Fred Deely - Chapter Four - Married Life

Dorothy E Clarke

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

Chapter Four - Married Life

Fred had 'an eye for the girls' but when he met Flo he was 'proper bowled over'. She was cook to Dr. Holloway, and Fred spied her standing at the top of the stairs when he was moving the Doctor's furniture. ''Ah, she were a lovely woman. We got talkin' and that were it." They married in 1938, he was 35 and she was 27. Their first home was the house that is now the Wesleyan Minister's house, although a schoolteacher rents it. A Mr. Weaver had it then and offered it to Fred, although he had seven or eight others wanting it. The house has passed through several hands since then. Mr. Boffin, who had a grocery in Chapel Square - where Centre Point is now - owned it, then Mrs. Bassett bought it and later sold it to the Wesleyans.

Tragically Fred and Flo's first child, a girl, died at birth. Then came Cynthia; but tragedy was to strike them again when, during her third pregnancy Flo slipped and fell at Reading Station arriving home from a holiday at Weymouth. Flo was laid up for a month but they lost the baby. "That were another bitter blow." But they soldiered on happy with each other and their little daughter. Often they would walk up The Grove by Hobley's allotment and along the footpath to Tomwell Farm, Basson Hill and Wand Brook and back by Hempton. "It's a tidy walk" said Fred "but Sunday nights, after Chapel, you'd see a dozen couples or more walking down there, no television then, see."

Fred was 36 when the second War broke out, but his turn came about 1940 or 1941. He signed on and was on the point of selling his coal business when came the message 'In a Reserved Occupation', much to his wife's relief. "I should 'a' went and I 'ad to do somethin" so I joined the Royal Observer Corps." He was kitted out with navy blue uniforms and berets, and posted up the Hempton Road, where the houses are now. The Post was known as Q2. There were two other Posts, Edgehill Ql, and Swalcliffe Q3. "We called it Heinkel Alley". They were on a direct telephone line with the Headquarters at Bedford, and equipped with a micrometer adjustment to record the height and direction of the German planes. They could just see Swalcliffe and gave each other the 'thumbs up'. One day a German came down in flames very near to Q2 and 'put the wind up us all'. Fred was on shift 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., or 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. "I couldn't keep awake in the day and nearly drove me coal cart through the 'edge. I said to Flo I wish I'd joined t'Army."

After the War the YMCA took over the Conservative Club - now the British Legion - but Fred was always happy out with his dog Sam and his gun. He generally got a rabbit or a pheasant to hang in the larder. He shot a hare once, but never again, "It cried like a baby, it touched me, it was pitiful, and I never shot another 'are! My ol' Sam was almost 'uman, when the wind was right 'e'd scent it, look up at me as if ter say 'Is it on terday?' 'E'd drop the pheasants at me feet waggin" is ol' tail. They was game pheasants, but they took off the game licence. I were satisfied with one, and if I got a couple more I'd always give 'em to the farmer. Me wife could pluck and cook a pheasant just right."

But Flo wasn't so fond of his ferrets - he still has a scar where one of them ripped his hand open. "They was expensive and I was owed some money for coal, so I 'ad two ferrets instead, but my wife said 'Get rid of them Fred, they stink'. I used ter keep 'em inside me coat. They would sniff out a rabbit's 'ole, then the rabbit would run from the smell and come up another 'ole which we covered with nettin". I got the ferrets by the scruff of the neck and popped 'em inside me coat!"

One of Fred's friends, Francis George, Manager of the Co-op (now the Acorn) used to go with him to Great Tew woods to collect a load - Fred had a circular saw and could cut up a load in about an hour and a half. Poor old Francis suffered great pain from shrapnel and Fred had to get him home, where he died.

In 1946 a new Treble and Second Bell were given to the Church by Mr. A.J.Morris to commemorate the services of the Deddington Home Guard during the Second World War.

In 1949 Fred and Flo moved into Castle Street. The house belonged to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, whose main agent, Mr. Halsey, lived in London, but he appointed Mr. Millington, who lived in Leadenporch House, New Street, to deal with the property. Fred's Aunt had lived there before so he knew the house well. He took a walk down to see Mr. Millington who came out and said "Well I'll be darned, come in and look at this letter. 'To Fred Deely - I recommend Fred for this house' signed Millington." Said Fred ''Just as 'e was writin' it I knocked on the door, as true as I sit 'ere." He rented the house, and after about six months, he was able to buy it for £1000. There was talk of a by-pass round Deddington which would have gone through the front door, so Fred offered a lower price, but the Commissioners wouldn't accept it. It was a thatched roof and a friend from Barton made some alterations for him, cut the big bedroom in half and made a bathroom and toilet, and another small bedroom facing the street where Fred sleeps now.

The coal business was sold to Jack Fincher and Fred went to work for the Council getting up at 5.30 a.m. The Council Offices were where the Health Centre is now, but gritting lorries started from down the Banbury Road. Fred gritted in winter and mowed and picked up the grass in summer. He had two 3-ton lorries. This was a regular monthly income for him and Flo.

Titchy Clark turned up again one day. He had the habit of talking as though someone was with him. His Father had lost a leg in the War and Titchy ended up sleeping in Bennets Barn. Fred and Flo were asleep one night when he came round and Fred was furious. He said to Flo "I'll shut 'is mouth for 'im, I'll go an' give 'im a dusting up". "Don't you do no such thing," said Flo. Fred opened the window "Titchy, 'op it". He never saw him again.

One day a specialist, a doctor and two nurses came from the Radcliffe Hospital to excavate around the Castle. They asked Fred if they could keep their tools in his shed. They came every Sunday and found where the big chapel used to be, and where the stanchions holding the roof were. A lovely ring was also found. Fred played a trick. He got an old tin on a piece of string and buried it in a hole. ''They stayed around that 'ole for about an hour thinking they had found somethin' valuable!" There was a wicked twinkle in his eye.

Deddington Parish Council asked Fred to go and fetch a big glass case from the Roman Ruins on the other side of Bourton on-the-Water. It was shilling entrance fee, but the Caretaker said ''I shan't charge you". Cyril Sykes went with him and they walked round and saw the steps where the ladies ("Well I reckon it was ladies" Fred winked) used to bathe. Then they were shown a beautiful mosaic floor and told how it was found. Some men were rabbitting and lost a ferret. They dug down and found this floor! Fred and Cyril put the glass showcase in Deddington Church on some seats by the belfry, and the relics the medical team had found were placed inside, but the case disappeared and nobody knows where it went!

Sadly Fred lost Flo quite suddenly, but he had Cynthia and spent a lot of time in his garden. This is superb, with a lily-pond complete with fish, and symmetrical rows of vegetables along the wall which backs on to Castle House. His chrysanthemums are wonderful and grace the 'Cons' every Harvest.

When Cynthia married Ray Garvey, an Electrician with the Ministry of Defence, Fred gave them his two big barns which they turned into a roomy four-bedroomed house adjacent to his. Ray was a great help to Fred and if he did a job 'you didn't 'ave to look at it', everything was 'spot on'. Ray died recently and he is greatly missed. There is a wrought-iron flower stand in the 'Cons' to his memory, and a copper-beech tree in Fred's garden, planted by the Americans from the camp at Upper Heyford, who valued Ray's services there.

Fred is proud of his two grandchildren. Neil is a clever artist and works in the Fire Service, Debbie who lives in London near the Crystal Palace, is a very successful singer and dancer, understudying for Elaine Page in Evita. She once played to a packed audience when Elaine was taken ill, and has just received her Doctorate in music.

"At what age did you retire Fred?" I asked. He looked nonplussed, ''Retire? I don' know, our Cyn might be able to tell yer."