Grandma Green always used to take Grandad Green’s money off him when we went pea picking, so when we asked him how many bags he had filled he always told us that he was on his second bag, so that if Grandma asked us how many bags he had picked we always said “two” even though we knew that he had picked more – crafty old bugger.
A lady called Lottie worked at the Rossington Hippodrome Picture House when we were lads and she would not stand for any bad behaviour or any noise during the film show. If anyone did not behave she would shine her torch onto the offender or offenders and shout loudly, “Shut up slobs”, and then she would march them out to the exit and throw them out.
Mam and Dad would fall out sometimes and Mam would go home to her Mother’s for a few days, so Dad had to feed us. One day he made some rice pudding for us but didn’t realise that he had used salt instead of sugar to sweeten it. We all sat around the table; it looked good as he served it but then we tasted it. Yuk! Yuk! My Dad pretended that it was delicious and tried to eat it but eventually he couldn’t. We kids went to ask Mam to come home.
Years ago between Tickhill Road and St Michael’s graveyard there used to be a wood with a large variety of thickets and trees. One day when I was about eleven years old I went on my own to this wood to pick some blackberries to sell. I had nearly filled an Ostermilk* tin when I heard a rustling so I froze to listen. I heard another sound and went to investigate and to my horror I found a poor rabbit with its leg caught in a snare; the snare had really dug into the poor rabbit’s leg but I managed to free it. I put it in a bag and set off for home because I thought my Mam and Dad might be able to help it, so I made my way home as quickly as I could. My Mam and Dad were still in bed when I arrived home so I went straight to their bedroom and told them about the poor rabbit. My Dad grabbed the rabbit by its back legs and to my surprise he gave the rabbit what he called a rabbit punch and killed it. I never even got the chance to tell them that I thought they might help the rabbit. Later my Dad told me that the rabbit had a broken leg and it would have been suffering and would not have made it in the wild. That day we had rabbit for dinner. I had never tasted rabbit before but I must admit I found it very tasty.
*(Ostermilk was a baby’s dried milk formula and came in tins).
When I was a young lad, the area behind Allenby Crescent and Tickhill Road were fields with hedges and ditches and in the hedges grew blackberry bushes. One day our Bob and I were there picking blackberries. We had nearly filled two Ostermilk tins each when we saw a vehicle approaching. We looked at each other; we knew who would be driving it. A man called Colinshaw was the foreman for Farmer Brown and he had a reputation for being nasty. We jumped into the ditch and started to run towards Allenby Crescent where my Auntie Nellie lived. The farm vehicle came flying past us and out of it climbed the dreaded Mr Colinshaw who had a smug look on his face. then he said, “What are you doing”? Our Bob told him that we were hungry so we had picked some blackberries to sell to buy some food. He looked at the blackberries and put a grin on his face and asked “How long did it take you to fill those four tins”? “Two hours” we answered. He gave us a lecture about trespassing and then said, “My wife likes blackberry pies”. He then reached forward and took two tins from us then said, “Don’t let me see you trespassing again or you will be sorry, now get off home”. We set off running as quickly as we could because we knew he meant it and we knew what a bad reputation he had.
Our Bob and I used to work for Bob Crow (local farmer) when we were still at school during school holidays and at the weekends. One day we were working for him, when suddenly he shouted to us, “Come on, we are going to see the Queen”. We went to the top of the Lane. We were quite dirty from working and Bob Crow said “Get down behind the wall, the Queen won’t want to see you mucky lot”. We ignored him and soon a big black Limo came along; we all waved and shouted and the Queen gave us a ‘Royle’ wave, so we were chuffed.
Mother used to buy stuff on tick (credit) and callers would come for payments weekly. Many times she would be in but not have the money to pay so she would send one of us to the door to say she was not in. One day I went to the door and said “My Mam is not in”, but the caller asked “What time will she be in?” so I shouted “Mam what time will you be in?” She had to then come out of her hiding place, gave me a clip and then had to go to the door. I got a good telling off afterwards.
At the Rossington Senior Secondary School one of the teachers was called Mr Waite who taught Metalwork. He was quite likeable even though he was strict. His way of getting the class’s attention was that he would pick up a mallet and bang it on the bench and at the same time he would shout stop! Stop! Stop! and then bang the mallet on the bench again. One day during one of these occurrences he accidentally hit one of the pupils hand with the mallet. Mr Waite looked at the boy’s hand and then told one of the other pupils to accompany the injured boy straight away to the Headmaster’s Office because he could not leave the workshop unattended. The boy who accompanied the injured boy later told us that when they got to the Headmaster’s room the Headmaster said, “What silly person has done this”? The injured boy replied “Mr Waite, sir”. Luckily the boys hand was not too badly injured. The story caused many a laugh for quite a long time.
Mr Harris was also a teacher at Rossington Senior Secondary School who taught Woodwork and he was also very strict. If anyone in the class misbehaved he would punish all the class. On one occasion, on a really red hot summer day, he made all of the class stand to attention and no talking. or else. He sat at his desk next to the window. We seemed to be standing for ages and I began to sweat and feel awful. I felt very faint and then I stumbled forward and fell spread out onto the bench top in front of me. I heard a voice shouting, “Stand up, Royle”! I could not move or answer. Soon he realised that something was wrong; he told the rest of the class to sit down and then helped me to a sink and wet my face with a cold cloth. He used a large piece of cardboard to fan me. I think he panicked because he did not make us do that again.
To my surprise at Rossington Secondary School, teachers taught French. Other pupils and I wondered why do we want to learn French; there was no chance any of us would be ever going to France. Still we had to try and learn French. It was a struggle for most of us, especially one boy who had a bad memory and he had a problem with English, let alone French. The teacher tried giving him as much time as he could afford. He would start the lesson speaking a French word which we had to tell him what it was in English. The teacher spent quite a lot of time trying to teach the boy with the bad memory that ‘cheval’ (French) is ‘horse’ (English). One lesson he told us that next week’s lesson would be a verbal test to see how we were doing. When the test lesson came around he started asking pupils who he thought might give the right answer. The first four got their question correct. Now it was the turn of the boy with the bad memory, the Teacher asked what does ‘cheval’ mean in English? Everyone held their breaths; the boy then said, “Shovel”. The teacher ran forward brandishing his book and he hit the boy on one side of his head and then the other side and at the same time he was shouting, “Horse! horse! Horse!, not shovel, not shovel, not shovel”. He then said “I give up”. He then went and sat down at his desk and did not speak for a while and no one in the class dared to speak. After a while he just said, “Please, the rest of you try and get your answers right”. Most of the rest of the class managed to get their answers right. The boy did not come to French lessons again.
One day near Christmas, our Bob, two of our cousins and I decided to go to people’s houses carol singing to see if we could make a bit of money. After thinking about where we would go we decided that most people in Rossington had little money spare to give to carol singers so we decided to try further afield to some where we thought we might do better. We walked down Stringy Billies, crossed the two bridges across the River Torne and Mother Drain and walked past the Golf Course and reached the North Road at Bessacarr. We could see some lights in the direction of Doncaster so we decided to walk a bit further on. We soon came to Sarah’s Café (which is the house on the corner opposite the Esso garage on Bawty Road) where a long road went to the right so we decided to try our luck. We split into twos so that we could cover both sides of the road. Our Bob and I were on one side and our cousins on the other. We seemed to be doing well because the people were telling us that they did not normally get any carol singers. Then, what a surprise! We could not believe it at the next house. We starting singing and after a few minutes someone started to open the door and we both stopped singing instantly. We were so shocked because the person standing there was our music teacher, Mr Fletcher, from our school. He said “What are you doing so far away from home on a night like this”? We told him that no one in Rossington seemed to have any money. He told us that normally nobody came carol singing in this area, and he was sure that they would appreciate having carol singers. He then said, “Well let’s hear a carol before you move on”. So we did, we sang ‘Away in a Manger’ because someone had told us before that it was one of his favourites. When we finished, he clapped and he said, “I think your School Music Teacher is not wasting his time”. He gave us both a coin each. Then he said “Have a good night and get home safely”.
One Sunday Uncle Bert (Now known as John William) came down after lunch. Later Mam asked us if we would like some sandwiches so we all said “Yes”. Soon Mam brought in a plate stacked high with sandwiches but unfortunately went to Uncle Bert first. He grabbed the plate, then said “Ee, Mary I don’t think I will be able to eat all these”, but he did and he never realised they were supposed to be shared between us all. So Mam had to make some more sandwiches; funnily, she didn’t offer any more to Uncle Bert. After that he was always served last. We have laughed about it ever since.
I well remember when I was about 12 years old, a Farmer from Wroot called Bob Crawford came to the village asking around for anyone who was interested in field work so our Bob and I decided to have a go. The pick up was 7.30 am the next morning at the Tanks (water tower). We had to climb into the open back of a lorry no matter what the weather was like. When we arrived at Wroot, the lorry pulled into a field and I did not recognise the crop because it looked like black potatoes in the ground with about eight to ten stalks approximately ten inches high with leaves growing on the top. I had never seen this type of crop before. The farmer told us that they were growing beetroot. He then went on to tell us how to earn our money. “The beetroot are grown in rows and each row is marked out in stints, five stints in each row and you get paid for each stint. You will take two baskets and when one is full my men will empty it while you fill the other”. He then pulled up a bunch of beetroot, and held the beetroot in one hand, and then he grabbed the leaf stalks as close to the beetroot as possible. He screwed the stalks from the beetroot and then he threw the beetroot into his basket and threw the stalks onto the ground. He gave each of us one to try. Most people managed to do it so he placed each of us into a row and said, “The more you do, the more money you will take home”. All I could think of was money so I set off working like mad. I soon got the knack of screwing the tops off the beetroots. I had soon done a stint, I looked back, the nearest to me was our Bob. I was about 15 yards in front of him. By the time I got to the end of the field (five stints) our Bob was just past the four stints marker. As I started another row I noticed the Farmer looking along the row I had just done, looking at the stalks on the ground. Later I asked him if he had been checking my work. He said yes and told me that he had never seen anybody work as fast and efficiently as I had. He asked me to grab his wrists, he said “That is a tight grip; I understand now why you are so good at it”. Our Bob and I, and several others earned more than we expected. We did hear some of the others moaning saying that they were sure that their rows had more beetroots in them than ours. The next day when the Farmer came to collect workers he shouted, “Are the two Royles here”? We shouted “Yes”. “We can go now” he shouted. We made some money that week. Mother was glad.
Mother was always cooking and feeding anybody who called and one day she had nearly a full 10” diameter pan of corned beef lobbies when Jed Atkinson called and she asked him if he would like some lobbies. “Yes” he said. Mam was about to serve him a plateful when Jed picked up the pan and started to drink and eat the food by pouring it into his mouth and swallowing it, he didn’t remove his mouth until the pan was empty. We don’t know where he put it all but he did.
For years a lot of families from the village had their holidays at Beacholme, Cleethorpes. One year, when I was about 17 years old, Bob, Jud and I hired a caravan between us and Mam, Dad and the other kids were staying in another caravan. It had been arranged that Uncle Bert (John William) could come through the week and stay with we three lads. I remember that I got drunk and went to bed only to be woken up feeling sick and by the time I had opened the top half of the door I was sick onto the outside steps. As time went on we started to run out of money. We were glad when Uncle Bert arrived because we had no food. Uncle Bert said, “I think I have come into a famine” and gave us some money and sent us to the shop for some food.
In the 60s, word had got around that several groups and singers would be at the Royal Hotel, so quite a lot of people turned up. The first singer was a voice I knew, it was Eden Kane, and he was singing ‘Forget Me Not’. Everyone joined in because the song was so well known. After a few more tunes a group was introduced as the Everley Brothers. I am not sure to this day if they were the real ones but they looked and sounded like the real ones. I know for certain that around that time Eden Kane and the Everley Brothers were performing at the Gaumont in Doncaster.
One day, Derek Finch, two others and I were asked to work overtime at the pit to complete a particular job. When we had finished we went into the showers. It was very quiet because all the day-shift workers had gone home. We were happy that our shift was finished. Derek started to sing a bit like Caruso so the others and I joined in, each one of us trying to sing louder than the others. Soon our voices were echoing loudly through the shower room area. A few minutes later someone came from the Manager’s Offices over the road and told us to shut up because they were getting disturbed. So our singing in the showers days were over.
When I first started working down Rossington pit there were always tales about a ghost which was referred to as ‘the White Lady’. Some people said they had seen it or knew someone who had. I had always been sceptical about ghosts and I always said that I would only believe it if I saw one myself. I am now 75 years old and have never seen anything but know people who genuinely believe they have. The nearest I came to believing the pit ghost story was what happened to a really good friend of our family called Ernie. He was at work down the pit one day and he said that he saw a glowing white lady. He was frightened to death: he stopped what he was doing, grabbed his belongings and ran straight to the pit bottom and came out of the underground part of the pit. He was questioned about the incident and said that he would not go down the pit again even if they sacked him. Eventually, it was decided to let him work on the surface from then on. It took some time before Ernie would talk about what he had seen because some people had ridiculed him. It was certain that he had seen something that frightened him out of his wits that day but what it was we will never know, especially as Ernie is dead now, and the pit shafts have been filled in.
During the time that I was attending Sheffield City University, the miners’ strike was taking place. I had to travel to Sheffield each day. One day I noticed police on most of the M18 and M1 junctions. I had to get off the M1 and head to Sheffield and I would pass the Catcliffe junction. As I left the M1 junction the police waved me to stop. As I pulled up I heard one of them shout to the others, “He has a ‘Support the Miners’ badge in his window”. A giant of a policeman told me to open my window. I did so. He then asked “Where are you going”? I replied “To Sheffield City University, I am a student there”. “He’s taking the piss” one of them shouted. I told them that I was a mature student at the university and that my briefcase was in the boot and that my identity was in it. I was told to get out of the car, open the boot and then stand back. When I opened the boot two policemen acting like thugs picked up my briefcase and every other container that I had in the boot, tipped everything up and spread the contents all over the boot. They even separated all my written notes and work that I had done and threw them everywhere. When I finally found my University identity in all the mess that they had made and showed it to them they hardly looked at it; they were not interested at all, they just said, “Off you go and do not stop until you get to the City centre”. I was totally disgusted. I set off and noticed at the Catcliffe exits there were police cars, police on horseback, police on foot wearing helmets, shin guards and shields. I guessed they were expecting to cause trouble that day. My treatment that day left a nasty taste in my mouth and my trust in policemen went out of the window. When I reached the University everyone was talking about miners and policemen. I told them that I supported the miners and showed them the mess in my car boot. It took me ages to sort out all my papers, etc. I put an extra couple of “Support the Miners” badges on my car windows. That evening the TV showed many events that still disgust me today. The next morning I was once again pulled up by the police; again they threw all my belongings all over the boot so I decided to leave most of my documents that I did not need at home in my locker at the University. The same routine carried on for ages. As time went on, the hate for the police and Thatcher grew each day, especially as rumours circulated that Army soldiers were dressed in police uniforms pretending to be policemen, and police men from the Met were shipped in and took part in some of the worst events in the name of ‘Thatcher’s Law’. The strike split communities and some friends and families still do not talk even to this day. Police in some communities are still not forgiven and are still not trusted. Children who lived through the strike saw police do terrible things that have stuck in their memories and they still do not trust the police to this day. I will always remember Thatcher’s police thugs searching my car and throwing all my belongings and documents all over the car boot, just to inconvenience me, just because I had a “Support the Miners” badge in my car window even after proving that I was not a miner at that time and was not going to a picket line.
In the late 1970s I was very ill, I had really bad diarrhoea, a blinding headache and a high temperature. My wife sent for a Doctor and he prescribed Kaolin and Morphine. I took the mixture for a few days but no improvement, and then when I told my wife that I could see angels playing Celebrity Squares on the bedroom ceiling she instantly sent for a Doctor again. This time Doctor Marshall came and immediately he told us that he would send for an ambulance straight away. Soon we were at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and on a ward. They took samples and put me on a saline drip to hydrate me. Soon I was having to go to the toilet time and time again and I could only use a bedpan as they wanted to check what I was passing and it looked like green slime. They then gave me a tablet but soon the tablet passed through me and made a ping as it hit the bottom of the bedpan. The Doctor came and looked in the bedpan and accused me of not taking the tablet but just throwing it into the bedpan. He took some convincing that the tablet had come through my system quite quick because my bowels were empty. On the afternoon of the fourth day in hospital I was suddenly moved to a single room. A large skull and crossbones was displayed on the door and everyone who came into the room had to wear a mask and gown. Meals were brought in and the plates, cutlery, etc. were not collected at all, I was rinsing them in the sink. I was informed that I had food poisoning called salmonella. My wife was told she could not go to work until she had some tests even though she did not feel ill. They let me home when my bowels were under control and the Department of Health people came to our house to question us to find out what we had eaten, where we had bought it from and checked the bathroom etc. They just warned us to make sure that we washed out hands well and every time we used the toilet to clean and bleach it thoroughly. The investigation found out that the culprit was a haslet meat sandwich that had been bought from Doncaster indoor market by one of the ladies who worked on the shop floor at Crompton Parkinson. Judy’s test came back negative so she was allowed back to work after a couple of weeks, but I was off work for a few months until I was classified as clear.
While I was teaching at Hinde House School at Sheffield, each member of staff would take it in turn to lead the morning assembly. It was not always easy to come up with a subject that the children would be interested in. On the 8th March, 1986, it was my turn to take assembly. I started by telling them that something wonderful was happening, and that the teachers, myself, included, are unlucky because it would only happen the once in our lifetimes. I then pointed out to them that they are lucky because it will happen twice in their lifetimes. I then asked if anyone knew what I was talking about; I could see bemused faces looking at each other. A few hands went up, but most of the guesses were silly answers. I then told them this happening only takes place every 76 years, and that was why us teachers would be dead the next time it happens. Most of the pupils thought that was quite funny. None of the children had any idea what I was talking about. I then asked “Have you heard about Halley’s Comet?” Some heads nodded. I then told them that today the comet will be visible if you were to look in the right place. I then told them that ever since 240BC, the Chinese, Babylonian and Medieval European chroniclers had recorded seeing comets, but it wasn’t until an English astronomer by the name of Edmond Halley discovered this comet in 1705, but more importantly, he realised that this comet reappears every 76 years. This particular comet was named after him. There were several questions from the pupils, so I referred them to the school library and told them to try and find their answers, then tell me what they found. At the end of the assembly, several children told me that it made a nice change to have an interesting assembly. I managed to see the comet myself, but I know I won’t be alive in 2062 when it comes round again!!