My Life; Living at Fort Walney
When I was born in April 1948 The family lived at number 8 Duncan Street, We moved to Fort Walney in the mid 1950s. As you can imagine it was a wonderful fascinating place to be and there were still some soldiers about then. In charge was a Captain Pearson who as I recall went about in a jeep and there were also one or two trucks about.
I can remember the construction of the council houses at Rainey Park, Walney and running for the newspaper at what was then a wooden hut before the shops were built, the workers would shout ‘here comes Roger Bannister’,
There was also a collection of huts that were called the squatters huts on the corner of Mill Lane and the road that goes to Earnse Bay, I can remember a couple of names, Like Phythian, Butterworth and Cringle. There was a large Nissen style building outside the perimeter fencing that had a tank and transporter in it. I think the regiment based there was REME but there may have been Signals also.
I went to school at Vickerstown school on the promenade for a time and then the new one, North Walney on Mill Lane. On my way to Vickerstown school one day the tide in the channel was right up almost level with the road and a boat had broken
loose, someone tied it to a street lamp. At school, football which to be honest didn’t interest me until much later, more modern styles were beginning to appear such as continental collars on the shirts and Tommy Docherty boots, I had only just got the old style of gear with lapels on the shirt and great big heavy boots with laces about three miles long that you had to wrap underneath and round the tops to make them short enough to fasten, I could never fathom out why this was. A couple of school trips spring to mind one was to Ambleside via train and steamer ‘the Teal’, for which I had collected money by way of finding golf balls and selling them back to the golfers. Disaster struck at Barrow station when I dropped my bottle of lemonade and of course it broke ( No plastic bottles in them days ), the other trip was to Black Combe which was a fair hike for a young ‘un, This involved a train and then climbing the big hill which seemed never ending then putting your name on a rock and adding it to the Cairn before starting back down the as equally difficult decent because it was hard to stop running once you started.
At Bonfire night the soldiers went out in a truck and came back with loads of trees and wood for the bonfire then made a great Guy Fawkes with a boiler suit for the body.
At Christmas time there was a party in the NAAFI with the soldiers families, Brilliant!. I remember my present, it was the novel Robin Hood, I really enjoyed that, it was probably the first actual book that I read.
When the Fort was nearing the end of its useful term I recall the soldiers taking all the cordite packages down to the beach and laying them out in a big long line and setting them off I was disappointed because they didn’t explode, they just set on fire. I recall that there was a big gun at the Fort, but I can’t remember if there were two or not?
There were lots of buildings to play in when the soldiers and families left, lots to explore and which allowed for me to get up to all kinds of mischief. Once Dad had a little old ‘Royal-Enfield’ motorbike that wouldn’t start but he was out one day and I did manage to start it and was puddling around the grounds of the Fort, the next day I got a belt around the lug, someone had asked my Dad; who the lad was with the motor-bike at the Fort?
Another time I used my Dads pushbike when he was out, I got a puncture and we had no repair patches, I was worried sick that he would find out so I repaired it with of all things, to-mato skin, which worked too for a while then one day it gave out with a loud bang and I was in trouble again.
I would get up sometimes with my Dad in the middle of the night to see to his long lines for fish along the beach, just the usual plaice and small cod, but once he did catch a really big cod I think he managed to sell that?
Brocklebank’s shop and post office on Central Drive behind the first tee of the golf course, Dad would sometime need cigarettes and my brother or I would have to walk down the first fairway to go to the George Hotel, It was pretty scary in the dark.
Whenever I visit the area now I find it rather sad that there’s nothing left of the fort. I couldn’t even find a plan of the layout of it all.
My Grandparents also built one of the black huts facing the north end of Walney in the mid 1930s long before the cellophane factory was built I remember negotiating Hayton’s farm with parents and brother to get there, Walking all the way from town and up the woods road, I don’t think any of the family had a car at that time, be-fore I was born they used to go there when Barrow was get-ting bombed during the war and had to extend it later.
I used to love going up to the huts and meeting up with my cousins during summer holidays, playing in the sand hills and on the beach all day with glorious weather, then at the end of the day snuggling up in the bunks with paraffin lamps and candles, What a wonderful place, No television no computers or phones, mobile or otherwise, just your own imagination and games, the only thing that I didn’t like was the outside chemical toilet sans chemicals. We ate Rabbit, Fish, Crabs and Mushrooms all free and abundant.
Above: Volunteers for construction of hut extension about 1943.
Above: Nanna Clara Turner Supervising work, 1937.
Below:Mam Lily Turner centre, Johnny left, Norma right, Tommy front at the Black huts in 1938, prior to the extension, Nanna Turner looking out through the window, alas all gone now, mam was the eldest and the last to go aged 90 in 2012.
Mam was involved in painting the Jubilee Bridge during the war, later she went into nursing. Nanna Turner died of cancer in 1958 and Grandad died in 1960, A veteran of the great war he was sent home wounded in 1917, A master of monologues and a great singing voice as had his brother Isaac the eldest, who was part of Saint James Church from choirboy to organist.
I remember in 1958 hearing on the street about the Manchester United air disaster in Munich and running in to tell Grandad about it as he was bedridden by then in the front room of their house in Osborne Street, he was greatly shocked, I was 10 years old and didn’t really realise the impact it was to have. Mam was living at Osborne Street with us kids then, nursing Nanna and Grandad until they passed away, Dad remained at the Fort for a while before rejoining Mam and us it must have been an awful strain on their marriage, Dad passed away in 1968 aged just 48.
Cricket at the Black huts 1938.
Incidentally The hut is still there (2012), a testimony to them I think?.
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