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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.

With thanks to John S. Batts for this memory of Hay-on-Wye

Added 28 April 2010


Comments & Feedback

Many years on and I have caught up with your story of war time Hay. I am Brian, son of the late Humphrey Webb who had the garage and undertakers. I remember my Dad often spoke of younger days with you father.
I also remember your Aunt Mary Chambers very well. When I passed my driving test I used to drive her in her Singer car to The Rhydspence for ham and egg supers and even a glass or two of beer as Miss Chambers enjoyed a Whisky
I also used to take her once a year to Weston super mare to the Royal Pier hotel for her annual holiday.
Good old days.
Miss Lucy Powell who used to own the three tuns now lives in west lodge and I don't think much has been done to it since you parents lived there.
Brian Webb
Thank you for responding, Brian. And particularly for your remarks about my aunt etc. When I lived in Hay, I knew she enjoyed was not averse to sipping an occasional fino sherry. Latterly, I knew about her visits to that old hostelry, The Rhydspence (but perhaps not as old as The Three Tuns in Hay where Lucy Powell once held sway).
It's been some years since I was last in Hay, but at that time 'Wayside' (now styled 'West Lodge' it seems) was largely obscured by large trees and bushes. The southerly view of open fields and hedges (as I recall it from decades earlier), has long since been replaced by a development of bungalows on the other side of Forest Road.
My memories of the Webb family are not acute. Yes, I recall your father, Humphrey. I best knew Julie Webb and her mother Renee in Broad Street; Julie & I were in the same form/standard at Hay Primary School (now demolished) in Heol-y-dwr and went to birthday parties. Memory is a strange and selective thing, but I can tell you that (it was probably at a funeral in Clyro) I do have a recollection of your father speaking with mine and remarking to the effect that when they were both young, cycling to a dance as far away as Whitney (ca. 3 miles!) made them feel as if they were in a different world! Why that ephemeral detail has remained with me I know not.
I do recall the green Singer car and even when it was new the difficulties Mary had with it -- she hated reversing! The detail of her holidaying at Weston-S-M was a surprise; in my schooldays she enjoyed an annual visit to London, staying at the Russell Hotel.
Now it's confession time: for all of the foregoing, I can't actually recall YOU! I surmise that you might be a younger brother of Julie Webb. That said, I should also claim that I am out of the loop of Hay news; my family moved away in the late 50s and I myself emigrated to N. America in the 1960s. And nowadays I live in Australia; I did once visit Hay, NSW, out of interest -- a travelling vicar from Oz once preached a sermon at St Mary's Church while I was a choirboy there.
I am pleased to hear from you and hope you will keep in touch. I have a account with my initials & surname jsbatts.
Thanks again for posting.

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