Important Notice Regarding Delivery:
We have been advised by Royal Mail & Parcelforce that their delivery services will be disrupted by industrial action on the following dates: Friday 30th September 2022 and Saturday 1st October 2022 so this is going to disrupt the delivery of some orders.
Wartime Memories Of Hay Part Three Final
A Memory of Hay-on-Wye.
Wartime Memories of Hay: Part Three.
Apart from Ration Books and the coupon implications for restricted purchase of food and clothing, my own recollections of life in Hay during World War Two hinge on evacuees along with hazy memories of particular events some of which have been outlined in previous two parts.
At home there were at different times at least two sets of evacuees who occupied a small 'extra' bedroom in my parents' house. The first arrivals were the Morris family from Bermondsey in SE London; this was a young mother and very young child of approximately my own age. I have little real memory of either of them, nor of the husband/father; but perhaps he was serving abroad and unable to visit Hay at all. The Morrises must have been relieved to escape the bombing raids on London, yet probably found Hay to be very much a small provincial town well outside their own experience.
The second set of evacuees were a pair of older spinster ladies from Bristol, both called Miss Barnard. They may have stayed longer, or perhaps I had more contact with them because I have more definite memories. One of them played the upright piano in the house and used to rattle off 'Teddy Bears' Picnic' (a piano/dance-band composition by John S. Bratton dating from 1907 but which had had lyrics added in the late 1930s and hence it was popular with dance-bands and a Henry Hall recording). I have been assured that I enjoyed this immensely at the time and even today that piece retains an affectionate place. The Miss Barnards may not have been very mobile in Hay, but their stay must have been reasonably happy because they did keep in touch with my parents for several years afterwards.
Another evacuee who was billeted nearby in Church Street and with whom my family also corresponded well after the end of the war was the organist, Louis Torr, FRCO, who had been evacuated from Southampton; he played the organ at St. Mary's Church, Hay (see Frith photo). Living with Mrs. Harry Morris in Church Street, Mr. Torr was an occasional visitor to my parents' house, mostly (I think) to practise on the same upright piano mentioned above. Post-war he was a frequent correspondent, usually enquiring after my own musical education. As a choirboy at the parish church, I also recall at least one young evacuee called Bosanquet, who joined lads of my age in our blue cassocks and white surplices, though perhaps his parents had moved to Hay as a result of the outbreak of hostilities. Moreover, there was another organist at St. Mary's during the war years, Horace Curtis, also a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, who at one stage (perhaps post-war) was living at Leicester House in Castle Street; he was my first choirmaster.
My grandfather's house at 25 Castle Street, Hay, had once been a small temperance hotel and therefore had more accommodation. My Grandad, who passed away in August 1944, was being looked after by his daughter (and my aunt). Since I spent quite a bit of time there each week, I do recall several families, all from London, who at various times were billeted there. The Hooper family (Lil and her young son Roger) were from the London suburb of Palmers Green; their father, an NCO in the Army, was frequently at the house at one stage, as was his NCO colleague Harry Hampton and his wife, perhaps also from the London area. I think it was Harry H. who enjoyed playing the piano there in NAFFI style - I think 'In the Mood' was his party-piece - and encouraging sing-songs. My first sustained exposure to the likes of 'Bless 'Em All', 'Lily Marlene', and the like was probably via the piano rather than Vera Lynn. Lastly, the Timms family (mother and a daughter who was my age) were also billeted at that house for a while.
What all this means, I'm not sure, beyond the fact that at least some early childhood experiences were vividly imprinted upon my consciousness. And when I revisit Hay, or more precisely 'Hay-on-Wye' as it has been for the past half-century plus, should you observe a dreamy look upon me, you may realise that a thousand impressions from another century are crowding in upon the present.