Prison Buildings By Side Of Canal - a Memory of Devizes.


My name is John Ryan and I can remember Devizes when I was evacuated there in 1940 from Tilbury Essex. I was 11 years old.

I can remember where we all assembled in what I think was the Catholic school, which I believe was St Joseph's. There was about 40 of us and I happened to be the last to be picked for accommodation with a local family.

I remember the lady, her name was Phyllis Hillier and she was very kind to me as the rest of the family were. I remember going down a big hill towards the canal and crossing a small bridge and turning left down into the building which was originally a prison but it was converted into flats. It was a ground floor flat which was very nice and comfortable. After settling into my new home, I remember starting school where we had to walk along the canal or back up the hill to the town where the school was situated. This was where I met up with all of my friends and sister, Kitty. We all chatted and found out where everyone was living and my friend Billy Watts was about 10 minutes walk from where I was so we saw each other every day going to school and playing together weekends.

I recall that Phyllis had a sheepdog whose name was Biddy and we were great friends. After a time I used to go regularly to a wood yard that was the other side of the town - I think I recall going about twice a week at least which was about two miles or so away. I used to push a wooden cart and fill it with logs for the fire and Biddy came with me every time. He would sit in the cart going and walk beside coming home. One day I remember a couple of boys I met on the way got a bit rough with me but Biddy soon cleared them off so he became very protective of me.

I also remember a Mr Kingsley who lived at the flat, he was also very nice but something happened to his leg, it got very nasty and he died which was very sad.

Phyllis had a sister who also lived at the flat but I can't remember her name. Her husband was in the RAF and he used to visit occasionally. There was also another man, his name was Hillier but afraid I can't remember his first name. I do remember he got married and lived in a house or flat not far from the town centre.

I was evacuated to Devizes for about 12 months and enjoyed every moment of it even though I used to go and get wood and also clean around the house as I remember Phyllis would clean and polish every day, of which I helped sometimes.

During the latter part of my stay in Devizes most of my friends had returned home even my sister but I was not keen on returning. One day however I remember my mother arriving in Devizes to fetch me back home which was a shock as I was not expecting it. I did not want to go but I had to because all of my friends had returned home. I was most upset because I was very happy there and I did not want to leave Biddy.

If any of the Hillier family read this memory of mine, I would be very happy to hear from them but I am now 79 so I don't suppose there is any chance of this happening.

To a beautiful Devizes and my stay there.

John Ryan.

A memory shared by John Ryan on Jun 19th, 2008. Send John Ryan a message.

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