Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group

My Evacuation to Conisbrough by Gerry Walters

During the second world war I lived in Isleworth, Middlesex, there was some industry in the area and most importantly a railway line which could, and was used, to transport men and warlike materials down to Portsmouth and Southampton. Because of these things, and the fact that we were very close to London itself, the area was subjected to a fair amount of bombing by the German Airforce.   Towards the end of the war the Germans started to use the V1 and V2 rockets, which by their very nature could drop anywhere. Prior to the war a car company called FrazerNash had a small factory in Isleworth, this was used during the war as a training school for Naval Engineers in the use and maintenance of the engines on Motor Torpedo Boats, some of which were built at an extension of Kris Cruisers in Old Isleworth. The sailors who attended the training establishment needed somewhere to live so local people were asked to have some billeted with them. We had a reasonably large house and took on a couple of these sailors; one was Named Maurice Carmody, from  Conisbrough.

My Mother and Father were becoming a little concerned regarding the German rockets and were considering sending me and my younger sister to Derbyshire to stay with my Grandmother in Darley Dale. However because she was getting a little old to have a 10/11 year old boy and a 5 year old girl hoisted upon her Mr Maurice Carmody suggested that, as my family had been so kind to look after him, his family might be able to look after me and my sister.. So that is the story of how I finished up going to Conisbrough.
 
We went to Conisbrough, I cannot recall the exact dates etc. that we stayed with the Carmody family, but we stayed for about a year, however I will write down some of the things that I remember from those days, as I am rapidly approaching my 80th birthday you will appreciate that it was quite a while ago!
 
The Carmody family consisted of Mr.Carmody, he worked at Denaby Main Colliery, having reached the age when he could no longer be employed at the pit face he was in charge of the Medical Services at the pit head (I believe there is a special name for this but I cannot remember it).  He had four sons, two of his sons worked at the pit face, one son was in the Army (he was commissioned I believe became a Major and after the war became Mayor of Newark, (I believe he became for a short time a member of parliament for Newark). His fourth son Maurice was in the Navy. They also had a daughter who I think was married to a chap who ran the local shop (He later went into business manufacturing caravans).

Mrs Carmody, was a very motherly soul who looked after me very well. She had very long hair, going a little grey, which, just like my grandmother she wore in a bun, her hair was washed once a week in rainwater which was gathered in a large tank at the rear of the house from the eves of the house and a rather large shed. In fact she reminded me very much of my grandmother as she was a little stout, always wore a pinafore and mostly dark clothing.

A fairly regular visitor to the house was the grandfather, Mr Carmody, senior’s father. He came to dinner virtually every Sunday, after church of course as the family were devout Catholics, and sat at the head of the table, he always wore black trousers, white shirt (with no collar) a black waistcoat and he wore a bowler hat which he continued to wear throughout the meal. Coming from London I found his dress most peculiar!  Being a Protestant I didn’t go to church, with the family, in fact I didn’t go to church at all while in Yorkshire. This I think annoyed the family a little, especially Mrs. Carmody.
 Despite the restrictions of rationing we ate quite well and always on Sunday we started the meal with Yorkshire Pudding, over an inch thick with lots of gravy, the main meal came afterwards, this was a novelty to me!
 
I attended Conisbrough High School, I believe it is now called something else, and my sister attended a local primary school; the name of which I do not know. I note that a great deal of housing has been built in Conisbrough  since those far off days. When I went to school it was quite a long walk, mostly uphill, to the school and on quiet country lanes etc. One thing I remember about the school was that if one arrived at school without a pen to write with (ink provided in ink wells set in the desks, the punishment was a wallop with a piece of wood, about two foot long and 1.5 inches wide and about 0.5 inches thick, across the backside. On one occasion I forgot my pen but a companion that I travelled with each day, had a spare nib. I broke a small twig from an Elderberry branch, stuck the nib into it and used it for the day, thus escaping a walloping.  My companion’s name was Johnny Dutchman and he lived across the way from the Carmody’s house.  My sister recalls being taught to count using a box of cowrie shells and an old abacus, things we had never used.
 
At the end of the set of terraced houses in which the Carmodys lived was a small factory that made sickles and scythes. One of their neighbours worked at the factory and I was allowed on one occasion to visit to see sickles being made.. Other memories include there being a viaduct across the river Don, I believe it carried a single line railway, also there was a weir not far from the house.  Behind the Sickle factory was a piece of spare ground with a few trees and one of our pleasures was to use a rope tied to a branch overhanging the river and swing out over the water. Beware the person that swung out over the water if there was a bad lad in the tree for he would jerk the rope and stop it swinging and leave the poor unfortunate victim  suspended about six feet from the bank!
 
There was also a small stream that passed the end of the road where we stayed and a row of miner’s cottages (Duftons Row).  I remember one family that lived there called the Callcluffs (I hope that is the correct spelling) In this tiny house lived Mother, Father, two sons and a daughter(Elaine). The children of this family were some of my friends and I remember that Friday night was bath night, a large tin bath in front of the sitting/dining room fire and strict rotation the Father, Mother, Daughter and then the two sons had a bath with the one bath full being topped up from a large kettle.
 
At the top of the hill was a fish and chip shop where many families would buy their evening meal. I remember that several of us would gather at the top of the hill waiting for closing time and Dora, the lady who ran the shop, would sell us a bag of bits (small pieces of batter that had come off the fish and the odd little chip that had slipped out of the frying pan, for a penny. (A penny was a lot of money to us as a halfpenny would buy four blackjack sweets) There was also at the bottom of the hill a shop/off-license where on special occasions one might be bought a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps to share between you.
 
Unfortunately I being a typical boy got mixed up with some other youths and started smoking, we got cigarettes from some Canadians who were stationed nearby (the brand was Sweet Caprol, (not sure of the spelling) Mr Carmody caught me and my Father was informed; so that ended my stay in Conisbrough, I was whisked away back to London, where by now things were a little quieter.
 
When Maurice Carmody came out of the Navy at the end of the war he moved to Newark and became Chief Engineer at Newark Power Station.
 
I did visit Conisbrough Castle during my stay but it was not in the condition it is today; it was not well maintained and some parts of it were, to say the least, virtually lethal.  Still it did not stop some of us from roaming around its walls etc.  I was glad to see it being well cared for now.
 
I hope that these few words and the memories that they convey will be of some use to you.  I shall of course be ever grateful to the Carmody family for their kindness to a couple of southerners and for giving my sister Barbara and myself a little respite from the ravages of a war torn London. The people in Conisbrough were very much like those in my Grandmother’s village in Derbyshire, everybody seemed to know everybody in the area.  Initially we were treated as strangers and people’s reactions to us were a little cool; that is other than the Carmody family who were very kind and made us very welcome. However after a very short period of time we were accepted into the community and everybody made us feel at home. Most of the people where we were living seemed to either work at the Sickle factory or like the majority worked in the mines at Denaby Main.