In a fog
on Canvey Island
During the 1940’s and into the early 1950’s and before the strict “anti pollution” programs were initiated in Great Britain the “Pea Souper Fogs” originating in the London area would sometimes extend down to Canvey Island.!!!
I recall one particular incident on Canvey when the term :”couldn’t see my hand in front of my face” was true.
I had just equipped my bicycle with a Dynamo light system and was trying it out during that fog, it was fun to see the long beam on my headlight trying to pierce the fog. As I passed the Haystack I noticed a double decker, fully loaded with passengers but just sitting at the bus stop on Long Road. I assumed that the driver was a bit leery about attempting the trip to Benfleet in such a thick “Pea souper”. I rode slowly up to the bus and offered to ride in front of him to Benfleet and that I would make the usual stops too. I told him that I would probably be able to see the kerbs and lines on the road with my good headlight. So off we went, slowly but at least making headway, and although it took a long time, we made it to Benfleet.
I can tell you that both the driver and his passengers were pleased with my “Good Deed”. I also remember that when I finally arrived home, the fog was so thick that I had to watch very carefully for the turn into Marine Approach from Furtherwick.!!
You can read about ‘A Proper Pea-Souper-The terrible London Smog of 1952’
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Living in London I can remember the pea-soupers very well Gerry. It was not unusual for us to be sent home early from school as the fog came down.
I remember the one we had in 1962 the last one we had I think. I worked in the West-end and could not get home from work (I lived in North London). I usually went home by bus but the buses were cancelled. I was only 15. Rang my parents and was told to get on the tube to Liverpool Street Station and see what was happening there perhaps get a cab. Got in a cab at Liverpool Street but it was going nowhere.
I started walking, you stepped off the pavement and had no idea where the other side was. I walked for hours, the only constant was the freezing smog, the silence and the queue of traffic off to my right. I could not see them but I could hear them. The queue ran all the way from Liverpool Street to Stoke Newington some 4 ½ miles and at the head of the queue of traffic was someone on a bike leading the way. (was that you Gerry?) I was moving faster than them. I eventually got home at about 9.30, I had left work at 5.30 my parents were frantic (no mobiles in those days).
Next day I got to work only for the smog to come down again and my mum rang my firm to ask if my brother could pick me up on his way home. It was still very bad and we drove home slowly with our heads stuck out of the window trying to make sure we did not hit anything. What fun!
In the late 40s/early 50s I remember walking to Leigh Beck School in those very thick winter fogs and how it seemed that after passing the Commodore, with no buildings on either side, it seemed like you stepped into a white/grey void surrounded by the very loud continuous clanging of the Chapman Lighthouse bell and the moaning and wailing of ships’ sirens.
Later on in the 50s as schoolboys travelling by public transport to Westcliff High School those still frequent foggy mornings we thought, with a somewhat laid-back teenage attitude to school attendance, used play in our favour. The train’s arrival at Benfleet was often very late and when we arrived at Leigh station the No 21 bus was nowhere to be seen.
As long as it was a unanimous decision a crowd of oiks (don’t remember many Westcliff girls joining us) used wend our way slowly on foot schoolwards, occassionally getting lost in the mist in Leigh Old Town, probably picking up a No23 bus or a later No21 we’d eventually arrive at the School secretary’s office well after 10 a.m with the very valid excuse we were Canvey boys delayed by the fog.
Then a possible bonus if the weather conditions persisted a message would come round. ”Because of the fog the Canvey boys could leave early! ”
The fog wasn’t such fun when you had to walk back to Leigh Beck from the station when the buses weren’t running, especially wearing stilettos. Happy Days!
Remember that well, although I didn’t have to walk that far, but we always stopped at the Red Cow on the way, Barry came to meet me once and missed me, He wasn’t very pleased!!
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