Extract of Interview with Dr Alan Whitcomb
6th December 2004 CISCA House
That community thing was amazing, you’ve got to remember that the population of Canvey was below 11,000, about 10,500. And if you walked down the high street here, everybody knew everybody, you know. I remember when my wife, when we first married and moved on the Island, she was absolutely stunned by walking along the high street and everyone saying, oh 1 know Alan, you know? And that was the spirit of the place around the floods.
1. We read somewhere that people received emergency boxes
Wonderful, yeah. Do you know we’ve got on our dining room table at home, a beautiful wood table, but if we want to do anything that means putting things on there we chuck a blanket on there, it was a blanket sent over by Australia during the floods. And they made that blanket in the 1940’s, its got a label on there, ‘made in Australia 1940’, so it was like war surplus and they sent that over and that was very welcome because we had no beds no gear, but we also had these parcels, country’s, you know the Common Wealth, see this is the problem now we are all made about Europe, but then we had stuff flooding in from all our Common Wealth country’s, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, absolutely masses of stuff, it was wonderful really………….. Later after the floods a place in France called Frejus, got flooded and my father was chairman of the local council then and he started a collection and people on Canvey gave generously and we sent it to Frejus to help them when they had there floods.
I should tell you something horrible about returning to Canvey, and that is that the sad thing is that a lot of people found that they had been burgled. And things like the gas meter had been broken open and things like that, so unfortunately there were some pretty crummy people about that took advantage of the situation.
2. Can you think of any positives that came out of the floods?
I tell you another one that is quite amusing, I heard this lady and she was talking on the radio and her, she was a typical cockney person, her and her family were on the roof of their house and she saw this chair floating by and she said to her husband, I can’t think of her name, Len, Len, “Len get that chair for me”, “I’m not going down in that water” he said, “that chair will look lovely in our dining room.” So poor old Len gets down in to the water and he brings back this chair and he clambers back up on the roof, and she says “you silly sod its only got 3 legs, chuck it back.” He’d risked his leg, his life, for a three-legged chair!
I tell you another positive thing, its astounding for me and that is that is that when it came to the time when I had to leave home and carry my brother we had a cat, a tortoise shell cat. I tried to catch him and I couldn’t catch him, the lad next door tried to catch him and the cat bit him and went and stood, climbed up on the top of the shed roof you’d think, by now we were quite deep in water, so there’s the cat on the top of the roof and I was really distressed, distressed about this cat and of course everyone said well you can’t do anything about it you’ve got to leave it. Any way going to the end of the story after the floods and once we got back to school, there was an organization, I don’t know if it still exists called the PDSA, any way we had a little, tidily television, you know the old ones, the black and white television, you had to draw the curtains to watch it and I watching children’s television one day after the floods and the PDSA are on the news and they say we’ve got all these cats, animals, that we rescued from the floods and we need people to claim them. So I looked on this telly and there’s my cat, so I said to my mum, Mum I’ve seen my cat on the television and she said don’t be silly how can you recognise your cat on the television, tortoise shell cats all look the same. And it was up at Hornchurch, was a long way for us then to go. And I was quite upset about this and mum said no it can’t be your cat, and you can’t see it on the television. Anyway I had a really old man who lived at the bottom of our garden, you know the house at the bottom of our garden and he said I’ll tell you what I’ll do Alan, I’ll take you up to Hornchurch. So he took me all the way up to Hornchurch, we went in the PDSA and he said this lad reckons he saw his cat on television, will you show him the cats and we went along and I said that’s my cat and my cat recognised me and he came running over straight away, now that’s fantastic………………………………