It was at 2.30 on the 26th December 1898 at no. 9 Nile Road, Gorleston that I was born and let out a loud yell from a lusty pair of lungs to let all know I was another addition to the wide world. From then on, with good motherhood care I began to make progress, and was nursed along to the age of four years. I can remember my sister Violet passing over to God's Kingdom as a tiny baby. Although I was not much more than a baby myself I can still recall the happenings in the home of that day and night. At that time there were two more children, Beatty the eldest and Tom, who was two years older than I was. Father was a fisherman in herring drifters at that time, they were sailing drifters then, steam was just being introduced.
When I was four years of age I remember my mother taking me for a walk along the quay past the lifeboat sheds. I can faintly recall seeing the steam lifeboat being at the dolfins, it had double funnels and was sent around the south coast later. There were two lifeboats stationed at Gorleston in those days, the steamer was replaced by the Elizabeth Simpson. The other was the Mark Lane which was rowed out and carried one lug sail. Later she was past onto Lowestoft lifeboat station and from there she was sold and turned into a houseboat. The last I heard of the Mark Lane she was lying on the mud at Woodbridge, old and rotting away. Being clinker built the owner wanted the Maritime Museum to take her over but they where not interested. The steam lifeboat was named James Stephens and was built at Cowes.
I can remember my Mother telling us children of the very severe October gale of 1899,when many drifters and lives were lost. Father's drifter was about the oldest drifter in the fleet at the time and rode the gale out without any loss of crew.
I can also just recall seeing the last of the old horse tram cars. I had just started school when the electric trams came into being.
At the age of six years I witnessed the first fatal accident in Gorleston with the electric trams. This afternoon we were coming out of the infant's Stradbrooke road school, when the boy who sat next to me in school shouted, ``come on Alex, here comes a tram". We both ran down the drive he being in front ran strait across the road. The front of the tram hit him and he was underneath. I watched the men jack the front up and get him out, they covered him up with blanket and laid him on one of Lee Adams low carts and took him to the mortuary. His name was Arthur Chilvers age six like myself.
At the age of seven years we moved from Nile Road to Suffield Road, No. 4, later renumbered 52. When we moved there was Beatty,Tom, Alex, Gus, Charley and Gladys was a baby. Charlie and Gladys were to young so the moving job was left to us older ones. At Suffield Road I chummed up with a lad of my own age who lived opposite, his name was Billy Downing. This lad and I were always on the quay, climbing about on the drifters, which carried two full masts and two lugsails. I had to keep a look out when down near the river as we had been warned by my two Grandads. Grandad Hart was a lifeboatman and Grandad Roberts worked for the Port & haven Commissioners. As far as I can remember my Mother used to tell us children that grandad and Grandmother Hart came from barking. They had six children Charlie known as tinney, Uncle harry then Uncle Billy known as Crackers, then Tom our Father. Uncle Harry and Charlie worked in the post office outside staff. Uncle Billy worked for the Port and Haven Commissioners on the old mud hoppers. I have been outside the harbour several times with him to dump the mud from the dredger in the river. I used to like that trip when I was a boy. The steam tug George Jewson used to tow two hoppers out whilst one was being filled. Then Uncle Billy became the lighthouse keeper on the end of the pier, the old wooden pier that was. He remained in that job until he retired. He died at Gorleston at the age of 85. The two girls in the Hart family where named Amelia and Polly, they both went to Cleethorpes to live as they both married trawler men. Grandad Hart had a leg amputated as far as the knee when he was 85 but died soon after, he was buried in Gorleston cemetery. Grandmother hart was then taken to Cleethorpes to live with the two daughters, she died there about 1912,about 87 years of age,she was a grand old lady and knew her Bible and and had a great faith an believed in prayer. Uncle's Harry and Charlie lived in Walthamstow while employed by the Post Office.
The Roberts were my mother's side of the family. There were Grandad Roberts and Granny Roberts. My mother, the eldest daughter, then Uncle Sam, he was in the Trinity Service. Then Uncle Alex also in the Trinity Service, then Aunt Florrie who's first husband was drowned out of a Lowestoft smack. Then Aunts Gerty, Daisy and Beatty the youngest. Grandad Roberts died at 103 Springfield Road, Gorleston, in 1913. I was called upon to help a Mrs Pratt to lay him out for burial; I was only fourteen myself at the time. Uncle Sam died in a London hospital with tummy trouble, which was common with Trinity men in those days through living on stale food. They had to man the lightships for two months at a stretch, so they had to take one months supply of food when they first went to relieve the crew that was already there, then the wives had to get the second months supply ready to be collected and taken out to them for the second month. They came ashore at the end of the two months and worked in the depot for a month, nine hours a day, painting buoys etc.
It was during Uncle Alex's month ashore when he and eight others were sent out on a Saturday morning to lay by the wreck of a two masted ketch which had sunk off Winterton on the Friday night, the spot where she lay was known locally a Tea Kettle Hole. The Trinity steamer named the Argus arrived on the scene on Monday morning with the diver and air pumps; all was made ready to blow the wreck by twelve, as she had sunk in the way of navigation. Uncle Alex and eight others including the diver, who had already been down and placed the charges under the wreck, pulled away in the boat to the usual safe distance, they fired the charge at 12.30pm. There was a terrific explosion, it blew the small boat and the Nine men to pieces, only one man was saved the other eight they never found. That was how Uncle Alex met his death in February 1909.
On the enquiry it was found the wreck was loaded with boxes of explosives for making charges for blasting purposes. That was where the Superintendent at the Trinity depot failed in his duty. He should have known that before they sent the men out to do their work. We lived at Suffield Road at the time and I was laying the dinner table when the windows shook and Mother and I heard that explosion, but we did not know Uncle Alex was involved until evening. Aunt May, his widow gave birth to his son a few weeks later, he was also named Alex, he lived in Ipswich the last I heard of him.
Aunt Beatty the youngest daughter lived in Gillingham, Kent. Her husband Uncle George Buck was a Navy man. Granny Roberts went to live with them and that's where she died and was buried. I think she was over 80 when she died. The next of the Roberts family to pass over was my Aunt Florrie Soanes who came to tragic end by trying to light a fire with paraffin, the fire went out of course and the stove being warm when she poured more paraffin on it exploded in her face and set fire to her clothing, in her panic she, poor woman, ran outside which made it worse. By the time the neighbours and her husband Charlie Soanes smothered the flames, she was well alight. She passed over that night. Next Auntie Gertie died then Aunt Daisy, then lastly Aunt Beatty and she was the last of the Roberts family.
Now the children of Mr&MrsThomas Sadler Hart,who had ten children altogether. First was Beattie who when she left school was apprentice to a beatster. Then came Florrie who died when a baby, then came Tom who joined the Navy at the age of fifteen. Then came Hilda who also died as a baby. Then came myself who through no fault of my own had a much varied career. Then came Violet who also died as a baby.Then came Guss then Charlie, then Gladys, then Ruby, she was born at 52, Suffield Road. I don't remember much of sister Beatty's girlhood only that she worked on a beating chamber mending herring nets until she married Mr. Charles Fuller. Tom being about two years older than myself got himself a job at the age of nine on Saturdays at Fed Bellamy's the Butchers shop on Bells Road, taking out the orders. The wages were 1/- and a piece of meat to take home which mother was very pleased with as money was very short in those days. Upon leaving school he worked in Mills Sawmills on the quay, at the corner of Baker Street. Then at the age of fifteen he joined the Navy in 1912. He went through the war on H.M.S. Dominion, one of Jellicoe's Battleships, after the war, he two years on the china service. He retired from the navy with the rank of Chief Petty Officer Torpedo Coxwain. He then entered the recruiting side of the navy. When he finished he bought a bungalow in Gorleston and worked at the holiday camp in the summer. He collapsed and died in the street on his way home from work one afternoon. His wife, Nell, then sold the bungalow and went to live with her family in Nuneaton; she was never keen on Gorleston. Tom had scarlet fever when he was 11, so he had to give up the butcher's job as he was in hospital for three weeks.
Now that was were I, Alex, started work, I went and took his job over although I was only nine at the time. I stayed about one year as the butchers errand boy, then left because I didn't like it, I then straight away got myself a job as errand boy and worked in the two fields, that was for Johnny Beals. His shop was opposite the Wesleyan Chapel on Lowestoft Road. That was a piece of old Gorleston in those days. He also had a field about the same size, 4 acres, in Lumpers Lane, what is now called Western Road. Idid not make a very good move when I left the butchers and went to work for him, as I had to work 22hours a week for a shilling a week. He was a had task master was Johnny Beales So Alex kept his eyes open for a change, and when I was eleven, I went to work at the big house on the corner of Stradbrooke Road and Lowestoft Road, known then as Stradbrooke Lodge. I was houseboy there and I got another sixpence a week, so that bought me to 1/6d a week for the same twenty-two hours. I was still seeing my friend Billy Downing.
During the summer holidays we two used to go to the Gorleston railway station and carry luggage for visitors coming of the trains, in between trains, we use to sing all the latest songs running beside the three and four horse brakes that used to take the visitors for a trip to Lound Village and Oulton Broad. The passengers used to throw pennies and halfpennies down to us as we ran along side exercising our vocal cords. This way we earned enough money to have a day out on August Bank holiday.
Billy and I kept our earnings in a hole in his fathers garden until we had enough, then on August bank holiday we shared it out and caught a train to Lowestoft. To add a little more to his share, Billy took some more out of his moneybox, not telling his Mother of course. Well we arrived in Lowestoft; first we had two ice cream wafers each, which were a halfpenny each in those days. It was not called ice cream then, it was called Okay. We then had a model yacht each on the yacht pond for a couple of hours which cost 1/- EACH. We bought a packet of Gold Flake cigarettes and had a smoke; we also had a bottle of ginger beer each. Then we went for a walk up the High Street. We were now feeling a bit peckish, so we decide to go and have something to eat in a restaurant. Now this is where we slipped up. We got seated at the table and the waitress came, so I let Billy do the ordering. This is what we had, Roast Beef, Yorkshire pudding, and two veg., gravy. For afters we had two jam tarts and a pot of tea. We paid our bill, half each, and came out feeling fine, but it made a big hole in our money, so we sat on the beach for some time and then went for another bottle of ginger beer. Ten we slowly made our way to Lowestoft North station and made our way home, arriving about teatime. We had made an arrangement between us, that if our Mothers were to ask where we had been, we would say we had been to Yarmouth. The next day, when I went to call for Billy, his Mother asked me where we had been the day before, so I said Yarmouth, but our lie was found out. Now Billy's father had a man working with him named Hewitt and he and his young lady had sat at the table behind us in the restaurant and saw everything we consumed, and told Billy's father the next day. The cat was out of the bag. We told them where we got the money from to pay for our day out and also that we kept it a hole in the garden. Both our Mothers told us off for telling lies, but they had a laugh about it when they were on their own.
Another time Billy and I went under the old wooden pier, we often did this, the planking of the deck of the pier was about 1 ½ inches apart to allow the water to go through when the weather was rough. Well, people used to loose walking sticks through the openings between the planks, also pennies or anything that was small enough to go through. We used to get under behind the old pilothouse that was the only way in and out. We were under there one day, when Billy, found a walking stick and I picked up two pence. On the way back from the Pilothouse Billy looked up and saw three woman standing talking, they wore long skirts and high lace up boots in those days. He then poked the stick and touched a woman's leg. Oh dear that done it, we had to get out of there in double quick time, what that woman thought we never found out but, she let out a terrific scream.
I was also sent one day to fetch ½ pound of butter from the grocers. On the way home I stopped to play football and put the butter in my Knickerbockers pocket, after about half an hour I decided to go home. Oh dear when I tried to get the butter out of my pocket it had melted, the paper had burst. Mother had to get it out with a spoon; she also found a piece of string, two cigarette cards, and three marbles. I got a right dressing down over that episode.
Well when old Lady cook died at Stradbrooke Lodge every thing was sold up and we all had to leave. I was about 13 years old then but I got another houseboy's job next door at the Waters family they were brother and two sisters. He was coroner of Great Yarmouth. I had to take two dogs for a walk each day; their names were Jock and Villain. I stayed there till I left school. Then I went to work at Jewsons sawmill for 5/- a week; we worked from 6 a.m. in the morning until 6 in the evening. That meant I had to leave home at 5a.m. to walk there when it was fine to clock on at 6a.m. And walk home at night and arrive home at about 7p.m. I could only afford to ride on the tram when it was wet. I was still working at Jewsons when on the 4th of August 1914 the First World War started.
We were immediately employed on war work making army huts, ration and ammunition boxes etc. The boys were joining up every day and we were getting short handed. I was 15 years old now and tried to join the Navy but eyesight failed me.
A year later I tried to join the Marines and failed again. I received my call-up papers in February 1917 and passed, so off I went to Britannia Barracks in Norwich. My first pair of boots had one solid plate screwed on the heel; they covered the whole heel not just the edge. I went to the shoemakers shop to have them taken off and a proper pair fitted. The old shoe maker told me he had been a cobbler all his life but had never seen a pair of iron heels like that before, so he charged me sixpence and kept the plates for a souvenir. He also told me the Army must have thought I was a mule. I was in Norwich for two days then posted to the Royal Fusiliers at Thetford, then, after two months I was Transferred to the 4th North Hants. Then after a few weeks I was transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. Three different Regiments in just a few months.
I began to think I was just in the way, but it was not only me, there were others as well. Then one day three of us were ordered to the orderly room and we transferred to the Buffs East Kent Regiment stationed at Dover. There we were put on guard duties. When we were detailed for guards it was for one month at a time, rations, letters and clean washing was sent out to us. There was a sargeant and four men on each guard, which was placed all around Dover. After a month we were relieved and went back to barracks for a week, then we would be detailed for another month in another part of the town. So that's how my army life dragged on until December 1917. I was sent away again to the North Stafford's which were at Cambridge at that time. Two other men left Dover with me, they were to join the Bedfordshire Regiment at Bedford, I left them at Victoria Station, London and caught my train to Cambridge.
Upon arrival at the orderly room at Cambridge, I was informed I was now in the North Stafford's attached to number two officers training Corps. I was given a job on a bayonet-fighting course. We made, and tried out all sorts of dummies and gadgets that hit back. Now all this time I was receiving letters from home telling me that my mother was only drawing 7d. a week instead of 3/6d. I left half my pay for her to draw each week. As army pay was only 7/- per week then. I was getting my 3/6d. all right but mother only got 7d.per week. In all the units I had been in I had stated my case in each orderly room, but before they got it right I had been moved on. Well mother got Pastor Scott of the Ebenezer Chapel where I was christened at Gorleston, to write for her to get her allowance put right. He then received a reply from the War Office stating they had done all they could to try and trace Private Hart, but they could trace no such soldier. I took my letter to my commanding officer at Cambridge. He read it, then said leave this letter with me, I will get your right pay, also back pay, and in three weeks or so everything was put right. So the army lost me for nearly eighteen months. I was sent off to the North Staffs, then at Thetford, and was demobbed in March 1919. I went back to Jewsons but only stayed a short while, during which time Father died.
I was very unsettled then, I hated Jewsons. So I decided to go in the drifters. I got married and left Yarmouth for North Shields fishing in an old drifter called the Constance, after twelve weeks at Shields, the skipper Jumbo Fleming and the engineer got to fighting at sea, we headed for Yarmouth. We arrived the next night and made up in debt. I then signed on with Charlie Soanes in a drifter called the Beatrice, out of Lowestoft, for the home fishing. Sometimes Charlie and I would walk from Gorleston to Lowestoft early in the morning to get aboard by 6a.m. We done the home fishing which took us to three days before Christmas and made up in debt again. We could see the herring industry was on the decline. As the years went on it faded right out to its present state.
I was blessed the very next day, as I got a job as an ordinary seaman on a coaster called the Tynesider, I stayed in her for over two years, during this time my daughter Stella was born. We were laid up and paid off in 1923. During the time I was in the Tynesider, we anchored in the Yarmouth roads, blowing a force nine gale. Our skipper should have put into Yarmouth as we were short of drinking water and getting low on food. He decided, on the Monday morning to lower a boat. We were to row to the old jetty, go ashore, two of us, and get cigarettes, water, and some groceries. Well we set off, the mate, second engineer, and myself, as soon as we let go, the wind, about force ten off the land,and the boat, being a bluff bow boat, we got into trouble. We were picked up by the old United Service, half full of water and dangerously close to the Scroby Sands. The tug took us into Yarmouth and our own ship came in and fetched us the next day. After the Tynesider was laid up, I got a berth in a Goole Lighter carrying coal mostly from Goole in the Humber to different places in the Thames and Medway. These lighters carried 3oo tons, no engine or sails, they were towed by tugs everywhere, they were put out of service in 1925. I then came to live in Saffron Walden and to get work where I could. I had to sign on the dole, which I hated. I have worked on farms, in the maltings for four years, lorry drivers mate, navying nine hours a day, pick and shovel in all weathers and all over the country. In 1940, I took a job on the Saffron Walden Council and did all sorts of council work for the next twenty-five years, then retired at sixty-five. I looked after my sick wife for fifteen years until she died. I'm eighty-one now and still manage to look after myself.
My brother, Guss, went into the Merchant Navy as an apprentice at the age of fifteen, stayed at sea for a few years then joined the Metropolitan Police. Then during the Second World War, he saw service in the Navy as a Lieutenant; his war service counted on his police service. He married twice and when he retired he came back to Norfolk and lived by himself in a caravan in Sandy Lane at Belton but I'm sorry to say he does not enjoy good health.
Now brother Charlie, he, like me , when he left school went to work at Jewsons, he worked there for several years, well after he married. On the outbreak of the second world war he joined the Fire Service at Gorleston and continued in that until the end of the war. He then worked in the maltings at Cobholm until he retired. He died suddenly, whilst gardening, from a heart attack and is now buried in Bradwell Churchyard He left a wife and a son and daughter and grandchildren. He was seventy-five when he died.
Sister Gladys, when she left school was apprentice to a Beatster, mending herring nets. She was always a sensible girl and somewhat of a psychic person, she saw things and almost knew before it happened. I do not remember much of her early life, as I was away most of those years. I knew she became a dedicated churchgoer, I was pleased about that, she developed a very strong faith, which over the years has served her well. One thing I do remember, when she first started work the girls on the beating chamber got talking about ghosts. When we were all sitting round the tea table, Gladys told us all about ghosts until Mother put a stop to it. When Gladys went to bed that night and went to sleep, brother Charlie and I crept into Gladys's room, crept under her bed and at my signal we both heaved up with our backs. We did this about three times when she let out a scream and shouted for Mother to come, as there was a ghost under her bed. Mother saw at once that Charlie and I was missing, looked under the bed and made the two ghosts come out. Now Charlie was always quick like an eel, he slithered through the door and into bed before she could land him one. Me, not being quick enough got a back hander round the ear.
Ruby was the only one born at 52 Suffield Road, and I was her nursemaid right from the start. If she was in trouble or upset when she was little, I was the only one who could put things right for her. She was only a child when I went in the Army so I do not remember much of her childhood. She had married before I saw her husband. Now that is the end of the brief history of the Hart family. Now for the history of old Gorleston as I first remembered it.
The sea front in the first years of the century was a picture, much better than it is now. There were the old riverboats running from Yarmouth to Gorleston. Their names were the Chobholm and the Yarmouth, which is now in St. Katherine's dock in London as a museum piece. Then there was the Southtown and the Gorleston and the Queen of the Broads, which used to run trips on the broads from the bridge at Yarmouth. In my earlyt days around 1904, there were three paddle tugs working the port, The Gleaner, King Edward V11 and the United Service, the Gleaner was sold and a new screw driven tug took her place called the Farstnet. Next to be sold was the King Edward V11; another screw driven tug took her place called the George Jewson. The United Service carried on until the 1920's. She had done great service over the years as a tug in winter, then running sea trips for the visitors in the summer from the Hall Quay round the Cockle light ship that was stationed of Winterton and back for 2/6d. a trip. A trip on the riverboats from Yarmouth to Gorleston was 3d. A man named Lily first started that river service with two rowing boats just before 1900 later came the steamers, locally they were known as the lily boats.
In my early days I remember the old boatman's salvage company on the quay, near the bend in the river, they had a wooden look out tower. They had three, four oared boats. They used to row the pilot out then, four men on the oars and the pilot at the tiller; it was a real risky job in bad weather. Grandad Hart was one of those boatman. The names of the three boats were The Calm The Storm and the Sunset. As the years passed they were replaced by a power driven launch. Then there were the London Belle steamers. They were all paddle steamers. One would leave Tower Bridge in London at 8am every morning and one would leave Yarmouth at the same time. They called at Gorleston, Lowestoft, Clacton, Southend and Tower Bridge. They used to pass each other and arrive at their destination at 8pm. Many people used to travel by them. They only ran in the summer. Some were used in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. I also remember the flood of 1905, I was six at the time and stood on the steps leading from Beach Road to Lower Cliff Road. The water was up to the fourth step and halfway up the doors and windows of the houses in Beach Road. There were rowing boats taking shopping to people and handing it to them through their bedroom windows.
Gorleston seafront before the First World War used to have lovely gardens and lawns and a band stand in the middle with a military band playing each afternoon and evening in the summer. After the war a concrete monstrosity called the Floral Hall replaced all this beauty. Where the model yacht pond is now used to be Parker's donkeys stand one penny for a ride along the beach and goat carts for the babies.
There used to be several well-known characters in Gorleston in those days, one in particular was named Cocky Toby. Us lads used to ask him if he had sailed round the world that was his favourite yarn. He would tell us he had sailed round the world in a coal hulk. In America he has seen India rubber horses which when they kicked you they bounced off you. He had also seen salmon swimming down the river already tinned. Then there was charcoal, he got that name because he would not wash himself, he lived in Nelson Road. There was also a man named Kye Harman who kept a fish shop opposite the Tramway Hotel. In the summer he used to come round selling bloaters which were one penny each for the large ones and two for one half penny for the small ones. His cry was bloat, bloat, bloaties! Us lads used to mimic that cry, there was Tom, Alex and Guss with voices like foghorns and brother Charlie with his high pitched voice. We would start from the ground and finish in the clouds with bloat, bloat, bloaties. The crescendo we made between us had to be heard to be believed. Sometimes it was too much for Mother, she would give us all a clout and make us go in. A record that Kye Harman held, was that he made the biggest beef pudding ever seen in Gorleston. It was made for a fisherman's dinner held at Tramway Hotel, it was over one hundredweight, and boiled in a large copper behind the hotel, rumour has it that every bit was eaten.
The first people to bring ice cream to Gorleston were an Italian couple named Roka. They kept a shop in England's Lane years before the First World War they also had another shop on the near the lighthouse. Mr. Roka used to go around with his ice-cream barrow in the summer, while his wife looked after the shop. In the winter he would sell hot chestnuts outside the football ground while Mrs Roker sold sweets and hot cordial drinks in the shop. They were a nice couple and well respected by their customers.
When we were young, we had to go Sunday school twice on Sundays. I was five years old when I first went, it was held at the old Institute in the High Street, that was in 1904. When we were older we transferred to the Baptist Chapel opposite the library. Later the Institute was pulled down to make way for the Coliseum picture house which in turn was demolished to make way for a row of shops.
The annual Sunday school treat was always held at Browston on Mr Bears meadow, all us children were taken there by a steam traction engine with iron wheels, pulling three gravel trucks full of excited kids with mugs hanging round their necks on pieces of string. We thought, in those days before buses, that the ride was marvellous. We were all standing up, packed in like sardines and hanging on to each other, if one fell off the whole lot would go. I always thought that the smoke from the engine made me have curly hair! They were happy times. The chapel was damaged in world war two and a new one built a little further along the road. I can remember the Ebenezer chapel in Palmer Road, it was built of galvanised iron and I was the first baby to be christened there. There was also another iron chapel on Nile Road where the Methodist chapel now stands.
Gorleston could boast a fine Hotel in those days, namely the Cliff Hotel it caught fire on Boxing night 1915 and most of it was destroyed. It was never rebuilt to its former glory; it was a great asset to the sea front and a wonderful landmark for ships.
Gorlestons fire engine had a pump worked by steam from an upright boiler. The firemen used to light the boiler and get up steam on the way to the fire; the engine was pulled by horses in those days. In the 1920's a new kind or train was tried on the the railway line from Yarmouth Southtown station to Lowestoft, It was a small steam engine with an upright boiler with a carriage in front and one behind, they were supposed to be cheaper than the ordinary railway engine but they were not a success and after a time were taken out of service.
I also remember the Scotch girls gutting the herring during the fishing season. They stretched along the quay from the dolphins to Baker Street and beyond. They gutted and salted the herring so quickly; I never got tired of watching them. There were also the shrimpers in the summer, they were small sailing boats carrying foresail jib, mainsail and topsail. There were also the longshore men. Longshoring is two men working a rowing boat and net. One man would stay on the beach with a rope and the other would row out from the beach with the net stacked on the stern of the boat, it would be paying out as he rowed. He would then come in to the beach several yards along, and then the two men would work towards each other and pull in the net which would have several smelts in it. There was also a market for these fish at the hotels and boarding houses.
At the bottom of Pound Lane, which is now Middleton Road, opposite the church, there was a pound. It was four brick walls with a wooden door in the front. It was about twelve feet square. Any stray cattle or horses were put in there and the owners would have to pay a sovereign to get them back. On the right of Pound Lane was Welsteads meadow which is now Rosslyn Road. Pound Lane ran from Church Lane to Green Acres Farm, passed the top of Stradbrooke Road, Suffield, Albermarle, and Elmgrove Roads were there was a gypsy camp in a meadow. They were named Grey. One of the women would call at Johnny Beales's shop every Saturday evening when I worked there. I used to help her home with her shopping and she used to give me 2d. which was a lot of money to a boy of ten in those days. They were real Romany gypsys and were nice people and camped there for several years. Pound Lane carried on through Green Acres farm and ended in Lowestoft Road opposite Elmhurst Bridge Road, after that it was all open country in those days.
There used to be a diver in Gorleston during my school days, his name was Burgess, he kept a pub on the corner of Baker Street and Pier Plane. I have seen him go down to examine the wooden piles of the pier several times. He wore the old diving suit with lead boots and a helmet. Two men on a pump turning a handle, one on each side, pumped his air. I was fascinated watching him go up and down again and again.
I can remember a barrel organ and a one-man band, which consisted of a melodeon, cymbals and a drum being carried on the back of this man. That was about all the entertainment there was until round about 1912 the first cinema opened in Beach Road called Filmland, silent pictures of course, but we thought they were marvelous. The next cinema to open was the Coliseum in the High Street on the ground were the old institute stood. That has gone now to make way for shops.
One of the first to bring entertainment to the town was a man named Fred Leighton who lodged at Granny Roberts on Springfield Road. It was he who in 1911 started the Perriot show in a marquee on Beach Road, near the King William 1V pub. He carried on for a few weeks each summer until the outbreak of the First World War. After the war things changed a great deal. The fisherman like my father who followed the herring went fishing round the west coast from May till the end of June, then on to the scotch fishing up in the Shetlands until the home fishing started out of Yarmouth in the October to Christmas. When they were away I used to stay away from school every Friday afternoon and go across the ferry to the office of the company who employed my father, to queue up with the wives and children to draw their fathers wages. I would give the clerk my card, he would stamp it and give me one half sovereign to take home to mother. It was always Alex who had to do that job never Tom, Guss or Charlie. Mothers reason for sending me each time was, I was the only one who could be relied upon to bring the half sovereign home safe, at least that's what she told me when we were grown up. The worst part was all those half sovereigns were deducted out of Fathers share when the fishing season ended, that's what made things hard. The fishermen were out of a job from Christmas to April or May, there was no social security in those days. Times were hard . Home life was hard work as well. I would help with the ironing sometimes; this was in the days before electric irons. Mother used to use a box iron; it was shaped like a flat iron only it had a door at the back, which slid up and down. Each box had two irons, which fitted, inside the box one at a time. I used to sit on a stool in front of the kitchen fire and make one of these irons red-hot. When it was hot, Mother would bring the box then I would bring the iron out of the fire with a pair of tongs and drop it in the iron box, close the door at the back, Mother would start ironing while I got the other one red hot. When Mothers iron got cool we would swap over. We could only boast a paraffin lamp and candles at that time; we had a bath in a tin bath in the kitchen in front of the fire. The lamp, which supplied our light,hung from the ceiling, it used to push up and down. Then when I was about ten years old we had gas lamps installed. It was a pear shaped contraption hanging from the ceiling with an upright burner and mantle supported on the pear shaped pipe. To turn the gas on you just pulled a chain on the side of the burner. I can remember it was a 1d. slot meter and you could burn four hours of gas for that one penny. The next bit of modern equipment Mother went in for was a gas cooker. It was a big black iron affair but all the rage in those days. Once that was installed out went the box iron and in came two flat irons that were heated up on the stove on a low light. We still lit our way to bed by candlelight because Mother could not afford to have it all done at once.
There used to be a dry dock on Gorleston quay half way between Baker Street and the seaman's mission. It was in its heyday when the Hewitt & Short Blue fishing fleet started up in Gorleston. They came from Barking to Gorleston in 1854 and at one time owned 200 sailing smacks. In those days the fish had to be rowed from the smacks to the carrier smack, they were packed in wooden trunks and the carrier would bring them to the fish market. Many a fisherman has lost his life ferrying from smack to carrier in bad weather. The old people used to tell us that there was plenty of work on the quay when the dock was in use. There were blacksmiths, carpenters, caulkers, sailmakers and various other jobs.
I also remember in 1911, The Royal Yacht anchored in Yarmouth roads and a steam pinnace moored near the lifeboat shed. It had two sailors with an officer in charge, also an official and a lady-in-waiting and Princess Mary who was a girl of twelve at the time, the same age as myself. They had come to see the lifeboat launched; it was the Elizabeth Simpson then. All was made ready and a lifeboatman dressed in oilskins and seaboots went to the end of the slipway to give the all clear, when the lifeboat came down the slip, a rope caught the man and dragged him into the river, he was about to go under for the third time when the pinnace went and pulled him out and landed him on the slipway, I believe his name was Whilley and he lived on Cliff Hill.
In 1914 I saw two destroyers enter the harbour. The first swung round in the bend by putting his bow into the spending beach on the Yarmouth side and therefore had his propellers in deep water. He did the manoeuvre just right. The second one put his stern on the beach and got stuck. He had to go full ahead to get off. She slid out all at once and shot straight across the river. The harbour master shouted to go astern or you will hit the quay. The captain shouted, `` Back you go and play with the codlings on the beach I'm captain of this ship". Well he hit the quay bow on and crumpled his bow in, so the harbour master had the last laugh after all.