1922 - 2003
|Hello, my name is Douglas Theaker, born November 30th 1922. To avoid any confusion among future researchers, my birth certificate shows I was born 38 Hough Lane, Wombwell. This was a nursing home where my mother was advised to go for my birth. We were living at 18 Station Lane, Wombwell. About 1935 Station Lane was named Station Road and the number altered to 52 Station Road, my present address.
How did my branch of the Theaker family come to live in Wombwell? My grandfather James Theaker who was born in 1845 and died in 1896 was living in Scrooby, a village in Nottinghamshire, when during a conversation with a local Gentleman named (Garland) grandfather who was a bricklayer and stonemason said work was difficult to find. The Gentleman, whose family owned a coal mine in Wombwell, invited him to come and work at the mine as a bricklayer. This he did in about 1874 and started work at Mitchell Main colliery. In 1893 my grandfather was injured in a scuffle at the colliery during a strike. He died in 1896. My father always said that it was as a result of a blow to the head which eventually caused his death. In 1893 Mr. Garland loaned grandfather some money to buy some land and build six houses in Station Lane. The houses have always been owned by the Theaker family. Theakers have always lived in the house I now occupy. My grandmother remarried to Joe Roebuck in early 1900s or late 1890s. She was born in 1849 and died in 1915. Grandfather had three children, Thomas, James, my father, and Edith. He was married to Frances Hall who was born 1849 and died 1933.
In 1910 my father lost his sight in one eye, there were three years before he was able to work again as a miner and only a low paid job. He had one pound a week income and 7s 6d of that went in rent, remember there were twenty shillings to the pound. With six mouths to cater for something had to be done. A pea and pie, and shellfish stall came up for sale in Wombwell Market, so he bought it, that was in 1910, we kept it till 1940.
During the late 1920s my father had a series of operations which meant he no longer work, he wasn't able to bend down and tie his boot laces. He was 6ft tall and built in proportion. He was quite often in some discomfort. Fortunately he could go on walks, which he did, taking the dog, Scamp, with him. He was also a prolific reader, we took the Daily Herald newspaper with some coupons you clipped out, after collecting the required amount you sent them of with a small amount of money for the books which were on offer. Father bought a complete set of Dickens and a set of encyclopaedias, along with books of a similar nature, all beautifully bound. I still have them all on my shelf. Father died in 1944, being 15 years not well. He never complained. He and my mother brought us all up in a firm but fair manner. He encouraged us all to enjoy reading, literature and poetry and in my younger days always bought me the childrens' newspaper and I have been hooked on serious newspapers ever since. He died while I was abroad. His last words to me when I left home on March the third 1941 to join the navy were "Take care lad".
My mother was born in 1882 and died in 1974. She was christened Laurie Winifred Booth. the Booth family came from Nottinghamshire to Wombwell for grandfather Booth to work in the coal mines. He was already a miner but come to Wombwell to get regular work. This was about 1884 when mother was two years old. Grandmother's family consisted of three sons, Herbert Henry - known as Denny, Walter and Archie, and three daughters, mother, Thirza and Eleanor. Mother left school when she was twelve years old, shortly afterwards she went into service. This was a form of domestic service where youngsters like mother went to work for moneyed people, Huddersfield and Harrogate were popular places. They lived there and came home once a week. Going into service for young girls was popular in mining areas there being very little work for females. Their wages were always sent home to help the family finances. Working with older servants youngsters learnt all about running a home, mother used to say that by the time she was eighteen she could carry out any task needed to run a home, including looking after children. She said she had served an apprenticeship for being a housewife.
Uncle Denny, mother's brother, worked as a coal miner. He joined the army, in the 14th Hussars, and fought in the Boer War. His name is engraved on a plaque at the side of Wombwell town hall - H. Booth 14th Hussars. After the war he emigrated to New Zealand and started a poultry farm. At the outbreak of World War One he joined the army and fought in France. He was demobilised in England and in 1919 he decided to return to New Zealand. He persuaded grandfather and grandmother Booth, mother's father and mother, along with his sister Thirza and brother Walter to go with him. Mother was outraged. Her parents were in their sixties, completely unsuited to a long sea journey and the uncertain life as settlers in a far away country, they were living in primitive conditions. Mother said he only took them to look after him, he was unmarried, she never forgave him. Uncle Denny was a hard worker, he worked
My other sister Edith Annie, she was born in 1905 and died in 1985. She was always known as Edith. At school she was quite a little scholar but had to leave at 13 years of age to help with the house. She couldn't be spared to go into service as mother was not always in the best of health. She never married. She felt her duty was to the home and family. Mother and Edith worked together to run the house. She was the backbone of the family and had a kind and generous nature.
The three men each had different shifts and required feeding and hot water for washing in a tin bath poured non stop. My eldest brother James William, always known as Jim, was born in 1906 and died in 1948. He left school at 13 years of age and went to work at Mitchell Main colliery. Unless you were very lucky or your parents had some influence it was very difficult to obtain an apprenticeship. Many clever young men ended up working in the coal mines. His first job was pony driving which meant
harnessing the pony to a line of tubs of coal from the coal face, they had been filled by colliers, [and taken] to the pit shaft where they were shoved onto the cage. The cage is another word, used in the pits, for the lift, to take them to the surface. Some of these ponies were very
temperamental and would give the driver a nip with their teeth or a kick. This generally happened when Jim was putting a harness on the pony. After a period of pony driving it was customary to go and work at the coal face where the coal was being dug. The colliers, the men who dug the coal, .....
Jim's widow Connie kept the bicycle parking going for a while. She then got a job working in the stadium canteen and money was short but she was determined that James and Ken would not go short of anything. When the stadium closed down she got a job in the canteen at nearby Darfield Main Colliery rising at 5am to get ready for the night shift who came in at 6am. Connie was then offered a job collecting for the Barnsley British Cooperative Society, she accepted and stayed several years. It meant going from door to door to members of the Coop to sell and collect money for Coop checks. Cooperative money was loaned to members normally at about 5 to 10 pounds in the form of a voucher which could only be spent at the Coop. Any change given was given in Coop money which was lightweight and could only be spent at the Coop. She then took a job at the bakehouse .... Barkers the Bakers. She also helped out at a newsagents shop near Sheffield. The manageress of the Darfield Main canteen asked her to return with the promise of her job when she retired. This Connie did and worked as the manageress for several years. When she retired from there she helped to look after her aging mother at Barnsley till she died. Connie worked long and hard to give her two sons the best she could. They have been a credit to her.
James, the eldest was a colliery electrician and Ken went to Grammar school then teachers training college. He became a teacher, assistant Head, Headmaster and adviser with Lancashire Education Department, a top job. They are very close to their mother and her determination to do her best for them has resulted in a wonderful close knit family. Connie celebrated her 90th birthday in January 2003 surrounded by her family of five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
My other brother Eric, was born 1908 and died in 1995. After attending Kings Road School he left at the age of 14 and went to work at Mitchell Main colliery. In his early 20s he wanted to join the West Riding of Yorkshire Police Force. He was advised to join a Guards regiment for twelve years serving three years as a soldier and nine years on reserve. He joined the 3rd Battalion Cold Stream Guards. This would be about the early 1930s. He did guard duty at Buckingham Palace, the Tower, Windsor Castle and other royal residences. He looked very smart in his red uniform. After serving his three years he was accepted into the police force. Competition was very keen to join the police and no doubt his army service helped. He married Mary Robinson from (Hemmingfield) a village next to Wombwell. They had two children, Jean and John. He was
stationed in several places in the West Riding before being called up as a reservist in 1939. He went back to his old Guards regiment but was then transferred to the Military Police when it emerged he had been a policeman. He served mainly in Persia and became a sergeant. Following demobilisation after the war he went back to the police force and served in several places in the West Riding becoming a sergeant. On retirement he went to live at Bispham near Blackpool to be near his daughter Jean. She was born just before the war and in later years followed her father's footsteps and joined the police force for several years. John, born just after the war, became a teacher and later joined the Crown Agents for the colonies. He has had a very successful career.
Warm water came from a tap over a stone sink against a (copper?) being made of sandstone. The sink edges were used for sharpening knives etc. You could always tell where the sharpening took place and it wore the corner of the sink. The flues were swept by a brush on the end of some stiff twisted wire. They were made for the job. The chimney had to be swept regularly. This was carried out by the local chimney sweep by pushing a round stiff brush up the chimney by a series on rods which screwed together. It was my job to go out and see if the brush had appeared out of the chimney pot. The chimney sweep gathered up all the soot and blocked up the fireplace front so nought could escape. Some always did and it was another clear up operation in the kitchen. My Uncle Archibald, mother's brother, swept chimneys in his spare time from the coal mine. If sweeping the chimney had been neglected the soot would catch fire and flames and soot would shoot out of the chimney pot spreading soot all over the place. If someone had hung their washing out to dry it would have to be washed again. Normally the fire would die down but if it didn't the fire brigade were called. It was great fun for us kids watching all this. The people who lived in the house where the chimney caught fire were never very popular.
Everything had to be cooked or boiled on the fire using cast iron pans and cast iron kettle which were heavy when they were empty. Meat and Yorkshire puddings were cooked in this way. Getting the correct temperature for the oven was only gained by experience. Toast was made by putting a slice of bread on the end of what was known as a toasting fork. This was a special fork so your hands didn't get burned when holding the toast in front of the fire. The fire had to be glowing red for the best results. We had what was known as a smoking chimney which meant that when the wind was in a certain direction the smoke would blow back down the chimney filling the kitchen with smoke and fumes. Sometimes it was so bad we had to abandon the kitchen and use another room. Every week the range was black leaded to make it look nice, even the draw tin was done. Black polish was brushed on then brushed off to give a nice black shine. It was my job to fetch the coal from the cellar and chop the sticks for the fire. Edith and mother used to light the fire. The Yorkshire range took about two thirds of the end of the kitchen. Taking up the other third was what was known as a copper. This was made of cast iron and shaped like a dome. It was about fourteen inches across and fourteen inches deep. This was set in a brick frame and had a small fireplace underneath. The purpose of the copper was to supply hot water for the tin bath on wash day. The fire could be as temperamental to light as the one in the Yorkshire range. When we had our copper removed in the late 1930s I used it to boil potatoes for the pigs and it still exists today.
Monday was the traditional wash day. It was up early for Mother and Edith to light the fires to get the hot water. The hot water was put in what was know as a peggy tub. Sometimes they were made of wood but later they were made of corrugated galvanised steel. They were about twenty-four inches high and about twenty inches across. Soap powder was then added and the dirty clothes put in. A rubbing board which was a wooden frame on legs which held a piece of corrugated galvanised steel. The clothes were soaked and rubbed up and down the corrugations until they were clean. They were rinsed in clean water in another tub then put through a mangle to squeeze the water out. the mangle consisted of two rollers turned by a handle. The clothes were then hung out to dry. If it was raining they had to be dried in the kitchen. It was like being in a sauna bath. The clothes then had to be ironed. The flat iron was heated in front of the fire. If it was two hot they would scorch the clothes and if they weren't hot enough they wouldn't iron properly. The correct temperature was arrived at by using what I called the sizzle test. This was carried out by wetting a finger tip and dabbing it on the hot iron. The amount of sizzle told whether the iron was at a correct temperature. This test could only be perfected by experience and some burnt finger ends. One of my Mother's jobs was baking bread, teacakes, spice cakes and seed cakes, etc. She had what was called a (panchion?), a big clay tapered pot, about fourteen inches high and fourteen inches across. Flour was measured out and put into the panchion. Yeast was then added and the whole lot was kneaded into dough. It was placed in front of the fire to rise. Attention was now paid to the oven. Only experience could tell you when the correct temperature had been reached. There was an opening at the side of the oven which opened onto the fire. If the oven needed to be hotter some fire was shovelled underneath.
Sometimes my Mother would say the oven needs livening up. Top do this a squib was used. This was a small firework which went off with a sharp bang when lit. It wasn't very powerful enough to do any damage and was made for the job. It was put into the oven flue and when it went off it would bring down soot which was stuck to the sides thus preventing the oven getting hot. We had a dog called Scamp who was frightened of bangs. On bonfire night he would run upstairs and get under a bed. Mother kept the squibs in a tin. She only had to put her hand on the tin to get a squib and Scamp would be off. When the dough had risen it was cut into pieces, put in a loaf tin and put in the oven. Nothing tasted nicer than home made bread. Edith would take over the baking when Mother was ill. She made some wonderful cakes from old recipes and we are still using the same recipes today even for a Christmas pudding. As far back as I can remember Mother always kept some hens and other feathered livestock. She always favoured Rhode Island Reds. She also kept a Rhode Island Red cockerel so the eggs were fertile. She always reared some chickens and would say that a prticular hen was broody, she could tell by looking at it that it would sit on the eggs till they were hatched. We couldn't just put any hen on some eggs because it would not sit on the eggs long enough to hatch them out. How she could tell a broody hen I'll never know but she was never wrong. I would put a nest box in a place away from other hens and put some straw in the bottom. Mother would tell me to dig a grass sod and put that in next on top of the straw and put some straw on top of the grass sod. A dozen eggs were placed on the straw and the hen was put on the eggs till they hatched. After a few weeks it was (possible) to tell the hens from the cocks. The cocks were earmarked for fattening up for the pot and the hens were left for laying. Mother always kept a cockerel back to replace the present one. When a flock of hens got too big Mother sold as what was known as boiling fowls. These required a little longer in the (pot).