A Hundred Years of Dorber Family History 1875-1981 (John and Bernard)

JOHN DORBER                                                                     (My Grandfather)                                                                          1st Jan. 1875 – 25th Feb. 1941.

I never knew my Grandfather, for he died before I was born.  What I do know about him is from family records and photographs, and conversations with now-deceased family members and friends who knew him.

John was born on the 1st January 1875 at 44 Carter Road, Cheetham, Salford, Manchester.  He was the fourth child of my Great Grandparents: Samuel Edward Dorber and Ellen Flanagan.  John’s birth certificate, dated 8th February 1875 describes his father’s occupation as a “Carter.”

Little is known about John’s early life, though he does appear on the 1881 Census with his family, all living at 12 Cheetwood Road, Cheetham.  John is shown to be 6 years old and as he’s described as a “Scholar,”  one must assume that he was attending school -though at this stage, I have no idea of which school.  The 1881 Census also shows that John’s 80 year old Grandmother (Elizabeth Flanagan), is living with them at 12 Cheetwood Road.

There’s no mention of the family on the 1891 Census, so it’s difficult to guess where they were living and, whether 16 year old John had already started working.  We know very little more of the family over the next couple of years, but we do however, know that sometime during 1893 or 1894, he became involved with 17 year old Mary Butterworth.

img385 Mary  

Mary had been born on 21st September 1876 at 37 Duchess Street, Broughton, Salford. She was the fifth child of seven children born to John Butterworth and Elizabeth (nee Taylor).  John Butterworth owned several properties in Broughton, had a successful Provision/Grocer’s shop at 35-37 Duchess Street, and also owned a property at 77 Alexander Road, Southshore in Blackpool.  It was at this Blackpool address that Elizabeth Butterworth died in October 1890.  The 1891 Census, shows John Butterworth living at another address in Blackpool – at 38 Vicarage Lane.  With him, the Census shows, are his 14 year old daughter (Mary), and his 12 year old son (Fred).   By 1894, the Butterworth’s had moved from Blackpool and were back in Duchess Street in Broughton.

On leaving school, Mary had started nursing at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester.  She wasn’t in training for more than a few months however, before she met up with a certain John Dorber  – and that meeting was to bring about an eventual end to her training.

At that time, nineteen year old John Dorber was employed to manage a small bicycle shop – mending and constructing bikes. His blossoming friendship with Mary Butterworth was, apparently, discouraged by her father – partly on the grounds that the Butterworth’s were Protestant and the Dorber’s were Catholics.  The other concern was that the Butterworth’s were fairly “well-to-do” – owning several grocer’s shops and properties – and the Dorber’s were not !!  Apparently, there was quite a bit of friction between the two families over the relationship – all of which came to a head when in September 1894, Mary revealed that she was two months pregnant.

 Rather hurriedly, arrangements were made for Mary Butterworth and John Dorber to marry – and this ceremony took place at Salford Registry Office on the 10th October 1894. John’s address at the time was given as 52 Gordon Street, Broughton, and Mary’s was stated as being at 43 Duchess Street, Broughton.  Their Wedding Certificate incorrectly gives Mary’s age as 19 – though she had, in fact, only just celebrated her 18th Birthday on the 21st September of that year.  John Dorber was actually only 19 years of age, though the Wedding Certificate states his age as being 20 – one wonders whether the Registrar had made an error or had the two newly-weds actually lied about their ages ?  Of the two fathers mentioned on the Wedding Certificate, John Butterworth is described as a “Grocer” and Samuel Edward Dorber is described as a “Groom.”

img004 (1)      John Dorber

John and Mary lived first at 28 Simpson Street, and it was here that their first child, John Harold (“Jack”) was born on the 16th May 1895 – Mary was still only 18 and John Dorber was 20. A second child, Dorothy (“Dolly”), was born at 28 Simpson Street, on 2nd February 1897.


Mary and John with “Jack” and “Dolly” (c1897)

Perhaps appreciating by now, that John Dorber was a reasonably reliable and fairly supportive husband to his daughter, John Butterworth made arrangements for Mary and John to move into the flat above a Grocers and Provisions shop at 113 Meadow Road, Salford.  Whether this shop was formerly part of the Butterworth property portfolio is unclear, but John Butterworth certainly made sure that Mary’s name alone, was down as owner and licensee of the shop – and it soon became a thriving business.


The family shop with Mary & John Dorber and their three oldest children (c1901)

The rest of John and Mary’s seven surviving children were born at 113 Meadow Road -they were:

John “Jack” Harold (born 16th May 1895), Dorothy “Dolly” (born in June 1897), Mabel (born 10th April 1901), Albert Victor “Vic” (born September 1903), Mary Edna (born 12th May 1907), George Edward “Teddy” (born 16th March 1913, and Bernard Frederick (born 31st October 1914).

Neither Mary nor John’s fathers lived long enough to enjoy the new and growing family at 113 Meadow Road.  Samuel Edward Dorber (aged 51), described at the time as an unemployed “Horseman,” died in June 1898 from laudanum poisoning following a failed struggle against alcoholism and depression.  Mary’s father, John Butterworth died on 15th May 1899, aged 62.

Mary, when once asked why she had chosen to marry John Dorber, said that he was a very handsome young man, very lively and “a bit of a devil.”  He was apparently earning £1 a week managing the cycle shop and constructing bicycles and they were very happy together in spite of always being short of money – their main source of pleasure was visiting the numerous Music Halls in the Manchester area.  Their favourite singer was John McCormack and Mary apparently had a remarkable memory for remembering the songs that she heard – throughout her life she would occasionally burst into song when baking or doing the housework.  My Grandfather also is said to have had a good voice and would often sing two of their favourites to his wife – especially if she was cross with him – they were:  “Bonny Mary of Argylle” and “My Love is like a Red, Red Rose.”

When they took over the shop in Meadow Road, they worked hard to prosper.  The shop was open all hours, babies were born in rapid succession, holidays were non-existent and evenings out together stopped until the oldest children were capable enough to look after the shop.  John took one evening off a week to go out with his friends, and Mary took an evening off when she could – which wasn’t very often.

There were many family stories told and retold throughout the years of some of the escapades that John was involved in on his evening off with his friends.  The most famous one was the time he brought home a monkey that he’d bought from a drunken sailor in a rough pub close to the docks.  He apparently gave two shillings (about 10p in today’s money) for the monkey.  Arriving home in the early hours of the morning and knowing Mary was asleep in bed, he tied the monkey with a piece of string to the leg of the table, and then went to bed himself.  Mary was the first to come downstairs in the morning, and  nearly fainted when she opened the living-room door.  The monkey was loose,  and jumping and swinging round the room.  The curtains were torn down, pottery and pictures were smashed and small items of furniture were overturned.  Mary’s screams brought John from his bed and soon there was a chase round the room as John tried to catch the monkey.  Finally it was caught and subdued – Mary laid down the law – either the monkey went that very day, or she would !

John resolved the problem by taking the monkey to Belle Vue Zoo where it was gratefully accepted.  He was given permission to visit his monkey at regular intervals and he apparently kept a record of its growth by cutting notches on his cherry-wood walking stick.

World War I began in August 1914.  By February 1916, the Government had introduced Conscription for single men of military age (18 years to 41 years) and two months later had included married men as well.  John was refused permission to enlist – partly because of his age and partly because of his large young family.

In 1977, my Dad (Bernard) wrote the following about his Mother’s shop:  “Number 113 Meadow Road was the local corner shop and my parents sold everything from sweets, bread and greens to beer and tobacco.  I last visited the place in 1932, but I should think it is now demolished under slum-clearance regulations.  It was for many years a thriving business, but very prone to purchases “on the slate.”  I have no recollections of living in the shop, as my Father sold up and moved in 1916 to Stretford, south of Manchester.  The reasons for moving were twofold: supplies for the shop were difficult to obtain, and the fact that father was not accepted by the Army – in view of his large young family – and he was therefore, directed into industry.  Throughout my years of living at home, my parents and older brothers and sisters used to reminisce on life in the shop and on the regular customers, and I used to sit enthralled by the stories which were, in the main, highly humorous.  My brother Jack was the expert, having the gift of being an excellent mimic.  He could always be relied upon to evoke gales of laughter from the assembled family with his impersonations of the various customers who patronised the shop.”

Early 1916, when John was directed into industry instead of the army, he had been working as a trainee Millwright and Electrical Engineer at British Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company in Trafford Park, Manchester.  The company had been going through financial difficulties and had recently merged with the Metropolitan Carriage Wagon Company, and in turn, this new company was now obtained by Vickers Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness in May 1917.  By September 1919, the new company: Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company was formed, and it was here that all of John’s sons, (except Bernard), came to work.  Albert Victor “Vic” came as an apprentice in 1917 and George Edward “Teddy” was apprenticed in 1928.  Their sister, Mabel worked as “Cost Clerk” at Metro-Vickers, and it was where she met her future husband, Ben Hodgson.

Because of increased income and a growing family, the Dorber’s moved to a larger red-brick terraced house called “Ingledene” at 27 Derbyshire Lane, in Stretford.  By now, most of John and Mary’s daughters were in their teens and it was soon a lively household with lots of admirers calling.

epson_12092017142636.jpg“Ingledene,” 27 Derbyshire Lane, Stretford

In 1977, my Dad wrote the following about his father:  “He stood 5 feet 6 inches and weighed about 12 stone and was immensely strong.  As a young boy, I marvelled at his powerful arms and his lifting ability, and to me, he was a veritable Hercules.  In retrospect, he was exceedingly gentle and very proud of his numerous family.

I only saw him angry  on three occasions and then he was terrible to behold.  On the first occasion when I was nearly four, I was playing in the yard at home, when my brother Teddy appeared, crying bitterly.  My Father came into the yard to ask Teddy what had happened, and was told that a soldier, visiting his lady-love a few doors away, had slapped him for refusing to go away.  Dad visibly swelled with anger, took Teddy by the hand, and stalked off to the neighbour’s yard where the soldier reclined with his lady.  I, of course, followed in hot pursuit.  Dad asked him whether he had slapped Teddy, and the soldier, rising to his feet, with a smile, agreed that he had.  Dad immediately punched him a tremendous blow on the nose, blood spurted all over his face, and he collapsed like a rag-doll.  Dad took us both by the hand and marched us home.  Teddy and I kept watch all afternoon by the back door in expectation of the soldier bringing his gun to wreak vengeance on Dad – but he never appeared.

On the second occasion when I was eight years old, I stood with Teddy in silent admiration of a man with a horse and cart, using every swear-word in the book because his horse refused to budge.  Having no whip, he interspersed his flow of language with hefty kicks at the horse’s backside, but the horse merely turned its head and stared at him.  Finally we left him still mouthing away, and made our way homewards repeating all the lovely new words that we had learnt.  Unfortunately for us, Dad was bending down in the front garden weeding, and heard us both working away at our extended vocabulary.  Upon opening the gate, heavy hands took us by the scruff of our necks and we were shaken and roared at all the way to the front door.  There we were severely slapped about the legs and bundled up the stairs to bed – both of us wetting ourselves en route.  We were to stay in bed until morning and Mother was instructed not to visit us or provide tea.  We tried weeping and howling very loudly but with no effect, and eventually settled down and played tents with our beds.  The next morning, Sunday, we planned to avoid meeting Dad, and so hoping that he had started work in the garden, we came down together later than usual for breakfast.  He was there waiting for us – he gave us both a smile and a cheery greeting and disappeared into the garden.  No mention was ever made of the incident apart from Mother telling us that God had heard every word that we had said!

On the third occasion when I experienced the wrath of Dad, I felt very badly about it, and considered there to be no justice in the world.  Dad apparently had acquired some rhubarb roots and had made a bed for them at the bottom of the garden.  After digging, planting and manuring, he retired to the house for a cup of tea, and I went to inspect his handiwork.  To my artistic eye, the bed he had created strongly resembled a castle, so I though that I would please and surprise him by improving on the image.  Borrowing his trowel and spade from the shed, I set to, with a will, and pounded the newly turned damp earth until it was a smooth and hard as concrete.  The small tight green knobs of the rhubarb disappeared under the pounding flat of the spade, and then with the trowel, I fashioned the corners and doorways of the castle and then stood back to admire my creation.  Completely satisfied, I hurried indoors and asked Dad to come with me to see something that would give him a pleasant surprise.   Proudly, I led him down the garden, and glowed in anticipation of all the praise I should receive.  Instead, I was thumped and pummelled through the garden, repeating my piddling act, and finally escaped through the front gate for a quiet weep in the bushes.”


My Grandfather was apparently, a man of regular habits and the programme of his life always ran on an even keel – although occasionally he would do something which surprised all the family.  For example: every Sunday afternoon after polishing off the traditional North Country “Sunday Dinner,” he would retire to bed, only to emerge at about 5 o’clock, resplendent in his blue serge “Sunday Suit,” complete with white stiff collar, cuff links, heavy gold watch-chain across his waistcoat, and his fine waxed moustache perfect in every detail.  One Sunday, however, without a word being said to any member of the family, at 5 o’clock as usual, he strode into the room completely clean shaven.  The family hardly recognised him and there was a stunned silence for quite a while.  He apparently had a funny look in his eye which defied rude comment, but turned to boyish pleasure when he was surrounded by the girls in the family who squealed with delight and told him that he looked young and handsome.  All through Sunday tea, he was the recipient of lavish praise, and he finally left for church with his bowler hat set at a rakish angle.

Between moving to Derbyshire Lane and during the next ten years, there were a series of marriages within the family – first “Jack” married May Lea in 1917,  then Dorothy “Dolly” married May’s brother Harry Lea in August 1924, Mabel married Ben Hodgson in July 1926, and Edna married Stuart Sutton in May 1927.   By 1925, the decreasing size of the family prompted a further house move to 1, Marple Grove, Stretford.

img437Back row: Teddy, Edna, Vic, Mabel, Jack.    Bottom row: Mary, John, Bernard and Dorothy

Although neither of my Grandparents learned to drive, in 1928, Mary bought a bright yellow Jowett car with an open top and a dicky seat (at the rear).  Mary allowed all her sons, her sons-in-law and the boyfriends of any of her daughters, to drive it – on the condition that they also took her as well !!  Sunday became a day for Mary to be taken out and the family had to adjust their programme to meet this new development.

img400.jpg The Jowett with Jack Dorber in the dicky seat and “Ma” and “Pa” Dorber standing

Following the house move to Marple Grove, Mary bought a caravan – it was situated at Golden Sands Holiday Park, Kimmel Bay, Rhyl, North Wales – all the family had marvellous holidays there.  Then Mary bought two nearby chalets so that more of the family could be there at the same time.  It was all very idyllic, and though their children left home one by one, the family holidays continued – that is, right up to the outbreak of War in September 1939.

img380            Mary’s caravan at Kimmel Bay, Rhyl

As Mary entered her sixties, she became more and more debilitated with arthritis and this forced them to consider yet another house move to improve her quality of life – John and Mary’s solution was to move to a bungalow at 86 Glastonbury Road, Stretford.

John Dorber, my Grandfather, died on the 25th February 1941 at the age of 66.  He should have retired from Metro-Vickers when he was 65, but felt it his duty to carry on in engineering because of the war effort – and things were pretty grim at the time.  His heart gave way under the strain and he died in Patricroft Hospital in Manchester.

After his death, Mary increasingly encumbered by arthritis, bought a hand-propelled wheelchair and soon became a familiar figure in the neighbourhood – with her felt had perched on her head.  In 1944, she went to live with her daughter, Mabel, her husband Ben, and daughter Shirley, at 13 Derbyshire Crescent, Stretford.  She died there, aged 73, on the 19th February 1950.

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BERNARD FREDERICK DORBER                                          (my Dad)                                                        31st October 1914 – 12th March 1981 

What is set down here is largely from his writings and conversations that he and I had over many years.  It is also drawn from photographs and documents that I have, together with reminiscences from family members and friends who knew him – and of course, from my own personal experiences

My Dad was born on 31st October 1914 at 113 Meadow Road, Broughton, Salford, Manchester.  It was called Meadow Road because it led down to Angel Meadow by the River Irwell, which flowed through the area from Manchester. The picture conjured up by the above description might suggest a rural scene – in fact it was exactly the opposite.  The River Irwell was foul , the meadow covered in industrial refuse and furnace clinker, and the surrounding properties, built during the 19th Century industrial development of Manchester and its suburbs, was a shambles.

Bernard was the youngest of seven surviving children of John and Mary Dorber, and his birth was a difficult one for his mother.  He weighed eleven and a half pounds at birth, and in the struggle to deliver him, his right arm was injured and his forehead over his left eye was flattened.  He told me that “Ma” – as she was affectionately known by her children – would sometimes gently fondle his right arm and stroke his forehead and tell him he was a lucky boy to be alive.

img007       Bernard at 6 months

All the family called her “Ma” except her husband John – he called her “Polly.” In Lancashire, the affectionate name for a girl christened Mary was “Polly,” and the only time that my Grandfather called her Mary was when she was annoyed with him.  Apparently if she persisted in “ticking him off,” he used to sing a few bars of a song which always worked wonders. . . . .                                                                                                  “Kind, kind and gentle is she,                                                                                                                            Kind is my Mary”

Upon hearing her husband’s song, Ma used to quietly find herself very busy with something in the house, and John would disappear for ten minutes or so and then reappear and continue the affairs of the home as if nothing had happened.

Bernard wrote:  “I cannot recall Ma and Dad ever having a prolonged squabble, nor can I remember them having periods of not speaking to one another.”

From time to time, my Dad would talk at length about life at home when he was a small boy – and particularly about his relationship to “Ma.”  He told me that she had a great affection for him – being the youngest.  His brother Ted often accused him of being her favourite – which, my Dad felt was probably correct – as she always seemed to favour him in any childish dispute between the two of them.  If he was hurt in any way, he would always run to her, and she would stop what she was doing to give full attention to the cause of his tears. He told me that she would usually pick him up, carry him to her chair, where she would cradle him in her arms and rock him gently to and fro whilst listening to the stories of his sorrows.

He used to tell me that Ma was a woman of strict routine, and she never varied.  Washing was done on Monday and ironing every Tuesday.  Thursday was baking day and the house would be filled with the smell of home-made bread, balm-cakes and pies – and if he was at home for any reason on Thursdays, he would be given a lump of dough to fashion into any shape that took his fancy, with two currants for eyes.

Sundays were, apparently, very special days.  Dad’s sisters always spent the morning tidying the home and making the beds, whilst Ma busied herself in the kitchen preparing the huge Sunday dinner that was eaten at lunchtime.  My Dad remembers that it was always a roast of either beef, lamb or pork and after the meal, Ma and Pa would retire to bed for the afternoon whilst the girls did the washing up of pans and dishes.

At tea-time, Ma and Pa dressed in their “Sunday Best Clothes,” presided over Sunday tea which always consisted of fruit and custard, buns, cakes and numerous cups of tea.  “On Sundays, all the family wore special clothes reserved for Sundays and special occasions.  In lieu of this, Teddy and I were forbidden to play out of the home, and had to be content with reading, doing our weekend homework from school and attending church at the appropriate time.”

My Dad attended first, Victoria Park School and from there went on to Gorse Park School where his football skills soon put him in the School Soccer Team between 1928 -1930.  He also played for Manchester Boys’ and was featured in the Manchester Evening News regarding a match taking place on Saturday 24th November.

His testimonial letter written by the Headmaster of Gorse Park Central School (dated 5th July 1930) says the following:  “Bernard Dorber has been here for nearly 4 years.  His character is excellent, being  quite honest and truthful.  He is one of our best boys and I can quite confidently recommend him.” 

As stated earlier, Dad’s father, brothers and most of his sisters worked for Metro-Vickers, but on leaving school, Bernard started work in the motor industry.  He joined Bracegirdle Motors in Upper Chorlton Road, Manchester and was soon promoted to be in sole charge of the stores and accessories department.  He left them in April 1936 to take up a position with A & B Motors Ltd. in Newton-le-Willows.  This change of employer also meant moving out from the home comforts provided by his Ma and Pa.

Dad was fortunate, however, to find comfortable “digs” with Phyllis Hemmersley.  She and her family, ran a corner shop in Newton-le-Willows.  He stayed with A & B for more than four years where he was in charge of the whole of the repair work carried on behalf of leading Insurance Companies – this involved the control and supervision of 45 employees who were involved in mechanical work, panel beating, bodywork repair and cellulose spraying.  By 1938, in addition, Dad was given responsibility for purchasing the necessary equipment and spares for all repair work carried out by A & B.

The Second World War began on the 3rd September 1939, and Dad left A & B on the 1st October of that year to begin working for the Bristol Aeroplane Company based at Filton, Bristol.  Initially he was employed as a clerk in their Sub-Contracts Department, and went to live with his sister Edna, and her husband Stuart, in Henleaze in Bristol – and later with them, when they moved to Clevedon.   After a short period of being based at Filton, he was appointed the BAC’s “Outside Representative for the Northern Area.”   This role meant that for the major part of the war years, he maintained technical liaison with the various Sub-Contractors on Aircraft Parts – as their northern representative, it was his job to go from one area to another in the north of England and Scotland, to maintain supplies of aircraft parts so that aircraft production could be continued at full capacity.

When areas were blitzed, it was his responsibility to go into those factories to re-organize the movement of plant, machines, equipment, stock and labour so that aircraft production could continue without too much disruption.  This work meant a lot of travel for Dad and he was provided with a car by the BAC and a Ministry of Aircraft Production Pass and a MAP special petrol allowance.  To begin with, if he was ever “up North,” he would stay with his Ma and Pa at Marple Grove, Stretford, and if back at Filton he would stay with his sister Edna.  When his Father (John Dorber) died in February 1941, he felt it a bit more difficult to impose on his Mother in such a haphazard way.  Instead, Dad arranged to stay with his sister “Dolly” and her husband Harry , on the farm they rented at Carrington – however, he continued to see Ma whenever the opportunity arose.

My Dad had always been a good dancer – having been taught by, and practised with, his sisters over the years. On the 21st March 1942, whilst in the Southport area of Lancashire, Dad turned up, unaccompanied, at a Tea Dance being held in the Pavillion on the seafront.  There he met eighteen year old Theodora Woolard – who’d come to the tea dance with her friend Ruby Smith – and there, they’d met up with a couple of “squaddies” who were home on leave.  The “squaddies” in their battledress uniforms and polished boots were no match for the smooth-looking mustachiod chap dressed in a check sports jacket and grey flannels – and what’s more, he possessed a car !

Theo had been born in America in 1923, but in 1924 had been brought over to England by her Mother.  Her Mother had then returned to the States – leaving Theo to be brought up in Southport by her Aunts.  Theo had successfully gone through School in Southport and was currently working with her friend Ruby in an office in Southport, dealing with ecacuees

Theo and Bernard’s romance blossomed and over the next few weeks, flourished.   They became engaged on Theo’s nineteenth birthday on the 2nd July and married on Dad’s twenty-eighth birthday on 31st October 1942 at St Paul’s Church, Southport.

img527 (1).jpgTop row:   Mabel, “Dolly,” Kathleen, Doris, Elsie & Winnie                                                     Bottom row:   Harry, “Ma,” Dad, Mum, Ruby & Anderson.

Theo was given away by her Aunt Elsie’s husband, Anderson Wray.  The Best Man was Dad’s friend Harry Bonser, Matron of Honour was Ruby Smith, and the other guests included Ma Dorber, Theo’s Aunts: Elsie, Doris, Kathleen and Winnie, and Dad’s sisters – “Dolly” and Mabel

Being wartime, the shortage of available housing and the insecurity of where Dad’s job might take him, meant that the obvious place to live for the time being, was at “The Hollies” – the farm in Carrington run by “Dolly” and Harry Lea – where Dad had been boarding since before Pa Dorber had died in February 1941.

I appeared on the scene – having been born at “Collar House” in Prestbury on 21st October 1943.  For the rest of 1943 and just into 1944, we continued to live at “The Hollies” – though, as the war progressed and bombing raids became more sporadic and less intense, there was less need for Dad to travel all over the Midlands and North of England.  He was now spending more and more time down in Bristol at the BAC, and it made sense for him to have a base near to Bristol – Clevedon seemed the obvious choice.  Dad was then transferred to the Technical Planning Team within BAC – a permanent role that meant no travelling

We moved to Clevedon early in 1944, and lived for about a year in a couple of rented rooms in a house called “The Chestnuts” on the corner of Kings Road and Cambridge Road.  Dad and Mum had another baby: Nicholas John Dorber – he was born on the 5th November, but died a couple of days later.  Early in 1945, we moved to a requisitioned house called “Riverdale” at 76 Old Church Road in Clevedon – a large cold damp semi-detached stone-built Edwardian house, with a low-walled front garden and side path leading down to a large enclosed back garden including a brick-paved area with a pump.  It was Mum’s first opportunity to manage a home of her own.

During this time, changes were afoot at BAC and these were to have a profound effect on Dad.  Following the First World War, the scale of aircraft production had dropped quite dramatically in the U.K., and the Bristol Aeroplane Company had diversified into other areas.  It had been involved in the Bristol Monocar project, it was making car bodies for Armstrong-Siddley and was heavily into supporting its sister company – called Bristol Tramways.  Aircraft production had only surged again as the dark clouds of war had drawn closer in 1938/9.  Now that the War was ending, BAC were considering their options for the future – both in aeronautical fields and in other projects.

Early in May 1945, a chance discussion between an inspector for the wartime Ministry of Aircraft Production (D.A. Aldington) and Eric Storey – Assistant to the boss of BAC (George White) was to change everything.  Adlington and his two brothers had been directors of Frazer-Nash, and they had marketed Frazer-Nash BMW cars before the war and intended to build an updated version once the war was over.  George White and Reginald Vernon-Smith of BAC joined the new Frazer-Nash Board and by July 1945, BAC had created its Car Division and bought control of AFN and a new factory was established at Filton Aerodrome.   Because of his previous experience in the auto industry, Dad was transferred from the Aero Technical Planning Dept. to the newly-formed Technical Planning Department of the new Car Division.  H.J. Adlington persuaded the U.K Government to provide him with a plane (under the War Reparation Scheme), and he flew to Munich where he purchased the rights to manufacture three BMW’s and the 328 engine.  He also came back with the BMW Chief Designer (Fritz Fiedler) and car production began at Filton in a very limited way.

The first model was the Bristol 400 with an aluminium body.  The car was devised from immediately pre-WW2 BMW products – the chassis was based on a BMW 326, the engine was a BMW 328 and the body was a BMW 327.  Dad worked particularly with the bodywork design team and in fact, test-drove a prototype of the first car in 1946 on the East-Lancs road – which at the time was the U.K.’s first purpose-built intercity highway between Walton, Liverpool and Salford, Manchester.  Though the car performed well, he felt it was inferior to the BMW from which it was spawned.

In the Autumn of 1946, my Mother became ill with T.B. and was admitted to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol and I was sent to live with my Aunt Edna (Dad’s sister) for about three months.  Dad continued to live in Old Church Road, visiting my mother in the evenings and seeing me at the weekends.

By January 1947, huge differences between the Adlingtons and those at Bristol arose, and Frazer-Nash was sold and the Bristol Car Division became an independent entity.   After the departure of the Adlingtons, the atmosphere between those loyal to them and those loyal to Bristol was rather difficult – with stresses at home to cope with, and stresses at work, Dad decided that maybe he needed a change of scene.


1946/7 Bristol 400 – launched at the Geneva Motor Show 1947

In May 1947, he left Bristol Cars, having sought enrolment for a One-Year Emergency Teacher Training Course at Rolle College, Exmouth.

After Mum was released from Frenchay, she and I went up to Southport by train, so that for a few months,  she could convalesce under the care of her Aunts.   Dad started at College in Exmouth, in May 1947 and completed his training in June 1948.

img220Dad and his two best friends at College: Johnny Spiers and Leslie Colbeck

His course was for Teaching 9 – 15 year olds and his specialist subject were Art and Geography.   His final reference from Exmouth Training College described him as follows:  “He has taken a leading part in the social life of the College as Chairman of the Students’ Union and as a cricketer and hockey player of no mean ability.  He has powers of leadership, initiative, perseverance and reliability much above the average.  His teaching of all subjects has been very good.  His thoughtful and thorough preparation and his ability to gain the co-operation of the children should make him a valuable and effective teacher.”

He joined the Staff at Carlton Park Secondary Boys’ School, in the Moorfield area of Lawrence Hill, Bristol, in September 1948, with responsibility for a class of 11 year old lads.  Lawrence Hill was a fairly tough sort of working-class area with rows of terraced Victorian streets, a fair amount of industry, and the large and busy goods yard at Lawrence Hill railway station. The Head of the school was Fred “Pop” Greenland – he’d been there for many years and he was a much respected and well-liked man – for his kindness and support – by all families in the area.

Except for Science, Woodwork and P.E., Dad taught his boys all the other subjects.  His particular strengths were in Art – particularly painting, model making, puppetry, and calligraphy – his skills were soon noticed by Fred Greenland, who promoted him to Head of Art.  Fred was very friendly with the Vicar of Moorfield – the rather outspoken Dr Mervyn Stockwood – who later became Bishop of Southwark.  Dr Stockwood was quite a constant visitor to Carlton Park, and over the years, also became quite good friends with my Dad.

We had been living in a requisitioned house since just before the end of the War, and Clevedon Urban District Council  now arranged for us to move to a new council house on the Westbourne Estate during Easter 1949.  Mum began a one year Teacher Training Course at Redland College in Bristol in the August – completing her course in the following August.  She gained a temporary teaching post in Portishead ending in mid-1951, and then gained a semi-permanent post at Baptist Mills Secondary School in St Pauls, Bristol.  After completing her probationary period in March 1953 – this post was confirmed.  At first, Mum was a class-teacher, but also had shared responsibility for teaching needlework and P.E.  Further promotion led to her later being appointed as Head of the Special Needs Department.

Meanwhile at Carlton Park, Dad’s abilities in Art teaching were being recognised by Bristol City Council – especially as increasing numbers of his lads were being accepted for commercial art training at the Royal West Of England College of Art.  In 1956, the then Lord Mayor of Bristol (Alderman Harry Crook) and Lady Mayoress visited the School.  As the Evening Post caption on the photograph below stated: “Busy pupils in the Art Club at Carlton Park.  Boys voluntarily attend the classes, from which many pass through into the College of Art.”

epson_12092017151129.jpgStanding from l to r:  Fred Greenland, the Lord and Lady Mayoress and Dad

The Carlton Park Staff were quite a mixed bunch of characters – and if ever my school holidays didn’t quite coincide with Dad’s holidays, I would go into School with him and spend some of the day in the Art-room.  Over the years, I got to know two or three of them quite well – particularly the Maths Teacher (Mike Garbutt), the Science Master (Ray Shearn), the teacher of the Remedial Class (“Rosie” Rosewarn), and the P.E. Teacher/ Deputy Head (“Wiggy” Williams).  Ray Shearn was a really interesting man – enthusiastic about his subject, and in particular – about astronomy.  Mike Garbutt and his wife Jean were family friends of our for years, and we spent several family holidays together.  Dad and Mike also organised the annual trips for lads from Carlton Park School to Belgium, Holland and France from Easter 1959 to Easter 1967.  I bought “Rosie’s” Vespa 125 scooter for £60, in 1959 – it provided me with reliable transport for almost eight years.

I don’t believe that Mum and Dad had ever considered living on the Westbourne estate for the rest of their lives together – they considered it very much as a “Stepping stone” to the next stage.  With this in mind, in late 1955, Dad and Mum bought a building plot in Edward Road South – with the view of building a retirement bungalow there.  “Ripple Hollow” was under construction by Easter 1958 and we all moved in by October.

Fred Greenland retired as Head of Carlton Park in March 1961 and Mervyn Stockwood, by then the rather controversial Bishop of Southwark, was guest speaker at the Farewell


Celebrations in the School Hall – he described Fred as ” a man of infinite gentleness and compassion.”  Amongst other gifts, Fred was given a Fishing Rod and reel, a Fishing bag, a painting, and  – as the newspapers reported – “a Book of Friends beautifully written and illustrated by the Art Master, Mr Bernard Dorber containing hundreds of Bristol names – the Lord Mayor, the Lady Mayoress, the Bishop, City Aldermen and Councillors among them.” 

After Mr Greenland’s departure, Harold “Wiggie” Williams became acting Head until the appointment of Parry Gibbs – who’d formerly been Head of Rose Green School.

Staff at Carlton Park with Parry Gibbs as Headteacher – Dad on top row second on left

By the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Mum and Dad’s life was fairly comfortable.  They had a nice house and garden, a swimming pool to lounge by or swim in.  They were able to afford a succession of new cars – there was a white Triumph Herald 1250, followed by an ivory coloured Vauxhall Viva SL, and then a turquoise Austin Allegro.  In 1970, Mum owned a second-hand Mini and in 1972, Dad bought her a new Mini Clubman.  They went on frequent foreign holidays – sometimes in the Spring and almost always in the Autumn half-term holiday.  Dad joined Clevedon Golf Club and played regularly, and they often went out with friends on Friday or Saturday nights – either to Long Ashton Country Club, the Golf Club, the Walton Park Hotel or to pubs.  They went to parties at friends’ houses and frequently held parties at “Ripple Hollow” – all in all, they had quite a hectic social life.

Whilst life at home was good, things in the education world in Bristol were changing – though not necessarily for the better.  By the early 1970’s, Bristol Education Committee embarked on a pretty disastrous programme of secondary school reorganization in East Bristol in an effort to introduce a system of Comprehensive Education.  Baptist Mills School did not fit easily into the proposed scheme, and plans were set in motion for it to be phased out, and any remaining youngsters absorbed into neighbouring schools in the area. By the time of it’s demise in 1974, Mum was one of only three teachers left in the school.  When Baptist Mills finally closed, Mum was transferred to Eastville Girls’ School.

In the Spring Term of 1975, Mum was involved in a serious car accident on her way to School – totally writing-off her Mini Clubman.  Mum sustained two broken ribs, a broken nose and wrist, and two broken front teeth plus facial cuts and bruising.  Her injuries were such that she was off school for a couple of months – during which time, negotiations took place between her teachers’ union and Bristol Education Committee to get an early retirement package agreed – this was achieved and Mum never went back to work.

Following the retirement of Parry Gibbs, Dad found himself appointed as the temporary Head of Carlton Park – a post he was to hold for a year or two, until 1976.  As plans for the secondary school reoganization in east Bristol continued to unfold, Dad’s school was also earmarked for closure – it was to be absorbed into the amalgamation plans of Rose Green, Redfield Girls and St George Grammar School.  Once the new St George Comprehensive School Campus was completed on the Carlton Park site, Dad lost his status as Head but with protected and enhanced salary, was appointed as Senior Teacher of the new school.

He worked at the new St George Comprehensive Campus until the summer of 1979 – by which time he had decided to take early retirement.  I remember a large party in the back garden of “Ripple Hollow” with Staff past and present from the old Carlton Park School.  Amongst his farewell gifts, Dad was given an aluminium patio set, a golf umbrella and other golfing items.

The stress of the last few years caused by educational reorganization involving Carlton Park – and the worries immediately after Mum’s crash – had all taken their toll on Dad. He still enjoyed pottering in his garden, swimming in his pool, and playing his weekly game of golf with his friends. He regularly visited his two sisters, who lived in Clevedon, and he enjoyed immensely, the regular weekly contact with his two young grandsons.  He still enjoyed his holidays abroad – and I know the 1980 holiday to the Holy Land, had a profound effect on him.

Although he was only sixty-four at the time he retired, all he really wanted from life was his pipe, a mug of tea, and a few simple things around him – his garden, his books, his friends and family.  In late February 1981, Mum and Dad bought a new car – a bright yellow Citreon.  I think he drove it twice, before he was taken ill at home in the first few days of March.  Dad was sent to Ham Green Hospital where he stayed for a few days – he seemed to recover somewhat, and was sent home.  I saw him a few times in the course of the next two or three days and he talked to me about looking forward to the warmer weather when he could play a few holes of golf “with the lads” – and get out in his beloved garden.


He had a relapse on the evening of the 11th March and was rushed back into Ham Green – where he died on the 12th March 1981 – aged sixty-six years.


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