Fred Deely - Chapter One - Boyhood

Dorothy E Clarke

Recorded and published as 'Tangled Tapes' by Dorothy E Clarke and reproduced here with her kind permission.

Chapter One - Boyhood

Born on the 15th September 1903 in the cottage next to the library, with his Father's Mother next door, Frederick Thomas Deely has lived all his life in Deddington. He was the youngest of four, with three sisters, Edith, Lydia and Emily. They were all brought up to attend the Sunday School at the Congregational Church, and Fred is still a regular member on Sunday evenings. It was lit with gas, and you can still see where the gas standards used to be between the two front pews. "When the 'Titanic' went down in 1912 they sang 'Nearer my God to Thee'.

Fred's Mother died about that time, when Fred was nine, and he and Emily were brought up by Lydia. At Christmas they had a sock with an orange, a little sugar pig, and some ashes in the bottom, which his Dad put in for a joke. Granny, who had eight children, kept her eye on them, especially Fred when he climbed the plum tree. Fred remembers her as a very strict lady wearing a long black skirt and black blouse with white spots.

Deddington School was just as it is today, and the Town Hall has never changed. The school children used to get there just before 'turning-out time' and watch at least three or four fights going on. Folks used to say "If yer wan' a black eye go to Dedd'nton on a Sa'adi ni"'. Fred didn't shine at anything much at school, only mischief - as he put it. "But we never done wha' they do terday. I were leader of five and if there was any snow on the ground, or an ol' lady ill, I used ter say 'Yer go down there and see if there's any erran's, catch a loaf for 'er, or some'in.' Sometimes they was given a halfpenny or a penny, but I said 'That's a lot a money don' take it'. (What about that fire in Earls Lane the other day Ma'am? There was five of 'em down there, one were 16. I were asked wha' I'd do wi' em. Give 'em a darn good birching, that would do more good than anythin" Ma'am.)"

Of course, boys will be boys, and Percy Clark, five days younger than Fred, together with Police Inspector Lambourne's son, set fire to the horses' hay, and they were fined two shillings. "We used to call Percy 'Titchy', and I used ter fight 'im and make 'im cry. I could always 'rub it on 'im'. One day a big firm from the Midlands stopped in the Market Place. Titchy Clark and Bob Sykes got on their wagonette - it had a steam Foden engine - and they went to Southampton back to the Depot! When Banbury Fair was on, that was the first Thursday after 11th October, they didn't go to school, and had the stick the next day."

"Did you ever get the stick, Fred?"

"No, Ma'am, I never played truant."

But Fred's gang of five were always goading him, and one winter none of them would trust the frozen pond. "Deely'll do it" they chanted, so Deely did it and ended up covered in mud. They had to get bits of wood to scrape it off before he dared go home. He got a 'right' telling off from Lydia and a bad cold into the bargain. Deely 'did it' again one day when the gang found a bull in a field. "Go on Deely " they teased, pushing a bright red scarf into his hand. Fled cautiously opened the gate "You 'old it open and git ready to slam it be'ind me." Holding the red scarf rather tentatively, Fred approached the bull who merely squinted curiously at him, rolling his eyes. So the rest of the crew crept round, one by one, looking a bit sheepish.

They played a game called 'Tip Top'. They sharpened sticks to a point, which they threw into the air and tried to hit as they came down. The girls played 'Hopscotch'. This was a large square chalked on the ground, with smaller squares inside it, and they had to hop in and out of the small squares. In winter they had scooters, and when it snowed they went up the Banbury Road to what was called the 'Pesthouse'. This is still there today, on the left-hand side, about a quarter of a mile into Banbury. There is a field which goes right down into the valley where there is a big shed - the Pesthouse - and folks were put in there years ago when they had a disease. It probably goes right back to the plague! [No longer there in 1998 - CR]

The First World War started when Fred was at school and he remembers the Territorials marching up the main street, and round Earls Lane to Aynho Station to get the train to Writtle, in Essex. They were a strong batch representing Deddington, Clifton and Hempton. His teacher, Mr. Harmsworth, went with them and became Quarter-master, so his wife taught Fred from then on. Mr. Tustain lost two sons and the Hancox, who lived next door to the Archway Garage, also lost two sons. A third son was stopped from joining up.

Doug Hopcraft, with the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, was sent to Northern Italy where the Austrians were advancing against the Italians. The Oxford & Bucks were brought up with just two machine-guns which both broke down under fire. Doug took a part from one gun and put it into the other to make it work, and stopped the advance. A bullet went through the lobe of his ear!

Fred once saw the famous 'Pud', which featured at Deddington's Pudd'n & Pie Fayre, held in November and continued until shortly before the Second World War. It was about 9 inches across, fruit inside, and pastry outside. The lad next to the Three Tuns - Fowler was his name - used to be a baker. He had a sister, Ruth Fowler, she was a cripple, and it was common talk she had the recipe, and when she died nobody ever found it.

Dealers from Wales used to bring horses round into the Horsefair -that's how it got its name - and there's one or two rings still there where they used to tie up the horses. They would walk round once or twice, then clasp hands, and that was a deal. Old Mr. Coggins, Solicitor, lived opposite the King's Arms in a house with three dormer windows in the roof. At 3 o'clock the school children used to get into the square in front of his house and he used to throw out shovelfuls of hot halfpennies and pennies. He got his Housekeeper to warm them up so that when the children picked them up, they would quickly throw them down again, and the next boy would pounce, so that quite a few fights went on. Mr. Coggins looked on and laughed. Fred and his friends called him 'Pedgell' for some reason.

Fred played football for Deddington, but if his Dad wanted him up on the allotment, there was no football for Fred that day. Jock Mulligan used to walk along by the allotments on the left-hand side of The Grove. He had a little dog, and a woolly hat. When he saw anyone he'd say "Allo me old pol."

Fred's Father was a Carrier to Banbury, making three journeys a week, Monday, Thursday and Saturday. He had a little cob, called a jibber. He would get half-way up the hill and 'jib' (stop). One day he got up by the Catholic Church and an old lady said "I've been watching you with that horse, and I shall report you." "Bless the woman" said Fred's Dad, "if I had a wheelbara' I'd use the wheelbara'!" He was talking about a load of coal, you understand. If the jibber saw another horse in front he'd go, so, after school, Fred met his Father on the bridge down the Banbury Road to ride the trace horse within a short distance of Banbury Cross to pull him up the hill. At 11 or 12 years of age Fred was frightened and very cold in winter; he used to pull the horses mane round his neck to keep warm. There were no cars, only tramps about. This side of the bridge there's a brook called the River Swere, and there was a tunnel about 50 yards along, and on dry nights the old tramps used to get under there, and he could hear them muttering.

Where the British Legion Club is now was the Axle Tree Factory, established about 1820 by Joseph and Samuel Mason. The last proprietor was John Ward who sold the patent to Walker of Wednesbury about 1895. They say that's where the axles for the Queen's coach were made - but it was in ruins in Fred's school-days. The old Blacksmith, Titchy Clark's Father, had a forge round the back. They lived rough in a barn on the Milton Road. At the back of the Library were two police cells, and there was usually a drunk in there. Some folks would talk about "Drunken Deddington" as it was known in the early 1800's.