was brought up with the German bombers dropping their deadly blasting bombs. I
remember my mum forcing a gas mask on my face and pushing my pram down the
ginnel to the air raid shelter. Why, I
can even remember the high powered searchlights scanning the sky for the
Luftwaffe German planes. One night my father returned home in Dane Bank,
My school when I was a young boy was called Duke Street. The playground was a big field full of air raid shelters which were built for the children to hide it in when the German bomber planes came from Germany. There was a large chicken wire fence between my father’s Moorfields engineering factory and this big playing field. One day I took a pair of pliers and made a hole in the fence, just big enough for me and my friend to squeeze through. I would often visit my father's office to have a chat and a cup of tea with him. One day I arrived at his office and the door was locked from the inside. Being very agile and a good climber I climbed up the drain pipe at the side of the office window, and I watched a scene that I did not quite understand. His secretary Violet Lee and he were drinking what seemed like whiskey. They were laughing a lot and she was sitting opposite him with her legs open. She then kneeled down in front of my father as he sat on his office chair, and I thought, “Oh look, she's examining him”. But in fact she was doing other things. She then got on top of him and he slid his trousers down to his ankles as she started to bounce up and down on his lap.
When I got back to school I told the teacher what I've seen and asked him could I go home to tell my mother. But I was called a liar and caned on my bare bottom for making a hole in the fence and, as they said, inventing lies. Several days later I saw the headmaster of my school with my father in a pub near the school. I remember them and still remember now how Violet Lee got the job as his secretary. I did not put two and two together then, but Violet came into our pub whilst my mother was out at the market, and I saw her talking to my father. I remember thinking at the time that she looked very similar to my sister’s best friend.
After I left school and even whilst at school I would often visit my father in different pubs around Denton. He had a special car, a Rover, and whenever I was on the bus or walking around and I saw that Rover I knew he would be in the nearest pub. And he was nearly always with that same woman who was his secretary, and later became the mother of his son, my half-brother called Kenneth Kelly. I remember telling my mother that I had seen my father with his secretary sitting on his lap in the office doing bounces, and I remember my sister Glenda telling me, and getting very emotional, that that was not true and that I was lying. I never mentioned it again to her because she became agitated and was in absolute denial.
I grew up in the
North of England in and around
James Dean was a new young film star who suddenly came on the scene (Rebel Without A Cause, 1953), and was extremely fantastically favoured by the girls that loved his sullen, moody manner, and the way of him being moody, with jeans, jean jacket, and of course in some scenes, the jeans and a black leather jacket as worn also by Marlon Brando. This was before the Teddy Boy fashion. I remember I saved up all my money and went to Manchester on Saturday afternoon to buy myself a black leather jacket and pair of tight fitting jeans with a 3 inch turn up at the bottom. I also bought the most beautiful flowery coloured shirts.
When the Monday morning came in there was I prancing around Duke Street secondary school gate in Denton, Manchester. But the school head teacher would not let me in to the school, she said I looked like I was dressed to work not to study, and that I must go home and change immediately into my collar and tie and blazer, with the emblem of the school (which stated LEARN TO LIVE, but I only wanted to learn to love). Consequently for the next 11 days I sat on the school steps, wearing my jeans and flowery shirt. That is until the school authorities sent a school board representative, who took me to a nuns’ school, in other words a catholic school run by women in long grey robes. Well this kind of tickled my fancy, so I stayed there for 11 weeks before they let me come back to a new school called EGERTON PARK SECONDARY SCHOOL. I was accepted back into the system even with my jeans. They put me into the C class which is the lowest of the low, but the best class to stay in as I preferred it because I could laugh and joke all day, instead of filling my head with nonsense that they wanted to teach us.
My parents were separated and I lived with my mother who for financial reasons was forced to take in boarders. We had about 12 men living with us [that is with my mum, my sister and myself].
Every night I used to play cards with our lodgers. They taught me many of the tricks of “Survival” at an early age. Every Friday night they used to get paid so this meant that they would all go off down to the local pub and get drunk. They would regularly return home to fight and argue amongst themselves or with my mum.
I distinctly remember one night when three of the Irish Navvies returned home and having lost their keys, could not get in. One of them broke a window to get in. My mum was furious and told them to get out immediately. One of them pushed her out of the way and she fell hard on the floor. I heard her scream and so I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs and pushed one of them.
They all set about punching me and so I went into the kitchen and picked up a carving knife. I stuck it right through the main protagonist and it ended up sticking in the kitchen door. On seeing this, the other two attacked me again but being naked and far more agile, I managed to push one over the kitchen sink and turn on the taps so that the handles turned into his head, no doubt causing him much pain. It was many hours later, after the turmoil of Police cars and ambulances arriving and leaving that we managed to settle down for the night.
The incident did not go unnoticed by the local hardcases. "What's this then? Let's try this geezer out."
The era of the 'Teddy Boys' was just beginning. I had a 'Post-Office' red suit made with a black velvet collar, Slim-Jim shoe lace tie, 14".bottom drainpipe pants with an 8" waistband and a special secret pocket in which to carry my flick knife.
I was about 14 years old then, and to pay for my fashion fad uniform, I ran away from home to join the fairground. My first job with them was building up the rides that's mounting, and putting together the rides. The cock-'n-hens, the waltzer, the caterpillar, the big wheel, then the surrounding stalls, the coconut shies, drop the tins, roll a ball in the moving clown's mouth, roll a pennys, by the score, gunstalls, you get a bulls eye and the skeleton pops out of his coffin, weighing machines, fortune tellers, candy floss and black puddings. These are sausages made of pigs' blood mixed with sago and stuffed into a pig's intestine and then tied at each end by a sinew..
I got a job on Mr Connolly's darts stall working from 10:30 in the morning till the same hour of the night, walking round and round the circular stall. There were seven dartboards to take care of. I shouted "Come try your luck, anybody can do it. Just score under 21 to win a prize." In between times is was running around trying to avoid the crazy fun loving kids who were throwing darts in any direction but towards the dartboards.
It was during those days that I got the first hole in my head where the rain comes in. The holes are small that's why rain is so thin - oops sorry mate!!
As the night progressed, the people got increasingly older until 10:30 when the pubs closed and the drunkards staggered by for a gut mix up. I still remember the stench of baked apples, black puddings and vomit. There were fights in all directions.
After a couple of weeks, I graduated to working on the rides. 'The Caterpillar' was the name of the ride I got to work on. My job was to work in a team with two other boys of about the same age. We had to be light and agile as we had to jump on and off the cars as they went around in a circle to the blare of Elvis Presley singing 'Jailhouse Rock' or Wee Willie Harris screaming 'I go ape every time I hear you call'.
After we had collected all the money, and a quick nod and a wink to the guy who controlled the machine, we chose which birds we wanted to feel up and grope. We would stay in that car and wait until the dark green canvas cover came up and over the top of us. It would be completely dark and as the ride progressed, there would be much groping and giggling. Underneath the machine we had several double mattresses which we used to entertain more individually and also to have a night's sleep.
It was about that time I met my brother Jimmy. He was working on a ride called 'The Waltzer' which is a spinning circular platform which has a number of triangular shaped cars attached to a spindle. On the other two corners there were two steel wheels that ran on a circular steel track. His job was also to collect the fares then to terrify the passengers by spinning the car around even faster as the platform went up and down and round and round.
Soon after I decided to change rides to work with Jimmy on the Waltzer. He was earning a lot more money than me. He had learned the traditional art of robbing the passengers. I soon acquired the knowledge, so we worked as a team. The idea was to spot which passengers had the most money in their pockets. The blokes used to carry their money round in their trousers as they would usually take off their jackets as the spotlights on the rides were so hot. We could get as many as eight people in each car and during the ride Jimmy and I would spin the cars round so much that all their money would fly out of their pockets and go down behind the seats and through the slats of the platform onto the ground below. Every night we would find our mattresses covered in treasure - money, cigs, pens, lighters, spunk bags, penknives. In fact everything that one would usually [or unusually] carry in one's pockets. We became the best-dressed Teddy Boys in any town we visited.
After about six months Jimmy and I decided to return home to Denton, which is a small town just on the outskirts of Manchester. Jimmy had no real parents as he was an orphan and so I took him home to meet my mum. She liked him so much that she 'adopted' him and he stayed with us and was treated like the brother I never had.
Jimmy was a little smaller than me so he was the one that everyone would pick a fight with. Our environment in those days was so violent that we did not feel we were living life to the full if we did not have at least one fight per week. We would attack Youth Hostels, Social Clubs and gatherings in general, if by the end of the week we had not managed to arrange a punch-up, we would jump on anyone we could find on the streets.
On returning to Denton, Jimmy and I joined a local gang. Our headquarters was a local coffee bar situated on the edge of the local open-air market place. We used to meet here almost every night and our rowdy conversations were accompanied by the wails from the juke box.
Our gang consisted of about 200 boys and of course the chicks. These girls were only accepted as our friends if they were not virgins. In fact every Sunday afternoon, we the main leaders of the gang, would make up a 'Top Ten' list of the most enjoyable sex performers. I particularly remember one girl who was not very pretty but she used to work so hard to be 'Number One'. She would seduce up to 20 of us a night. Around the corner from the Coffee Bar was a cotton mill. We knew a way into the room where they stored all the unprocessed cotton, so we always had a warm and comfortable place where we could judge our promising contenders and on many occasions spend the entire night there.
Sunday night was always 'Barcliff' night, this being the name of our local cinema. This cinema was owned and run by a very nervous one-armed man. Our gang and girls would take up the whole right hand side of the cinema in girl boy sequence in order that we could enjoy 'finger pie' during the film. The smell of sperm was so overpowering at times it would smell like a bleach factory. Inevitably one could tell who had been wanked off by the white stains on the front of the others drainpipe trousers.
On frequent occasions there would be fights amongst ourselves or the film would break down or just plain old boredom would cause us to throw odds and ends at any of the other audience we did not like. This would bring the one-armed owner with his torch in hand - only one hand so no threat. On many occasions the police would be called but it's so difficult to arrest 200 of us with only a dozen or so police. Where would they put us all, anyway? The local jail had only two cells and they were almost always full with somebody's father, mother or relative.
Eventually the one-armed cinema owner was taken away to a mental institution, his nerves totally shattered.
After the cinema we would all head for the open-air market place. It was a wide cobble-stoned clearing in the centre of the town. Every Sunday night, the Salvation Army would collect there to sing their songs and to try to drum up some new recruits to join God's own army. Naturally our gang would wreak havoc with them.
I particularly remember that Jimmy and I pretended that we truly believed in God's word. We told the gang to lay off and we joined the hymn singing. We listened to their message but in a couple of weeks we had to treat them badly again as they had started to make our lives a misery. They would visit us at home at night to continue to try to convert us. Their lines were so bad: "I got the word one day when I was so down. I heard God speak to me, I saw the light and now I am so clean, so happy. God is in me. Won't you let him into your head?"
I became the hero of the gang again on one of those Sunday nights. The older school bully was home on leave from the Army. He had signed up voluntarily for five years in the Red Berets, these being feared by all for their intensive training in unarmed combat. He was in uniform and accompanied by about twenty other infamous hardcases several years older than us. They had all been boozing it up in the local pubs and of course now was the time for the customary punch-up.
The local Police were taking up their places in the shop doorways around the market place. The atmosphere was tense as they arrived swaggering and cursing and spitting on anyone who happened to be in their path. Brother Jimmy, as always taunting and grinning, was the first target. They circled him then started to kick him. On seeing that I became nervous, tense and as if hypnotised. I jumped on the back of their leader - my arch enemy and tormentor. He was the one who had taught me to hate from an early age and had given me many beatings as a child. I was terrified by my own actions yet motivated by an inner hatred.
Thud! I hit the ground as if by instinct. He had thrown me over his head. I was lying on the ground; the impact had taken away all my breath. I was gasping for air. Walsh and his bully boys were laughing at my predicament. Walsh began to unbuckle his heavy leather belt, saying that he was going to whip the hide off me. I then got my second breath and made a lunge for his balls and with my other free hand I pulled his trousers down to his knees. In this position I caught him off balance and toppled him to the ground. I rolled around and got into a position where I sank my teeth into his balls. He let out a scream like a dog falling beneath the wheels of an oncoming car.
I then spun round once again and started using my forehead on his nose. His nose exploded in a fountain of blood, which covered my face and eyes. His nose was broken and he screamed for mercy. I heard one of his cohorts say "Okay boys, lets kill the bastard." As they started to pull me off, Walsh said to them, "Let him go, just let me get to my feet and I'll teach him a lesson"
We parted and stood up. Walsh pulled off his coat and I followed his example. Just as my coat was half off and my arms were constricted by my sleeves, he lunged forward and grabbed the back of my coat spinning me round at the same time. Holding the tail of my coat over my head he punched upwards, hooking me under the chin, then in the eye. I realised in a flash of pain that I must go down to the ground again and so I dropped face first.
As Walsh stepped back I was preparing for the inevitable kick, to put the boot in as we called the coup de grace of street fighting. I was prepared. I caught his foot in mid-air and sprang back to my feet, his foot in my hands. He lost balance and fell backwards. As he landed on his back, I jumped on him feet first. I felt his ribs crack beneath my weight. The fight was over. His friends moved in for the kill but the police, up till now just acting as spectators, now took action. Seeing that Walsh was done for, they all came forward with their truncheons swinging.
There was little resistance and in a short time the gang was surrounded and under control. The police inspector told me that I had won fair and square but it would be advisable for me to disappear off the streets for a while. An ambulance took Walsh to hospital and my gang celebrated the victory by hoisting me above their shoulders and carrying me round to the coffee bar singing 'For he's a jolly good fellow'.
Before I bought my bright red Teddy Boy suit, I worked as a Beam Carrier at Ashton Brothers mill, in the Lancashire town of Hyde. We started work at 7:30. The sound of the thousands of women millworkers walking in their wooden clogs was enough to wake me up. My job as a Beam Carrier was to change gigantic bobbins on the weaving looms. But first thing in the morning I had to clean literally thousands of shuttlecocks. After removing the cotton that was left on the inner bobbin, I had to then paint them with linseed oil. The large four foot long beams were delivered by me on a two wheeled trolley with iron wheels. The mill was on both sides of Hyde Road, and I had to traverse the road by tunnel. The three weaving sheds contained a thousand looms in each. The noise of those many looms was so loud that even when I shouted at the women operators I could not be heard. And anyway most of the women were deaf, deafened by the excess noise, so we had to learn lip reading and sign language.
I changed the full bobbins of now woven material for new empty ones, then wheeled my heavy laden trolley to the combing sheds, where the material was inspected, and the stray cotton removed by very randy girls. Maybe it was because I was a good looking lad that I regularly got seduced by those younger shed girls. They used to take turns to be the ones that got my attention. When the dinner siren blew, I found it better to hide away in the raw cotton shed to eat my midday sandwiches, as I was drained of energy, and the three thousand women weren't. On reflection I realise now, most of the menfolk had been killed in the war, sooo I was a good filler-in.
Around this time we started to spend our nights visiting neighbouring towns. This usually coincided with the nights when there would be a local dance. To raise cash for our extravagant clothing and lifestyle we used to rob shops and supermarkets etc. One of our gang was an apprentice engineer and he made about ten collapsible jemmy-bars which we could hide up the sleeves of our jackets.
We would first go to the pub and have a few bevvies, the favourite being Black Velvet. This was Guinness and Cider which when mixed together made one hell of an unholy concoction. Three of these gave sufficient Dutch courage to face up to whatever devilment the night would hold for us.
We would then split up into groups of about five, as 50 to 100 of us together would not be allowed in for obvious reasons. In our Teddy Boy clothes we'd go to a dance hall. We would carry the little crowbars, the jemmy bars that were specially made to collapse and hide up our sleeve. We'd go into a dance hall and once inside we would make ourselves well and truly recognised - then we would switch clothes with each other to create sufficient confusion. By now we would have found an exit-door and about ten of us would make our temporary exit and go about pillaging. Our method of entry into the various premises which we chose to pillage, was by removing the mortar and bricks around the windows or doors, so it was necessary to choose old properties. Down the ginnel and over the backyard wall, and then out with the ten crowbars; working in harmony, we made short work of the red bricks and mortar. We would steal as much as we could carry in our pockets, cash being the main target, followed by cigarettes, then small pocket-sized items such as lighters, watches and pens. On returning to the dance hall, we would re-enter the same way we left.
The headlines in the local newspapers used to say "The Wall Wrench Gang Strike Again". After several months of this, we became the richest teddy boys in Manchester. We each had at least a dozen or so Teddy Boy suits, each one being more elaborate than the other. Every suit being of the brightest colours we could find. We had our shoes specially made with thick wedge heels, usually with pointed toes. The thick rubber bottoms would hide the embedded razor blades, which would cut deeply into our enemies if we were lucky enough to put in the boot.
The gang became known as the Rainbow Boys. When we were together in a team the colours were seen for miles, and our enemies quickly disappeared, so we had to go even further and further afield looking for a good time.
Transport became our problem because the big red double-deck buses that usually carry about 72 passengers refused to carry more than 10 of us at a time. Consequently to move our gang from one town to the next took hours. We retaliated, of course, by wrecking a few buses, but this only made matters worse, as the bus drivers simply refused to stop at the bus stops when they saw us waiting, so we decided to pool our resources and buy a lorry, a second-hand ex-builders truck. Siggy was nominated to be the driver, as he was the oldest amongst us.
One night we decided to rob a supermarket. Now we had transport and could carry more loot with us, so off we went in search of a supermarket that sold liquor. Our entry was easy as usual, and our loot of crates of whiskey and rum was loaded up with much excitement. Siggy left his trademark by shitting a nice long turd on the bacon slicer. Now we had our loot of canned food, chocolate, liquor and cigarettes, where were we to hide it?
After several hours of discussions, we decided to hide it in the abandoned mine shaft on the edge of our own town, situated in the woods in an area of farmland. This way we could all visit our spoils any time we wanted to. We just had to take a walk across a couple of miles of fields
Several weeks later it was Siggy's birthday so we invited all the girls to the mineshaft for a party. Everybody got paralytic drunk, since many of us had never tasted rum or whisky before. Now we had boxes of the stuff. Siggy was so pissed that he went out into the field and returned with a handful of cowshit, which he stuffed inside the, fanny of one of the girls. This sent the girls crazy with disgust, and they ran away.
The next thing I remember was police, lines and lines of police coming over the fields and over the hills. We scattered in all directions, but we were so drunk that all we did was fall down in the mud. We were collected together and taken to the main gaol in Manchester. It seems that all the local police forces had banded together to finally round up the "Wall Wrench Gang". We were all charged and released on bail until our case came up at the local Juvenile Court, which was to be held some weeks later.
I was about 14 years old by then. I distinctly remember my fifteenth birthday was due and I made a count of how many times I had had sexual relations with different girls. I counted 86. About the same time I was once again thrown out of school for shooting a home-made dart into the head of our English teacher with a pea shooter.
I decided it was time to leave home to discover new lands so I set off for a fish market and caught a lift on the back of a lorry to Grimsby, a fishing port many miles away. The ride was the first real experience in discomfort I can recall. It was winter at the time, and the lorry was completely open at the back. The inside of the open platform was lined with steel - freezing cold steel. It was snowing and windy and I was well dressed in my warmest clothes, but not at all prepared for those 10 hours of absolute agony. The noise of the rattling wagon was enough to deafen. To reach Grimsby, we had to cross over the Pennines. I cried to myself as the lorry rattled on through the freezing night.
We finally arrived at the docks at 6am where the fishing trawlers were unloading their night's catch. I was immediately employed, and within days I was offered a job on a trawler which was due to leave for the North Sea. The only requirement was that I was to have a gutting knife, a pair of waist-high boots, and a polo-neck oiled wool sweater. I borrowed these from a new-found friend and I was off.
It was 5am on a cold wet and windy morning when we set sail into the fierce and unfriendly North Sea. I was told that our fishing area was to be somewhere around Iceland and that it would take about a week to get there. Three trawlers set out at the same time for the same destination. On board our boat there was a crew of 10 including the Captain. My job was general deckhand.
Within a few hours of setting sail I became seasick. Every time I stood up, I threw up. I could not eat or drink and I remained in this state for almost the whole trip out to the fishing grounds. During the last two days before reaching our destination, the sea became calm and I managed to eat. I therefore managed to gain some of the weight that I had lost and regained some strength. I was given a knife and was shown how to gut the fish.
It soon dawned on me that the only thing that we were going to eat on the whole trip was fish. We had been trawling lines since we left Grimsby so we caught a large fish every day in the nets, which we lifted every two hours of trawling.
There were only a few days of calm before the storms came again and I was again back to being seasick. I was excused from work and went to the crew's quarters to lie down This was a small area, about 15 feet by 12 feet situated at the pointed end of the boat and of course the worst place to be in a storm. It was the noisiest and most offensive place that one could imagine. The boat would rise up about 30feet, pointed end first, and with a terrifying pound would drop down again like a very fast elevator. Suddenly I heard a shout "All hands on deck" but I was so sick, every time I lifted my head off the bunk, I started to retch and so I stayed where I was.
The next day it was a little calmer again so I was ordered to the bridge as the Captain wanted to speak to me. On the way, past the galley, the cook asked me to take a mug of tea up to the bridge for the Captain. What? I thought. How? It appeared to me that two hands would not be enough to hold on never mind one plus a mug of tea. I would give it a try though. I almost made it but as I got to the last step of the iron ladder that led to the doghouse on the bridge, a huge wave hit the boat. Had I not let go of the mug and used both hands to cling on, then I would now be just another part of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Skipper was waiting for his tea and of course his favourite mug that his son had made for him in his school pottery class. When I arrived empty handed, he lost control of his temper and slapped me across the face. I fell down. He then picked me up and shook me like I was an empty potato sack. He had no mercy left for that lazy, snivelling, landlubber boy and he was going to punish me to the extreme. Who was going to listen to my word against that of a ship's Captain?
I was ordered to go and work below deck. I was given a pick axe and shown how to break the ice into powder chip then line each of the trays on which the fish were laid to keep h them cold. The men above were constantly requiring more and more trays and below I was slipping and sliding about with the movement of the boat. My hands were cut to ribbons and my feet almost frozen solid. Thanks to the clothes I was wearing, I did not cut my body but I was so bruised I was blue all over. This torture lasted for 4 weeks in intervals of 3 hours working then one hour off.
On returning to Grimsby we learned that the other two trawlers working for the same company and fishing in the same area, that had left at the same time as we did, had been lost in the storms with all hands missing. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt elated. I was again a survivor. I was not prepared to go again. Once was enough for the time being. I returned home by train and fell asleep on the floor in the lounge of our house for three days.
I then started working for an industrial painting firm. I altered the age on my identification papers from 15 to 18. In this way I could earn more money and also be allowed to go to the higher parts of the steel framework, therefore earning additional 'danger money'. This job paid well but came to an abrupt end.
During the break for dinner and tea, we used to play cards for money. One day I won all the money off my partners as I had learned how to gamble at a very early age. When I refused to continue to play in order to give them a chance to win back their money, they became violent and I had a fight with the foreman.
It didn't take me long to find another job, often working in all weathers as an anti-corrosion expert at heights of 280 feet. I was looked on as an all-weather man. Winter was setting in so outside jobs were becoming plentiful as the summer workers moved into the inside jobs, cotton mills etc.
The local brickyard, 'Jackson's', had vacancies for 'ponies'. These were the men that had been sturdy enough to stick it out for a winter were then allowed the privilege of moving up the track to work in the baking kilns stacking the bricks to be baked hard. I started work as a 'pony'; the job got its name from the animal that used to pull the trucks before the RSPCA stepped in and stopped the use of these animals. The ponies were constantly breaking their legs by stepping between the wooden sleepers on the tracks. The mud between the sleepers was very sticky and the ponies would trip over, and the heavy metal tipper trucks that they were pulling rolled backwards breaking their legs. This meant that they had to be destroyed there and then, and the RSPCA deemed this to be a cruel practice and so humans replaced the animals.
The strong humans that replaced the ponies had to push the trucks instead. The trucks were all metal with heavy steel wheels like miniature ore carrier trucks that one often sees passing by pulled by a steam train. The trucks were pulled up a high ramp on long metal cables to a height of 200 feet where they were detached from the cable and then the contents of clay was tipped out into a hopper. The clay passed through a set of grinding wheels and was then ready to be moulded into bricks and then baked. The bricks were intended for the local construction industry. The trucks would be attached once again to the cables as they descended the ramp. We would be waiting at the bottom, two of us per truck. We had to push the trucks along the rails to the digging machine. We were open cast mining for the clay and we were about 50 feet below ground level working in the open air in all weathers. Snow, wind, rain or sun we would continue to work: the whole plant was a great machine and we were just small cogs in a big wheel. The tracks would flood after a rainfall and sometimes we would be working knee deep in freezing cold mud.
The rails went off in six different directions with two people working each rail. All the other ponies were Italians, contracted workers who could not get work in their own country. They were prepared to sign for two years work and if they refused their work they would owe the company a fine plus their fare to and from Italy. I was bored because I had nobody to converse with at work. They would jabber away in Italian so I used to relieve my frustration by playing practical jokes on my fellow ponies. It was so funny to see them get excited. One day, I had a wonderful idea. On my way to work, I had to cross over a few fields, in which there were small ponds. This particular time of year frogs were breeding and the water was full of frogspawn. I decided to collect a cup full of the frogspawn and take it with me to work. On arrival I secretly put a little of the frogspawn in each of the Italian's thermos flasks. It sank to the bottom of their coffee, and was not at all noticeable. I could hardly contain myself for the rest of the morning just waiting for the morning break siren to blow.
I'd heard that the Italians would eat almost anything, so I was curious to see for myself what their reaction would be. It started to snow very hard so our work that day was extra hard because the cold steel of the trucks almost froze our hands to the metal. After what seemed like the longest three hours of my life the siren finally blew, and everybody rushed to the cabin for morning refreshments. The hot coffee was waiting. We all sat down on old oil drums and jabbered away as we eagerly poured the coffee into the cups. First one cup was consumed, then two. I waited and watched, and I drank my tea, then the third cup was poured, and eagerly consumed once again. I was beginning to think that the frogspawn had melted, and suddenly one of them, Arturo by name, spat the contents out of his mouth onto the floor and jabbered away very very excitedly. All twelve together began to examine the blob on the floor. One by one the others let out a scream. Arturo ran out of the cabin and retched uncontrollably into the snow. This was more than I could stand. I could not stop myself from laughing and this gave the game away. They realised that I must have been the one that sabotaged their sacred coffee. There was a quick jabber amongst them, and then three of them made a lunge for me. They took me unawares and held me down in the snow, as they were debating my fate
Within minutes they had decided. I realised myself when I saw them nailing two large pieces of wood together in the form of a cross what they had in mind. After attaching the cross to the scoop of the digging machine, I was sure their intention was to crucify me. I was terrified. I was also aware that struggling was of no use so I pretended to pass out.
It was not until they took a nail and a hammer to my hand that I totally freaked. I saw the blood spurt out of the small hole they had made in the back of my right hand. It appears that the blood also shocked the other two who were holding my legs down, and they relaxed a little. They released their hold a little on me and I kicked out, kicking both of-them in the face and they fell back. I used my legs now to twist around, thus escaping the hold that the others had on me. I screamed as if I had gone totally crazy, and took out my sheath knife. Arturo also drew a knife. Before he had time to even menace me, I jabbed and cut him across the face. On seeing this, one of the others pressed the emergency alarm button that was installed in the driving cab of the digging machine a deafening ear-piercing siren sounded. The last time I heard a sound like that was in a newsreel of a German bomber raid on England. Immediately the whole factory stopped working. The machinery in the grinding tower became ominously silent. That silence in itself was enough to quell the upheaval of the frogspawn. In what seemed like no time at all, the foreman of the plant came running to the scene. He saw the bleeding face of Arturo and after exchanging a few words in Italian, he turned to me and said "Kelly, You're sacked so get the hell out of here or I will personally crucify you myself." I left immediately and returned home.
The next day, Jimmy also got sacked from his job. He had been working for the local church as a gravedigger but he was discovered burying the wrong people in the wrong graves. This was a scandal that was to continue for several months, as many families had to go to the expense of digging up the dead to see if they were in fact the right corpses. Now there were two of us without employment. We decided to go into business for ourselves. Our first venture was to be suppliers of chopped firewood. As it was November there were plenty of piles of wood around because Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night was due. All the local kids would go around and collect all the scrap pieces of wood that they could find and stack it on the old bomb sites, of which there were still plenty during the mid-fifties. At night Jimmy and I would take our home-made carts and go round the bonfires under construction and steal all the best pieces of wood. We chopped these up into small fire-place sized sticks and then we would bind them with wire into bundles about 20 inches round by 7 inches long. During the day we would load up the carts and go from door to door in the local neighbourhood to sell the bundle of firewood for 3d per bundle. We earned enough to buy a small car in no time at all. Now we were in the money and still only 15 years old and had our own profitable business.
One night two friends and I went out to the next town on the bus. We spent most of the night in the pub showing off our new found wealth, buying everyone drinks and getting drunk ourselves. We were in a dangerous predicament for two reasons.
1. We were not with the rest of our gang and so did not have the benefit of their protection;
2. I was on the black-list of the local Gypsy hard-cases.
I had by now an infamous reputation which had to be taken from me. I had recently gone into direct competition with the Gypsies by selling firewood. This had always been their fiddle and they felt robbed by this young house-dweller. They waited till the pub closed. After leaving the pub, we went next door to the local chippy where we all bought fish, chips & mushy peas wrapped in newspaper so that we could eat them on the way home. The owner of the chippy recognised me as he knew my father. He said that he had worked with my father in the pub. He warned me that the Walches had been in his chippy earlier and that they were waiting to beat us up somewhere nearby. On hearing this we each bought a steaming hot Steak & Kidney pudding. We were prepared. We thanked the chippy owner and cautiously set off for the bus stop.
We knew that the Walches would be waiting for us, hiding, somewhere within a couple of blocks from the bus stop and we approached that area with caution. We prepared ourselves by unwrapping the scalding hot Steak & Kidney puds. I nudged my pal Pete; there ahead of us in the ginnel to the right I could see a foot. They knew we were approaching and were waiting to take us by surprise. To their surprise, we crept up on them so quietly that they thought that maybe we had turned back. One of them decided to take a look. I was waiting, Steak & Kidney pud at the ready. SQUELCH!!! Then a loud scream of agony as the pudding aided by the full force of my hand landed right on target in the middle of his face. He was screaming like a scalded cat. I quickly finished him off with the full force of my pointed stiletto boots right between the legs.
One down. Two to go!
Pete had landed the second pud and Dave my other pal had put the boot in.
One to go!
This time it was a running tackle by me, for the third one being so terrified by the screams of his pals, had taken flight running into the middle of the road. I chased him and with a rugby tackle that my old P.E. teachers would have been proud of. I brought him crashing to the ground. He hit the ground with such force that he lay motionless, so I kicked him a couple of times to make sure.
Now to split the scene.
Right on cue our bus came round the corner and as it slowed down we just jumped on it without waiting for it to stop. On arrival at our destination a welcoming committee from the local police station met us. There were six of them waiting for us in a van. We were all arrested and taken back to the police station and later charged with causing Grievous Bodily Harm. After charging we were all herded into another van and taken the five miles to HMP Strangeways Prison. We were locked up there until our trial, as the Police would not grant us bail. This was because apparently the men we beat up were very badly injured and one of them had still not regained consciousness and there was a possibility that he might die.
Four months later we appeared before the Judge in Manchester Crown Court. The trial only lasted one day. Pete and Dave were older than I was and so they were sent to prison for 18 months. I was due to be sent to a boys detention centre but because my solicitor pleaded that I had been badly misled by the older boys. I was sent to a sea training school in Botley, near Southampton. I agreed to stay there until such time as I was sufficiently trained to take my place as an Able Bodied Seaman. The Sea School was named T.S. WARFLEET.