

However, the move was one of the best things which my mum and dad could have done, we settled there from day one, and there I remained until I was married on the 10 September, 1960.



A strange title you may be thinking as you read this, first of all I will explain, like many families, phrases which were used when we were children, tend to remain in the vocabulary forever.

When we moved to Wilthorpe on the 5 May 1951, as I have said earlier, it was a dream come true for my mum and dad, a bigger house, an extra bedroom and a bigger garden.  This was fine for the three of us, my brother John and my baby sister Elizabeth and me. Elizabeth being eight months old, the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  

The magic of living at Wilthorpe was the fields which were so easily accessible, there was the “Little Wood”, “Tinkers Pond”, “The Thirty Two Steps” and the “Monkey Tunnel”, just to name a few of the delights of the countryside.  It was hard to believe that we were only two miles from Barnsley Town Centre, we loved going for walks, usually with our dad, and he taught us such a lot about Nature.  My favourite time of the year and always has been is May time, when the Hawthorne Bushes are coming into bloom and the Elderberry Bushes, in gardens the Cherry Blossom and the Almond Trees would burst into beautiful colour, from pale pink to an almost raspberry red.

This area was called “Going Down There”, and it was my brother John who coined this phrase, before he started school and afterwards, during the school holidays, he would ask if he could go out to play “Down There”, with his pals.  He was forbidden to go to Tinkers Pond, for obvious reasons, but the rest of the woods and fields were his to roam at his leisure.  It never occurred to my mum and dad that it wasn’t safe, or that some sinister stranger may be lurking about, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting children.

I can remember, one day, my mum asking John in fun, if he would like to move back to Burton Grange or move again, he looked at her aghast and said “What, and no down there”?  Thus it became a family saying which has stuck for over fifty years.

I know I have already said that we had very little money, but money cannot be measured by the love and care, which we were all given as children, ours was a golden childhood in so many ways.  It was wonderful to roam with our dad and he would tell us the names of the trees and wild flowers, I still cannot see a cowslip, without my mind slipping back to that very first time, when he told us, what these lovely little yellow flowers were called.

John always wanted to mix with lads older than him, maybe just by three years or so, at the age of six, a nine year or ten year old did seem to be a lot older and they would tease him and sometimes scare him.  He went through a phase when all he could talk about was burglars, and he was terrified, yet fascinated by the thought.  Eventually, he said that “there are burglars, down there, at night and they hide in the Monkey Tunnel”.  We could not convince him that this wasn’t true, and it became something of an obsession with him.  Dad decided that enough was enough, so one Saturday night, in the summer time, all three of us were woken up, it would be around mid-night and we wondered what the heck was going on.

Much to our astonishment, we were told to get dressed and that we were going for a walk, we soon became excited at the thought of an adventure at midnight.  Elizabeth was nearly four years old, John was seven and I would be about fifteen, we had no idea what it was all about, but we weren’t going to protest at being allowed to go out at NIGHT.

I cannot remember if mum came with us, but I rather think that she did, so, armed with a torch off we went, across the cricket pitch, which was situated at the bottom of Wilthorpe Park, under the railway bridge, I realised that we were heading for Tinkers Pond.  Dad flashed the torch around, bats were flying, and there were a host of midnight noises, it was so calm and beautiful.  When we left Tinkers Pond, we thought that we would be heading back for home, but no, we went to the Monkey Tunnel, by this time, the little ones seemed to be a bit nervous, but still excited at the same time.  The torch was switched on again, and as we walked very slowly through the tunnel, dad flashed the torch all around, more bats, more midnight noises, yet everything was so peaceful.  We stood at the other end, for a few minutes, and then it was “about turn, quick march” and we were on our way home.

When we arrived home, mum made some cocoa, and dad sat all of us down, and asked if we had seen any burglars, which of course we hadn’t.

This simple exercise dispelled John’s fear and burglars being “Down There”, was never mentioned again.  Looking back over the years, what a wonderful and sensible thing mum and dad did that night, it was their belief that it had to be proved that there was nothing to be frightened of, and it worked.



We are so very lucky to have all mod cons, central heating and gas or electric fires available at the flick of a switch, I can say that I never take these for granted.  In fact I often think of my grandma’s and my mum’s generation to whom housework and looking after a family was really hard work.  I do remember what it was like to get up in the morning, dreading to put my feet on the ice cold lino, beautiful patterns of “Jack Frost” on the windows, and the rooms so cold that breathing out vaporised our breath.  Up to 1969 the focal point of our living room was the coal fire, living in a mining area, made this relatively cheap.  In the older houses, the main bedroom had a tiny fireplace, which was only used if someone in the family had to stay in bed because of illness, these were lit sparingly even in that circumstance.  During WW 11, coal like every other commodity was strictly rationed, because my dad was on active service, we did not qualify for “home coal”, which was part of the wages of the colliers and other workers at the local pits.  In my opinion it was only fair that these men should get “home coal”, it was a dreadful job, working down the pit and dangerous.

When I was about five years old, and after we had moved to Burton Grange, my mum had to register with a coal merchant, the most convenient one for her was part of the Co-operative Society, which had it’s own coal merchant.  The first winter we lived in Burton Grange was a very cold one, because of our change address, it took a long time for us to be re – registered.  I can remember going to the Fuel Office in the Town Hall with my mum to complain at the slowness of this registration, it was a case of one blaming the other too, and very frustrating indeed.  The Fuel Office would insist that details of registration had been passed on to the Co-op at Cundy Cross, who would deny this, and thus it went on for quite a few weeks.  I can remember my mum breaking down in tears in the shop, because we were so cold and had simply nothing to light the fire.  The sad thing was, as my mum later found out, all the neighbours, whose husbands worked in the mines, had more coal than they knew what to do with, and would have gladly supplied us with some.  ( it would have been going against the rules, but no one seemed to worry about that small point).

Fortunately for us, there was a neighbour in the Co-op the day that my mum reached the end of her tether, and although this lady did not know us, she followed us out of the shop and told my mum that she would willingly give us some coal.  It seemed like a gift from heaven, unfortunately this kind offer came too late, as far as I was concerned, the very next day I started to be ill with rheumatism.  At least we had a fire, which was rather small, I was wrapped in a blanket on the settee, when the doctor came.  Dr. Crowther was rather sharp verbally with my mum and said, “What did she expect, when the house was so cold”.  That did it

Norah went into “full flight” and explained how fed up she was of always feeling cold, and more to the point, how worried she was about me.  One thing for sure, the doctor took notice of what she said and the very next day, the welcome sound of the coal delivery wagon was heard, it was another miracle. The luxury, of having a huge coal fire, but after that each piece was treated like a treasure, I shall never forget that incident.

As I have said, there was no central heating, so even though there was a fire downstairs, the bedrooms were freezing.  To warm the bed sometimes my mum would put a couple of building bricks inside the oven, which was an integral part of the fireplace and when it was nearly time for bed, these would be wrapped in a blanket and put into the bed, our feet would be lovely and warm.  A variation was to take out the baking tray from the oven, wrap that too, and put it into our bed.  I think I preferred this, as the tray was large and it warmed more of the bed.

Again, because of the shortage of the things, which we now accept every day, there weren’t any hot water bottles, as for electric blankets, I don’t believe that they had been invented at that time.

Even after dad came home from the war, the coal shortage lasted for quite a long time, when I was seven years old, I went coal picking with him, at Monk Bretton Colliery.  This was a back breaking job, but I enjoyed it, it was different, we even picked the slack, which wasn’t coal as such, but it was very useful for “building the fire up”, when we went to bed.  Nothing was thrown away, even the coke from the burned out coal, from the previous day, was riddled, and this was useful too, for building up the fire.  Getting the fire to light was very frustrating at times, again at this time, there weren’t fire lighters as such, we used to buy bundles of sticks from the local shop.  However the most popular way of lighting the fire was by the making of “paper sticks”, from the previous day’s newspaper, it was a strange thing, choose how hard-up we were, we always had a daily newspaper, and I cannot remember these being unavailable in those war years.

I should add that a fireguard was always in place, it may have taken the heat, slightly from the fire, but our safety was paramount to both my mum and my dad.



The art of youngsters being able to amuse themselves, outside, seems to have disappeared in today’s times.  It is rare to see children playing in the out of doors, I think that computers, television and play stations are the main reason.  Although, it is a sad fact of life, that parents do not feel comfortable at allowing their children the freedom to roam and spend the whole day out of their sight.  In effect it is not safe, due to the number of children who are abducted, I know it is a very small number percentage wise, but these horrible events have certainly increased over the years.

In fact, I cannot remember as a child having any worries at all, in this respect, naturally, my mum & dad always told me to never speak to strangers, but I would airily dismiss this advice, as I was never approached by anyone, as my friends weren’t.  In the summer a group of us would set out for a picnic, with slices of bread and jam, and a bottle of water and we would roam across, Sunny Bank, at Lundwood and really enjoy ourselves.  Recently, my brother reminded me of an incident which I had completely forgotten about, he was about two and a half years old, and we had gone with a crowd of my friends for a picnic, by the river Dearne.  A huge pipe stretched across the river, and I, being the tomboy that I was, shinned myself across this pipe, the poor kid was screaming his head off, terrified that I was going to fall into the river.  It must have made a big impact on him, for him to remind me about it, when he was so young, to be honest, I felt rather ashamed of myself, that I had upset him so much, but in mitigation I was only ten years old at the time.

We lived on Lang Avenue, and a few yards away, was the football field, and we loved to play in there too, at the bottom of the field was a dyke, and we would spend hours, fishing for tiddlers and sticklebacks.  There were no such things as fishing nets, mine consisted of a piece of old net curtain, stitched into the shape of a bag, wire threaded threw and this was attached to an old stair rod.  Another essential was a jam jar to put the poor fish in, filled with dyke water.  It was so exciting, to catch these fish, and it was even more exciting if we found some “milkmaid” flowers, to take home for our mothers.  My mum always reacted as if she had been given the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, from the Barnsley Florist, Horsfield’s. She would put them in a jam jar and stand them on the kitchen windowsill, sometimes there would be a few dandelions or cowslips too.

Outside games seemed to have their own season, for example around Shrove Tuesday ( Pancake Day) it would be whip and tops, I loved that, especially, if my top was a “window breaker”.  I have never worked it out why they were called that, we would draw different coloured circles in chalk on the top, and the colours looked really good, as the top was spinning.

Skipping used to be a late winter/early spring game too, and we would stand in the middle of the road (no cars around then), merrily skipping, competing with each other as to who would last the longest and skip the most.  I used to love hopscotch too, and it was a big event if my mum gave me an empty shoe polish tin, these were ideal for hopscotch, when filled with soil from the garden.  Pig in the middle was another game, I did not care for this very much, as I always had to be the pig, I would stand half way between my cousins, they would throw a ball to each other, and I had to jump up and catch it.  A practically impossible feat, as I was so much smaller than them, they knew that they were on to a good thing with me.  I was so eager to be included, that I didn’t mind, well, only a little.

When we left Burton Grange to live at Wilthorpe, I was eleven years old, and still continued to play hopscotch, skipping, whip and top and other out door games. We were very lucky to live at Wilthorpe,  there was Tinker’s Pond only a five minute walk away, Wilthorpe Park, less than five minutes and there was a field where we could play rounders and cricket.  The surrounding countryside was beautiful and we loved it, we would go for walks by the side of the canal, through the Monkey Tunnel, cross some fields, and reach the “thirty two steps”, sadly these steps are no longer there.

When I was about fourteen, I disgraced myself, according to my mum, ten girls were playing five a side rounders, and thoroughly enjoying it too.  Some of the local lads came and started taunting us, we would be around the same age, one of them (who shall be nameless) pinched our rounders ball, I chased after him to retrieve it.  Much to my horror, when I caught up with him, he threw me into some blackberry bushes, the pain of all those thorns was bad enough, but the pain of my losing my dignity was ten times worse.  In those days, girls did not wear jeans or trousers, and as this lad flung me into the bushes, my skirt went over my head, I was so humiliated that every one could see my school knickers.  I saw red, and I mean red, I have always had a hot temper, I scrambled to my feet, grabbed this lad by his shirt collar and socked him one, straight in the eye, as far as I was concerned that was the end of the matter.  However about three days after the incident, my mum was in the front garden, when this lad walked passed, she nearly fainted.  I can remember so clearly her asking me if that was the black eye I had given to X, I owned up to it, and poor old Norah, my mum, burst into tears.

She could not believe that I had done that, I was despatched without further delay to X’s house to apologise.  An apology which wasn’t graciously received by X’s mother, X could not be seen anywhere, maybe he was hiding under the bed.

She told me that she had always told her son, never to hit a girl, but in future he could hit anyone who chose to fight with him.  It was strange, because, I never offered my side of the story, as to why I had thumped him, maybe deep down I was ashamed of myself.  I don’t really know, but it was many, many years before I told my mum and dad the full story.

But there again, I was always brought up not to tell tales.  This wasn’t the last black eye that I gave, although I was fully justified in meteing this one out.

I was eighteen years old, and working in the Town Hall, I went to the canteen to have our thermos flasks filled with coffee, when this obnoxious man approached me.  The canteen was quite full, and this bloke asked me to give him a kiss for Christmas, he was well known through out the Town Hall for his groping, I told him no way.  He grabbed me, and I struck out and socked him straight in the eye, obviously I hadn’t forgotten the technique of black eye giving.  His eye swelled up immediately and he called me a nasty word, I must admit I did feel some satisfaction, especially when everyone who had witnessed the incident gave me a round of applause.  I think the applause was triggered by, my telling this bloke, to take it home to his wife, and explain how he got it.

That man never spoke to me again and from what I could gather, he never pestered anyone again after that incident.  So in a way my hot temper did some good.   I wondered at the time, what had he told his wife.????????

                               music ~ theme from Dr. Zhivago