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More Memories of 1940 evacuee, Stan Pierce

May 2001

by Frances Robinson

Stan Pierce’s feature appeared on Hebden Bridge web on October 17th 1999 Memory of 1940.

Stan left a further message to HebWeb on 22.5.2001 ending his message with Please, someone tell me it is all still there.

His second message follows:

In 1940 I was evacuated with my mother from the London Blitz to the end cottage of a row of six cottages by a weir near Hebden. I would like to know if a weir still exists in the area, and if the Gibson Mill has a weir, and could possibly be where I lived. A Mr. Bushell at that time had a little shop in the cottage closest to that weir. He had a small Morris car and saved my life by getting me to a doctor one day.

I remember picking blueberries on a rocky bank a few yards from the cottage. Helping my mother to gather twigs with moss on them, and the smell of them burning in the grate. That smell will be with me all the rest of my days. The scenery was so idealic that even as a five year old, it etched into my memory.

Before Christmas that year my mother moved us up the crags to another similar cottage in a row of six cottages. The one we lived in had a stone well dug into the road bank outside the door. It was our only source of water. I remember we had to walk up a winding path from the bottom cottage to the top one through beautiful woods. They are probably the Hardcastle Crags that I see written about. I have an eerie feeling of the site being the one displayed here.

From the cottage at the top of the crags, I walked to a school about a mile along a bitumen road on my own in the mornings with my little satchel. And clogs. I remember the clogs. We all wore them. My mother took me to a farrier in Hebden somewhere to replace the steel shoes. Sixpence he charged her.

I can remember writing in pencil the date Jan.1st. 1940 in the school exercise book. The school was by a road junction. The junction had a leaning wooden sign post on the corner saying …To Heptonstall. With all the disruption of the war, I could read at five. I’m sure it was the first school I attended.

That winter of 1940/41 gave such a fall of snow that when my mother opened the door one morning the whole doorframe was filled to the top with a white sheet of it. We could’nt get out. An army plough came along to dig us out. I used a coal shovel as a sledge to hare down the slopes at ninety miles an hour, then plod all the way up to do it again.

In the spring, the banks and hedgerows on the way to school were a mass of primroses. millions of them. I picked a bunch one morning and walked straight up to the lady teacher and gave them to her. She leant down and gave me a hug. She’s the Rosebud in my life. She later came to see my mother to see if she could adopt me.

Looking through holes in the stone walls, I remember the bottom corners of all the fields on the way to school were a painters palete of crocus’s. I have never in the sixty years since been affected with a memory that compares to it.

Please, someone tell me it is all still there.
Stan Pierce. Brisbane. Australia.

I contacted Stan and said I was going to solve this once and for all if I could by asking local people who lived in the area if anyone could remember a Mr Bushell with a car in the cottages near Gibson Mill. Betty and Harry Ward were my first port of call. I remembered they used to be privileged people allowed to drive through the Craggs as they lived at the other side near Shackleton Hill. They put me onto Wallace Redman and I sent him a copy of Stan’s memories and asked for help. Wallace rang me and confirmed that the cottages were near Gibson Mill, that a Mr Bushell lived at the end cottage and had a lean to shop from which he sold chocolate and pop. His wife was called Rene. He had a car. Wallace said that Mr Bushell was sent to London in the war to the blitz as a fireman.

We were on the right trail. Wallace said that he thought Stan would have gone to either Colden or Heptonstall School. He himself went to Lady Royd School - a school run by Lord Saville for tenant farmer’s children.

He said,

Memories of that arcadia have a continuing effect on me. Probably the result of disappointment with the way life has coarsened. It’s a refuge in my mind. I was so lucky to have experienced it at a critical time in development.

I don’t remember ever knowing the name of the school. I think I could identify it by looking at a road map though. I remember the junction where the sign post to Heptonstall was, and remember the bleakness of the road that went up over a hill to Heptonstall. It was all heather, not a building in sight. I think there was a shop or two opposite the school. About sign posts during the war…the police were told to turn the post round to confuse the enemy if they invaded. Don’t know if that would have been invoked for Yorkshire though.

Meantime, Wallace said to tell him yes it is all still there except the shop which has gone. Wallace Redman is now 74 and spent all his life until recently living in that part of Hebden Bridge as did his father and grandfather before him.

Stan then went on to say:

I am so grateful for your taking the time to solve this for me. I have e-mailed Mr.Greenwood the schoolmaster of Colden school to see if he can check my name on the roll for January 1941. The cottages that I lived in look very like the ones in this panorama with the scaffolding…

I remember there was a kind of step-down passageway between the front doors and the roadway. The photo looks as though those cottages have just such a passageway. I’m so utterly amazed that of all the places on earth, someone has photographed a spot that has affected me all my life. The panorama at the stepping stones below Gibson mill is even more astounding to me…

I was chasing another boy across the steps and missed my footing. I split open my nose. My mother was sitting on the bench shown in the photo and fished me out of the stream and ran with me screaming to Mr. Bushell who took me in his car to a doctor in Hebden.

Stan Pierce

Stan has been waiting for a reply from Mr. Greenwood. He has been waiting for a photo to come from his sister in England of himself and mother taken on that big rock to the left of the seat by the stepping stones at Gibson Mill

I haven’t seen the photo for forty years but I’m hoping it still exists. Also, in that panorama photo is shown the end cottage that I actually lived in. Mr. Bushell lived in the other end. I think there are six cottages together. It used to have a little pedal driven organ by the front window that my mother played.

Stan Pierce

Stan sent the photo this morning and it appears below. Mr Greenwood at Colden School can’t trace Stan on his register. If anyone else can solve the school that Stan went to in 1940 or 1941 please contact him or me. In the meantime I wish to thank him for his beautiful description of the time he lived here.

Stan Pierce and family in 1940

Frances, I have the photo taken outside the cottages at Gibson Mill in 1940. I am the five year old in the middle. Mother is on the left. Aunt on the right. Stan Pierce.

Stan Pierce

Frances Robinson of the Mytholmroyd Net

Sunday, July 15, 2001

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