Although being born at Savernake Hospital, I was conceived and carried in Aldbourne and almost born in Aldbourne during the year 1947; so does this qualify me as being a Dabchick? My parents are Audrey and Tony Gilligan and grandparents Mary and Paddy Gilligan. I was brought up in the family home in Marlborough Road, known as Marlborough House, the house being built by my great-grandfather Dan’l Cook in 1897, on the site of a former house owned by the Cook family on my grandmother’s side. The house was then in two parts, as my grandmother lived at No. 1 and we lived at No. 3. Donald Cook, was a well known local builder and timber merchant, and landowner.
I remember Charlie Hale of Baydon Hill Farm paying rent to grandmother on the large table in her front room. Mr Evers of Evers & Wall lodged with grandmother at that time. He had a small agricultural manufacturing business behind the Mason’s Arms. My grandmother was Mary Cook, she was engaged to a trainer’s son from Lambourn when Paddy Gilligan, who came over from Ireland, joined Captain Powell’s stable on The Green in Aldbourne. He swept her off her feet and caused a scandal in the two villages when they became engaged. They had three children, Eileen who died of tetanus when she was seven after falling off a swing, Peggy who married Marlborough man Dixie Dean and lived in Oxford and my father Tony. Paddy was a successful jockey and when he retired had a small model manufacturing business in his workshop adjoining Marlborough House. Dad acted as a salesman for the business. There is still evidence of this business in that part of the house. Paddy died in 1946.
Dad met Mum, Audrey, whilst stationed with the army at Thirsk racecourse during the war. Being Roman Catholic, due to grandmother converting to that faith on marriage to Paddy, Dad married Mum at Ogbourne Maisey Catholic Church, which was used mainly by the local racing fraternity. Although I and my two sisters, Carole born in 1945 and Vanessa born in 1950 and brother Sean born in 1953 were christened into the Catholic Church, my mother changed us to Church of England, thereby being excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
I attended Aldbourne Primary School, being taught in The Old School Room, now a meeting hall, my teacher being Mrs Moulding who was a friend of my grandmother and was very kindly towards me. I then went up to Mrs Hallowe’s’s class, she was also the vicar’s (Reverend Gilding) housekeeper and that caused a scandal because of being a housekeeper and his wife not living with him at the time; this caused her to leave her teaching post. The headmaster was Mr Charles Wood, whose wife also taught at the school. They lived at One Ash, in South Street, and we had a school garden where the vicarage is now and only the big boys were allowed to do any gardening on it, under the strict guidance of Mr Wood. Sports were held either in the playground and adjoining small field or on The Green. I remember my classmates at that time being Lionel Barnes, Billy Turpie, Douglas Haggerty, Angela Cotton, Ann Bird, Elisabeth Shaw, Chris Bendle, Michael Read, Paul Jerram, David Hunt, Pauline Mucklestone, Eileen Jones, Colin Robertson, Paul Graham, Deirdre Holland and I think one or two more, but I can’t remember who. Paul’s mother and father owned the newsagent’s in The Square opposite The Crown. Deidre’s parents ran The Crown.
Whilst at school I can remember Frank Jerram painting the church clock face prior to the Coronation. Outside the West door of the church there is a large concrete block with an iron ring in it, this was used to weight down his bosun’s chair whilst he was suspended. I also remember a dog show being held on the tennis court of the vicarage, which is now Court House, probably as a Coronation event. Reverend Gilding was the vicar there and was a lovely man and a good sportsman. He always encouraged me to play cricket and I was very friendly with his son Robin, who was a little older than me.
My Coronation Day memories are dim. I do remember the sports day that was held in Brown’s meadow in West Street and the football match being played there. Both football and cricket were regularly played in West Street meadow. I also remember it raining, all the children were presented with blue glass Coronation mugs. In the evening the pond, which had been filled in and was now a new round ornamental one, was decorated and illuminated. I well remember Vic Gilbert, who was the butcher in The Square, diving in and some of the light bulbs breaking. This was a far cry from the dirty old pond that my mother told me to keep away from before the new one was built, of course we never did.
I can remember Mum buying groceries from Joe Wilkins across the road, and keeping a book of what she had purchased and paid at the end of the week. She also had this arrangement with Mabel Stacey, at the shop around the corner, whose family made lovely bread and lardy cakes. They also cooked people’s turkeys at Christmas and Christmas puddings. Stacey’s shop joined the Aldbourne cycle stores owned by Charlie Allsop. This was also a petrol garage and hardware shop. Charlie lived in the village up Castle Street. My first bicycle was bought here and Mum paid for it weekly, Harold Herring worked there and he cut my hair. Harold lived at Foxhill. I would hang round Harold whilst he worked and helped him with his deliveries, which were mainly paraffin and odds and ends which were too heavy to be collected when purchased.
I also helped Jack Hale on his small 30 acre farm in the Marlborough Road. Bertie Liddiard owned Glebe Farm where us lads would play and get told off, of course. I remember Jimmy Bonford’s Field Marshall tractors going up and down Marlborough Road with their ‘pmp, pmp, pmp, pmp’ sound of their motors. I think I can just remember the egg packing station lorries also going up and down Marlborough Road.
Opposite our house on the corner of Castle Street was Stutter Bill Palmer’s shoe shop. He always had a cigarette dangling from his lips. He would put shoes to dry opposite his shop against Joe Wilkins wall. His wife May, who had a very sharp tongue, always seemed to be looking out of their front window from behind the curtains. Other shops in the village as I remember at the time were Palmers at the bottom of Baydon Hill, Ern Barretts in The Square, Margery Barretts in The Square (who also had a petrol pump usually operated by Vic Barrett, her husband, who also had a taxi service). Alice Hale in The Square, Frank Wilson in West Street, Cliff Brown in West Street who also did fish and chips, Tom and Molly Lunn who sold petrol and also hardware and toys. Muriel Liddiard, just off The Square, who sold seed and wool, Vic Gilbert’s butchers shop in The Square, Humphries butchers in The Square, Mrs Shea’s arts and craftsShops: shop next to the blacksmiths in The Square (and she made puppets for Pelham Puppets) and of course Joe Wilkins and Mabel Stacey, both in The Square, whom I mentioned before.
The Public Houses were The Blue Boar, The Mason’s Arms, The Crown, The Bell whose landlords were Barney and Bena West and The Queen Victoria, the landlord of which was George Dew. George also ran a taxi and he took mum to Savernake Hospital in a terrific hurry when she had my brother Sean. The United Dairies milk tanker drivers often stopped at The Queen Victoria on their way to London and you might see three of four parked in West Street. Mrs Ada Barnes and Nellie Barnes, Jim Barnes’s wife, had a cyclist and touring tea room in The Square and Lionel, their son, would have his birthday parties there. I played bat and ball and football with Lionel and some of the village lads in Barnes’s yard. Lionel’s grandfather, Tommy, had a carriers business as well as a coach and coal firm, and Lionel and I would help to deliver goods that were collected from Hungerford railway station. I remember delivering special cigarettes to Colonel Horn who owned Beech Knoll. Barnes Coaches and Coal Merchants were already an established business then.
My earliest memories of a holiday was going to Brean, near Weston-Super-Mare and staying in a caravan. One year Dad took me to see Somerset playing in a County Cricket Match at Weston-Super-Mare. Dad was Captain and secretary of Aldbourne Cricket Team and I learnt how to score under the guidance of Pop Morrison, David Bowes also scored occasionally although he never played. We would play several games against Marlborough College as well as other local villages and going to the College was quite an occasion and somewhat overawing. If they came to Aldbourne they would cycle over, the boys, they spoke in very strange posh accents and I’m sure I learnt my first swear words from them. Mum would prepare the teas for home games. Playing for the team at that time was Wilf Bendle, Charlie Underwood, Percy Mucklestone, Fred Barnes, Fred Braxston, Maurice Liddiard, Cyril Palmer, Bill Puttick, Sid Mildenhall, Johnny Fisher, Clem Smith from Baydon, Charles Wood, Trevor Davies, Reverend Gilding, Reg Slade, Ewart Eatwell, Richard Hale and my father Tony. If the team was one short I might just get a game.
Sport was always played on a Saturday as it wasn’t allowed on Sundays. Dad also played football and, with no facilities at the ground, would come home to wash down afterwards. Dad was also a very good runner, representing Wiltshire in the sprint events. He held the 220 yards record at Marlborough Grammar School, until the school became comprehensive, and the record was therefore never broken. We still only had an outside toilet at that time and took baths in grandmother’s house next door once a week. Few people had the telephone and many would use Grandma’s telephone which was coin operated in her front hall. I can remember going with Mum to the old Post Office, then situated on The Green, to post letters. Marion and Tom Bradley owned this. Tom had been secretary to Captain Powell at High Town Stables until they were closed down due to a drugs scandal. We also collected cod liver oil and orange juice from the Misses Bickham from Wall Cottage on The Green. I can remember old Tom Humphries giving me a ride on his horse and cart on his way to his field in Lottage Road.
One of my childhood chums was Colin Robertson who lived at 13/14 The Green. His great aunt was Muriel , the well known naturalist who lived in Ivy Cottage. Aunt Muriel and Colin’s grandmother, Mrs Nugent who lived in the adjoining house, taught us to play chess and monopoly. When anyone found an injured bird or animal they always took it to Aunt Muriel. I often saw two or three cages of injured birds that she was nursing whenever I went to her house. Aunt Muriel loved us village children although sadly most were a little frightened of her, but not me. She would pay for the children to have the first hour of fairground rides on Scarrot’s when the fair came at Feast time to Aldbourne. The fair only came once a year on the Monday and Tuesday and at that time, it didn’t come for carnival, and could not enter the village before 6.00 pm on the Sunday evening, but it caused great excitement of course. A Methodist camp meeting took place on that Sunday afternoon in the field behind the Memorial Hall.
One November the 5th bonfire night we had our usual firework party in our garden and Chris Humphries, whose surname was then Tracey, held onto a rocket and scorched his hand. Chris was always the boy who was at the foot of any trouble. He lived with his mother Maureen at The Rectory. She was cook and housekeeper to Mr Hofner and Major Nyberg who then owned The Rectory. Another 5th November I remember the Aldbourne Fire Brigade putting out a fire in the thatched roof of what is now Toad Hall in The Square. The village boys loved to hear the old siren going and we would run up to the fire station on The Green to be first so that we might be allowed to turn the siren handle.
My grandmother gave me piano lessons. She was a very good pianist and played in many concerts. She was President if the WI when they went on their trip to the Houses of Parliament, I think in 1951. I can remember after first learning to ride a bicycle I cycled into the road from Baydon Hill from Lottage Road straight into the path of an oncoming car driven by Mr McKeon:. Mr McKeon owned the foundry in Lottage Road and was also a special police inspector. He admonished me severely but after that in years later we became firm friends. The police constable at that time was a kindly Mr Waite, all the children liked him and if any of us did anything wrong a quick friendly clip around the ear was enough to prevent further trouble.
I can just remember going to the pictures occasionally. Once a week a travelling projectionist, whom I understand stayed at Sid Mildenhall’s at Dudmore Lodge, would present a cinema show in the Memorial Hall. Great excitement, the projection room was built on to the end of the Hall and the staircase would take him up to it. Birthday parties were held in the church room for us, opposite our house in Marlborough Road. The band practised there long before they made the Memorial Hall their home.
Carnival was always a very exciting time, I was once a page boy at the Crowning of the Carnival Queen Ceremony, which was held in the Memorial Hall. The Carnival Queen then was Margaret Layton who was Bill Puttick’s sister, and Pam Puttick, (probably Pam Barnes at the time) and Marion Mildenhall (then probably Marion Read at the time) were her maids. I have a newspaper cutting and photograph of this. I was dressed in white. One carnival Mother and Father dressed me up as Len Shackleton, Clown Prince of Football, it rained and we had to go over to the Memorial Hall for judging. I won second prize.
Aldbourne Band came round every Christmas morning very early. They played under the street lamp on the corner of Castle Street and Marlborough Road. I think I always had my presents opened by the time they came. We would drive to my Auntie Ena Gibson’s on Boxing Day. She was my mother’s sister and lived in Cheam in Surrey. Her husband suffered a nasty accident and was crippled in a wheelchair. I once stayed for a week with Auntie Ena and remembered her being very strict but kindly. Uncle Joe was lovely. Their house was very modern with a flush toilet, bath, they even had a fridge, freezer and a television. It was just BBC then. It was so different from our own house in Aldbourne and probably most of the others in the village. Mum did most of her shopping in Aldbourne, clothes shopping was done through Morses’s catalogue. Shoes through Munday’s of Marlborough who delivered on Tuesdays. We seldom went to Marlborough or Swindon and I remember Swindon being very busy, although we could at that time park in Regent Street.