Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Q: Neilson, you have lived in the village, you’re a Dabchick.
NP: Yes, I was born in 1934, 15th August, a Wednesday, lived here all my life, worked here, brought up here, done everything here. Parents, my Dad came from Bishopstone with the racing establishment of Major Powell and Mum was born in the village. Mum was a Braxston, Rosena Kate Braxston, and Mum’s brother was a famous musician. We used to call him Bollo and he played in the Royal Horse Guards Military Band all his life. Unfortunately he died a couple of years ago now, and his wife. He was a very modest gentleman, very modest. He had such ability, played piano, played trombone, played cornet, he could play anything. And he used to write music. Good man, good man.
Q: And you played in the Band when you were young?
NP: Yes, I played in the Band from a boy, I used to be in Boys’ Band, Dennis Keen was one of em, Ewart Eatwell was one, Colin Alder, Ralph Bridgeman was the tutor in Oliver Hawkins’ cowshed. I remember putting a tennis ball down Ewart Eatwell’s bass, and he couldn’t blow it! I remember doing that.
Q: So you would have gone to the Chapel when you were young too?
NP: Yes, yes, we used to go to Chapel. Sister, Jill, and I, three times a day on a Sunday, morning service, Sunday school in the afternoon, then the evening service. And while we were there, one afternoon, we came out and Gordon Hale was herding his cows up the village to go and milk them, and Henry Barrett got thrown up in the air and was tossed by one of the cows on to the bank up by which was the Wesleyan Chapel then, well he was more frightened than hurt I think, great big cow, and of course there was rather a lot of mess outside the chapel as well. Oh I can remember that.
Q: And Anniversary? You took part in Anniversary?
NP: Oh yes, took part in the Anniversaries, always said your piece, always sang the songs, we used to be training for a long time.
Q: And who trained you?
NP: Oliver Hawkins a lot of the time. Oliver was always saying “Now before I start to speak I’d like to say a few words”. And Chris Hawkins, he was a big man in the Chapel then as well, and he used to push the milk round on a little cart, and he used to ladle it out. Yes I remember that.
Q: And you were at school, you remember your school days?
NP: Yes, first schoolmaster I think was Mr Adams a tall man. He could walk up beside the school and look in the high windows and see us playing about. Then gave us the ruler across my hands, ‘cos he saw, it was Gordy Comley, ‘cos we both got the ruler that day. Gordy, I think he lives in Torquay now.
Q: And then you were employed weren’t you in the village?
NP: Yes, I was, Dad got me an apprenticeship to be a carpenter, at Charles Stacey, the builders, and I did a five year apprenticeship before going in the forces which one had to do at that time. I was deferred for two years to finish the apprenticeship, went to College at Swindon, to get to College, I used to ride my bike. I used to do three nights a week and one full day.
Q: And you enjoyed that? You enjoyed the apprenticeship?
NP: Yes.
Q: Who were you apprenticed to?
NP: Well, the tradesman was a chap Bob Lucas from Swindon. Excellent tradesman. There was nothing he couldn’t do, he was remarkable. But he wasn’t very pleasant gentleman. Although he didn’t take to some people and some people he did, and he used to take me racing actually with, an outing used to go from the Bell, Barney Wests’, and we used to go to Ascot on Royal Hunt Cup Day and the last time that I think I went was 1953, Coronation Year. And the Queen had a horse in the Royal Hunt Cup which, I was the only one who backed it. I must have been 18 or 19 something like that. I dunno, whatever it was, and I can remember I was so rich I won about £19.00
Q: It was a lot of money then.
NP: Well, when I started work, Mr Stacey said “I will start you on 15 shillings a week” and then after six months he said “I think you’ll be alright, I’ll give you a pound.”
Q: Oh yes, my goodness. You would need to earn more than that now.
NP: Yep, they want the money now and they don’t want to work for it.
Q: You had a happy home life?
NP: Yes, it was very happy, very loving, perhaps by modern standards a bit primitive at times, but there was so much love there it was… it was a joy to be there…I used to fight with my sister obviously like you do… and I used to get in trouble when I went home with the back end tore out of me trousers. I remember Mum getting us ready for Sunday School. Dad was in the Army, and, I was playing up, and she was cleaning my shoes, and the shoe brush happened to bounce off my head and went through a picture of father on the wall!
Q: And you can remember a couple of war time memories? What happened to you during the war, your father was away?
NP: Well, Pop was away. Yeah, we used to go up to the racing stables which was a Barracks, the Americans were there, scruffy little kids that we were. We used to get food from them, it was a treat to have the American doughnuts and a big piece of meat and sugar, which you couldn’t get. They lived rather better than we did. Yes I remember that.
Q: You were always welcomed into the camp?
NP: Oh yes, yes definitely, definitely, Yes, they were good to us. They were good people, yeah they were, unfortunately a lot went and not many came back. Yes.
Q: Do you remember when the bombs dropped?
NP: I do. Up by Gentry’s farm, and Mum had just made me and Jill a cup of cocoa. Put in on the mantelpiece, and those damn Germans broke my cup and I lost my cocoa. Of course as soon as we realised what it was… a hell of a bang…then we dived under the table. We had a big old kitchen table then and we went underneath that. “Come along, you children” Mother said.
Q: So there were lots of traditions, and you took part in the Feast and Carnival?
NP: Oh yes, we used to look forward to Feast, and always took part in the Carnival. I suppose I did Carnival for… oh must have been 25 – 30 years, must have been. The first funny one we did, did it with my friend whose been my friend all my life, Ronnie Hacker, who is now in Spain, he went to Australia, he’s now in Spain, and the first time we did it no-one knew who we were. No-one had the faintest idea, we were supposed to be two Russian doctors. Doctor Popov and Doctor…Runnof… or something like that, something like that. No-one had a clue who it was. Big shoes, oh it was great fun. I did that for many years, was 25 – 30 years, unfortunately I can’t do it now.
Q: And you played football?
NP: Yes, played football for many years, many years. Used to really enjoyed it. A team, yes.
Q: You had a group of friends who took you to the pub?
NP: Ah, after we won the six-a-side Gordon Richards Tournament for boys in Marlborough, on Marlborough Town ground, and , when we came back we had the Cup, and the chappies, I suppose twas Tommy Cowles, Frank Noon, people like that who run it, Bill Liddiard, they put port & lemon in the Cup, but my Dad wasn’t having me drinking port & lemon so I got pulled out of the pub. I was only little. I was the littlest in the team, and I was in goal! Harry was the biggest, Harry Sheppard, he was the tallest one, he went on to play for Swindon actually.
Q: Who were the others in your six?
NP: I was in goal. The others, there was Tony Cowles, who now lives in Hereford, or near Hereford, Ian Palmer who still lives in the village, Gordon Comley, right wing, he plays… he lives in Torquay, Pat Murby who is still in the village, and Harry Sheppard who is still in the village. Good lads, good lads. They could play football too.
Q: And you were with them at school?
NP: Yep, we were all at school together, yep.
Q: What games did you play in the evening?
NP: Chasing, silly games, tie a piece of cotton on a letter box and run away, and knock the doors, and they didn’t know who was there. Oh yeah. Football most of the time in probably Oliver Hawkins field, or what was Seppy Holmes there along here, we used to play in there a lot. No goalposts, just coats, just put the coats down for the goals. Mm, that’s where we got our skills from, dodging the cow pats!
Q: Transport?
NP: Bicycle.
Q: No cars in the way then when you played in the road?
NP: No there was very few cars. I did have an accident with a car. I was at Aldbourne School, this was at the beginning of the War, and I came out of Goddards Lane, went to run across the road, we used to dodge between the Army trucks, and I dodged between the Army trucks, but I didn’t see Mr. Brown, Mr William Brown, coming the other way in his big Austin car, and I’m afraid we had a collision, and I was taken into, it was Mrs Deafy Deacon’s house then, and , little lady, deaf as a post, and I remember the doctor when he came, and he put some M & B powder, whatever that was, because I had a wound in the groin, where the front bumper had gouged it out, still a scar there, and I can remember I had some new gloves Mum had bought
It was all mud and very cold, and where I skidded up the road I took all the palms off the gloves. Silly things to do, dodge between the convoys. Mmm…..
Q: You used to help at the farm sometimes?
NP: Yes, yes, we used to help at harvest, driving the old Ford Standard tractors, being young boys we weren’t very heavy, weren’t very big and on those they didn’t have any brakes. The brakes was integrated into the clutch, but we weren’t heavy enough to push it down, so the thing used to keep going. We always used to help with harvest and potato picking, we used to do that, that was up at Warren. We used to go, they used to pick us up from the School and go up to Warren and that was a good skive, ‘cos we weren’t doing lessons, we were picking potatoes, and taking some home, yes.
Q: And you played round Bertie Liddiard’s yard?
NP: Oh yes indeed. Oh yes.
Q: Most boys would be found in there.
NP: Yes, go in there when they were threshing, catch the mice then take them to school and let them go, poor Mrs Moulding used to jump up on the piano frightened and we used to throw nobs of coal at the mice, poor mice was frightened, they didn’t know where to go.
Q: That was a big barn at Bertie Liddiards, it’s down now.
NP: Yes, where Glebe Close is now. It was a big barn actually. We used to go sparrow rocketing in there.
Q: What’s that?
NP: Well you literally went up in the top of the barn, and there was like a little.. we used to call a tallet and there was a hole in it where you went to get in. Someone would get up there and you said before sparrow rocketing you get up through the hole and as you went up they tipped water all over you, and water and old straw was a hell of a mess. It was black. Oh yeah, we did that.
Q: Did you go on holiday?
NP: Well yes we did. Mum and Dad used to save up all the pennies to take Jill and I to Weymouth every year on the service bus. Aldbourne to Ramsbury change, Ramsbury to Marlborough change, Marlborough to Salisbury change, Salisbury to Weymouth, and then walk three miles from the Bus Station out to Preston, Bowleaze Cove, Oh they were good to us, it was remarkable, they just didn’t have the facilities, they didn’t have the money, but they still used to do it, and we used to spend all our time on the sand.
Q: And the weather was good?
NP: Oh it was fantastic. Weather was sun all the time. We stayed on the beach till 9 o’clock at night, then have to lug all that stuff back into Weymouth to catch the bus back home again. I remember once I was travel sick. I can remember that now. Got to Marlborough and I think me Dad went into the chemist in Marlborough to make me up something for travel sickness, but unfortunately I had been and it was running all in the bus.
Q: Then you can remember during the War when it was double BST then.
NP: Yes, Double British Summer Time in the War, Yeah, yeah, we didn’t have the one hour, we had two hours, so it didn’t used to get dark till nearly 11 and we was never indoors, we were always out doing something, probably catching rabbits for dinner, anything, even we used to over to Peggy Knoll Woods to get the wild strawberries.. I don’t know if they still grow there now, they did then.
Q: And nuts.
NP: Yes, we used to go over and get nuts, yep, yep. I remember we had an old cat and the cat followed us over there, but unfortunately he went after the rabbits and he got caught in a rabbit wire, and he was strangled and he hung on a fence, lovely old cat he was too. Actually it was Jill’s and she cried like you do. Les Swash found him.
Q: Life’s changed quite a lot.
NP: Mm, changed a helluva lot. Oh yes, yeah. We used to make all our own entertainment. It was all, get a pigs bladder and blow it up and make a football out of it. Or even get an old sack and fill it with grass and kick that about. Anything, yes.
Q: You went tobogganing when the snow came?
NP: Oh we used to make our own toboggans. And as for transport we had a bike which I made, go to the tip and get a wheel or two and a bit of this and a bit of that and put it all together, no brakes, didn’t bother with brakes, no lights, but it used to go.
Q: Where did you toboggan?
NP: Well sometimes we used to go up to the top of Peakes, sometimes further over, sort of behind Northfield Farm there, then come down. We even came down Baydon Hill right into the Square, a bit dangerous, we used to go like hell down there! Don’t know whether anybody ever went into the Pond. I went in the pond lots of times, I’m a true Dabchick. No faking, you’re right in there, the old one, all mud and muck and cows muck, stinging nettles. Oh yes. That Wiltshire grass is hot.
Q: So all in all, your childhood and your life in Aldbourne has been very good?
NP: Very good, yeah very good.
Q: You used to go dancing?
NP: Lots, yeah we used to go pretty well every week, if it wasn’t in Aldbourne it would probably be in Hungerford or Ramsbury. We learnt how to dance Old Time dancing. We used to go to classes, lots of fun that was. Some of the lads are not alive now, who went, unfortunately. That was great fun, great fun.
Q: So you lived in Lottage Road?
NP: Number 8. yup.
Q: So you’ve lived in Lottage Road all your life?
NP: Yup, I have. Sister lived in Number 16 for many years.
Q: Your sister is now in Australia?
NP: Yeah, Jill’s in Australia. She’s near Perth, a place called Eaton, very happy out there, ‘tis rather nice there, we’ve been.
Q: Yes, when did you go to see her?
NP: That was nine years ago.
Q: She’s been over since then?
NP: Yeah, she’s been over three times, they were here last year, and they came oh about five years before that, Yes, yes.
Q: So what is your fondest memory of Aldbourne would you say?
NP: Fondest?
Q: Being in the Carnival, entertaining, or….
NP: I think the Carnival would probably come pretty high. All the fun we used to have. I don’t mind being laughed at. I don’t mind at all, and if you can make people laugh you’ve won the battle. That must come pretty high….no fun without fools….. and the trouble is there are lots of people who will laugh, but there are very few who like to be laughed at…. I have had many a happy day going round the Carnival. The fun we used to have and laughs we used to have. And we used to do all the circuit of Carnivals. We used to do Devizes, Malmesbury, Lambourn.. oh where was the other one? Was it Melksham or somewhere like that?
Q: Pewsey?
NP: Wantage, we did that. Pewsey? Definitely, always did Pewsey. Won the cup twice at Pewsey. Yeah, I’ve got photographs somewhere but I can’t find em.
Q: That’s a pity, you’ll have to have another look.
NP: Yeah, I’ll have to have another look, unfortunately they’re all in suitcases and they should be in albums, but you do, you put em away….all black & whites…yeah, yeah, I suppose the Carnivals will come high in the memories…..