‘Gordon was a truly gentle knight’ … fond memories of a great teacher


Our recent story about Tony Bryan’s fruitless

Bemrose teachers “Ganky” Mathers, Gordon Hemmings and “Dag” Turner.

  bid to trace his greatly admired former  Bemrose teacher, Gordon Hemmings, has brought in this response from fellow pupil Robert Wilson, who now lives in Aberdeen.

OLD Bemrosian Tony Bryan’s account of how he just failed to catch up with his erstwhile form teacher Gordon Hemmings made sad reading.

I was luckier. Gordon and I re-established contact about 12 years ago and we did our best thereafter to see each other regularly until his death last year.

This was not easy with about 550 miles between us – Gordon’s last home was in Winchester and mine is in Aberdeen.

I first came across “Mr Hemmings” in earnest in 1953. Gordon teamed up with Bemrose head of music Kenneth Eade to create School and Crossbones, a light operetta for which Gordon wrote the libretto and acted as producer and Mr Eade wrote the music. Continue reading


A salute to the memory of my superiors, who I both feared and respected


Former Derby Borough policeman Sid Pheasant, of Shelton Lock, shares some anecdotes about two of the inspectors with whom he worked in the 1960s.

AFTER I was involved in a motorcycle accident in March 1965, my left leg was encased in plaster from the groin to the tips of my toes.
A wooden sole and heel had been attached to the plaster to facilitate walking with crutches.
For a week or two, I was not allowed to stand but, after a while, I was given crutches and soon became quite adept at limping along with their aid.
By the time it got to late spring, I was very active and there was little pain.
I was living in Chellaston Road, Allenton, at the time and I would walk down to the shops to get some exercise.
My mother lived in Grove Street and I could get on the bus and go down to visit her in the afternoons.
Unfortunately, I could not sit down on the bus, due to the plaster – I could not bend my legs and the seats were too close together. Continue reading

On-duty officer was in big trouble for dancing with a lady in the Troc on New Year’s Eve


Former  Derby Borough  policeman John Louch, of Mackworth, recalls more memories from the beat.

ONE year on from  the stoke hole incident, and now successfully out of my probation, I was again  on night duty, this time on New Year’s Eve 1960, into New Year’s Day 1961.
 This time,  I paraded within the shift at 9.45pm at the central police station in Full Street.
 If I remember correctly, the inspector would be our old friend Jumbo. The patrol sergeant was sergeant Eric Warsop. I was allocated that area at included Babington Lane and Normanton Road as far as the Trocadero ballroom.
We then  marched out of the police station, in single file across the Market Place, where we split up and went our separate ways.

At  midnight I had a “point” at the Unity Hall at the junction of Burton Road, Normanton Road and Babington Lane. When making a point,  one had to ring the police station from the police pillar and then wait for five  minutes incase the sergeant came to “book” you. Heaven help you if you were late. Continue reading

Sergeant told us not to take any prisoners as the kitchen was out of use


Former  Derby Borough  policeman John Louch, of Mackworth, recalls the time  he fell asleep while waiting for his night shift to end and the Christmas  celebrations to begin.

WHILE reading Bygones,  I noticed a small paragraph asking for memories of St James’s Church in Dairyhouse Road, Derby. My memory is rather unusual and goes back to the night of Christmas Eve, into Christmas Day 1959.

I had completed just over a years of my two years’ probation in the Derby Borough Police. It was my first Christmas on beat duty and I was part of the night shift at Pear Tree police station, over  Christmas.

I reported for duty at about 9.30pm, just prior to the parade of the night shift at 9.45pm.

The sergeant in charge of the parade, and the shift, had been recently promoted to the rank and was known to us all as Teddy.  There would be about eight of us on parade and I was ordered to patrol the area that included Dairyhouse Road, Pear Tree Road, Normanton Road and into Osmaston road, and everything in between. Continue reading

The grabbers, bladders and gaffers during my days going loco in 1980s


A chance meeting with an old colleague in a Derbyshire park brought the memories his time at Derby Locomotive Works flooding back for Geoff Moore, of Belper.

I WAS spending an afternoon with my family in the grounds of  Elvaston Castle  on Thursday  when I met a face from the past, this being Colin Wheatley, with his wife.

Colin was the maintenance superintendent at One Shop, Derby Locomotive Works. During his reign as the supremo, I had the privilege of serving on the workshop committee and the works committee.

All complaints lodged with any particular representative were discussed at length by the committee and then presented to Colin for a resolution, sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Colin was always firm but fair. He was one of a long line of men  to hold this position during my time at the works.

Some of his predecessors and successors found it very difficult to listen, or respect the shop committee, so there were many occasions of hostility and appropriate action taken by the men as a result of this.

I joined One Shop in 1980, being taken on as a fitter. I’d previously worked at  Courtaulds Acetate (British Celanese) in Spondon. Continue reading

Loco works training school was full of ‘fine lads’ intent on a career in 1949


THIS wonderful picture of the Derby Loco

Training school at Derby Loco Works.

Works Training School in the 1940s was sent in by Alan Briggs, of Whatstandwell, who is circled on the right.
Alan has been following the recent series of Bygones articles written by  Jim Burrows, who served his apprenticeship at the school, starting at Easter 1949.
Alan was  part of the same intake at the school  and thought readers might like to see the apprentices in action.

 “The Training School  was where we spent our first year before going into the works to pursue our chosen careers,” said Alan.
 “Most of us stayed until the loco works closed but I’d love to know what happened to the rest.
“The head was Harold Thomas assisted by Bob Franks and secretary Jean Jellyman.
“ They were all fine lads – not a yob, vandal or mugger among them, thanks to having a career.
“The picture above shows the main fitting section in the centre under Phil Churchman. To the left is the turning section under Sid Wilcox and top right is the sheet metal work section under Percy Ellis. In the cage was woodworking under Jack Harper.”

Dedicated Len reaches final chapter of his 10-year project



Adecade of research is nearing conclusion for former Derbeian Leonard Seale who is hoping to finally publish his book at the end of this year. Jane Goddard reports.

SOME ten years ago, former Chaddesden resident Len Seale embarked on a daunting task. He decided to attempt to put together a photograph-based book on the Chaddesden and Spondon areas of Derby, covering the years from the mid-1930s through to the 1950s. The inspiration to embark on such a massive task came from an old football photograph featuring Morley Road Youth Club.

Spondon House School teaching staff in 1945. Back, from left: J Allen, M White, D Davis, R Elliott, E Flint, R Waldron, unknown, G White, Mr Walters, A Walton. Middle: Miss Gough, Miss Bennieston, Miss Davis, unknown, unknown, Miss Holmes. Front: W Ball and Mr Jephson.

Mr Seale, who now lives in Welshpool and used to work in Derby City Council engineers’ department, sent in the picture to Bygones with the question “Where are they now?”. The response came back that at least four of those young men had died of cancer over the years. Len said: “I decided to put together a book and dedicate it to Macmillan Cancer Support. Originally, the project was to be based on schools but, due to the feedback I have received from many, many people over the years, I have now included a variety of other subjects.

“These include military, National Service, Scouts, Guides, carnivals, apprenticeships, football, cricket and many others. I have also been quite flexible in the dates covered. If the picture is good then I have used it, even if it outside of the mid-1930s to 1950s timescale.”

Spondon House School girls at Amber Valley Camp in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

One of the key aspects of the project has been Len’s determination to add names to faces on the photographs he has traced. He explained: “I have attempted to get names, dates and venues because I feel that, without this information, a photograph can be meaningless.”

As part of his painstaking research and gathering of photographs, Len has made contact with hundreds of people with Chaddesden and Spondon connections and has even written to complete strangers when he has seen mention of subjects he is researching in our own Bygones pages. He said: “I get Bygones and have been known to write on spec to people if they have mentioned a Spondon school or Chaddesden football team, for example, and ask them if they have any old photographs. Continue reading

Outpatients’ clinic was presided over by statuesque sister with a cut-glass voice


Readers continue to send in their memories of time spent as patients at the old Derbyshire Children’s Hospital in North Street, Derby. Jane Goddard reports.

WHEN Beryl Martin was a child she was a fairly regular visitor to Derbyshire Children’s Hospital for a variety of minor ailments, along with her sister and brother. She was born in 1922 and her family lived within a stone’s throw of the old hospital.

Mrs Martin, nee Bull, of Littleover, recalled: “The outpatients’ clinic was presided over by a statuesque sister in blue uniform and lace-edged white cap – think Hattie Jacques from television! She called in her patients in a cut-glass voice and once announced that she came from ‘Daffield’!

“After our treatment, our mother usually took home a bag full of used slings and bandages – not soiled ones, as these were incinerated. She washed them and boiled them in a large saucepan on the gas stove. Then they were ironed, rolled and returned to the hospital to be put in the steriliser. The hospital relied on volunteers and fund-raisers. Does anyone remember the Hospital Day each year?

“There was a carnival procession which wound its way around the town consisting of decorated vehicles, with decked-out horses, which were accompanied by gaily dressed dancers rattling buckets and collecting tins. Also, several of the big houses on Kedleston Road and Duffield Road held garden parties with fund-raising stalls. Continue reading

Mr Woolhard’s sausage recipe was a closely guarded secret

Memories of his working life were sparked for John Stevenson , 73, of Sinfin Moor, when he read our recent piece about the old shops on Derby’s Ashbourne Road.

READING the article from Samuel Bates brought back quite a few memories. I worked for Goodalls for a number of years in the early 1960s and what a really great firm it was to work for. The hours were very long and hard, but that was true of many places in those days. Though the bakers started at 4am, the rest of us started at 6.30am. My very first job, whatever the weather, was to wash, with hot soapy water, the entire front of the shop – cream painted plaster with crimson window frames.

And, during the summer, watering the two window boxes. I then had to swill and mop the pavement. Following this, I had to dress the shop window, which had to be perfect as it was regularly inspected by Mr Woolhard, the then owner of Goodalls, who also ensured that I was wearing a clean white shirt, slop coat and apron (white for the shop, striped for the factory). Woe betide you if these criteria were not adhered to. Around 8am, I had my breakfast following which I helped to pack the very many wholesale orders, which were delivered to shops in and around Derby by three vans. Then I had to cut 20 loins of pork into chops for the next day’s orders. Continue reading

Search is on to trace ancestors of boxing great Tom Johnson

Paul Thomas, of Breadsall, who is an international boxing referee, tells us about exciting plans for a boxing hall of fame.

AFTER many months of planning, I recently put together a small committee of enthusiastic and knowledgeable boxing fans to form the first Midland Boxing Hall of Fame. Each year, we will hold an awards dinner to honour and remember the outstanding boxers who have come from our area.

It’s a big undertaking, especially when you realise that we intend to go back as far as the old bare knuckle pugilists and then right through to the present day. Derbyshire alone has produced some outstanding boxers through the years including Newhall’s Jack Bodell and Derby’s Wally Swift and Neville Brown.

It was while doing my research that I came across a boxer called Tom Johnson, who was born in Derby in 1750. Personally I knew little of him but, to my surprise, I discovered that the Americans had put him into two halls of fame. First The Ring magazine entered his name in 1985 and then the International Hall of Fame inducted him in 1995. That alone tells you that he must have been special. Continue reading