My Parents

From the memoirs of John Manly

I don’t know how Dad ever managed to pluck up enough courage to ask Mother to marry him, as he was so easily embarrassed, he must have picked a very dark night so as she would not be able to see his very red face and the sweat on his brow! When it came to deciding where they were to live, Dad gave Mother a the choice, he said, “would you like this little two bed bungalow that I have just built, or this house that I will build for you?” He then showed her the drawings of a beautiful six roomed house. “If you choose this one I will convert my old work shed into a temporary home then build this one around it!”

Mother looked at the little bungalow then back at the lovely house on paper and said “I would like this one Ted!” Little did she realise that she would have to wait over 30 years, and that Dad would die before he had finished it.

Taken from their orchard the old workshop with the first signs of construction for the new house

I must explain why this house was so long in construction. My Father was a builder and an excellent tradesman He was a small man but his strength and determination was boundless, anything he built, or made, was to last forever, also the fact that he was building this house for my mother.

My mother was a wonderful lady, she never made a fuss or showed too much affection, this must have been the results of my father’s jealousy, he used to get very upset if she cuddled my sister and I as babies, this I have never been able to understand. Thank goodness I did not inherit this darker side of poor old Dad.

Mother was always the first to help those who were sick and unable to look after themselves National Health did not exist in those days. I remember an old man called Jim, I did not know at the time, but he was dying of cancer of the bladder. Mother cleaned and fed him, Fay and I would have to take turns to sit with him until eventually he died. Fay was about eleven and I was eight at the time.

The kindness Mother showed people less fortunate than herself might be associated with the fact that she had a very unhappy childhood, her Father died in his early thirties and her Mother died very shortly after, so together with her sister she was placed in an orphanage.

When only a tiny baby and just able to crawl, Mother had a nasty accident, it appears that her parents were having a dinner party and while the guests were sitting round the table the baby was crawling around the floor, she must have got under a chair, the lady sitting on the chair suddenly moved her feet and the sharp high heel struck the baby in the temple with considerable force. From then on, Mother developed epileptic fits. While in the orphanage her sister Hilder was soon adopted but nobody wanted a child who suffered from fits so she had to spend most of her young life miserably, (our toughest prison today are like 5 star hotels compared with a late Victorian orphanage)

John’s mother with the little Downs Syndrome boy Ronny

At the age of sixteen she ran away. In those days you had to work to eat so she got a job as a childminder to a family that had a Down’s Syndrome little boy called Ronny. The family’s name was Richardson, through Mr Richardson’s failing health they decided to move to Canvey Island taking Mother with them and that is where Mother met Dad. After moving to Canvey Mother was never troubled by fits again but carried the little moon shaped indentation on her temple for the rest of her life.

I must point out that most of the ill health and early deaths in London at that time was caused by the foul air, every dwelling had at least one coal fire factories were powered by steam. Cold, foggy winters nights were frequent and after a few days with no wind you could cut the smog with a knife!

Mother had a very quick temper and her hand would connect with the back of my head at the speed of light. Today this punishment would be considered harsh but in being tough with me she installed the confidence that she would also be just as tough with anyone who tried to harm me. Through her wisdom and discipline I have been able to go through life managing to avoid trouble or at least being prepared for it. One of her favourite sayings was ” Do unto others as you would they do unto you” I believe that if all people would abide by this rule the world would be a better place!.

John’s father and Grandfather with the old bungalow in the background

I must go back to Mothers quick temper. One day she was peeling potatoes using one of her best knives. I must have said or done something that triggered that temper and as quick as a flash, the flat of the knife came down on my head. I heard a tinkle, we both looked down, the knife had snapped, half the blade lay on the floor, our eyes met and we both fell about laughing.

Another time I had upset her, I cannot remember what it was, but she was coming for me at a rate of knots and by the look on her face I was in for big trouble, so quickly thinking of the good advice that she had given me, such as “desecration is the better part of valour”, or “he that fight’s and runs away lives to fight another day” I decided to hastily depart I turned and disappeared over the sea wall. I sat tight for quite a time then decided that it must be safe to move, hoping her temper had cooled. I cautiously climbed the wall to peer over the top as my head emerged two strong hands shot out and clasped me round the neck and a voice that I knew so well said “GOTCHER”!

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