Billy McClure 'Hulley'
My early recollections start, in the early 1930s, when I lived with my mother on Walney Island. At the north end of the Island, what is now known as Earnse Bay, there were a group of people, who for various reasons, had no where else to live, as even the renting of property was out of their reach, even if they were working, and quite a lot of them did not have work to go to. My mother, who was a widow, had a tent in which we lived, containing two camp beds, and a primus stove on which to cook, a wooden box with our clothes, and that was home. There was no Social Security in them days we had to live by our wits and anything that we could find or do.
I remember that the next tent to ours, belonged to four men who worked in the shipyard and could not afford to rent rooms, my mother had the job of cleaning out their tent, and having a meal cooked for them when they came home from work, and for this we used to be able to have one hot meal a day. One of them was called ‘Bluey, and we became great friends, and we used to get up to all sorts of tricks, like getting up early on a morning, and taking milk from the farmers cows, not from only one cow, but a little from each, so that he would not know, digging up potatoes and other vegetables from various parts of the fields, picking Mushrooms from the fields early in the morning, these were not for our own use alone, but we used to leave some outside the tents of other people that we knew did not have Jobs or money. Bluey taught me how to make a snare, set it up, catch the rabbit, kill it, skin it, and cook it over an open fire, and all this I learned before I had even started to go to school, to learn how to read or write.
We used to spend a lot of time playing in the old windmill. There was beam half way up the shell, and someone had tied a rope from this, and the men used to play Wall of Death running around the inside of the mill walls, it was ok, so long as you missed the holes where the windows and door used to be. Also at the north end in those days were the rifle-butts and a group of huts which I think were used by the territorial army, and it did not take us very long to find out which hut was the cookhouse and I still remember the taste of corned-beef hash that they used to share with us There was a shop at the far end of the shore which was an old railway carriage and was run by a old lady and I think her name was Entwistle? and after the people from town had gone home we used to look for any empty lemonade bottles that they may have left and take them back to the shop, get the money off them.
There was another old railway carriage that had been made into a shop and that one stood by the roadside, half way up the hill from the promenade, on the right hand side, in the middle of the village, but that site has now been built upon. In one of the huts on the land side of the wall, that runs the full length of the beach, there was a man and his son by the name of Barker, and they used to play the banjo, and some nights he would light afire of driftwood, that he had collected from the shore line, and we would all gather round the fire, and he would play the banjo and we would all sing until the fire went out, and then off we would go to bed.
Another thing we used to do was to have a bucket of water at each corner of the hut, and we would each have a bicycle pump, and play at COWBOYS, filling the pumps up with water, as we chased each other around he hut, squirting each other with the water, daft, yes, but good clean fun hat cost nothing, did no harm to anybody, and tired us out and gave us a good appetite. Another thing we would do was, when the tide had gone down, we used to search the stones on the beach, alongside the Golf course, for golf balls that had been hit out of the course, and take them back to the golf club, and get paid for them. Another source of income we had, was to collect from the spring in the field, where all the caravans are now, Water Cress, which we would wash and tie up in little bundles and take to the market in Barrow to sell.
It was a hard life, but a happy one, where everybody helped everybody and there were no locks on the tents, nor were they needed. People would respect your property and not envy it, and would rather put something in your tent rather than take something out. None of us kids had shoes, our feet were like leather and we would run down to the sea as if we were on grass rather than on stones.
SCHOOL DAYS: I remember the first time I had to wear shoes, it was when I started School at Latona St, and my Mother and I used to walk down Thirteen corner lane to the top of Teasdale road, and then down through the village to the promenade, and I used carry my shoes around my neck, and then they would not let me in the school until I had put my shoes on, and off they used to come at play time, then back on again to go back into school, and then off again to go home. At dinnertime I used to meet mother at the top of Teasdale Road, and we used to sit under the trees that were there, before the road was widened, and it was about this time I became friends with the family of Bensons that lived in Teasdale Rd and with them, and the other children of the village we used to have many happy hours playing.
Then one day, we were told that we would have to move our tents, because they were going to build an airfield on the land at the north end of the island, and so came to an end a little community that had spent many so happy hours in each others company. We moved south, to Biggar Bank, just below where the swings are now, on to a field that belonged to Oliver Chalker, but we did not stay there long and life was never the same again. I often think back to those hard, but happy days, spent on the Island, as a child.
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